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TPG Week 15: Infodumps Are Not Reader-Friendly

| April 8, 2011 | 6 Comments

 

Welcome back to The Proving Grounds! This week’s Brave One is David Herbert, who decided to come back for another round! Let’s see how he does, shall we?

This is Miss Supreme.

Page One

(Nine Panels)

 

Panel One: We open to a flashback. This entire page is set during the day. There’s a mob of protesters outside Teppet City Hall, all of them looking angry, waving around their signs with slogans such as “Mob Menace Needs to Go” “An End to Corruption” “How Much Have They Paid You?” and “More Police Power.” We’re standing on the steps of city hall and looking down at them yelling at us from behind a fence. They’re not trying to come closer or make any threats. They just want to be heard. (There’s a fence? Interesting. Second, it would be nice to give the time of year. Since we’re outside, we need to know how the people are dressed. Are they bundled up in autumn/winter, or are they wearing looser clothes like spring/summer? Finally, if you’re opening with a flashback, then the reader needs to know that immediately. Since this is superheroes, one of the easiest and oldest ways is to do this with color. Another way? A caption that either gives a year or a timeframe in the past.)

NarrationCaption: The city of Teppet was suffering. Crime was at an all time high, and it was all connected to organised criminal syndicates. (I’m going to perpetuate some scripting terms. Even though you’re clear, it’s just easier on everyone if you use the correct terms. I added a comma, but you might want to think about rewriting that second sentence some. 22.)

NarrationCaption: Unfortunately, the various families and gangs were too good at covering their tracks, and any evidence obtained was circumstantial or violated the constitutional rights of the criminals. (27/49. You’re getting close to being wordy. The good thing is that these are captions, and as such, they’ll be in a box, not a balloon. Not as much negative space to deal with.  That’s first. Second, are gangs really that adept at covering their tracks? I don’t think that’s what most people think of when they think of gangs. Not in America. Something to think about.)

 

Panel Two: On the steps of the hall, we see the mayor, a short portly man with balding white hair in a navy blue suit and tie, standing behind a podium during a press conference. We’re seeing this from the view of one of the cameras, which is right up close. (How do we know this is a camera view? More importantly, is this camera view important? Will it come up somewhere in the storytelling? If it does, good. It can be kept. If it doesn’t, then you’ll need to think of another view.)

NarrationCaption: The mayor did his best to explain this, but it was only met with cries of outrage. (17/66.)

NarrationCaption: During one conference, he made a joke that the only way this problem could be solved was if the government legalised superhero vigilantes. (23/89. Here’s the thing about captions: you’re putting up a wall between the story and the reader. Because no one is really speaking, they’re sitting back, having the story told to them. Engage the reader! Put some dialogue in someone’s mouth.)

 

Panel Three: We’re now standing across the street from a petition signing outside a supermarket. There’s a huge line of people waiting to sign. (There should be a sign somewhere saying what the petition is about. And why are we across the street? If I stand across the street of a supermarket, I’m looking at a sea of cars in the parking lot, and the building itself behind that. No. Push this up into the parking lot itself.)

NarrationCaption: Little did he know people would take this idea to heart, and the campaign for a legitimate superhero began.  (19/108. Comma.)

 

Panel Four: We’re now looking down at a stack of newspapers lying on a sidewalk. The headline reads “SUPERHERO LAW PASSES” with the sub-heading “Tryouts to begin next week.”

NarrationCaption: After months of pressure, federal law changed to allow each city a superhero who only answered to the commissioner and was able to ignore civil rights such as right to privacy and attorney/client privilege. (34/142. Wait. I’m going to assume this is set in American. You’re mixing Federal Law with State Law, which generally doesn’t mix. The feds can’t really tell a state what to do. Each state has its own constitution, which is generally more detailed than the federal one. It just can’t contradict it. Looks like more research is in order. )

NarrationCaption: Any evidence they brought in was admissible, no matter the circumstance. (11/153. Comma.)

 

(Page One Continued)

 

Panel Five: We’re now standing before a line of people, men and women, in white shirts and cargo pants, standing at attention. These are the people training to become the superhero.

NarrationCaption: Anyone was permitted to audition, provided that they met all the necessary requirements for the job. (16/169.)

 

Panel Six: We’re now looking down on several of the students running across some rooftops.  (Are these real rooftops in a city, or is this in a training facility? Are they still in training uniform, or are they in costume?)

NarrationCaption: Training included courses in multiple forms of armed and unarmed combat, first aid on others and yourself, detective skills and Le Pakour for getting around.  (25/194. Running across a rooftop doesn’t show the dynamics of what Parkour can be. As a visual, this is boring. Your artist is going to want to spice it up.)

