Welcome, one and all, once more to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a returning Brave One in Luke Noonan! As per the new norm (which will soon just be the norm, promise!) we have Steve Colle in blue, and me in red.
Now, let’s see what Luke brings us with
PANEL 1: page-wide panel of a glorious sunset on the Cornish coast (Provide a visual reference). We’re looking out from a beach as the sun descends over the horizon, and, on the right of the panel, a Norse axe-blade is held up in close-up as King Mordred I is about to swing it downwards in a blow. In the background we see rugged rocks at the waters’ edge.
A few points to comment on in this paragraph:
For the panel description, you’re talking about “looking out from the beach”, which to me means that we’re looking out at the water. That said, you then state that we can see rugged rocks at the water’s edge in the background. Wouldn’t the rocks be visible on either the left or right (or both) of the panel to frame the shoreline instead of being in the distance? After looking at pictures of the Cornish coast online, that’s what I envision.
You mention that the king is about to swing the axe blade downwards. Well, my good sir, that’s telling us something that WILL occur and not concentrating on what IS occurring in this panel. In other words, stick with what’s important to this particular panel image.
The name MORDRED is associated with evil in Arthurian legend. Is this an evil king? I’m not getting that from a line of dialogue further into the script that reads “To humility. To peace.” The name doesn’t invoke the sentiment and should therefore be reconsidered.
MORDRED (OFF-PANEL): Manannan (Celtic), Manawydan fab Llyr (Welsh) … Triton (Greek), Dagon (Near East), Njord, Aegir (both Norse)…
A couple of points here:
You name various gods of the sea and fishing in your introductions to the names, but only the Celtic, Welsh, and Norse would apply to the Cornish as they are the cultures that occupied/settled in the region, according to my research (which editors will do to ensure correct information in the story). Triton and Dagon have no business being named in this list. Now, I can see that you are only naming the male versions of those gods, but you should also name the female goddesses/spouses of the Norse gods, those being Nerthus to Njoror (Njord is an anglicised, more modern version of the name) and Ran to Aegir.
The way the names should be presented are as follows: “Manannan. Manawydan fab Llyr. Njoror and Nerthus. Aegir and Ran.” Put periods between each name or pairing of names. You aren’t reading off a list of players on a baseball team. Each should be distinct.(You can also put each name or pair of names in their own balloon.)
MORDRED (OP): Kings (This should be changed to read “Gods and goddesses”) of the seas – (Trail off the dialogue, not cut off abruptly. This should end with an ellipsis leading to a separate connected balloon that will begin with an ellipsis with the next word) / (…) accept this, our offering, in good spirit to your names… (Period instead of ellipsis here.)
I’ll tell you right at the get go, don’t underline your dialogue. This suggestion isn’t due to poor usage in formatting (because that is proper usage), but rather due to its OVERUSE. It’s obvious to me that you don’t have the ear to hear proper nuances in the speech. If you did, there wouldn’t be this much to-be-bolded text.
PANEL 2: close-up on Mordreds’ mouth as he snarls the words out.
MORDRED (OP): And our (my) noblest salutations, one monarch to another, on this, the third May Day of our (my) rule! (Who is the ruler? The king or the people? By using “our”, you’re giving that power to the people. Besides, you’re saying “one monarch to another”.) (It’s correct, in that it is the royal “we.”)
These three (or four) pieces of dialogue should be read as if they were shouted out for everyone, including the gods, to hear. That’s called a BURST. The way to write the direction to the letterer would be “MORDRED (OP BURST). (Technically, Mordy isn’t off-panel. His mouth is perfectly visible, which is where the balloon tail is going to point to.)
PANEL 3; close-up on the axe-head as it strikes a blow into the barrel of beer, with a spray of splinters and foaming dark brew.
SFX: K’THUNKKK (Just plain “THUNK!” It’s one straight-on blow. If he had dropped the axe and the blade, then the body, hit the floor, it would make a “KATHUNK” sound. Never put an apostrophe in a sound effect and never end with a multiple of the same consonant. Even a scream of pain such as “AAARRRRG” ends in a single version of the consonant.)
PANEL 4: medium close-up on the barrel as it rolls off the back of the wagon Mordred is standing on. His boot and the hem of his dark green ceremonial cloak (SEE VISUAL REFERENCE) are in the panel as he kicks the barrel on its way, beer sloshing out of the hole he struck, while we can see foaming surf of the beach the wagon is on in the background.
CELEBRANTS (OP – speech-bubble has several tails leading off panel): HURAAAH!
