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TPG Week 70: A Resubmission!

| April 27, 2012 | 5 Comments

Hello, one and all, to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a returning Brave One in Matt Johnson. It’s a rare treat, as we have a resubmission, not something we get to see often. So, let’s see what changes were made and lessons learned. On with the show, this is it!

PAGE 1 (7 PANELS)

Panel 1: An establishing shot of the CIA headquarters. The shot is far enough away to see it’s smack dab in the middle of the Northern Virginia woods. Reference: http://unwantedpublicity.media.officelive.com/images/CIA%20HQ%20west%20side%20entrance%20Virginia.jpg(YES! Reference pic! And you fixed your angle too!)

CAPTION: Langley, Virginia. Friday, 11:35 PM (You added the day of the week! Nice! The only thing is that you failed to mention in the panel description as to what time of day it was. Put it up there, so the artist doesn’t have to hunt for the info.)

PANEL 2: Medium shot of a cubicle from the entrance looking in. His desk is sparse (“His”? Whose desk is this?), with nothing but a laptop computer, an office, and a few papers on it. To his immediate right is the phone. (Whose right?) To the phone’s right is a coffee mug with pens and pencils stuffed in it. The CIA logo is stamped on it. There’s a bag of opened gummy bears to his left with a few uneaten gummy bears laying just on the desk just outside the bag. (Whose left? You haven’t placed anyone in this panel, Matt!)

PANEL 3 (INSERT OF PANEL 2): Close-up on Hank’s phone as it rings.

SFX (Electronic bleet): BBLLLLLLEEEEEE–

PANEL 4: Medium shot of Hank from his right side. He’s picked up the phone with his right hand and has it pressed to his ear. We can see a class ring on his finger, an onyx gemstone in the center.The cubicle wall is in the background behind him. (Here’s a good question: is Hank sitting or standing? Because you didn’t mention him in the last panel. That also makes Hank magically delicious! I’ve seen people forget to write in doors and guns – even a whole bridge! – but forgetting a main character takes the cake!)

HANK

Eastern European desk. (How ‘bout saying his full name here? That would be a great opportunity to get that out of the way on your first page and to do it organically. “Hank Kelly, Eastern European desk.”)

PHILLIPS (ON THE PHONE)

Hank, it’s Walter.

HANK

What can I do for you, sir?

(Something’s bothering me. The first time we see your character, it’s a side shot with him pressing a phone to his face on the same side we see him from. You’re hiding part of his face and it’s the introduction! Here’s what I propose to make this look more elegant: have you phone start ringing off-panel in your establishing shot (that should get rid of that bothersome silent first panel). Then show the desk with Hank sleeping with his head resting on his arms, the phone still ringing. Then you inset panel shows his hand – with the ring showing prominently if it’s important as a plot point – picking up the receiver and the SFX cut short. THEN you can show him a good shot of Hank from another angle, answering the call with his full name.)

PANEL 5: Over the shoulder shot looking down at Hank’s computer. The top of Hank’s head is still in the frame, as is the top of the phone to his ear. On the screen we can see a document is opened. The bulk of the document is in smaller print and obscured, but the headline can be read perfectly: CLASSIFIED DOCUMENT.

PHILLIPS (ON THE PHONE)

We have a situation. Fellow in Georgetown, name of Samuel Turner says he has a man sittin (“sitting” or “sittin’”, not “sittin”) in his den, claims to be a lieutenat colonel (“lieutenant”) with the Chinese intelligence service.

HANK

And does this Mr. Turner think we killed JFK with LSD?

PANEL 6: Medium shot of Hank from the computer’s POV. He has his left hand up and is checking his watch.

PHILLIPS (ON THE PHONE)

Hardly. Samuel Turner works at the State Department. He’s an underling with the Bureau of East Asian Affairs. (An “underling”? “Employee” maybe, but “underling” sounds so pejorative and demeaning. If that’s what you’re going for, then fine. If not, I’d look for a different word.)

HANK

So, China. Mr. Phillips, what’s all this about?

PANEL 7: Tight shot on Hank’s face. There’s a look of surprise on his face.

PHILLIPS (ON THE PHONE)

Turner says that this man wishes to defect to the States. You’re the only Mandarin speaker on duty tonight. Get a recorder, pen, and paper. (Split here.) You’re going to Georgetown.

(Nice! You got it done all in one page this time, even though you’re cutting it pretty tight at seven panels.)

