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TPG Week 34: Padding Isn’t Your Friend

| August 19, 2011 | 47 Comments

 

 

 

 

Welcome back to The Proving Grounds, one and all! This week, we have another Brave One who is new here. Let’s all welcome Lance Boone, as he brings us the first tale of

Heaven’s Hitman

Issue #1 of 7

Writer
Lance Boone

 

FULL CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS TO FOLLOW IN SEPARATE DOCUMENT. For purposes of reading this script:

1985: The year of the story is almost a character. Limited earth tones. Pastels. New wave. Clean. Emotionless.

GRINDER TATE: Forty years old. His hard living shows in the lines on his face. Six feet tall. Muscular. Has a scruffy-like appearance, but he is not dirty. Hairy. Unkempt dread-lock type hair. A long shaggy beard. In the first three pages, he wears a modified ski mask that covers his face from his forehead to bottom of where his nose used to be. His hair hangs out of the top. He is wearing a full length fur coat.

DREAM WEAVER: This is obviously a man. Thirty. New wave Transvestite. Six feet four inches tall. Lean. Heavy make-up. Blue eye shadow and bright red lips. An angular male face. Hair is black a bit short and slicked back. Large fake breasts. He is feminine in his movements and posture. A mix that will leave the reader scratching their head whether he is man or woman. A question that will never be answered.

PRECIOUS: Twenty. Five foot four inches tall. Albino. Wears nothing but a thong and a leather dog collar. Walks on all fours. He is a human pet.

CHUCK POUNDS: Forty years old. Receding hair line with long hair in the back. A bit of a gut, but otherwise skinny. Mullet.

(A whole page of stuff unnecessary to the script. You already said it was in another document. Leave it there.)

 

PAGE 1 (4 Panels)

Panel 1 Page wide panel. Establishing shot of an typical wedding ceremony inside a small church with approximately twenty guests in attendance. A bride, a gaunt-sickly groom, and a pastor stand in front of the gathering. We see Grinder Tate sitting next to an elderly woman in the first row of the audience. Everyone is oblivious to the fact that there is a man wearing a modified ski mask and a fur coat in their midst. (This is a decent establishing shot. It tells Who, Where, and What. It implies When. So, decent. It would be better if you gave more explicit camera direction. Because of the way you describe it, the camera has no choice but to be behind the pastor, looking out into the crowd.)

PASTOR: Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today, on this, the third day of December in the year of our Lord, one thousand nine hundred and eighty-five, to witness the joining in marriage of Jennifer Howard and Paul Meyers. (No. No, no, no, no, no, NO, no, no. I know the date is important, but if it’s that important, put it in a caption. Do NOT put it in spoken dialogue like this. You’re making the balloon unnecessarily unwieldy and wordy. Go from “today” to “to”. That cuts out 19 words, and makes it less of a pain to read.)

GRINDER (caption): If I had a business card it would read Grinder Tate…Divine Interventionist… (I want you to do one of two things. First, I want you to reverse the order of the elements you have here. It should read CAPTION (Grinder) at most. If no one else has a caption, then you don’t need to name the captions at all. If even one other person has a caption, you could then either name them all, or only name that other person’s. Being backwards right now isn’t helping. It’s just causing the letterer to look harder when you get into actual dialogue.)

GRINDER (caption): And Freelance Gynecologist. Don’t wanna forget that part.

 

Panel 2 Page wide panel. With a warm smile, Grinder is offering the elderly lady seated next to him a handkerchief. She reaches for the tissue as tears stream down her wrinkled cheeks. She reciprocates the smile. (The old woman is semi-magically delicious. If you call her out here, then you should have said whom he was sitting beside in the previous panel.)

ELDERLY WOMAN (whispering): Thank you.

GRINDER (caption): A person would rot in hell for what I’m gonna do, but my contracts come from Jesus Christ himself.

GRINDER (caption): That makes my shit double dipped in gold.

 

Panel 3 Page wide panel. Grinder watches on. His right hand is tucked inside his fur coat. A hand gun he is holding is slightly exposed.

GRINDER (caption): Wait for it…wait for it.

 

Panel 4 Page wide panel. POV from the audience. The Bride and Groom are holding hands and smiling as they stand face to face lovingly gazing in to each other’s eyes. The Pastor stands behind them and addresses the guests.

PASTOR: If anyone has just reason why this man and this woman should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace.

GRINDER (caption): Bingo.

Crass, with attempted levity. Not bad. Not overly interesting, but not bad. The prospect of a “divine interventionist” has an eyebrow raised, so as a reader, I’m willing to go a little further. That is a great thing! Piquing the interest of a reader on the first page will ALWAYS be a win. Now, let’s see if you can hold it, Lance.

 

PAGE 2 (Splash) (Page break.)

Splash In the background, an emotionless Grinder is standing and firing a bullet right into the bride’s face. The bride is violently recoiling backward towards the reader as the back of her head blows out. The horror-stricken husband-to-be is feebly reaching out to try and catch her limp body. The Pastor ducks for cover. The gallery of family and friends is aghast at what they are witnessing. (Nice use of a splash. I like the placement, and I like the attempt. What would be better? A better camera angle, so we can see the full effect of what’s going on. For that, I believe the angle should be reversed, so that it is from beside Grinder. We should be closer to him as he shoots the bride, and we don’t see much of the people’s reaction at all. They’re not important right now.)

SOUND EFFECT: BLAM (Shorten that to SFX. Now, here’s a lesson I want everyone to take heed to: sound effect placement. When you have them, sound effects are part of the reading experience. As such, they have to be placed in such a way that they make sense. They are another piece of dialogue, and should be treated as such. This means you place them as to when you want them read. The placement here makes no sense. Right now, you have the sound effect first, which means the captions fall underneath it. The captions will be on the bottom half of the page. That’s no good. That’s bad timing.)