PANEL 5: page-wide panel showing King Mordred in his Green King ceremonial attire (VISUAL REF) Ivy and dark roses are woven into his clothing, and he holds the axe triumphantly. On the left of the panel is his ceremonial ‘bride’ the May Queen: an effeminate pretty-boy in his late teens, wearing a golden wig and dressed in a paganistic wedding gown and tiara, rustic but in gay shades of yellow and lilac with purple and white flowers woven into the costume. He holds a bouquet of snapdragons in his right hand, his left arm hooked through Mordreds’. The Queen smiles joyously at the celebrants around them. On Mordreds’ right is the jester, Azazelo, his mispatched garb in black and white (VISUAL REF). Courtly celebrants around them are in earthy coloured clothes and furs, happy and joyful, while behind them all are two large stag skulls mounted on red and green striped poles, with tall candles mounted along their antlers. A banner in the background beyond the poles displays a golden smiling sun upon a red background, and beyond all this are just treetops and the moody dusk sky.
AZAZELO: Huzzah for (to) King Mordred, (Comma-fail) and his Day-And-Night Bride, the May Queen!
Again, the name game. AZAZEL, without the “O”, is a fallen angel identified with Satan in Islam. Is he a “bad guy” in the story? I don’t think so from what I’ve read in the few pages ahead. Consider researching your sources when choosing a character’s name.
BASE OF PAGE: TITLE AND CREDITS
So we’re at the end of P1, and really, there isn’t much here to make anyone turn to P2.
Let’s look at the panel descriptions for a bit. Generally, they’re too wordy. Why are there too wordy? Because if these are recurring characters, the artist is going to have to design them long before working on the pages. That means you can cut out the majority of the character descriptions and focus on what is happening in the panel itself.
As for the panel descriptions, you’re almost in the territory of moving panels. Skirting the line, while not crossing it. Panel 4 skirts without crossing. If you want to not skirt without crossing, think of the panels as having JUST happened. If you write them as if they happened in the extremely recent past, then you have less of a possibility of writing a moving panel. Not saying that it won’t happen, but the possibility is lessened.
Another thing I’m seeing is that you haven’t thought through your panels. Panel 1is a classic example of this. You started it off well, but then kept writing until it no longer made sense. If you had stopped and re-read it, you would have seen exactly where you went wrong. If you had thought it out better, you wouldn’t have made the mistake in the first place.
The naming conventions… I love finding different names. Maybe not as much as some writers I’ve come across, but I love finding them, and in finding, doing research on them. With that said, you have to make sure that the names you use in your scripts are favorable for your location, and if they aren’t, that there is a plausible explanation for them not being there.
Take the Ares miniseries of a few years ago from Marvel. That series had the Greek gods fighting against Asian gods, with Ares’ son as a prize. I think there were a couple other pantheons that had cameo appearances, too. They had reason to be there. I’m hoping there is a reason for these gods to be here, but I’m thinking there isn’t.
Finally, we have the biggest drawback ever to this page: nothing of worth happens. We’re introduced to a guy who seems to be praying to gods for a marriage ceremony. What is happening on this page to draw the reader into the story? What’s here that is of interest? Not a thing. Usually, I’m of the mind that you have three pages to be interesting to the reader, but this page seems like padding. It doesn’t seem like your starting point. It’s almost actively pushing the reader away. Not good.
Hopefully, P2 is better.
PAGE 2: six panels. (If you’re working in a Word document, you have the ability to create a page break. Don’t hit “Return” over and over again. If you don’t know how to do it, ask or research it.)
PANEL 1: long-medium shot (What do you mean by a “long medium shot”? If it’s a long shot, it’s the whole body. If it’s a medium shot, it could be anywhere from a bust shot to a thigh-and-up shot. Try to use and describe distance ranges based on actual terms. Don’t make them up.) of a well-built man, naked, tarred and feathered, bruised and brutalized, crouching on a grassy clifftop with the sea and darkening skies behind him, as an arrow with a gaudy blue and yellow striped shaft and green feathers skewers into his chest. He is grimacing and drooling blood as he forces words out, in agony. Two more arrows are already in him, one in his ribs and the other in his belly, and blood streams from the wounds into the grass. He is gripping the shaft of the upper of those two, and it has cracked in his dying grip. (Again, this is an action, not a static description. “He’s gripping the shaft and it has cracked in his dying grip”. How can this be written differently? “His grip is on the cracked shaft.”)(To put it succinctly: this is crap and cannot be drawn.)
