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TPG Week 32: New Writer Woes

| August 5, 2011 | 19 Comments

 

Hello, one and all! Welcome once again to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a new Brave One in Georg Syphers. Georg is new to comic scripting, and asked me to be merciless. He says that he may have to letter the book himself (which is something I encourage, even if you never letter a book for publication). Let’s see how he does as he brings us a

 

Future Imperfect

 

 

Page 1: Single Panel

 

Background of heavy woods, on a rocky up slope, foreground in a rocky field. A long line of roman soldiers taken prisoners after a battle all chained together and yoked, center a Hafte ancestor, Germanic barbarian dress with a bearskin down his back wearing its head as a hat, is beating a yoked officer on the ground, with a sizeable stick, while a struggling blonde woman in a white dress is dragged off the right side of the page by some other germanic barbarians (And right off the bat, we have problems with capitalizations and punctuation, not to mention some spelling. I generally don’t harp too much on it in the panel descriptions—I’d be doing nothing BUT that if I did it to every script—but I feel that something has to be said here. If you’re sending in a script cold, you would get immediately and justifiably round-filed for stuff like this. Immediately, you’re telling the editor you sent your script in a few things: first, you don’t respect your writing enough to at least have someone else go over the script before you sent it in. Second, you don’t know how to use a word processing program. Third, you don’t care enough about the editor’s time to at least polish the first paragraph into something they can get through without immediately putting your script in the trash. And finally, you’re not ready for scripting duties. All of that is said in two sentences, because that’s all this first panel description is. Okay, with that out of my system, let’s take a look at what was and was not done. Even though he thinks it is, this is not an establishing shot. An establishing shot answers the four W’s: Who, What, When, and Where. We’re missing a When. What time of day is it? Is the season important? Next, this description is clear as mud. Separate the important groups: back-, mid-, and foreground. And lastly, why does this take up a full page? There’s no reason for it. This is padding.)

 

(GERMANIA 24 A.D.) (What is this supposed to be? If you’re lettering the book yourself, then you’re fine with your own code for what you want on the page. However, if you’re going to give it to someone else to letter, then you need to adhere to a more formal format, so that everyone on the team knows what is supposed to go where. So, again, what is this supposed to be, Georg?)

 

ANCESTOR:

YOU LOST ROMAN! (Fail. Right here. No, you wouldn’t have failed before with the punctuation because it was in the panel description, but readers can see this here. That’s why this is a fail. If you call yourself a writer, then you need to learn how to use punctuation. Commas are easy.)

No victory!

No glorious death!

Just the yoke of slavery . . . as you had intended for us. (I’m not a fan of the format. However, if this went to a letterer, they would know that this would be four separate balloons, so I’m not going to hit you on it. Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean that its wrong. I would rather see the heading of who’s talking for every line. This keeps everything orderly, and helps to keep the word count down.)

 

SFX:

THUK

SHKUNCH

CRACK (This, though, is wrong. Where are all of these sound effects supposed to go? Anyone?)

 

ROMAN (burst)

AAAUUGH!

 

ANCESTOR:

I OWN YOU!

I own your MEN!

and I own your WOMAN! (John Lees: what’s the matter here?)

 

ROMAN WOMAN:

NOOOO!

 

Page 2: Three Panels

 

First Panel: Exterior plantation, fields in background. In profile we see a colony magistrate in the West indies at left frame buying slaves from a Hafte Ancestor center frame, Blacks and whites both in chains behind Hafte right frame. (Are you drawing this? If you are, then this may be fine. If you aren’t, then it definitely isn’t. I’m in a white void here, and I hate white voids. If this is a plantation, where’s the house? Is there anything resembling a platform for the slaves to be looked over? What is everyone doing? Are the slaves just standing around, looking happy? Is the ancestor stroking himself off? Is the magistrate on his knees? Because you don’t say, I can do anything.)

 

CAPTION:

TOBAGO, WEST INDIES, 1631 (The punctuation is missing at the end, but I won’t call it a mistake. It may be exactly how you want it, so I’ll leave it be. I just didn’t want it to go unremarked upon.)

 

MAGISTATE:

Mr. Hafte, your slaves are of excellent quality,– (I have no problem at all with breaking this balloon up. I think it is unnecessary, but I don’t have a problem with it. What I have a problem with is the double-dash at the end, after the comma. Use either one or the other, but not both.)

–but we cannot afford many at your prices.

 

HAFTE:

My dear Mr Mathis, surely the Chartered West India Company knows a good investment when it sees one.

My stock was carefully bred, not just picked from the wastes of Africa like the rest.

They will work longer and harder, with greater strength–

–and more fear of their masters. (There are 50 words here, broken up over four balloons. Because there are only three panels here, I’m not going to say that this is too many words for this panel—a total of 70—but I’m going to say that this is a little wordy. I like that the use of names was organic, but if it could be done in about 10 fewer words, I’d be happier.)

