Hello, and welcome once again to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a Brave One who is no stranger to these parts: Liam Hayes! As usual, we have Steve Colle in blue, me in red, and Liam bringing the
A sheet of ice as the background, with the words carved into it. This’ll be a left-hand page. (Probably for the inside of the front cover, right?)
TITLE: SUNMAKER (Is this the title of the book or the title of this particular story? If the title of the book, is it really necessary to repeat what’s on the front cover? If the title of the story, it works. Which is it?)
CAPTION: “BEAUTY IS UNBEARABLE, DRIVES US TO DESPAIR, OFFERING US FOR A MINUTE THE GLIMPSE OF AN ETERNITY THAT WE SHOULD LIKE TO STRETCH OUT OVER THE WHOLE OF TIME.” – ALBERT CAMUS (Good quote.)
What do we have here? If it’s the inside front cover, and we’re talking about a list of credits and such in this location, then we’re more than likely talking about a graphic novel.
But here’s the question: the words: is it just “Sunmaker” that’s carved into the ice, or is it the quote, as well? Or is it both? I don’t know, and the artist is going to ask.
Steve’s question is also valid. Repeating the title of the book makes little sense on the inside front cover.
PAGE 1 (Six Panels)
PAGE 1, Panel 1
Establishing shot of the Sunmaker Vault’s entrance. (Here’s where I’d write something like “see reference pages attached”, just so we know where the information is coming from. It might not have been a bad idea to write the description here instead of including it in the reference pages.)
PAGE 1, Panel 2
We’re now inside the vault, in a small room in which we see Young Tibhan and Jollen. Young Tibhan is sat on the floor in the middle of the room, happily playing with colourful wooden blocks. Jollen is stood in a doorway on the right, holding a painting in one hand, without showing a shred of emotion. At the moment, we can only see the back of the painting. The room holds a bed in one corner, a desk in another, and a bookshelf filled with old dusty tomes.
YOUNG TIBHAN: YES (Comma-fail) FATHER?
JOLLEN: COME HERE PLEASE.
PAGE 1, Panel 3
Side shot. Young Tibhan is now stood just in front of Jollen, looking down at the painting in his hand and smiling. Jollen stares sternly at Young Tibhan. (Who is on the left and who’s on the right?)
TIBHAN: YOU FOUND MY GIFT! DID YOU LIKE–
PAGE 1, Panel 4
Jollen is angrily backhanding Young Tibhan in the face, hitting him in the nose. Young Tibhan’s shrieks in pain as blood sprays from his nose and he falls backwards towards the ground. (Consider your camera positioning. Is Jollen in the background hitting Young Tibhan into the foreground, head turned towards us as he falls backwards? That would be a powerful shot.)
SFX: WHAKK (Exclamation mark)(Not needed, but I get what you’re saying. This is a writer’s preference.)
YOUNG TIBHAN: UHH! (I’d suggest letting the sound effect of the hit stand alone in this panel. The “Uhh!” isn’t necessary and detracts from the power of the “Whakk”. Let the boy’s facial expression speak for his reaction.)
PAGE 1, Panel 5
Young Tibhan is now on the floor on his side, looking up at his father. Jollen stands over him, holding the painting out towards him and looking angered. Angle the camera so that we’re low, looking over Tibhan’s head and up at Jollen. As Jollen is holding the painting out to Tibhan, the reader can clearly see it. The painting is of a scenic lake over which Young Tibhan has drawn a red tulip in crayon. (You’ll notice that this shot is very similar to what I suggested for the previous panel description. I point this out because in some panels so far you’re very descriptive and mention camera positioning, while others are more lax. Be consistent with the amount of details you include. Otherwise you leave the visuals open for interpretation in some and stricter in others. Help your artist out.)
JOLLEN: YOU HAVE TARNISHED IT!
YOUNG TIBHAN: B-BUT… (Double dash here instead of ellipsis marks as he’s stumbling over his words.) IT WAS FOR YOU.
JOLLEN: YOU MUSTN’T DESTROY WHAT LITTLE BEAUTY WE HAVE LEFT!
PAGE 1, Panel 6
Face shot of Young Tibhan as he is on the floor on his side, looking sad. Tears leak from his eyes and mingle with the blood that pours from his nose.
JOLLEN (OFF-PANEL): *SIGH*
JOLLEN (OFF-PANEL): COME. THERE’S SOMETHING YOU NEED TO SEE.
