Hello, and welcome to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a new Brave One in the form of Wolf Beaumont! Remember, stuff in blue is Steve Colle, and I’m in the red font of doom. Let’s see what Wolf brings us in
(First off, I need to stress how terrible the formatting is. As an editor or even as submissions editor, formatting is key to getting a good review before getting to the body of the script. Seeing this, the way the spacing is is an issue, the pages aren’t separated properly, the page numbers go from lower case to capitals, all show “amateur” and would result in this going into the garbage can. This seriously needs to be cleaned up before it gets seen past here.)
A full page spread that is reminiscent of a fairytale-ish chapter page from a book. The title is the only feature and is elaborately detailed. (This needs to be better defined as just any old elaborate detail will not suit the book or its contents. Be more specific about design elements and provide some visual reference.)
TITLE: Chapter One
It’s like this, folks: I hate this page. It’s a complete waste of space and resources. You have to pay a letterer, possibly even more for signage font that’s more logo than anything else. You have to pay to have it printed, which is basically a blank page. If this is a 22 page story, then this is criminal, and I’d put the book down, ask for money back that I hadn’t yet spent, and then storm out the store when I don’t get it. If this is a graphic novel, this is still criminal. Why waste the space when you could be getting into the story?
I hate this page. At the very least, it should have been a splash page showing some sort of picture to get the reader interested, and “Chapter One” somewhere on the page. That’s the least. At the most, have a complete page of story, with “Chapter One” somewhere on the page.
A panoramic view of Venice, Italy in the 16th century at NIGHT. We are high up on the rooftops looking ACROSS the city. (Visual reference, please.)
1. CAPTION/Venezia: “When I was a child, my father told me a secret.”
2. CAPTION/locator: Venice, Italy 1502
(Note: Ensure the letterer knows to make a distinguishable difference in the design of the caption boxes between the spoken and location captions. Otherwise it will look like she is saying the location. Also, have the location listed first to help with flow going forward.)
We see a pair of black leather boots RUNNING along a sloped tiled roof, with a sense of urgency to their movement. (How do the boots look? Do they have a fold like Captain America’s boots or do they go above the knees? Be specific to help your artist along.)
CAPTION/Venezia: “An owl had found its way into our home and become trapped.”
FIVE VENETIAN GUARDS walk down a dark street carrying torches. The guard in the middle, leading the group is HUGO MOCENIGO, he is in his late twenties. All the men are in full armour, but Hugo is the only one not wearing a helmet. The street is empty except for the men. (Again, you need to give your artist visual reference. Imagine the amount of time it takes him or her to actually draw the pages. Now think of all the research they will need to do because you didn’t provide it to them. Not a fair trade, Wolf.)
CAPTION/Venezia: “It was so big and powerful that I screamed with fear.”
The DISTANT shadowed form of Venezia leaps across the rooftop gap of a small street, from our perspective BELOW. We see glimpses of venetian red mixed with midnight black in her costume, though her face is not revealed. (First, save your capitalization for the introduction of characters and not for haphazard scene descriptions. Make it count for the right reasons. Second, you mention her having a cloak in a future panel description. Why isn’t that here? This is important information that can definitely enhance the look of the image.)
CAPTION/Venezia: “My own screams startled the bird, it’s screeching as shrill as my own voice.”
Interior, a house. We see a kitchen area, with a lit hearth, a table and benches. Against the back wall is a door. (Again, visual reference.)
Somebody bangs on the door from outside.
SFX: Sound of loud bangs against a heavy wooden door.
(This is completely unacceptable. YOU need to figure out what that sound will be, not your letterer. If you’re not sure what it would be, ask others, but don’t place more work on your co-creators.)
1. CAPTION/Venezia: “It wasn’t until my father came into the room and helped the bird leave that I realised how foolish I had been.”
2. Hugo: “Open up in the name of your Doge.” (When writing script that has spoken dialogue in captions as well as text in balloons, keep the quotation marks for your captioned speaker as those quotations will be visually used in the boxes themselves. This also separates third-person narrative, such as your locator, from first-person dialogue.)
