TPG 105: Year End Thank You’s (And A Script, Too!)

| December 28, 2012

TPGFeatured_01

Hello, and welcome to the last installment of The Proving Grounds for the year!

I’d like to give thanks to all the Brave Ones who have submitted this year. They are:

Eli Ivory, Tyler James, Don Urquhart, Kyle Raios, Liam Hayes (7x! He’s submitted a lot!), Justin Martin, Talisha Harrison (3x!), Matt Johnson (2x!), Laura Morley, Don Pankievicz, Yannick Morin (2x!), LJ Wright (2x!), Lisa Wilson, Lauren Sinclair, Charles Crane, Jeff Bass, Wes Locher, Stephen Greaney, Sam Roads (3x!), Conner MacDonald, Phillip Butehorn & Brian Harris, Jeremy Melloul (2x!), Wolf Beaumont, Justin Kane, Andy Arnott, Damien Wampler, Sarah Rebecca, Richard Chedester, Leo Penha, George Myers, Tim Berry, Steve Colle, Eric Holt, Luke Noonan, Ronnie Massey, Will Robson, Esther Alperin, and Colby Pryor.

Thank you, one and all, for sharing your learning with us.

Also, thank you to both Yannick Morin and Steve Colle for stepping up and doing the blue comments. This has allowed me to grow, too! Thank you, again.

So, this week we have Liam Hayes, who’s appearing for the seventh time this year. Talk about someone who wants it (and who’s taken a lot of pressure off of you! That’s almost two months worth!), and isn’t going to let anyone stop him from getting it. We have Steve Colle in blue, me in red, and we will all see what Liam brings us in

The Tree of Yearn

PAGE 1 (Three Panels)

We start with a story being told. I’m thinking the use of faded colours and oddly shaped panel borders will suggest recollection. Feel free to experiment, however. (See, I like this note. Liam’s giving what he’d like to see, but also giving the artist room to flex their muscles, specifically telling them to feel free to experiment. That’s great. I like it.)

PAGE 1, Panel 1

We open to a medium shot of Ralph as he is stood in a dense forest during early evening. He stares at the camera with wide-eyed shock.

CAPTION (RALPH): “ALICE… IT WAS HORRIBLE. A SHORT-CUT THROUGH THE FOREST HAD ME STUMBLE UPON THE THING.”

CAPTION (RALPH): “I DOUBT SUCH HORRORS HAVE NAMES, BUT I’VE CALLED IT…”

PAGE 1, Panel 2

Big Panel. We’re looking over Ralph’s shoulder at the Tree of Yearn, a one-storey high black barked tree with blood-red blossoms sprouting from its many twisted branches. It sits in a small clearing, bordered by thick trees. Tree Man is attached to the tree, facing Ralph. He is held a foot up of the ground by black vines which have sprouted from the bark and fed into his skin. His head hangs down, indicating he is dead or unconscious, and his long hair covers his face.

*Note to letterer: Emphasize this caption with big bold letters. Make it a title.*

CAPTION (RALPH): “…THE TREE OF YEARN.”

RALPH: WHAT ON EARTH?

PAGE 1, Panel 3

Ralph is now standing just in front of Tree Man, inspecting him with intrigue. Make this is a side shot with Ralph and Tree Man’s faces level on either side of the panel. Tree man may have to be slightly higher as he’s off the ground.

CAPTION (RALPH): “A FRAIL OLD MAN WAS HELD TO IT LIKE (A) PIG’S CARCASS ON A BUTCHER’S HOOK.”

RALPH: WHAT IN GOD’S NAME HAS HAPP– (Personally, I don’t think you needed both “WHAT ON EARTH?” and “WHAT IN GOD’S NAME HAS HAPP–“. If you had stuck with just one, the best being a simple “WHAT IN GOD’S NAME –?” in this panel and keeping the title by itself in Panel 2, it would have made the title stand out more.)

P1 is in the books, and what do we have?

