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TPG Week 122: Dialogue & Stereotypes

| April 26, 2013

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Welcome back to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we have Brave One LJ Wright, who hails from Bowling Gigante, TX! (I have no idea, but I liked working “gigante” in there. Color me clever. Sometimes.)

We’re still looking for scripts, writers! We’re here for you, and we can’t do it without you.

Who are we? We are Steve Colle in blue, I’m in red, and we have LJ bringing us a tale about

The Day The Foreigner Came

Page 1(five panels)

1: An establishing shot of the center of a small Georgian village with a market, school, and government building (here’s some reference shots of some Georgian villages to give you an idea of the architecture, could never figure out how to upload those of mine to a Word document:http://www.google.ge/imgres?um=1&hl=en&safe=off&client=firefox-a&sa=N&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&biw=1366&bih=665&tbm=isch&tbnid=mB2A1-InP_vEFM:&imgrefurl=http://www.euratlas.com/Atlas/georgia/village.html&docid=UkPF01xigmVIlM&imgurl=http://www.euratlas.com/Atlas/georgia/village.jpg&w=640&h=480&ei=rO9NUaPRNMKC4gTbvYGwBQ&zoom=1&ved=1t:3588,r:19,s:0,i:136&iact=rc&dur=205&page=2&tbnh=173&tbnw=228&start=15&ndsp=21&tx=94&ty=103, http://www.google.ge/imgres?um=1&hl=en&safe=off&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&biw=1366&bih=665&tbm=isch&tbnid=W-MYsZ8M32oCNM:&imgrefurl=http://www.flickr.com/photos/26849514%40N06/5271800651/&docid=zDJevhbWuMM9mM&imgurl=http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5243/5271800651_99c907e085_z.jpg&w=640&h=461&ei=JvBNUeiUL6iN4gSxq4GYBQ&zoom=1&ved=1t:3588,r:9,s:0,i:103&iact=rc&dur=1554&page=1&tbnh=184&tbnw=264&start=0&ndsp=15&tx=170&ty=102. ). The main focus of the shot is on toward the market, a group of men stand outside it, smoking and drinking, and young children are running around and playing. (Adding the links creates a bit of a mess to your panel description, something I’m personally guilty of myself as I’ve done the same thing in the past. There are two ways around this: Hyperlinks [which I’m not sure how to do but can be taught] or having these links separate from the script similar to how you have a character sheet separate for artist reference. This would clean up your description and make it easier for your artist and editor.)(Hyperlinks! I love ’em. Know what else I love? The fact that LJ is talking to the artist, saying what he (LJ) “can’t” do. Hyperlinks are easy. Just highlight a word or phrase, go to Insert, find Hyperlink, and viola. What I’d like to see, though, is a time of day. That would have rounded this out nicely. I don’t care too much about morning or afternoon, just whether it’s day, evening, or night. This’ll let the colorist know which palette to use.)

 

CAP: Georgia, Guria Region (I like that there’s no period here. Totally an editorial call as to whether or not there’s a period at the end of a location. I like it. That’s just me.)

 

Giorgi/CAP: “When is Lia getting here with the American, Tamuna?”* (This could have been said in a word balloon coming from the village. We don’t need to see who’s saying it at this point. Having read ahead a bit, I see better usage for the character captions.)

 

Credits (Is the title here as well?)

 

*translated from Georgian (The less than/greater than signs are there to help tell us that this is translated from another language. It would look like this:

 

Giorgi (from village): <When is Lia getting here with the American, Tamuna?>*

 

That’s probably what you’re used to seeing, yes?

 

2: A medium shot inside the market on Nika, standing casually and holding a beer in one hand, Tamuna behind a counter (this is a single piece of wood kind of counter, we’ll see her duck under it near the end of the story) looking at her cellphone, and Giorgi, who holds a cigarette and stands more stiff and upright. (Having the information about the wood counter placed where it is in the panel description made it hard to concentrate on the three characters. Talk about the three characters first and then the counter so you divide up character elements and then setting elements for cleaner flow.)

 

Tamuna: Should be soon.

 

Tamuna: Her last text said they were outside Orzugeti, and that was about an hour ago. (This didn’t need to be separated from the above dialogue. It could have worked in the same balloon.)

 

Nika: Any minute then. (This dialogue is unneeded. It’s just reiterating the “Should be soon” comment.)

 

3: A close up on Giorgi, holding his cigarette close to his mouth, a stern expression on his face.

 

Giorgi: You Getting nervous, Nika?

