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TPG Week 54: When Everything Goes Wrong

| January 6, 2012 | 25 Comments

 

 

Welcome once again to another installment of The Proving Grounds. This week, we have a new Brave One in Eli Ivory, who’s brought us an intro to

 

The Strategists

 

Intro

 

Pg1.

 

Panel 1:  Shot of starry sky, it’s a calm night. We see a few houses but it’s mainly shadows on the houses. We should be able to tell we are on the outskirt of some city. We see a bunch of cop cars surrounding a restaurant. It should resemble something similar to an applebees. There’s gunfire around the cars but it seems like more of a barrier.(Already there are problems. If this is a shot of a starry night, where is all the rest of this coming from? Make up your mind as to what the shot is supposed to be. While all of this can fit in the panel description, that is not what you started out saying. The artist is going to want to know. Don’t make them schizo.)

Right by the door is a bald gunman dressed in a nice shirt holding a kid hostage.(What does the kid look like? How old, are they scared, what? Vagueness is not helping you here.)

 

The gunfire should come from the well dressed gunman firing the gun at the cops.

 

Caption: A southern town on the outskirts of Interstate 10.(I don’t mind the vagueness here so much. However, “southern” can mean a lot of things, and I10 is damned long. I know, because I’ve driven it a couple of times. So, where in the south? Midway, or toward either coast?)

 

Caption: This small restaurant is unknowingly the final point in a Bermuda Triangle of sorts. The starting point was a child kidnapping that soon became a three day manhunt.(I’m getting a definite Rod Serling vibe. This can be good, or it can go really bad, really fast. However, the dialogue here isn’t helping you much. The starting point wasn’t a child kidnapping. The starting point was where the child was kidnapped from. The kidnapping is the inciting incident. You can say that it started with a kidnapping, but don’t call it the starting point. )

 

SFX: BRRRT! BRRRT!(Okay, what kind of gun does this guy have? Whenever someone says “gun,” automatically, a handgun is thought of. What you have here is the sound effect of a machine gun, which is very different from a handgun. The artist is going to need to know.)

 

 

 

 

Panel 2:

 

Wide shot of gunman holding up a kid.(I have no idea at all what this means.)

He has his shirt opened with a gun coming out of his chest. He’s wearing like a chain mail vest that can morph into any gun. So the gun is firing pretty good. Because of the strange material there’s no bullet casings. He is still holding a small automatic handgun firing that as well.(Know what I like about magic? The fact that you can totally defy the laws of physics with it. The thing about bullets is that they eventually run out and have to be reloaded. Now, if the vest can morph into any gun, I can get behind that. Where is the ammo coming from? Great question, isn’t it? If it’s coming from the vest itself, how does it get replenished? This isn’t working for me. Besides, have you ever shot a gun? Those things need to be aimed. Kinda hard to aim a chest-gun. I’ll just leave that as part of the magic, though. Now, I also have no idea as to who “he” is. Are we talking about the man, or are we talking about the kid?)

 

The kid has a cartoon character’s mask on  and he’s wearing earphones that’s connected to an ipod.  He’s just standing there. The reader can tell he is unaffected by what’s going on around him.(Le huh? I thought the kid was being held up, whatever that means. How is he now standing? This went right into the realm of severely not-good. I used to have a word for this, but I’m a kinder, gentler Steven.)

 

Mr.Ballistic: Unless yall want this kid to have a hell of an excuse why he didn’t turn in his homework tomorrow… Give me what I want! (Yall is not a word. Y’all is. Y’all is a contraction, meaning “you all.”)

 

Caption: The architect of this triangle of chaos is called Mr. Ballistic, a man who has come to a crossroad and does not know which way to go. He is looking for someone to make that decision for him.(Okay, there are good points and bad points here. First, the good. You got in his name! Not only that, you got it in on the first page! Nice! I like it! Now, the bad: Mr. Ballistic? REALLY? Why not call Superman Red Caped Guy while we’re at it? That is a terrible, terrible name. This needs a change, or at least an explanation, and quickly.)

 

Caption: He’s already killed ten cops and caused over 200,000 dollars in damage to prove he’s serious.(The killing of ten cops is bad, but causing 200k in damage is easily done. You can do that in five minutes or less, depending where you are and if you’re driven. What I’m saying is that the numbers aren’t impressive. And Rod is already getting on my nerves.)

 

Caption: But the child doesn’t have a scratch on him. Matter of fact, Ballistic gave him earphones and music so he can ignore all the sounds of this madness. He gave him a mask with no eyeslits so the kid can’t see anything.(Yeah, see how you keep going into Nonsensical-Land? If the mask is of a cartoon character, that means it has eye slits. If it’s a mask worth anything at all—meaning it was found in a store—then it has eyeholes. Fundamentally, man needs to see. Even though you couldn’t see them, even the Barney the Dinosaur suit has eyeholes. And no matter how loud the volume is up, unless there’s a silencer on the gun, it will be heard. Especially if he’s right beside it when it is being fired. No, this makes no sense.)

 

Captions: He doesn’t want to add further trauma to the kid. (No. This is lazy. You don’t just put “captions” and hope that the letterer will put in two different captions for you. Their job is to put the labeled elements on the page. Your job is to label the elements. Don’t be lazy. You’re causing more work for the already over-worked team. That’s first. Second, people are expecting me to call you out for so many words in this panel. I’m not. The reason is because you have only two panels on this page. You’re well within the word limit for the page. No worries about that at all. No, the question isn’t about the number of panels on the page. The question is which panel is bigger? I’m hoping its this one, because it has the most words in it. However, the action that you’re describing seems to be close-up, which may not hold the words well. Decisions, decisions.) Crossroads.

 

Title : The Strategists

The Triangular Impass (Now, you saw the line under “impass.” I know you did. You sent this over as a Word doc. That means you saw the word was incorrectly spelled. Usually, I would extend the benefit of the doubt, but I can’t here, because this is the first page, and there is already so much wrong, to include another wrong word. You’re on the internet. You have access to a dictionary. Using it won’t hurt, and can help you look good when it comes to simple things like spelling. The easiest way for a writer to help themselves is to kill every red line they see, and to get a different set of eyes to catch things the spellcheck won’t.)

Credits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 2(Page break.)

 

Panel 1:  Wide shot of cops. One guy is speaking out of a bullhorn. There’s a cop in some riot gear in front of him with a riot shield up so that our guy doesn’t get shot. We should tell he’s shouting at the building.

 

Zeden is a black male in his early forties and could easily pass for Danny Glover.

 

Zeden: Ballistic, We have been chasing you down for three days since you grabbed the Senator’s son, and we are tired of this bull. Take that etch a sketch vest of yours off or I will take off for you! You hear me! Give yourself up! (Yannick. Please. I…I don’t think I have the strength… Just take the whole page.)

 

Riot Shield guy: Sir, this is crazy. I’m glad you read up on this guy to know the range of his “CaliberVest” so we ain’t takin hits, but let’s just rush this maniac…um, sir.  

 

Caption: Ballistics’ field trip has led to another point of this triangle. That point is Thomas Zeden , a police superintendent who’s police budget is as small as his patience. Once this manhunt led into his territory, he knew Mr. Ballistic’s motives. He needed to find the third point of this triangle.