To note, I get the impression that the father isn’t heartless, and yet he has just caused his son’s nose to bleed profusely and possibly break. I’d expect more than a simple sigh in response. In other words, amp up the emotion or lessen the effect of the blow.
We finally have a true P1 on the books.
Know what this is missing? A light source. If we’re in a vault of some sort, and in a room within the vault, where is the light coming from?
But here’s what Liam has gotten good at doing: he makes you want to turn the page. It isn’t automatic. He’s setting up the story so that you’re interested and want to turn the page.
There’s also something else going on here. The painting that’s causing all the trouble? That’s going to need a different style of art for it and the tulip, as well as a different style of coloring. That’s something to consider, as well.
Now, Liam is getting away from writing from left to right in some instances. That clarity will help your artist. You won’t have to get the questions that they’ll ask.
Generally, this page works.
PAGE 2 (Five Panels)
PAGE 2, Panel 1
We’re now inside the Vault’s large main archive. The dark metal walls are lined with tall bookshelves holding hundreds of old tomes and scrolls of paper. Large unsorted piles of paintings, sculptures and statues are visible in each corner. In the centre of the room is large dark metal disc, upon which burns a massive white fire. Beside it is a pile of small brick-sized chunks of the Second Sun. At the back of the room are the vault’s large entrance doors. Young Tibhan stands just in front of the fire with Jollen, staring at it with curiosity. Jollen is knelt down with one hand on Young Tibhan’s shoulder, smiling proudly. (One important thing that isn’t mentioned is what is happening with Tibhan’s nose. It should still be bleeding profusely, yet he isn’t covering it with a cloth or with his hand. This should be continued through the rest of this past tense scene.)
JOLLEN: THERE IT IS, MY BOY. ALL THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE SUNMAKERS, EVERYTHING THAT MAKE US WHO WE ARE, PRESERVED AS PURE ENERGY.
JOLLEN: THE ART, MUSIC, HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHIES OF AN ENTIRE RACE.
PAGE 2, Panel 2
Mid shot of Tibhan and Jollen both staring at the fire. Tibhan is awed and Jollen is smiling. (Just a bit more detail here. Is the camera facing the duo? Is the fire in the foreground?) (Tibhan ends with a question, but doesn’t have a questioning look on his face. The last thing said should reflect the panel description.)
YOUNG TIBHAN: IT’S BEAUTIFUL, FATHER.
JOLLEN: INDEED. AS THE LAST, IT’S UP TO US TO PROTECT IT FROM OUR DEAD WORLD.
YOUNG TIBHAN: DEAD? HOW DID THE WORLD DIE?
PAGE 2, Panel 3
Angle the camera so that we’re behind Jollen and Tibhan. The gap between them allows us to see the fire.
JOLLEN: OUR ANCESTORS HAD A POWER SOURCE, A BEACON OF FROZEN ENERGY, KNOWN AS THE SECOND SUN.
JOLLEN: BUT LIKE MOTHS TO A FLAME, IT DREW THE EYES OF THE GODS.
PAGE 2, Panel 4
Face shot of Jollen as he shows a stern expression.
JOLLEN: EACH FOUGHT FOR A CLAIM UNTIL IT SPLIT, POISONING THE LAND COLD AND KILLING (NOT ONLY) THE GODS, BUT ALSO MOST OF OUR KIND.
PAGE 2, Panel 5
Close up of one of Jollen’s hands taking taking a small chunk from the pile of sun chunks.
JOLLEN (OFF-PANEL): OUR ANCESTORS WERE FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO SAVE SOME.
So, we’re at the end of P2. And you know what? I’m intrigued.
Here’s Liam’s main problem, though: pacing. And I’m not talking about what’s happening in the panels and the page, I’m talking about the pacing of the dialogue.
There are times when he needs to break the balloons up a bit. Give it some space to breathe. I tell Liam that all the time: break this sentence or that out into its own balloon.
But this is what you want to do, folks. You want to write something, and have the readers continually turning the pages. That’s what Liam’s got here. He fixes the pacing, and keeps the continuity from page to page, and the readers will go along.
Other than that, and what’s above, I’ve got nothing.
PAGE 3 (Five Panels)
PAGE 3, Panel 1
Side shot of Jollen handing Tibhan the sun chunk with a smile. Tibhan looks at it with confusion.