GRINDER: When Jesus weeps, I kill. (Terrible. Almost wretched. However, this is in character, so I can’t complain. I did roll my eyes, though. Almost bad enough to make a reader put it back on the shelf all by itself.)

GRINDER (caption): A catch phrase I’ve been workin’ on. It ain’t Where’s The Beef and it’s pretentious as fuck, but I kinda like it. (Your character isn’t very likeable. That may be the goal, but he definitely doesn’t have any charm. If you give him some charm, you may end up with a character that people will enjoy reading.)

 

 

PAGE 3 (5 Panels)

Panel 1 Page wide panel. The distraught groom is knelt at his bride’s blood soaked body and screaming out over his shoulder in horror. The elderly woman stands behind him stone faced and emotionless. She’s in shock.

GROOM (shaken): Who…who…who?

ELDERLY WOMAN(shaken): It was the man sitting next to me, h-he did this…b-but I…I…can’t remember his face.

 

Panel 2 Page wide panel. Grinder walks towards the reader as the chaos continues behind him. He is literally holding the smoking gun. (What chaos? Now you can show the crowd’s reaction. I take it he’s now in an aisle, on his way out of the church.)

GRINDER (caption): You never will, Granny. One of the perks of the job.

 

Panel 3 Page wide panel. Grinder, tucking the gun back into his coat, is outside now on the sun soaked streets of Los Angeles. He’s bathed in the red and blue strobing lights from police cruisers. Cops rush by him towards the church’s entrance, oblivious to the masked man calmly walking past them. Detective Janice Ross is one of those officers. We will be introduced to her a next issue. (I know what you’re going for, but that is extremely unrealistic. Extremely. The ONLY way the police could get there that fast is if they were already there. I used to do dispatching for a fire department, and worked closely with police dispatchers. It takes time, even if they’re in the area. I’m willing to say, at maximum, it took him no more than 45 seconds to get out of the church after the shooting. You mean to tell me someone called the police, gave the necessary information, and the police were there, already out of their cars, and rushing to help, all within that time? Methinks not.)

GRINDER (caption): The groom will thank me later. Bride from hell was a serial black widow. Murdered her first two husbands for the insurance payouts. (Do we really need this information? And why is it so mundane? If he’s Heaven’s Hitman, why not have a better reason for the killing? This isn’t good.)

GRINDER (caption): And from the look of the guy, she was already stirrin’ a spoonful of cyanide into his morning cup of Foldgers. (See that right there? I’m not going to call that a spelling error. I’m going to call that Lance not wanting to get sued. Yes, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.)

 

Panel 4 Page wide panel. Close on Grinder as he faces the reader. He dangles an eight-ball of cocaine in front of his eyes, as if mesmerized by its power over him. (Gonna be a little hard to show mesmerism with the ski mask on.)

GRINDER (caption): Honestly I could give a shit less what my targets did or didn’t do. Not my place to judge who gets knocked off. I’m just the trigger man. Besides– (Comma-fail. And if you’re going to use a term, correct usage would be appropriate. It’s like how most people say “I could care less.” That literally means that they care, and they COULD care less about something. See what I mean, Verne? Your character is also showing a dichotomy of character. He likes his job well enough to want to have a catch-phrase, but at the same time, is ashamed enough that he has to protest by saying he’s just a trigger man and doing drugs. Which is it?)

GRINDER (caption): –we all have our sins.

 

Panel 5 Page wide panel. Grinder pulls up his mask slightly to below his eyes to expose the open cavity where his nose used to reside. He’s sprinkling in a copious amount of coke from the plastic baggie. (If it were still around, this definitely would not have passed the Comics Code Authority. That being said, I don’t know of many companies that would publish a story that seems to semi-glorify blatant drug use.)

GRINDER (caption): So…just how did I become the personal hitman for the Lord and Savior himself…and by extension, the most bad ass, son-of-a-bitch on the planet? (I’m sensing useless exposition. Possibly a flashback.)

GRINDER (caption): It wasn’t for my heavenly virtue that’s for goddamn sure. (Comma-fail.)

GRINDER (caption): It’s all part of one fucked up story, and with any fucked up story, this one starts with– (Now, I’m bored. Really and truly. And it’s P2. Anything you built up on P1 was squandered here.)

 

 

PAGE 4 (4 Panels)

Panel 1 Large establishing panel. Grinder, whiskey bottle and a duffle bag in front of him, sits at the basement bar of Dream Weaver’s Hollywood Hills mansion. Sanitized. Angular. Clean. New Wave. The high end trappings belie the brutality of the fights occurring here. Blood stains spot the floor within the combat circle (What combat circle? Where is it? Like I said last week, describe things from left to right.). Grinder, wearing 80’s style tight shorts, tank top, and striped-knee high socks, is flanked by two beautiful, scantily-clad, prostitutes, Candy-a blonde and Bambi-a brunette. They hang on him, seductively flirting. The rest of the seats at the bar are empty. Paul the bartender, a young, 80’s new wave looking guy, mixes cocktails. In front of the trio and behind the bar hangs a mirror. Behind them a single circular row of emotionless, ethnically diverse men in expensive suits, sit in large, plush chairs watching two men fighting in the middle of their faux-human ring. There’s an aisle amongst the group of men, just wide enough for fighters to enter. (Let’s see. Time for someone else to have a shot. Rich! What do you think is going on here?)

GRINDER (caption): –hookers.

GRINDER: …and he says, how much for chickpeas. I say, I don’t know how much chick pee costs, Bob, but there’s this lady who works the corner of my block…she’ll shit on your chest for twenty bucks. (Let it be known that I’m not a prude. Neither am I a Conservative. I lean more liberal. I like porn. I like girl on girl. I like to watch disgusting things as much as the next person. However, I don’t think it’ll go far in comics. If you were to somehow get through Diamond, I believe this passage right here would put you into their Adult category. Something to think about, because this has crossed a line in taste.)

