TPG Week 72: Starting Late Will Annoy Your Readers

| May 11, 2012 | 2 Comments

Welcome, one and all, for another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, our Brave One is Wes Locher. Let’s see what he brings us this week in

Chambers

PAGE #1 (4 Panels):

PANEL 1: Exterior shot of the Las Vegas Drug Enforcement Agency. (Day or night?) Reference can be found online. (If you know it can be found online, why not just link to the picture?)

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

Las Vegas Drug Enforcement Agency. (Unless the building is really nondescript, your caption here does nothing more than repeat with words what the reader can already see in the panel.)

PANEL 2: Interior. (And? Any more details than this? You’re establishing a shot here – get into the meat of it!) Lots of hustle and bustle. Desks, cops, perps — a little bit of everything going on here. Everything should be in some state of motion. (You artist is going to need a lot more than that, Wes. At least give him a couple of examples, otherwise the poor guy will have to come up with everything these people are doing – that is, he’ll be doing YOUR job.)

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

It’s a hectic place.

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

Men and women of Law Enforcement spend a good amount of their waking hours here trying to make for a better city. A better country. A better tomorrow.

PANEL 3: Within the chaos, we see two police officers smiling and shaking hands as a perp is being led away from them in the background. They’re celebrating a victory. (“Within the chaos” – are we still in a wide shot? Did we close in?)

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

When you spend so much time with people it’s hard not to become tight. (Comma-fail.)

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

To become a family.

PANEL 4: We’re looking at Captain William’s office. He has just stepped out the door onto the chaotic floor. (Where is his office relative to the scene you’ve just described? Your artist will want to know what to draw around that door.)

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

But if you happen to yell out the name – (A double dash is used when someone’s speech gets interrupted. Here, what you need is an ellipsis. However, a clever letterer would probably overlap the speech bubble with the caption so the text is read as a whole sentence. In any case, if you do use the double dash at some point, remember that there’s no space between it and the last word.)

WILLIAMS:

CHAMBERS!

P1, and we have a shit-ton of laziness going on. Basically, your artist is operating in a white void, because the panel descriptions are barely there.

To be honest, it reminds me a lot of a screenplay. Basically, you set the sketch of a scene, and then you have a ton of dialogue and some direction for the actors. The problem here is that there isn’t enough dialogue to warrant the sketchiness of a screenplay.

So, you don’t provide a link, and you don’t do any describing. Why write? Because you’re not doing your job.

This entire page needs to be rewritten, in order to give the artist a sense of what things look like. Have you ever been inside the Las Vegas DEA’s office? Why are there police officers there? Remember, this is the drug enforcement agency. They’re agents. You don’t have any agents here, you have police officers. It smacks a lot of hand-waving in your description. I hate hand-waving. Either know it, or research it. And if I’m wrong, I’d have learned something. But I don’t think I’m wrong.

As for the dialogue, meh. It could definitely use a polish. I’m bored already, and what you’re using as a page-turn is very yawn-worthy. There’s nothing here to make me want to turn the page. The dialogue not only needs a polish, it needs a punch. There’s a lot of space left to add dialogue and make it interesting. Four panels means they’re going to be large. Large panels means more space for words. Just make sure they’re interesting words.

PAGE #2 (4 Panels):

PANEL 1: Each of the Chambers family members answers the call. Adam is at a desk in front of a computer, but he looks toward the sound of Williams’s voice as he answers. (Unless they all just walked in or were outside the frame of the establishing shot, all three Chambers are magically delicious! Where were they? Why didn’t you mention them earlier to place them in the scene? Remember when I told you you didn’t have enough meat in your panel description for that shot? The Chambers were good meat! A veritable feast!)

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

You’ll get three responses.

ADAM:

Sir?

PANEL 2: Adrian is talking with another officer, but he motions the cop to give him a moment and looks around him to answer the call. (Moving panel. The way you say it, Adrian is first seen talking with another officer and THEN he motions to the other to wait while he answers the captain’s call.)

ADRIAN:

Sir?

PANEL 3: Denise is stooped over Bruce’s desk reading his computer screen. Bruce is seated, but Denise looks toward the sound of William’s voice.