JOLLEN: GO AHEAD AND THROW IT IN. IT SUSTAINS THE FIRE.
PAGE 3, Panel 2
A close up of the fire as Young Tibhan has thrown the chunk into it. The chunk has broken apart in the flames Use motion lines to show its path into the fire. (Moving panel. This doesn’t work.)
SFX (SUN CHUNK): FFFSSSSSSHHH
PAGE 3, Panel 3
Medium close up of Young Tibhan and Jollen, both looking forward at the fire. Jollen with a stern expression and Young Tibhan with intrigue.
JOLLEN: THIS IS YOUR LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS, TIBHAN.
PAGE 3, Panel 4
Face shot of Young Tibhan as he continued to look intrigued.
JOLLEN (OFF-PANEL): WITHOUT THIS BEAUTY, THE WORLD WOULD BE NOTHING.
PAGE 3, Panel 5
Cut forward fifteen years to a face shot of Tibhan as he’s stood outside of the vault, looking intrigued. Tibhan is stood somewhere in the frozen wasteland, at midday. Just make the background static white. To ease the transition, the composition of this panel should be near to that of the previous.
(This last panel actually belongs at the top of the next page in order to keep the time periods separated. Let the quoted dialogue be the transition from page to page. You can have it as a small square panel in the top left corner overlaid onto the large panel there.)
CAPTION (JOLLEN): “YOU WOULD BE NOTHING.”
TIBHAN: OF THE THINGS I EXPECTED TO GREET ME…
P3 is down, and what do we have?
Well, let’s look at it. Its a right-handed page, yes? Even pages on the left, odd pages on the right. This is a page turn.
And it’s boring. It’s the first truly boring page here. It doesn’t make me want to turn the page and see what happens next.
Forgiveable? I can say so. But still, it’s boring.
And the moving panel? It isn’t terrible, but I’m appalled at finding it here. Why? Because Liam knows better.
Boring page with a moving panel. Let’s hope this was just a dip and that it gets back on track.
PAGE 4 (Four Panels)
PAGE 4, Panel 1
Big Panel. We’re looking over Tibhan’s head, and a good distance in front of him we see the Bone Fortress. Its doors are guarded by two Suneaters.
TIBHAN: …A FORTRESS CARVED FROM GOD’S THE GODS’ BONES WAS NOT ONE. (How does he know it’s carved from bones of the gods?)
PAGE 4, Panel 2
Mid shot of the Suneaters who guard the Bone Fortress’ entrance. The one on the left is Suneater 1, and the one on the right Suneater 2.
SUNEATER 1: SOMETHING APPROACHES. ITS BLOOD SINGS DEFIANCE.
PAGE 4, Panel 3
Zoom out so we see Tibhan stood a few feet away from the Suneaters, staring at them with intrigue. Suneater 1 points at Tibhan, whereas Suneater 2 just stands idle.
SUNEATER 1: HMM… WARMBLOOD…
SUNEATER 1: YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE.
PAGE 4, Panel 4
Medium close up of Tibhan as he holds up his combustion glove and gives off a small smile.
SFX (COMBUSTION GLOVE): *BLIP*
TIBHAN: ACCORDING TO MY FRIEND HERE, THERE’S A REMNANT OF THE SECOND SUN IN YOUR LOVELY ABODE.
TIBHAN: MIGHT I BURROW (Do you mean to say “BORROW” instead of BURROW?) A CHUNK OR TWO?
P4! What do we have?
From panel 2 to panel 3, Tibhan teleports from where he was to being just in front of the Suneaters. Not good. There was too much distance to cover. There should have been either another panel between them for pacing, or panel 2 should have placed him closer than he was.
The other thing that disappointed me was the Suneaters themselves. Liam’s had Teardrinkers, other various kinds of flesh-eaters, and now Suneaters. I have my fair share of stories with a religious slant, but really, does every story have to be set in some sort of barren wasteland and have some sort of eating/drinking thing going on? Because that’s how it seems.
It wouldn’t be so bad if all of these stories shared the same universe, but they don’t. Basically, I’m looking for a new trick.
Anyway, back to this story.
So, we’re outside the vault. Does that mean we’re now on the surface? I’m in a white void, and I’m not getting any sense of place. What time of day is it? Where’s the light source?
Then, there’s the lie of impossibility. We’re going to work this one backwards:
Panel 4: Tibby holds up his combustion glove. With me, right?