We see the door opened from an exterior perspective. CRISTINA DELLAMORA stands in the doorway. She is furious. Dressed in bedrobes hastily covered with other clothing, her hair is long and undone. She is in her late thirties and very beautiful despite her age beginning to show. (Reference clothing and the building for that time period.)
1. Cristina: “What is the meaning of this? Have you lost all manner of reason?”
2. Hugo: “We hold a warrant for the arrest of Vincenzo Dellamora. Where is he?”
First, let me say that there is no such thing as a proper format for scripting. Yes, some editors and companies prefer to have scripts in certain ways, but one way is not better than another. It’s all about consistency. Consistency isn’t difficult. You just keep doing the same thing the same way. Without consistency, your script will be round-filed pretty quickly.
For some of these mistakes, there is no excuse. There are tons of resources about scriptwriting all over the net, and more books than you can shake a stick at. If you don’t use your resources, you’re being lazy, because all you’re doing is creating more work for your creative team.
Let’s take it from the top.
Every page needs a page break. Not pressing the enter key until you get to the next page, but inserting a page break. If you don’t know how to insert a page break in the program you used, then you have to learn. There are tutorials online, as well as most word processing programs have help buttons with topics that tell you exactly how to do things.
Dialogue: captions are fine, but when you have quotation marks, you have to understand what you’re doing with them, how they affect the reading experience, and how they affect the creative team. I’m not going to write it all again. Just read these Bolts & Nuts on Dialogue. It’s in two parts.
One of the things that struck me about this second page was how the dialogue doesn’t seem to go together. A secret is told to the speaker, and then an owl gets into the house, and then screaming. I get the sense that you wanted the screams to have something to do with the secret, but instead it’s connected to the owl. I’m not seeing a connection to the secret, the owl, and the screams.
Then, there are the sound effects. As you have them, it’s lazy writing. You don’t leave the letterer to decide what a sound effect should sound like. That isn’t their job. Their job is to put on the page what you’ve written. Either change them, or take them out wholesale.
Finally, about the dialogue: the numbering. If you’re going to number the dialogue, then you don’t start the numbers over per panel. You start it over per page. Each element gets a number, in order, like this:
Old Man: blah
Old Woman: blah blah
Old Man: Heh blah heh
Cap: It was a dark and stormy night.
See how the Old Man has two speaking parts? See how they are separated by the Old Woman? See how they are in numerical order? That’s what you want to do, for the entire page. It doesn’t start over every panel, it starts over every page. Why every page? So you know at a glance how much dialogue there is on the page.
The panel descriptions need work. No, I’m not the biggest proponent of reference pics, but with period pieces, they’re helpful. Also, I’m not clearly seeing all the descriptions. The last couple of panels, I think you just moved the camera because you could, not because it made sense. Why go in the house, only to come back out in the next panel?
On the whole, this page generally works. It would work better if the dialogue worked together with itself in order to make sense. I’m hoping it gets interesting in the next couple of pages.
A panoramic side view. We see Venezia RUNNING along the rooftops, her cloak billowing behind her. But still NOT close enough to make out her form clearly. (Reference the setting.)
1. CAPTION/Venezia: “As my father held me in his arms, I asked him why I had been so scared.”
Interior shot of the kitchen. Close-up on the entrance. HUGO slaps CRISTINA to the floor, as he barges in with his men, slamming the door open. (Moving panel.)
SFX: Sound of the door slamming open.
(Again, YOU figure out sound effects.)
1. CAPTON/Venezia: “My father looked into my eyes and whispered the secret to me.”
2. HUGO: “Move woman, least (“lest”, not “least”) I hang you too.”
VINCENZO DELLAMORA charges at HUGO and his guards, out of the darkness, his sword drawn. He looks to be in his mid to late forties. Vincenzo’s shirt is unbuttoned and he looks like he has hurriedly dressed. His face is contorted in fury. (From which direction does he come?)
