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TPG Week 19: (Nearly) Speechless

| May 6, 2011 | 14 Comments

Welcome to another week in The Proving Grounds! This week, our Brave One is Michael Holcombe, who’s been waiting with some impatience. Let’s see how he does, shall we?

 

My Life – NOW WITH MONSTERS!

Page 1: (4 panels)

Panel 1: Joe is asleep. The sheets and his body posture should suggest that he has had a hard time sleeping. The alarm clock next to his bed reads “5:59”. Harm is perched on the headboard to Joe’s left. Fate is perched on the headboard to Joe’s right. (Okay. First, this isn’t the way to show this guy has had a hard time sleeping. How do you do that? You put a frown on his face, you put some sweat on his brow. Twisting up the bedclothes helps, but not as much as the sweat and the frown. Second, what are Harm and Fate doing? Third, where’s the camera?)

NO DIALOGUE

Panel 2: The clock now reads “6:00”. Harm is laughing. Fate is slapping his face with one hand. Joe is still asleep. (And thus start the problems. Whose face is Fate slapping? Upon my first reading, I thought that Fate was slapping Harm’s face. Upon second reading, it is Fate slapping his own face. There is no interpretation that has Fate slapping Joe’s face, which is what I’m assuming you want. Anyone? And if Harm is laughing, why isn’t there any sound? Am I to assume this is going to be a silent story? )

NO DIALOGUE

Panel 3: Fate is jumping up and down on Joe’s back (trying to wake him up) and looks angry. Harm is still laughing. Joe has shifted his position slightly but is still asleep. The clock now reads “6:10”. (No. Joe has shifted his position a LOT. I’m assuming he was on his back in the previous two panels, because that’s the easiest way to show someone being slapped in the face, if that’s what you were going for. However, with him now being on his back, that’s a pretty big shift. Why is Fate trying to get him up, anyway? Was the alarm supposed to go off? There’s nothing showing that.)

NO DIALOGUE

Panel 4: Joe is sitting up in the bed, half-asleep. Fate is tackling Harm, who is still laughing. The clock reads “6:30”. (Finally, Joe’s awake. Okay. But I’m not getting the reason Fate is tackling Harm. Is there supposed to be comedic, slapstick value to this? If so, I’m not getting it.)

NO DIALOGUE

(So, we have a silent page. We all know how I feel about silent pages, but a quick stroll shows me that this is almost completely silent. Okay. Let’s see if there’s enough story here to carry the treatment. I’m going to have something to say in the breakdown, too.)

 

Page 2: (6 panels) (Page break. If you don’t know how to insert one, that’s what google is for. Instead of hitting the Enter button until you reached the second page, insert a page break. Why? Because my notes pushed this down to the top third of the page. Page break.)

 

Panel 1: Joe is dressed and drinking a cup of coffee. He is looking at the kitchen clock. Harm is holding the minute hand of the clock in the kitchen (it reads “6:50”) straining to move it backwards. Fate is tapping on Joe’s wrist watch (it reads “7:05”). (Where is this? I’m taking it this is the kitchen, but where is Joe in relation to everything else? And howis he dressed? What is the mode? )

NO DIALOGUE

Panel 2: Joe is running to his car, panicked, looking at his watch. Harm and Fate are flying after him. They are fighting while they fly. (Jamie, what is my question here?)

NO DIALOGUE

Panel 3: Joe sits at a traffic light behind a sizable line of traffic. Fate is on the hood of his car, looking for Harm (Harm is inside the signal control box, unseen).

NO DIALOGUE

Panel 4: Harm is inside a tangle of wires in the signal control box. He is playing with a switch. (John Lees? You’re up. What would you do to make this work better? [And yes, it’s something of a trick question, but I know you’re up to it.])

NO DIALOGUE

Panel 5: Fate is peeking into the control box. Harm can be seen playing with the control switch. (Why would Fate look here? You don’t give any reason for it.)