Panel 3: We have a zoomed out shot of Tibby looking at the eaters.
See the problem? There’s no mention of the glove! So, the glove is magically delicious. There was ample opportunity to mention it, and it was nowhere to be found. Shameful.
However, mistakes aside, we have a return of my interest. That’s always a good point.
PAGE 5 (Four Panels)
PAGE 5, Panel 1
Face shot of Suneater 1.
SUNEATER 1: I’MI AM (just to keep it as proper English, as you have elsewhere for this character.) WARNING YOU, WARMBLOOD. LEAVE!
PAGE 5, Panel 2
Side shot of Tibhan and the Suneaters. Tibhan appears stern as he stands facing them.
TIBHAN: PLEASE… THE FIRE OF MY ANCESTORS IS GOING OUT. I ONLY NEED A SMALL AMOUNT, ELSE ALL THE SUNMAKER KNOWLEDGE WILL BE LOST.
SUNEATER 1: SUNMAKER? THE SUNSHARD WAS NOT MADE. IT IS THE REMAINS OF THE GREAT BURST, WHEN COLD WASHED AWAY ALL UGLINESS.
TIBHAN: IT WAS MY PEOPLE’S POW–
PAGE 5, Panel 3
Wide shot of Suneater 1 as he has one hand of the hilt of his bone Katana, suggesting he is about to unsheathe it.
SUNEATER 1: THE SUNSHARD BRINGS US BEAUTY!
SUNEATER 1: I WILL LISTEN TO YOUR HERESIES…
PAGE 5, Panel 4
Big Panel. Wide shot of Suneater 1 in the air with his bone Katana above his head, ready to strike down on Tibhan (off-panel).
SUNEATER 1: …NO LONGER!
And with P5, we have the beginning of action!
Know what else we have? Well, aside from the lack of expression on the suneater’s face in panel 1, we have a lack of sense going on.
Let’s go back to P2, and let’s apply some thought and speculation.
So, on P2, there’s this great fire burning. It’s described as being huge. Then, there’s a small pile of rocks. We’re told that the rocks sustain the fire. We all know that fire consumes, and that the bigger the fire, then the more fuel it consumes. So, how the small pile of rocks can sustain the fire is kinda beyond me.
Not even how they sustain the fire, but how they’re able to do it for years. Because we see Tibby as a boy, and then we use the jump-cut to rapidly age him. The fire’s still burning, but they seem to be running low, because Tibby is now out on a mission to get more.
I’m not seeing the sense in that.
Then we have an irrational person about to cut Tibby in half over what he perceives as a slight. I’m not seeing how what was said translates into a slight, let alone a life-ending one.
It’s like saying, “Hi, how are you?” and you react with, “What do you mean my car is ugly? I’m gonna KILL YOU!” And then I bring around my bazooka to shoot your face off. Doesn’t make sense, right? Neither does this reaction.
Your logic has broken down horribly right here. This definitely needs to be reworked.
As for the Hassan-chop that’s about to happen, it would be more effective if the ‘eater had partially drawn his sword first. However, he would still needed to have reason to do so. I’m not seeing any reason here.
To paraphrase Jack Nicholson as the Joker: this page needs an enema! If you’re going to do action, make sure it has a reason for being. It can’t be gratuitous. This is gratuitous.
PAGE 6, (Four Panels)
PAGE 6, Panel 1
Big Panel. Side shot of a determined Tibhan shooting flames from his combustion glove at a mid-air Suneater 1. Suneater 1 drops his Katana and screams as the flames incinerate him. (This needs two panels for pacing.)
SFX (FLAMES): FWOOAR
SUNEATER 1 (YELLING): ARGHHH!!
PAGE 6, Panel 2
Suneater 1 lies as a burnt corpse between Tibhan and Suneater 2. Suneater 2 looks down at the corpse as Tibhan grins at him.
TIBHAN: IT DOES THAT, TOO. BLESS MY ANCESTORS FOR THEIR INGENUITY. (Comma-fail.)
PAGE 6, Panel 3
Mid shot of Suneater 2 as he holds up a clenched fist which glows with an icy blue energy, like that of the Second Sun.
SUNEATER 2: YOU MAY HAVE WARMBLOOD TECHNOLOGIES, BUT THE COLD HEARS SUNEATER SONG–
PAGE 6, Panel 4
Big Panel. Over the top of Suneater 2′s shoulder as he is shooting a chunk of ice from his glowing hand at Tibhan. Tibhan stares at the approaching chunk of ice with shock.
