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TPG Week 115: Slow Pace…Interesting?

| March 8, 2013

TPGFeatured_02

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends…

It’s another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we continue with the treats. Something very special: we have our own Yannick Morin, doing writing work for our own Eli Ivory. Eli had a concept that he wanted worked, and I was able to put the two of them together. Also, I was hired to edit this. This is the draft I received. So, we’ve got Steve back in blue, I’m in the ever-present red, and Yannick brings us Eli’s tale of

Project Geisha

Page 1 (5 panels)

Panel 1

Close-up of GEISHA’s right feet (foot, singular), describing a sweeping arc in front of her left one, in a typical dance figure (here are some examples). (After watching all four Youtube videos, I still wasn’t able to get the idea of the sweeping motion you’re referring to. Part of the problem is that it isn’t so much “sweeping” from what I witnessed, but rather a pivoting motion as the feet never seem to extend past a foot apart. When you said “sweeping”, I was thinking more a leg sweep like in martial arts. Another problem, in my mind is this: How do you show a sweeping or pivoting motion in one static panel? The movements are so slow and slight in the dance that you couldn’t have speed lines to denote movement. Generally speaking, this description is hard to follow in my opinion.) The background is indefinite right now, rather dark. We can see she’s standing on the roof of a delivery truck, although it only appears as a featureless white floor at the moment. (This description of “seeing” the roof of the delivery truck but NOT seeing it quite yet threw me off. Simply leave that description of the truck’s roof for when we can actually make out the details.)

CAPTION (GEISHA): I am an artist.

Panel 2

Tight shot of GEISHA’s lower legs, her kimono flowing around her. (Again, the movements are so slight and slow that I can’t get the sense of flowing action from the static images.)

CAPTION (GEISHA): I am giving the best show that I have ever given in my life, like every performance prior to this one. (This sounds long winded. “I am giving the best performance of my life, just as every one before” is what I’d suggest.)

Panel 3

Close-up of GEISHA’s left hand holding one of her metallic fans, opened at waist level. She’s delicately holding it flat, parallel to the ground. (You’re at Panel 3 and all I’m getting is a close up of a foot’s positioning, a tight shot of legs that are static due to the medium, and a close-up of a left hand holding a fan. I’m getting no sense of action to keep my interest. Thinking of another way of presenting this, the only thing I can think of is to have the camera in close-up, then pull back to show the lower torso and hands [nothing for the upper torso as you seem to want to keep that hidden for now], and then another close-up of the left hand in a different position than the previous panel. That would at least give us a sense of movement. That said, it, too, is dull to look at.)

SFX: BLAM (You have a sound which could be a gunshot or a tire blowing out, but have no visual result of what is making the sound. If you’re trying to give us the idea of a gunshot, have the bullet’s trajectory line drawn in the image. Otherwise, it’s all for naught.)

CAPTION (GEISHA): This is what it means to be an artist.

Panel 4

Tight shot (What is the difference between a close-up and a tight shot?) of GEISHA’s left hand holding another metallic fan (Is her left hand holding two fans now? Did you mean that it’s in her right hand and this was a misprint? I’m trying to visualize exactly what you’re writing.), this time opened in front of her breast. There’s the spark of a bullet impact on it. (Just how strong is this woman? The reason I ask is this: You have a bullet ricochet off of her fan, which is pretty thin and isn’t being supporting by anything more than her loose hold on it. Also, how did she know to have the fan in that exact spot as the gunshot was aimed at her chest? It isn’t like a Wonder Woman situation where super speed is a factor, as that would have ruined the effect of the Geisha’s dance, so how did this happen? It’s too convenient.) We can see the strap from her grapple rod hanging on her back crossing her torso.

SFX: BLAM

SFX: K-PWING (Does the sound of a ricochet have two syllables? Wouldn’t it just be “PWING”?)

CAPTION (GEISHA): To strive for perfection (Missing comma) as if each moment would be the one for which you will be remembered. (Again, long winded.)

Panel 5

Tight shot of GEISHA’s face, her eyes half-closed, a serene smile on her face. We can see the tracing effect of a bullet whizzing just in front of her face.

SFX: BLAM

CAPTION (Geisha): Perfect poise, perfect beauty, perfect concentration, as if each performance… (I would have these four points read as four single balloon entries, such as “Perfect poise…”, “… perfect beauty…”, “… perfect concentration…”, “… as if each performance…” By having separate beats, you’re not only showing her calmness over the situation, but also allowing a set of visual cues to lead the eye to the bottom right of the page. Right now, that would seriously be the only “action” for the reader’s attention.)

 

I hate to say it, my friend, but I’m bored already. There is nothing keeping my attention vested in this sequence or hooked enough to make me want to turn the page. There’s subtle, and then there’s slow. This fulfills the criteria of the second option.

Okay, so we’ve got P1 on the books. Let’s take a look and see what we have.

