Here we are with another instalment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a regular Brave One in Liam Hayes. As per the new norm, we have Steve Colle in blue, and me in red. Now, let’s see what Liam does with
PAGE 1 (Four Panels)
We start in a flashback, so feel free to experiment with panel borders and colour etc. (See this? Nice note for the artist and colorist. Can’t go wrong with this.)
PAGE 1, Panel 1
Establishing shot of a well furnished medieval bedroom, lit by candles on the stone walls. In the centre sits a large bed in which we see Richard, dressed in a night gown. Young William stands to the side of the bed, looking down at his father with sadness. Richard stares up at Young William with a look of pain.
RICHARD: W-WILLIAM… I…
CAPTION (WILLIAM): I WAS THERE WHEN MY FATHER DIED.
PAGE 1, Panel 2
Medium close up of Young William looking down at his father with worry as tears begin to flow.
YOUNG WILLIAM: …FATHER?
CAPTION (WILLIAM): I HAD WATCHED HIM SUFFER AND FADE TO NOTHING OVER MONTHS.
PAGE 1, Panel 3
Young William is now leaning onto the bed and hugging his father, weeping into his shoulder. Richard is now dead, with his blood-shot eyes and mouth open, hinting he died in pain.
YOUNG WILLIAM: FATHER…
YOUNG WILLIAM: *SOB* PLEASE WAKE UP.
(Here’s where, for these two lines of dialogue, I would give instruction to the letterer to create a wavy balloon shape to imitate the sobbing instead of having the word “sob” involved in the actual text. Then, to connect “Father…” to the next line, I’d add ellipsis marks before “please wake up.”)
CAPTION (WILLIAM): IT WAS LIKE STARING INTO THE FUTURE. NO MATTER HOW HARD I STRUGGLED…
PAGE 1, Panel 4
Big Panel. Face shot of Richard; his dead eyes staring at the camera.
CAPTION (WILLIAM): …THIS WAS TO COME.
So, we come to the end of P1, and as usual, Liam starts out pretty well. I’m liking this first page. It has pathos, and you feel it immediately.
What’s wrong with the page? Nothing, really. Steve made a good point about the word balloon, but other than that, this is a good case of backing away and letting the writer do their job.
PAGE 2 (Three Panels)
Change the colour and panel borders to denote that we’re now out of the flashback.
PAGE 2, Panel 1
We have a face shot of William smiling at the camera. William is inside the ark, but background isn’t important in this panel.
WILLIAM: BUT WITH YOU, IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE SO.
PAGE 2, Panel 2
Big Panel. ½ the page. Angle the camera so we’re looking over the top of William. (So we don’t see William’s face here, right? The camera is behind him?) In front of him, dead centre of the ark, we see The Immortal knelt on a metal pad, restrained down by a number of chains and shackles. Its connect to the ark’s strange machinery by wires which penetrate its skin. Beside The Immortal is console on which is a lever. The Immortal glares angrily at William. The inside of the ark is lit by daylight filtering in through the window.
WILLIAM: WITH YOU (Comma-fail) I CAN CLAIM PARADISE.
WILLIAM: DOES THAT ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS?
THE IMMORTAL: SUCH ARROGANCE.
PAGE 2, Panel 3
We have a wide shot showing most of the inner ark. William stands by the console with the lever, holding it with one hand, staring at the immortal with contempt. The immortal looks up at him with annoyance.
WILLIAM: ARROGANCE? YOU GODS SIT ON ETERNAL THRONES, KNOWING NOTHING OF OUR HARDSHIP!
WILLIAM: MY FATHER WAS A GOOD MAN. A GREAT MAN. WITH HIS FORTUNE AND TOIL (Comma-fail) HE TRIED TO MAKE A BETTER WORLD, BUT IT WAS ALL TAKEN FROM HIM.
So, on P2, we’re treated to a lowering of the storytelling. I’m not that intrigued, but I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, especially considering that the only thing I really have to do is slide my eyes over to the next page in order to see what’s going on next. So, it isn’t that bad.
Here’s the thing, though: Liam has been on a steady upswing. You can see his progress from script to script. He’s been putting in the work, and it shows.
The biggest thing he needs to work on now, though, is his comma usage. Once he gets that under control, then it’s really just a matter of keeping reader interest through the lulls.
This isn’t that big of a lull, but it could be…and it’s only P2. Let’s see what the next page is like.
PAGE 3 (Five Panels)
PAGE 3, Panel 1
Medium close up of William as he stares past the camera with a small smile.
WILLIAM: IT’LL BE DIFFERENT THIS TIME. THIS IS MY ASCENT. MAN’S ASCENT INTO PARADISE… (You used this word last page. It sounds like you’ve limited your vocabulary.)
PAGE 3, Panel 2
Big Panel. Establishing shot of the ark from the outside. It lays in a golden wheat field at day.
WILLIAM (OFF-PANEL – NO TAIL): …AND YOU WILL FUEL IT. (Either put this as a caption or put a tail on it.)
PAGE 3, Panel 3
Small inset panel of William’s hand as he pulls the lever.
PAGE 3, Panel 4
Same shot as PAGE 3, Panel 2, although the ark is now enveloped in energy.
PAGE 3, Panel 5
Same shot. The ark has now gone and the energy has begun to disperse.
P3, and the boredom just keeps on comin’!