We have a writer who is growing in strength. Look at Liam’s earlier work here, and you can see his trajectory. He’s been putting in the work. It takes some confidence to do this. What is this? Have a 3-panel page.

The first and third panels could possibly be insets to the second panel, making it a splash page and giving the true start of the story. I think there’s enough visual impact for that. The imagery is striking enough to carry the page, so I would call that an effective use of space.

There are things that can be gleaned from the dialogue, though. The first is that there are voice-over captions. Remember that voice-over captions are those where one person is speaking to another, but they are off-panel. We can tell they’re speaking because of the quotation marks.

What else can we tell from the captions? That this story is already done. Even if Liam didn’t come right out and say that this story was happening in the past, we’d be able to tell that from the dialogue. These types of captions serve one of two purposes: to tell a story, or to act as a bridge to another scene. Since we just started, there’s no bridgemaking going on. It’s storytime. This means everything here has already happened.

I’m not keen on what’s being said, though. Remember that dialogue is the most subjective part of the script, so take what I say as you will, but to me, the dialogue sounds forced. Ah! Upon rereading, I know exactly what it reminds me of: an old Hammer film. Dracula: Prince of Darkness. What we have are Englishmen traveling through countries sometime in the 19th century, and they sound very proper in a rustic setting. That’s what this is reminding me of.

This is only my first impression, though, so I’ll have to wait a bit in order to see if Liam keeps the same voice, and if the dialogue itself needs any tweaks. What I will say, though, is that I agree with Steve: the word balloon in panel 3 is really all that’s needed when it comes to the spoken dialogue on this page.

PAGE 2 (Five Panels)

PAGE 2, Panel 1

Same shot. Tree Man has sprung to life, lifting his head to stare at Ralph. His hair has parted and we see that his eyes are blood-shot and his teeth have gone rotten. Ralph recoils in fright. (This shot would have been better as a closer look at the previous shot from the last page, last panel. It would have pulled the reader in visually by way of distance and effect on their personal boundaries, making them more invested in what was happening to both characters.)

CAPTION (RALPH): “HIS BREATH WAS ROTTEN, AND THOSE EYES SPOKE OF UNIMAGINABLE PAIN.” (This dialogue is all the more reason why you should bring the camera in closer than what you intended. Let the reader experience what you’re talking about.)

TREE MAN: *GASP* (Okay. Here is where your dialogue is contradicting itself a bit. In order to smell rotten breath, you have to have an exhalation. However, a gasp is an inhalation. You’re not going to smell rotting breath on an inhalation.)

RALPH: AHH!

PAGE 2, Panel 2

We’re now looking at Ralph from over Tree Man’s shoulder. Ralph is stepping back with his hands up and a look of fright.

CAPTION (RALPH): “THE MAN SPOKE IN RIDDLES, SEEMINGLY UNAWARE OF HIS CAPTIVITY.” (For some reason, this isn’t working for me. Not this line per se, but the fact that you’re saying that he’s speaking in riddles and then giving an example in the Tree Man’s upcoming dialogue. I’ll come back to this in a minute.)

TREE MAN: HMM… YOU ARE LIKE THIS ONE. BUT THIS ONE’S PICTURES HAVE GROWN STALE, AND YOURS ARE FRESH.

RALPH: WHA… P-PICTURES?

PAGE 2, Panel 3

Face shot of Tree Man looking pensive.

TREE MAN: THIS ONE HAS ONLY PICTURES OF FIELDS AND TOIL. I WANT TO TASTE YOURS.

CAPTION (RALPH): “IT WAS THEN THAT I UNDERSTOOD. IT WASN’T HE TO WHOM I SPOKE…” (Here’s where the line I was talking about belongs, so it reads “THE MAN SPOKE IN RIDDLES, SEEMINGLY UNAWARE OF HIS CAPTIVITY. HOWEVER, IT WAS THEN THAT I UNDERSTOOD. IT WASN’T HE TO WHOM I SPOKE…” By having the explanation that he was speaking in riddles after the fact, you’re clarifying for the reader what has just happened, not what WILL happen as you had it before. Then, by adding “HOWEVER”, you’re finishing the thought in one complete package.)

