Screenwriting : Are " personal attacks" normal? How can you cope with them? by Victor Titimas

Victor Titimas

Are " personal attacks" normal? How can you cope with them?

I am currently writing a (non-screenplay) story on a forum. Some replies weren't focused on the work itself, but on me, as a writer. Some said " Quit writing! Plow the field instead!", others said: " I hope you have a serious job!". Another one said: " You have absolutely no clue on this subject!". Now, I wrote some screenplays and posted them on various specific websites(where people post screenplays, give and receive feed-back and reviews). There, I received some heavy criticism. Many users provided critic feed-back, some of which was pretty brutal, but none of them got personal. None of them stepped beyond the work itself. I just read the last comment I wrote about...:( What should I do about such comments? Are they ok to receive? Thanks for answering!:)

Samuel Rodriguez

don't let them bother you, there always be negatively but don't change who you are as a writer.

Amanda Toney

Agreed, anyone who looks beyond your work and makes criticism on you or your life should be ignored. That's not what you put your work out there for. Keep doing your thing! You have a community here at Stage 32 that will support you and encourage you every step of the way!

Cherie Grant

unless you're a complete dickhead you'll be fine on stage32. i don't know what forums you went to so can't comment on those, but not all forums are created equally. some are full of dickheads. best to leave that forum as the people there won't offer you anything helpful anyway because they don't have the knowledge to offer anything helpful. so just think of those forums as full of wannabes that'll never make it and laugh to yourself.

Shelley Stuart

Some people like to hide behind their computer screens and continue their schoolyard bullying tactics. It's not YOUR fault, it's THEIRS. And it's just schoolyard bullying. In person, you can confront bullies face-to-face. Online, confronting them lets them win -- they keep needling and poking and bullying. They are trolls and best left to go back under their bridges.

Chanel Ashley

Yes, Victor, it can be difficult, but an excellent opportunity to acquire a thick skin - steel yourself, look at their comments, while much of it may be brutal and harsh, learn from it - you can always glean something from observations, regardless how cruel - learn to sift for gold and discard the rubbish - I have received some appalling critiques, astonishing vitriol, but it doesn't bother me anymore - just do the best that you can, can't ask for more than that.

Shelley Stuart

Victor: the other thing to consider is to find a different safe writing feedback space. Collect a group of respected writers (online or off) and make your own writers group that's not just challenging to the story and your material, but nurturing to the spirit. Having feedback on story problems is great. Having support when you're navigating a challenging (and sometimes brutal) career is equally important.

Cherie Grant

It's a pity there isn't an ignore button. Would solve a lot of problems. Though i haven't seen any bullying on here just hard truths that some people can't handle because they're so deluded. Delusion is common in this industry.

Tabitha Baumander

Even the worst (and I got one recently) bit of feedback should be polite and try and find one good thing in the work. If your just getting panned then it shows more about the people that are slagging you than you. One thing you do need to look at is format. Screenwriting format is the anal retentive holy grail. Get something a even little bit wrong and some readers will stop reading and toss the thing. Find out as much as you can about what the industry standard is and try and stick to it. You'll reduce the headache. Once you have that down you can concentrate on the writing.

Rachel Miranda Jones

But... is it possible that, in fact, you really didn't have a clue about the subject?

Rachel Miranda Jones

But context is everything. If you just start posting a story on some random forum, I think you ought to be prepared for a bit of ragging.

Conor Irwin

Firstly, never show you work to people who have no idea about the craft of screenwriting. You are asking for trouble. Secondly, Its your baby and you are entitled to spend your time to pursue whatever artistic activity you see fit. Thirdly and finally when you feel it is ready or you are looking for some serious feedback only show it to ppl you trust especially experienced writers. Stop wasting your time with forums. Write for yourself not for validation.

Marc W. Johnson

I only started writing a few years ago, but one thing that life in general has taught me, a tough skin can get you through anything, and being a writer, I think having a steel outer shell is critical, because not everyone is going to like what you write about, or the way you write it. People can always find criticism with anything, what we have to do is know the overall (and sometimes bendable) rules of the craft we chose, and be strong enough to sift through the BS. The personal attacks are crap, they don't know you, so don't take it personal. Sounds like they are just trying to rile you up, don't let them, move on, and let them read your name on the big screen. Good luck, brother!