Well, let’s see what we have.

First, the bad: You fell into the same trap that I warned you about the first time around. You didn’t put a time of day in the panel description, leaving the artist to hunt for info. Not good.

Next, the dialogue is much tighter, which is great, but you have an extraneous line in there about JFK and LSD that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It’s kinda flapping out there in the wind, calling attention to itself in a bad way. Not good.

Next is the way you’re half-burying your lead. Not putting him in the panel description is first, and second, hiding his face the way you do. Introduce him! Be proud of him! Show his face, and let it be known!

Now, the good: THERE ARE NO ELDERBERRIES HERE! There’s nothing on this page that I can rightfully call padding. That, Matt, is GREAT news! I see that you condensed and got to the point much, much faster than before.

Providing reference pics for your artist is always a good idea. Necessary? No. But I’ve yet to hear of an artist that doesn’t want reference for seeing exactly what’s in your head. (It would be interesting to see a comic script of nothing but reference pics and dialogue, but I digress.) While the artist may have something different/better in mind for a camera angle or what have you, providing reference is something that will almost always be welcome.

This is good work, Matt. I see you putting in the work. Nice.

(Page break) PAGE 2: (5 PANELS)

PANEL 1: Establishing wide shot of a two-story home nestled in the Washington suburbs. The front lawn is short, but the grass is yellow and dead in the early winter air, signifying the time of year.

CAP: Georgetown, Washington, D.C. Saturday, 12:03 AM

(Why not start your dialogue here? Always try to eliminate silent opening panels if you can. Hook your reader with something happening – even if it’s just spoken lines – from the get-go instead of greeting him with a static shot.)

PANEL 2: A mid shot from the very end of the short hall. Inside the house, Turner is walking down the hallway towards us with Hank behind him. Hank is wearing a black jacket,a notebook is tucked under his arm.

TURNER

I’ve met him a few times before. At diplomatic functions and things like that. I had no idea he had followed me home until I pulled into the driveway.

HANK

Are you on friendly terms with him?

TURNER

Not friendly, but cordial. Like any good diplomat to an opposite number. (I like the dialogue. It’s terse and efficient. It’s exactly what’s needed here.)

PANEL 3: Medium shot looking at the two men from their right sides. Both of them are stopped in front of a door and looking at each other. (If both men are facing each other, we can’t see them “from their right sides”, otherwise they’d both be facing the same direction!)

HANK

Is there anyone else in the house besides us?

TURNER

No. I sent my wife and son to a hotel for the night.

HANK

Good. If you don’t mind, how about you leave for a few hours to go check up on them?

PANEL 4: Over the shoulder shot of Tuner (“Turner”). He has a smirk on his face as he looks up at Hank. Hank has his back to the readers. (A more efficient way to say this would have been “Over Hank’s shoulder shot of Turner smirking at him.)

TURNER

Of course… If you don’t my asking, have I seen you before? Some function here in DC?

HANK

Maybe. My father is John Kelly. Maybe you’ve been to one of his functions.

TURNER

That’s it! Nobody throws a party like Johnny Kelly. Any truth to the rumors he’ll be the next Speaker of the House?

PANEL 5: Medium shot of Hank and Turner looking at them from halfway down the hallway. The closed door is behind them and they are shaking hands. Hank has a bemused smile on his face while Turner is smirking. (I’m still having trouble with your placement. The camera is “halfway down the hallway”. Is the closed door on a wall at the end of the corridor? Because if it’s in the hallway itself, we won’t see it “behind them”, but next to them. Unless they’re both sideways relative to the camera. Or maybe they’re lined up with the hall – in which case we won’t see the door. Aargh! Okay let’s try it this way. It’s either like this…

—————————————————–Door——————————————————————–

Camera –> T H

——————————————————————————————————————————–

and we can’t see one the men’s face or it’s like this…

————————————————————————————-

T

Camera –> Door

H

————————————————————————————-

So which one is it, Matt?)

HANK

Good night, Mr. Turner. Thank you for your cooperation, sir. (He already called him “Mr. Turner.” No need to add a second title here.)

TURNER

I can take a hint. (Split here.) Thank you. Say hello to your father for me.

So, we get to see on P2 that some lessons stuck, and others didn’t.

Lesson that didn’t stick: putting in page breaks. This one, simple thing may have kept you from a flawless victory in formatting. Tsk. Shame.