NO DIALOGUE

Panel 6: Fate and Harm are fighting inside the control box. Joe is driving past looking at his watch. (Yannick, I know you’ve been waiting. Go for it.)

NO DIALOGUE

 

Page 3: (5 panels) (Page break)

Panel 1: Joe is walking into an office building. There is a clock on the front of the building that reads “7:45”. Harm is sitting on Joe’s left foot, untying his shoe. Fate is Sitting on Joe’s shoulder, looking for Harm. (Here’s where we talk about things that cannot be drawn. Now, you have Joe walking into an office building, with a clock on the front. That immediately puts the camera behind Joe, so we can see him walking in. I’m okay with that. Immediately after that, you have Harm on Joe’s foot, untying his shoe. That means we have a pulled out view of Joe, in order to get his feet in the panel. Medium view, right? Well, in order to really get Harm the Pixie in there, it works a lot better in showing Harm on Joe’s foot as a single panel. And then, that panel should be of Harm doing a Looney Toons type of thing in riding the shoe as he unties it, more than likely facing front. However, that’s not what you asked for. You’re asking for a pulled out, medium view, instead of the close-up this action deserves. You’re not really going to get what you’re asking for here. And on top of all of that, you also have Fate riding Joe’s shoulder, looking for Harm. That’s not really going to fly too well.)

NO DIALOGUE

Panel 2: Joe is getting coffee at an “in-house” coffee shop (like Starbucks, but needs a different name and logo). There are a few patrons in the main area and two barristas are behind the counter. Harm is tying Joe’s shoelaces together. Fate is trying to push Joe’s head down to look at the shoes. (Where is Joe? Is he at the counter, ordering? Is he standing in line behind other patrons? If he was running late, like he seemed to be earlier, why has he stopped for coffee? And again with the shoelaces?)

NO DIALOGUE

Panel 3: Joe trips over his shoelaces, spilling his coffee on a patron who is wearing a fairly nice suit. Harm is laughing, rolling around and holding his belly, pointing at Fate. Fate is bashing his head against the counter in frustration. (This is impossible. Who to pick on… Who to pick on… John Lees. I know. Again. I know. Please, tell me why this is impossible.)

NO DIALOGUE

Panel 4: Joe looks apologetic and is trying to dry the patron with napkins. The patron looks very angry, perhaps his temple is throbbing. Both Harm and Fate look excited, big grin, waiting for something to happen excited. (How did that happen? Did the shoelaces become magically untied? Where are these people positioned? This is what you get when you don’t set things up properly.)

NO DIALOGUE

Panel 5: Joe tries to hand the patron a business card, he still looks extremely apologetic. The patron is walking off without taking the card. Harm is cheering, as if he has achieved a victory. Fate looks disappointed. (Wants to pay for the cleaning bill, I get that. But this is too fast. The gap in Border Time is too large. Because you don’t have continual big gaps in Border Time, this gap is overly large. We never see Joe go for the card.)

NO DIALOGUE

 

Page 4: (6 panels) (Page break)

Panel 1: Joe is walking through a door (label on door: “STAIRS”). Harm standing in front of the elevator under a taped on sign reading “Out of Order”. He wears a big grin. Fate is sitting, looking defeated, on Joe’s right shoulder. (Where is this? What’s in the area? You changed locations, but you didn’t re-establish where we were.)

NO DIALOGUE

Panel 2: Joe is sweating, standing at the door to an office, a maze of cubicles visible through the open door. He is looking at his watch which reads “8:15”. The office is fairly busy. Fate is still riding on Joe’s right shoulder scanning the room for Harm. Harm is not seen. (Kyle. Your turn. Tell me what you saw upon first reading this, and then, tell me why this isn’t working.)

