TPG Week 101: Just A Little Guidance

| November 30, 2012

Hello, and welcome to another installment of The Proving Grounds! We’re counting down to the end of the year, and this week brings us Brave One Sam Roads. As ever, we have Steve Colle in blue, and me in red. Let’s see how deep is

 

Saturn’s Well

 

Page 1. Six Panels.

 

The story contains many panels which show what the current protagonist (What do you mean by “current protagonist”? Does the protagonist change during the course of the story?) is imagining. I’d like to have some artistic effect to give a gentle clue to the readers. I’ll mark all such panels with “Altered”. (This information, because it isn’t specific to this first page exclusively, should be placed before you start with your Page One description.)

 

Panel 1 (Altered). Big, wide. Day. A 1960s academic’s office (Can you provide visual reference through a link or suggested film that the artist can watch?). This panel is a direct parallel of Page 2, panel 1 (Shouldn’t Page 2, Panel 1 be a direct parallel of THIS image instead of the other way around? You’re asking them to jump ahead to get information instead of referring back to that info for the next page. Seems backwards.), with each item there replicated, but looking 1960s. (Here’s a question: Where is the story taking place with regards to city, town, or even country? The reason I ask is that academic’s offices, even today, differ from one place to another.). Wood panelling and small, angular, arty chairs. Through the window on the right there’s a tree and a green lawn. The left is a huge blackboard, covered in a monster equation (see Equation.gif). Young Prof is stood in front of it, chalk in hand, writing the final terms on the bottom right. He looks at Grace as she enters, from the right (Because of the addition of the comma, I’m not sure who is on the right. He looks at her from the right of the panel or she enters in from the right? As a suggestion, have her come in from the left as we read from left to right, making her enter the scene instead of him entering her scene.). She holds a letter and looks pleased.

 

YOUNG PROF:

GRACE!

 

Panel 2 (Altered). Medium profile on Young Prof and Grace, close and holding hands. Both are excited.

 

YOUNG PROF:

SATURN DOES (I’d underline “DOES” for bolding of the word) HAVE A HIDDEN GRAVITATIONAL POTENTIAL RESONANCE!

 

GRACE:

DARLING! I KNEW YOU’D CRACK IT!

 

Panel 3 (Altered). Close on Grace, as she hugs Young Prof.

 

GRACE:

DOES THIS PROVE YOUR THINGY ON THE ORIGINS OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM?

 

Panel 4 (Altered). Close on Prof, from slightly below and canted. He’s gently holding her at arms length and looking authoritative.

 

(So you have three stages of an embrace going on: The holding of hands in Panel 2, the hug in Panel 3, and the holding her at a distance in Panel 4. Do we honestly need to have all of these actions? No. Give her the hug and then hold her away from his body so he can tell her his exciting news. This will also effect your dialogue placement. Move your hug to the second panel’s description while maintaining the dialogue as is in that panel, then have her “Does this prove…?” question and his response [which follows below] in the same panel image.)(If this is the 60s, it falls in line with how men and women, especially scientific men and women, were portrayed in the movies. I’ve watched a LOT of 60s movies. Actually, I love 50s-60s b/w scifi/horror movies.)

 

YOUNG PROF:

THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING WE KNOW ABOUT THE FORMATION OF NEW BODIES.

 

Panel 5 (Altered). Medium on Grace, maybe a higher angle. She places Young Prof’s right hand over her belly and holds up a letter with the other. She looks down at her belly, smiling. (Moving panel.)

 

GRACE:

SPEAKING OF WHICH, THIS IS FROM THE CLINIC. (Nice segue in her speech as she changes subjects.)

 

GRACE:

I’VE GOT SOMETHING WONDERFUL TO TELL YOU…

 

Panel 6 (Altered). Close on Grace. Abrupt change in her demeanour. She looks really angry, eyes welling tears.

 

GRACE:

STOP WRITING ON THE WALLS! (I don’t know where this dialogue is coming from as you don’t describe him as still writing. I thought his hand and attention were on her because you haven’t denoted otherwise. Also, underline for bolding.)

 

So, we have P1 on the books!

 

I’m feeling a bit like we’re in my wheelhouse. 1960s science fiction is something I love. So I’m a bit excited about this.

