One of the most important skills a writer can foster is being able to interpret the note behind the note. Your entire career is going to be spent writing ideas you love and then hearing the problems other people have with them. It's humbling and frustrating.

Today, I want to go over the ten most common notes you're going to get as a writer, and then offer some interpretations to help you walk through your rewrite and understand where execs are coming from.

Let's dive in.

Translating Executive Notes

Almost all of my best friends out here in Los Angeles are executives. I wind up hanging out with them a few times a week, and listening to the way they talk about my writing and other writers.

From here, I tried to put together ten notes I've gotten from them and others, and the interpretations I got from these words.

1. "This needs to be more high-concept."

  • Translation: Your idea needs a hook that's easily communicated and feels big enough for a wide audience. Can you boil it down to a simple, exciting logline?

2. "I'm not connecting with the main character."

  • Translation: Your protagonist needs clearer goals, stronger motivations, or more compelling flaws to make the audience care about them.

3. "Can we raise the stakes?"

  • Translation: The conflict isn't big or dangerous enough. What are the worst possible consequences if your character fails? How can we make those even worse?

4. "The pacing feels slow."

  • Translation: Things aren't happening quickly enough, or scenes are overstaying their welcome. Look for areas of exposition or introspection that might be tightened or cut.

5. "It feels too familiar."

  • Translation: Your story has a been-there-done-that feeling. Is there a way to add a fresh twist to the premise, characters, or setting?

6. "This is too expensive to produce."

  • Translation: Scale back. Those epic battle sequences, exotic locations, or period sets will break the budget. Can the core of this story be told on a smaller scale?

7. "Where's the humor?" or "This is too dark."

  • Translation They want to adjust the tone of the script. Either inject more lightness into a heavy drama or find grounding moments in an otherwise zany comedy.

8. "Can you make this character younger/older/more diverse?"

  • Translation: They're aiming for wider audience appeal or a specific demographic. Be careful not to make the change tokenizing—but think about reflecting the real world. It can only benefit you by widening the story options and audience.

9. "I don't understand the ending."

  • Translation: Either the ending is confusing or unsatisfying. Does it pay off the promises made earlier in the script? Does it leave the audience with the emotional response they crave?

10. "This needs to feel more like [successful movie]."

  • Translation: They want to capture the audience that loved a comparable film. Analyze why that movie succeeded and consider if some of that flavor can be added to your script.

Hopefully, this helps you understand the point of view of the execs on your project and helps you meet the goals of your spec.

Let me know what you think in the comments.