NO DIALOGUE

Panel 3: Harm is in a cubicle, behind a computer tower, unplugging wires. Joe is entering the cubicle. Towards the back of the cubicle maze, the patron (from 3-3) and another man in a suit (Joe’s boss) can be seen arguing. The patron is pointing at Joe. Joe does not see any of this. Fate is still riding on Joe’s shoulder. (My first question is a simple one: how is the computer set up? Because that will be the basis on whether or not this panel can work. If the CPU is sitting on top of the desk, then this is a top-down view, or a view that is angled downward, from the back of the cubicle. Those are the only ways to get everything you want here. Any other view will not work, because you’d be missing some element. If the CPU is under the desk, this panel is a failure, because it cannot be drawn.)

NO DIALOGUE

Panel 4: Joe looks very frustrated and is plugging everything back in to his computer. The patron and Joe’s boss are walking towards Joe’s cubicle. Fate and Harm are wrestling on the ground behind Joe. (Another large gap in Border Time. How does Joe know that the wires are pulled out? Again, this goes back to the question of where the CPU is.)

NO DIALOGUE

Panel 5: Joe’s boss is speaking, startles Joe. Joe hits his head on the underside of the desk. Harm can be seen pushing Joe’s head upward. Fate is pulling on Harm’s wings. The patron looks both angry and smug. (This is an “ah-ha” moment. Really, there are so many things wrong with this that it isn’t even funny. Yannick. You like breaking things down. Lay it all out for me, please. Don’t forget to take everything into consideration. Yes, I know it’s going to be long. )

NO DIALOGUE

Panel 6: Joe is trying to explain himself, looks very apologetic. Joe’s boss is pointing at the office door. The patron has a smug look of satisfaction, arms crossed, a slight smirk. Harm is laughing, Fate looks disappointed. (How does this look like Joe is trying to explain himself? No matter what’s happening, Joe is getting fired. Without dialogue, it just looks like Joe accepting being fired. The next question is where are Harm and Fate? You say they’re there, but you don’t place them anywhere in particular.)

NO DIALOGUE

 

Page 5: (5 panels) (page break)

Panel 1: Joe is carrying a box with all his personal belongings from his cubicle. His watch reads “9:30”. He is walking to his car. Harm and Fate are sitting on his shoulders, both look tired. (How are we going to read his watch? In order to get a good look at it, this will need to be a fairly close shot. It will also be upside down. But the artist won’t be able to draw all of what you’re wanting because of the fact that they have to come in for the watch. If the watch isn’t important, then they can pull out and show the entire scene. But, you made it important by calling it out. Which is it to be? And that doesn’t even touch the fact that you haven’t said how big or heavy the box itself is (which will affect how it gets carried), nor have you addressed where this is taking place. Are we still within cubicle-land? Are we somewhere else? I don’t know. Neither does the artist.)

NO DIALOGUE

Panel 2: Joe is parked next to a bar. Harm is opening the door to the car. Fate is hugging Joe’s head while seated on his shoulder. (I take it this is a bar where people go to drink alcohol? Where is the camera? For that matter, where is Harm? And where is Joe? I’m assuming Joe is in the car, but I could be wrong. I’m also assuming that Harm is outside the car, because that is what makes sense. But because you failed to do another establishing shot, all I have are assumptions.)

NO DIALOGUE

Panel 3: Joe sits on a bar stool, three empty shot glasses and a full beer glass in front of him. Harm and Fate sit on stools next to him, Harm on the right, Fate on the left. (Where’s the camera? Once you figure out where the camera is, you can then write the panel description to best effect. This isn’t it.)

NO DIALOGUE

Panel 4: Harm is looking around Joe talking to Fate. Joe is drinking his beer. Fate is playing with a peanut. (If they’re pixies and relatively shortish, this is not going to work. Especially if they are sitting on the stools to either side of Joe. And how did Fate get a peanut?)

HARM: So…

Panel 5: Same scene as 5-4, but both Fate and Joe are looking at Harm. (Tyler? Can you please explain why this doesn’t work? )

HARM: …you still wanna be the good guy tomorrow? (It’s not wrong, but I’m not a fan of bolded dialogue. Too easy for the letterer to miss.)

FATE: No way.

JOE: You guys suck.

 

Okay, let’s run it down.