 

Second panel: Hafte Ancestor again in profile seated at the edge of a crater frame right, overseeing mining operation within the crater in the background, large slave workforce, reading an edict on parchment. (Okay, this is what I understood: Hafte is sitting at the edge of a crater to the right of the panel. Down in the crater is a mining operation. If the operation is in the background, then that means that Hafte has to be sitting in the foreground, which means that his back is to us. Because this is P2, his position is incorrect. He should be sitting on the left of the panel, because we read comics from left to right. Lead the reader’s eyes in the right way.)

 

CAPTION

PAPUA, EAST INDIES, 1813 (See? The lack of punctuation at the end is deliberate. Again, I have no problem with it.)

 

HAFTE:

(burst)

Illegal?!

(regular)

They can’t declare my business illegal, I OWN these people . . . I OWN THE LOCAL GOVERNORS! (You don’t want a comma in the last balloon. You want an exclamation point. And if he’s yelling, why doesn’t his body language reflect this?)

 

Third Panel: Hafte Ancestor in experimentation wing of Auschwitz concentration camp, wearing full SS officer garb, walking beside a white scrub clad figure with dark brown slicked back hair, both facing out of the frame. Beds filled with guant, haunted looking, figures line the walls on either side of the pair.

 

CAPTION:

AUSCHWITZ, POLAND, 1943

 

HAFTE:

While you have achieved some remarkable data Mengele– (Comma. Le sigh.)

–you are an amateur.

Those of us truly shaping tomorrow are building the Master Race . . . not toying with Jews.

 

(It’s P2, and I’m still waiting for some sort of story to emerge. Right now, you have four panels of a guy or his lineage moving through time. You don’t start to get anywhere near interesting until the last panel on this page. Still, it’s only mildly so. You still have a page or two to get readers interested. You’re not quite there yet, though.)

Page 3: One Panel

Drawn from a fly on the wall perspective, Left frame Doctor on a stool sits between the legs of a woman restrained to an operating table. The Doctor is covered completely in operating garb, reflective lenses over his eyes, holding a frightening looking syringe. The woman is blond, legs locked in 3″ steel band cuffs that secure her feet into stirrups, very pregnant, red faced and crying, big operating light baring down on her face. Her legs are mostly covered with a scrub green sheet, also obscuring the X-Rated bits, so the needle can be shown very close to her private areas. (This seems familiar to me, which has nothing to do with anything, except that I think I’ve seen this before. Anyway, this is basically another splash page, which makes it padding, because it’s not doing anything to push the story forward or to reveal character. You have three pages that basically should have been one. This is a criminal waste of space, and without any real forward momentum, your audience has just put the book back on the shelves. Two splash pages in three pages does not a good book make. Next, I don’t think this can be drawn. I have no idea what a “fly on the wall perspective” is. You need to brush up on your terms. So, the Doctor is on the left of the panel, sitting on a stool. Is his back to the camera, away from the camera, or is he in profile? How is he holding the syringe? If the sheet is covering her private area, how can the needle be shown very close to it? This makes little sense, and needs to be described better. Yannick, you’re up!)

 

CAPTION

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 1963

 

WOMAN (burst):

Please . . . Pleeease . . . . PLEEEEEASE . . .

Oh God . . . OH GOD PLEASE. . . (This entire line needs to be taken out. You’re not trying to kill your readers. Just get to the point.)

J-Just not the needles again . . . PLEEEASE!

 

DOCTOR:

Shh!

 

 

 

Page 4: Two panels

New Recurring characters this page:

Tomas Hafte – around 6’4″ and thin, a young looking late 40’s, delicately, but powerfully built. Slender face, sly and creepy smile (though not overtly creepy), blonde, Dutch extraction.

Hafte’s Female Bodyguard: West African, about a half head shorter than Hafte, hourglass figure, strikingly beautiful (No one cares about any of this. This will be information given to the artist before they ever start doing thumbnails for the script. It doesn’t belong here. The only time you really want to give character descriptions within a script are for characters that won’t be recurring.)

 

Frist Panel: Hafte sits to the right of the frame on the back seat of a luxury, rolls-royce-esque, car, legs crossed, left hand resting in his lap, right hand extended to center frame holding out a crystal tumbler glass while the female bodyguard fills it from a crystal scotch bottle. Hafte and both his bodyguads (one not yet shown) are wearing Men In Black Style suits, the bodyguards are wearing black shades, Hafte wears gold rimmed sunglasses (Stop. I want you to stop randomly placing characters within the confines of the panel, and I want you to start thinking it through. Right now, you’re not. The next thing I want you to do is to describe your panels as the reader is going to see it: from left to right. If you describe it from left to right, as you see it, then that will be how the artist will draw it. This way, they won’t have to stop and try to puzzle out what you just said. Left to right, Georg. Left to right.)

