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TPG Week 127: Minutia Does Not Equal Storytelling

| May 31, 2013

TPGFeatured_02

Hello, one and all! Welcome back to The Proving Grounds! Today, we have a new Brave One in Schuyler Van Guten stepping up to the plate, and he hails from the great town of Pluten, OR. (I have no idea. Pluten rhymes with Guten. It was there, so I went.) As is the new norm, this week we have Sam Lebas in purple, I’m in red, and we’re both about to see what Schuyler brings in

Mystiker

PAGE ONE (three panels)

Panel 1. A Japanese Shogun holds a baby who was just born still covered in goo. (You should name your character here.) The room is filled with candles sitting on the floor itself. The candles leave a path to walk through. There is a circular sunken tub on the left behind the shogun. The candles that line the tub reflect off the water. Half of the tub is cut off by the left edge of the panel.  Directly behind the shogun are rice sliders that are open to a balcony. There is a crescent moon in the nighttime sky. (You do a fine job communicating position, but the details here are lacking. You need to give more information about this room’s purpose, how the shogun is interacting with this baby, and the events that lead up to this moment.) (I don’t care about the events that led up to this, because that information can’t be drawn. What I care about are the details: Who, What, When, Where. You fill most of those, but not well enough to give the artist the information they need to do their job.)

The Shogun wears a kimono that is orange down to the waist and silver and yellow stripes below the waist. (Since you are describing the shogun’s attire here, you should give other details about his appearance.)

CAP:

He was born in 1331, the only son to (of) the Hōjō shogun.”*

CAP (editorial):

*All dialogue will be translated from Chinese unless otherwise notated (noted.)

Panel 2. The Black Tiger and his Edimmu ride into war across an open field. The night sky is strange pinkish color behind them. (Edimmu is not a common enough phrase to use without a reference photo. You are tasked with researching your topic, share that research with your artist.) (I would like the Black tiger and his Edimmu to take up most of the panel if possible leaving little or no room for background.) (How many Edimmu are in this panel? How are they to be positioned? Which direction are they riding?)(I don’t do manga. Doesn’t hold much of an interest for me. So, I take it that it’s some sort of entourage. Why not just say that?)

The Black Tiger wears light samurai armor that is painted red and black. He wears a mask over his mouth and a helmet with horns. His eyes glow with sinister energy. (This would benefit from a reference photo as well. You can include links, or insert photos in the document, but there is no reason for your artist to be expected to gather these references. You also need to indicate what distinguishes the Black Tiger from his army visually. )

The Edimmu look like traditionally armored samurai wearing masks. However human body parts dangle from their necks and belts like trophies. The masks are actually their real faces, and some of them smile showing razor sharp interlocking teeth. (This last sentence needs a rewrite, you have a cool idea, but it could be more clearly communicated. Consider something like: ‘The Edimmu are monsters, their faces look like samurai masks, and their exposed teeth are shark-like.’ )(Ah, an explanation. You’re making this more difficult than you need to. All of this? It should have been in a separate document for the artist to refer to. This way, the script can concern itself solely with telling the story. This way isn’t wrong, but it makes the script longer than it needs to be.)

The horses that the Tiger and his Edimmu ride are as sinister as their masters. The nightmarish beasts are snarling and their hooves are monstrous. They have jet black coats. (Are the horses armored or ornamented in any way? Mention that, consider a ref photo.)

CAP:

In 1333 (missing comma) his home was attacked by a man known asthe Black Tiger, who led an army of demons. His family was killed–(add closing quotes and change this double dash to an ellipsis, nothing interrupts the speaker here. Again I suggest naming your character here, clarity is the goal. Whose family was killed? The Hojo Shogun’s? The baby’s? Black Tiger’s? See how vague this is?)

Panel 3. The Old Samurai rides away from the Hōjō castle with a toddler in his arms. He rides into the mountains while a battle still rages at the castle in the distant background. There is a strange pink color hanging in the sky. (You mentioned the pinkish color in the previous panel. No need to do it again.) (Yes there is. This could be a different timeframe.)The Old Samurai is dressed light blue armor and carries a bow strapped to his back. (If the bow is strapped to his back he does not carry it, you’ve described two separate scenarios.) His armor is well painted but very simple. He is 70 years old. He has a wispy gray mustache and long gray hair. He holds the reins with one hand and a toddler with his other. (Armor usually indicates a helmet, if he is not wearing one, say so.) He has the traditional stacked katana and tantō pair on his left hip. (Reference photo?) He also has a second katana mounted to the horse. (How, and where?) The sheath is a simple black, with some gloss that is wearing with age. The hilt is wrapped traditionally with red cloth that also shows wear. (This sword will be important to the story later.)(Most of this? Crap. This information should be given to the artist in a separate doc. I’m not even off the first page, and already I want to fall on the tanto.)

CAP:

(open quotes, continuing ellipsis, eliminate double dash)–but he was saved by a (lone) samurai who was loyal to the Hōjō shogun.” (Omit the word ‘lone,’ because it is redundant ‘a samurai,’ already tells us there was one. Also, it seems a little melodramatic.)

(The old samurai’s katana should be sheathed at his side with the cutting edge down in this scene and cutting edge up in the next.)(I have absolutely no idea what this is doing here. What is it supposed to be doing?)

I would like to talk to you for a moment about the creative choice of the editorial captions. I have a lot of problems with it.