The sad part is this: in five panels, there isn’t that much action. A thrown switch, and then we move outside of the immediate vicinity in order to see the energy plume. Five panels on this page, and three on the previous. I’m going to say the pacing on this is reversed: the talking heads didn’t say that much on the previous panel, and there’s little of real import here to call for what goes on.
I suggest adding more things of import to these two pages, ending with the throwing of the switch, and then showing the energy release on the next page. This puts the energy release on a page turn, which gives you a nice place to put the throwing of the switch.
However, as they stand, these two pages are boring.
PAGE 4 (Five Panels)
PAGE 4, Panel 1
We have a close up of the ark’s window as if we we’re stood outside, looking in. William is stood just in front of it, staring out at us from inside the ark. His face is lit with an enthusiastic smile. As we’re focused on the window, we don’t see any of the surrounding area. (Wrong facial expression for the dialogue. A silent beat would be better.)
PAGE 4, Panel 2
Same shot. William smile has turned to a look of heavy confusion.
WILLIAM: THIS ISN’T PARADISE.
PAGE 4, Panel 3
The Immortal is now free of his bonds and stood behind William. William is looking back at it with shock. (Is this the same view? This needs a camera angle.)
THE IMMORTAL: DID YOU REALLY THINK YOU HAD CAPTURED A GOD?
THE IMMORTAL: LIKE I SAID… ARROGANCE.
PAGE 4, Panel 4
Angle the camera so that we have William looking out the window in the foreground. Tears have begun to run down his blank, emotionless expression. In the background we see the Immortal stood facing him and looking stern.
THE IMMORTAL: TO TEACH YOU A LESSON.
THE IMMORTAL: YOUR MACHINE IS IMPRESSIVE. IT WAS HARD TO INFLUENCE.
PAGE 4, CONTINUED
PAGE 4, Panel 5
Face shot of the Immortal maintaining its stern look.
THE IMMORTAL: YOU COULD HAVE CREATED WONDERFUL THINGS.
THE IMMORTAL: YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN TO BUILD A BETTER WORLD, LIKE YOUR FATHER…
Four pages in, and I’m still bored.
From a technical standpoint, this is generally sound. There isn’t much to do with the descriptions and the dialogue.
The problem is all content. After a promising first page, this has gone downhill quickly in the interest level. Not good at all.
PAGE 5 (Two Panels)
PAGE 5, Panel 1
We’re now looking at the window from outside the ark. Again, we don’t see any of surrounding area. William stands staring out the window and at the camera as tears run down his blank stare. The Immortal is now stood to William’s side, with one hand on his shoulder, looking stern.
THE IMMORTAL: …BUT YOU DIDN’T.
THE IMMORTAL: THIS (IS) YOUR OWN DOING.
PAGE 5, Panel 2
Big Panel. ¾ the page. Zoom out so we see the ark and a large section of the area surrounding it. The ark is in the middle of the panel and William and the Immortal are still visible through the window, staring out with an unchanged expressions. We see that the ark is now in hell. The ground is a mess of cracked earth, ash and large metal spikes of which skinned bodies are impaled on. The sky is a mixture of darkness, fire and smoke expelled from volcanoes in the distance. Fleshy abominations of varying disfigurement roam these wastes; some pointing at the ark and banging on its hull, and others gnawing on bodies.
THE IMMORTAL (SMALL): GOOD LUCK.
Beautiful work with this one, Liam. I could barely find anything to comment on, save for a question regarding camera angle, a few comma-fails, and a missing word. I thought the story was very well written, easy to visualize, had strong dialogue, good pacing, and definitely keep my attention (even if it was only five pages long). This is the second one in a row that has impressed me. You’re really coming into your own as a writer.
Shorts are good. I like shorts. This one held promise, but the problem was that you tried to make a page count, but didn’t have much to say. You could have packed a LOT more in here, kept the page count, and come through with a much stronger story.
Anyway, let’s run it down.
Format: Flawless Victory!
Panel Descriptions: Overall, very good! I only had trouble visualizing in a couple of spots. Just make sure the panel descriptions match the last thing said in dialogue.
Pacing: Here’s where you fell down. Technically, this is well paced. You put things where you were supposed to, leading the reader as necessary. Technically, this is fine.
Moving away from the technical and going more toward the art, there are only 19 panels here. You could have added another 11 or so panels and had that much stronger of a story. But because you didn’t have much to say, you glossed over what could have been a very satisfying heart of the story. You have the space. Use it more wisely.
Dialogue: Except for the comma-fails, this was very easy to read. I have no problem with the dialogue, except that there isn’t enough of it. The story may be told in pictures, but the story is really illuminated with words. Give more words.
Content: As a reader, that first page drew me in, but then I was let down as the story progressed. Short but uninteresting is never good.
Editorially, I’d ask for a rewrite. If I were editing an anthology and this was submitted to me, I’d tell you to rewrite it, making it stronger, making it say something, before I approved it. It needs more: more story, more heart, more consequence. I’d have asked for the rewrite because the first page was so strong, but if the rewrite didn’t thrill me all the way through, it would get a pass.
Folks, this is what you’re supposed to be doing. Liam has been working his fingers to the bone, gaining strength as a writer. This is what it’s all about. You put in the work, you show the work, you get critical feedback on the work, you go back and fix the mistakes, and you show new work, making sure you don’t make the same mistakes as last time. Rinse and repeat. You do that, and you’ll be able to see your growth.
That’s it for this week. Check the calendar to see who’s next.