PAGE 2, Panel 4

Medium shot of Tree Man. A black vine has shot from his mouth towards Ralph (off-panel.) (What is the angle of the camera you’re foreseeing? Profile? Front shot? Which would be more dramatic in your opinion?)

CAPTION (RALPH): “…BUT THE TREE ITSELF.”

PAGE 2, CONT.

PAGE 2, Panel 5

Face shot of Ralph in pain as the end of the black vine bores into one of his temples. A small amount of blood sprays. (Here’s where I’m having a bit of trouble with your wording of SMALL amount of blood SPRAYING”. Would there only be a small amount of blood if it’s spraying or would that require a larger amount for sheer force of its exit from the temple? Geysers, for example, would shoot out a large quantity, so it almost sounds like your use of the words contradict one another.)

CAPTION (RALPH): “THE PAIN AS IT BURROWED INTO MY HEAD WAS UNBEARABLE.”

SFX: SHHLURK

RALPH: ARGH! (This sounds like a very short experience of pain as opposed to what I’m imagining he’d be going through. Lengthen the expression of pain to “AAAAARGH!”)

P2 down, and really I want to focus on the dialogue.

I’m not happy with it.

Steve has gone over the sense it is making. Basically, it could be said better. I want to look at how it’s being said.

Simply put, I’m not a fan.

Now, let me say right up front that it could be my American bias. I’m not saying that I’m the Absolute Ruler of Dialogue. What I’m saying is, to my Dr. Who and Downton Abbey watching American self, this dialogue is not good. It isn’t convincing, and it sounds off.

I’m seeing Ralph as a mid-30s Englishman in the 1900′s, wearing a cravat, gloves, and top hat, traipsing through the woods for whatever reason. This is the vision the dialogue is conjuring. There’s no character description here (because it doesn’t belong in the script), so that’s all I really have to go on at the moment.

Again, I’m not a fan.

How to fix it?

Simple. A total rewrite of the dialogue. Get more into Ralph’s head, into the way he lives, and let his dialogue reflect that. Right now, I don’t think that the dialogue is going to match the character design. It’s too refined. Roughen it up some.

And don’t think I haven’t noticed that Ralph hasn’t been named in the script yet. Let’s see if you get it in within a reasonable timeframe.

PAGE 3 (Five Panels)

PAGE 3, Panel 1

Small panel. A close up of Ralph’s eyes as they are closed. (Closed in what way? Squeezed shut in pain or casually resting like he’s asleep?)

PAGE 3, Panel 2

Same shot. Ralph’s eyes are now open with wide-eyed shock.

PAGE 3, Panel 3

We pull out to see Ralph climbing to his feet and looking shocked. He’s now inside the mind of the tree. The environment is completely different to that of the forest. The ground is arid and cracked, and thick black roots sprout up from and run across its surface.

RALPH: HOW… WHAT…. WHERE AM I?! (If you’re going to use all three questions, don’t put them all on the same line. Separate them into different connected balloons. Also, because you have a question mark AND an exclamation mark at the end, the other questions should read as sudden cut-offs with “HOW –“ and “WHAT –“ instead of calmly and casually trailing off. Finally, the question remains: Do you really need all three to get the point across that he’s disoriented?)(And an ellipsis is three periods, not four…)

CAPTION (RALPH): “THE NEXT THING I KNEW, I WAS TRAPPED…” (I honestly dislike the stereotypical use of the term “THE NEXT THING I KNEW”. It’s over-used, kind of reminding me of someone who isn’t a natural storyteller vocally recounting a sudden happening. You aren’t that person, Liam. Change it to something like “I SUDDENLY REALIZED THAT I WAS TRAPPED…”)

PAGE 3, Panel 4

We see Tree stood a few metres behind Ralph. Ralph is looking at Tree from over his shoulder. Angle the camera so that we’re by Tree’s side, looking at Ralph. (This description read awkwardly for me. You say Tree is standing a few metres behind Ralph instead of saying that Ralph is standing a few metres ahead of Tree. I started my reading with the understanding that we were in front of Ralph looking back at Tree, but then realized that we’re looking from beside Tree, completely changing the meaning of the description. Somewhat confusing, sir.)