 

 

Panel 2: Wide Shot of Zeden. He has an aggravated look on him. Like he knows what’s going on but it’s taking too long for things to happen.

 

Zeden:  That’s not the plan. I’m giving him twenty minutes.

 

Riot Guy: Who? This Lunatic?

 

Zeden: No. The Strategist.

 

Riot Guy: What the hell is going to make you think he’s going to show up?

 

Zeden: Cause he’s already in that restaurant.

 

Caption: That third point is me.

 

 

 

 

Page 3 (Page break.)

 

Panel 1: Interior of the restaurant, there are a few people there. They are a little startled; some are looking out the window. We can see there’s a huge bar. A side area for slot machines, people that are cleaning tables. (This should be in the background) So things are winding down. At the bar we see a bartender with blonde dreads standing by watching as mister ballistic is dragging in the kid. (So, there’s a gunfight outside, and NO ONE IS ON THE GROUND?! They only look a little startled? No, Eli. This isn’t realistic in the least.)

 

Ballistic: Everyone up against this side of the wall, NOW! (Um, where’d he come from? He isn’t anywhere in the panel description.)

 

Panel 2: The crowd of waiters,hostess,and a few familes and other people begin to form. Gunman points the caliber vest at the crowd on one side and points his handgun at the bartender on the other side. (Something of a moving panel, but there’s other things wrong with this than worrying about that. I’m in a white void. There’s no sense of space or place. And I have no idea as to how many people are in this establishment, let alone where the camera is.)

 

Bartender is in the background behind the bar.We should be able to tell that it’s a well stocked bar with beers and liquors and stuff. There’s also a tv playing in the back ground with a news story of the manhunt. (See, here’s what’s important: the television. The bar being well-stocked? Not important. It’s a bar. It’s going to be stocked. Anyway, I love how all of these people are sheep, because not one of them has any kind of reaction. What’s the bartender doing behind the bar? Wiping it down?)

 

Tv: The search continues for Little Peter Joseph, son of Senator Allen Joseph. We are waiting to hear further news on this developing story, back to you Jane. (This accomplishes two things at the same time. First, it establishes the boy’s name. Bravo! Good on ya! Second, it does absolutely nothing. This is something that the cop could have said, or Rod could have said. This is a waste.)

 

 

Bartender: Ok Man, you got us. Just don’t hurt anybody, I got a date after I get off so this is a good way to get some sympathy lovin ya feel me? Girls don’t love dead guys, so how ‘bout a beer? (Okay, we have a multiple comma-fail, as well as a lack of an apostrophe. I see you know how to use it correctly, so I’m not seeing anything but laziness with it missing.)

 

Gunman: What do think I’m stupid, Goldielocks?  Can’t take a chance of the cops busting in here and I’m stumbling around. I’m thirsty though…get me a soda. (Wait, I’m lost. Who’s the gunman? And where did Ballistic go? Livin’ La Vida Loca is now playing in my head. Anyway, the gunman must really be a lightweight when it comes to holding his liquor, because if a single beer can get him stumbling…)

 

Bartender: You want a soda, I’ll get you a flaming dr.pepper …that’s more your style.

 

Gunman: Hmph. You’re a funny,let’s see how funny you are if I create a mini gun and shred your marley lookin’ ass. (Too much back and forth in this panel. You have the TV, then the bartender, gunman, bartender, gunman. And while you have some wiggle room with the bartender since you never state what he’s doing, the gunman is different. His tone and dialogue don’t really match the panel description. Lastly, he’s a funny? A funny what? You don’t say, but you do have a comma placed incorrectly.)

 

Panel 3:

 

Kid and gunman sit on a stool. Bartender pours the drinks out in glasses. (So, the kid is sitting on the gunman’s lap? Or is the gunman sitting on the kid’s lap? Since it’s a single stool and all. Does the kid still have his headphones on? What about the mask?)

Gunman still has one hand on his gun pointing at crowd. (Having his hand on his gun means that the gun is either placed on something or holstered. If it’s in his hand, he’s holding it. I have absolutely no idea what this sentence is supposed to mean. And what are their facial expressions?)

 

Bartender:   What do you want with this kid anyway?

That’s bad karma to hurt a child. (Okay, first, comma-fail. Second, no matter what you may think, what you want here is both of these in the same balloon. That means you don’t hit the enter key when when you put in punctuation. Throw your letterer a bone. If you’re going to letter this yourself, then do yourself a favor.)

 

Gunman: Look, I explained this to the kid on the drive here. I don’t want to hurt him. I just needed him as bait so I can have a talk with him. (This started bad, and is getting worse. Why is he explaining anything to The Strategist? And everyone is just too calm for my tastes.)

 

Bartender: Who ….Barack Obama? (Oh. Em. Gee. Okay, an ellipsis has three—and only three—periods. Extra periods don’t add an extra pause. The only make you look bad. Second, there is no space between the word and the ellipsis. It’s like putting a space between the last word of a sentence and a period. Like this . See how wrong that looks? That’s the same thing you’ve done here. Finally, I while it can be used to great effect, I don’t advocate using current political figures in a story. No current figures, period. It immediately dates the story. It may be current now, but it won’t be current as soon as he’s no longer in office, either next year or in four years. Then you’ve got nothing but a dated story on your hands. Listen, folks: whenever possible, don’t put ANY current figures in your books. Sports, music, film, television, or political. None. The only time I advocate using real people, real figures, is when their use doesn’t date the story, or when the story occurs within a specific point in time.)

 

Gunman: You keep playing with me and the only thing you’re gonna be pouring is a pool of  your own blood. (Anyone else wince at this? Or was that just me? This is the extreme opposite of good.)

 

Bartender: Ok. I heard you screaming something outside before you got all die hard in my bar. Who’s him? (Again, too much back and forth. Three is your magic number: One person says something, then someone responds, and then the first responds back. Three. That’s a natural flow. What you have here isn’t natural. We’ll talk about the misuse of space when I run it down. As for this dialogue, it was ungood starting on P1, so I won’t keep beating that horse. )

 

Page 3: (No, this is P4. It’s pretty easy to get lost when you don’t have page breaks whenever you start a new page, but even then, you shouldn’t be getting lost so soon. At least get lost after you’re halfway through.)

 

Panel 1: Shot of Zeden with Riot Guy (So, I take it we’re back outside? What are these people doing?)

 

Riot Guy: The Strategist ain’t no ordinary guy…he’s a legend. He’s got crazy powers, like shooting blue eye beams and giving people funky powers.  This guy could plan his way out of any situation. He’s just hasn’t been seen in decades, he should be like in his forties by now. So he should be really old or at least close to death.  (60)

 

Zeden: Ahem, forty isn’t that old. You keep talking and I’ll have you on cleaning out the motor pool and the horses’ stables. (22/82)

 

Riot Guy: Just saying, I’m not sure a guy of that age can take out someone with a gun coming out of their chest, not to mention that he’s still has another gun in his hand with a ton of hostages. Powers or not people are going to die if we don’t do something. Sir. (53/135)

 

Zeden: Really? Well, I hadn’t thought of that. Maybe we could put you in charge so that you can explain to the senator what happened to his son because you wanted to be a hero, and got him killed. I don’t care about eye beams or that other video game shit. The senator is on a committee to help us get more funding for this city. I got three kids with big tuition and bigger stomachs to feed so I don’t need people in bikinis running looking for glory, let alone some punkass virgin with a Call of Duty complex. (99/234. Rich, would you please do the honors here?)