1. CAPTION/Venezia: “A truth that I shall never forget.”
2. Vincenzo: “No man lays a hand upon my wife and lives.”
Interior shot of the entrance. HUGO barely draws his own sword in time to block VINCENZO’s furious attack. (I’m confused. This is an interior shot of what entrance? If this is an interior shot of an entrance, then we should be looking outside, no? And you can’t show “barely” in comics. It will never look like what you want it to. You can come close with a grunt of effort on the part of a character, but it still won’t look like what you want it to. You have to learn what can and cannot be drawn.)
SFX: The sound of two swords clashing.
(Again, YOU figure it out.)
1. CAPTION/Venezia: “All of God’s creatures know fear.”
Both men’s swords slide into the locked X shape position, their faces INCHES from each other. Both look full of rage. (How close is the camera? Close-up, medium shot, or long shot?)
1. Hugo: “Treason! You’ll hang for this Dellamora.” (Comma-fail.)
2. Vincenzo: “Then I’d best send you ahead to keep me company, dog.”
So, it’s P3, and we have more of the same.
Camera angles aren’t necessary for all panel descriptions, however, the panel descriptions have to make sense. They also have to be able to be drawn.
When actions are being drawn, qualifiers to the action, such as “barely,” aren’t going to show up well. Quite often, they won’t show up at all, or will look like something else. Don’t qualify actions. Like Yoda, they either should or should not do actions. It’s like being a little bit pregnant. If you think of it that way, then you’ll get more mileage out of your imagery.
Something that I liked, though, was how you worked in a name where the reader can see it. However, as of this moment, the reader only knows one name. Three pages in, only two pages with art, and only one person is named. One person out of four. Hopefully, we’ll get to see more names soon.
As for the moving panel: you can only do one action per panel. Does he slap her or does he barge in and slam the door open? He can’t do both.
A wide shot, VINCENZO brings his sword in for a powerful waistline strike, but HUGO blocks.
1. CAPTION/Venezia: “But it is the courageous who overcome this condition.”
HUGO strikes VINCENZO under the chin with a strong blow from his elbow, knocking him backwards. (Again, consider your camera distance.)
A close-up of CHRISTINA still on the floor. HUGO’s sword closes to within an inch of her neck. She is terrified. (Why did Hugo suddenly turn his attention to Christina?? Was she a threat in some way? You didn’t mention her moving from her position or doing anything to warrant this action.)
1. CAPTION/Venezia: “And the brave (“courageous” and “brave” mean the same thing; why not use something like “strong”.) who thwart it.”
Wait, so we only get three panels on this page? For what? What happens on this page that is so striking that it only has three panels?
Okay, let me be the first to say, swordfighting in comics is a dull, uninteresting affair. Really and truly. You can’t see the techniques being used. You can’t see the action. It isn’t exciting.
To draw that out over a couple of pages is something of a waste of space, especially if you’ve only got three panels on this page.
There’s nothing on this page that stands out that is so dramatic, so raw and emotional, that three panels will suffice. Put more panels on this page.
And as Steve says, there really isn’t anything that warrants threatening the unnamed woman. (Readers don’t know her name yet.) If he was going to kill her, he should have done it when he had that moving panel to walk through the door. Why does he abandon the fight, having the upper hand, to threaten someone who hasn’t threatened him? Nonsensical.
A Venetian Captain, in his late fourties, RUNS along a backstreet in absolute TERROR, he’s completely flustered, manic eyed and desperate. (Again, save your caps for introducing the new character.) (The more important question is this: is he running from left to right, or from the bottom of the panel to the top, or from top to bottom. I already know that he isn’t running from right to left. The next important question is: where’s the camera?)
1. CAPTION/Venezia: “That night I slept in my father’s arms, protected…loved.”
(If you’re going to keep “protected” and “loved”, do one of two things: Either put “protected and loved” or “protected …”, then “… loved” in a new balloon.)
VINCENZO falls to his knees, abject with defeat, STARING at the floor forlornly. (Again, watch your caps.) (Moving panel.)
1 Vincenzo: “Have mercy Signore, I am defeated.” (Comma-fail, as the comma should be before “Signore”. A period should follow to create a new sentence of “I am defeated”.) (I nearly had a conniption at the lack of logic shown here. He was already defeated. There was no need for the threat. This crossed over into the stupid.)