Chanel Ashley

Perhaps as a rule of thumb, Dan, but not certain I completely agree - some writer's I've reviewed are so far up themselves re their ability, that I couldn't resist pointing out the flaws in their work - okay, maybe a little petty and I should have risen above it all, but hey, I'm human, many of you must have had a similar experience.

Rachel Miranda Jones

Dan, I know exactly what you're talking about. However, what everyone seems to have missed is that the OP was "writing a (non screenplay) story on a forum". Now, I don't know the circumstances, but I've seen many people just start posting stories on forums that have nothing to do with writing- and if you really feel the need to do that you have to be realistic about the kind of response you're likely to get. If it was a site that purported to give "professional" feedback, that's different.

Rachel Miranda Jones

@Dan. Yes, but I gather that was on other forums, and not what upset him.

Boomer Murrhee

First off, any personal comments outside the work in question, I would strive to ignore. However, I would also suggest that putting unfinished or unpolished work for public viewing could be detrimental. I would strive to develop a close network of friends/family for support/encouragement, and a network of people working in the industry for critique. Sharing unfinished work in a public forum is a set-up for harsh comments and doesn't put your best foot forward as a writer. Criticism however how harsh, can be helpful when used in a constructive way. As someone has already said here, you may have to sift through a lot of dirt before you can find a nugget. Keep writing.

Dale Sumner

I agree, Dan does make very valid points. Most of all, that you can either listen to them and give up, or listen to them and get better. Good luck!

Thomas Ray

Here is a clue---If a person really thinks your writing is BAD they are usually polite about it when they tell you. Those who are jealous of your talent, or do not like the subject matter are the Hostile ones--Emotion breeds emotion

Mike Romoth

Anything you post online is open to trolls....and there are many who enjoy finding new victims to...well...victimize. Survival requires a thick skin, and the trolls can help you develop that ironclad sense of self. Ever watched "Celebrity Mean Tweets" on Kimmel? YouTube has plenty of these videos. There are avenues for finding out who matters in the film industry and who does not. Listen to the people who matter, ignore the ones who do not.

Steve Sherman

I find that a big, fresh pile of warm, steaming criticism often has a few embedded grains of truth. I generally try to pull out and rinse off the nourishing grains. But, there does come a point where the stench of criticism seems too great or the grain/criticism ratio is too low to be worth an immediate effort. Even so, sometimes these grains can sprout and grow over time while the criticisms become a little less offensive, meriting a revisit of the pile.

Thomas Ray

Yes, Starting out as a Painter, I noticed that getting Criticism was quite difficult. People try too hard to be "polite" and do us no favors. I treasured (and still do) Criticism, especially if I could learn from it. All in all, folks should be grateful for all the criticism they get. You do NOT have too agree with the critic, but his words should be listened to and evaluated. Yes, He could be wrong, but he might bring up points you may never of thought of.

Chaitanya Kulkarni

If someone is criticizing "you" and not your "work", it's their problem. In fact it shows how they must have read the story Don't worry, keep writing! Cheers..

Jenny Dome

Personal attacks are from insecure losers who feel threatened by your talent. Bottom line! Always believe in yourself and in your talent. Don't ever steer away from your creative journey based on what other untalented people spew at you! By following your bliss, you can never go wrong. :)

Michael L. Burris

If it was a personal attack they just don't know how to critique. However if someone says something like you should burn the work and use the ashes for fertilizer. That just gives an opportunity to grow something crappy into something beautiful. LOL! I'm learning how to bitch nicer instead of meaner and degrading, it's an art form. Bitching nicer that is. LOL! If you want to see a true writer or creator become the worse person on Earth get in the way of their creating or creations then you will see personal attacks that will make them rue the day they interfered. As Forrest Gump would say "And that's all I gotta say about that"

Leah Waller

How rude!! Some people are just jerks! I probably wouldn't post on those sites anymore, but that's just me! Personal attacks are uncalled for and trollish - ignore them! As far as project criticism goes, learn to accept and even enjoy that. It will make you a better writer. Most people who give constructive criticism are just trying to help (take Stage 32 for example - people post questions about their work, this is a site by writers, for writers and filled with, you guessed it, writers - we are cheering each other on and want to help. Yes, the critique may sting, but it's coming from a good place) I have gotten heavy criticism on my projects before, but that's what I paid for and wanted. I see my project as a castle, to me it's the most beautiful thing in the world, but it takes a siege to show me where the weaknesses are, where I need to do work. My feeling is, if you (the critic) tear it down, I will build it back and it will be even strong and more lovely. That view has helped me not get bent out of shape over harsh critiques. BUT personal attacks are different! Ignore the haters!