 

 

Panel 2: Medium Shot of Zeden and Riot Guy

 

The Strategist is more than that, rookie. He’s worked with a lot of people in making a plan that can change things around here. He’s trying to keep this crumbling city afloat by working out plans to bring back business. There’s revenue coming into a devastated city since this hurricane, and we have to keep that going. You know what’s like to be the sole provider for someone rookie? (69. Um, who’s talking here?)

 

Riot Guy: Um, I have a hamster. (5/74)

 

Zeden: Jesus, well when you grow up, you’ll understand. In the meantime, let the grown folks handle this one. (18/92)

 

 

 

Panel 3:

 

 

Wide Shot of Gunman, Bartender, and kid

as he takes a drink in one hand and sits the gun on the bar. He’s still in a position where the gun in his chest is facing the hostages. Bartender is still in the scene as he pours up another drink of soda in a glass. He offers the kid the rest of the can. The kid is looking frigidity but raises up the mask so we can see it’s a white kid. He drinks the soda out of a can. (Lisa, could you please make sense of this for me? I think my brain gave out back on P2.)

 

Kid: Gulp,ahhh. 

 

 

Bartender: Two sodas on the house of course. You know, I’ve been bartending for like fifteen years. I’m a good people person, so we can talk for a bit until your guy shows up. So can I ask you something? (39. I’m dying.)

 

Panel 4:

Close up of Ballistic. The gun on the bar is in the foreground and the people are behind him. Ballistic has a look of confidence at this point as he drinks the glass of soda. (Le sigh. Not even a moving panel. This cannot be drawn. Why can’t it be drawn, Evan?)

 

Ballistic: (gulp) Yeah, Goldielocks…shoot. (4.)

 

Panel 5: Close up of Bartender: (Failure. Complete. The format just completely failed. I don’t even have the words. What’s the facial expression?)

Why do you want to talk to the Strategist so bad? (11.)

 

(The grand total of words for this page is a stunning 382. I have the words I want to say, I’m just refusing to say them. THIS, Eli, is not good. Go back and study the first thirteen columns of Bolts & Nuts. There are very few things that are right with this.)

 

 

Page 4:(No, this is P5.)

 

Panel 1

 

Medium shot of Ballistic and Goldilocks facing off at each other at the bar. Gun is in between them. Goldilocks pours another soda in a glass. Kid is still at the bar. (Don, what’s wrong here?)

 

Ballistic: Cause I’m in some serious shit, and I need his help.

 

Panel 2:

 

Another shot of the two of them: Ballistic takes the soda and kind of puts his hand over his eyes.

 

Goldilocks: Well, friend as long you are keeping those hostages you’ve gone from serious shit to deep,deep shit. (Comma-fail.)

 

Ballistic: You really have a thing for the obvious, don’t you?

 

 

 

 

Panel 3: (Fail. I don’t even have the strength to be hyper about it. Where’s the panel description?)

 

Bartender: I’m good at looking at situations and you’re just in a bad one. How could you be in a spot where you have to kidnap a kid for three days, piss off one of the grumpiest cops in the world and then hold people hostage right when I’m about to close up? (I wasn’t going to count, but then someone else would have. Probably Yannick. 52. I didn’t read it. There’s no need. Moving on.)

 

Ballistic: Sigh. I used to be a missionary for a service called Bridge of Hope back when I was a little more…optimistic. I was sent to help create a network infrastructure and lend tech resources to a small community in Paraguay. (40/92. No, I didn’t read this, either.)

 

Caption: Great. A gun wielding maniac with a heart for those less fortunate. I got ten minutes to do something or else Zeden is going to step in. Where do I even start? The hostages? The kid? Ballistic? They are all victims. Each decision can bring a different result. Crossroads. (49/141. All in one panel. I DID skim this one. Like I said, the bartender was the Strategist.)

 

Panel 4:

 

Close up of Ballistic: He’s holding his head having a sip of soda and starting to think about things. (This could be described a lot better.)

 

Ballistic: I met a girl down there. Vanessa. She was helping some kids learn to read how to do photography. She had the longest hair, brightest smile and just this good aura about her you know. We just clicked and we started helping out this family in particular under our supervisor and liasion, Atlas Silva. (54. It’s a big block of text. No, I didn’t read it.)

 

Caption: Atlas Silva? I thought he was… Never mind. This is here and now. I need to act quick. (18/72.)

 

Bartender: Hey, the kid needs to pee. (6/78)

 

Ballistic: wha!? (1/79)

 

Okay, I’ve finally reached the end of this. Let’s run it down.

 

Format: Failure. You have elements of laziness here, as well as forgetting to add who’s talking when, or even a whole panel description. Format is the easiest part of scripting. This is not good.

 

Panel Descriptions: Failure. Vagueness, moving panels, things that cannot be drawn, people appearing and disappearing… “Hot mess” doesn’t even begin to describe this.

 

Pacing: Failure. Out of five pages, ONE page has four panels. Page 1 has two panels, page 2 has two panels, page 3 has three panels, page 4 has five panels, and page 5 has four panels. What’s terrible about it is that nothing of real consequence happens to justify the low panel count. There isn’t a chase scene. There’s barely any action. So, why these large panels for so little action? Could it be that you were trying to justify the huge chunks of what you’re trying to pass off as dialogue, so that they wouldn’t be cramped? I don’t think so, because the heaviest amounts of dialogue are also on the largest panel counts. This is criminal, Eli.

 

Dialogue: If the pacing is criminal, then the dialogue here gets you the death sentence. Aside from the fact that you’re wordy beyond belief, you’ve also got characters that are taking a long time to say absolutely nothing. They definitely aren’t saying anything of value.

 

Dialogue is HARD. You have to give the impression of saying a lot while saying very little. If it were easy, then everyone would be doing it.

 

Then, there’s the fact that you’re getting across exposition in the most clunky way possible, along with giving info that people aren’t going to care about. You noticed that I stopped reading and just did word counts. That was for my own sanity.

 

DISTILL. Take a conversation and distill it to its most necessary parts. Figure out what info readers need in order to stay current with the story, and then find a way to get that information across at an angle. Don’t tackle it head on. Dialogue needs to do two things: it needs to move the plot along, and it needs to reveal character, preferably at the same time. If it isn’t doing one of those two things, then it is unnecessary, and needs to be destroyed.

 

Content: As a reader, if I’d picked this up, I’d go back to the shop and asked for my money back. If they wouldn’t give it to me, I’d ask it back directly from you.