 

Panel 2 Grinder is agitated that there is no appreciation for his story as Candy and Bambi continue to hang on him but miss the point of his story.

CANDY: That’s so rad. I never miss The Price Is Right. Did you win?

GRINDER: Did I win? That’s not the fuckin’ point of the story. The point is it’s a pretty fuckin’ witty little comeback.

CANDY: Um…sure…yeah…ha.

 

Panel 3 Over Grinder’s shoulder. In the foreground we see the back of his head. In the background we see his scowling reflection in the mirror as he pulls the whiskey bottle closer to his lips.

GRINDER: I don’t need a half assed pity laugh.

 

Panel 4 Grinder chugs on the whiskey bottle. A bit of whiskey escapes through the corner of his mouth and down his chin.

NO DIALOG

 

This entire page has no reason for being. It doesn’t feel like it is revealing character or pushing the story forward. Without looking, I could probably cut it and have very little reworking to do on the next page in order to make it fit. Know what that’s called? Padding.

PAGE 5 (5 Panels) (Page break.)

Panel 1 Grinder uses the back of his hand to wipe away the dribbled whiskey from his chin.

GRINDER: To answer the question, I didn’t win.

GRINDER: They threw me off the set, off the lot, and literally kicked my ass clean out of fuckin’ Burbank.

 

Panel 2 Candy frowns as Grinder gives his smug, matter-of-fact feelings on the situation.

CANDY: Bummer.

GRINDER: They can blow me. I started watchin’ Wheel of Fortune instead.

 

Panel 3 Grinder smirks as he tries to work an angle on the ladies.

GRINDER: Let’s cut the small-talk bullshit. It’s pretty obvious I’m throbbin’ for both of you and you’re both not completely disgusted by me, so…do I get the two for one discount or what?

 

 

Panel 4 Candy and Bambi are leaned in close as they whispers in each of Grinder’s ears. Grinder concentrates intently as he listens.

CANDY (inaudible whispering): Fifty-thousand.

BAMBI (inaudible whispering): Fifty-thousand.

GRINDER: You take coupons?

CHUCK POUNDS (off panel): I hope you’re not trying to talk these lovely ladies out of their panties with your boring ass game show story.

 

Panel 5 Chuck Pounds approaches. The trio has turned to look at him.

CHUCK: You wanna tell them a story–

 

I was wrong, but only a little bit. Generally, this page can be cut, too. The good news is that you’ve set yourself up for a reveal, and it was done correctly. Congrats! The bad news is that you had to use two pages of padding to get there.

And that’s where I’m going to stop. This is already back on the shelf. Let’s run it down.

Format: Decent. Only a couple of mistakes. Nothing to napalm you about. Good job.

Panel Descriptions: No moving panels, which is always a great thing. However, describe things from left to right. Think dramatically. This will help you in placing the camera. Don’t be afraid to go back and fix things, such as the magically delicious old woman. If you place things as soon as possible within the panel descriptions, your artist won’t have to go back and fix mistakes you forced them to make later.

Pacing: I’m going to say terrible. To be honest, the first five pages are nothing but padding, and I’m not interested enough to look at the rest of the script in order to see when the story actually starts. The shooting was nothing more than the setup for the flashback, and the beginning of the flashback wasn’t enough to hold my interest once we got there. Not good. Well, just for curiosity’s sake, let’s see when the story actually starts. Be right back.

Worse than I thought, actually. You never come out of the flashback. This needs to be thrown out and totally rewritten from the ground up. Add in some foreshadowing, and this may be okay. But as for Pacing, this is terrible.

Dialogue: Meh. Very much less than stellar. It won’t be the images, but the dialogue alone would probably get you the Adult Previews. Some distributors might refuse to carry it. You crossed a line in taste, damn near straying into the pornographic. Not good. And really, nothing your character says makes him likeable. That means, if it somehow made it into production, few people would come back for the second issue. After “divine interventionist,” you said nothing else of interest. It went downhill from there, extremely quickly.

Content: As a reader, I would have been intrigued by the premise of the title, but after the first few pages, I would have quickly found the story to be without any merit. After the first page, there isn’t anything here to hold my interest as a reader. It would stay on the shelf.

From an editorial standpoint, there are places where I would have to rein you in. Already, it needs to be rewritten from the ground up, but there are places where you go that most publishers won’t follow. You can be shocking without being vulgar. This, Lance, is vulgar. If I were editing this, I’d help you to re-plot it so that it can be rewritten, would make you tone down the language, and make you raise it above the squalor you have it in. Believe you me, most people don’t want to read a comic that has the word “fuck” uttered every other line. I counted 26 within the entire document. For the story, that averages to better than once per page. How about beating on another note?

And that’s it 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 (47)

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  1. I have a question about pacing.

    Here we have:
    Page 1 – Ramping up to action shot
    Page 2 – BOOM! ACTION!
    Page 3 – Winding down aaaand…
    Page 4 – Flashback!
    Page 5 – Ramping up to reveal…

    I don’t see the rest of the script, but it seemed to me Lance was off to a good start. Maybe it stays pretty flat for the rest of the script – I don’t know – but unless I’m mistaken and it’s just talking heads from that page on, it looks like a decent down-up-down-up structure is being set up.

    Do you have a fast and hard rule to go by for pacing or does it depend on the particular script?

    And to be perfectly honest, I’m asking for egotistical reasons. 😛 I have practically the same structure in the first pages of my script: ramp-up, BOOM, keep the tension and delay resolution with a flashback. However, I do come out of the flashback in the end, essentially bookcasing one story with another, both intertwined with the same theme and both resolved in a satisfactory fashion.

    Just hoping I’m not going for a fourth rewrite!

    • Hey, Yannick.

      The computer ate my initial response, so I’m going to try to reconstruct it. (And it wasn’t the site this time, it was either my connection or my computer, because something similar happened at a different site.)

      Anyway, the short answer is that it depends on the script.