CHAMBERS:

Sir? (I just realized that Denise was the “CHAMBERS” of the captions. Not good, Wes! You have to be clear about these things!)

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

Because unlike the rest of the department – (This isn’t interrupted speech, it’s a slight dramatic pause. Use an ellipsis here…)

PANEL 4: We can tell from the look on Williams’s face that this happens all the time. It’s endearingly frustrating. (So, the camera is supposed to be on the captain now? First, how is the artist supposed to know that, and second, how is the reader supposed to know that this happens all the time? Actually, it’s terrible, bordering on stupid. If this happens all the time, hasn’t the captain learned by now? I was in the military. I’ve had to deal with this problem. You learn very fast.)

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

– We actually are a family. (…and here when you start again, with a lowercase first letter. Just like I just did!)

WILLIAMS:

ADRIAN Chambers. (Your letterer is probably going to be using an all-caps font, just so you know. Anyway, standard practice is to underline any word you want emphasis on.)

WILLIAMS:

Get in here!

Oh, look! Another four-panel page, and not a damned thing happening on it. Anyone else have the strong whiff of elderberries, or is it just me?

This page is padding, Wes. You can combine the first two pages, and save yourself an entire page of real-estate. You can combine the pages and still add dialogue, and it still will not be too crowded or too slow.

Pick up the pace!

PAGE #3 (1 Panel):

PANEL 1: Splash Page. Denise surveys the entire DEA office. (Can we even see Denise in this shot? It’s not clear. Anyway, you’re asking for a wide shot of a very large room with a lot of people in it and possibly Denise in the foreground. I’d like to remind you that – unless you specify otherwise – your page is in portrait orientation which is a lot better suited to show depth or height rather than width. Your artist is going to hate you when the time comes to fit the whole room into such a narrow space.) People running to and fro. In the background, Adrian is entering Williams’s office. Adam still sits at his desk, smiling toward Denise. She’s just taking it all in. Over in the corner, some cops are looking shift. (“Looking shift?” I have no idea what you mean. Shifty?) Elsewhere, a cop is sitting looking at inside his wallet which is empty. (Will we really be able to see inside his wallet at this distance?) The Captions will highlight different parts of the department. (Which parts? Apart from Wallet Man up there, I can see NO relation between the captions and anything else. It’s all very general expository back story. How is the letterer supposed to know where to place the captions?)

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

Of course — This was back when things were good.

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

Normal.

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

When you didn’t have to worry whether or not your friends were dirty or not.

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

It all happened so fast.

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

The Vegas drugs cartels started offering bribes.

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

Big money to any cops who let them continue their business unbothered.

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

Ever seen a cop’s salary?

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

It sucks.

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

Everyone immediately saw dollar signs.

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

Well, ALMOST everyone.

P3, and we have more boring going on.

Know what I hate? I hate splash pages that don’t do anything. Not only is this terribly described, it also isn’t doing anything. There’s nothing dramatic, nothing to pull you in. This is a bad use of real-estate. This should have been cut into panels. It would have made a lot more sense then.

Note, this isn’t padding. There is a use for this page. It just isn’t the wisest move in terms of scripting.

First, your artist is going to ask a lot of questions in placing these people, because a good artist will incorporate the dialogue in their planning of panels. Second, I wouldn’t be surprised if the artist asked to cut this into panels, because it would then make more sense visually. This is, of course, asking for a better description of just what is supposed to be going on here. No matter what, your artist is going to be asking questions. (The only way question-asking doesn’t happen is if you’re the artist yourself, Wes.)

PAGE #4 (4 Panels):

PANEL 1: Panel of Adrian in full officer getup, waving to an unseen audience. He has just received his promotion to Lieutenant. (He’s “waving to an unseen audience” while standing in an unseen place in front of an unseen background. The artist has NO context.)

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

My father, Lieutenant Adrian Chambers, should be remembered as a hero. Instead, chances are that he’ll be remembered as the biggest whistle-blower in the Las Vegas Drug Enforcement Agency.

PANEL 2: Adrian, still in police uniform, sits across a plain wooden table from three Internal Affairs officers dressed in black suits. Two males and a female. The IA officers have their briefcases are on the table, paperwork is everywhere. They look at him as he gestures. (How? What are his gestures?) Adrian has only a cup of coffee in front of him. (Where’s the camera? From the side, I guess. And I hate guessing. And so will your artist.)