Okay, the biggest thing on this page is placement: placement of characters and placement of the camera. For the one, you have to be a little more clear or think them through a little bit more, because some of the things you’re asking for are impossible. Camera placement can be a little more problematic.

Every panel does not need a camera angle. It helps the artist to know what you’re seeing in your head, but every panel doesn’t need it. However, when you put in a camera angle, it should be helpful to the telling of the story. Not every placement of the camera here is helping the telling of the story. Lots of times, this can be left to the artist. Am I saying this can be left to the artist now? No. What I’m saying is to be more mindful of where you’re trying to place the camera. It isn’t always working, such as the last panel here.

The last part is the ending dialogue on this page. I’m hoping that this leads somewhere as we get further into the story. It’s P2, and there’s a lot of things to set up still. There’s some revelation here, but where does the extension of that revelation take us? Like the JFK line, it feels out of place to me.

Really, though, you’ve got this moving. It isn’t interesting yet, but it’s getting there. And the fact that it’s moving means you’re keeping reader interest, which is always the goal. Good on ya! The air is clear of elderberries!

(Page break) PAGE 3: (6 PANELS)

PANEL 1: Wide Shot of Turner’s living room from a corner. The room has hardwood floors with a rug in the center of the room. There is a fireplace with family photos on the mantle. The walls have a collection of family portraits on them, either group shots or single photos. From this distance, all the photos are indistinguishable, no finer details, only the shapes of the figures can be seen. Sun, with his back to the reader, is sitting on a plush couch in front of the fire place. Directly in front of him is a heavy oak coffee table with a coffee mug and ashtray on it. Hank is coming through the door on the far wall. (We’ve already met Hank but not Sun. Why not invert this shot and introduce the Chinese defector as you establish the room? You’d have to place the camera behind Hank’s shoulder for that.)

HANK

Hey, there. Sorry for the wait.

PANEL 2: Medium shot looking straight-on at Sun from the waist up, sitting on the couch. (What’s he doing? What’s his expression?)

SUN

You are the man come to speak to me? CIA? (Nice! His English is just good enough to work in Washington but still broken enough to denote him as a non-native speaker.)

PANEL 3: Over the shoulder shot of Sun looking at Hank. Hank is standing in front of the coffee table and has one sleeve out his jacket.

HANK

That’s me, yes. So you speak English?

SUN

Yes, but not as well as some. (Isn’t Sun going to ask for credentials? Not even a name?)

HANK

I can speak Mandarin. We can do this conversation in Mandarin.

PANEL 4: Pulled back shot of the couch from the fireplace’s POV. Hank is now sitting on the far side of the couch away from Sun, his jacket off. He’s in the process of placing his notebook on the coffee table in front of them. Sun has his head cocked to the side and watching Hank.

HANK

Just so you know, I’m going to be recording our conversation.

SUN

I would not expect anything less from a fellow intelligence officer. (His English just got a lot better here. Careful to be consistent! And what happened to the switch to Chinese?)

PANEL 5: Close up on a small digital recorder that Hank is placing on the coffee table. The screen shows that the device is on and recording.

HANK (OFF-PANEL)

<An intelligence officer? I thought you were an embassy employee?*>

NOTE: Hank’s dialogue (Oops, a lot of words missing here. I have no idea what you want to say.)

SUN (OFF-PANEL)

<A cover. Like all of China’s embassy’s (“embassies”) across the world, the People’s Republic has few (“a few”) intelligence officers inside the American embassy.>

CAP: * = Translated from Mandarin (The equal sign is useless.)

PANEL 6:Shot of Hank looking at the reader from the Sun’s POV, his notebook now opened and on his lap. A pen in his hands.

HANK

<Start off simple. Tell me your name.>

CAP: * = TRANSLATED FROM MANDARIN CHINESE (No need to repeat this. Once is largely enough.)

P3, and although we have introduced another character as well as have some dialogue, we haven’t yet had anything of interest happen. That means there’s a hint of elderberries wafting on the air.

Padding, folks.

I will let it be known right now: I am NOT a fan of a slow burn for new writers. New writers, in my opinion, cannot afford a slow burn. You have too much to do in order to get readers interested in your story. Not just get them interested, but to keep them so. You’re not doing that here.

Wait. I’m slow as ALL hell. Forgive me. I’m going to ask the question now.