2. CAPTION/Venezia: “ But it was to be the last time I saw him living.”
A wide shot of SELENA DELLAMORA’s bedroom, we see a little GIRL, about 10 years old, fast ASLEEP in her bed. Beautiful arching windows show the city of Venice by moonlight. (Watch the caps.)
CHRISTINA stands in the doorway of her home in the distance, watching HUGO and his men take VINCENZO away. Vincenzo’s head is slightly bowed and he looks to have given up hope. Above the house we see the same window that leads to Selena’s bedroom. (Good use of Caps here.) (I have no idea where the camera is. And that window? That window is detached from the house. Where does it lead? It doesn’t lead to Selena’s bedroom, unless that bedroom is attached to another building. The next question is: how is the reader supposed to know whose bedroom that window is a part of?)
1. Christina: “Vincenzo!!!”
Okay, so we have P5 down, and we’ve crossed into the unknown.
I was hoping that I wouldn’t have had to say it, but four story-pages in, and I still can’t tell, so I have to ask: are these two different timeframes? You have someone running across roofs, and then you have someone running in an alley, so I’m guessing they’re being chased. That seems to be one timeframe, with the other being the nonsensical swordfight and the taking away of Vincenzo, who’s finally named in a place where the reader can see it.
If this is two different timeframes, why do I have to infer it? The artist and colorist need to know, so they can take appropriate action. If it isn’t two different timeframes, then you’re going to have some ‘splainin’ to do, Lucy!
So, what do we have here? We have a first panel that doesn’t have any kind of camera angle to suggest exactly what it is that we’re looking at. Some of the info in that panel won’t be seen, depending on exactly how the artist decides they want to tackle it. The only way to show his face (and thus, know something of his age) is to have him running toward the camera. Sure, we could also be behind him and have him looking back, but that isn’t what was in the panel description. That kind of limits the choices, which also leeches out some of the drama. It would more than likely be better if there were two panels on this page dedicated to the chase. A decent artist would probably add another panel to the chase for pacing purposes.
You have “Vincent falls to his knees.” This is a moving panel. This is showing motion, and you can’t show motion in a static medium. Take a photo of a person waving. Now, describe exactly what the photo is showing. Is it showing a person waving? Of course not. It’s a static image. It is showing a person in the midst of waving. Static images.
Now, that last panel: If we place the camera in the distance, it would have to be raised somewhat in order to possibly see the form of the unnamed woman watching Vincenzo being led away. She’d be in the background, with Vinnie and the Guards (sounds like a rock band) in the mid- to foreground, coming toward us. You also mention the window. There’s no way for the reader to know what that window is, or what kind of building it is a part of. It isn’t part of the home, because you say that it’s over the house. It could just be floating there, ghostly. Doesn’t make any sense, does it?
We see the wild eyed CAPTAIN again from the first panel of page five. He is RUNNING down a street, the angle shows us the scene from the ground at his FEET. Above we see VENEZIA SWOOPING from the rooftops, heading straight for him. (Good.)
This is a splash page, and this is all we get?
Okay, fine, it’s on the correct page. You had to turn the page to get here. Good. I’m happy about that. But how is this image powerful enough to carry an entire page? This, Wolf, is padding. It feels like you were going for a Batman vibe, but fell short.
How is she swooping? Does she fly, or is she holding on to a rope? Is this supposed to look iconic? I have no idea, and neither does the artist.
And what happened to the caption/voiceover? Looks to me like a case of the dropsies.
VENEZIA is directly above the CAPTAIN, she is VERTICAL, head down,, her hands GRABBING the man’s shoulders as she falls.
VENEZIA THROWS the CAPTAIN over her head as she LANDS.
VENEZIA completes her landing with her LEFT LEG stretched out into a split, her RIGHT LEG bent under her crouching body. Her LEFT HAND rests against the street, her RIGHT HAND stretched out to balance her.
(Blend the previous three panels. Have Venezia from panel three, overlap on the right side across the first two panels, each a background event.)
(This is clear to me, but will it be clear to your artist? If you want to overlap, make the second overlap the first and then the third overlap the second.)