So, here we are at Page Two, a back-to-back page, which shows a huge jump in time. I get a strong feeling that the first scene on Page One wasn’t finished yet, that it’s incomplete. All we saw was the dedication to the gods, the breaking of the barrel, and the introduction of the “May Queen”. What happens after that? Do they walk away? Where would they be going? Do they stay for more festivities? We need to have some form of continuation and closure or at least a transition to the next scene, such as an extreme close-up of the boy’s face with make-up and a sudden turn of the page to see the same close-up, but this time of the man with blood on his face instead of make-up. Otherwise, there’s no flow, causing the reader to question if a page was missing in the printing of the book.
PRISONER (distorted sing-song speechbubble): Ruh-ruh-row y’boat… gently out t’sea… (This song, through my research, has an American origin dating back to 1852, quite a few years after the goings-on of this story. Make sure to do your research. The next issue is the fact that the prisoner is singing instead of gurgling due to imminent death. So the song isn’t the only problem, even though its appropriateness, no matter the date of origin, would be in question.)
SFX (transparent (Why transparent?) lettering of the third arrows’ whistling impact) WSSSHHKK- (Sound effects don’t end in a dash or double dash. Once the sound is gone, it’s gone, unlike a speech that can be cut off. Improper usage. Also, here’s another example of your using a double H and a double K in the SFX. You’d be able to here the W, the S, the SH, and the K, for WSSHK. Add an exclamation mark for impact.)
PANEL 2: medium shot of Mordred and a few of his subjects from the previous page, stood some distance away from the man. We can see them from the knees up. Mordred is lowering the bow from which he just shot the arrows, (Added) half-smiling/smirking in the direction of his target (to the left/right of the panel).and it has a pair of soft blue and yellow streamers tied to the upper end, and white daisies wound around its length. Mordred half-smiles ahead towards his target(I moved the fact that he is half-smiling up to where he lowers the bow. This puts both actions together, which can be drawn at the same time. The way it was written before read as two separate actions to me, like a medium shot of the lowering of the bow and then a subsequent close-up of the half-smiling.). His subjects look admiringly (You don’t need to add adjectives such as “admiringly” to panel descriptions. That’s writing prose.) in the same direction. (I have no idea what in the name of ferrets and cheescake is supposed to be going on here. None. It’s like my mind refuses to try to parse this, and I might hurt myself in trying. CLARITY, Luke. This isn’t clear in any way, shape, form, or fashion.)
1ST SUBJECT: As true a shot as ever I saw, your Majesty.
2ND SUBJECT: Aye, and more fitting a quarry than any mere hart or pheasant.
PANEL 3: similar but closer shot of Mordred as he hands his bow to a young boy retainer to his left, dressed in blue livery and green leaves. A third subject is on Mordreds’ right.
3RD SUBJECT: Hearhear (Here, here)! It was a just and logical law you passed, your Majesty.
MORDRED: Indeed it was, Marten. I’ll have no hunting of animals on my birthday, save for the beast called Man.
PANEL 4: long-medium shot of Azazelo, stood nearby, half smiling with a cup of wine and a pretty girl hanging on his arm. We can see Mordreds’ blackshield troops in the background beyond, stood soberly on perimeter guard.
AZAZELO: And serfs are cheaper to kill than pheasants, also, Majesty, (Needless dialogue.) is that not so? Criminals, even more so. (More unnecessary speech.)
PANEL 5: medium shot of Mordred as he holds his green helmet under one arm, and with his other hand he holds an ornate goblet for a different retainer to fill, pouring wine from a pitcher. (He doesn’t have three hands. One holds his helmet, another holds the goblet, then you have the action of pouring from a pitcher. Can’t be done.)(He doesn’t have three hands here. The real issue is clarity. It isn’t clear, which is causing the confusion.)
MORDRED: That they are, Zelo, ‘though (You don’t need the apostrophe before “though” because both “though” and “although” work equally well.) there was more to my decision than money. Money is why Fate created taxes…(How does this line even make sense?)
PANEL 6: page-wide panel, and we see a lightly armoured soldier on horseback, riding towards the gathering on the clifftop. Burning braziers surround the party, while blackshields stand guard, and the skies above are darkening with grey clouds.
MORDRED (CAPTION): No, it is for today is my day, and any blood spilled is spilled (done so) in my name! (Take away the exclamation mark and put ellipsis to connect with the next line of dialogue.)
MORDRED (CAP): (Add ellipsis here) And a death by my hand is a sacrifice to humility!
RANDOM SUBJECTS: Yaaay!! (Sounds very staged)
RANDOM SUBJECTS: Hurrraaay!!! (Sounds very staged)
It’s P2, and I have no idea what’s going on.