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

He had the stones to go in front of Internal Affairs and give the names of all of his fellow officers who were taking bribes from the local drug runners.

PANEL 3: Close on Adrian at the wooden table. He looks exhausted. He’s writing on a pad of paper, giving up the names for Internal Affairs to investigate.

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

These weren’t just nameless people he was giving up. It was friends. Mentors.

PANEL 4: We see the cop that Adrian had been talking to on Page 2 / Panel 2. He’s in handcuffs, being led away from IA officers. (He’s being led away by whom?) Adrian in (“is”) in the foreground. As the officer walks past, he gives Adrian the middle finger. (Standard procedure requires that arrested suspects be cuffed with their hands behind their back. If the guy’s being led away, that means he’ll have to look over his shoulder for the reader to recognize him from page 2. If you want Adrian to see it from where’s he’s standing in the background, you’ll have to make him stand with his back partially to the reader. This panel description is muddled at best because I keep having to fill holes by myself – which is what the artist will have to do – and that’s your job, Wes. Don’t just throw the idea out there and let him wrestle with it. If you can’t visualize and verbalize it in an efficient way, you’re doing your artist a disservice.)

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

The “family” members he’d grown so close to over the years.

And yet another four-panel page! That means you’re not using your space wisely. It also means you haven’t thought out your story. If you had, there would be variation of panel counts per page.

So, what your artist is going to want to do one of two things. The first thing is they’re going to get away from the grid: two panels side by side and stacked. That means they’re going to vary the sizes of the panels in order to give the reader variation to look at. (This also means that they’re going to be playing with Time inside the panels, but that won’t be extremely important now. Just something for you to keep in mind.)

The second thing they’re going to want to do is add panels for pacing. Right now, it’s very one-note, because the only page with a different panel count is your useless splash-page. So, they’re going to want to add panels. The problem is that they won’t know what to add, because you’re extremely decompressed.

The first thing you’re going to need to do is compress, and the second thing you’re going to need to do is move the story along. It’s P4, and really, there isn’t much going on. Bad pacing does that to you.

PAGE #5 (4 Panels):

PANEL 1: We’re looking at a news broadcast. A reporter, holding a microphone is outside of the Vegas DEA office, reporting live, while in the background, we see several police officers in handcuffs. (What are they doing? Standing in a line? Being led elsewhere? Doing a French cancan demonstration? You need to flesh out your panels descriptions. It’s not only about telling the artist WHAT’s in the panel, but also about telling him HOW it is.) Across the screen we see a “Breaking News” banner.

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

Once the scandal became public, a lot of cops lost their jobs.

PANEL 2: Inside an office at the DEA Station, we see two cops yelling at Adrian, pointing fingers. He stands defiantly, looking off slightly off panel.

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

My dad was just trying set an example. Trying to keep cops honest. Like they should be.

PANEL 3: We see where Adrian is looking. Outside of the office, looking in are Denise and Adam in their police uniforms. (How will you show that this is from Adrian’s POV? Is Adrian even IN this panel? You’ve been jumping around a lot, never stopping to establish your scenes. You’ve used your reader to panels not having much linking them to the previous ones. Why should he think it’s different here? See how your lack of detail is coming back to bite you in the…epilogue?) They stand watching their father take a verbal beating for breaking the Blue Code of Silence. Adam has his hand on Denise’s shoulder. Their faces are grim. Adam is four years younger than Denise, but carries the Chambers genetics. Dark hair and lean, but physically fit. He looks much nicer than Denise or Adrian. (Everything I’ve put in blue here should be in the character description document instead.)

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

He’ll always be my hero. In fact, he’s the whole reason that both my little brother, Adam, and I became police officers.

PANEL 4: We see Denise and Adam in the exact same pose as the previous panel, but Adam is wearing a black suit, and Denise, a black dress. They are at Adrian’s funeral. (And how are you going to show that? You just described the characters, not the location!)

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

Unfortunately for him – (Ellipsis, not double dash.)