 

The nicest thing I can say about the story is that it makes no sense. It might have been in one of the chunks of dialogue I didn’t read, but there are lots of questions to be answered: who is the Strategist, how did he get into the restaurant, how did he know that Ballistic would head to that establishment, how does the vest work, why would he need a handgun if he has one on his chest, how did Ballistic manage to kidnap a senator’s child, what makes Ballistic think that the Strategist would help him after Ballistic killed ten cops, how did Ballistic get the vest, and on and on and on ad infinitum. When you have that many questions in five pages, there’s something fundamentally wrong with the story being told, if not the entire concept itself.

 

Editorially, this is garbage. This would have to be rewritten from the ground up. No, not just the script, but the concept itself. It would need to be explained to me so that it can be fixed into something acceptable to be sold. Right now, I’m getting a vibe that’s part Twilight Zone, part A-Team, with a dash of Inspector Gadget for flavor. Something has to go. This is terrible.

 

And that’s all I have for now. 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 (25)

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  1. Eli Ivory says:

    Hey Steven,

    Thanks for taking the time to read the script. I’m usually the artist on my own stuff and usually get a writer. Now you see why. I’ve gone over the work since I’ve sent it out to you and some of the detials you brought out makes sense so I’ll work on putting a little more realism into it and try to adjust the dialouge a little more. I give you writers a lot of respect as it’s easier for me to draw a comic rather than abstracting ideas and then placing all these new rules to it. Sorry to start the new year off so crazy for ya. Back to the drawing borad.

    • AH! Now I get it!

      Okay. First, you’re welcome. But in reality, THANK YOU FOR SUBMITTING! It takes intestinal fortitude to have a script dissected in public. So, thank you.

      I’m not an artist (yet). Personally, I think if you’re an artist, after seeing a few scripts done right, writers are no longer needed. The artist could just tell their own story, as long as they apply what they’ve learned from the scripts they’ve gone over.

      Yes, there are “rules.” And new rules aren’t hard. It’s just new, so you’re not proficient at it yet. That’s an opportunity to learn!

      The worst thing you can do right now is quit. If you went through the trouble of writing the script and submitting it, then you have something to say, and are wanting to get better at it so that you can say what you mean. Don’t quit. Study, incorporate what you’ve learned, and submit again. And again. And again.

      The only way to get better is to continue to do the work.

      Submit again.

  2. Evan Windsor says:

    Panel 4:

    Close up of Ballistic. The gun on the bar is in the foreground and the people are behind him. Ballistic has a look of confidence at this point as he drinks the glass of soda. (Le sigh. Not even a moving panel. This cannot be drawn. Why can’t it be drawn, Evan?)

    I’ll try to be brief this week.

    The “look of confidence” would be very hard, if not impossible to draw since the majority of his face (and at the very least, his mouth) will be obscured by the glass. A facial action can be drawn, a facial expression can be drawn, but you can’t do both in the same panel.

    Secondly, if it’s a close-up, you’re going to see Ballistic in the panel. Period. If you want to see the gun and people behind him, its not a close-up.

    And while we’re at it, if he is actively drinking in this panel, he cannot be talking in this panel. The dialogue indicates he had just finished taking a drink, so have that in the panel description instead.

    Also there is no E in Goldilocks.

  3. Eli Ivory says:

    Ok. That makes sense. I can work that out. Yeah, I did mispell goldilocks on purpose like goldie hawn. But I did get the same reaction from my one friend that read the first few pages. The whole sequence took about sixteen pages to finish. I was trying to do 1) and establishment of the various characters and their roles in the story. 2)Try to add some suspense and twists (Goldilocks works with the strategist but isn’t him.Also I was trying to add some human characteristcs to Ballistic with the love angle to make some grey area.) It maybe too much too soon and it sounds like I really started the situation off too extreme for Ballistic to be considered anymore than a villain. I may take out the killed cops thing.
    I’m glad to submit it though, not many friends or family read the script,and most of the people I know that do indy work locally don’t make the time cause they are doing their own thing. So I have to learn somewhere. I’m already working on adjusting some stuff while at work today. Good thing it’s a slow day.

  4. “Wide Shot of Gunman, Bartender, and kid
    as he takes a drink in one hand and sits the gun on the bar. He’s still in a position where the gun in his chest is facing the hostages. Bartender is still in the scene as he pours up another drink of soda in a glass. He offers the kid the rest of the can. The kid is looking frigidity but raises up the mask so we can see it’s a white kid. He drinks the soda out of a can. (Lisa, could you please make sense of this for me? I think my brain gave out back on P2.)”

    Okay, where to start. First I don’t really know what’s happening here.

    “he takes a drink in one hand and sits the gun on the bar” – 1 panel
    “He’s still in a position where the gun in his chest is facing the hostages” – The same gun? You just put it on the counter, is it pointing at the hostages from the counter? If not, — add 1 panel

    Your bartender is pouring, this could go on while the gunman is drinking (depending on Camera angle which is not here) BUT he is then offering it to the kid? – + 1 panel.

    ‘Kid lifts mask’ COULD happen while gunman drinks and bartender pours but he cannot physically drink a drink that has not been handed to him. – add 1 panel for handing drink, +1 panel for sipping

    You have so much going on here and only 5 panels on the page: why didn’t you break this up? I’ve read in the comments that you are an artist: how would you draw this? Sketch would be awesome, but I really don’t know what is important in this panel description and as an artist it might help if you pair a few panel descriptions with what you would actually want to see. Might be a good way to boil down what you’re doing and see what you can actually fit, physically without Crazy ass time altering physics going on.

    Other suggestions: watch your line breaks. You have a return after ‘kid’, which happens but should have been cleaned. I even have a little green line in word telling me to fix it right now. And I am politely ignoring it on purpose. Check all little marks in word. Always.

    You also don’t need to say ‘ bartender is still in the scene’ if you’re described a wide shot of gunman bartender and kid. Just go on to describe what the bartender is doing.

    “Gun in his chest” Did I miss something? When did a gun become lodged in his chest? Reread, correct. I’d be the kind of girl that would, for shits and giggles, draw a gun protruding from his chest.

    No one has facial expressions aside from ‘frigidity’ which I believe you mean ‘frigidly’. What else do we know about this kid now that he’s unmasked? Is he wearing gloves because if not then we knew he was white from his hands, if he’s wearing a T-shirt we’ll have seen his arms and know his white, etc.
    If you want the reader to have this ‘No shit he’s White?!’ revelation make it more important and be sure the details support this reveal. If not, why does it matter to your artist at this point? Should have been detailed with character description or in the first panel you meet the ‘kid’.

    Also, continuity fail: he drinks a soda from a can, after the bartender just poured it into the glass for him? Pick one, stick with it. It smells of a correction you made on a second pass but didn’t check to see if it was followed through. I do that, far more than I should, but you need to be consistent. If you want just say ‘he takes a drink of soda’ as you’ve already foretold it shall be glassed!!

    But, despite my comments, keep writing. Don’t give up. And for the day I man up and submit my script come back and throw some of these back in my face because I’m bound to make some of the same mistakes. First time writers always do.

    Now, was that another ‘Can-Fem-Yannick’ worthy post? Or should I try again?

    • I was also waiting for the comments of post-feminism as reverse polygamy within the context of the bartender being male, but I guess this’ll do.

      Thanks, Lisa!