 

Panel Seven: We’re now standing in front of a man being examined by a doctor in a white office. (What kind of examination? Really, you should have cut this off at panel 4.)

NarrationCaption: Along with several examinations, both physical and psychological to make sure that the most likely candidates would be able to handle the stress of the job. (26/220. You went from the interesting to the boring. Stop at panel 4, give the captions some more space to breathe, and  keep the story moving.)

 

Panel Eight: We’re now standing behind an artist who is at their drawing board, designing a costume. This is in the early designs of the concept art, so it’s just an outline with some black gloves and blue pants. (The artist is going to need more than that. Is this a home studio, is it a building studio, what? Are there other concepts scattered around? Is the person a clothes designer, and has snippets of fabric around? Set the scene.)

NarrationCaption: But after a year, someone finally met all the requirements to become Teppet’s guardian. (14/234)

 

Panel Nine: We see Miss Supreme standing on the rooftop of a skyscraper, looking out into the distance. The sun is shining and giving her an angelic glow. We’re looking up at her.

NarrationCaption: Jennifer Harmon. AKA: (3/237)

NarrationCaption: MISS SUPREME! (2/239)

(Okay, David. You have a nine-panel grid here, and 239 words. You’re going to cover up most of your artwork. And really, 9 panels in a superhero story is too much.  Especially for the first page, and especially with 239 words. Like I said, chop it off at panel 4. Leave the rest for the second page.)

 

Page Two

(One Panel)

Panel One: Change to the present day. We’re in a large bank, which is being robbed. We’re standing behind a thug in SWAT gear, minus the helmet, that has been painted red and black. He’s being hit with an uppercut by Miss Supreme and is falling backwards from the force. This action is our main focus. In the background are three more thugs, armed with shotguns, looking at the scene amazed. Huddling under the counter are customers who are acting as hostages, while behind the counter, the tellers have their hands raised. (Where is the camera supposed to be?)

Also, this would be the spot for the credits so make sure there’s room for that.

Caption: I think I love my job a little too much. (Still “telling” the story instead of engaging the reader. Yes, I’m saying that someone should be saying something here. What does her expression say that mirrors what the caption says?)

SFX: WHAK

I like the placement of this splash. It’s basically self-explanatory, which is always good. However, it isn’t flowing well with the 9 panel page before it. Your pacing is off. Going from nine panels to one panel is extremely jarring, which is part of the reason why I want you to cut down the first page to four or five panels.  So, what you’re going to have to do is one of two things:

You’re either going to have to REALLY condense the first page down in order to keep this splash where it is, OR you’re going to have to expand the first page into three pages, and put the splash page on the 4th page. Your choice, but I vote for expansion. Expand on the robbery some more before going into the splash. That’ll make your third page.

 

Page Three

(Five Panels)

Panel One: We’re now just in front of the counter, looking towards Supreme. The thugs are over their shock and are aiming their guns at her as she turns to them, reaching into her pocket. (Where’s the camera? I’m seeing this as the camera being between near a wall, with the thugs on the left and Miss Supreme on the right [you need a name change, too. When said out loud Miss Supreme sounds strange, and if you get this produced, Rob Liefeld might come a knockin’.]. What do their expressions say?)

Caption: I think the thrill is starting to corrupt me. (It’s P3. It’s high time someone actually spoke here. Something tells me you’re going to make everyone wait until P4. If that’s so, that’s WAY too long.)

 

Panel Two: Close in on Supreme. She dives to her left, throwing three of her S discs in the direction of two thugs, who are off panel. We also see the gunshots flying past her as she dives.

Caption: I’m not talking about taking bribes to let these guys go or forcing people to give me free stuff,. I’d never do that. (Period, not a comma.)

 

Panel Three: We’re standing on the right hand side of one of the thugs. He and one of his friends drop their guns because their hands have been hit by the discs.

Caption: I’m breaking so many protocols and rules all the normal cops would have to follow just by being in here, using weapons and training none of them could ever hope to access.

Thugs: ARGH! (Really, what’s going to happen is this: your letterer, if they’re any good, is going to give each thug a distinctive sound of pain. Because what you’ve called for is for both of the thugs to say exactly the same thing. Unless they’re clones with the same controller, they’re not going to say the same thing. Do your letterer a favor and have them each say something different. Oh, and just for the record, no, I don’t consider this real dialogue with someone speaking.)

 

Panel Four: We’re standing behind Supreme as she turns to the last thug, who has his shotgun aimed at her. (Why hasn’t she been shot yet? She should have been shot already.)

Caption: I actually called a Captain a little bitch for not wanting me in here,. Ccan you believe that? (Huh? The captain didn’t want her in there, so she called the captain a little bitch? I’m not understanding that. Not the way it’s written now. Rewrite this.)