Our angle is just behind VENEZIA’s crouching form. We see down the alley, the CAPTAIN gets to his feet, vicious and feral. (Maintain emotion. One second the captain is scared, then vicious, then scared again. Instead, make him defensively scared, with doubt and the probability to make a mistake prevalent.) (Moving panel.)
The CAPTAIN rushes forward, snarling with rage (See the above comments), he holds a KNIFE in his hand.
VENEZIA dodges to the right, the knife missing her body by INCHES as the CAPTAIN LUNGES.
VENEZIA pins the CAPTAIN against the alley wall, her RIGHT FOREARM pinning his throat. He is terrified.
I don’t have much against this page at all. I had to work out the physics of the throw, but it can be done, and Steve commented on the rest.
I want to say a little something about the pacing, though. I’d rather see fewer panels coming directly out of a splash page. Four or five, not seven.
Moving panels, though. They’re easy to do, and they’re easy to sidestep. Want to know how to make a static image? Talk in the past tense. If you talk in the past tense, then you’re talking about completed actions. It’s an easy, simple trick. No, it doesn’t always work for what it is you want to do, but it will work the overwhelming bulk of the time.
And we have more dropsies.
Close up of VENEZIA’s face snarling inches from the CAPTAIN’s terrified own.
1. Captain: “Wh-what do you want with me?”
Shot of the CAPTAIN’s face, his eyes WIDE as he stares at VENEZIA’s talon against his RIGHT CHEEK. She slices across the cheek with one of them. (Moving panel. This is two separate actions.)
1. Captain: “Please…I beg of you, I don’t want to die!” (This sounds completely unnatural given he’s just been carved. A painful response of something like “ARGH!” would be more appropriate. If anything, pain first in one screech and then the comment in another balloon.)
VENEZIA’s mouth goes next to the CAPTAIN’s right ear. We only see the LOWER HALF of her face.
1. Venezia: “And yet everybody does.” (Comma-fail after “yet.”)
Same shot from panel two, the CAPTAIN is now staring forward at VENEZIA. She slices downwards on his cheek, forming a CROSS shaped scar.
1. Captain: “Mercy…” (Play up the pain and panic with “M-Mercy…”)
A wide daytime shot, we see VINCENZO DELLAMORA hanging from the GALLOWS, ravens in the air.
(Where did this suddenly come from? Here’s where you need to define for the artist that the panel shapes for past and present tense should be different, in order to avoid this type of confusion.)
Remember, folks, that when you start doing an internal monologue or a voiceover (because of the incorrect use of quotation marks, I can’t tell what the captions are supposed to be), you have to keep it going. If you start it on every page, then it has to be kept up. If you don’t or can’t, then you should remove it.
As for the two timeframes, you have to do a better job in linking the two. You’ve been running off at the keyboard for pages now, and have yet to definitively link the two timeframes. Some of it is dragged out, which means you’re boring the reader. Boring the reader is death.
We’re eight pages in (!), and I still have no idea what this story is about. That’s downright terrible.
Closeup of a KNIFE plunging into the CAPTAIN’s chest. (Where did the knife come from? There’s no build up to this action.) (The knife is magically delicious, unless it’s part of the character design. See? I gave you a way out.)
Closeup of the CAPTAIN’s eyes widening with shock, VENEZIA’s masked face REFLECTED in his eyes.
1. Captain: “Why?”
2. Venezia: “Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lost her father…”
The interior kitchen of CHRISTINA DELLAMORA’s home. VINCENZO is being bound, his back to the camera, his arms bound behind his back. We see the CAPTAIN as one of the guards tying him up. Meanwhile, HUGO has Christina PINNED to the table, he is leering over her, obviously about to RAPE her in front of his captive. (Period after “table” in this comma-fail.)
1. Hugo: “Don’t fret Signore, I’m sure I’ll keep her satisfied whilst you’re gone.”
Same shot from panel three on page 8. VENEZIA whispers into the CAPTAIN’s ear again.
1. Venezia: “Bad men broke into their home. They raped her mother and hung her father.”
Same shot from panel four, page eight. The CAPTAIN’s EYES roll up as he dies.