      • I’ll just have to try harder next time!!

        • Heh.

          All of you make me feel good, you know that? Eli came in today, even after reading the title, and took it like a pro. Evan comes in and comments, you comment, and I’m waiting for you to take off the wig so that Yannick can comment.

          But we also have fun! That’s important.

          Thank you. Really, thank you.

          • Daww, did you just nearly get a little mushy?

            Eli did take it like a pro and I’m impressed. It’s always nice to see new people who are willing to take the suggestions and roll with the punches (no matter how hard they fly).

            I’m sure Yannick will be by soon, wig-less and wordy.

            To keep us entertained while waiting I have a TPG question for you!!
            You say up to 22 pages but you never post 22 pages of edits.
            What is the ideal page length for you to do a simple but effective edit? I’m guessing around 11 pages? Less? More?

          • Great question!

            The reason I say up to 22 pages is so that I can cherry-pick. However, just about every script I post is just the beginning (unless I’m sent an excerpt). The reason for that is because there are problems within the first few pages, or I want to show how those first few pages are done right.

            There are precious few that want to see a full 22 pages of my edits. I definitely wouldn’t have the time to do it week after week, either.

            Depending on the level of writer, I’d say 10-12 is good. A couple full scenes, at the very least. This allows me to do what I need to do, while also allowing enough space so that the column is a decent read while letting people learn. It covers everything.

            Why do I cut it at 22, though? Because people would send me their graphic novels if I didn’t. I don’t want the graphic novel. I don’t want to have a 100 page file that isn’t mine sitting on my drive. I’m not going to hunt through it in order to cherry-pick passages. It streamlines my work flow, and also makes for some rules, which helps everyone. My rules are simple, and if someone can’t follow them, they can’t follow a publisher’s rules.

            Hm. Wordy. But does that answer your question, Yan-sa? 😉

            HA! Good thing I didn’t combine your last names! If I did that, you’d be…a Mor-on!

            And I don’t get mushy. (Tito, get me a tissue…)

  5. That does answer the question! I figured it was far too much to do a full 22 page edit, but knowing which parts you’re more keen on looking at helps. It’s more to know what I should send in.

    I get the cut off though: I would NOT want to edit a graphic novel.

    Now to ask another question: in this edit you noted word counts in panels because I believe if you didn’t your head would ‘splode. I understand the need for breaking it down but the occasional wordy panel doesn’t hurt too much? (If it is only every so often).
    I know for me some comics that I love have killed me on wordy panels and pages ex: Sandman. But it’s not necessarily wrong if it’s written well, right?

    • See why I love questions? Especially good ones!

      Your question is this: can I be wordy if the dialogue is well-written?

      The answer is simple: it depends. (You knew I was going to say that.)

      Here’s why: in a wordy panel, you cannot have much action going on. The Time in the panel won’t support it. The speaker basically has to sit/stand/lie there and speak. If you’re trying to have a car chase scene and you want to get all wordy, that’s not going to work, no matter how well-written the dialogue.

      As long as this is a caveat that you take into account, then the answer is no, the occasional wordy (well written) panel doesn’t hurt.

      Also, remember that the more words you add, the more Time you’re encapsulating within the panel (Panel Time), and be cognizant of the effect Panel Time will have on the pacing of your story.

      Yes, one thing depends upon the other. This is writing for sequentials.

      • I knew you would say that….

        Well it’s a simple relationship and although I do talk fast, it doesn’t mean my characters can telepathically say something INSTANTLY while fighting evil doers. It’s a good answer warning me of the pitfalls but, if the situation permits it makes sense to have some more words.

        I can only think of one spot that I have a problem with this, I’m aware of it and have been fighting with the damn page for a WHILE. One of those moments where I know it needs fixing but just can’t find a way. Sigh. It will come to me.

        I am glad you like the questions though!

        Next question (because you’re letting me!)
        When, if ever, is it okay to ‘bounce’ off the artist? I’m speaking in terms of concepts and designs specifically in Science Fiction (because often enough you need to know how it could work so it’s not too ridiculous).
        When you have a concept but you’re not sure if visually you have the right idea should you hash this out before writing the script or is this a safe point to bring to your artist and work together on it with 99% of the script done and ready?

        I have a feeling you could answer ‘It depends’. Obviously on if you’re collaborating fully with an artist or if you’re just commissioning. Either way, how would you then approach this issue? commission ‘designs’ and concept help prior to script or attack your artist with questions and seek help?

        Did I just answer my own question?

  6. Did I ever! I guess I did push the box a little. You’d like some page jumping now would you? Sneaky devil.

  7. Conner MacDonald says:

    “Listen, folks: whenever possible, don’t put ANY current figures in your books. Sports, music, film, television, or political. None.”

    A prime example of this? Joe Kelly’s Deadpool run. Back in the late 90’s was hilarious with its up to date pop culture references. Some 15 year old kid picks it up now, and they’ll be scratching their head wondering “Who the hell is Ricky Lake?”

    Gunman: You keep playing with me and the only thing you’re gonna be pouring is a pool of your own blood. (Anyone else wince at this? Or was that just me? This is the extreme opposite of good.)

    I did wince. I’ve spent a lot of time at comedy clubs. I’ve winced, and cringed at all verities of jokes. Jokes where the punchline is predicable, jokes that are unintentional non-jokes, and jokes that just don’t flow well. Which is what I think this is.

    I’m pretty sure this joke isn’t supposed to be a laugh out loud moment. It’s just supposed to be over the top, tough guy posturing. We’re supposed to read it, and enjoy it for its cheesiness, right? But it should still flow well.

    I spent sometime trying to rework the line, but I couldn’t find a the perfect way. So I took the concept of the line, added a little more flavor.

    Gunman:You keep yapping at me, I swear to god, I’ll stick a draft tap in your heart, an serve the room a round AB positive.

  8. DonU says:

    Alright, Steven. I surrender. I’ll start calling comic books sequentials. 🙂

    What’s wrong with page 5 panel 1? I think a wide shot would be better for this panel. Page 4 panel 3 is the exact same shot, and it’s labeled as wide shot. I tend to think of medium shots as focused on a full character, or part of a character (upper body for example). Close-ups are for focusing on a specific thing like a head, arm, foot, etc. In this shot (p5,p1), you’ve got two characters facing off, a kid to squeeze in (who might be on Ballistics’ lap), a gun (which might be on the bar), and there’s a vest gun pointing at a crowd.

    Eli, thanks for submitting. I learn something every time I tune in to TPG. You’ve earned the title of brave one.

    • See? A convert! (After some arm-twisting…)

      What’s wrong with the panel description? Facing off means they are in a confrontation. Where’s the confrontation if one guy is pouring soda and another is sitting and wanting to pour his heart out. Is the gun still on the bar, or did Ballistic the Gunman pick it up? What’s the kid doing during all of this? Just sitting there, presumably still on Ballistic’s lap (or is Ballistic on the kid’s lap)?

      The problem is that the wording is confusing at worst, ambiguous at best. There’s no clarity, and clarity is job one when writing a script.