Here’s the problem, Luke: adding more words does not make you a writer. I think it was Truman Capote who said that poetry isn’t just choosing the words, but choosing the best words. I could be wrong about who said it, and I’m more than likely misquoting it a bit, but the gist is still there, especially for comic scripting: you have to choose the best words. What you’re doing is trying too hard to get across a muddy prosaic vision as a comic book script panel, and failing at it miserably.
Let’s take another look at the impossible panel 1. I’m going to break it down, sentence by sentence, phrase by phrase.
Panel 1: long-medium shot (I get what you’re going for here, but really, by keeping to a smallish set of shots, you have less of a chance to confuse the artist. I wouldn’t call this made-up, but it isn’t helping your cause, because you’re creating something of an oxymoron. It’s like jumbo shrimp. The two are almost diametrically opposed.) of a well-built man (okay), naked (okay), tarred and feathered (how are we supposed to know that he’s well-built if he’s been tarred and feathered?), bruised and brutalized (how is the artist supposed to show someone who’s bruised and brutalized if they’re tarred and feathered? The tar and feathers are going to cover everything else. Right here is where you really stopped making sense.), crouching on a grassy clifftop (okay) with the sea and darkening skies behind him (What the hell is this? Where’s the camera? How is the reader supposed to know this is a clifftop if he’s crouching? How are we supposed to see the sea, which would be pushed pretty far into the background? Darkening skies? Darkening from what? Time, or clouds? Darkening from when? Since it seems like a huge jump in time from one page to the other, there’s nothing here to ground the reader as to when this is taking place.), as an arrow with a gaudy blue and yellow striped shaft and green feathers skewers into his chest (This arrow is moving. There are going to be speed lines shpwing ots arrival. How it skewers his chest as he’s crouching totally bewilders me, but then again, you stopped making sense not too long into the first sentence. And the really screwed up part? This is STILL the first sentence.). He is grimacing and drooling blood as he forces words out, in agony(The last two words are unnecessary because they’re prosaic.). Two more arrows are already in him (Okay, but there’s a less confusing way to say this), one in his ribs (Ribs are high and to the side. This is going to make him look somewhat like a porcupine, because the arrow is going to be inappropriately placed, because that’s what you asked for. In order to get an arrow in the ribs, he’s going to have to either have turned, or there’s going to have to be two archers from two different positions. I don’t think there are two archers, and I don’t think he turned/twisted. I think you didn’t think this through.) and the other in his belly, and blood streams from the wounds into the grass (Why? To what purpose? Do you know how much blood would have to be there? And if I’m not mistaken, arrow piercings don’t bleed that much on the outside. I could be wrong.). He is gripping the shaft of the upper of those two, and it has cracked in his dying grip (Uselessly melodramatic in the panel description. No one’s going to see this. As for the positioning…it’s torturous. He’s crouching, an arrow is impossibly embedding itself in his chest, he has an arrow in his ribs, which he’s gripping and has broken off, and one in his stomach, and he’s talking. Nope. Nothing terrible about this at all.).
If that isn’t a terrible panel description, I might as well quit right now.
The basic problem with this page, besides the fact that you’ve just made your artist’s head explode and bored your reader into a coma is the fact that it isn’t clear. Very little in this is clear. Clarity is the number one thing you need to have in a script. Without that, you might as well give it up.
As for what’s happening here…it is terminally uninteresting. Your mission, if you choose to accept it: tell me what this page is doing to engage the reader and get them to turn the page. You’re allowed to bring along the entire IMF with you. Good luck. You’re going to need it.
PAGE 3: seven panels. (Major league mistake here as not only haven’t you created a page break, there’s also no separation between these lines. They’re all clustered together.) (They were clustered together, but I had to add spaces for my notes.)
PANEL 1: medium shot of Plenorius as he raises a toast with a goblet of wine. He wears a red and yellow cloak over his armour, and a yellow domino mask (VISUAL REF). Several young retainers in blue are stood behind him, watching the party, none drinking.
PLENORIUS: That is something we can all drink to. To humility. To peace. To King Mordred, Master of Briton!
1ST SUBJECT (OP): To the Master of Briton!
2ND SUBJECT (OP): To the Wyvernheart (research dictates proper spelling being “Wyvern Heart” as two words)!
PLENORIUS: Blessed Be the Wyvernheart!
PANEL 2: on the edge of the gathering, the rider from the previous page has dismounted and now leads his horse hurriedly, carrying a folded parchment in one hand. A blackshield soldier approaches him.