Another predictable four-panel page (and no, I don’t go by the number of panels at the top of the page, because sometimes they’re wrong). Another page where you don’t do much of anything in describing a panel, going so far as to not even give an actual panel description in a panel.

And really, this book is already back on the shelf. It’s P5, and there’s no sign of any story yet. There’s no sign of any story, and no hint that any story is coming. That’s terrible.

Okay, so we have a lot of jumping around in time within these pages. I have no idea when the present is taking place, or when we’re in the past, because there are definitely times when you’re flipping back and forth.

The easiest things to do with flashbacks is to color it differently, or to do something different with the panel border. If you’re wanting to do that, or at least wanting the option to do it, then you have to let the artist know when its happening.

Another thing I want you to notice: this is P5, and there are very few words that are actually spoken by characters. So far, for all intents and purposes, its all narration through captions. Boring. You’re telling the story to the audience, and they’re sitting back, unengaged.

The only good part about captions is the fact that you can put more words in them. There’s less negative space to deal with, as opposed to word balloons, so you can cram more words in per panel per page, simply because you used a caption.

The problem with captions, though, is that it is disengaging. You’re not having the audience engaged in the story (what little there is of it). Instead of just explaining what’s happening in the panels through captions, actual dialogue can carry the burden of telling the story, and at the same time, engaging the audience.

PAGE #6 (4 Panels):

PANEL 1: Big panel taking up most of the page. We pull back and get a scope of the funeral. It’s a dreary day. The casket is front and center with the Priest standing next to the headstone (What is the priest doing? Is he reading from his psalm book? Addressing the assembly? Splashing holy water on the casket?) and people standing on both sides. Denise, Adam, and Bruce, who is in his police uniform, are front and center. Some of the groups are cops, others are family of varying ages and sexes. Shouldn’t be more than 20 people.

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

– it cost him his life. (Ellipsis, not double dash.)

PANEL 2: Close up of Denise, Adam, and Bruce. They all look solemn. (And that’s all they do apparently.)

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

The news reports say that our father died “In (“in”) the line of duty.”

PANEL 3: The group begins to disperse. The casket has been lowered. We’re over Denise’s shoulder as she watches one of the police officers, Greg Nichols, spit on Adrian’s open grave. Greg is a balding white male of medium build in his mid-forties with a pencil thin mustache and a bad comb over. (You know what? THIS is where your comic begins. This is where you finally have something happening for real that engages your reader instead of just having them sit back for story-time while looking at pretty pictures. Everything before this is a long info-dump. It’s like a museum where you keep your back-story and visitors stop before each shrine-like panel while Denise reads them her caption. Page 1 / panel 1 should have been here. Always start your story as late as possible in the events. Back-story can always be inserted later through conversation or background. Get the reader into the story as soon as you can and you’ll hook him for good. Give him five pages of homework before the story proper and he’ll pass.)

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

But based off of who and what I know, I find that hard to believe.

PANEL 4: Greg makes eye contact with Denise and Adam. (This. This right here shows me you’re not thinking in terms of static images but rather in terms of storytelling. “Greg makes eye contact with Denise and Adam” is essentially WHAT HAPPENS. However, that doesn’t tell the artist WHAT TO DRAW. That’s what your job is as the writer when you’re writing a script: telling the artist WHAT TO DRAW. Then he’ll be able to produce something that will tell the reader WHAT HAPPENS. Knowing the difference between the two will go a long way into helping you determine if your panel description is good enough and if you’re asking for things that can actually be drawn (as it’s NOT the case here). Here’s an example: if I were to write a panel description like you do, I’d write:

Pen-Man notices the banana on the table.”

This does a perfect job of telling us WHAT HAPPENS. If you were sitting with a friend and relating what goes on in this comic, it would give him a proper idea of what goes on and a bunch of these sentences together would make up a story. As a panel description however, it’s of absolutely no use to the artist. It doesn’t tell him WHAT TO DRAW. If I wanted to do that, I’d write:

Worm’s eye view of Pen-Man with the banana on the table in the foreground. Pen-Man is looking at it with a raised eyebrow.”

That’s the main difference between telling a story and writing a comic script. Give the artist the instructions he needs to draw the panels so HE can tell the story. So remember: when penning a panel description, don’t ask yourself “What happens now?”, but rather “What should the reader see now?”)