  9. Eli Ivory says:

    Hey thanks for the comments. Yeah it does help to have some tough skin in comics. I’ve been critiqued for my art a lot in the past so I’m just used to things not being easy. (Thanks for the pro comment,Don)
    Yes I was planning to draw my own story. Everyone knows how the writer/ artist deal works. So while I wrote down a scene, i really didn’t need to attach myself to the script. I mean, if I’m writing it I can’t really offend myself if I draw a scene differently. So there’s no pressure to get better at doing this from where I stand.
    I see there’s a lot of posts about the weirdness of the bar scene. Sorry about the confusion that’s my bad as a storyteller. It was meant to be the kid sits on one stool and the gunman sits on the other. There was supposed to be some setup and some foreshadowing for future plots as well going on in this scene. Now looking back I think it’s works if this was just a wham bam scene where the gunman is just dealt with it just to show how efficient the team is. I may do the drinking scene for another time with a calmer bad guy.
    Also, yeah some of the lines were for bravado but yeah I see the overall feeling is cheese for different people so looks like I’ll have to pick and choose here. But again thanks for input and the push to move forward.
    Lastly, Steven my friend read TPG last night and loves the way you break things down. He actually laughed at the criminal/death sentence line. (That was a confusing moment to witness for me.) Anyway, I told him you edited comics, but we did a comic strip last year that we would like to see if you just wanted to read for your amusement.
    Thanks again for the honesty and glad to have a pow wow going with the comixtribe for 2012!

  10. “Yannick. Please. I…I don’t think I have the strength… Just take the whole page.”

    When it’s asked with such pathos, you know I can’t refuse!

    “Panel 1: Wide shot of cops. One guy is speaking out of a bullhorn. There’s a cop in some riot gear in front of him with a riot shield up so that our guy doesn’t get shot. We should tell he’s shouting at the building.”

    “Wide shot of cops” doesn’t mean anything. All I can picture with this sentence is a bunch of cops in a vast empty space, standing around doing nothing. The “wide shot” was a good call as a camera angle, but now you just need to tell us what we’re seeing a bit more precisely. I’m picturing a row of diagonally parked and sheriff county cars and – since we’re probably way into their jurisdiction with the kidnapping of a senator’s son and we probably were already by Ballistic dragging the kid over a few state lines – a lot of FBI black SUVs and tactical vans, with all their swirly-flashies on.

    Come to think of it, in this situation, I don’t think you’d see the local law enforcement doing nothing more than crowd control. If your shot is wide enough to show us beyond the police setup, we need to see them standing at the yellow tape cordon with A LOT of looky-loos and newspeople. Think at least a dozen news vans for an event like this.

    And another thing: what’s a police superintendent doing there? The rare police department in the US that actually has a guy with that title – the more common denomination is “chief of police” – has him sitting in the big office back at the station. He’s an administrator, not an operational officer. and even if we’re talking about such a little town that he’s the only actual paid police officer around, the FBI’s gonna push that small fry aside in no time. That also means he can’t have chased Ballistic down “for three days” – at least not him personally – unless the kid was grabbed in the town and everyone’s been driving in circles for three days. Or he’s chief of police for another town and he’s way out of his jurisdiction. Or he has no business handling this situation and should give his bullhorn to an FBI special agent. In short, if you’re really adamant about using this character, make him a federal agent.

    But I’m getting way ahead of myself here…

    “One guy is speaking out of a bullhorn.” You’re not writing this for the reader, Eli, you’re writing this for your artist. You know it’s Zeden holding the bullhorn so out with it. Never hide information from the artist, either to create suspense, delay a revelation or do an artsy presentation. The artist is not your public, he’s your partner in this venture. You’re not telling him a story, you’re giving him instructions so HE can tell a story.

    “There’s a cop in some riot gear in front of him with a riot shield up so that our guy doesn’t get shot.” Same problem here. Give the guy a name so your artist can understand who’s speaking later. If you really don’t mind leaving him nameless, here’s a nice trick: when I name people in my panel descriptions, I usually put their names all in caps so the artist recognizes them as an important character. I use the same denomination in all caps for the dialogue lines. Something like this:

    Medium shot of ZEDEN shaking hands with a POLICE OFFICER in riot gear. Both men are smiling and relaxed. Around them, other police officers are crouching behind police cruisers, pointing their guns towards the restaurant.

    ZEDEN: What’s happening, son?

    POLICE OFFICER: Hostage situation, sir. One armed perp, number of hostages unknown.

    Notice how only the guys with speaking parts get their names in caps? That way, the artist can tell you’re talking about one specific police officer and not any of the other ones milling about.

    Now another quibble: that guy in the riot gear with the riot shield? He’s going to die. Why am I saying this? You know the saying “never bring a knife to a gun fight”? Well never bring riot equipment to a shootout. Riot officers wear what’s called blunt trauma personal protective equipment. It’s designed to absorb low-impact blows from things like fists, baseball bats and bricks. Bullets shred through it pretty quick though. Same thing for the riot shield. here’s what a riot shield looks like:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/46/M%C3%B3tm%C3%A6li_v%C3%B6rub%C3%ADlstj%C3%B3ra_1.jpg

    Bullets go through that like nothing. Now here’s what you wanted:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3b/USMC_MP_SRT_MP5.JPEG

    That’s called a ballistic shield and it’s specifically designed for use by SWAT and military officers. That thing can stop bullets.

    Quibbles, you’ll say, but quibbles is what makes the difference between an engaging narrative worth four bucks and your 8-year old nephew telling you he dreamed he was Batman. It took me no more than five minutes to check the facts about riot and SWAT equipment. Another five minutes got me some info about police administrative structures. I’m sure I could get you standard hostage situation procedures with an another five. Hold on. Yep, here’s a nice article that seems tailor-made for comics writers:

    http://www.policeone.com/standoff/articles/1247470-Hostage-negotiations-Psychological-strategies-for-resolving-crises/

    Anyway, no detail is too insignificant when you’re trying to build a believable world for your reader. In fact, it’s one of the basic duties of a writer to get his facts straight. With the astronomical quantity of information available on the internet today, there’s no excuse for not doing the research. Heck, I’m in Quebec City, far from anything resembling an American setting and I had to research what people who stand up on the New York City subway hang on to when the train is moving, just so I could tell the artist if my hero was leaning agains a pole or holding on to an overhead strap.

    Fun ideas are great for pulling the reader in but straight facts are great for keeping him invested. Moving on…

    “We should tell he’s shouting at the building.” I hate to say this becasue it’s fundamentally mean but… well, duh. You’ve already established on page 1 that you have a guy in front of a restaurant, with a hostage, shooting at a bunch of cops surrounding the place. I think we can safely assume that Zeden is talking to him. Anyway, that point is moot because of another point I’m about to make.

    “Zeden is a black male in his early forties and could easily pass for Danny Glover.” Great. Now put this in another document with all the other character descriptions. Your artist will look these over when he’s at the character designs stage. No need to weigh down your script with this info. Also, unless you want your readers to groan, Zeden is now absolutely forbidden from saying he’s “too old for this shit”.

    “Zeden: Ballistic, We have been chasing you down for three days since you grabbed the Senator’s son, and we are tired of this bull. Take that etch a sketch vest of yours off or I will take off for you! You hear me! Give yourself up!”