 

CAPTION

NEW YORK CITY, PRESENT

 

NO DIALOGUE (I get what you mean, but really, the caption IS dialogue. If you really want to get deep, you could put NO COPY, which means there isn’t any text at all in the panel, but that wouldn’t be true in this case because there’s the caption. If you don’t want any spoken dialogue, then you don’t have to explicitly state it if you have a caption. Just don’t put any dialogue in. Simple, and saves you from needless typing. Now, with that being said, why are you wasting even more precious space with a basically silent panel? What is going on in this panel that is so special, so obvious or so moving that it deserves a beat of its own? Can anyone answer that? It’s open.)

 

Second Panel: Exterior sidewalk, rainy day, we see an office front, door on the left, window to the right. Large ornate front window, brass railing running along it’s bottom, gold leaf on glass reads -Arthur Falcon- above -Psychic Investigator- (When you are describing things from left to right, also describe them from top to bottom. Make life easy on those you’re going to be working with. The harder you make it, the less they’ll want to continue the relationship.). The window is covered in what looks like an eye looking down complete with lashes, but also resembles a masonic square and compass, and coming down starting at the outside edges of the iris is a pyramid shape that comes down over the words and stops on the same line the bottom words are printed on. A falcon, center pyramid, dives as though from the iris towards the name Falcon printed on the window. (Have you tried drawing out your overly complex symbology? You have a 3rd eye, Masonic, Egyptian, and Shamanic symbols, all in one. I’d like to see it, because I don’t think it will look half as good as you think it does. It feels like you’re just writing instead of putting down what you’re seeing in your head, which is terrible for a visual medium.)

 

ARTHUR (Through Window):

No . . . No . . . No . . . No . . . And No! (You have at least one if not two too many “no’s”.)

 

This page is another complete waste of space. This should be P2, and there should be another two to three panels on this page. Move the story forward, Georg. You’re going to cause your readers to go back to the shop and ask for their money back, and that’s never good.

 

 

Page 5: Three Panels

New Recurring characters this page:

Arthur Falcon – Main character, late 30’s, cynical, crisp clothes and mannerisms, but with a worn around the edges a quarter of the way to a thousand yard stare look to his body language and face. A stern, but not imposing figure, ~5’9″ tall.

Marty – A lawyer, two shots this issue, don’t need to see his face.

Hafte’s other Bodyguard – Hulking Mongolian just taller than Hafte. (Again, no one cares.)

 

First panel: Shot from above, out of one corner of the room, we see Arthur with his feet up on his own desk, fingers interlaced, head cocked to the side, smoking a cigarette. Wearing a very nice gray 3 piece suit with blue suspenders, jacket up over the back of red leather chair, desk is large and imposing. A lawyer, Marty, also with a nice suit, holding briefcase and standing in the middle of the floor in front of two high backed brown leather chairs opposite the desk. Room is well appointed, potted fern, expensive floor lamps, mirrors, artwork, grandfather clock, and green carpet. Shadows cast forward as though big window is behind the man and opposite Arthur. (What corner is the camera supposed to be in? The artist will need to know. And what about Marty’s body language?)

 

ARTHUR:

“I’ve told you a thousand times Marty: I don’t do trials! They just get me up on the stand and try to tear my evidence to pieces– (Why is there an open quotation mark at the beginning of this piece of dialogue? And what happened to the comma? )

–in spite of photos and hard evidence– (This doesn’t need to be in its own balloon.)

–just because I bill myself as a ‘psychic’ investigator.

 

MARTY:

So take it off your damn business cards Arthur. (Comma. Why do I feel a rant coming on? It’s about that time, isn’t it?)

You didn’t expect to photograph the richest man in the city cheating on his wife in a bisexual threesome with the mayor and a TV weather girl and not end up in court . . .– (Again, don’t do double punctuation.)

–. . . did you? (This doesn’t need to be in its own balloon.)

 

ARTHUR:

. . . (This doesn’t need to be here at all. Just cut this completely.)

 

MARTY:

Court, the 20th, 8am!

Be there, or I’m taking you off retainer. (Okay, it’s time, because I see where this is going. Your dialogue is too wordy and broken up too much. You’re going to have so many balloons all over the place that you won’t be able to see the art. Cut it down. Dialogue is HARD, and it is the single most subjective part of scripting. You have to give the illusion of an entire conversation without really having one. And we’re on P5, and we STILL haven’t gotten one good piece of information to keep the story going. That means you’ve got five pages of padding, because this page is nothing more than setup for something that may happen next page. Criminal. Worse than criminal. It’s boring. And for a writer, boring is death.)

