The ScriptShark Critique Sheet

The Scriptshark Critique SheetI rediscovered the ScriptShark Critique Sheet from 2009. It’s another useful tool by which to evaluate your manuscript.

Before its acquisition by iFilm, ScriptShark was an industry resource that solicited and evaluated screenplays and manuscripts from writers worldwide. I held onto the Critique Sheet which editors used to score incoming scripts.

While the resource was originally developed for screenplays, there’s a lot we can apply to novels.

The Big Picture

The ScriptShark Critique sheet opens with the headline criteria:

  • Idea
  • Story Line
  • Characterization
  • Dialogue
  • Market Value

These are scored Excellent/Good/Fair/Poor


The next section is Mechanics

The criteria here are:

  • Action lines clearly and concisely manifest action and literal context.
  • Scenes end close to the optimal length.
  • Spelling, grammar, and proofreading.
  • Page count.
  • The manuscript’s physical presentation.
  • Quality of the dialogue.
  • The manuscript effectively manifests a compelling theme and adheres to it throughout the story.

The ratings are: Excellent/Solid/Needs Work/Re-think/Not Applicable


The third section is Character

It focuses on story elements you may recognise from previous posts here:

  • The protagonist clearly manifests both internal and external goals.
  • The protagonist has consistent opposition to his/her goals.
  • The protagonist is sympathetic and/or engages our emotional investment.
  • The protagonist clearly changes/has an arc.
  • The supporting characters are unique and add value to the story.
  • All of the characters are authentic to their backgrounds.
  • The script has an effective antagonistic force, direct or indirect.

Again, the ratings are: Excellent/Solid/Needs Work/Re-think/Not Applicable


The fourth section is Structure.

You can see familiar story elements here, too:

  • The script has a strong structural foundation that serves the story; classic three-act structure or otherwise.
  • Plots and subplots work together.
  • The set-up is concise, and effective.
  • The story has well-designed reversals.
  • Transitions are effective and appropriate to the story.
  • Every scene has relevance.
  • The story includes an effective dramatic climax/payoff.
  • The setup is resolved effectively.
  • A catalytic situation drives the plot.
  • Dramatic conflict and tension build across scenes, throughout the plot.

This scores another set of ratings under : Excellent/Solid/Needs Work/Re-think/Not Applicable

Market Value

The final section is Market Value. ScriptShark operated as a development hub for movie projects, with a keen eye on scripts that sell. It easily applies to novels.

The marketing criteria for this section are:

  • Originality/freshness.
  • The story has a clearly defined target audience.
  • The story clearly has mass audience (universal) appeal.
  • The story includes a conceptual “hook” that could potentially be used to effectively market it to the target audience.

And the ratings remain: Excellent/Solid/Needs Work/Re-think/Not Applicable

This is exactly the kind of story checklist an author can use to evaluate an idea, an early outline or first draft of a novel. You could also give this critique sheet to beta readers in order to get some consistent, focused and structured feedback.

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