    And we’ve just been butler/maid’ed in the rudest way, no flowers or fancy dinner or anything. If you’re not familiar with the “butler/maid” concept, it’s when one character tells another what the latter already knows for the sole puprose of having the reader know it too. The expression stems from the theater practice of having the domestic aid discuss their employers’ antics in front of the audience so they could quickly establish the starting situation. Needless to say, this isn’t good. People’s sensibilities have been refined with time and you’re gonna get called out for using such tactics nowadays.

    The manhunt has been on for three days. The kidnappee is the son of a US senator. Both Zeden and Ballistic – hell, even all of the cops there know all this. He’s certainly not saying it for the benefit of the poor bastards trapped inside the restaurant! What you have to do here is create a situation where we can witness this exchange of information and that still makes sense in context. That means the information has to be given to someone who doesn’t know it yet. Here are as couple of examples:

    1. Special agent Zeden arrives on the scene. As he steps off the helicopter, the crisis team leader gives him a situation report.

    2. Show us the same scene as if we were watching it on TV with a journalist summing up the situation for viewers who just tuned in.

    And another things while we’re on the subject of telling people things they ought not to know: although it’s been popularized in a lot of TV shows, police almost never communicate via megaphone with hostage takers? Why? They need to establish a secure and exclusive line of communication with the perp. There’s no excuse for Zeden shouting at Ballistic like that when he could just pick up the phone and call the restaurant. I mean, they gotta be in the phonebook! Also, he just broadcasted to the assembled crowd and press people just how incompetent his officers are and how dangerous the situation really is. Not to mention that he’s openly and actively antagonizing a guy with a gun pointed at a child’s head. If it were anybody’s child, he’d lose his job by the time he finished that sentence. Since it’s a senator’s kid, he’ll probably have trouble finding a job packing grocery bags now.

    So “Ballistic, We have been chasing you down for three days since you grabbed the Senator’s son” is infodumping. “and we are tired of this bull” is superfluous. “Take that etch a sketch vest of yours off or I will take off for you!” is recklessly endangering the hostage. Finally “You hear me! Give yourself up!” is a pretty hopeful thing to say to a guy who’s holding all the cards righ now: the guns and a restaurant full of hostages. I was going to suggest a rewrite of this line but I think it might not be necessary once I get into rewriting the whole page.

    “Riot Shield guy: Sir, this is crazy. I’m glad you read up on this guy to know the range of his “CaliberVest” so we ain’t takin hits, but let’s just rush this maniac…um, sir.” WOAH! And I thought Zeden was the careless one! Yeah, sure, what’s the worst that could happen? He guns down the kid?

    But more interestingly, we have here a nice example of why it’s better to show rather than tell. So you wanna tell us that the “CaliberVest” (please find another name for this) has limited range. I’ll gloss over the fact that it’s not really that effective if it can be thwarted by moving a few feet back – unless the police have a really BIG-ASS security perimeter established around the restaurant. Let’s assume Zeden also took into account Ballistic’s handgun. On one hand, if the vest is at least as effective as a handgun, it means its effective range is around 150 feet. However, if it’s effective range is more like that of a long gun, we’re more in the range of 1000 feet. That’s one big perimeter so we’ll call it logically unrealistic. So it’s closer to handgun range, otherwise, no one would bother with silly things like riot shields. It then begs the question: why both the vest and the handgun?

    Anyway, I’m moving away from the subject: show vs. tell. Once again we have a character telling another what the latter already knows. Moreover, he’s flatly dumping us some info when he could be ACTING in a way for us to see it for ouselves. For example, have him move forward for a better look. Zeden then yanks him back just before a bullet cracks at his feet: “Stay here! He can’t shoot that thing of his this far!” Another possibility, have Zeden discuss luring Ballistic away from the hostages out of the vest’s range.

    “Caption: Ballistics’ field trip has led to another point of this triangle. That point is Thomas Zeden , a police superintendent who’s police budget is as small as his patience. Once this manhunt led into his territory, he knew Mr. Ballistic’s motives. He needed to find the third point of this triangle.” I have no idea what you’re talking about here. OK you’re establishing that we’re now in Zeden’s jurisdiction, still that doesn’t explain why the FBI hasn’t taken over this multiple-day and state-line-crossing manhunt yet and why a local police chief is handling the situation.

    And that triangle business, I’m sorry: it just doesn’t work. It just sounds… cheesy. Like it’s a metaphor for the sake of a metaphor. You know how they say you should speak your dialogue out loud to know if it flows naturally? You should also try reading it out loud while doing a Bogart impression. If it fits perfectly – like it does here – it’s probably bad.

    Also why does Zeden suddenly know Ballistic’s motives? You hint at something here yet I don’t see it popping up later. Is it farther away in the script? The way it’s brought up here almost suggests a shared history between the two characters. Either it’s the case and you need to make it clearer or get rid of this confusing bit.

    “Panel 2: Wide Shot of Zeden. He has an aggravated look on him. Like he knows what’s going on but it’s taking too long for things to happen.” You can’t have a wide shot showing only one character unless that character is standing alone in a featureless void. The moment you say “wide shot” you’re implicating a decor and – in this case – a LOT of other people. What are they doing? What’s the camera angle here?

    Also the bit about “Like he knows what’s going on but it’s taking too long for things to happen” is completely superfluous. It’s prose writing and has no place in a panel description. The “aggravated look” is ample information about the character’s expression – although it would be nice to know what’s he’s doing too.

    Another thing about this panel description: Riot Guy (the character formerly now as “Riot Shield Guy” – consistency with character names! You keep doing the same thing throughout the whole script. Unless Riot Guy is Riot Shield Guy’s brother and he’s not using his maiden name). Anyway, Riot Guy has some speaking lines in this panel yet there’s no mention of him in the panel description. Did you omit to describe his actions and expression? Or maybe he moved away? That would be REALLY far away since this is now a wide shot and you’d have to mark his lines as off panel (“OP”).

    “Zeden: That’s not the plan. I’m giving him twenty minutes.” Oddly enough, I don’t have anything against this line. No wait, I do. Well in fact it’s about that last caption. In the last panel, Riot Guy suggested charging in. Then the conversation is interrupted with that big caption about triangles. Then it’s back to Zeden in another panel replying to the suggestion. That’s way too much gutter time between a question and an answer. I think if you cut out all the superfluous lines in the last panel – that means the whole caption – you can fit both Guy and Zeden’s lines inside the same panel. Yep, you could even move the bullhorn speech at the end of page one to get more real dialogue on that page.

    Hey, I just had a look back at that first page. Ballistic says: “Give me what I want!” And Zeden flat out refuses? He. has. A. Gun.To. A. Kid’s. Head. How ’bout a little negociation instead of “we’re tired of this crap”?

    “Riot Guy: Who? This Lunatic?” Why is “Lunatic” capitalized?

    “Zeden: No. The Strategist.” You want a soft pause instead of a hard stop after “No” so change that period for a comma.

    “Riot Guy: What the hell is going to make you think he’s going to show up?” Not sure at all about that double use of future tense. I’d go for “What the hell MAKES you think he’s going to show up?”