Yeah, I dinged Yannick on some of this. I also give him a very small break. English is his second language, and he speaks it and writes it extremely well. However, French is his native tongue, and because of that, he gets a small break. Feet/foot, that type of stuff. Corrections I can live with all day long. Why? Because I don’t have to work extremely hard trying to parse what he’s saying, because he speaks my language extremely well.

Steve’s biggest problem is the pacing, both in dialogue and actions in the panels.

I can’t talk about one without talking about the other, because they go hand in hand.

I understood what Yannick was weaving here. The close, tight shots were meant to show the deliberateness of movement by the character. This is reflected in the dialogue. I didn’t find it to be overly wordy. There were places where it was a tad clunky or didn’t make sense, but those were addressed.

Anyway, I know the pace is slow, but for a reason. One of the few times I enjoyed a slowed-down pace, and I think that the gunshot/deflected bullet helped. That deflection didn’t bother me at all. Comic-logic.

The panel descriptions…were a bit murky at times. I had to beat up on Yannick about that a few times, but overall, I didn’t find them too terrible.

I didn’t touch the dialogue all that much, either. I liked it just the way it was, for the most part. A tweak here and there.

 

 

Page 2 (3 panels)

Panel 1

Wide elevated shot of GEISHA standing on the box of a speeding delivery truck, standing in a typical geisha dancing stance, her kimono whipping in the wind. (When you say “elevated”, do you mean a high angle shot looking down? Would that be more effective than a low angle shot looking up at her majestically as she maintains her balance and graceful pose atop the speeding vehicle? I’d think having a low angle shot would put the focus on the guns aimed and firing at her, which would also be more compositionally interesting. As an aside, I’d like to mention a page that Jim Lee had done in his first issue of SUPERMAN [#204], where he has a splash page of a priest turning around and seeing the godlike Man of Steel hovering above him. That low angle shot had such power. You could have the same effect here.) On either side of the truck, coming up from the rear, are two jacked-up cars (think Honda Civics) with Yakuza THUGS hanging out the windows firing at our heroine with semiautomatic pistols. We can see the bullets whizzing past her, missing her by mere inches. The whole scene is taking place at night, on the wide street of a Kyoto industrial district: mostly deserted, factory and warehouse fronts, crates, containers, parked cars and trucks. (This is a lot of setting detail for a shot that should have things blurred due to the speeding of the vehicles. Save this for the next panels. Just give us the general setting description of night and locale, in my opinion. Also, if you decide to go for a more dramatic low angle shot, you wouldn’t be seeing all this stuff. Finally, I see this working better as a splash or full bleed to capture the intensity and gravity of the situation. Having read ahead, you could definitely add the next two panels to the next page.)

CAPTION (GEISHA): …was were the very last one (Missing period)

SFX BLAM

SFX BLAM

TITLE: GRACE UNDER FIRE

CREDITS

Panel 2

Behind Geisha’s shoulder shot of the road up ahead. It’s ending in a T-intersection with a very narrow alley continuing from the street on which the pursuit is taking place. (Here’s where you could show more of the details of the contents of the setting.)

CAPTION (GEISHA): Though I am always prepared to face the end at any time, I would rather not meet it before having fulfilled my end of the bargain with Madsuda-san. (Long winded. Here’s a suggested way of changing it: “Though I am always prepared to face my end, I would prefer it be after fulfilling my deal with Madsuda-san.” 29 words vs. 21 words.)

CAPTION (GEISHA): First, I need to force these ruffians (The word “ruffians” sounds so English. Is there another word you could have used, perhaps even directly describing the group affiliation of the attackers?) behind the truck.

Panel 3

Medium shot of GEISHA with a finger to one of her elaborate earrings, a serious expression on her face. With her other hand, she’s holding her fan up to the other side of her body, deflecting a bullet at the same time (Again, she must have superhuman strength to so casually deflect speeding bullets.)

CAPTION (GEISHA): There is only one way to accomplish this that.

GEISHA: Inoue-san, would you be so kind as to head into the alley up ahead?

SFX: K-PWING

 

Two pages down.

Sound effects: I understand where Steve is coming from with the wanting the sound effects as a single syllable. However, just because I understand doesn’t mean I agree. I like the break-up. I think it sounds more authentic. That’s just me, though. Neither way is right or wrong. It’s just personal preference.

As for the panel descriptions themselves, I had no real trouble visualizing them. I think I asked for a little more clarity, but that was it.

And yes, I was really digging the dialogue. The calmness in contrast to the action going on was very nicely done.

 

Page 3 (5 panels)

Panel 1

Medium shot of Inoue, the truck’s DRIVER, as seen from just outside his windshield. The poor guy is visibly panicking as he replies to GEISHA on his CB.

DRIVER: Are you out of your ####ing (I’d suggest using a series of different symbols or even going the route of “fricking” or “freaking”) mind? No way the truck’s gonna fit!

GEISHA (ELEC): That is an industrial outflow route. It was designed to allow trucks to go through (Missing comma) in case of emergencies (emergency, singular)(Nope. Emergencies, plural, because of the way it is written. There are different types of emergencies. To make it singular would make it weirdly British. Now, if you wanted to say “an emergency”, then I could see that. And yes, I had trouble with the wording in a few places on this page, myself.). I assure you (Missing comma) it is perfectly safe.