 

Second Panel: Exterior of office again, Marty exiting frame to the left, large rolls-royce-esque car pulled up in front of the big front window. Exiting the car are Hafte and his bodyguards. Hafte is getting out on the sidewalk side of car and looking at window, while the African bodyguard hold the car door. Mongolian has exited the car, is walking around the hood watching Marty walk off frame. (This makes no sense. We start inside the car on the previous page. Then, we move outside the car. Then, we go inside the building for a single panel before moving back outside the building. It doesn’t take a genius to guess we’re going to yo-yo back inside the building in the next panel, and trust me, I’m no genius. And this is P5, an odd page, which means that it will be on the right side of the page. Why is Marty exiting to the left, leading the eye INTO the book, instead of OUT OF it? And where is the camera? Because if Hafte is getting out of the car, then he may not be able to be seen, depending on the camera position.)

 

MARTY:

Damn prima donna (How about some punctuation? An ellipsis would work very well here.)

 

Third Panel: Interior office, just inside the door, closeup of Tomas, smiling slyly, pulled back so the bodyguards can only just be seen looking around the room over his shoulders. (Like I said, it didn’t take a genius.)

 

 

TOMAS:

Mr. Falcon, I’m Tomas Hafte . . .

 

Like I said, this was nothing more than setup for something that may happen next page. Padding. If you combined the first three pages into one, and these two pages into one, you’d have saved yourself some sales. Maybe. At least the story would be further along.

Page 6: four panels

 

First Panel: Frontal close up on Arthur, agitated and dismissive look on his face directed at Tomas.

 

ARTHUR:

I’ve told you guys before, I don’t do government jobs . . .–

— . . . not anymore. (Instead of giving Arthur some depth and instant backstory and interest, this just comes off really poorly. Especially since it is, once again, unnecessarily broken up. It makes him sound whiney. Just cut the second line. And again with the double punctuation.)

 

Second Panel: Tomas sits in a chair looking straight out of the frame, bodyguards visible in background looking tough arms crossed. Tomas, no longer wearing his sunglasses sits legs crossed neatly and tightly, elbows resting on the arm rests, arms and wrists abducted out so he is showing his palms, with a laughing look on his face.

 

TOMAS:

But Mr. Falcon, we aren’t with the Government.

I’ve come here with a unique proposition, just for you . . .–

–A unique man. (This doesn’t need to be its own line.)

 

Third Panel: Close up on arthur, looking surprised and incredulous, one eyebrow raised.

 

ARTHUR:

Go on . . .

 

Fourth Panel: Frontal shot of Tomas still sitting back in the chair, everything but his smile looks like he’s playing chess, head cocked to one side.

 

TOMAS:

Mr. Falcon you are the only private investigator, psychic or otherwise, with a perfect close rate on your cases, and you always manage to find the real truth.

Such a record is . . . extraordinary–

–to say the least. (Why is this in its own balloon? There is no reason for it.)

I represent a private organization, who finds exceptional people with unique abilities, knowledge, and skill, like yourself, and hires them simply to be extraordinary.

We call ourselves The Remarkable. (NO. There are 70 words in this single panel. No. Now, let me go back and read it… Comma. Then, this needs to go in reverse order. Mostly. The last two balloons stay in the order they’re in [with revisions], and then everything else either gets cut, or gets spread out. But there is no earthly reason this panel needs 70 words in it. Your artist and letterer will have a devil of a time working around it.)

 

 

Page 7: Five Panels

 

First Panel: Arthur in profile, close up, eyes squinting, smiling, cigarette held straight out in front of him between his lips, smoke curling off the end. (Why? This is one of the most uninteresting panels you’ve come up with.)

 

ARTHUR:

In case you hadn’t noticed I make a very good living for myself already– (Comma. No rant this time around. You’re all spared.)

–and I prefer to choose how I use my ‘exceptional abilities’ for myself. Thank you. (Comma, not a period.)

 

Second Panel: Chest and up shot of Tomas in the high backed chair fingers tented together in front of his face just barely obscuring his smile.

 

TOMAS:

You’d only have to spend two days a week at our regional facility, though you are welcome to spend more.

You will occasionally be asked to help us with some of our assignments.

We’re willing to offer you 18 million dollars a year for exclusive use of your abilities. (49 words here. Like I said, keep the word count down. Let’s see… Rich! Care to rewrite this in 35 words or less?)

 

Third Panel: Frontal shot of Arthur, same chest up aspect as the last frame, face showing clear surprise, eyes open fairly wide, lips slightly parted so the cigarette hangs down, nearly to the point of falling.

 

ARTHUR:

I don’t understand . . .

 

Fourth panel: Tomas Standing up in front of the chair now now, putting his sunglasses back on, bodyguards just visible behind him. (No. He should be in the act of standing, not already there.)

 

TOMAS:

Take your time Arthur. I expect a man like you will want to check us out before agreeing to anything.