 

Format: Not bad. Definitely a passing grade. Page breaks were eating you alive.

 

Panel Descriptions: I think there might be a single panel description where I didn’t write anything. Simply put, the panel descriptions are your weakest part, which is a terrible, terrible problem for a comic book writer. You have things that are impossible to draw, you are sometimes confusing, and you never once gave a camera angle. And beyond that, there are panels that are simply missing information.

 

Knowing what can and cannot be drawn is extremely important. Without that basic knowledge, you cannot even begin to call yourself a comic writer. Like Marcus before you, this isn’t a lesson you seem to have learned.

 

No writer would be able to draw this without a metric ton of questions. That means you didn’t do your job as a writer. Your job is to be clear. Put down what you see, from left to right. This is how you will be effective in telling a story.

 

Pacing: Some gaps in Border Time. Nothing that can’t be overcome with some forethought and preparation. Other than that, you got in and out in five pages with a beginning, middle and end. Nice.

 

Dialogue: What little there is of it actually works. Personally, I’d rearrange the two pixies on the last page so that the camera works better than you have it there, so that the dialogue can actually fit the way you have it. Other than that, you have good placement

 

Content: Besides the fact that this doesn’t work at all from a reader standpoint or editorially, there is another big problem with this script: how is the reader supposed to know who Harm is and who Fate is? Beyond that, why these two names? Shouldn’t Harm be the “bad guy” in this? Why would “Fate” be “bad”? Most people view Fate as an abstraction. Even if Harm is an abstraction, the name itself has negative connotations. There aren’t many negative connotations with Fate. Fate just is. People try to stay out of Harm’s way. See the difference?

 

But, I have to hit you extremely hard on the fact that no one was named anywhere in the script where a reader could see it. This begs the question, as a short (I’m thinking of it as a black and white silent film), is a name absolutely necessary. Yes, and no.

 

Yes, names are necessary IF the naming of the pixies has any real significance to it.

 

No, names aren’t necessary IF the naming of the pixies doesn’t matter.

 

For this piece, I think it does, so I have to hit you on it. (Why do I think it does? Because you went through the trouble of naming them as you did. That should have some bearing on the story.)

 

As a reader, this only works after the artist has come in, asked a lot of questions, and then cleaned up the story for you. As an editor, this needs to be completely rewritten so that it works. This way, the artist won’t pester you with questions that should have already been answered in the script.

 

Anyway, that’s all I have for this week. Check the calendar to see who’s up 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 (14)

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  1. Before I dive into the assignments Steven has for me, I’d like to address the issue of reader perspective.

    When we read a comic, it’s fun to root for the hero and enjoy the harm that comes the villain’s way. We like to see good people get rewarded and the wicked get their comeuppance. If the hero has to suffer for a while, it’s okay because we know he’ll come out of it stronger.

    Here? I don’t know.

    In a way, I could read this as the plight of poor Joe who is plagued by the antics of two mischievous gremlin-like creatures. However, he sleeps right past the time he was supposed to get up. Did he forget to set the alarm? Did Harm set it off? I can only assume since nothing is telling me one way or the other. Also, once it’s been made very clear that he’s running late, he still stops for coffee on his way to work. Seeing this, it’s understandable that his boss might have been looking for the flimsiest excuse to fire the guy if that’s the way he treats his job. Otherwise, in what kind of universe can you be fired from your job for spilling coffee on someone in a coffee shop? Is Joe in hell? Is he the OSM (Only Sane Man) surrounded by a legion of moral extremists?

    I can’t tell so I simply don’t know how to read any of this.

    Moreover, what’s happening here is pretty drastic: the protagonist loses his job. On his way to work, he was almost involved in a car accident (I’m assuming that’s what the sabotaging of the control box was all about). I don’t know if we’re in black comedy country, but I was almost expecting the comic to end with Harm pushing an inebriated Joe towards his car and helping him steer it towards a bus full of schoolchildren and nuns.