If your hero works the Eastern European desk…why does he know Chinese? Why is he even being called in on this, whatever “this” is? It’s a question that should have been asked the first go-round, but got lost in the other problems with the script.

But, I’m bored. That’s first and foremost. Three pages in, and I’m not given much of a compelling reason to turn the page again. What’s at the end of this page that makes the reader want to slide their eyes over to the next one? Not much, unless they’re fans of slow burns.

(Page break) PAGE 4: (5 PANELS)

PANEL 1: Shot of Sun fom Hank’s POV. He’s pulling a pack of cigarettes from his jacket pocket.

SUN

<My name’s Sun Wu Leung. I’m a twenty year veteran of the People’s Republic of China, having worked in both military and intelligence sectors.>

HANK (OFF-PANEL)

<And what is your reason for approaching me?>

SUN

<I wish to defect to America.>

HANK (Off-PANEL)

<Why?> (I’d push this line back into the next panel, if only to limit the number of exchanges. It’s getting a bit crowded in here.)

PANEL 2: Close-up of Sun from the his right side, he has a cigarette in his mouth and a black zippo lighter is ingnited and only a few inches from the tip of his cigarette.

SUN

<Because I’ve got nothing left. I gave it all to my country, and still they want more. Always more.>

HANK (OFF-PANEL)

<Tell me about your past, Mr. Leung. Where did you come from?>

PANEL 3: Medium shot of a young Sun from the side. He’s about ten years old. Even though his hair is black, his face is still as pockmarked then as it is now.He’s walking down a crowded sidewalk in tattered clothing. (Is he walking towards us? From left to right? What’s the time of day?) A tiny red car is passing by on the street. Behind Sun is a brick wall with a few random bricks pulled out from the wall. His hands are in his pockets, his shoulders are slumped and he walks with his eyes glued to the ground. Even though he’s among people, he’s still keeping his distance from the people he walks with.

CAP: (SUN NARRATION) I was born in 1968 on a farm outside of Beijing. My father died when I was five, and my mother died when I was nine. I was on my own after that. (Is Sun talking in English now? Where are the brackets?)

PANEL 4: High-angle shot looking down at Sun, who now appears to be in his mid-teens, is on a sidewalk and is looking up at something, his eyes in wonder.

CAP: (SUN NARRATION) It wasn’t until a few years later that I found what I lacked.

PANEL 5: Wide shot of Sun, with his back to the reader, looking up at a recruitment ad for the military. The ad shows a stern soldier looking straight ahead, an assault rifle in his arms. Chinese characters are underneath the image of the man. (Find out what you want the ad to say and then have it translated in Chinese characters. You’re going for a serious piece so you need to put some research behind it if you want any credibility.)

CAP: (SUN NARRATION) I found order.

We’re at the end of P4, and I’m wondering, what does any of this have to do with the story being told? Is ANY of this important? What’s the important part of this?

There’s nothing here that makes me want to turn the page, and more than enough to make me want to close the book and put it back on the shelf.

Again, what happened to the brackets for the dialogue? You cannot just switch back to English like that, which is what you’ve done. Not without warning. It doesn’t make any sense, and will throw your readers right out of the story.

Now, with only 5 panels on the page, you have a LOT of space for MORE dialogue. This means you have more opportunity to be interesting. Use it. The dialogue is very readable. I can picture this conversation very easily, so that’s a plus. It’s just boring and doesn’t seem to push the story forward.

Give this space a reason for being. Speed the pace up some more.

(Page break) PAGE 5 (6 PANELS)

PANEL 1 : Wide shot of Sun, in fatigues, running down a dirt path towards the readers with fellow soldiers running in time with him. Trees and hills are seen off the path. It’s the Chinese country side. (Reference pic? I’m pretty sure the Chinese government has left some photos of their countryside in Google Images. And what time of day is it? Again, I always default to daytime, but I’d rather have it stated, since you changed scenes.)

PANEL 2: Pulled back shot of Sun from his right side. He’s laying prone on a firing range, surrounded by other soldiers watching, Sun holds an AK-47 in his hands.

SFX

BRATATATATATA!

(This is a silent panel that serves no purpose right now other than showing Sun shooting a gun. Find something to say here. Don’t forget that Hank can’t see these images! Right now, Sun is being pretty vague. “Finding order” tells Hank nothing about Sun joining the army. That’s going to make one spotty report!)

PANEL 3: Close-up shot of a paper bulls eye hanging on the target range. Bullets holes are torn in and around the target’s bulls eye.