 

However, Steve is very right in saying that you’ve done this backwards: the artist shouldn’t have to look at P2 in order to know what’s going on with P1. That’s just all kinds of wrong and backward. Why cause the artist to do more work than necessary? How did you even write it? P2 first, and then P1? I will write scenes out of order at times, but they are still linear: if I’m feeling like I want an action scene, I’ll just write it, then come back to the drama later. But that action scene is still written from beginning to end. I’m not seeing how or why you’d write P2 before P1, and then force the artist to do the same thing.

 

I’m liking how you’re writing from left to right. Do I agree with Steve about having her enter from the left instead of the right? Well, let’s take a look at it: are there any storytelling advantages of seeing her first? Remember, you can always reverse a panel description, but you have to think about the storytelling consequences of doing so.

 

In showing her first, you can bring more focus to the letter, which will then tie in better to the last panel. As the panel is now, that letter can get lost in the shuffle of things. By reversing it, maybe even lowering the camera a bit and showing her just coming into view, with the letter being prominent and the first thing seen, that would tie the page together nicely.

 

So, do I agree? Yes. I think it would be effective.

 

From a dialogue perspective, I’m thinking that there isn’t enough here. I’d be comfortable with another 30-60 words on the page. P1 is saying something, but I’m not sure that it’s saying enough.

 

I’m liking the end of the page, though. It’s just strange enough and left field enough to take readers aback. Just kill that moving panel.

Page 2. Six Panels.

 

Panel 1 Big, Wide. Night. A modern flat interior. This panel is a direct parallel to Page 1, Panel 1. (We find out, as you continue your description of this new setting, that it ISN’T a direct parallel, because we are now in a flat with the writing being directly on the wall as opposed to on a board. The similarity is the staging of the components of the image, making the image parallel. Here’s where your use of descriptions need to be better presented.) The objects in the room are the same (but modern). The flat is several stories up. Through the window are the lights of the local suburb. Prof is wearing only a T-shirt, barely covering his modesty. Ellie is in stripy pyjamas. (Where are your characters placed in relation to one another in this panel? Is Ellie on the left and the Prof on the right or vice versa? You didn’t establish this in your descriptions on the previous page. Is Ellie walking into the room as her mother did in the first panel of last page? The wall is covered in the equation, black marker pen ink directly on the wall itself. Ellie has grabbed Prof’s right hand, which holds the pen, looking like Panel 5 of page 1. (You didn’t describe the fact that he was still writing in panel 5 of the previous page, so your artist is going to be confused by this sudden information. What makes it confusing to me is the fact that you say it’s a parallel of Panel 1, but then state at the end of this description that it looks like Panel 5. Which is it?)

 

PROF:

I DON’T LIKE IT WHEN YOU SHOUT AT ME, GRACE.

 

ELLIE:

DAD, IT’S ME, ELLIE, (Period instead of comma here) YOUR DAUGHTER.

 

ELLIE:

GRACE… MUM… SHE’S GONE. (This sounds choppy. Perhaps “Mum… Grace… is gone.” may be a better option.)

 

Panel 2 Medium. Prof has straightened up, slightly annoyed. (Is Ellie supposed to be in this shot, or even a part of her like her hand? Has the Prof pulled his hand away from her? Is he pointing to thin air, as if someone was standing nearby? Make sure to cover your bases when describing your images, as this is just too minimalistic.)

 

PROF:

DON’T BE SILLY. SHE’S RIGHT HERE.

 

Panel 3 Close on Ellie, holding her head in her hands. Prof is in the background, contented. (Is Ellie looking at Dad in the background and therefore her body is turned towards him with her back to us? Again, more specifics.)

 

PROF:

WE’RE GOING TO HAVE A BABY!

 

ELLIE:

DAD!

 

Panel 4 Close, profile on Prof, looking slightly up and into the distance. He smiles a little. In the background, Ellie hugs herself, head lowered, defeated.

 

PROF:

I HOPE IT’S A BOY. I REALLY LIKE ELLINGTON.

 

PROF:

ELLINGTON HOLT.

 

PROF:

HOW DOES THAT SOUND TO YOU?

 

Panel 5 Medium. Ellie puts a loving arm round him and guides him towards the right.

 

ELLIE:

I’LL GET A CLOTH AND SEE IF THIS WILL COME OFF.

 

ELLIE:

WHY DON’T YOU GO BACK TO BED AGAIN (Needless word), DAD?

 

Panel 6 Wide. Outdoors shot of their flat, halfway up a big, dull, concrete 1960s block of flats. Through the window we can see Ellie scrubbing at the wall. All the other windows are dark. (Is there only a light coming from that one window? Unless it’s the middle of the night, what’s the likelihood of there being only one light on in the building? Staging-wise, is her window in the center of the panel for composition purposes to put the focus on that one window?)