CAPTION (RALPH): “…WITHIN THE TREE’S MIND.”

TREE: THE PLACE WHERE THE PICTURES LIVE.

TREE: OUR PICTURES ARE NOW MELDED. (Can this simply read “THEY ARE NOW MELDED”? Otherwise you’re repeating picture, picture, picture over and over again, especially in two consecutive balloons.)

PAGE 3, Panel 5

Medium close up of Tree as it points at Ralph (off-panel). (Again, we’re left with the same question as Page Two, Panel 4. Where is your camera positioned? In front or in the profile of your subject?)

TREE: YOURS ARE VERY INTERESTING, RALPH. YES… I AM GOING TO ENJOY THEM MUCH. (It seems like you’re missing a word: VERY MUCH. That said, I’m sure that some linguistic cultures wouldn’t require the word “very” to be placed before “much”, but the norm would be to associate the words together to complete or emphasize the intended meaning.)

And look at that: Liam worked Ralph’s name in there. It wasn’t even forced. A little awkward, but not forced. Nice.

Why awkward? Because of the name Ralph. It just isn’t something you think a tree would say. It could be me, though. (I’ve never liked the name Ralph. Not even on The Honeymooners.)

I’m seeing the clear distinction in voice between Ralph and the tree. The tree clearly doesn’t have the vocabulary of a human, and so is putting its words using concepts it can understand. It is expressing itself much as a child would. I get it.

Ralph, though, sounds like a teacher recounting his day. I’m not liking his voice at all. All of his dialogue needs to be ripped out and replaced. Which is saying a lot, Liam, because your dialogue usually is nowhere near this bad. It isn’t hurtful to read, but definitely jarring.

Know what Ralph sounds like, besides British? He sounds like someone telling a tale around a campfire, but he’s doing it badly. And on top of that, he sounds bored.

Yes, his dialogue has to come out. And I think a name change is in order.

PAGE 4 (Four Panels)

PAGE 4, Panel 1

We see Ralph sat on the ground crossed-legged, staring down with sadness. Tree is stood in the background, with its back to Ralph, looking up with open arms.

TREE: ALICE? YOUR WIFE? MMM… HER SKIN IS SO SOFT. THE *UHH* PLEASURE AS YOU FELT HER INSIDE. YOUR LOVE FOR HER IS LIKE NOTHING I’VE FELT. (Again, you’re repeating words, this time it’s “FELT”. Change the last words to “NOTHING I’VE EXPERIENCED”.

CAPTION (RALPH): “I DO NOT KNOW HOW LONG I WAS HELD, BUT IT SEEMED LIKE (A) LIFETIME.” (Another way of describing it would be “IT SEEMED LIKE AN ETERNITY”.)

CAPTION (RALPH): “I MISSED YOU SO MUCH. YOUR SMILE IS WHAT KEPT ME GOING.”

PAGE 4, Panel 2

Face shot of Ralph as he smiles.

CAPTION (RALPH): “EVENTUALLY, I REALIZED WHAT HAD TO BE DONE.”

CAPTION (RALPH): “I FIGURED THAT I WASN’T REALLY THERE. MY ACTUAL BODY (or “PHYSICAL FORM”) WAS STILL IN THE FOREST.”