 

Fifth Panel: Hafte and his bodyguards are exiting the office now, portion of the Mongolian’s back visible past Hafte, shoulder of the African woman partially obscures tomas’s Torso to the right of the frame, Tomas is stopped and throwing a glance back over his left shoulder (right side of frame). (Finally, a character that’s placed correctly! But don’t have him stop. That’s so…pedestrian. Have him continue on walking through the door, with the words coming back into the room. That would have greater impact.)

 

TOMAS:

I’m sure you can find us if you’re interested.

 

Page 8: Five Panels

New recurring characters

Lewis – losing the battle of the bulge though still powerful, slightly balding police detective, overburdened weariness shows in his face. Usually wearing a white button up shirt, shoulder holstered revolver, and badge on a chain on his chest. (Say it with me, all: no one cares. See? Isn’t that cleansing?)

 

First Panel: Arthur stands in profile by a window, trench coat over his suit, peering out the right side of the frame through some venetian blinds. Small dumpy police detective’s office, Lewis sits behind an unkempt desk, taking up left two thirds of the frame, reading from a file. Computer screen on desk looks nearly lost in a sea of papers and folders overflowing from the desk. Filing cabinets line the walls. (Where is the camera, and why are you [again] not describing things from left to right?)

 

LEWIS:

Everything seems to check out Artie. Hafte is some kind of super genius who started up the whole Remarkables thing when he inherited a massive family fortune. He and his teams go around doing for hire crime fighting and mystery solving, as well as a bunch of other, pro bono, general good deeds. (53. Not bad for an info-dump, but still too many words. Get this done in 30 or less. And don’t forget to learn to use a comma.)

 

ARTHUR:

I know all that.

 

LEIWS:

So why come to me?

 

ARTHUR:

I don’t understand why . . . why do all of this? . . . why me? (There are 79 words in this single panel. You’re making me sound like a broken record. Word count, and double punctuation. I won’t even harp on the capitalization, because more than likely, your letterer will use an all caps font, instead of sentence case.)

 

Second Panel: Close up of Lewis sitting in a chair still reading from the file.

 

LEWIS:

Well the ‘why you’ seems pretty obvious Mr. ‘I’m omnipotent’. (Comma, and spell out “mister.”)

Hafte says he wants to make amends for his family’s history of exploitation. They made their money in colonial slavery, industrial revolution mining operations, and more recently weapons manufacture.– –So he goes around hiring people of exceptional ability, training, and knowledge just to be amazing. Who knows why the rich do anything eccentric– (64. I see walls of text, and I immediately want to go running the other way. That’s never good. Why? Because walls of dialogue are rarely good in themselves. This is the second part of the info-dump I was fearing, because the first one was too light. There may be one more coming. And you’re telling the reader things they already know. Why waste the space?)

 

ARTHUR (OP):

–I Do . . . usually.

 

Third Panel: Full frontal shot of Arthur standing in front of the venetian blinds, turned to face the desk, hands in his pockets looking thoughtful.

 

ARTHUR:

You know how my gift works Lew,– (Comma. Le sigh.)

–Normally I understand everything the moment something enters my future events, but with Hafte I get nothing other than his next immediate move. (Comma.)

None of this makes any sense. He wouldn’t spend this kind of money just to ‘give back’, he wants . . . something . . .

I just . . . I can’t see it.

The last time I couldn’t see everything . . . I got my family killed. (81. I just lost my entire mind. And what is it? Yet another info-dump. Sometimes you just know.)

 

Fourth Panel: Full shot of the desk, but all we can see are silhouettes on a yellow background, Lewis is looking up at Arthur, who is now standing near the right edge of the desk hands still in his pockets. (Why? What is so important on the desk that you have the characters not on the panel? Not one thing. Why? Because you didn’t call attention to anything there that would further the story or reveal character through an image. As it is, this is a wasted panel. And I’m mighty curious to know where the light source is that is allowing for shadows to be thrown the way you’re describing this.)

 

LEWIS:

You have amazing powers Artie,– (More fail with commas and double punctuation!)

–but it isn’t your fault they got killed. (This doesn’t need to be in its own balloon.)

I know my sister and she wouldn’t have wanted you to blame yourself. (Comma-fail. That’s my new term for this phenomenon.)

I think Hafte is on the level when he says he just wants to help. (42. Way too wordy.)

 

ARTHUR:

Well, he isn’t on the level. That much I understand–

–but that is ALL I understand. (Not bad for the break, but the first sentence has to go. It’s too direct and repeating what was just said.)

 

Fifth Panel: Arthur heading out the office door, fairly close shot of him looking over his shoulder and smiling like the cat that ate the canary. (How is the reader supposed to know that he is heading out the door?)

 

LEWIS (OP):

So, what will you do?