 

Giorgi: You outta be, with him teaching your girl and all.

 

4: A close up on Nika, who looks over at Giorgi off panel, his eyebrow raised.

 

Nika: Tamta’s in the eleventh class, (Period instead of comma here.) Isn’t he only teaching the little kids. (Question mark needed.)

 

5: A medium side of the three again: Giorgi still stands stiffly, a cloud of freshly blown cigarette smoke hovering around him, and Nika’s face and posture has dropped and he frowns, Tamuna is leaning on the counter now, her eyebrow raised and looks at Giorgi.

 

Giorgi: Suppose(d) to, but I heard Shoerna say she was going to ask him to help her with the older kids, too.

 

Giorgi: I told her it was a big mistake, but she just scoffed at me, like a lot of you have.

 

Giorgi: But I’ll tell you (Missing comma) I can picture this guy right now and everything

 

We have P1 on the books! Let’s take a look at it, shall we?

 

We have the page numbers centered. Personally, I don’t care if the heading for the page number is left justified, centered, or right justified. It doesn’t matter. What matters is consistency. I’m also seeing that LJ has put the number of panels up there as well. Nice. Double-edged sword, that. It’s one more thing to look for mistakes, but it also lets the artist know up front how many panels are on the page. It works. More beneficial than anything, and that’s the name of the game.

 

Still talking in technicalities, I’d rather see the less than/greater than signs used throughout the script to let the reader know that the characters are speaking their native language. This means there’s no confusion on the part of the reader as to when the characters are speaking English or something else.

 

I’m liking this page. It’s quiet, but there’s an undercurrent here. It’s in what’s not being said, which is very important. That undercurrent is what’s carrying the page. The tension that the characters are feeling is coming through. Nice work here, LJ.

 

Writers may think that I’m all about action right out the gate. I’m not. I’m about drawing interest right out the gate. This has my interest. Enough for me to turn the page. I’m asking questions. Teaching? Nervousness? An American? Color me intrigued. I’m ready to turn the page and learn more. I like it.

 

Just clean up the panel descriptions so that they flow better.

Page 2 (four panels)

1: A shot of a James Dean-esque young man standing without a backdrop, complete with curly quiff (I’m not a genius. I had to look this word up. Nice, LJ!), leather jacket, skinny jeans. He looks at the camera with a half smirk, his eyes looking sharply and sexily at the reader. An American flag patch is sewn on the jacket’s chest. Every good girl’s wet dream, every good girl’s parent’s nightmare. (This is an imagined shot similar to a dream, so make sure to specify this to your artist so they know to change the look of the image or the panel’s frame.)

 

Giorgi/CAP: “…one of those seduction artist types seducers who aren’t man enough to court women properly.”

 

Giorgi/CAP: “They His type only want one thing.”

 

2: A close up on Nika, the bottle close to his lips, but his still frowning face shows visible worry. (I’m trying to role play this facial expression to show both a frown and worry and am having trouble doing so. All we would be seeing are his eyes and eyebrows as the bottle is up to his mouth, so all of the emotion is up there. A frown has the eyebrows down while worry would have them up, so both can’t be done effectively.) (“Clean” emotions, folks. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: once you start mixing emotions, you’re getting away from “clean,” and that makes it more difficult for the artist to get the emotion across.)

 

Nika: Oh (Missing comma) come on, Giorgi… (Very good. You identified all three characters by name within the first seven panels.)

 

3: Giorgi points at the camera toward Nika off panel, the smoking cigarette jolting (jutting) out from between his fingers. His brow is now furrowed.

 

Giorgi: It’s true, Nika.

 

Giorgi: These foreigners have to use all these little tricks because they aren’t as manly as good, strong Georgian men.

 

Giorgi: Georgian Our women aren’t use(d) to it, either, so they fall for it thinking these guys are something special.

 

4: A close up on Tamuna, her eyes rolled and looking upward.

 

Tamuna: Oh, bitcho!*

 

Tamuna: You watch too many American movies, (Period instead of comma here.) They aren’t really like that.

 

*bitcho is a play on the Georgian for boy, bitchi. There’s no direct English translation, but it’s vaguely similar to how we use “dude”. (Do you intend on having this explanation as a note to the reader? If so, then it’s going to take away from the flow of the text being read. You also don’t want to have to explain every last use of a Georgian term. That said, without the explanation, I’d assume Tamuna was calling a guy a bitch. Is there another word that could have been used to similar effect, but not sound so odd?)(Agreed. If you’re going to use this term, then make it more formal as an editor’s note. Just something as simple as “Rough translation: dude.”)