      The long answer is that, within the structure, you have to be interesting without tricking the reader. That’s what Lance did. He literally starts out with a bang, but then he gets in his own way in wanting to tell an origin story. So he goes into a flashback, and never comes out of it.

      That’s worse than bad. That’s nothing but trickery, and the reader who buys it will be PISSED OFF because of it. (To be honest, these pages are the most interesting of the bunch.) Why is it trickery? Because the first few pages are nothing more than a setup for the origin story. That means it could be cut wholesale from the story, and not affect the structure at all. That is what makes it padding.

      So, if I were to cut off the first three pages and remove the caption on P4, this would be the (very boring) introduction to the story. (Personally, I think the concept is interesting in a Preacher/Saint of Killers way. I would much rather have the origin done in two or three pages, and have readers see who the character is by his actions. I think that is more compelling than going into an extended flashback showing an unrepentant miscreant continue to be an unrepentant miscreant in the present.)

      But again, it depends on the script. No, that’s not true.

      It depends on the writer’s storytelling ability.

      Does that help?

      • So if I get this right, the script goes: Ramp-up – BOOM! – Slow descent into origin story… Okay, I can get why this would infuriate a reader. It’s like opening on Spider-man fighting Doc Ock, beating him on page 3 and the rest of the comic is Peter and Mary Jane choosing colors for their new bathroom.

        So in short: your first few pages advertise what the rest of the comic is going to be like so don’t sell what you won’t deliver.

        You know, that’s casting a nasty shadow on my own script. Like I told you, I got almost the same opening structure (they say you can’t invent anything anymore, just tell it in your own way), except I got a few jumps and reveals to mix things up during the long flashback and I eventually come back up for air before the end. Ah well, we’ll see if I can pull it off myself.

        Thanks for the answer, Steven!

        • Anytime.

          And I’m beginning to believe I’ll see w unicorn before seeing this script… 😉

          • The script is done and ready right now in fact. I’m working on another one at this moment.

            I was only waiting for a friend of mine to look at the dialogue and tell me if I wrote anything that might piss off Shakespeare’s corpse.

            Tell you what, I’l live with my horrible Frenglish and have it on your desk tomorrow morning. Have fun with that, chief. 😉

          • Good. Looking forward to it.

      • Lance Boone says:

        My intent was to show the reader where Grinder was at a point, and make them interested enought to want to know how we got to this point. I thougth that was an interesting story, but I just wasn’t strong enough.

    • Lance Boone says:

      Yannick,

      Thanks for taking the time to weigh in.

      It’s not all talking heads the rest of the issue. There is no resolution as this is the beginning of a larger story. My intent was to plant some seeds and set up some characters. This was the intent of issues 1 and 2.

      The story just needed to be more interesting, and it wasn’t in it’s current form.

      If you’re interested in reading all 22 pages, I’d be more than willing to show them to you.

      It could serve as a cautionary tale of what not to do.

      • Lance,

        I’d be honored if you valued my opinion enough to want to show me the rest of the script. However, since I don’t have the pretention of knowing comics as well as I know narration (from my days as a lit major), please take anything I might say as a very light-weight *opinion* compared to the expertise procured by Steven. I might be able to give you a few pointers concerning plot, theme and characterization, but nothing as useful and concrete as what you’ll get on The Proving Grounds.

        I have as much if not more to learn than you, since Steven hasn’t even received my first script yet. 😛

        That being said, if you want an e-mail addy, take all the vowels out of my first and last name, stick all the rest of the letters together and send it to GMail. 😉

        As for the cautionary tale, nah. I’ll see it instead as a fellow traveler willing to share a bit of the journey with me. 🙂

  2. Evan Windsor says:

    Other than the larger changes Steven mentioned, here’s an easier change that I think would really punch up your page 1: switch panels 3 and 4.

    Panel 3 Page wide panel. POV from the audience. The Bride and Groom are holding hands and smiling as they stand face to face lovingly gazing in to each other’s eyes. The Pastor stands behind them and addresses the guests.

    GRINDER (caption): Wait for it…wait for it.

    PASTOR: If anyone has just reason why this man and this woman should not be joined in holy matrimony

    Panel 4 Page wide panel. Grinder watches on. His right hand is tucked inside his fur coat. A hand gun he is holding is slightly exposed.

    PASTOR (OP): speak now or forever hold your peace.

    GRINDER (caption): Bingo.

    This does two things:
    1) It maintains the illusion of a “normal wedding” for slightly longer, giving the dramatic reveal of the gun more punch
    2) It shows him “holding his piece” while the pastor is talking, which I just find clever.

  3. Conner MacDonald says:

    A question about padding. In the comic I’m currently working on, there is a page or two, that I decided was nothing but padding.
    Then after having a few friends read it, I asked a couple of questions. One of which was “What parts made you laugh?” And the part that was mentioned most often was, THE PADDING. So I decided to leave it in, after all the page count for the first issue is only 22.
    Was that the right move? Honestly if you watch a sitcom like “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” the pretty much every gag in the show is technically “Padding”, so is what is, or isn’t padding a grey area when it comes to a comedy?

    • Lance Boone says:

      Conner,

      I really can’t give you any advice on padding for obvious reasons.

      I just wrote what seemed to feel right for the larger story I was attempting to tell.

      I really thought about pages 4 and 5 after Steven’s comments and I already see a way to cut the padding there, but the story has more problems than those 2 pages.

  4. Lance Boone says:

    There will be blood. 🙂

    Thanks again for looking at my script, Steven; this is a cool opportunity that writer’s can take advantage of to get a gauge of their comic book scripting skills.

    There’s so much to digest here, I’ll start with the technical aspects in this post and tackle the story/creative(or lack thereof) in the next. This is not me defending myself against Steven’s comments, I’m just going to mention what I was thinking when I made certain choices and why I failed. Hopefully the dialog generated among myself, Steven, and various bloggers will help others to not fall into the same traps I did.