    “Zeden: Cause he’s already in that restaurant.” Wait, what? I mean, why? Is the whole point of the security perimeter and the three-day manhunt just to get the Strategist into position in a roadside restaurant? How would Zeden know this? How would he arrange for it? What’s his link with the strategist? How would a local police chief, tied to his jurisdiction, be able to arrange for something of that scale? Believe me, I love mysteries, I love it when a comic hooks me up with weird stuff right out the gate and makes me curious for how a strange situation will resolve itself. However, I draw the line at not making sense at all. Eli, I’m dangerously close to suspecting you’re just lining up bits of dialogue that sound cool without any care for what their content implies. Dangerously close but not there yet as I’m not seeing the whole story here, only the few first pages.

    One more thing: you have five lines of dialogue in this panel plus one caption. This is way too much. Like Steven said, maximum amount is one statement, one reply and another reply from the first guy. More than this is unwieldy. This is exactly what makes Bendis tiresome to read sometimes: long strings of replies where the same facial expressions are used for a whole exchange. You would have been better off splitting your dialogue between multiple panels.

    Which brings me to the next problem with this page: the panel count. Two panels is absolutely not enough for a page in which essentially NOTHING is happening. Panel count is usually tied to pacing in that the more action on the page, the less panels there are as you want the reader to move quickly from page to page. However, when you want the reader to slow down with the narrative, you up the panel count, slowing down his reading and making his mood match the scene’s. That’s why splash pages are reserved for big shocking moments and 9-panel grids are for the talky bits. The longer you stay on a page, the tamer the action. Here, you have two guys talking and two panels. Granted, your crammed those panels with a lot of dialogue so you’re slowing the reader down anyway. However, fortunately, we can work this to our advantage by moving some of those lines to new panels. That way, we’ll slow down the reader a bit and have pacing more relevant to the nature of the action shown.

    Almost forgot: “Caption: That third point is me.” Who ME? Aaaaaargh…

    Sorry, gimme a couple minutes here.

    OK, captions. Captions can be of three types. You have neutral factual captions like “Later that evening”, “In the Batcave” or the classic “Meanwhile, back at the ranch…” You also have omniscient narrator captions that complement the story being told in the panels. Voiceover captions – when dialogue from one scene spills over another scene and the speaking characters are nowhere to be seen at the new location – fall into that category. Finally, you have your inner mologue captions that serve as a sort of running commentary by one of the acting characters. Nowadays, letterers signify “ownership” of these captions by giving the caption boxes a style reminiscent of the character’s appearance or personality. For example, Batman often has blue caption boxes with a bat in the corner while Superman has yellow caption boxes with his logo in the corner.

    When writers want to indicate captions, they use certain conventions. Factual captions and omnicient narrator captions look the same:

    CAPTION: New York, 1941

    CAPTION: Little did the Strategist know what dangers awaited him in the Restaurant of Doom!

    Notice how a factual caption doesn’t need to end with a period. A voiceover looks pretty much the same except for the use of quotation marks:

    CAPTION: “We’ll grab a burger when we get there!”

    Inner monologue captions however need to indicate which “voice” we’re “hearing”. For example:

    CAPTION (Batman): Haven’t changed underwear in two weeks. Ignore it. Work through the itch.

    Now here’s what bugs me about your captions. All this time, you’ve been setting them up as omniscient narrator captions. Then all of a sudden, we find out they’re inner monologue captions for the Bartender/Goldilocks/NotTheStrategist. This is hiding things from your creative partners – here your letterer – and that’s a big no-no. If all these captions are the Bartender’s, you need to make it clear from the first moment they appear.

    OK now to rewrite this…

    Page 2 (6 panels)

    Panel 1

    Wide shot of ZEDEN walking away from a black helicopter towards us and buttoning up his jacket with an FBI bulletproof vest tucked under his arm. Guy WYATT, in full tactical gear, is running towards him from the side. Both men are stooping and whipped by the wind lifted by the still running rotor. In the background, people are standing behind a cordon of yellow police tape with a few police officers facing them at regular intervals.

    ZEDEN: Special Agent Zeden!

    WYATT: Wyatt, sir! I’m the leader of the crisis team!

    ZEDEN: What’s the situation, son?

    Panel 2

    Medium side shot of ZEDEN and WYATT walking towards the left. ZEDEN is strapping on his belletproof vest while WYATT is following him and looking at his notes. Around them, police officers in full tactical gear and FBI agents are running aorund, seemingly shouting into cell phones and at each other.

    WYATT: Mr. Ballistic’s got 28 people in there. As far as we know, no one has been harmed yet.

    ZEDEN: And the kid?

    WYATT: He still has Senator Porter’s son.

    Panel 3

    Tighter shot of ZEDEN from the front; he’s now done strapping on the vest. WYATT has stopped beside him. Both men are looking towards us.

    ZEDEN: And what I asked?

    WYATT: We did as you ordered, sir…

    Panel 4

    Wide elevated shot of the police barricade as if the camera was just above the restaurant’s neon sign. We can see that a line of polimen in tactical gear has formed a semi-circle arount the front of the establishment, all kneeling behind ballistic shields. Immediately behind them, another ring of police officers are pointing assault rifles at the restaurant. Beyond that, it’s a lot of police cruisers, SWAT trucks and black SUVs, all lights flashing as well as a veritable crowd of police officers, some in plain uniform, some in tactical gear, some highway patrolmen, some local cops and others FBI people.

    CAPTION: “…we set up a perimeter exactly 50 yards outside the CaliberVest’s range.”

    CAPTION: “Excellent work, Wyatt

    Panel 5

    Inverted shot: we’re now just behing ZEDEN and WYATT and looking at the restaurant, behind the ring of shields and shooters. ZEDEN is looking through binoculars.

    ZEDEN: Now I’m giving him twenty more minutes.

    WYATT: Beg your pardon, sir, but procedure says we try to contact the HT as soon as possible.

    Panel 6

    Close shot of ZEDEN looking at us though his binoculars.

    ZEDEN: Contact has already been initiated, son.

    Yeah, so I did away with the captions. Sorry, those were bugging me way too much! However, I did retain most of what you were trying to say and attempted to portray it in a more dynamic and natural way, getting rid of the superfluous and nonsensical and adding a few touches for authenticity. You’ll also notice I’ve brought this up to 6 panels, letting the reader take his time for absorbing the situation. Later on, when all hell breaks loose, feel free to drop the panel count to 2 or 3.

    Final thoughts: I feel like you have really good ideas boiling under the surface, Eli. All you need is a better understanding of the writing craft. The same way drawing has its rules pertaining to perspective, shading, anatomy and proportions, writing has its own rules as well: basic stuff like spelling and punctuation, more technical stuff like captions and dialogue lines all the way up to high concepts like pacing, narration and world-building. You just need to put the effort into the craft itself and you’ll soar after that!

    In closing, I’d like to congratulate you on your attitude. It’s rare we get to see someone stay so positive in the face of so much red ink! I hope you stay and sit with us around the Proving Grounds for the next Brave Ones to face our resident Edit Doctor! Cheers!

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