    So what should be my perspective when reading this? Is Joe a victim or is he deserving of this treatment? Is it supposed to be tragic or funny?

    This reminds me of a short story by Clive Barker titled “The Yattering and Jack” in which a minor demon is tasked with tormenting a man who takes all of that torture with a grain of salt. The tone of the story is patently comedic and it’s made very clear that Jack doesn’t deserve any of the demon’s special attentions. I won’t spoil the ending but suffice to say it ends in a satisfying way with every trial faced by the protagonist meaning something for the rest of his life.

    Bottom line: what did Joe do to deserve this? The answer to this question will set the tone for the whole comic, give meaning to the narrative and might even solve some of the other problems of the script.

    …or you could just tell me it’s a nihilistic piece demonstrating the inherent entropic nature of every one of our hopes and dreams – some sort of light-hearted gorn, if you will.

    Okay, now I’m going to work on those other things…

    • I was going to say something in the Content section about the story not really having a point, but then I thought about it some more, and just decided to leave it be. As a comedy (whether it works or not), it doesn’t really need much of a point.

      But you’re right about some of the points. (I think I brought some aspect of those up.)

      And The Yattering and Jack. I haven’t read that story in a VERY long time. About 15 years or more. (I went through this Clive Barker phase, and read everything I could by him. I think his short stories are best.) Good comparison.

      • “As a comedy (whether it works or not), it doesn’t really need much of a point.”

        I agree that comedy is often its own purpose. I just felt it would have strengthened and tightened the narrative to give the story a definite direction. But you know what a stickler I am!

        ‘The Yattering and Jack’ is – in my opinion – Barker’s best work.

        His worse is the ‘Jericho’ video game. it leaves a taste in your mouth like an old 90s Image comic filled with guns, testosterone and improbable costume options*.

        *I know I’m all over the place but I used to hope City of Heroes would release a Liefeld costume pack: all pouches, shoulder pads, hairstyles that defy logic and guns that defy gravity.

  2. To be honest, I thought I would have been hit a lot harder than this. It is interesting to re-read an old script and even more so to have it edited. Looking at this through fresh eyes, I can’t say I disagree with anything you have said. Just a point of clarity (not that it makes much difference in the short run) in the first page, panel 2, Harm is slapping his own face (facepalm). There is definitely room for a total rewrite here. As ever, Steve (and all of comixtribe) excellent work! Thank you!

    • I can always go back over it, Michael, and talk about how it felt like my brain was melting and coming out through the pores of my nasal cavity, and how you should be punished for ever writing something that was wretched and having me wish I were being tortured instead of reading this…

      Let me know! I can be funny and offensive at the same time! 😉

      Really, it wasn’t that bad. I’ve SEEN bad. And I’ve edited worse. This was impossible to draw, but I could understand what you were going for. This wasn’t that bad. At least the words were all spelled correctly.

  3. “Panel 6: Fate and Harm are fighting inside the control box. Joe is driving past looking at his watch. (Yannick, I know you’ve been waiting. Go for it.)”

    Ubiquity: The state or quality of being, or appearing to be, everywhere at once.

    This panel description is ubiquitous. The action described here is happening on three distinct stages – embedded one into the other, yes – but separate still.

    “Fate and Harm are fighting inside the control box.” – That’s your first stage. It’s a medium box filled with electronics. For the sake of this story, we’ll allow it to contain enough empty space to accommodate a fight between two pixie-things. More importantly, it’s a CLOSED box. This means the camera has to be inside the box for the shot to work or we’ll need special comic book X-ray vision to see what you’re describing. Or it’s simply opened which – apart from being rather odd – would assume Harm has opened it sometime between two of the previous panels.

    “Joe is driving past” – Second stage. For this to work, you have to have the camera pull out far enough for us to see at least part of the car…

    …but still close enough to see Joe looking at his watch on the third stage. Yes, I consider this to be a third “stage”, if still in the same location, because it describes an action that requires a level a detail that calls for zooming in. Stay out too far and you can’t see Joe looking at his watch. Focus too far in and you lose the sense of the car going forward.