 

Yup. P2 has been written, so let it be said.

 

Panel 1 of P1 should have been written first, with panel 1 of this page receiving the note to retain the aesthetics, composition, and feel of P1 panel 1, but with it now being the apartment and not the lab. That would have made more sense.

 

The pacing here is fine. I’m liking it. What I’m not liking are the panel descriptions. They aren’t as deep as they should be. Let’s take a look at the logic board, shall we?

 

Panel 1 has him standing, I take it, as he writes on the wall. If P1 is a fantasy and P2 is the reality, then there should be some correlation between the characters. However, if there’s to be true correlation, then his hand should be on her stomach. That isn’t reflected here. It would be awkward and strange and strike just the right tone, as well, if it were.

 

Now, to continue on… Panel 2 has him straightening. Straightening from what? Was he bent over, hunched over, or something else? I don’t know, and you don’t say. And because you don’t place the characters within the scene that well, you’re causing Steve and your artist no end of confusion. Never a good thing, that.

 

Next, we’re talking about clarity. All things being equal, you’re not being clear because you haven’t clearly placed the characters in the panel. See how that works? You can move the camera around all you want, but the axis that it moves around will be the characters. Keep that in mind.

 

Oh, and your timeframes: When we’re inside, day and night don’t matter as much. However, when we’re outside, that’s when it becomes important. I say that because you put that it’s nighttime in the first panel, but it gets lost in the rest of the stuff, forcing Steve to ask about the time of day in the last panel.

 

 

Page 3. Six Panels.

 

Panel 1 Wide. Day, bright morning (It’s better showing the time of day if you start from the outside.). The same room, pulled back to show the dinner table. The wall is in the background. The equation is faded (from cleaning), but not entirely and looks a mess. Ellie sits at the dining table, looking even more wrecked. She cradles a steaming mug. Prof has come in the door and looks at the wall, surprised. The table has a milk carton, Star Brek cereal, bowls, spoons.

 

ELLIE:

MORNING, DAD.

 

PROF:

MORNING, ELLE-BELLE. WHAT’S ALL THAT ON THE WALL?

 

Panel 2 Medium profile on Prof, looking in amazement at the wall. (It might be more effective if he had his hand up touching the wall as he looks at it.)

 

ELLIE (OP):

OH, DAD. YOU WERE CONFUSED AGAIN.

 

PROF:

REALLY? I DID THAT?

 

PROF:

GOOD GOD.

 

Panel 3 Looking past Ellie at Prof as he has sat at the table, looking sad. This angle reveals where this L-shaped room extends out into a tiny, tidy kitchen. The kitchen was built in the 1960s, but has modern appliances. (Again, try to provide a visual. Unless your artist is a resident of the locale, it’s going to be hard to visualize. I know it is for me being from Canada.)

 

PROF:

ELLIE, IF IT EVER GETS REALLY BAD…

 

PROF:

(Ellipsis here) NEVER LET THEM PUT ME IN A HOME. I LOVE THIS FLAT.

 

PROF:

THE MEMORIES.

 

Panel 4 (Altered). Exact same shot. Prof is tucking into his breakfast. In the kitchen, Grace is washing up. She’s about 10 years older than page 1, 1970s clothes (Visuals on the style of dress, please, not forgetting that styles in Europe vs. North America, etc., were not the same.) and looking over her shoulder at them, smiling, radiant, perfect.

 

ELLIE: (This should be a CAPTION with quotations around the speech, as it’s a flashback, to which Ellie wasn’t saying this directly in that time period.)

I KNOW. I MISS MUM (Missing comma) TOO.

 

Panel 5 Close on Prof. Eyes wide in surprise. Behind him, in the background is the smudged wall of equation.

 

PROF:

I KNOW WHAT THAT IS! IT’S MY GRAVITY EQUATION!

 

ELLIE (OP):

IT WON YOU THE NOBEL PRIZE, REMEMBER?

 

Panel 6 Medium on the Prof, twisted round in his chair to look at it.

 

PROF:

REALLY? I DID THAT?

 

PROF:

GOOD GOD.

(Serious déjà vu on this last bit of dialogue. He said the exact same thing in Panel 2 of this page. Can something else be spoken instead? Your case may be that he’s suffering from Alzheimer’s and doesn’t realize when he’s repeating himself, but think of the reader and what they will get out of it. Keep the reader involved by making it interesting.)

