Captive Audiences

One of the great decisions awaiting your unfinished manuscript is who should be the first person you allow to read it. Should it be someone kind and gentle who can boost your self-esteem and make you feel better about a project you spent so much time and thought on or should you place it in the hands of someone who keeps it real, a reader who can tell you with blunt honesty your shortcomings and the proper path you should be on?

I’ve been working on a script for some time with a writing partner. This partner has a day/night job as a jailer for an Orange County police department. I went into his office one evening to work on the script. We had several interruptions as he had to stop to process a methhead or a drunk driver into the system. In spite of the stoppages it was still one of our more productive sessions. Maybe we were inspired by the ghosts of true crimes lurking in the cell.

So it seemed only right that the first person to read our most polished draft was a prisoner. This isn’t a hard core maximum security joint. The only residents are those who have been confined due to relatively minor crimes such as a DUI without the pesky addition of manslaughter. My co-writer had been talking to one of his charges who said he used to word for a literary agency and wanted to give notes on our script. My only concern was that this act could be considered unconstitutional as reading our work might be deemed by some as cruel and unusual punishment.

But last week the prisoner gave us some very lucid and positive constructive feedback. His enthusiasm for the script could be that he did not want to upset the writer who was in a position of authority over him, but it seemed genuine and his suggestions were valid. He even let his cellmate read it. The other prisoner also enjoyed it. He said he would go to see that movie. His only complaint was that the jail scenes contained inaccurate descriptions.


One thought on “Captive Audiences

  1. Inaccurately described the jail scene, huh?lol That’s awesome! I’ve always heard you should write about what you know, but obviously sometimes it’s not depicted quite right. Probably for entertainment value I’m sure, because I’m fairly certain that if I wrote a story about the daily life of nurses on a unit, without some liberties, no one would read the story or watch the movie.

    I’ve gone the family route with my stories, but that’s actually worked out…BECAUSE…although my dad loves reading anything that entertains him, my mother HATES READING. Don’t get me wrong, she likes to read the occasional book that really grabs her, but for the most part reading sucks. So I was very happy when she wanted to read my first manuscript I ever wrote all the way through. I knew my dad would, but didn’t expect my mom to. And although she has read the last two books I’ve written, it took her a year to read the second one and she still hasn’t finished the third one (in fact she had to start over because she forgot stuff).

    Yes, the first book could be that my mother was elate her boy wrote something and found it interesting ONLY because of that reason, but she has sworn up and down that the story was very good and she thoroughly enjoyed it, which a few reviewers have also shared. Of course you do have those bad reviewers out there that choose to focus on one thing in the story they didn’t like rather than the story, but hey at least they read it. That’s saying something.

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