SUNEATER 2: –AND OBEYS!
Assuming that P5 now has a reason for the fighting, this just needs to be better paced. Pacing is killing you.
PAGE 7 (Four Panels)
PAGE 7, Panel 1
Big Panel. Side shot of Tibhan as the ice chunk hits him in the chest, shattering on impact and knocking him backwards in pain.
PAGE 7, Panel 2
Angle the camera so that we have Tibhan on unconscious in the foreground, and Suneater 2 in the background looking down at him.
SUNEATER 2: DON’T WORRY, WARMBLOOD. THE WARMTH WILL LEAVE YOU UPON DEATH.
PAGE 7, Panel 3
Medium close up of Suneater 2 as he unsheathes his bone Katana. Use motion lines to show its path.
SUNEATER 2:YOU WILL BECOME BEAUTIFUL.
PAGE 7, Panel 4
Big Panel. Suneater 2 is now standing over Tibhan with his Katana above his head, primed to strike down.
SUNEATER 2: ALL THINGS RETURN TO THE COLD!
I’m very pleased with how this script turned out. Sure there are a couple of points such as the consistency with the bloody nose and the need to move a panel to a new page, but generally speaking, I’m happy with most of it. Great formatting, readable dialogue (especially for fantasy), and pretty strong panel descriptions. Of note is the fact that you provided visual descriptions of characters and structures as a precursor to starting the script, so even if some description is missing, it’s in the reference material for the most part. Just be sure to finish off some descriptions in regards to camera positioning as there were a couple of instances where they could definitely help the visual interpretation. Nice work, Liam!
Let’s run it down!
Format: Flawless Victory! (I wasn’t expecting anything else.)
Panel Descriptions: Not bad. Don’t forget your light sources when doing your establishing shots, and don’t forget to make sure you have a good description. I hate being in a white void, and that’s where I was. Not good.
Also, make sure your panel descriptions aren’t cramped. Your moving panel isn’t cramped, but you tried to fit two panels worth of action into a single panel on P6. Not good at all.
Pacing: This is one of the weakest points of the story. And even then, it isn’t that weak.
Your dialogue needs to be better paced in places (which is why everyone needs an editor), and the movement of characters from panel to panel needs to be better paced. As you can see, the one thing I harped on time and again was the pacing. You fix that, and this will be a stronger piece.
Another thing, while I’m here: this is feeling like another graphic novel. Why do I say that? Because we’re 7 pages in, and I still don’t know what the story is about. With graphic novels, you have the time to be a bit more leisurely in the pacing. With a regular comic, you don’t. Just remember that, just because you can be leisurely doesn’t always necessarily mean that you should be. Get some story in there soon in order to keep the reader hooked.
Dialogue: I have nothing but good things to say about the dialogue, until we get to the ‘eaters. That’s when Sense and Sensibility went out the window, and Nonsense and Mindless Violence took their place.
What is there is eminently readable, until you stop to think about it. That isn’t good. You shouldn’t have your reader going “whaaaa?” when reading, and that’s exactly what I did. I know that you wanted some action in there, but the reason given doesn’t hold up. Your dialogue is going to need a rewrite in order to make sense.
Content: It’s another Liam story. The same notes being struck, with possibly the same outcomes. As a reader, I might just pass it by, because even though it’s a new book, I’ve more than likely already read this story from you. I shouldn’t feel that way as a reader. Every story should be fresh and new. This just feels like you’re going over the same ground to me.
Editorially, this doesn’t seem to need much direction. However, what I’d tell you to do is to not put this into production for a while. You seem to be striking the same notes, and it’s getting boring.
I remember listening to Metallica’s Master of Puppets as a kid. There seemed to be a standard guitar riff in almost all of their songs. It was also in their Black album, as well as Load. (I think it was in Re-Load, but it’s been a while since I’ve listened to that album.) After a while, you come to look for it, and then, you start to wonder if that’s the only trick they know.
So, from an editorial perspective, I’d tell you to hold off on putting this into production, and put energy into getting a different type of story produced, something outside of the “Liam Zone.” Possibly get a few stories out there before returning to this one. But that’s just me.
And that’s all we have for this week. Check the calendar to see who’s next!