Panel 2

Medium shot of GEISHA taking two long steel pins out from out of her elaborate hairdo. She’s now crouching on one knee. (This sounds more like a full shot of her body if we’re seeing not only her head, but her legs crouching as well.)

CAPTION (GEISHA): I don’t do not know if there is such a thing, but Doubt will kill us as surely as our pursuers right now will. (Ellipsis to connect with the next dialogue. Also, this sounds more like a dialogue she’d be having with the driver, not a caption of self-talk.)

Panel 3

GEISHA forcefully drives the pins into the roof (of) the truck’s box. The camera is placed level with the surface so the focus is on the point of impact. (Where was the wind up before the pitch? She takes her pins out and suddenly, they’re in the roof. Show us the force that went into it like Thor about to hit his hammer on the ground, a look of intensity across his face. You could either do this through a transitional panel filling in the blanks or have a full shot showing the speed lines of her arms driving the pins down.)

CAPTION (GEISHA): (Ellipsis to connect) And we cannot afford to neglect any chance that presents itself. (This also sounds like a dialogue instead of a monologue. And again, it sounds wordy and unnatural. “We cannot let a chance pass us by” is shorter and has more flow.)

SFX: THAK

Panel 4

Long shot of the speeding truck approaching the alley’s opening, as seen from inside the alley. Make it so we can see that it’s gonna be a very tight fit – if it even does fit. On top of the truck, we can see GEISHA hunkered down, holding on to the pins.

NO COPY

Panel 5

Medium shot of the DRIVER as seen from his side window. He’s clenching his teeth and squeezing his eyes shut. (I’d make a change in the order of these last two actions for more dramatic tension. We already know they are heading towards the alley from previous visuals and dialogue, so start off with the driver with the clenched teeth and follow up with a shot of the truck about to enter the alley with no text. It’s like having a game of chicken with another car. You don’t wait a millisecond before you hit to say “Shiiiiit!” You say it a second or two before as you realize that you ARE going to hit, then brace for impact.)

DRIVER: Oh shiiiii—

I’m going to stop here on a hook. I’ve got quite a bit of blue going on as it is. I like the concept of the story, but the delivery is lacking. The biggest points are the slow progression of actions on the first page and the dialogue being too wordy with unnatural flow. Besides that, your shot descriptions are a bit confusing with close-ups, tight shots, medium shots, elevated shots, and so forth. It’s like you know the language of camera distances (which I know you do, my friend), but then go into terms that sound similar to others, the best example being close-ups and tight shots. It gets hard to visualize. I’ll let Steven run with it from this point, Yannick.

Let’s just run this down.

Format: Flawless Victory. If it were any different, I’d have to knee-cap him.

Panel Descriptions: Not bad at all. There were some confusing points, but nothing that couldn’t be overcome. There was no point where I couldn’t see what was happening, or supposed to be happening.

This is a script that an artist could generally take and run with, having few questions. This is always the goal. No script is ever going to be perfect. This isn’t perfect. But I generally believe that the panel descriptions did their job.

Pacing: I liked it. It wasn’t riveting nor scintillating, but I think it was enough to turn pages. It was the dichotomy of the action and the serenity of the dialogue.

There was a jump in there that Steve caught that I don’t think I did, when the woman drove the pins into the top of the truck. That was a nice catch. I didn’t pick up on it on my passes, I don’t think. Very nice.

Dialogue: I didn’t find it to be overly wordy. There were a couple of places where there was a lack of clarity, one of which Steve fixed with a nice deletion, which I made Yannick go back and clarify. (I think Steve’s was the more elegant fix.)

What the dialogue did, though, was to continue to establish the characterization of the main character.

This isn’t the first issue of a story, this is the third. This, however, is the first issue of the story that Yannick wrote. I think the dialogue brought up the character from its roots, which was steeped in another character, which we’ll talk about in the next section. All in all, it worked.

Content: Okay, a short history lesson. This is Eli’s character. He had a writer attached to it before Yannick, and this writer turned the character basically into Batman in a kimono. I told Eli this when he first brought the project to me. (That writer actually did go on to pen a tale of the Dark Knight, too.) Yannick’s job, when he came onboard, was to elevate the character from where it was. Batman in a kimono wasn’t going to sell. The “bad girl” days are definitely over, and I don’t think much will be able to bring them back. So Yannick did his reading and his thinking, and came up with a way to incorporate what had gone before with where Eli would like to take the story next.

As a brand new reader, coming at it from this issue, I wouldn’t associate it with Batman. Maybe Kabuki, but not Batman. The writing kept me interested enough to continue. I call that a win.

Editorially, this just needed some guidance in order to put it on a better path. The path was already a nice one, but there were a few rough patches that needed to be cleared. I think it’s now in a place where people would read it on its own merits, and not immediately see Batman.

I think good work was done here.

Anyway, that’s it for this week. Check the calendar to see who’s up next!

Click here to make comments 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 stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

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