PAGE 4, Panel 3

Same camera angle as Page 1 (What do you mean “as Page 1”? Page One has three panels. Are you referring to something else?) Ralph is biting into one of his wrists, tearing the flesh open and severing an artery. Blood sprays from it like a faucet. (The analogy of the faucet isn’t the best, as you’d have to turn the tap on full blast to get the spray effect. Could you use another example or, better yet, do you need an example when the term “spray” is pretty self-explanatory?) Tree is still in the background turned away, but is now looking over its shoulder at Ralph. (Here’s where you have two actions described: Tree’s turned away, but is now looking over its shoulder. It’s either one or the other, my friend.)(This isn’t a moving panel. Tree’s body is facing one way, and its head is facing another. It could have been described better, though.)

CAPTION (RALPH): “MY PRESENCE IN THE TREE’S MIND MUST HAVE BEEN NEEDED TO KEEP MY BODY CONNECTED. (Missing closing quotes.)

TREE: HMM..(Missing a third dot to form the ellipsis, which shouldn’t be there to begin with.)? THE PICTURES FADE. WHAT ARE Y–

PAGE 4, Panel 4

Wide shot of Tree as he is stood over Ralph’s dead body. Ralph has bitten into both of his wrist(s), and lies dead in a pool of his blood. (We just saw Tree in the background, yet suddenly it’s standing over the body. Where’s the transition? Also, when did Ralph bite into his other wrist?)(What’s worse is the compression of time. It takes some time to bleed out. You have Ralph biting and then dying in two panels. There isn’t that much Border Time to allow that to happen. There needs to be a panel or two between these for pacing.)

CAPTION (RALPH): “AT LEAST I HOPED.”

TREE: NO…(You don’t need this first “NO” with the ellipsis. It serves no purpose in helping us understand Tree’s panic.) NO! I WON’T BE ROOTED! I WANT TO FEEL!

TREE (YELLING [Or another word being “burst”]): BRING THE PICTURES BACK!!

Four panels here, and there really should be six.

And the thing that’s missing from ALL of it? Anyone? Anyone? Beuller?

The pictures.

You have the tree going through his memories in dialogue only. I don’t see anything within the panels that shows exactly what the tree is looking at. That’s a terrible, terrible oversight, Liam.

What’s more interesting: being told what the tree is seeing, or seeing what the tree is seeing? Seeing what the tree is seeing, of course. You could do some sort of mixed media or mixed coloring to differentiate the memories from the mental avatars and the mental landscape. The memories could be like a ribbon in the sky (Stevie Wonder!) or like a reflecting pool or whatever you wish. They have to have some sort of visual representation in the panel, though. That is what will make it complete.

Make it visually interesting, Liam.

This also works in your favor with the pacing for this page. By having the memories visually represented on the page, you can then do something like having them crumble or fade or whatever you want to do. That will then tie into Tree’s dialogue, and move the story forward that much better. Right now, it’s kinda limping.

Also: make sure the memories are interesting. You hint at it here. Make sure it translates in the imagery.

PAGE 5 (Four Panels)

PAGE 5, Panel 1

We are now back in the forest where we see Ralph stood in front of Tree Man, displaying shock as he wakes from the tree’s mind. The black vine from Tree Man’s mouth is still buried into one of his temples. Make this a face shot. (Is Tree Man in the shot? I can’t tell if this is supposed to be a medium shot or close-up.)

CAPTION (RALPH): “IT WAS A LEAP OF FAITH, SURE… BUT I WOULD HAVE SOONER DIED THAN STAYED.”

RALPH: *GASP* (This detracts from what Ralph is saying in the caption, like a parting shot or someone having the last word. Take it out.)

PAGE 5, Panel 2

Face shot (Is this a repeat of the last panel’s face shot?) of Ralph in pain as he pulls the vine from his temple. A small amount of blood trickles from a small hole left where the vine penetrated.

SFX: SLUKK

RALPH: URGH!