Steve Sherman

I've had two reviews where I was told how novel the idea was. In the one case, it was meant as a compliment (original!), in the other a criticism (nobody is doing this!). I've also been told the story structure was solid and, in another review, the structure was missing. (I always strive to get the story structure down FIRST.) I suspect the reason for the latter was they were either looking for a "Save the Cat!" structure or it didn't fit some other kind of template they were judging against. Sometimes, the criticism is all about the work. Other times, the criticism is all about the reviewer. Given that, where there is a personal attack, that's really about the reviewer. The true professionals I know and have had the honor to work always resist personal attacks. Lastly, when dealing with very busy people, you have to recognize that "no" is usually the correct answer and it reduces the amount of work that's ahead. It's just business.

Andrea E. Windsor

There's no excuse for people to be cruel on any level. I'm a retired school teacher turned Screenwriter. Constructive criticism yes, personal never. People who are mean, sarcastic, negative, 9 times out 10, are either one of the following: 1) Extremely insecure; 2) Cowards, (to your face they'd be sweet as pie, but behind a computer screen, they feel they can say the meanest things, 3) mentally challenged. I've been pretty lucky so far in that I've never ran into that in screenwriting, but I have come across it in other areas. I ignore, delete, don't read anything that has that type of offensive material. As soon as they throw out the first insulting remark, hit the delete button. As writers, we're sensitive people, easily offended and it only brings you down. So don't let those losers, guaranteed they've got a chip on their shoulder about something, get in the way of your success.

Kindari O'Connor

Haters will hate. The fact that they comment at all means you've hooked them somehow. And the fact that it's a personal attack may even suggest you've hooked them emotionally and they either have no applicable feedback or they're so hooked emotionally they can't rationalize it. Better to have the negative response than no response. I take a little heart from rap and hip hop music. Some mention in their lyrics how haters have helped propel them to higher success, even going to say they are a critical component of it.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Criticism mixed with heavy doses of entitlement and pettiness should always be ignored. Honest, objective, helpful and intelligent opinions based from true experience are always welcome. Victor, you will always encounter both. The best approach is to completely ignore the former. Find those who's opinions you can trust and leave the others in your wake. Keep calm and write on! All the best to you!

William Martell

They're only verbal attacks, right? So who cares.

Doug Nelson

Unfortunately, ‘personal attacks’ are becoming more common among writers (and artists of all types.) I think that online critique is more prone to personal attacks due to the anonymity. I’ve also noticed that there are an awful number of non-creative types out there who are more inclined to tear you down rather than put forth the effort to elevate their own skill. You must grow a thick skin to rise above the fray. Any criticism of your work must be taken with a grain of salt too. Every writer has a personal take on any story and that may parallel yours; or not.

Geoff Webb

The key thing with posting on websites is that for the most part you are getting the opinion of amateurs. Amateurs who might never have even finished any piece of work, so the reviews you get will range from pitifully terrible to very helpful. I always have the view 'would a good writer give you an opinionated review full of personal attacks?' Someone once told me I should burn my script haha. The next reviewer raved about it, that's the way it rolls. For me the whole point of getting other opinions is to see if a pattern emerges, if 3 people say the same thing then they might have a point but if it is just one person says something then it is just taken into consideration.

Laura Tabor-Huerta

I agree with what Doug says. Everything has gotten uglier since the Internet and especially the past 2 years. I would only submit writing to places where you know committed, mature people wiil be able to comment.