    Add in the two bugbear-thingies fighting inside the control box and your artist will be seeing pixies too.

    Here’s my suggestion:

    Panel 6

    Tight shot of the traffic lights. The red light is on.

    NO COPY

    Panel 7

    Medium shot of Fate and Harm inside the control box. Fate has Harm in a full nelson with the latter struggling to reach the control switch.

    NO COPY.

    Panel 8

    Same shot as panel 6. The light is now green.

    NO COPY

    Panel 9

    Sideway shot of Joe’s car with the control box in the foreground, as seen from the sidewalk. The box’s hatch is slightly ajar and the two creatures are peering out at the car rolling towards the right.

    NO COPY

    Panel 10

    Close shot of the car’s windshield, as seen from the front of the vehicle. Through it, we can see Joe looking at his watch, his brow furrowed in worry.

    NO COPY

    I used the traffic lights to indicate the passage of time and also to suggest movement for the car later on.

    Panel 9 was tricky because I was trying to keep the imps in the shot while still showing the car. It’s only icing on the cake to have the two creatures in the panel but I thought their presence here, interrupting their fight to keep an eye on their victim, made them less “magically delicious” when Joe gets to the coffees shop.

    Of course, I had to split one panel into five so this is going to play hell with the entire page layout. It would be possible to keep only one panel, but then you’d have to make choices. In my opinion, get rid of the view inside the control box and you might just be able to cram the rest inside one very busy panel.

    • Very nice. Except for cramming the page with panels.

      But I knew you were itching for it, and you came through.

      YOUR script, whenever you finally get it to me, will get HAMMERED. Because it’ll be fun. And it shouldn’t have anything that’s magically delicious in it. Or impossibilities. Dialogue, I’ll let slide a bit…

      • Oh Steven, how I do EXPECT you to be merciless! I’d say “Give it to me, I’ve been a very bad writer”, but then it would just get all kinds of awkward. :p

        Oh and my dialogue will be nothing more than grunts and page-long inner monologues about how “the city fears me”.

        But yeah, with ten panels, I’d split that page in two. That’s why I said it would be hell on the layouts since you’d have to rethink the whole comic to accomodate the new page.

    • M. Holcombe says:

      Heh, if I hand my artist a page with 10 panels I’ll be seeing pixies, as he/she’s going to brain me with a brick!
      I do see your point here. I must remind myself of the word “ubiquity” from time to time. Hmm…I think I’m going to make a big sign for my office.

      • Well Warren Ellis made Ben Templesmith work with nine panels per page! 😛

        (Yeah, yeah, again with Ellis!)

        But seriously, like I told Steven, I’m fully aware I was way beyond stretching the limits with ten panels. Sometimes, the artist can’t draw what you want not because it’s impossible, but just because there’s no room for it!

        Here’s another suggestion then: a six-panel page with two vertical action tracks – one inside the control box and the other showing Joe in his car.

        That should make it less “magically ubiquitous”! 😉

  4. Kyle Raios says:

    Panel 2: Joe is sweating, standing at the door to an office, a maze of cubicles visible through the open door. He is looking at his watch which reads “8:15”. The office is fairly busy. Fate is still riding on Joe’s right shoulder scanning the room for Harm. Harm is not seen. (Kyle. Your turn. Tell me what you saw upon first reading this, and then, tell me why this isn’t working.)

    I first see Joe standing in a doorway in an office, looking on into the room filled with cubicles. The picture in my head is then forced to shift to see the watch reading “8:15.” Then, I shift again to see Fate standing on Joe’s shoulder, looking out into the room. Then, I see the cubicle maze again, and notice Harm isn’t out there – which I think I only notice cause the script mentions it, but if visual, I’m not sure I would have immediately picked up on Harm not being there.

    What’s trying to be depicted in this panel are at least 3 separate actions that, to be done effectively (I think) need to be done from 3 separate angles.