    I was hoping for a “you’re almost there”, but a top to bottom rewrite is a bit short of that.

    Format was about the only thing I had going for me, so I’ll leave that one alone. 🙂

    For the panel descriptions, I debated back and forth between what was too stifling to the artist and setting angles exactly as I saw them. I should have been more precise. Noted and implemented. I will be paying closer attention to the order I describe events.

    PAGE 4. Little point, but I looked at page 4 and 5 and could cut that down to a page instead of two.

    Pacing…epic fail. I wasn’t purposely trying to trick the reader with the opening, I just thought it was a cool way to kick things off. I’ve seen it used in other stories and thought it could work here. That would be a no. We wouldn’t have caught up to the opening of issue 1 until issue 3. Issues 1 and 2 would have served as 44 pages to get introduced to the main players in the story. I’d say I could drop the 1st 3 pages until later, but it seems the rest of the book didn’t have the chops to carry the story. Maybe unconsciously that’s why I did it. In my mind there is a lot of character work that will payoff later. My failure was not getting the reader invested(I didn’t want the reader to like him…at least not yet) enough to care about them.

    The scaled down character description under the title was added strictly to aid Steven in the reading of what was basically a blind submission. I deleted it as soon as I sent it. I should have worded it’s purpose clearer, but I think that is the least of my worries here.

    Dialog was meh. There’s not much I can say here. I wrote what I thought sounded good. It seems I have a tin ear for dialog. Practice makes perfect I hope.

    The preacher giving the year was my attempt at setting time in an organic way. I like a caption better but was trying to be clever.

    The Jesus weeps line was added late to try to add something I felt was missing with the splash. I would be happy to have an editor tell me to can it. Is it too late to make this a silent issue?

    EPIC FAIL on the police showing up so fast. It worked in my head. An editor helps friends. I feel like what you’re doing to help here might go above what a normal editor might see. This might be more hackish than an editor is used to.

    I did introduce the old lady sitting next to Grinder in panel 1. Maybe my crap panel descriptions hid her. I will set a better POV for these panels in the future.

    the give a sh*t less line was intended as slang and that’s the way I’ve heard it. Grinder is not the smartest guy, but that might be true of the writer here as well.

    I’ll end there for now. Hopefully this will generate some conversation.

    If anyone would like to see the entire script, let me know and I’ll send you a copy.

    I’ll touch on the story ideas later. It seems there might be a germ of a good idea here.

    Thanks again Steven.

    • Hey, Lance. Sorry I missed this one.

      Yes, there is a lot to digest here. (And believe me, I’ve seen worse scripts.)

      If you think this idea is worth pursuing into something you’d like to put into production, shoot me an email. We’ll see what we can work out.

      Folks, what you see here is a writer with a great attitude. He didn’t want someone to cozy up to him and call him beautiful. He had a goal for what he wanted to hear, and when he didn’t hear it, he didn’t get upset. Instead, he said thanks, and will take what was said in order to bear down and learn to hone his craft. That is a great attitude to have.

      If he keeps that attitude and follows through with learning his craft, I suspect we’ll be seeing more of Lance Boone.

  5. Rich Douek says:

    (Let’s see. Time for someone else to have a shot. Rich! What do you think is going on here?)

    I think its just too wordy, too much detail that’s unnecessary for the artist, and all the details in there would be hard to render in one panel anyway – there’s no hierarchy, no focus. It’s the kind of thing where an artist would read it, roll his or her eyes and draw the following:

    Establishing shot of a 1980s New Wave club – mostly dark, no windows. At the bar, a bartender with a big new wave hairdo wipes off a glass. At a table near the center, a younger, casually dressed Grinder is chatting up two girls that look like prostitutes. In the background we can see some bored patrons watching a brutal-looking cage fight.

    Writing it like that saves everyone a bunch of time. The panel descriptions are never going to be read by anyone but your artists (and editors) – so there’s no reason to fluff them up with story details or anything beyond what’s necessary for the artist to render what you’re asking for. Less is more, especially when the details don’t really matter – the bartender is going to get drawn, no matter what his name is. The story wont be ruined if the artist draws two blondes instead of one blonde and one brunette. You have to really think about giving the artist what he or she needs, and nothing else. Ask any established artist, and they’ll tell you much the same.

    • Lance Boone says:

      Rich,

      Clarity in my panel descriptions is something I need to work on. I like your rewrite. Get in and get out.

      I gave the bartender a name here because Grinder references him by name later in the issue.

      The girls figure into the larger story more than they eppear to here.

      Thanks for your help.

      • Rich Douek says:

        No problem, Lance… glad I could help.

        One of the big challenges in writing comics, to me, is that the script doesn’t go directly to the reader, like a novel or prose short story . The script is for the artist, a guide to help them render the story visually. In a way, you’re not so much telling your story with your writing, as you are doing everything you can to help your artist tell your story.

        Try to keep that in mind when you’re writing your descriptions, and you’re on the right track.

        Good luck with your revisions!

        • “In a way, you’re not so much telling your story with your writing, as you are doing everything you can to help your artist tell your story.”

          Rich, I must say that’s one of the most insightful things I’ve ever heard about writing for comics.

          Truly well said! Hear, hear!

  6. Lance Boone says:

    The “Foldgers” spelling WAS a copyright avoidance.

    *was really just a misspelling*

    If the story wasn’t so far gone, I would just change it to cofee.

    *the misspelling of coffee was my attempt at humor…I hope it was better than my black humor in the book*

  7. Noel Burns says:

    I have say I am concerned now for my own turn in the Proving Grounds. I have a feeling my descriptions are going to be on the wordy side. I will be honest though I had been reading the Proving Grounds for weeks before even sitting down to try writing. Steven had me scared to death of not including something. I didn’t want there to be any “magic delicious” points in the story. Thanks Lance for putting your work out there and being such a good example of what a writer should be when asking for help.