Jeff Watkins

In any industry, or for that matter, any circumstance, there will always be someone who is in competition with you. Some people can compete healthily and constructively, offering support for your work while trying to improve their own. Then there is the blatant competition, where they are openly playing at who can be better. These can actually be of benefit as they can motivate you personally, if you are that way inclined. Then we have the undermining competition, who are those people who are threatened by you for what ever reason (jealousy, dislike, grudges) and will attempted to diminish your work through some means, such as sabotage, or defamation, and ranging from simple misdirection, to criminal involvement. Then there are Trolls. They are not threatened by you, but by life inn general. They seem to see it as their mission to insult, put-down and upset anyone and everyone. They often use emotional statements and hide their identity. They offer nothing in the way of useful commentary, preferring to insult someone's personality, even when they do not know the person. Theonly effective way to deal with Trolls, is to either ignore them, or play their game right back, only better. I prefer to ignore and focus my energies somewhere useful. My two cents worth.

Gregory Kauffman

Artists, particularly writers (or anyone who originates something) are particularly the target of those who wish to see others deminished so that they can feel better about themselves. Anything you can do to cut those lines, you should do. You are special because you have the power to create. Letting those kinds of people in to your space simply reduces you. The one good thing here is that these are blatently these spoiler types of personalities so you can easily recognize and thuse ignore them. As an artists, all artists, will from time to time have "friends" who are trying to do you in under the guise of help. Those types need to be watched for and eliminated from your life, also.

Rycke Foreman

Jeff and Greg are right. Put a slightly different way, some people have cancer of the personality and do what they can to infect your own. They're doing what they do for their own sick needs, because the Big C sucks healthy cells dry and makes a Bigger C. Fortunately, unless you're related to them, these can usually be cut out quickly and easily, so your Write Blood Cells can focus where they should: you. Why devote your energy to their cancer, likely feeding their growth in the process, when you should be focusing and feeding your own healthy growth? Hell, create that SOB as a character, and take out your hurt on him that way. Just be sure to wrap a real story around it, sell it, then laugh in their miserable face the whole way to the bank. Then you've channelled a destructive force into something positive. And--it'll aggravate the hell outta 'em!

Michael Anthony Yates

Victor, I have always thought of Trolls as people who see life as a see-saw. They seem to feel they are down the bottom of life and have decided the only way to get up high is by bringing others down. So, if that's true, people who fly into others with negative, personal comments are really just telling you how bad they feel about themselves and hope you will play their game. Don't do it. If you have a passion to write then keep doing it. And, if you want to improve, get feedback from professional writers. Good luck, Mike Yates

Rachel Miranda Jones

Well- I feel the definition of "troll" is rather fluid. There are people who like to tear others down under the guise of giving "constructive criticism"- trolls in denial, you might say. There are people who are convinced that everything they do is perfect and that anyone who suggests otherwise is a troll by definition. Oddly, there is a massive overlap between these groups- thus, it is certainly worth looking at how the people criticising you respond to criticism themselves before you decide to take them seriously. That said, the ones Victor describes just sound like a few random teenagers idly picking on someone on a random forum, and are probably not worth all the agonising.

Ruby Zandra Waller

@Victor, I feel your pain. However, when you put yourself and/or your work out there, be prepared to accept the good with the bad and learn from it. Most of us creatives have a hard time separating the creation from the creator and see the artist in the work. Honest feedback should be embraced and not taken personally. As the artist gets better, the work will get better and the tone of the criticism will change more so as the critics warm up to the artist. LOL, I can not change a word and the critic that does not like me will hate my work. As they get to know me and like me, they know and like my work. Personally, it is hard to embrace a work without embracing the artist and watching for that artists work as a preference. If you asked for feedback, thank them and move on taking what you can for improvement purposes letting the rest go in one one ear and out the other. If you did not ask for feedback and don't care for feedback not encouraged, move on. Antagonizing a critic by complaining about the criticism can't help:). I often tell my family if you don't want my opinion, don't ask me to give it to you. If I give you my opinion unsolicited, just say thanks. Don't tell me how you really feel if you don't agree. It will only lead to a debate. I am not a fan of debating. Many of us haven't learned when we can't say anything good not to say nothing at all. It's a work in progress.