Caption: And he had to stand there and take it. (This needs to be illuminated a bit more. Either that, or excised. Your call.)

 

Panel Five: We’re looking through the viewpoint of the thug’s gun. The thug shoots Supreme in the chest as she falls back, yelling in pain.

Caption: This job is

Supreme: (Blend this into the caption box so we can see it is part of her thoughts as well as an outburst) OOFFF!

(Yep. You’re making everyone wait. No. Add some real dialogue here. Short story time: I wrote a story that has almost ALL captions. Very rarely do people talk in it. I have to rewrite the thing in order to add dialogue to it. Why? Because the readers aren’t engaged, no matter how cool I think the story is. And here, waiting until P4—I think—to have someone really speak? That’s too long.)

 

Page Four

(Six Panels)

Panel One: The last thug standing walks over to Supreme. We’re focussed on her lying on the ground, clutching her stomach and looking done for. (I thought she was shot in the chest.)

Caption: Guh… I…

Caption: Breathe… hard to…

 

Panel Two: Focus on the thug’s legs. Supreme is kicking him so that he trips up. (Is he falling? Did she kick him in the knee? Is he trying to catch himself? Is he in pain? I dunno. Lots of questions, no real answers.)

Caption: God damn it, keep in the game.

 

Panel Three: Close up on Supreme as she struggles to her feet. We can also see the people who were being held hostage nervously getting to their feet as well. (What are the other guys doing? Still nursing their boo-boo’s? They were only hit in the hand. They have two. They should be attacking her while she was down. More than likely, you’re going to need to rewrite this passage.)

Caption: First thing they teachtaught you: “Don’t get distracted.”

Caption: And what’s the first rule you break, Jen? (Hm. THIS makes it seem like she hasn’t been doing this long, while the earlier line about her getting corrupted gives the impression that she’s been doing this for a while. See the problem?)

Supreme: (Small, weak) Urgh…

 

Panel Four: One of the people comes over to see if she’s okay. She inspects her chest, but aside from some dust, the plate is intact. (Moving panel. Make it still.)

Person: Um, are you okay, Miss?

Supreme: Fine… Aarmour in the suit caught the shot.

Supreme: Hurts like hell though. AH!

 

Panel Five: We’re behind her now. She starts walking towards the doors of the bank. (Just standing and walking like everything’s okay? I’m not seeing it.)

Supreme: Now come on,. Wwe need to let the cops know everything’s clear.

 

Panel Six: We’re now in front of her, focussed so she only appears as a bust shot. She stops in her tracks and half turns her head. Behind her, the hostages are applauding. (Why are we behind her? If we’re behind her, we can’t see her expression.)

Supreme: What?

SFX: CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP

(Nope. You haven’t secured ANY of the would-be thieves. You haven’t even knocked them out. You just knocked them down, and barely even that. Know what this reminds me of? Those old kung-fu movies [LOVE the Shaw brothers!] where the henchmen barely get grazed, like a flip onto their backs, and they’re down for the count. Nope. Not good. This passage will have to be rewritten.)

 

Page Five

(Four Panels)

Panel One: It is night now. We’re focussed on a TV displaying a news channel. The anchor is a woman in a white blouse and red hair in a bun. In the top right corner is a photo of a smiling Supreme. (Is this a close-up of the tv? Can we see that it’s a tv? How can we tell it’s night?)

Anchor (elec): –Whose heroic efforts saved fifty lives in today’s armed robbery. The suspects are in custody,  awaiting arraignment. (All of the anchor’s dialogue should be in an electric balloon.)

 

Panel Two: Same scene, but instead of Supreme smiling we see her punching a man. (Just a random guy? Is this from today’s “fight”? Is it from a different fight? You haven’t said, so the artist is going to ask.)

Anchor (elec): Since her introduction last week, Miss Supreme has foiled two bank robberies, five muggings and two mob hits, the latter of which are still being investigated. (I like the fact you gave a timeline for her being active. Good work there. However, if she’s so arrogant as to call a captain a bitch, then she deserves to get her ass kicked. Let’s see how it plays out in the characterization department.)

Anchor (elec): Miss Supreme has commented that she is working on the bigger criminals, but in the meantime is doing all she can to make the streets safer.

 

Panel Three: Pull out so we can see Carter and one of his lawyers, Davis, watching the program. They’re in Carter’s office, with plush carpeting, an oak desk, and the only light coming from the large windows to their left, the TV and a desk lamp. The both of them are in black suits and wearing sombre frowns. David is a thin middle aged man with greying black hair. (What light from what window? You said it was night. That means dark. Where are they in relation to the desk? For all intents and purposes, this is your establishing shot. So, you have to establish. )

Anchor (elec): And in this reporter’s opinion, she’s making a fantastic start. (Can the tv still be seen? If yes, this is fine. If no, then it also needs to be OP.)