GREG:

Someone should call the groundskeeper… have him get these rats outta here.

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

Unfortunately for us, we were the only ones left to take the heat.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, for new people who may not have had the opportunity of seeing me say it before. I’m lenient. Most people give one-to-three pages to be drawn into a book. I give five. Like I said, I’m lenient, because I’m a nice guy at heart.

That being said, I’m also honest. I can’t be less than that. Being less than honest isn’t fair to anyone here. And being honest, the first five pages here are crap. So crappy that the would-be audience probably put it back on the shelf and wiped their hands on something.

You started this EXTREMELY late. So late that the audience won’t make it to this part. You’re still hitting the same note with the four-panel pace, which makes for a quick read, but the story, paradoxically, is moving at a crawl.

You’ve finally got something interesting. This is your P1, or P2 at the latest. Everything else is crap that can be cut/condensed, which gets you to something interesting that much faster.

This script is a big, fat, elderberry bush. Not good.

PAGE #7 (6 Panels):

PANEL 1: Greg is walking away, and Denise is starting to follow him. In the background, Adam and Bruce look concerned, knowing exactly what’s coming. One of them reaches out, as if attempting to stop her. (Another example of a spotty description. Adam and Bruce are in the background. Since Denise is moving away from them to reach Greg, it means that she’s moving towards the reader. That also means Greg is walking towards the reader too. Why not come out and say so? Why make the artist decipher your panel description to get to what you mean?)

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

Thank God for Adam and my partner, Bruce Conway.

BRUCE:

Denise — !

PANEL 2: Smaller panel. Denise is grabbing Greg by the shoulder from behind. (Where’s the camera? Is Greg in the foreground and both of them are facing us? Is it a side shot? For all we know, it could be a close-up of Denise’s hand grabbing Greg’s shoulder. Sloppy, Wes!)

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

They’re the only ones keeping me sane at this point.

CHAMBERS:

Hey!

PANEL 3: Denise has spun Greg around and is punching him in the throat. Onlookers gasp in the background. (Where were these people in the previous two panels? You got dropsies!)

CHAMBERS:

Listen, ASSHOLE, we both know my dad made some enemies, and they’re most likely friends of yours. (No. There’s no way that she can spurt such a mouthful in the time it takes for a punch to connect. Anyway, did she really expect him to listen while he was getting his windpipe shattered? What I think is happening here is that you have a moving panel because you’re in fact asking for two beats: 1. She punches him. 2. She talks to him. In any case, your SFX would logically go BEFORE the dialogue.)

SFX:

THWOCK

PANEL 4: Greg’s now on the ground. POV is over Greg’s shoulder. Denise stands over him interrogating him on the spot, glaring as she yells. (Are the gaspers gone having gasped their one and only gasp? Also try to not use verbs in your panel descriptions that refer to talking, things like “interrogating” and “yelling”. We can see she’s talking; she has dialogue lines. What the artist will need to know is if she’s grabbing him still of if she’s holding her fist back threateningly.)

CHAMBERS:

WHO KILLED HIM?

PANEL 5: Denise has pulled Greg in close, by the collar of his shirt. (There, that’s better. Now we only need to know the camera angle.)

CHAMBERS:

TELL ME!

(CONTINUED NEXT PAGE)

PANEL 6: Bruce and Adam have pulled Denise off of Greg and are fighting to restrain her. Greg is stumbling away, one hand on his throat. (Where’s the camera? Who’s in the background and who’s in the foreground? Or is it a side shot? And where are those dang gaspers? It’s like they came in to get their gasp on and then bugged out.)

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

They look out for me just like I’ve looked out for them.

GREG:

KAFF — !! (You don’t need a double dash here. No one’s interrupting his coughing. For something like coughing, you’ll want what letterers call “fireflies”, little spittle-like marks on either side of the word. You can use asterisks in your script instead, like this: *KAFF*)

CAPTION/CHAMBERS:

In fact — I don’t know what I’d do without them. (I know this is a matter of style, but I suggest using a comma instead of the double-dash. )

It only took 6 pages to get to a place where there are more than four panels. Like I said, this is already back on the shelf.