RANDOM SUBJECTS (OP): Blessed be Mordred the Wyvernheart! (Overkill)
RANDOM SUBJECTS (OP): Blessed be! (Overkill)
PANEL 3: medium-long shot: the blackshield from the previous panel, flanked by two others, holds the message for Azazelo to take. Azazelo, still with his girl, has just noticed the man and is glancing down at the parchment.
RANDOM SUBJECTS (OP): Blessed be King Mordred! (DEFINITE overkill)
RANDOM SUBJECTS (OP): Blessed be Pacator Orbis!
I’m stopping in mid-page here. I can barely see any black writing amidst my sea of blue print! There’s THAT much wrong with it. I’m going to let Steven have his say in closing remarks. I’ve basically said everything I have to and shouldn’t need to summarize at this point. More blue print isn’t going to matter.
Only a partial P3. I usually don’t do the last page, electing to just run it down, but there are some things to be said here.
We have 2 panels here that, from a dialogue standpoint, aren’t doing a damned thing. From that point of view, they are padding, and Luke has a smell of elderberries about him.
Looking at what’s happening in the panels themselves, again, there’s nothing of interest. And do you know how I know it’s terrible? Steve couldn’t finish it. He couldn’t finish 3 pages. That says a hell of a lot, because Steve is extremely lenient. There are almost no words.
Panel 3 is a moving panel. He can’t notice and glance. No one can glance in comics. A glance is a movement. It’s cutting your eyes at something, and then cutting them back. That can’t be done in a static image.
That’s all I wanted to say. Let’s run it down.
Format: Formatting isn’t hard, but somehow, you managed to blow it. Page breaks are easy, and if you’re a steady—or even semi-steady—reader of the column, then you know that I hit on page breaks a LOT. It’s one of the few things that is totally within your control, and you chose to just blow it off, or not take it as seriously as you should. Half-measures don’t cut it with me, because they can’t. I wouldn’t be doing you any favors if I did. Do the work. Learn to use the tools of your trade.
Panel Descriptions: Mind-bending. P2, panel 1? I felt like I was tripping trying to visualize what was going on there. I probably should have put on some Hendrix.
The panel descriptions are generally unclear. That clarity is something that every artist needs in order to draw. How do you get clarity? By a crystal visualization of what it is you want, and cutting out every unnecessary descriptive word you can find. Less will always be more, because more has the increased likelihood of causing confusion.
I’ve already spoken about the skirting of the moving panels, until you finally crossed the line, so enough of that.
Pacing: Abysmal. Literally nothing happens. Three pages (okay, two-point-five) of nothing happening. What is supposed to happen in this scene? In these pages? Whatever the purpose you thought you were giving them, I can guarantee you didn’t reach them. I’ve said more in this paragraph about what happens in these pages than what actually happens.
How to fix it? By doing the same then you do with panel descriptions: cut. Find out what the scene is about, and only put in those panels that are important and move the story along. I haven’t seen any of that here.
Dialogue: There isn’t a lot of it, and what little there is doesn’t do anything to advance the story, and actually goes a long way toward turning the reader off. Is part of that because the characters seem to be unlikeable? Possibly. But there’s also the fact that the dialogue isn’t doing its job.
The art should be able to carry the story without dialogue. Period. If it can’t do that, then the story won’t work as well as it could. The purpose of dialogue is to help illuminate the art. It doesn’t tell the story, it expands on it. The dialogue here doesn’t do that. It doesn’t do anything.
Another thing: the readers only know three characters by name: King Mordred, Marten, and Zelo. Notice, I said “Zelo,” not “Azazelo.” There’s a difference. That’s what Mordred said, and that’s what the audience is going to think that character’s name is. That’s something to be aware of.
Anyway, there are four speaking parts here, but only three people are named. Is the person named later in the script? I don’t know, and really, I don’t care. Nothing of import was said, and I had to force myself to read what was there. That’s never a good sign.
Have the characters say something of interest, so that the reader has no choice but to follow the story. Instead of grabbing the reader by the short and curlies, you’re pushing the reader away and telling them nothing of interest is going on between the covers. Ungood.
As a reader, I wouldn’t read this. There’s nothing here to grab me. I’m actually turned off. You start off with a ritual marriage, then continue with killing someone and the main character being a cavalier asshole about it, and then wasting about half a page with cheers… A turnoff.
Editorially, I’d have to see exactly what it is you want to accomplish with this in order to help. More than likely, there will be a lot of handholding going on. More than likely, a total rewrite would be necessary.
Before we go, I just wanted to say thank you to those who have submitted, but we’re still 2 scripts short of making it to the end of the year. So, send in those scripts. I say it every time: this column lives and dies with you.
And that’s all there is for the week. Check the calendar to see who’s next!