CAP: (SUN NARRATION) For the first time in a long time, I was home.

PANEL 4: Panel 2 from a different POV. It’s an over the shoulder shot looking forward at the firing range. While Sun is prone and firing , two Asian men in dark suits are watching the scene from about a distance of two hundred feet . We can’t see their faces, but one of them is bald while the other has a full head of black hair. (Are these two men recurring characters whom we’re going to see later (albeit older)? If so, say their name so the artist doesn’t have the nasty surprise of finding out later he drew one of them with the wrong body type.)

CAP: (SUN NARRATION) People began to take notice.

PANEL 5: Another over the shoulder shot. (Try to vary your shots. Is it that important that we don’t see these men’s faces?) The two men are inside soldier’s barracks. Sun is sitting on the bottom bunk of a bunk bed. He’s in front of the two men, looking up at them.

CAP: (SUN NARRATION) My skills and background made me an ideal candidate.

PANEL 6: Tight shot of a hand, holding a folder. (Whose hand? The artist will need to know this!) The folder has the red star of China stamped on it with Chinese characters below it.

CAP: (SUN NARRATION) I was reassigned.

Okay, you’re finally getting to something that’s interesting, but you’re still taking your time about it. This can be condensed into one page, not the two that it takes up.

What skills is Sun talking about? Being able to live by his wits on the streets? I have no idea, because you don’t say. I could say it’s his ability to hunt unicorns, and you couldn’t gainsay me, because you haven’t provided the information.

This is important. Readers are going to want to know what “skills” there are, if they aren’t being shown. If you show someone killing someone else with their hands, then you can infer that they have skills in hand-to-hand combat. Then, as long as it sounds like you’re talking about killing/fighting, you can leave that inference wide open. But if the skills aren’t shown or talked about, then it doesn’t matter. It’s as vague as someone saying “over there,” but not pointing in a direction or saying anything else about it. See what I mean?

But like milk, these two pages can be condensed down to one page. This means you get to be interesting that much faster.

(Page break) PAGE 6: (5 PANELS)

PANEL 1: Long shot. Sun is walking towards the readers. Sun is now older, about halfway between the age he is when he was in the army and his present day age. He is still clean shaven. Sun is creeping through the shadows of a darkened hallway, dressed in black pants and a black turtleneck. There’s a 9MM with a silencer is in his hands. His face is calm and neutral. (Time of day?)

(SUN NARRATION) I became a tool for the People’s Republic.

PANEL 2: A wide shot of Sun from his right side in the desert. He’s dressed in desert camouflage fatigues, a desert camo army hat is on his head. He’s laying (“lying”) in the sand with a sniper rifle in his hands. He’s peering through the scope and his right hand is preparing to squeeze the trigger. (“Preparing” to squeeze the trigger is something that’s impossible to draw.)

PANEL 3 (INSET OF PANEL 2): Close up on Sun’s finger squeezing the trigger. (Another impossible thing to draw. I’d show the muzzle flash at the end of the barrel instead.)

SFX

KRAAAK!

PANEL 4: Medium shot with Sun facing the reader. He now has salt and pepper hair and a salt and pepper mustache. His lower half is in shadow, while his top half is visible. He’s standing behind a fat, hairy man with brown skin. The man is wearing a Hawaiian shirt and chest hair is poking up from the shirt’s open collar. Sun has a garrote wire wrapped around the man’s neck. The man’s eyes are bugged out, his mouth is open and his hands are trying to pry away the wire. Sun’s face is a mask of concentration. (Where are they?)

(NO COPY)

PANEL 5: High-anle (“angle”) shot from the top looking down into a small hotel room. A ceiling fan is spinning right at the edge of the shot. We can see the top of Sun’s head. He’s carefully cleaning the grip of a .38 revolver with a hand towel. Behind him, a dead man is sprawled face down on the room’s bed. Blood is splattered on the bedsheets and pillows to the direct right of the dead man.

CAP: (SUN NARRATION) But like most tools, I lost my sharpness.

(This was a 5-panel page with only two spoken lines. Besides being a very fast read, Hank has nothing to write in his report except that Sun was a dull tool. And that’s not very nice.)

And here we are with a half-interesting page.

The images are half interesting. The desert panels aren’t doing anything for me. Walking down a hallway? Really? What kind of hallway? There’s a difference between a house, an apartment, a hotel, a boat, what have you. Since you don’t say, the artist can draw anything, and you’d have to live with it. Vagueness is not your friend.

