Hello, once again! This week we have a two-fer! Luke Noonan and Adam Burbey are new Brave Ones who have tag teamed a script! Together, they bring us something untitled. Let’s begin!
Layout of 4 panels: two, then one page-wide, then another one page-wide. This is how I visualize it in my less than 100x clear head but as ever, if you see a better way of portraying it then please say the word (Right off the bat, we have notes! Alright. This is not “wrong.” What is being done here is that the writers are giving direction to the artist, telling the artist how they see the page layout in their heads. Personally, I’m against laying out a page for the artist unless you [the writer] are an artist yourself, or unless there is a very specific purpose. Again, this is not wrong, but I hope that, with the layout, you’ve also taken into account the actions that are supposed to happen in each panel. The greatest thing here? They’ve left themselves an out! If the artist has a better way, they can do that! Outstanding!)
Panel 1: Shot of a wild west steam train winding through the desert at night. Ref: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a7/Uploco.jpg There are small round cactuses in view by the bright moonlight, and there’s very little light visible in the train windows as they use candles inside. (Reference embedded in the script! I love it! So will the artist. What won’t the artist love? Lack of a camera angle, and lack of direction. Well, that’s not really true. The train is going from left to right. Why do I say that, Kyle?)
Panel 2: Distant shot of the tracks and the steam train approaching from about half a mile away. From our POV there is a bandit on either side of the panel, we can see their shoulders and arms and hats as we look through them towards the approaching train.
Pay dirt, Mister Mackay…!
You ain’t kiddin’…
Panel 3: Long tracking shot of a solitary rider much like in a western film – we see a wide expanse of desert, and then suddenly there he is in the far right of the panel (OH MY LORD AND LADY! Will SOMEONE, ANYONE tell me why I just lost my entire mind.). He’s standing on a hilltop. A cigar glows in his mouth, with some glowing embers tumbling like burning dust, and though we can’t see very clearly in the dim moonlight of this panel, this is our first glimpse of him before a big depiction a few pages on: he is wearing a duster of crocodile hide, and a hat of the same material, glossy but as tough-looking as it was on the animal itself; other than this he wears conventional cowboy attire, his hair is shoulder length, slightly tangled and scraggly, and he has a short beard. Most of his face is hidden in the shadow of his hat. Jacob Draught… (And then, John, what’s wrong with the rest of this?)
Panel 4: Close up the riders face. He is in the act of slowly taking the cigar from his mouth, the smoke is coiling from his mouth and nostrils, and there’s a glint of intense yellow-gold in his eyes, but it’s very subtle now – in full light his eyes are colour of tarnished Fools’ gold, or stale urine, and look like those of an animal. He is tall, lean, and looks a lot like Vince Gallo (Google an Image search) and his expression is of sighing or exhaling, relaxed. This is the calm before a storm… (This is prose writing, and has no place in a script. You can’t show “slow” in a static image. There is visual language for “fast,” but not for “slow.”)
Page 2: layout of 4 panels: one page-wide, followed by two square, then another page-wide. (Page break.)
Panel 1: Inside a passenger car on the train, lit by candles on the tables. There is a young couple of doting sweethearts on the left about half way back, a family of middle-aged parents with two sons around 12 years of age furthest back on the left, and the father is reading to the two children. There’s also a younger family with a daughter of around six years old on the right somewhere between the other two families, and a single man, a distinguished gentleman with bowler hat, spectacles and trim beard sleeping in a seat alone nearest to our POV on the right, his hat on the table before him.
[small hushed lettering]
“And I will tell you of my brother,” he said. (If someone is quoting someone else, then quotation marks need to go around the words, just like in prose. The rules don’t change all that much. You just have to learn to adapt them to the different medium. I put the quotations around the words so you can see what I’m talking about.)
He too is called Ol’ Eye-closer, but he only visits you once in your life… (I’m lost, and that is never a good place to be. Is this part of the story? If so, it needs quotation marks.)
He will carry you away on his horse, and tell you one of his tales… (Still lost.)
Panel 2: view of the train driver leaning out of his cab, squinting ahead in confusion.
[off-panel, caption, same lettering]
One of the tales is so wondrous, you couldn’t even imagine it, except in your dreams… (No. This means that the conductor can hear him, and if he’s sticking his face out to the side to see something, he’s not hearing much above the engine and the wind. Put this in a caption. And because it has to go in a caption, what needs to happen, Rich?)
Panel 3: close up view of two of the bandits from earlier, stood either side of a man dressed as they are, minus his hat, who is lying on the tracks, drunk or unconscious. They are lit by a kerosene lamp on the track in front of the man. (What? Okay, let me try to understand what you just said. This is a close-up of two men (?), and they are standing at either end of a man who’s lying on the tracks between them. That sound about right, because it definitely wasn’t clear. Now, where’s the rest of the important info? Whether he is drunk or unconscious is just you being verbose, which has no place here. What’s important is how he’s lying on the tracks: parallel, or perpendicular?)