 

ARTHUR:

I have to know . . . So, I’ll play his game–

— . . . For now. (This is a terrible line to end the the page on. Overly obvious and melodramatic.)

 

And that’s the end! More red than black, yes? Let’s run it down.

 

Format: Meh. You have the elements, but because of the way you broke up the dialogue, you’re going to drive your letterer nuckin’ futs. Most letterers are only going to cut and paste, leaving all the mistakes in. Each line will be treated as a separate balloon, because that’s the way it reads. That is the biggest mistake, format-wise. Then you have the missing element right at the beginning, too. Other than that, the format is fine. I would rather you label every balloon as its own separate thing in order to make it easier for the letterer, but I won’t knock you for it in Format.

 

Also, leave out character descriptions for main/recurring characters. Pick those characters out for the artist so they can start on the designs. No one else in the creative team is going to care. Leave it out. Few people enjoy reading scripts, and you’re not doing anything but making an already unpleasant task take longer.

 

Panel Descriptions: Not good in the least. Georg, you have to learn to describe things from left to right, and when necessary, top to bottom. The script is going to the entire creative team, and they have to be able to follow you. If you start with the main character and they’re on the right, and then you go back and describe what’s in the background and then go and describe what’s on the left…that isn’t going to work. Describe what’s on the left, and then go to the right. If necessary, describe what is at the top, and then work your way down to the bottom. Order.

 

Pacing: Worse than your panel descriptions. Far worse. You have two splash pages within three pages of story, and of those three pages, they really should have only been one page. I saw nothing within these pages that warranted a single splash, let alone two, and definitely not so close together. Your first five pages have only two pages worth of material between them, and really, in these eight pages, you only told about four pages worth of story. This could be condensed down to three or four pages and not lose anything of even vague interest.

 

The pacing for the dialogue is off, too. Too many breaks for it to read well. The good part is that you’re thinking dramatically! That’s always a great thing, because if a story lacks drama, there isn’t much reason to tell it. However, you slipped from drama to melodrama, and then you went from melodrama to corny melodrama. At times, I felt like I was reading a transcript of a bad soap opera. Never a good thing, that. Cut down the number of breaks. Let it flow more naturally.

 

Dialogue: Not good. Easily the weakest part of this entire script, which is really a shame, since readers come for the art and stay for the writing.

 

First, you are too wordy in the extreme. Part of that is the fault of the Format, I believe. I think that if you had broken it down balloon by balloon, you would have seen how much you had characters saying. I think that would have mitigated what you were doing some. Not a lot, but some. I think the other part is that you haven’t yet learned how to boil dialogue into its essence. Get to the point, and then get out. You’re using fifteen words when five well-chosen ones would do.

 

Second, you have info-dumps that would be better served being told through the story. Instead of saying the guy has powers, show them in use. Why cover in dialogue what was previously shown just a few pages ago? Why be so blatant about losing his family through the use of his talent? Why not let that come out organically over time? Dumping information onto a reader is as fun as getting hit upside the head with a baseball bat. Don’t do that.

 

Third, the over-use of breaking up the dialogue took you over the edge into Terrible Dialogueland. There came a point when I didn’t care about what was being said, because I was just looking at the dialogue breaks. Ninety-eight percent of those didn’t need to be there. Putting the dialogue into separate balloons like that adds a pause when your audience reads, like a small intake of breath. Because of all the breaks, your dialogue reads “breathless.” Not good. Cut down on the breaks.

 

Content: Totally uninteresting. I barely have any idea of what the story is about, when you came to your ending/break point, I really didn’t care. Your story didn’t keep my interest, except in morbid fascination. I wondered if it were going to get any better before reaching the end. I was waiting for a point, if not a mystery. I barely got the mystery, and I definitely didn’t get the point. As a reader, when I saw the second splash page within three pages, I would have put it back on the shelf and kept on browsing.

 

Editorially, this is a mess, to be blunt. More red than black, which is never a good thing. Any editor would have their work cut out for them, because once they cut down all the fluff, you’d find you had about half a comic, or just a little less. You’d basically be going back to the drawing board, rewriting the first issue almost from scratch. If the editor was helpful, they’d replot it with you, giving you points to hit and page counts, and seeing what happened from there. No editor even worth half their salt would let this pass without a massive rewrite.

 

And that’s all I have for this week. Check the calendar to see who’s coming 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 (19)

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  1. John Lees says:

    ANCESTOR:

    I OWN YOU!

    I own your MEN!

    and I own your WOMAN! (John Lees: what’s the matter here?)

    A few things spring to mind. First, the mixing of quantities. “I own your MEN,” plural, followed by “I own your WOMAN,” singular. It might work better with “WOMEN!” Plus, starting the last sentence with “and” might be unnecessary grammatically, as well as diluting the impact of the statement: “I own your MEN! I own your WOMEN!” might have more bite. Though, even if you were to start a sentence with “and” (I admit, even though you’re really not supposed to, I do it quite often), you should make sure to capitalise your A at the beginning.