The other half show him being a killer, which is a good thing. However, you have a LOT of empty space here. Dialogue! Fill that silent space. Sun should have a LOT to say. I should be telling you to cut back, not to be adding words.

This could have been a very interesting page. Instead, you decided to be bland.

(Page break) PAGE 7: (6 PANELS)

PANEL 1: Back in the present day, shot of Sun from the POV of the fireplace. Sun is on the couch, looking straight ahead with a cigarette in his hand and smoke blowing out of his mouth. His eyes are slightly glazed over.

SUN

<For the past four years, I’ve been here in Washington, acting as Deputy Chief for (the) People’s Republic’s intelligence operations.>

PANEL 2: High-angle shot from looking down from behind the couch. Hank is looking to Sun on his right. (I keep thinking this would look a lot less awkward if both men were sitting each in their own chair instead of sharing the same couch. You could angle the chairs so they’d be almost facing each other but still facing the fireplace as well.) The notebook on his lap now has his shorthand scrawled across almost all of the page.

HANK

<So that is why you want to cross over? Because they put you on the shelf?>

PANEL 3: Close-up shot of Sun’s right profile, He’s taking a drag off his cigarette, the cigarette ashes are lengthy and in desperate need of flicking.

SUN

<The People’s Republic take and take, but they don’t give back. That may be the People’s way, but it’s not my way.>

PANEL 4: Wide shot of Hank and Sun on the couch. Hank is placing his notebook on the coffee table while Sun exhales smoke and is flicking ashes into the glass ashtray on the coffee table.

HANK

<Well, Mr. Leung, here is the rub.>

PANEL 5: Shot of Hank looking at Sun from Sun’s POV.

HANK

<You are a pro. You know how this works. You want to cross over, you need to make it worth our effort. What do you have?>

PANEL 6: Over the shoulder shot of Sun, looking at Hank. Sun holds his cigarette in his right hand as he looks at Hank. The cigarette is substantially smaller, almost burned all the way down to the filter.

SUN

<I’m prepared to give the CIA all my knowledge about the workings inside the Ministry of State Security. In addition, I can offer you all my knowledge about all the intelligence gathering activities the People’s Republic are undertaking here in America.>

Screeching halt. After condensing, this would have been interesting, right until he got to the reasoning for the defection, and what he “has.” Right now, he’s got bupkis that would be interesting to a reader.

This is supposed to be a page turn. What reason is there to turn the page? None, that I can see. He’s ready to give info. Big whoop. None of that info is interesting. A perfect opportunity to be interesting and say something shocking, and instead, we get a whimper.

And really, none of what he said seems like it’s enough to want to cause a person to defect. You’ve made Sun into a wuss. He kills a few people, is put on the shelf, and now he wants to cross to the other side. That isn’t compelling at all.

Where are the elements that make this compelling? Remember that this isn’t a novel. You don’t have words to illuminate motivations. It has to be on the page, and it isn’t.

(Page break) PAGE 8: (6 PANELS)

PANEL 1: Shot of Hank from Sun’s POV, Hank is closing his notebook. (Running out of steam, Matt? It looks like you’re relying more and more on the same shots. Maybe have a look at Wally Wood’s 22 Panels That Always Work for some inspiration for talking scenes.)

HANK

<Okay. I’ll run this over to my superiors. If it all checks out, we’ll be in touch.>

PANEL 2: Low-angle shot, from the coffee table looking up at Sun. Sun is looking in Hank’s direction as he stubs out his cigarette in the ashtray. There is a look of worry in his face.

SUN

<You cannot give me your guarantee?>

HANK (OFF-PANEL)

<It is a complicated process. Things have to be vetted and–>

PANEL 3: Tight shot on Sun’s face looking straight-ahead. His eyes are narrowed slightly and looking to the right, almost as if he’s unsure to tell Hank what he’s about to say.

SUN

<I am prepared to give you information about a mole working within the CIA.>

PANEL 4: Over the shoulder shot of Hank looking at Sun. (There’s LOT of over-the-shoulder shots in this scene. Charles, show us what you learned from last week’s experience and give me an alternative here.) There’s a bewildered look on Hank’s face.

HANK

Wait… What? Say that in English, I may have lost something in the translation.