 

P2, and it’s quickly losing steam. The undercurrent that was there in the first page isn’t evident here. This is quite obviously a “second page,” where you’re just wasting time to get to the next interesting bit.

 

Not good. This is padding.

 

Every panel should be pointed toward telling a story. I had that feeling on the first page, but I’m not getting that at all on the second. Some exposition, some dated thoughts on “Americans,” but none of it is gripping. You’re marking time, LJ, and it shows.

 

But there is good news. The good news is that you’ve worked in everyone’s name in a fast, efficient, and organic manner. Good work.

 

Redo this page. Expand on what’s going on. Let that tension build some more. Make sure it’s pointed in the direction you want it to go. This is a decent start, but it could be better.

 

A word about dialogue. As always, this is the most subjective part of a script. However, Steve is right with the corrections. Comma vs period usage here is a problem. Read the dialogue out loud and listen for your stops. If it doesn’t work, change it. If it works, leave it alone, then come back later and read it again to see if it still works. The dialogue here could use a good once-over.

Page 3 (four panels)

1: Medium shot focused on Tamuna and Giorgi, Giorgi is turned toward her now and pointing while she looks at him with a snarl.

 

Giorgi: Now listen here, girl, (Period instead of comma here.) What I’m talking about isn’t movies.

 

Giorgi: Up in Samegrelo* (Two things: First, you need a comma here, while second, you need to stop having a star beside every Georgian-related word or location. It’s detracting from the story.) there’s (there’ve) been five Georgian girls who got married to foreigners.

 

Giorgi: Two of them even moved back to those foreigners’ countries, away from their families.

 

2: A wide shot of a disgusted, but well dressed, Giorgi walking away from a smiling frizzy haired man groom with his similarly smiling bride, who are talking to a group of laughing well dressed Georgian men holding small glasses of wine. (If this is a flashback, say it’s a flashback so the artist knows to treat it as such, with a different panel frame shape or other different look to identify it.)

 

Giorgi (Is this meant to be a caption?): “I went up to one of the weddings because the girl was a friend of my cousin.”

 

Groom: Please, speak a little slower…. (Three dots for an ellipsis, not four.)

 

Giorgi (Caption?): “This boy could barely even speak Georgian!(Something that Steven had said in a previous TPG, one of my scripts if I remember correctly, was a suggestion to leave accentuated words to the reader’s “ear”. Right now, you’ve got quite a bit of underlining going on where I’m not “hearing” their purpose. Sure, you’ve got a couple that make sense, but generally, I’d suggest taking the underlining out. You’ll see more as to the reason why coming up in more of your dialogue.)

 

Giorgi (Caption?): “And here he was (Comma) marrying a lovely, perfectly healthy Georgian girl.”

 

3: A close up on Giorgi looking down and to the side, the disguised (disgusted) look carrying over from the last panel.

 

Giorgi: And Tamazi keeps hearing more and more rumors about Batumi girls who are getting into these relationships with foreigners, (Period instead of comma here.) Sexual relationships.

 

4: A shot on a sweating Nika, looking down at the floor and holding his beer loosing loosely by the head.

 

Giorgi/OP: Batumi isn’t even two hours away, Nika, (Period instead of comma here.) Particularly Practically in our back yard.

 

Giorgi/OP: Just imagine that kind of person coming here, to our village.

 

*Another region north of Guria. (If this were important, which it’s not, I would suggest having it in the frame for Panel 1 instead of down at the bottom of the page.)

 

For three pages, I’m honestly seeing pacing for two. The first panel from Page Two, of the imagined shot of the James Dean lookalike, could have easily been placed on the first page as a sixth panel, while the balance of the second page could have been combined with the third to make seven panels. It’s conversation vs. action, so you don’t need those large panels to get the point across. Also, I’m not reading any definite hook with the comment of “You watch too many American movies. They aren’t really like that.” So combining them would make more sense pacing-wise.

 

Yeah. This page is more marking time. Like Steve said, combine these two pages into one, and it’ll be better. Four panels for this page? You could easily fit more, and as long as the dialogue matched, you’d have that undercurrent of tension that was on the first page. We’re on P3, and I’m no longer feeling it.

 

The only thing I’m feeling now is boredom.

 

Now, more of a problem is the dialogue. Like I said before, read it aloud and listen to the stops. Some of it works better with Steve’s corrections, but others just need to be rewritten.