[as previous panel]
And the other: so ugly, so terrifying, you could only see it in your darkest nightmares… (This is a caption, also.)
[off-panel] (This is a caption, same as above.)
Panel 4: view from the POV of the window on the right of the carriage and looking in, so we see the infant daughter talking to her parents in the immediate foreground (generally speaking, infants don’t talk. So, what’s going on here? And unless it is sentient, a window cannot have a point of view. Are we back inside the car, or are we outside looking in? One way is right, one way is wrong. Which way do you think is the correct way, Lance, and why?) , and the middle-aged father reading to his sons in the background beyond.
[same lettering as prev]
Why, here is my brother now, said Ol’ Eye-closer, and he lifted the boy to the window to look…(If he’s telling a story, then there needs to be quotations around certain things, like people speaking. At least there’s no comma-fail here.)
He is called Death. (Is this part of the story? Is someone in the story saying this? I’m lost. Lost is never good. If I’m lost, then your audience is going to be lost. Losing your audience means they put the book back on the shelf.)
Why are we stopping?
[foreground, bottom corner of the panel]
It’s P2, and I’m still waiting for something interesting to happen. Hopefully, that will be on the next page.
Page 3 (Page break)
Panel 1: we see the whole train carriage with its occupants cowering in terror or sat frozen. The middle-aged father is stony faced, the young woman of the doting couple is also glaring. We can also see the bandit ringleader from behind in silhouette, an imposing figure at the head of the aisle, commanding attention. He is a stocky man, clean shaven, clearly not the lone rider from page 1, panel 4. (So, in order to see the ringleader from behind, the camera is going to be behind him. Say that. And what is the ringleader doing? Is he holding a gun, or just standing there, looking menacing?)
Everyone settle the fuck down, we’re gonna do this nice and easy.
Your money, your jewelry an’ your fancy tobacco, in that order…
Panel 2: There are four of them: 3 bandits and the ringleader. In this panel we see from the other end of the carriage, the ringleader sat down on a vacant table and lighting his cigar with a Lucifer match while two of them set about with sacks, relieving the passengers of their wealth, starting at the opposite end of the car to him with the young couple. The young woman of the couple is glaring defiantly, which they find highly amusing. The third bandit stands guard behind the ringleader and takes a swig from a hip flask. (Okay, here’s your problem: there’s a lot of stuff going on here in a VERY enclosed space. You’re not going to be able to see all of this in the panel. Why did you write it like this? Because you haven’t yet decided on which medium you’re writing for: prose, or film. Notice that “comics” is not one of the choices.)
This one’s pretty, Jake, real pretty (Punctuation.)
Got a pretty lil neck, she has (Punctuation.)
You wanna pretty silver necklace, lady, right now? (Why is last part of “right now” here? It seems extremely off.)
Panel 3: view from the other end of the carriage now, same as in panel 1 of this page, and in the foreground the ringleader looks up curiously, the 3rd bandit stood by him staring at the roof of the car. In the background we see the husband of the young woman has risen in a fury to defend her honour and the closest bandit to him is in the act of punching him in the stomach. (I still think you’re reaching for too much, but this is a better panel than the last.)
[top of the panel]
Fuck was that? (I have no problem with language. Just remember that it limits your audience.)
Panel 4: closer view of the two bandits doing the taking of goods – the 2nd bandit is leaning over the young woman, who is comforting her winded husband in distress, and both of them are looking up at the ceiling. The 1st bandit is grinning. (What does the facial expression of the 2nd bandit say?)
We gotta runner already, hah!
On the roof…?
Panel 5: view of the ringleader glaring upwards, baring his gun.
We got ourselves a hee-ro… Or just a fool, either way, ‘bout time one of these rich bastards showed a lil backbone. (You want to change one of those commas to a period. I highly suggest the first one.)
Toby, get up there.
(to the other two bandits)
You two, get on with it. (No. Have him call them by name. Actually, this line needs to be completely rewritten in order to get their names in, as well as telling them what to do. Otherwise, you’re writing film/prose.)
Page 4 (Page break.)
Panel 1: Toby is heading up the ladder on the end of the car to go up to the roof, and has just stopped to take another swig of the hip flask – now in the action of wiping his mouth with his sleeve while gripping the flask. He is just a few steps away from the top of the ladder. (Okay. I have to go back first. One sec. I don’t think it’s there, but let’s just check. Okay. Just checked. Yep. The ladder is magically delicious. Very much so. And then you have a large gap in Border Time, because you have Kunta already on the ladder. Not only is he already ON the ladder, but he has already STOPPED on the ladder. Not only is he already stopped, but he’s already wiping his mouth after having taken another drink. Like I said, a large gap in time. Add that to the very unlikely action of Kunta stopping to take a swig from the flask while ON the ladder, and you have a panel that makes no sense whatsoever. It needs to go.)