PAGE 5, Panel 3

We now have Ralph running away from the tree with a look of fright. The vine shooting from Tree Man’s mouth now hangs down and rest on the ground. Have Ralph running towards the camera in the foreground and the tree and Tree Man in the background. (Instead of jumping the gun and having him already running, why not bridge the transition in action by having him turn to start running?)

CAPTION (RALPH): “NEEDLESS TO SAY, I RAN AS FAST AS I COULD.”

CAPTION (RALPH): “THE ONLY THING ON MY MIND WAS YOU. I WANTED TO THANK YOU FOR GETTING ME THOUGH (THROUGH).”

PAGE 5, Panel 4

Medium shot of Ralph as he runs from the tree with a smile on his face.

CAPTION (RALPH): “I WANTED TO SEE YOUR SMILE ONCE MORE.” (Positive expression here…)

CAPTION (RALPH): “OH, ALICE… I NEVER THOUGHT I’D SEE YOU AGAIN.” (… and negative expression here. Keep the reunion positive by getting rid of this line. Also, put more feeling into the previous line by saying something like “I HAD TO SEE…” or “I WANTED DESPERATELY TO SEE…” It shows a much stronger desire and determination on his part to return to her.)

Weak. That’s what this page is.

As a short story, I can see where you wanted to get in and out. I get it. But the dialogue is what’s killing you here. At no point did I ever feel like Ralph was in danger, and that’s because he’s telling the story. You’ve killed interest in the story because we already know that he survives it.

Or, let’s say he doesn’t. Let’s say he’s the tree, escaped. I can see that possibility because of the smile. He just got away, so it’s too soon to be smiling. I’m not overly brave. If I just escaped from a tree that was sucking on my memories, I wouldn’t be smiling after getting a couple hundred feet. I’d probably still be in shock over what happened, and would smile next year sometime. But that’s just me.

If there’s supposed to be a twist, and if the twist is that the tree has taken him over, then you telegraphed it with the smile. If I can see it, then it isn’t a good twist. Remember, I’m not that smart.

If there isn’t any twist, then it’s just uninteresting, because we know he survives because he’s telling the story. This is the danger of voice-over captions. Once you know that the storyteller survives, it can be all downhill from there. Not fun. Find a way to spice it up. With short stories, it is a LOT harder than it seems. (Some people have a knack for it, though. Time and practice, mostly.)

PAGE 6 (Four Panels)

We’re now out of the story sequence and in the present. The panel borders and colours can return to standard. (Standard what? There never was any “standard.” You can only return to a standard if one was set, and you can only set a standard in the beginning.)

(This is where things turned around for me, but not in a good way…)

PAGE 6, Panel 1

We’re back in the Tree’s mind and have a face shot of Tree. (How is the reader supposed to know that anyone is anywhere? This is the problem with assuming, especially since you never truly set an establishing shot or gave a real place setting for the tree’s mind. And then, where’s the expression?)

TREE: I DO LOVE THOSE PICTURES YOU CREATED.

TREE: THE THINGS YOU WOULD HAVE DONE…

PAGE 6, Panel 2

Big Panel. Angle the camera so that we’re looking over Tree’s shoulder. In front of it, we see Ralph, stood but tied up and bound by black vines that sprout from the arid ground. He is unconscious (See? Telegraphed.)

TREE: …GIVEN THE CHANCE.