    • I’ll admit to sharing your dread, Noel! And I don’t think there’s ever been a single installment of the Proving Grounds that hasn’t sent me back running to my script to change things according to what Steven just said to another writer.

    • Lance Boone says:

      You’re welcome, Noel.

      If you’re interested in reading it, I’d be more than willing to show you the entire script.

      Good luck when you enter the Proving Grounds.

  8. Lance Boone says:

    Sorry if this post is a mish mash of thoughts…I’m trying to write it in a car to post when I can get on-line at my destination.

    Here is my post on the content of the the story for Heaven’s Hitman.

    I tried to look at what other companies were doing to get an idea of how far I could push things. Image publishes a book called Butcher Baker that I thought was well beyond what I wrote here, so I though I was at least short of that(and no I didn’t think this was Image worthy, I was using them as a barometer of what I could get away with). Grinder tells a pretty blue “joke” but it was just a joke with no imagery. There is a scene later that is the aftermath of a sex session with the beginning of another, but nothing would be shown. A stripper at the end would be strategically covered. There was implied zombie incest in Walking Dead so I thought I was almost Sesame Street here(not really). That being said, if this was a story worthy of publishing, I would have no problems making the changes to keep it out of the adult Previews.

    This was a story that I was definately writing with a 17+ audience in mind. Unflinching and degenerate…to a point. Broken people with no inclination to ever change…even when the thing they want most would require that change. People unable to get out of their own way to redeem their lives.

    These are nasty people living in a nasty world. I didn’t want them to be likeable; I wanted them to be interesting. I failed on that point. An example of this type of character would be Patrick Bateman in the Bret Easton Ellis novel American Psycho. Not a hero, no redeeeming qualities, but a character interesting enough to follow.

    The story of Heaven’s Hitman as I see it in my mind is not a shoot-em-up action story. It’s a character piece with action sprinkled in. Maybe the title alone sets the reader up for a story that’s something it’s not.

    Every element in the first 22 pages has a payoff later in the story, but maybe there wasn’t enough payoff in the now. I wrote what I felt best established the characters for what was to come next. I need to work at getting to the point more quickly and make it interesting.

    I just don’t see any other way to do the story without the setup of the 1st two issues and have still be the story I’m interestested in telling. Maybe that is a problem, the writer should only be interested in telling the story a reader wants to read. Not sure?

    I can’t lie, Steven’s comment that the script was vulgar and without merit was the toughest to take. That definately has me questioning if writing graphic fiction is something I can realistically accomplish.

    • If this is something you really want to pursue, Lance, shoot me an email. We can see what we can work out to make it publishable. Again, as it stands right now, this skirts the lines of pornography and good taste.

      • Lance Boone says:

        Since you so kindly offered, I have a few questions.

        I’ll send you an e-mail when I have a bit of free time.

        My schedule gets a bit hectic for the next two weeks.

      • John Lees says:

        Bloody hell, there’s a lot of replies here!

        I’ve been reading through the discussion (really interesting stuff), trying to see if there’s any point I might have something to chime in with. Regarding this issue of vulgarity and publishability, I might be able to offer an anecdote.

        My first comic, The Standard, is hardly extreme in its adult content. Yeah, there’s the odd beheading, but for the most part it’s a superhero story. But, when I printed out a small black-and-white preview run of the first issue for giving out to editors etc, I handed it to the manager of my local comic store. He got back to me, saying he liked the comic, but said he didn’t like the uses of the word “fuck”. Yeah, he was joking about it, saying, “I’ve known you since you were 8, what would your mum think of you using that kind of language?”, but he raised a valid point too, that the instant you put that in, the book becomes harder to market, and you limit your audience. When I released the final, colored version of the comic, all occurences of the F-word were removed.

        Now, I’m no prude. I’ve read comics with viler, raunchier content than this script – The Invisibles and The Filth by Grant Morrison spring to mind. The latter involves, among many, many other things, a pizza boy stopping at a bad guy’s house, only to be accosted by his henchmen, stripped, dressed up like a chicken and butt-fucked by the bad guy while he films with a camcorder. In the same issue, the bad guy unleashes an army of giant, militant sperm on the city, who burrow through people’s chests and go on a killing spree. But that’s Grant Morrison, and even he had a successful career spanning 20 years before he thought he could get away with stuff like that and still be publishable.

        Another example: Garth Ennis. He’s best known now for the shocking stuff he somehow gets away with in stuff like The Boys and Crossed, but he didn’t write Crossed when he was looking for his big break at DC. He told stories in Hellblazer that were dark, certainly, but still fit the standards of Vertigo at the time.

        To me, it’s not a morality issue, it’s a practicality issue. You can throw in lots of filthy, kinky sex stuff once you’ve proven that you’re a reliable storyteller that doesn’t rely on it. Yes, The Walking Dead has had zombie necrophilia and other horrific things, but look back and see how slowly Kirkman upped the nastiness factor over the course of months and years. To keep on the sex theme: you don’t want to blow your load too soon, so to speak.

        Now, I’m sure there are success stories of guys who broke out and made it big off the back of something really shocking and controversial. And if you have your heart set on keeping that content in for the integrity of the story, then that’s your choice. Just do it with the knowledge that you’re limiting your audience, and making your book a harder sell, when you’ll already be fighting an uphill struggle as it is.

        • Wait a minute… Morrison has a pizza boy getting some unwanted action in the Filth?

          Didn’t he just tell Rolling Stones magazine : “I managed to do thirty years in comics without any rape!” (source: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/grant-morrison-on-the-death-of-comics-20110822?link=mostpopular4)

          Always a joy to read your insightful comments, John – especially when you catch Morrison in a lie! 😛

        • Conner MacDonald says:

          Well for me, I write black&blue humour that appeals to my own sensibilities. When I write that way, its usually a project that is “For me.” Something I personally would want to read.

