During the discussion on 'throwaways,' I read that writers don't know what to be critical about in their own work. So, as evidence that I'm not like those other guys, I posted my critical checklist in that thread, but it did not generate any discussion. I wonder what's Number One on your critical checklist, and why, and maybe a bit on how you evaluate whether your work gets a tick or cross for each item.
I'll go first.
1. Premise, hook, or logline.

The big idea, hopefully contained in the title. This is my number one, because it's the driving force, the engine of the story, from it, character, dialogue, action, tone, pace, setting and everything follow. The logline is how you pitch the film. A good one will get people interested. Here's one I junked:
FARMER WANTS A WIFE, rom-com: A lonely young farmer, tired of rejection from local girls who want an exciting life in the city, starts putting his picture and email address at the bottom of ice-cream tubs he produces. A journalist falls for him when she comes to interview him, but can she face life on a dairy farm?
Believe it or not, I was really excited when I thought of that, and even wrote up an outline for it. Then, I thought, before I start writing, I'll read a few scripts and watch a few rom-coms and see how my idea fits the rom-com template.
I read a few scripts and watched a few DVDs and I discovered: A. I hate rom-coms. B. Seemingly half of all rom-coms feature a journalist character and follow path similar to the one I'd outlined. In fact, my outline covered just about every rom-com cliche, including the nasty editor who sexes up the journalist's story (How to Lose a Guy in 10 days, Runaway Bride, the Good Citizen (made for TV)...) Everything but the gay best friend. So, while my story did boast an inept Latvian farmhand, and did have an enterprising young English farmer, which I liked, it also had too many cliches, especially the journalist true-love match with a
boy-loses-girl-over-magazine-article twist. Also, the third-act climax (farmer's bovine herd gets a suspected case of foot-and-mouth and the farm must be quarantined and the herd slaughtered, but the farmer must save good old Daisy from the government vet (executioner)'s bolt, while the journalist climbs the quarantine fence to proclaim true love and bring the news about a similar sick-cow case in Holland that was not foot and mouth but...oh, god, you know the rest) sucked. Come to think of it, I did nearly put in a gay-best-friend, in the form of a woman farmer who wasn't too interested in men.
Everything follows from the logline, so I sort that out first, then write an outline, read similar scripts and get stuck in. So I'm critical from the outset, which means most of my 'throwaways' don't get written at all. Guess I am lazy and impatient. What's top of your critical list?
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FARMER WANTS A WIFE, rom-com: A lonely young farmer, tired of rejection from local girls who want an exciting life ... A journalist falls for him when she comes to interview him, but can she face life on a dairy farm?

I herd this story. The cows get mad when the farmer refuses to hook- up.
Robin
"or hoof-up, as the case may be."
Just twist it a little bit. Have the cows play matchmaker for their owner. It would be "Chicken Run" meets "Fiddler on the Roof."

Lois
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During the discussion on 'throwaways,' I read that writers don't know what to be critical about in their own work. ... of my 'throwaways' don't get written at all. Guess I am lazy and impatient. What's top of your critical list?

Well, were you to have run the above logline by me, I must be honest, I would have had serious problems with it from the get go.

Just read what you wrote read it carefully. To be precise read two phrases.
"wants an exciting life in the city." The guy wants an exciting life in the city. Okay that's his challenge to find love in the big city.
"can she face life on a dairy farm." Face life on a dairy farm. That her challenge face life on a dairy farm.
You know what this says to me?
It says to me, having read no more than the logline that you haven't figured out what this movie is about.
Is it about a guy who, because he has fallen in love is now going to have leave his life on a farm and all the problems that that entails, or is it about a woman who falls in love, and is now going to have live on a dairy farm and all of the problems that that entails.
Is this a story about a country mouse in the big city or a story about a city mouse in the country?
You certainly seem to suggest, from what you say afterward, that it's all about the reporter going out to the country but then, why the reference to the guy looking for the excitement of the city or is he simply looking for an "exciting city girl" to come out and live with him in the country?
If so that's a very awkwardly phrased log line.

It also, frankly, makes it unclear whose story it is. It starts with the guy, suggesting that it's his problem that lies at the heart of the story, then moves to the girl suggesting that it's really her problem that's at the heart of the story.
Whose problem is it who is it that's going to take the front seat in solving the problem?
As for me. I find that, lately, I don't necessarily know what the movie I am writing is actually about until I am well into it. That is, I have a reasonably good idea of the structure, but the deeper thematic meaning doesn't necessarily come into focus for me until I actually start writing and once it does, I find that I frequently have to go back and revise and rethink to bring previously written things into line with my clearer understanding of what I've discovered while actually writing.
This also falls in line with my more recent tendency, when writing specs to not write with outlines but with only a general sense of where the story is going. I suppose, to some extent, this is more along the lines of working without a net, and it doesn't necessarily yield a final first draft that is as tightly structured as one that comes from an outline, but I tend to find that you end up with things that are potentially more interesting, because it allows you to discover things while you are writing that you might not otherwise discover.
At least it's more interesting to me.
It's not something that I necessarily recommend or anything, and I certainly have and continue to write from outlines when, for instance, on assignment I have to write an outline because they require an outline.
It's just a different approach to developing the material.

NMS
During the discussion on 'throwaways,' I read that writers don't ... am lazy and impatient. What's top of your critical list?

Well, were you to have run the above logline by me, I must be honest, I would have had serious ... is he simply looking for an "exciting city girl" to come out and live with him in the country?

'A lonely young farmer, tired of rejection from local girls who want an exciting life in the city...'
Is it about a guy who, because he has fallen in love is now going to have leave his life ... a story about a country mouse in the big city or a story about a city mouse in the country?

It's "The Holiday" - the breezy, lighthearted ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-EIGHT- MINUTE romantic comedy that had two heads.
jaybee
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FARMER WANTS A WIFE, rom-com: A lonely young farmer, tired ... him, but can she face life on a dairy farm?

I herd this story. The cows get mad when the farmer refuses to hook- up.

The strapline is: Cheese Wisely.
Well, were you to have run the above logline by ... to come out and live with him in the country?

'A lonely young farmer, tired of rejection from local girls who want an exciting life in the city...'

Right. One's "Petticoat Junction" and the other's "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer." Put 'em together and you have a new genre.
"Mr. Neeek, Sr."
'A lonely young farmer, tired of rejection from local girls who want an exciting life in the city...'

Right. One's "Petticoat Junction" and the other's "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer." Put 'em together and you have a new genre.

Sorry, meant "Green Acres." The other combo's more in the adults-only region...
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