 

It’s P3, and I’m not yet in the mood to shoot myself in the face.

 

Let’s start with time. Again, if you want to show the passage of time, there are two extremely easy ways. The first is to have a caption, saying what time it is. Easy, right? But that can also mess with the aesthetic of what you’re trying to get across.

 

The second easy way is to start outside, showing whether it’s day or night. That’s generally what writers do in order to establish a timeframe. Start outside, show whether it’s day or night, and then move inside. Easy.

 

You should give it a shot, because putting the timeframe in the inside panel description is getting a bit lost. You’ll have to repeat yourself. Sometimes that’s necessary, but sometimes it isn’t.

 

This is turning out to be a fast read, though. That’s because there’s a lack of dialogue. You want to slow down the experience by adding more to read. Either that, or by adding panels. It all depends on the type of story you want to read. But with this being P3, you’ll want to do a little more to tug on the heart strings. It isn’t being done as well as it could be. Right now, we’re just mechanically turning the pages. Engage us more by giving this more heart.

Page 4. Seven Panels.

 

Panel 1 Same room. Wide. Angle is from the kitchen. (Visuals, please.) The wall of equation is now a bright white of new paint. Sharma sits at the table, bags of shopping nestled up to her feet, a newspaper, keys and a phone in the middle of the table. She looks sympathetic. Ellie is foreground, making the tea. She is wearing a blue T-shirt covered in paint smears, and she has paint smears on her nose, cheek and in her messy hair. She looks wrecked. On the side next to her is a bag of shopping.

 

SHARMA:

BAD, IS IT?

 

ELLIE:

THE WORST.

 

ELLIE:

THAT WALL’S NOTHING. LAST WEEK (Missing comma) HE TRIED TO MAKE SCRAMBLED EGGS WITHOUT LIGHTING THE GAS. IF I HADN’T BEEN HERE (Missing comma) THE WHOLE PLACE WOULD HAVE GONE UP.

 

Panel 2 Close on Ellie, shattered from lack of sleep. Peaky (I had to look this word up for clarification because I wasn’t sure if it meant “peaked” or just plain out of energy. I know you’re from the UK and that this word is probably commonly used, but remember that your creative team may be from anywhere around the world. Make it clear and general.) is a gross understatement.

 

SHARMA (OP):

YOU’RE LOOKING A LITTLE PEAKY, BABES.

 

ELLIE:

I SLEEP IN A CHAIR IN HIS ROOM, (Don’t need a comma here) SO I CAN KEEP AN EYE WHENEVER HE GETS UP IN THE NIGHT. (Ellipsis here)

 

ELLIE:

(Ellipsis here) AND HE GETS UP A LOT.

 

Panel 3 Medium. Profile. Ellie is sat by Sharma, slumped, exhausted, Sharma is full of concern, reaching out a hand to stroke Ellie’s arm. Their teas are on the table.

 

ELLIE:

LAST MONTH (Missing comma) I HAD TO HAND IN MY NOTICE AT THE LAB.

 

SHARMA:

CAN’T YOU GET SOME SUPPORT OR SOMETHING FROM THE COUNCIL?

 

ELLIE:

I’D LOVE THAT. A CARER COMING IN FOR JUST A FEW HOURS A WEEK WOULD…

 

Panel 4 Close on Ellie, driven (Not sure what you mean here by “driven”. Is there a better way you could describe her physical presentation, such as eyes wide open in hopelessness, hands thrown up in the air, etc.?)

 

ELLIE:

(Ellipsis here) BUT YOU HAVE TO HAVE A SOCIAL WORKER COME ROUND IF YOU WANT TO CLAIM ANY BENEFITS. THEY’D TAKE ONE LOOK AT DAD AND PUT HIM STRAIGHT IN A HOME.

 

Panel 5 Wide, showing the whole of the room. (Is the room empty? No, so you need to describe what’s going on IN the room.)

 

ELLIE:

DAD LOVES THIS FLAT. IT WOULD BREAK HIS HEART.

 

Panel 6 Medium. Looking past Sharma at Prof coming in (Maybe from Ellie’s POV or from over her shoulder?). He is in a shirt and trousers, with dressing gown over the top.

 

PROF:

IS SHE HERE TO TAKE ME AWAY?

 

ELLIE:

NO, DAD, IT’S SHAR. SHE BROUGHT CUSTARD CREAMS.

 

SHARMA:

HI, PROFESSOR.