K.D. Stout

A lot of these people are right... You are going to run into critics. If you strongly believe in your writing and stories, then don't let those negative people get to you. Just keep on going with your writing.

Sandra Campbell

I would completely ignore individuals who have nothing to offer except ignorant, personal attacks. Focus on the genuine criticism of your work, and keep writing and improving your craft.

Robert People

There are a lot of BITTER people (as I've noticed on here) who are trying to get into the business also, have failed and are not taking it very well. There's NO excuse for personal attacks, but they will unfortunately still happen because of the insecurities of some people. Not to mention, they're brainwashed into believing that they're "telling you the truth," but there's always a cordial way of letting someone know their work isn't up to par. I've noticed (again, on here quite a bit) that people tend to be more negative than positive, so it's in them anyway to be nasty. Try not to let them get to you, because more than likely, it's THEIR OWN lack of success that they're most bothered by...not what YOU are trying to achieve.

Chanel Ashley

I know I'll get panned for it, but much of the above is an expression of your own insecurity and sensitivity - no one on this site has had a script more vilified than mine, no one here has had greater personal attacks than I have experienced, so I also have been on the receiving end - but too many of you are too precious, you can't handle criticism and respond badly to any negative observations of your work - not all, but too many of you need to acquire a thick skin if you wish to be in this industry - script consultants are nice to you, many free reviewers are nice to you, but there will be a percentage that are not - BUT, from my experience, you can almost always glean something from the "perceived" negative review - sure, there are trolls, sure there are morons out there, but quite often the critique is more accurate than one would like to admit - when I review, I'm honest and very matter-of-fact, this does not always endear me to the writer in question, but ultimately it is an "opinion", you don't have to agree and part and parcel of a free review - the said "free" review is 4-6 hours of mine time, I ask nothing in return - in closing, be a little more respectful, take it on the chin, then move on, stop bemoaning the fact your script is not universally loved.