          You’re right though, it can get you in trouble. At one point I was writing slogans, and quirky catch phrases to put on coffee mugs. And they wanted cheesy, fluffy, shit, like, “Mondays! Am I right!?”.
          But I wrote things like, “I slept with the boss, and all I got was this mug.” and on the reverse, “and herpes…”

          In the end I made a room of comedy writers laugh, but I didn’t sell a single slogan.

        • Lance Boone says:

          Thanks John.

          I’ve been thinking about this story for the past two days, and I think it might be best to put it back on the shelf for a while.

          I threw it into the Proving Grounds to get an idea of where my storytelling/scripting skills were at(need A LOT of work) more than a test of the content of the story. I have a few ideas I like a lot more than this one.

          I feel that there is something worth exploring in Heaven’s Hitman, but I agree 100% that starting out with something a bit more palatable is the way to go.

  9. Lance Boone says:

    Thanks again for all your time and help, Steven.

    In my heart it is something I really want to pursue, but I’m not sure that it’s something worth pursuing.

    I started writing comic book scripts FOR FUN in my spare time. I wrote a lot of stuff over the last year that no one but me will ever see(you should all thank me now).

    The hard facts are I still have a long way to go as far as my storytelling skills(if I even get there at all), and if you want to get books made and you can’t pencil your own scripts you better have a decent amount of disposable income. It’s hard for me to justify to my wife that I need to spend roughly 30% of what I spent for my new car to get a 22 page comic book made, and by the way, dear; I’m not that good at it.

    I might reboot and retry and put my head on the chopping block again in a few months with another one of my concepts to see if I learned anything at all.

    • Sure thing, Lance. We’ll be here.

      And, really, the only way to get better is to continue to write. Write, show it, get pointers, incorporate those, rinse and repeat. Part of the key is persistence. The other part is not working in a vacuum.

      Just some things to keep in mind.

  10. Conner MacDonald says:

    I don’t know, I didn’t find the crap on chest joke to be over the line. As far as media goes, there is an obvious over lap comic book, and Kevin Smith fans, and its no worse then anything he’s ever written. And even in terms of comics, its a million times tamer then anything in Garth Ennis “Chronicles of Wormwood.” which featured, a man with a dick for a nose, a pope that fuck’s nuns (on panel) and request them to stick their fingers in his ass, and a retarded Jesus. Hell Garth Ennis has a huge thing for incest in his Punisher stuff. Really poop on the chest is just something you’d see in a episode of South Park.

    But I could only be defending it because its the kind of throw away joke I’d write in a comic…

    Also, “Maybe the title alone sets the reader up for a story that’s something it’s not.” this is a problem I’ve just realized. I just finished the second issue of a comic I’m working currently titled ‘Walter Gross the brain damaged detective’ and the title character so far hasn’t done anything detective like yet! So I’ve decided a change of title is in order for that very reason

  11. Lance Boone says:

    Conner,

    In my mind, this scene wasn’t throw away and served to reveal what kind of person Grinder is. I think I need to work on revealing character in a more organic, economical, and interesting way.

    What I wrote was vulgar…I knew it was vulgar. It was my intent. Maybe this material wasn’t the most ideal to throw out there as a first impression; everything else I’ve ever written is PG-13 at worst.

    It’s out here now, so it is what it is.

    Theoretically, I think the content would have no problems getting through Previews, but the overall execution is not good, so it’s a moot point. I would be willing to tame things down if it served the interests of the story.

    Good luck with your writing.

  12. Lance Boone says:

    THE FOLLOWING POST IS A PORTION OF AN E-MAIL FROM YANNICK TO ME. I POST IT HERE WITH HIS FULL PERMISSION. I WILL REPLY IN A FOLLOW UP POST.
    ———————————————————————-

    I carefully read your whole script over the weekend and lemme tell ya, it’s not for the faint of heart! If your goal was to send your readers to their shower after this comic, mission accomplished! That being said, I hope you’re not taking this the wrong way. I’m myself a fan of Butcher Baker and The Boys, so I can appreciate a thorough shaking of my sensibilities from time to time. So that being said, good work on the tone of the piece!

    Now, like I told you before, I’m far from being as experienced as Steven or even any other commenter on ComixTribe who – for the most part – already have quite a few scripts under their belt. Therefore, if you do accept my advice, please take it as coming from one who has spent a few years analyzing stories and characters, not in the comic medium, but more at large.

    As such, there’s one thing that came to my notice as I was reading your script and it may account for a lot of your pacing problems. To illustrate my point, I’d like to start with a deconstruction of your story into distinct sequences:

    The wedding: 1 2-3
    In Dream’s basement bar: 4-5 6-7 8-9 10-11 12-13 14-
    Before the fight: 4-5 6-7 8-9
    The fight: 10-11
    After the fight: 12-13 14-
    On the boat: -15 16-17 18-19 20-
    Grinder’s afterlife: -21 22

    Notice how your plot falls into four very definite sequences: the opening wedding scene, eveything pertaining to the fight in Dream’s basement, what happens on the boat and then Grinder’s “heaven”. I’ve further speparated the basement scene into three sections: before, during and after the fight.

    Notice how the middle sequence takes up eleven pages – that’s half of your script – all taking place in the same locale with the same characters. That’s a very long time for a comic. Would you sit though a movie that spent a whole hour – or even 90 minutes – in the same scene? Even Reservoir Dogs had flashbacks, asides and action to move things along. However, much of those eleven pages is dialogue only – 9 out of 11 to be precise – out of which few, it seems, are really essential to furthering the plot.

    The same thing happens on the boat where Grinder’s post-fling chatter, flashback and demise are stretched into 6 pages, whereas 3 or 4 at most would have sufficed.

    My diagnostic? I think your story is stuck in novel time.