 

And the asterisks? They need to go. Let the reader infer from context, or go search for the info themselves. They don’t need to be spoonfed everything. It will even make you seem deep.

 

Overall, the pace here is slow. We’re three pages in, and two of these pages could be condensed into one, and you’re losing the reader. Hopefully, something interesting happens soon.

Page 4 (five panels)

1: A wide shot of the Jeans (James) Dean youth, sitting behind a teachers desk, his arm slung over his chair’s back. He’s looking up at Tamta with his half smirk, his eyes locked on the girl, whose head is down and to the side, a visibly blushed face turned toward the camera. (Again, this is an imagined scenario, so make sure to let your artist know this. And by the way, are JD and Tamta alone in the classroom? That’s the only way I can see what you’re proposing working.)

 

Giorgi/CAP: “I can imagine what kind of teaching he’ll try and do to give our good girls.”

 

JD Youth: Tamta, you’re one of my best students, do you know that?

 

Tamta: Thank you, teacher, (Period instead of comma here.) I try my best.

 

JD Youth: You know, I’ve been trying hard to think of a reward for you, but no such luck.

 

2: A medium shot of the James Dean youth, now leaning back in his seat against his folded arms. (This is impossible. Arms don’t work that way. If you’re going to lean back, the only way to lean back against folded arms is for your arms to be folded across your back. Impossible, if you’re thinking of it as being akin to having your arms folded across your chest. And why do it in a chair? No, I think you meant something different, but it came out extremely screwed up.)

 

JD Youth: Come on over here, Tamta, and sitin on my lap while I think.

 

Tamuna/CAP: (Quotation marks) Bitcho, you let your imagination run wild. (Quotation marks)

 

3: A medium shot of Tamuna, leaning over the counter, an angry look on her face, looking toward the camera at Giorgi; Nika can be seen in the background, still looking down and distraught.

 

Tamuna: Only you and your stupid brother and your even stupider cousins are worried about him.

 

Tamuna: The students, teachers, and almost everyone else is are excited that he’s coming.

 

4: A medium shot of the trio, Nika still looking down letting his imagination go wild (how is the artist supposed to draw “letting his imagination go wild,” and how is the reader supposed to know this?), while Tamuna continues looking at Giorgi as she scolds him, and Giorgi stands with his eyes closed and takes a drag from his cigarette.

 

Tamuna: And I’ll tell you, You(‘d) better not try anything, either.

 

Tamuna: Razo and Lana are looking forward to hosting the foreigner, and I think Razo made it pretty clear he’d have something to say for to anyone who messed with him.

 

5: A close up side shot of Giorgi, blowing smoke out of his mouth.

 

Giorgi: Hmpf

 

Giorgi: I’m not going to do anything, (Period instead of comma here) All I’m doing is telling. (This last line sounds like a kid tattling. Can this be changed to “I’m just worried”?)

 

I’m going to stop here. The story is dragging for me, with the subject matter being little more than a conversation with no definable rising in action. He’s worried. We get that. Could this have been said in fewer pages? Sure could. And did this dialogue have to take place between three people instead of just two? No. You could have eliminated Nika and still gotten the point of the conversation across. As you can tell from all the blue, there are a lot of issues with regards to improper use of punctuation, misused wording, and a definite need to identify to your artist when something not in the here and now is being presented. I wouldn’t suggest a rewrite based on what I’ve read so far, but you really need to have dramatic tension in this story. Show Giorgi’s worry as building anxiety instead of sarcastic commentary. The thing is, Tamta isn’t even his daughter, so his worry isn’t as founded as if she were. Make it more personal for him, with Tamuna dismissing his concerns, creating tension between them. Right now, it’s just an exchange. Bring drama into it. By doing this, you’d be warranting your larger panels. I’ll let Steven have his say.

 

Bah. That’s what I say. Let’s run it down.

 

Format: Flawless Victory.

 

Panel Descriptions: They need some work. The biggest part of it is clarity. Slow down, take your time, and really understand what it is you’re trying to get at. Do it twice if necessary: write it out, then see if you can actually see someone performing that action. If you can, leave it. If you can’t, if it didn’t come out the way you wanted it to, then rewrite it. That chair-leaning panel on the last page? That needs a rewrite. That didn’t come out the way you wanted it to.

 

Pacing: The opposite of good.

 

The first page was fine. It didn’t start to fall off the rails until you get to the second page, and then it quickly turned into a whole bunch of nothing. Nothing gripping, nothing that will stay with the reader, nothing that will make them turn the page anymore in order to get them deeper into the story.