Always get me the shit jobs, for sure (Punctuation. And drop this into the next panel.)
Panel 2: we see 3rd bandit Tobys’ head and shoulders emerge at the roof of the train carriage to peer over, his gun poised and ready. The mysterious unkempt stranger in the duster from page 1 is stood there a few yards away, framed by the moonlight, as dark and sinister as ever. (After an adjustment, this is a better panel than the last. Where would you place the camera, Lance? Think it through, and then tell me why you put it there.)
Okay boy, I’m gonna count to threee… (Comma-fail. And I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt for the extra “e.”)
Panel 3: back inside the carriage, at their table the young couple have squeezed up to let the 1st Bandit sit down beside the woman. The young man is bruised and battered, the woman in silent tears, and the bandit is enjoying tormenting them with the tip of his knife at the womans’ lower lip, while stood beside them the 2nd bandit is stood alertly. (Clarity. Something you have to work on, after learning to write for your medium. Now, why is it that neither of their expressions reflect what they’re saying?)
We’re moving! (HUH? When did the train come to a stop? How is it moving now? You haven’t done anything to show either one of these things. You had the girl ask why they were stopping, but trains don’t stop on a dime. They can’t even stop on a silver dollar.)
Panel 4: view like panel 3 of age 2, and we see the younger parents on the foreground of the panel, staring in horror out the window towards us, the young mother clutching the infant daughter and shielding her eyes, while the ringleader is stood beyond them with his gun raised – he is looking towards the end of the carriage in alarm, not having seen what the young parents have. In the immediate foreground is an orange glow as something fiery is just outside the window…(One of two things is going on here with the word “infant.” Either neither of you are fathers, which is totally understandable and acceptable, or neither of you know the meaning of the word, which I find to be totally unacceptable. You ask for an infant, you’re going to get a newborn in swaddling clothes, and it will seem like you’ve got Baby Face Pfinster in there, just missing his cigar.)
What? What the fuh…! Damn it to H-…
.… (I absolutely hate this. One of my pet peeves. The times when just an ellipsis in a word balloon is acceptable are few and far between. Don’t. There’s no need for the beat, which is what you’re creating. Don’t.)
Panel 5: view of the same scene in the centre of the carriage but from behind the ringleader, so he and the younger family are silhouetted against the light outside the window: we see the 3rd bandit Toby tumbling through the air outside having been set on fire from the waist up and thrown over the side. (NO. Remember, panels contain Time. If you’re trying to capture the same moment but from a different point of view, you’re going to have to do it differently. This, however, does not work. And if this is what they were seeing in the last panel, then that doesn’t work, either. Something falling on Earth does so at 32ft per second per second (32 ft/s2). All that would be seen is a flash as he fell. Definitely not time enough to cover an infant’s eyes or more than just begin to understand what was just seen. Not through the window. So, you have two panels here that don’t work. Yannick, I know you’ve been frothing at the mouth. What would be better for these two panels?)
Jesus fuckin’ Christ!
Page 5 (Page break.)
Panel 1: The setting is the train station outside the town of Dry Creek. It’s about mid-afternoon, a pleasant sunny day, and the station is facing a large hill with rolling hills around it, around which the train track winds. Lilly is standing under a lantern hanging from a pole. She is a woman of around twenty, in fairly masculine clothes, an approachable-looking Calamity Jane. Red Bear is approaching her, a Native American man of about twenty-three. He’s wearing a red shirt and tan pants, and has a red bandanna around his head holding back his long hair. He has a large knife sheathed on his hip. (Where is the camera? It could be just about anywhere. The bigger thing, though, is that this isn’t going to work. This is P5, which will be on the right. The reader just needs to slide their eyes over, and there they are. You don’t have the clean break you think you do from the previous page. This should be moved to P4. You’ve got enough to cut a page’s worth of material, anyway.)
Hey there, Red.
Hello Lilly. Train’s running a little late, isn’t it? (Comma-fail.)
Panel 2: Closer view of the two of them talking, casually, but now both looking to the left towards the hill from where the train is about to emerge. (This may work, depending on which side of the panel you have them on, and if they’re standing side-by-side or facing one another. Why could it NOT work, John?)
Well, got to be a first time for anything.
I am glad you stayed, to meet the newcomers. Show them hospitality ‘round here is still alive, after all. (What does this panel and dialogue have to do with anything? A very boring introduction.)