    Another problem is that, for what is supposed to be a big action splash, this line of dialogue is turning the page from the depiction of a single moment to a bit of a back-and-forth conversation. Having an A/B/A (or even A/B/A/B) exchange in a single panel is a common enough practise, but for a big action splash it might not be the best idea.

    • Close, John.

      If you look at the panel description, you see there is only one woman. So, the ancestor is correct in what he says. The problem is that there isn’t enough there to establish the fact this is the Roman’s woman, nor any reason why she was there.

      Everything else is great! Thanks!

  2. “SFX:
    THUK
    SHKUNCH
    CRACK (This, though, is wrong. Where are all of these sound effects supposed to go? Anyone?)”

    First of all, unless the Hafte ancestor is switching sticks between blows, I think the same sound effect should be used for all occurrences. When I “read” different sounds, I immediately think they’re coming from different sources. Pick one and roll with it. Otherwise, it just looks like someone fired up the old Adam West sound machine.

    However, even with that out of the way, I still feel like there’s way too much going in that panel. John already had his say about the dialogue so I’ll say this about the action – at least the part pertaining to the THUKs and SHKUNCHes – three hits is too much for one splash page already filled to the brim with a soliloquy.
    If you want to salvage this, break it down into three panels.
    First panel: Big panel with a view of the prisoners and the ancestor gloating over them: “You lost, Roman!”

    Second panel: The ancestor grabbing the officer by the throat and raising his stick menacingly: “No glorious death! Just the yoke of slavery as you had intended for us!”

    Third panel: Officer’s POV shot of the ancestor with his stick in full swing.

    GERMAN ANCESTOR: I OWN YOU!

    SFX: CRACK!

    GERMAN ANCESTOR: I OWN YOUR MEN!

    SFX: CRACK!

    GERMAN ANCESTOR: AND I OWN YOUR WOMEN!

    SFX: CRACK!

    Heck, you could even break that last panel into three smaller ones, each one getting bloodier and hazier with each blow.

  3. “This makes little sense, and needs to be described better. Yannick, you’re up!”

    Let’s imagine an instant that we do keep this bit of the story because frankly – like Steven has already said – I’d start this comic a lot later with an establishing shot of the psychic dick’s door and then move the action to inside his office. Anyway, I’m going to treat this as essential for the benefit of the exercise.

    Page 3 (3 panels)

    Panel 1

    Medium side shot of a young woman in a brightly lit delivery room. She’s lying on a bed with her feet securely bound to steel stirrups. She’s wearing nothing but a sweat-soaked sheet, her face is drenched and she’s obviously in a lot of pain.

    CAPTION: BOSTON, UNITED STATES, 1963

    WOMAN: PLEASE… PLEASE…

    DOCTOR (OP): HUSH NOW, LITTLE MISS…

    Panel 2

    WOMAN’s POV of the DOCTOR between her propped up legs. He’s purging the air out of the syringe, seemingly captivated by the narrow stream of green liquid spurting out. He’s wearing full surgical scrubs with a face mace and a clear plastic shield.

    DOCTOR: IT WON’T HURT THAT MUCH.

    Panel 3

    Close-up of the WOMAN’s face, eyes closed, mouth opened in a scream.

    WOMAN: NOOOOO—

    I’ve changes the caption – it wasn’t as specific as the others – and I also took the liberty of tweaking the dialogue. I figured since this was another of Hafte’s ancestors, he better sound condescending with a little touch of cruelty.

  4. *** The website ate my comment again. I hope I’m not double-posting! ***

    “Now, with that being said, why are you wasting even more precious space with a basically silent panel? What is going on in this panel that is so special, so obvious or so moving that it deserves a beat of its own? Can anyone answer that? It’s open.”

    Nothing. I’d scrap this panel completely and start that page – no, I’d start the COMIC right at Arthur Falcon’s door. The way Hafte got there, that fact that’s it’s raining outside, the sidewalk, the car, none of this has any bearing on what follows. If the goal was to make Hafte look rich and sophisticated, show it in the way he talks down to Arthur, show it in the way he enters the room and the way he conducts his business. If you pull that off, the reader will be able to see the Rolls Royce and the crystal bottle of scotch in his head, implicitly understanding that guys like Hafte don’t ride the subway across town with their cadre of well-dressed bodyguards.

    So:

    Page 1

    Panel 1

    Tight shot of a wooden office door with a frosted window panel. The business’ name appears on the glass in an old-fashioned script as well as the logo. (See the sketches I’ve sent you for an idea of what I’d like. You can also draw inspiration from THIS, THIS and THIS.)