Robert People

Chanel, here's my opinion on what you posted. I think there's too much of an extreme one way or the other and as always, those who DON'T go to those extremes are automatically lumped in with the rest. While there are certainly those who think that every script they write is absolute gold and "HOW DARE YOU" say it isn't the best, there are also those reviewers who consider THEIR opinions as gold as well and anyone who doesn't like it or agree "needs to get thick skin." I can't speak for everyone else because I am NOT everyone else, but as for ME, I entered into this knowing that my work isn't the best and I'm looking for people to help me out with that. I'm VERY gracious of the feedback I've received, because it has helped me out IMMENSELY. I don't even consider feedback to be negative, because many times, the reviewers caught something I didn't catch, such as, in one screenplay, I have a woman who has dealt with sexism through most of her life, but she "storms" out of a meeting with a man who basically says all the same things. The reviewer said that this didn't make sense, because if she has dealt with this her entire life, while she'd still be upset, it looked like the man's reaction surprised her when it really shouldn't have. I appreciated that, because it was something I did not consider and overlooked. A lot of people don't seem to expect that for some reason. There's this expectation that I am that writer who thinks my work is the best and that I think people are stupid if they don't like it. That couldn't be further from the truth. With still being relatively new to this (working on screenplays after a year and a half), I know that sometimes, I have to just get work that I know is subpar out there just as a means to get feedback. When I began this last year, my plan was to write at least three with NO intention of sending them to agencies. These were my "practice" (for lack of a better term) scripts. These were the ones I know would get beaten up the most, but in my opinion, never having written one before, I HAD to do this in order to be steered in the right direction so that once I started that fourth script, now I've been taught a bit on how to write a screenplay. This meant that I would get a LOT of what is perceived as negative feedback, because there would be a ton of mistakes. That didn't bother me. I know that's the kind of time I would have to put into it. On the other side of things, there are the producers and/or reviewers who think that they can be totally rude and nasty about it and if we call them out on it, something is wrong with US, such as we're "insecure" or "thin-skinned" and all that and while many might be, it doesn't all fall on the writer to just "accept" whatever is being put out. Again, I can't speak for everyone, but when I open feedback, as long as I have SPECIFICS, I am in immense appreciation to who provided it to me and I always thank them for it. The specifics are what I'm looking for. If I screw up and don't close a loop or have the wrong character doing something, that being pointed out does not bother me. That's the whole reason I ask for the feedback. However, I've noticed, especially on here, that people are insulting the writers themselves with little no specifics. Putting writers down because we want to protect our work when that part of it has NOTHING to do with them. If a writer wants to protect their work, it's not about "insecurity" or anything else. It's a good practice to get into. People don't have to be professionals to want to do that. It's just like saying that people shouldn't get a security system for a house because it's not a mansion. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a writer wanting to protect his or her work. People may not agree, but again, what is the harm? Yet, people are insulting these writers over this, which again, has NOTHING to do with them. Also, as long as you stick to the screenplay, I can take anything you dish out, because again, that's the kind of feedback I am HUNGRY for, believe it or not. However, when you start going into other things, that's when I have the problem. If you were to call me a "wannabe" writer, or you start assuming what my motivations are when I've never mentioned them, such as assuming that I think my work is the absolute best out there or that I'm protecting my work because I'm "scared" of it being stolen, THAT'S out of line, period. If you want to know what my motivations are, ASK. Don't assume because you supposedly have dealt with "so many writers" that you think you know me inside and out. You don't. With only my screenplay or a log line in front of you, how could you POSSIBLY know what I'm trying to accomplish? You can't. I can't speak for other writers and you surely can't speak for them either until they TELL you what their goals are. Not everyone who writes a screenplay is thinking of A-list actors to play the parts. I'm nowhere near that yet. But don't assume that's where my mind is when you have no idea. You can make any excuse for that you want. While I know what to expect and that won't cause me to lose sleep, at the same time, the people who do that can't be just let off the hook and then we're put down because we say something about it. The extremes are on BOTH sides. Sorry for making this so long, but the bottom line is that again, I can't speak for everyone, but when I ask feedback, I'm not asking for ONLY positive feedback; I'm asking for ALL feedback because I NEED IT ALL. You're not helping me by giving me an excellent review when my work could use some work. You're just setting me up for failure. That's probably not the majority. But just because I or someone else may ask that the reviewer be respectful in their feedback, that doesn't always have to do with needing to have thick skin. Some people are genuinely negative and just BITTER to begin with (likely because THEY haven't found the success their looking for, so they take it out on everyone else), so everything will come out of them in the worst possible way. Can't change them; I get that. But this is not something that only exists on the writer's side. BOTH sides could stand to improve when it comes to both giving feedback AND receiving it. All I'm asking is that a reviewer review ME as an INDIVIDUAL writer and not very inaccurately lump me in with other writers who have different motivations and goals than I do. I don't believe that's too much to ask. Feedback that is constructive is NEVER a problem, at least with me, because I never submit anything thinking it's the best. I'm always happier after reading feedback than before, because I'm getting tools to get better. That seems to be very hard for a lot of people to believe, but again, we shouldn't be expected to just "accept" that. Work can be done on BOTH sides of this.

Chanel Ashley

Robert, you certainly got a lot off your chest, LOL - I know where you're coming from, , but let's eliminate the two extremes, the bottom 10% of trolls, the top 10% that will tell you what you want to hear, and neither is of benefit to the writer - that leaves 80% - I speak from MY experience, and from that experience I have discerned that MOST writers are too sensitive to criticism and react badly when exposed to, it - I ALWAYS try to help the writer in my critique, I always extol the GOOD and the BAD re their screenplay from my perspective - some of the responses I have received has been APPALLING, gutter language and the vitriol you would expect if I was a child molester - so, it goes both ways and I always STRESS that it is only an opinion - if a writer wants to play SAFE, pay a consultant.

Andrea E. Windsor

I so agree Dan with everything you said.

Danny Manus

You want personal attacks? Try twitter. God the people on there are so vicious and they don't even know you!

Andrea E. Windsor

Cyber Bullies, Danny. They're actually cowards behind a screen. Nothing but wimps in real life. Just hit the delete button as soon as the conversation gets ugly.

Tabitha Baumander

small minds will attack, Better minds will give constructive comments. Sometimes the latter can sting because with the arts reality can suck. I think the thing to remember is do it for yourself. That way if nothing comes of it you can still say. There, I did a thing and it has value all on its own simply because it exists.

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