Panel Four: Close up on Carter, who is glaring slightly.

Carter: I want this taken care of before it’s a problem.

 

Alright. Some disclosure:

David hired me to edit this script. (You can, too! Well, not this script, but a script of your own, silly!) That’s why there aren’t any questions for any of you here. Sorry. I know you’re disappointed. Let’s see what happens next week, shall we? Anyway, we’ve had some back and forth, some cleanup, some questions asked and answered. This is the first round of edits shown.

And with that said, let’s run it down!

Format: I have no real complaints about the format. It was consistent, and I only had to add a few things here and there for clarity. So, format is fine.

Panel Descriptions: Not all that happy with them. David neglected to write what he was seeing. This is something that he did throughout the entire script. There are places, especially during the fight, where I missed that he said where the camera itself was because I was seeing it differently. Definitely more dynamically.

As a writer, it is very important for you to write not just what you see, but also think about framing it in a manner that is dynamic and dramatic.

If you’re not putting down what you see correctly, how is the artist supposed to interpret the script?

Pacing: Not good. Too many panels to start, with too many words. I’ve already told the story of what Tyler had to go through when he did something similar. Same thing, here. The first page should have been condensed to no more than five panels, and then the fight in the bank should have been drawn out a little more, with the securing of the thieves evident. That is, of course, if we wanted to keep the infodump.

I understand the use of the infodump at the very beginning. I don’t like it, though. There are other, more organic ways to get needed information across. The infodump is the most unsubtle of ways of doing it. Personally, I think that information could have come across organically, through dialogue between two characters.

Like it says in the beginning, infodumps are not reader-friendly. Want to turn a reader off? Throw a ton of info at them at once. Especially if the info is only of slight importance to the story.

Dialogue: There ins’t much of it here. There’s the infodump, and then there is precious little of characters actually speaking on the page. Something I pointed out to David and that he’s working on. However, there some problems. The first problem is the impression Miss Supreme gives. When reading it, it seems like she’s been on the job for a long time, but then the newscaster says she’s been on the job for about a week. Not good. Did anyone else get the impression–only from the dialogue–that she’d been doing this for a while?

Content: From an editorial perspective, there’s a lot of work to be done here. Dialogue, pacing, plotting, panel descriptions…they all need work. From a reader’s perspective, this isn’t anything that hasn’t been seen before. Hero going out and doing heroic things, bad guy wants it taken care of. Yawn-worthy, really. In a sea of superheroic books, what’s here to make it stand out? What’s the hook to make someone want to at least try the book out?

These are questions you should be asking yourselves when you’re writing, because if a customer has $5 left and has already picked up their Marvel/DC books, what is the hook that’s going to make them pick up your book instead of the first issue of the fifth ongoing Deadpool book?

And that’s all I have for this week. Check the calendar to see who’s next!

 

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Category: The Proving Grounds

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

Comments (6)

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  1. Tyler James says:

    David, thanks again for sharing your work on TPG.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing how this thing improves with you and Steven working together.

  2. Speaking of 9-panel grids, last Friday I picked up and read Warren Ellis’ Fell vol. 1 TPB. It’s mostly 3 by 3 pages in there, but Ellis makes it work, whether it’s just talking heads or an action scene. However, we can’t all start out as Warren Ellis (Warren Ellises? Warren Ellis’? Warren Ellisi? What’s the plural form of Warren Ellis?)

    Anyway, I just spent the last couple of days catching up on everything I missed since February. Glad to see there’s still stellar advice being given here. I’m back onboard and loving it!

    • Thanks, Yannick!

      Now, I have someone else to call on for questions! 😉

    • Tyler James says:

      Yannick, Fell is a great comic. It’s also worth reading up on Ellis’ explanation of the format. He chose to do 16 page stories with the 9 panel grid (mostly for cost saving reasons.) So, in effect, readers were getting the same amount of story in less pages. But even with this approach, you’re not going to find Ellis slapping 240 on any one page.

      • “So, in effect, readers were getting the same amount of story in less pages.”

        I’d dare say we’re getting even MORE story in less pages. I keep reading it over and over and, even with a lot of silent panels, you keep getting the impression you’re reading something a lot denser and deeper than the actual page count would suggest. I think the fact that all Fell issues are a self-contained story accounts for much of this feeling.

        Oh and Ellis has already dropped off his script for issue 10 and is now working on issue 11. Yay!

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