PANEL 5: Pulled back shot of Sun and Hank. Hank’s back is to the readers. Sun is pulling the pack of cigarettes back out of his jacket pocket while Hank is leaned forward.

SUN

There is a leak, a mole, operating within the CIA codenamed Legacy. They have been working for the Peoples Republic for at least ten years now. I have been Legacy’s Washington contact since I arrived in America. (Split here.) I am prepared to give you all I know about this person’s identity in return for safe passage to America and a chance for a new life.

PANEL 6: Close up on Hank’s digital recorder. Hank’s hand is wrapped around it.

HANK (OFF-PANEL)

Can you give me just a moment…

Eight pages. Eight pages to be semi-interesting.

Yup. Elderberries.

Let’s run it down.

Format: Like I said above, you let the lack of page breaks cause you to miss a flawless victory. Shame, too. Yes, the elements have different indentations, but I can get over that. You have all the elements necessary. You’re just missing the page breaks. Put those in. They’re important.

Panel Descriptions: Not bad. Kind of repetitive, but not bad. There are things that you routinely miss, though.

Time of day. This is killer. The artist—penciler, inker, and colorist—all need to know what time of day it is in order to do their jobs properly. Imagine them drawing something that’s supposed to be at night, and it’s all bright and sunny, or vice versa. Not good. Not when you could have told them from the outset.

Then there’s the camera placement. Something you have to work on.

Also, figure out which shots work better to tell the story you want. There are times when it seems like you’re just putting down whatever pops into your cabesa, instead of thinking it through. P6 is a great example of what I’m talking about. It doesn’t look as though it was thought through.

Take your time and see these things. Your writing will only get better because of it.

Pacing: There is dramatic, marked improvement here. It is no longer horribly paced with padding and reeking of elderberries. Now, there is only a little padding.

Condense. You didn’t need to have two pages of Sun’s history. You could combine those two pages, keeping all the dialogue and adding more, and as long as it was both interesting and germane to the story, then readers would stick around.

But your pacing is MUCH better this time around.

Dialogue: Just like last time, I have no problem with what’s being said. I can see these people talking, and the dialogue is realistic. The only problem I have is that there doesn’t seem to be enough of it in places.

Dialogue has to be interesting, it has to illuminate, and it has to move the plot forward. There are dead spots where you could be saying something, or saying more, and you don’t. You could almost double the dialogue on each page, and it would be okay. Notice, I said almost. Some pages/panels have enough dialogue in them. Others could use more.

Content: As a reader, now that the major problems of padding and forcing have been taken care of, I’m able to ask a question.

Again, why does this guy speak Chinese, given his work area of responsibility? It doesn’t make any sense to me. He is not the guy that should have been called for this.

No, I’m not interested enough to read further and see if there’s a reason given for this. I’m willing to extend the benefit of the doubt just a touch on this. But, really, he should be asking himself why he was called in on this.

Editorially, this still needs guidance. Not as much as before, but it’s there. I’m no longer getting the sense that this isn’t researched. It’s just plodding a bit. Just not as much as it was before, which is a great thing.

Three or four pages. This should be getting interesting in that timeframe.

And that’s all I have for this week. Check the calendar to see who’s 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 (5)

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  1. Question regarding elderberries. In a comedy story, a lot of gags, and jokes, could be considered, ‘elderberries’. Is there a difference in padding by genera?
    Like a horror story, slowly building tension, that features a character walking down a hallway, looking through every door he passes, only to have a cat jump out at the last door. All and all, that is padding, but doesn’t the psych out add something to that genera?

    • Liam Hayes says:

      Something is padding if it fails to reveal character or plot. So having a character move slowly down a hallway could show his/her fear in respect to the situation, or their cautious nature. Used effectively, it can also display the character’s personal fears or tease an eventual plot reveal.

      I think plot movement is almost secondary when it comes to Comedy. It’s why things like sketch shows and spoofs work.

      Anyway, those are my interpretations.
      Cheers
      Liam

  2. Matt Johnson says:

    Thanks for looking this over again. I actually thought I was up next week, but I digress. Anyway, thanks for taking another crack at this one. Hopefully, I can keep improving on it with another draft.

    • Matt Johnson says:

      PS, Thanks for that suggestion on the 22 panel thing. I have an idea of what kind of panels I want to describe, but I’m not sure on the terminology. So, that should be helpful.

  3. I remember reading your first submission, so way to go on not only re-submitting, but on the improvements you’ve made as well!

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