    My next question is, why/how did Harm disappear so quickly in the span of one panel? He was in front of the elevator, and then in the next panel he’ll be under a desk.

    I think I may have gotten what you asked for? Hopefully I did.

    And uh…I think I’m almost ready to submit another script for your hellfire and hammer.

  5. “Panel 5: Joe’s boss is speaking, startles Joe. Joe hits his head on the underside of the desk. Harm can be seen pushing Joe’s head upward. Fate is pulling on Harm’s wings. The patron looks both angry and smug. (This is an “ah-ha” moment. Really, there are so many things wrong with this that it isn’t even funny. Yannick. You like breaking things down. Lay it all out for me, please. Don’t forget to take everything into consideration. Yes, I know it’s going to be long. )”

    I do like breaking things down, but I also enjoy building them up.

    Let’s do the breaking down first.

    “Joe’s boss is speaking, startles Joe. Joe hits his head on the underside of the desk.” I get it. It’s a fun moment and the timing is really good. It’s another bad occurrence piling up on poor Joe. However, the fact that you have “NO DIALOGUE” hinders you in showing this action, because you’ll need dialogue to either show the boss speaking or Joe hitting his head. Either it’s gonna be a shot of the boss standing over the desk with half of Joe sticking out from underneath, or it’ll be a shot at Joe hitting his head as his boss speaks up. In the first case, you’ll need

    SFX: BUMP!

    and/or

    JOE: OW!

    to make it obvious that he’s just bumped his noggin. In the second case, you’re showing Joe under the desk so you’ll need a speech bubble to explain why he’s suddenly startled, something like:

    BOSS (OP): JOE, WE HAVE TO TALK.

    Otherwise, I can’t see how this can be a totally silent panel and still convey what you need it to convey.

    “Harm can be seen pushing Joe’s head upward. Fate is pulling on Harm’s wings.” I don’t get it. Did Harm push Joe’s head into the underside of his desk? Is Harm trying to prevent Joe from getting up? And if that’s the case, why not PULLING on Joe’s head instead? Furthermore, wouldn’t Fate do more harm than good by pulling on Harm’s wings?

    Besides these issues, we’re talking about the space under a desk here. It’s pretty crammed already with just one normal human being crawling there, it’s gonna be hard to depict something also implicating two miniature torture elves, especiallly actions that might be easily confused. Are you sure you have enough room to make it clear who is pushing or pulling and what is everyone’s intention in the scene?

    “The patron looks both angry and smug.” I’ll give you “angry” but “smug” is a long shot – especially smugness paired with anger. You can get away with simply mentioning simple emotions but subtler ones need more words. In those cases, I recommend resorting to physically describing the character:

    “The patron is looking down on Joe with his arms folded and a mean smile on his face.”

    Apart from that, what’s missing in this panel? What kind of shot? What is the boss’ mood? How is he standing? What are Harm and Fate trying to do? Is the patron still wearing the same stained suit?

    And now, the heart of the matter. This isn’t a panel description; this is a sequence of events:

    Event 1: Joe’s boss talking startles Joe which causes him to bumps his head.

    Event 2: While Joe is trying to extricate himself from under the desk, Harm tries to keep him down there and Fate does the opposite.

    Event 3: Joe’s boss is getting impatient waiting for Joe to surface. So is the coffee shop patron.

    Every one of these events corresponds to a panel because every one of those events is a snapshot in a logical sequence of actions.

    (Notice I reshaped the content a bit to ensure the actions lead more into one another. I will also assume that panel 4 is a close shot of Joe under the desk. I’m also taking the liberty of removing the cubicle walls to make this an open-spaced work environment. You have too many people doing too much in spaces too small. Feel free to call my lawyer. 😛 )

    Panel 5

    Medium shot of Joe’s boss and the patron standing behind the desk. Joe is on all four under the desk, butt towards the camera. The boss is leaning slightly on the desk, trying to see what Joe is doing while the patron is stands a few steps aside. He’s looking down at Joe with his arms folded and a mean smile on his face.