Panel 3: this is a very close view from the POV of the top of the train as it emerges from behind the hill into view of the station, so we see the side of the chimney and the top of the boiler chassis, and we can see a thick length of wood has been tied securely horizontally behind the chimney, resting across the top of the train, and one arm of the bandit leader is visible, the wrist tied and hand nailed to the wooden beam. He is dusty, sleeve torn and splattered with blood, his head might be visible too, and he has clearly been tied to the front of the train and crucified through the wrists on the length of wood, with his arms stretching back behind him. (Again, this is impossible. Inanimate objects don’t have a point of view. And even then, you’re point of view angle is all screwed up. Just place the camera, and save point of view angles for people. If the ringleader is behind the chimney, and secured by a horizontal beam, we’re not going to see much of his arm. Then you place him at the front of the train (which is correct) but then stating he can plainly be seen, which contradicts what you wrote in the previous sentence. So, which is it, guys?)
Red, can – can you see…? (Lilly’s dialogue is OP, which is first. Second, how far away is the train from the stop? Because you went in close, you’re not giving a sense of distance. I’m going to say that she can’t see him. Your job is to tell me why she can.)
Panel 4: big close-up now of the bandit leaders’ face: dusty, dirt smeared, bruised, scratched, exhausted, and dehydrated. A man close to death, but his eyes gazing intensely ahead, embittered, narrowed and sleepless – he’s just been through Hell itself. (You’re not going to get all of that across. Prose writing. And how can he be seen? How can she see him? Does she have binoculars for eyes?)
Oh my God… (Comma-fail.)
Panel 5: wide sideview of Lily talking to the bandit, the train having stopped and a wide view of the scrubby desert visible between them. The bandit leader does not look at her, but glares into space or at the ground. (Another huge gap in Border Time here. You need another panel before this in order to close the gap. But, really, it doesn’t matter. I’m bored. On the shelf it goes.)
What happened? Who did this?
Can you speak…?
Well, let’s run it down.
Format: Not bad at all! Just remember the page breaks, guys. And don’t forget when someone is on or off panel.
Panel Descriptions: Terrible, for the most part. The first thing is that you have to know which medium you’re writing for. Most of the time, you’re writing for film, and sometimes, its more prosaic than a panel description needs to be. Know the medium you’re writing for. Think in static panels, and describe what you see. If you MUST think of it as film, I want you to press the pause button, and describe what you see from left to right. Don’t press play until you’ve gotten to the right of the panel. Practice doing that.
There are some panels that are just too full, causing panel descriptions that are overly long and clunky. Trim the fat. Not everything is needed.
Next, you have to know what you’re asking for. Infant or child? See the difference it makes in your mind? And if you have a problem with either, you’re on the internet. The information is out there.
Next, you have to work on your camera angles. Those are going to be paramount. Know where you’re placing the camera, and understand why you’re doing it that way. Again, only an animate object (generally a person) can have a point of view. Remember that. If you need help with terms, again, you’re on the internet…
Pacing: Not good. I’m not one for slow burns. Especially when they’re boring, as this is. You start out boring, you kept being boring, and then when things got to be semi-interesting, it was too late. It was already back on the shelf. As a new writer, you don’t have time for a slow burn. Get in FAST. Then do everything you can to hold onto the audience.
You also have big jumps in Border Time. I think that is because of the filmwriting. It’s also pretty easy to get under control. You two just have to pay a little more attention.
Dialogue: Except for some formatting problems and losing me with what was part of the story being told and what wasn’t, I had no real problem with the dialogue. Some things were a bit clunky, but nothing that made me want to take the keyboard from you. Just remember that swearing will limit your audience, and don’t forget your ending punctuation.
Content: I’ll be the first one to tell you that westerns aren’t my thing. Even though I played Cowboys and Indians when I was a kid, I never watched western movies. (Well, Silverado is good…) However, I’m objective enough to put that aside and do the job. That being said, this was boring. As a reader, I had no investment in the story at all. That’s never a good thing. If you punched it up some, because I’m guessing it is supposed to be something of an action scene to open things up, then you would be able to get the story moving and keep reader interest. It isn’t there yet.
From an editorial standpoint, you took too much time incorrectly describing what was going on instead of telling the story. That’s why it went so slow. I think you also opened up wrong. You have to start LATE in the scene. Start late, leave early. What would have been late? Having an establishing shot on P1, with a caption saying “This is a stick up!” or something else to that effect. Then move on to the train and the ruffians, and then have them getting beat up by an unseen foe. Give it an air of mystery, and you’ll be engaging the reader more times than not. Make them want to know what happened without boring them in the process.
That’s it for this week. Check the calendar to see who’s next!
Category: The Proving Grounds