 

I’ll come to the content in a bit, because I liked some of that I saw, but the pacing for what you have here isn’t good. Remember, going from large to small, pacing consists of the number of scenes in a book, the number of pages a scene takes up, the number of panels on a page, and the amount of dialogue in a panel. Don’t forget that what happens in eache scene/page/panel and what and how much is said in the dialogue is also very important to pacing. When you have rising action, you have fewer panels. When you have slower action, you add panels.

 

Your pacing here is screwed up because you have “action pacing” for a sedate setting. It doesn’t work. You need to add more panels (interesting panels) in order to justify the page. Four panels, and there isn’t a lot of dialogue as a reason for it? Criminal.

 

Dialogue: The first page gives us tension. It caught my interest. The subsequent pages squandered any interest I held, and did it fast. After P2, none of the dialogue was gripping. And it gets worse from there.

 

As a writer, you live and die with words. What your characters say and how they say it is extremely important. Everyone has their favorite lines from movies, but few people know who actually wrote the movies. Who wrote Die Hard? Who wrote The Princess Bride? Eminently quotable movies, and few people know who wrote them. (I know I don’t.)

 

With that, your word usage needs a lot of improvement. Verb and adverb tenses in conjunction with subjects are important. This is your job.

 

Here is how I view the role of an editor: we’re here to guide, not to write. By that, I mean we’re here to guide you on the path to make the best comic possible. I hate correcting dialogue, because this is the absolute only place where the writer comes through “pure.” Everything else is filtered by someone else (even the letterer is a filter of sorts, but still). Whenever I correct a writer’s dialogue, I feel like I’m stealing their voice. I hate that. I want them to be pure.

 

However, a lot of what you’ve written here needs to be rewritten. Part of that is because of your word/verb usage, but the bigger part is because it’s uninteresting. After P1, there’s no drama, no tension. It’s just two people grousing, and it didn’t look like it was going to end. What’s so interesting about that? Nothing, if it isn’t doing anything. Know what’s funny? The Odd Couple. Know what’s funny? Grumpy Old Men. The Honeymooners. Are these all old examples? Darn tootin’. Know why? Because they’re good. King of Queens? It wants to be The Honeymooners. Everyone Loves Raymond? Wants to be the Honeymooners. Mike and Molly? See the pattern here?

 

I’m not saying that your dialogue has to be funny. I’m saying that it has to go somewhere. P1 gives a setup, but the subsequent three pages don’t follow through with it. They’re just grousing. It’s boring, and boring is death.

 

Content: As a reader, this isn’t something I’d pick up. There’s something interesting, though, that I don’t know if others would pick up on, but it works out to be the same. Follow me for a moment, now.

 

I’m a child of the 80s. I grew up watching movies like The Karate Kid (who wrote that? Some good quotes in there, too.), and when the Karate Kid pt 2 came out, I was struck by how “stuck in time” the Okinawans seemed to be. It was the 80s, but they seemed to be stuck in the 50s. It looked like Grease, but with Japanese people. I was a kid. I thought this was how they saw us.

 

I also grew up thinking that all Russians drank vodka. A harsh language because it was damned cold, and they drank vodka in order to stay warm. I also thought the women were very stout, wore kerchiefs on their heads, and stood in line all day for bread (and vodka).

 

Have I been to Russia? No. I’ve been to Japan (and Okinawa), but I haven’t been to Russia. But I don’t think that they see us this way. Not in a Grease/James Dean kinda way. I think it’s a stereotype. Rebel Without A Cause was a great movie, James Dean was a passable actor that could have been great if he lived longer, but I don’t think we’re seen like that anymore. Could it have been that way in the 80s? Quite possibly. But we’re living in an age where we’re very connected, and the stereotypes should be different.

 

I just think it is very interesting what you think how they think of us. That would have struck me, personally, as a reader, and it would have rankled my nose. Not the stereotype itself, but because of the dated nature of it. Why not have a black kid with trunk jewelry, a Kangol hat, four-fingered ring, and maybe an oversized clock around his neck in place of the JD teacher? It would have come across the same way: dated.

 

Editorially, this needs a rewrite. We’d need to talk about what the story is about, what you wanted the reader to take away with them after they finished reading it, and what purpose the JD stereotype serves. Then we can work to craft a story to serve those purposes. One that is better paced than this, and is interesting to read.

 

And that’s all we’ve got for this week. We’re still needing scripts, so send ’em in! 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 stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

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