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.