    DOOR: ARTHUR FALCON, PSYCHIC INVESTIGATOR

    ARTHUR (OP): I’m not going, Marty.

    Panel 2

    Wide shot of ARTHUR’s office. It’s a richly furnished and decorated room: potted plants, expensive floor lamps, mirrors, artwork, grandfather clock, and lush green carpet. ARTHUR, sitting with his feet on his desk with an annoyed look on his face, is doing “air quotes”. Rain IS beating against the glass of a large window behind him. MARTY is standing in front of the desk, angry, trying to wrestle a thick folder from out of an overpacked lawyer’s briefcase. In the background, we can see the same door as in panel 1, but now we’re on the other side.

    CAPTION: NEW YORK CITY, PRESENT DAY

    ARTUR: I GET TORN TO PIECES EVERY TIME YOU MAKE TAKE THE STAND AS A “PSYCHIC INVESTIGATOR”.

    MARTY: THEN YOU SHOULD’VE THOUGHT ABOUT IT BEFORE PUTTING IT ON YOUR DAMN BUSINESS CARD!

    Panel 3

    Medium shot of MARTY throwing the overflowing folder onto the desk, papers and photos spilling out, office supplies jumping up with the impact.

    MARTY: HERE’S THE FILE FOR TOMORROW! 8 AM SHARP!

    Panel 4

    Medium shot of ARTHUR, sitting at his desk but with his feet under it now. He’s shouting at MARTY who is walking towards us, half his body out of frame in the foreground.

    ARTHUR: FOR THE THOUSANDTH TIME: I DON’T DO TRIALS ANYMORE! I WON’T BE THERE!

    Panel 5

    ARTHUR POV shot of MARTY. He has opened the door and is halfway out, but he’s turned back, pointing at ARTHUR.

    MARTY: YOU WILL BE OR YOU’RE OFF THE PAYROLL FOR GOOD.

    Panel 6

    Wide shot of ARTHUR sitting alone in his office, looking dejectedly at the enormous casefile on his desk.

    SFX: SLAM!

    Page 2

    Panel 1

    Wide side shot of the corridor outside ARTHUR’s office in an elegant office building. A frowning MARTY is walking towards the right, grumbling to himself, obliviously passing by HAFTE and his four BODYGARDS who are walking in the opposite direction without noting him.

    MARTY (SMALL): Damn prima donna…

    And so on…

    Of course, you’ll have understood that “THIS, THIS and THIS” are links to reference pictures.

  5. Lance Boone says:

    For two days a week of your time and exclusive use of your abilities, we’ll pay you eighteen million dollars.

    20 words.

    I have a feeling I’m going to get nailed for being too wordy when my scripts on the block.

  6. Rich Douek says:

    TOMAS:

    You’d only have to spend two days a week at our regional facility, though you are welcome to spend more.

    You will occasionally be asked to help us with some of our assignments.

    We’re willing to offer you 18 million dollars a year for exclusive use of your abilities. (49 words here. Like I said, keep the word count down. Let’s see… Rich! Care to rewrite this in 35 words or less?)

    I’d probably do something like this:

    TOMAS: We are prepared to offer you 18 Million dollars for the exclusive use of your abilities, and a small time commitment, perhaps two days a week, at our facility. Your choice, of course. (33 Words)

    Just tried to do 2 things; First, make it more concise by cutting out extraneous info, like the part about spending more than 2 days there, and the line about helping on assignments, which I felt was a little “expected” and unnecessary. Second, I added the short line about choice to make the conversation flow better; Arthur’s big point in the previous panel is that how he uses his abilities is his choice. I thought it could be a good moment for Tomas to get in a subtle jab, since he’s making an “offer you can’t refuse”

    That’s my take.

  7. Rich douek says:

    sorry for the double post- got some weird error on my first attempt.

  8. Conner MacDonald says:

    STEVEN:(No one cares about any of this. This will be information given to the artist before they ever start doing thumbnails for the script. It doesn’t belong here. The only time you really want to give character descriptions within a script are for characters that won’t be recurring.)

    ME: Just a question. Does this also apply to location discriptions?

    • Hey, Connor!

      Great question! Here’s a mediocre answer:

      Nope! It doesn’t apply to place descriptions, because you need that as part of the establishing shot. Once you establish the setting, then you do not need to reference the entire setting again while in that scene, only the important things for that panel. If you’re describing an office for the first time, make sure you mention the stuff on the desk, because if a character will be using a computer that’s supposed to be sitting on it in panel 2 and the computer wasn’t mentioned in panel 1, that’s a fail. The computer is now magically delicious.

      Settings can be all over the place, but recurring characters are constant. Their designs won’t change often. That’s why the information isn’t necessary in the script. Those designs will have to be approved before the pages are drawn.

      How’s that for a mediocre answer?

  9. Conner MacDonald says:

    Alright, thank you very much.

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