1. Captain: “Dellamora…”
The captain lies DEAD on the ground, the angle is from the ground near his head, looking down the dark street. We see Venezia’s CROSS shaped scar on his cheek. The man’s eyes are open.
Closeup of VENEZIA’s head, it is LIFTED, staring up at the sky. Through the mask we see TEARS in her eyes. She is sad and beautiful.
1. Venezia: “For you, papa.”
The same shot as the previous panel but pulled back slightly to show her neck and shoulders. Her father appears behind her, VINCENZO DELLAMORA. He looks very dead, like a rotting zombie. Nothing too hideous, but definitely dead. He leans over her LEFT shoulder, her neck tilted slightly as if receiving kisses along it. Her father WHISPERS into her ear. (Why not just have his ghost instead of a rotted state?)
1. Vincenzo: “No, for us, moi amore. For us.” (After researching this, it’s actually “amore mio”, not what you’ve written”. Also, another comma-fail as “NO.” should have a period.)
(The pacing on this last page would be better served with a Page 10. Cut it four and four so “Dellamora” is the first thing said on the next page, leaving a hook with the statement of the rape and hanging.)
Let’s just run this down.
Format: Formatting is easy. The easiest thing about scripting. I say this almost every week. The biggest thing about format is consistency. If a company gives you guidelines as to how they want scripts presented to them, such as Dark Horse, then you follow their guidelines to the letter. If you know an editor and they want things a certain way, then you follow that to the letter. Otherwise, the only thing you really have to do is be consistent.
I’m not going to call the formatting here terrible. Format is a personal preference. Some formats are better than others. Steve Colle doesn’t like this one, and that’s okay. The main thing is that you were consistent.
The only thing that kept you from a Flawless Victory was the lack of page breaks. Fix that, and you’ve fixed the easiest part of scripting.
Panel Descriptions: These need some work. You have to learn what can and can’t be drawn, and you have to learn to think in static images. Scriptwriting is hard. It is a learned trait, and there are lots of traps to fall into. The easiest trap are moving panels. Think in static images, write in static images. Again, the easiest way to think in static images is to write in the past tense. These things have just happened. It won’t work all the time, but it will most of it.
Pacing: Absolutely terrible. There is no distinction between what is past and present, leaving the reader to guess. You have actions that are drawn out, making this five page story into a nine-page sequence. You could have been in and out in five at the very most. Then there’s the dropping dialogue. This was just badly paced all around.
Dialogue: Some mistakes, but the dialogue is the best part of this story. I could actually see the characters saying what they say. I can’t condone some of the actions, but I can see them saying what they say. Just watch out for the dropsies. It happens all the time with new writers. They start something, and then don’t finish it. Keep your eye out for it.
Content: This isn’t crap, but I’ll call it uninteresting. I mean, you have a person who’s dressed up for revenge, chasing someone; you have a sword fight that ends stupidly; two different timeframes; and then a zombie at the end. A zombie that appears out of nowhere. This, Wolf, is muddled. As a reader, I’d want to know what the hell it was I just finished reading. I wouldn’t avoid you in the future, but I’d be skeptical of picking up a story with your name on it.
Editorially, this can be salvaged. We’d need to have a conversation as to what it is you’re trying to do with this world and this story, and then work from there. We’d condense the uninteresting parts, cut the stupid, and make sure the timeframes were clearly defined, as well as the dialogue. We’d find the interesting and inject it. There are questions here that need to be answered: who are these characters (none of the ones who truly matter are named in a place where the reader can see it), why did the unnamed woman decide to put on a costume and kill for revenge, how old is she now, how long did she train, is she just out for revenge or for something else, why did a zombie show up at the end, where does the floating window lead… Seven questions, and that’s without thinking hard. All of those need to be answered in order to begin to have a satisfying story.
Basically, what you have here isn’t satisfying. I’m not left wanting more. I’m not left wanting to know the answers to the questions. I’m basically left a little glad that it’s over, and that’s never something a writer wants to here.
There’s talent here. It just needs to be honed.
And that’s all there is for this week. Check the calendar to see who’s next!