    When you write a novel, your reader’s attention is constantly sollicitated into the narrative flow. His mind is already busy generating concepts and images so you can stretch scenes well beyond what they would take in actual time. In comics however, time a lot moves faster. A single panel can be read in 5 seconds but reprensent 2 whole minutes of story time.There’s also the space constraint that forces you to conclude a meaningful story inside 22 pages. Your reader’s mind is thus prepared to jump over gaps and process highly synthetized narrative elements.

    So my suggestion is this: synthetize, synthetize, synthetize. Boil up your story and recuperate the essential part and put THAT into pages.
    Comics are a medium that requires you to CHOOSE those iconic representative parts – the ones that hold the meaning of your story – and to present those to the reader. As the saying goes in writing, you’ll have to murder your darlings: take out some of those idiosyncrasies, destroy a couple of flashbacks that can wait, and eliminate a few jokes. Witty comebacks can be reused in later issues, but the story has to move forward NOW.

    If there’s one thing I learned when I wrote MY first script, it’s that writing can’t really begin before you’ve thrown everything you’ve got onto the page. When you start chopping bits out, that’s when you’re REALLY writing. See it this way: you first get your block of marble out of the quarry, and THEN you carve out the pieces that aren’t a statue. Guess which part is th hardest? No wonder any quarry worker can drag the stone to the worshop, but it takes a master sculptor to bring it to life.

    Now to speak in a concrete manner, here’s my estimation of what your page breakdown should look like once you’ve gone through a bit of
    purging:

    The wedding: 1 2-3
    In Dream’s basement bar: 4-5 6-7 8-
    Before the fight: 4-5
    The fight: 6-
    After the fight: -7
    On the boat: 8-9 10-11
    Grinder’s afterlife: 12-

    And we still have 10 pages to go. Use these to get your story moving and bring us back to present-day Grinder at the end. This way, your reader will have a better sense of accomplishment and closure and he’ll be back for your next installment.

    I kept the opening sequence because frankly, you start with a bang and it’s a good bang. You just need to keep on banging a bit further out into the plot. Give your reader their money’s worth in story right now in the first issue because if you keep it all for issue 2 or 3, chances are they won’t be back for more.

    • Lance Boone says:

      Thank you Yannick. This is the kind of advice I hoped for by putting my script into the Proving Grounds. I appreciate the time it took for you to read the script and provide such thoughtful and constructive feedback.

      As I said previously, this isn’t intended to be a feel good story, but at the end of it all there is real growth to most of the characters and a quasi-happy ending. It seems I’m 2 for 2 on making people feel dirty after having read the script. I’m not sure that’s a real win, but coupled with a stronger execution it may have been.

      The extended Dream’s basement scene always felt like it might be going too long. I looked at a few other books that had similarly long scenes. I felt what the pages were saying was important enough to have the extended scene. I thought the flashback panels to Grinder/Chuck’s relationship might help to break that up, but maybe they just added to the problem. For those two reasons I kept it, but I misjudged these pages. This sequence needs to be more economical in its execution.

      Love Resevoir Dogs by the way. 🙂

      I’ve done a lot of short story writing in my spare time. I think you were dead on here. I just couldn’t make the transition from novel time to comic book time. Maybe this story works best as novella, but I don’t think so. It just needs the fat trimmed.

      Your marble analogy is spot on, and an excellent way to think about the work involved in scripting a comic book.

      Yannick, you sir have inspired me to forge ahead with this story. I will take up the challenge of whittling issue 1 of Heaven’s Hitman down for a more enjoyable read. I’m going to expand the page count to 24 from 22 though. That’s not a cheat, it’s just on-demand printing doesn’t do a 22 pager, and I’m raising the bar to a point that I can make this story publishable, even if I never go that route. 🙂

      Thank you again.

      • Good work, Yannick.

        And Lance, there’s no need to expand the page count. You can fill those other two pages with different things, if you wish.

        Just something to keep in mind.

        • Lance Boone says:

          I will keep that in mind.

          My reasoning was that if I was going to have to pay to print 24 pages, the most economical use for those would be 24 pages of story.

          Of course, I’d have to pay various other artists to create those two extra pages so that would make the issue a lot more expensive to get done.

          *sigh*

          • You’re not thinking straight, Lance.

            Think in terms of “backmatter.” Text, with maybe some sketches. It doesn’t need to be straight art. Hell, it could be a short story (REALLY short) that takes place in that world.

      • I’m glad to have been able to help, Lance. I get so much out of the community here – be it in the form of tips, technique or motivation – I always jump at the opportunity to give back!

        Hmmm… this’ll be the 41st comment. Haven’t we broken our record a long time ago? How appropriate since the subject was… padding! 😛

  13. Lance Boone says:

    I was kind of doing a point/counter-point with myself in that last post.

    2 pages of character design sketches would work well in those two pages. Joe Casey is doing 20 pages of story in Butcher Baker with 4 or 5 pages of sketches accompanied by what appears to be chemically enhanced musings on the comic book industry.

    I have a long way to go before I need to worry about these kind of decisions. 🙂

  14. Conner MacDonald says:

    “In my mind, this scene wasn’t throw away and served to reveal what kind of person Grinder is. I think I need to work on revealing character in a more organic, economical, and interesting way.”

    I just meant throw away in the sense that the joke, really could have been anything to get your desired result. Which is, yuks, and to set up your character as being unlikable. Like it could have been “So, what was it that pushed you two, to this life of depravity? Daddy issues? Drug addiction? An insatiable hunger for man parts?”
    CANDY: Well-
    GRINDER: Going to have to stop you there Candy. That was just one of those… rhetorical questions. Like, does a bear shit in the woods?
    GRINDER: Because I know Candy, the answer is, “all of the above.” Cause if you weren’t so painfully pathetic, I wouldn’t have picked you up from that street corner.
    GRINDER:Because a girl with confidence doesn’t interest me. I’d feel bad treating a proper woman the way I’m going to treat you. And that is a fact. Now, how about some jambalaya?
    CANDY:…

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