So, lessee. Remember how I talk about consistency? It isn’t just with the format. It’s also with what is and isn’t seen. You can’t have people dropping in and out the way you do. And if they’re gasping, that should be heard. Rightfully, an editor worth their salt would cut the gasp and just leave the shocked expressions on their faces, which means what you’re relly going for is a shocked expression, not an actual gasp.

This means you have to learn to be a bit more specific in what you’re asking for. You have the right idea, you’re on the right track, because you didn’t put in the sfx for it; you just need to think it through a bit more.

Now, you have something that’s impossible, with interrupted Time, as well as a stupid question.

Asking the guy who killed her father is just bad dialogue. First, she punches him in the throat. Second, she asks him a question, and seems to be expecting an answer.

When I was a kid, I took martial arts. We would end up sparring a lot. This was in someone’s converted garage, so it wasn’t a formal school. We didn’t have pads or anything like that. So, I’m sparring my cousin. He has me by about six inches and maybe eighty pounds. More than likely more. (Yes, I was scrawny, and he was big boned, as well as older than I.) So we’re sparring, and I’m late to a block of a knife hand to the throat. (It was slow, but someone had just walked in, and it distracted me.) I couldn’t talk for a little bit, and breathing was…interesting. My voicebox was sore for a few days, and my voice a bit raspy.

That was from a tap.

You’re talking about a punch to the throat, and then a question. It doesn’t work.

Then, the question itself is just bad. Why not ask why water is wet? Or why geese fly south for the winter. Or why I ask so many questions to make an example. Even if he has the answer, he’s not going to tell, the least reason being he was just punched in the damn throat.

This page, because it has some action, should have had a smaller panel count. This one should have been four. (HA!) This page should have ended with the punch, with the other two panels moved to the next page, possibly.

Once again, your pacing is off.

PAGE #8 (5 Panels):

PANEL 1: Bruce and Adam are on either side of Denise walking in the opposite direction of the conflict. Denise glares over her shoulder at Greg who is in the background nursing his neck. (OK so the trio is walking towards us. However, that means you have the main character looking away from the reader. I suggest reversing this shot so we have a better look at her face.)

GREG:

Crazy broad!

ADAM:

You can’t just ATTACK someone like that.

CHAMBERS:

He knows SOMETHING, Adam.

BRUCE:

MAYBE, but if he starts acting up, Internal Affairs will be right back on top of him.

PANEL 2: The three are in a cemetery parking lot. Adam has opened the passenger side door of his Honda Accord. Denise is preparing to get in. (You can’t draw the act of “preparing” to do something. Either she’s getting in or she’s standing next to the car. Anything in-between will look awkward when drawn.)

ADAM:

We’re gonna head back to my place to share some memories and have some drinks.

ADAM:

You coming, Bruce?

PANEL 3: Denise is now sitting in the passenger seat of the car. The window is rolled down. Bruce and Adam still stand outside, facing one another, Denise between them.

BRUCE:

I’m headed to a bar, actually.

BRUCE:

I guess we all GRIEVE in our own ways. (There’s no reason for this to be in a separate bubble. There’s no change of thought or even subject, and there’s no gain in dramatic effect from having this last sentence split from the other.)

ADAM:

Fair enough.

BRUCE:

Again, I’m SORRY about Adrian.

(CONTINUED NEXT PAGE)

PANEL 4: Tight on Denise looking up at Bruce.

CHAMBERS:

Thanks, Bruce.

CHAMBERS:

See you tomorrow? (Same here.)

BRUCE:

Absolutely.

PANEL 5: Bruce waves while Adam climbs into the driver’s seat, waving back.

BRUCE:

Keep her out of TROUBLE, Adam.

CHAMBERS:

Good luck with that! (Where is she? She’s not even on panel as far as I can tell. When you said “Bruce waves while Adam climbs into the driver’s seat, waving back.”, I assumed the camera had swung to the other side of the car to focus on the people mentioned who are actually doing something in the panel. That would mean that Denise is now out of sight. This is yet another example of how not giving the info the artist needs can lead to confusion.)

Know what? Let’s just run this puppy down.

Format: Flawless victory.