PAGE 6, Panel 3

Big Panel. We’re now outside of the tree’s mind and see that Tree Man has been replaced by Ralph. (That’s quite a bit of a jump, where he was in front of Tree and is now replacing Tree Man fifty years later. Huh? (Exactly. I’m not sure where you’re getting this timeframe, Steve.) Pacing-wise, it’s almost as if you should have had the previous two panels as a separate page because you move too quickly to jump ahead. You’ve gone from a sequence where Ralph is running with a smile on his face to the present [How can we tell in Tree’s mind that it’s the present, by the way?] where he’s trapped in the black vines, and then suddenly it’s fifty years later. Did we need to go back into Tree’s mind? Could we have, instead, had a medium shot or close-up of his smiling face as the last image of Page Five and then go to an exact copy of that shot and aged it fifty years, then pulled back the camera to reveal he had replaced Tree Man in the present?) Ralph is strung up to the tree with vines penetrating his body in the same manner. He has aged fifty or so years, making him an old man with a long white beard and hair (AH! Now I get the reference for the timejump. Me no longer confuseled.). His head hangs down and he appears unconscious (Make sure his hair doesn’t cover his face so we can see that it is Ralph). Tree Man has been discarded to the ground at the foot of the Tree. His body has since decayed, leaving only bones half-buried in dirt and foliage.

CAPTION (TREE): “YOU ARE MUCH BETTER THAN THAT OTHER. STILL… (Comma instead of ellipsis here) YOUR PICTURES ARE BEGINNING TO GROW DRY.”

YOUNG MAN (OFF-PANEL – BEHIND THE CAMERA [In other words, character’s or camera’s or objective POV?]): BY THE GODS…

PAGE 6, Panel 4

We’re looking at a young man in medieval peasant attire who stands a few feet in front of Ralph looking intrigued. Position the camera so that we see him from over Ralph’s shoulder.

CAPTION (TREE): “ALICE’S SMILE IS BEGINNING TO BORE.”

YOUNG MAN: (Ellipsis here to connect the thought) WHAT HAPPENED HERE?

CAPTION: END

Okay. At the end, we have bad storytelling. Liam should be ashamed of himself for that.

Let’s run it down.

Format: Flawless victory. (And to tell the truth, I wasn’t expecting anything less.)

Panel Descriptions: You missed a great opportunity to forward the story by showing the images that the tree could see. There are some muddled pd’s where things aren’t so clear. Easy enough to fix, though. Take it slow and think it through. You’ve gotten much better at it. Nice work, but you have to be consistent. That consistency isn’t evident here.

Take your time, think it through, and go for varying shots. At least you aren’t using the over the shoulder view almost exclusively anymore.

Pacing: Meh. I don’t like the timejump at the end. It almost invalidates the entire piece. That big jump is also a huge disconnect. I no longer see what one has to do with the other. Did he just dream he got away, or was it a switch after all? I don’t know. That jump in time kinda says “eff you” while it also perpetuates the tree’s existence. (Remember, I’m not that smart. I still haven’t figured out Morrison’s The Filth.)

The pacing seemed slow for two reasons: the imagery was incomplete, and the dialogue of Ralph wasn’t sound. Even though this was a short story, it dragged, and it shouldn’t have.

Dialogue: Ralph’s dialogue has to be replaced wholesale. There isn’t any other way to go. The gist of it can be kept, the spirit of it, but what is said cannot stay in its present form. It doesn’t work. It has to change. Work on Ralph’s voice, and start from there, concentrating on that. (Again, it could be my American “ear,” but I don’t think it is.)

Content: This isn’t your best story. Not even close. It failed to draw me in, it failed to keep me, and I saw the “twist” coming. Not good. As a reader, I would wonder why/how it made it into an anthology.

Ask these questions: who’s story is this, what are they supposed to learn, and how do you want the reader to be affected by it? Right now, even though it seems like it’s Ralph’s story, it’s the tree’s. What does the tree learn? What does Ralph learn? I don’t know. How was the reader affected? It bored me. Not one iota of interest.

Editorially, this might need a rewrite. It definitely needs a rewrite for the dialogue, but I think it needs some guidance on how you want it to turn out. That’s where conversation is important. It will take conversation and keeping you on task to bring this where you want it to be.

And that’s it! Thanks for stopping back every week, and thank you again for your participation, all!

There are some changes in store for next year. Some tweaks: bringing in some new practices, and resurrecting some old ones.

That’s it for this year! Check the calendar to see who’s next!

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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 stevedfo[email protected] for rate inquiries.

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