    BOSS: JOE —

    JOE: OW!

    BOSS: — WE HAVE TO TALK.

    SFX: BUMP!

    Panel 6

    Close shot of Joe under the desk, his face towards us this time. He’s rubbing his head and has a sore expression on his face. Harm is hanging from his neck with a big smile, like a kid on an amusement park ride. Fate is holding onto Harm’s wings, his feet barely touching the ground.

    NO COPY

    Panel 7

    Same shot as panel 5. The boss is leaning in even further over the desk. The patron now has his fists on his hips and has turned reddish from anger.

    BOSS: JOE?

    Yes, I added panels again. But since we’re already admitting a lot of gaps in the timeline, panel 7 could easily be skipped.

    Last thing: I still don’t understand why Joe would get fired over spilled coffee, an accident that doesn’t even happen at work. Is the patron from a rival company? Is he a big client? Is he the boss’ brother? With no dialogue to explain this, we’re left with a nonsensical and seemingly cheap cruel twist of happenstance.

    Inquiring finicky minds want to know!

    (Sorry if I missed some points, Steven, it was a big day at the office. 😉 )

  6. John Lees says:

    Panel 4: Harm is inside a tangle of wires in the signal control box. He is playing with a switch. (John Lees? You’re up. What would you do to make this work better? [And yes, it’s something of a trick question, but I know you’re up to it.])

    Hmmm, not really sure about this one. Could it be that some kind of transition from outside the car to inside the signal box might be in order, to suggest more where Harm is in relation to the car?

    Panel 3: Joe trips over his shoelaces, spilling his coffee on a patron who is wearing a fairly nice suit. Harm is laughing, rolling around and holding his belly, pointing at Fate. Fate is bashing his head against the counter in frustration. (This is impossible. Who to pick on… Who to pick on… John Lees. I know. Again. I know. Please, tell me why this is impossible.)

    I think too much is happening all at once in a single panel. Joe tripping is a beat. Spilling the coffee over the patron is a beat. The reaction of Fate and Harm to this is a beat. Arguably, the reactions of Fate and Harm could also work better in panels of their own. Instead, we have set-up, action and aftermath all occuring at the same time, watering down the impact of all three.

    Also, can Fate really be “rolling around” in a still image? And even if you get an artist who could draw that, could he be holding his belly AND pointing at Joe? You could specifically mention that he’s pointing with one hand and holding the belly with another to make this more workable.

    Finally, the positioning of characters is all over the place. We’re supposed to see that the victim of the coffee spillage is wearing a nice suit, so I imagine the focus would be on him, about waist height. Yet we’re also supposed to see Harm rolling around on the floor, at about floor height. AND see Fate bashing his head on the counter somewhere else?

  7. Kyle Raios says:

    Panel 2: Joe is sweating, standing at the door to an office, a maze of cubicles visible through the open door. He is looking at his watch which reads “8:15”. The office is fairly busy. Fate is still riding on Joe’s right shoulder scanning the room for Harm. Harm is not seen. (Kyle. Your turn. Tell me what you saw upon first reading this, and then, tell me why this isn’t working.)

    I see three separate and distinct images that can’t work together as one. I see a crowded room full of cubicles, but the image then directs itself to Joe’s watch. If we want to see the 8:15 clearly (because I assume it’s important), then it would need to be its own distinct image from this. One could probably combine these first two images, maybe, but the third point, of Fate scanning the room for Harm, can’t fit in. First, without the script, I’m not sure I would have picked up on Fate looking for Harm in this manner. And then because it’s another event in the story to keep the plot moving forward, it would need to be a focus of its own panel, not crammed in the corner of another.

    The biggest problem is that the panel is overcrowded. Three actions are trying to be conveyed, and all are seemingly obvious to the plot. It’s a quick succession of events that can’t be shown together.

    Hopefully I got everything you were looking for. I tried to post this on Friday, but for whatever reason, it didn’t go through.

    Also…I think I’ll be submitting another script for your hellfire soon…

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