Panel Descriptions: These need a LOT of help. (This is also a classic example of why I don’t do “grades” or “stars” or somesuch like that.) Most of them are unusable, missing basic elements (like, describing the panel). But like I said, some of it is like a screenplay. Tell me, Wes: are you a screenplay writer? I see it. I just want to confirm it.

Anyway, a LOT of work. I think the first few Bolts & Nuts articles will help with that.

Pacing: Criminal! No other way to describe it. You stole elderberries from a few other places, and it’s finally caught up to you here.

This is padding at its worst. The first few pages? Easily condensed into a single page, and then you can cut to P6. That means the bulk of what was on pages 1-5 are almost-useless crap.

The word of the day is variety. That means you have to mix things up. Most of these pages are four panels long. Very fast to read, and very one-note. That means that it’s very boring. Boring, Wes, is death.

Work on varying the number of panels. Go read any comic in your stack. You’ll see that most pages are five-to-seven panels in length. Shoot for five-to-seven panels per page. Rising action means lower panel count. If you want to slow the action down, you raise the panel count.

Dialogue: I don’t have much of a problem with it (except for that one soliloquy during the punch). The dialogue isn’t great. It’s serviceable. It definitely needs a polish and some punch.

The biggest fault with the dialogue is that it doesn’t come across as female. It comes across as a guy trying hard to sound like a female on paper. You haven’t yet found the voice for this character. Would it be terrible to call this bad transvestite dialogue? I mean, you can look at the “girl” from across the room, and clearly see that it’s a guy wearing makeup and a wig.

Too much?

Content: I didn’t go any further than this. As a reader, it held no interest for me at all. It dragged while being a quick read, and didn’t elicit a single desire to do anything except get it over with. Not good, Wes.

Editorially, this needs a complete rewrite. I’m talking from the plot up. I’d raze this, and then we would go over the plot, talking about what it is you want to accomplish with this issue, and then I’d help you work toward that goal.

No, this isn’t salvageable the way it is. There’s more comments than script here. Clearly, you have your work cut out for you.

And that’s all there is this week. Check the calendar to see who’s up next!

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Category: Columns, 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 [email protected] for rate inquiries.

Comments (2)

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  1. Wes Locher says:

    Hi Steven!

    First, I’d like to thank you for your generosity in reading the script and providing feedback. There are definitely more notes than actual script, but all of it very worthwhile.

    Since I sent this a few months back, I’ve completely re-written this issue, and coincidentally enough, started it at the same point that you suggested.

    I agree that this script suffers with panel descriptions, which I attribute to working with past artists who have suggested that I OVERWROTE the descriptions (not anything Allen Moore-like, but they were beefy). Obviously it’s going to differ depending on who you’re working with and how much they want to contribute from a storytelling and design standpoint, but this was helpful for me to see that I may have gone from one polar opposite to the other. I’ve done a little bit of screenwriting and definitely see the similarities in format (maybe I missed my calling!)

    Even after re-writing, I still feel that there’s an area where I need to insert some back story, but am still having trouble finding the best way to deliver it to the reader (keeping show, don’t tell in mind), out of pure curiosity, what tactic would you use in condensing the first five pages down to one?

    I know that your goal is to help people make better comics and your mission has been accomplished with this particular script!

    Thanks again, Steven! I’m gonna take another read and see what other questions come to mind!

    Wes Locher

  2. Jules Rivera says:

    @Steven: I don’t know, Steven. I’ve gotta call you on the carpet for the whole “she doesn’t sound enough like a girl” bit. This female is established as a tough, drug enforcement cop. No, she’s not going to talk like a dainty lady. I worked around ex-military guys for years and I can promise you my time at that place certainly reinforced my dudely speaking mannerisms.

    Denise may have been lacking in personality or energy a little bit, but how exactly is she supposed to sound “girly?” Is she supposed to twirl her hair when she speaks? Say “like” every other line? As an actual, biological, ovary-having female, I’m eager to know.

    @Wes: At that funeral scene, I would’ve actually made Denise more pissed off and irrational. This is a guy she suspects is in cahoots with people who killed her father. Her father. HER HERO. “Who killed him?” would more likely be substituted with white-hot rage and sputtering.

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