 

Panel 7 (Altered). Medium. Sharma’s POV. Ellie is guiding Prof out of the room. Ellie has angel wings and a halo, and glows. Sharma has picked up the paper and is looking at this advert: Nominate someone for our Local Hero competition and they could win £10,000! (My question would be: Did the action of picking up the paper occur AFTER Sharma say the angel wings and glowing, or did she look over the newspaper to witness the angelic vision? One equals two actions, while the other is two in one. I’m more apt to go with the second, myself.)

 

ELLIE:

HOW ABOUT WATCHING THE SNOOKER, DAD?

 

SHARMA (QUIETLY, TO HERSELF):

Girl, you are so amazing.

 

I’m going to stop here, mainly because you could literally stop the story here and have accomplished your goal. In the matter of four pages in four scenes (one per page), you’ve made me care about the characters in the story. That’s quite an accomplishment. You’ve established the situation, the conditions, the emotional investment, and the pain of seeing someone you love being so far out of reach that it drains you both physically and emotionally. Bravo (or Huzzah) to you for creating a compelling story.

 

Now that my face has dried (thanks for the tearjerker), let’s get down to business.

 

The one thing that bothered me the most was the lack of proper descriptions for the panel images. Way too many questions left to be answered that would have severely slowed the creative process between you, the editor, and the rest of the creative team. You HAVE to invest more time and effort into this important part of the process.

 

The same applies to your ability to provide visual reference to your artist. There were many instances where either locale or even dress were left up to the artist to research. Consider how much time your role as writer takes vs. that of your artist. Who has the time to make the effort more? You do. When deadlines come and go because the penciller was too busy doing research, he’s going to be some bothered for the manure slung his way because you didn’t make the effort. Do the work and it’ll pay off in the end.

 

Punctuation was a recurring issue, as was the use and need for ellipsis marks here and there. Something to work on.

 

Though I found there to be a very small amount of dialogue in this script, it did the job. That said, you could have definitely put more in to enhance the story. By the way, it read very well, enough to pull the heartstrings.

 

Work on the points above and you’ll be in a much better place in your writing.

Let’s run it down.

 

Format: Flawless Victory!

 

Panel Descriptions: A little light. I could use a little more here and there in order to ground the characters better. A few places have the characters not properly placed in the panel. Not terrible, but not good, either. Sure, the artist could place them for you, but that would lead to a question that the script is supposed to be answering. Know what I mean, Verne?

 

Pacing: Outstanding! I really liked what was going on here. Four pages, and really, while it could have used more dialogue, that last page really pulled it together for you. Very nice. You kept the story moving, and even though there were some mechanical page turns, P4 really made it worth it. Nice work.

 

Dialogue: Punctuation aside, you had a fast read up until P4, and then you did what P1-3 should have been doing: you took hold of the heartstrings and yanked. Not gently tugged..yanked. You made Steve cry. If I had a heart, I’d probably tear up, too.

 

I want to read more dialogue on P1-3. P4 is perfect, though. It does exactly what it needs to: it shows her frustration, her heartache, and her loving patience. It gets that across both in pictures and words. Very, very nice.

 

Punctuation… Every writer needs an editor. We all know this. The punctuation here isn’t so terrible that I’d be pulling out what little hair I have left (eyebrows) in frustration. The dialogue would just need a couple of reads to make sure it flows correctly. Generally, you took care of that, but there are instances where it could be better.

 

We all know that comma usage is the biggest problem here in TPG. If there’s anything that gets mentioned more than anything else, it’s that one piece of punctuation. Do yourselves a favor and study it. There are worksheets that can be found online that can be done. The more you learn, the less time your editor has to waste clobbering you over the head with commas, and the more time they have to spend with everything else it takes to get the script up to snuff.

 

Content: As a reader, I’d be invested in this (especially if P1-3 had more dialogue). This is something that sounds pretty interesting. Based on these four pages, I’d read this, and hope it got even more interesting and ended heart-achingly well.

 

Editorially, this doesn’t need that much guidance. A nudge here and there, to make sure you’re on track, but other than that, this would be pretty hands-off. This would probably take only 2-3 quick editorial passes before being able to go to an artist.

 

Nice work here, Sam.

 

And that’s it! We’re still counting down to the end of the year. We have enough to get us through, but after that? Send in those scripts! We literally can’t do it without you!

 

Check the calendar to see who’s next.

 

Click here to comment in the forum.

 

 

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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.

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