You are dealing with shogun and samurai, which are distinctly Japanese figures, yet telling the audience that the captions are Chinese. It may seem that you have mixed up the Chinese and Japanese cultures. It is unnecessary. Chinese is not the best way to describe the language spoken in China in 1426, at that time there were many region-specific dialects. The words that are being translated are captions. If you mean that the captions alone are translated you might say, ‘all narration will be translated…’ if the entire book is supposed to be in a Middle Chinese dialect, say ‘all text will be…’ By calling attention to the language, you indicate that it is important, and you direct the audience’s attention to it. This means small mistakes become more obvious. These captions are distracting. They are making more work for you, consider if the juice is worth the squeeze on this one.

P1 is on the books.

I’m not impressed. There is absolutely nothing here to make me want to turn the page. Three panels on this page. Here’s what it looks like without all the crap:

Panel 1. A Japanese Shogun holds a baby who was just born still covered in goo. The room is filled with candles sitting on the floor itself. The candles leave a path to walk through. There is a circular sunken tub on the left behind the shogun. The candles that line the tub reflect off the water. Half of the tub is cut off by the left edge of the panel.  Directly behind the shogun are rice sliders that are open to a balcony. There is a crescent moon in the nighttime sky.

CAP:

He was born in 1331, the only son tothe Hōjō shogun.”*

CAP (editorial):

*All dialogue will be translated from Chinese unless otherwise notated

Panel 2. The Black Tiger and his Edimmu ride into war across an open field. The night sky is strange pinkish color behind them. (I would like the Black tiger and his Edimmu to take up most of the panel if possible leaving little or no room for background.)

CAP:

In 1333 his home was attacked by a man known as the Black Tiger, who led an army of demons. His family was killed–

Panel 3. The Old Samurai rides away from the Hōjō castle with a toddler in his arms. He rides into the mountains while a battle still rages at the castle in the distant background. There is a strange pink color hanging in the sky.

CAP:

–but he was saved by a lone samurai who was loyal to the Hōjō shogun.”

That is your first page, without the fluff. Where’s the interest? Where’s the impetus for the reader to turn the page? Understand this: people are not going to read it just because you made it. There is always a choice: go forward, or put it back. Reading this first page, you’re telling the reader to put it back. Not good.

Now, I can’t tell, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t say anything, but the quotations in the captions mean that there is someone speaking to someone else. The quotation marks mean this isn’t an internal monologue, and it isn’t an omniscient narrator. I don’t know if there’s someone talking to another party here, but I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.

But remember this: adding fluff does not make your script impressive. Adding fluff makes it more likely for your artist to quit. That last instruction there that’s just hanging out in space? No idea what that is.

PAGE BREAK – PAGE TWO (four panels)

Panel 1. The Old Samurai and Ryoichi eat rice in a small camp in the Japanese mountains. (This would have been clearer if you had named the character previously. I assume that you are not naming the Old Samurai, why is that?) Ryoichi is seven years old now. The Old Samurai is 80. (If it has been 5 years, the Old Samurai is 75.) They are in a forest but their camp is in a small clearing. They have a small fire pit that is only ashes at the moment. A small setup of sticks allows them to hang a pot over the flames. (You describe the fire as only ashes and a small stack of sticks burning. These are not the same thing, eliminate one or the other.) The rising sun fills the sky with light but it cannot be seen over the tree line.(If we cannot see the sun, how do we know it is rising?) One of the trees has a target painted on it.

Ryoichi wears shorts that have a ruffle at the bottom. He wears a baggy loose fitting shirt with a rope belt over the shirt. He wears brown cloth shoes. He has short unkempt hair. (You need a reference photo here. I assume this is traditional wear for a boy in this setting, but there are a number of ways this could be drawn. Also, Combine your sentences, to make your panel descriptions more clear and concise. Consider this: ‘Ryoichi wears shorts that have a ruffle at the bottom, a baggy shirt belted with a rope, and brown cloth shoes. His hair is short and unkempt.’ It’s more concise, and still communicates every detail you wanted. Many of your descriptions throughout this script could benefit from combining sentences like this.) (I feel my mind slowly being torn apart. I don’t care about the details of their clothing. This isn’t prose.)

The Old Samurai wears a blue dress that fits tightly. Over top he wears a black kimono. His katana and tantō stacked at his left hip. He wears sandals with socks underneath. He is now five years older, and his white hair is thinning even more. (Stating that the Old Samurai wears a tight blue dress is problematic. There has to be a better way to phrase this. Also, a reference photo would be helpful.)

CAP:

He was raised by his father’s loyal retainer(missing comma) and that theOld Samurai had been his whole life.” (This sentence can be read several ways. The tense here, ‘had been’ makes your intention unclear. The connection to the visual is not very strong.) (Screw the clarity of the intention. How about clarity of the sentence itself? What the hell is this supposed to say? I’ve read it before and after the corrections, and it still makes no sense.)

Panel 2. Ryoichi shoots a bow at the target, the old samurai directs. (You need a little more information here. How are they positioned? What does this action look like? Where is the camera?)

OLD SAMURAI:

<Wind, distance, and movement. (change period to ellipsis)you must balance them all when you fire a bow.>* (Because you have called my attention to the language with the editorial captions, minor problems are more evident. Here is an example: the word, ‘fire,’ did not mean shooting a projectile until 1580, and it is associated with firearms. Try something like: ‘when you loose an arrow.’)

CAP (editorial):

*<-> Indicates translation from Japanese.

Panel 3. Ryoichi is twelve now the old samurai in his mid-eighties. (He is 80) The boy wields a naginata now. (Reference photo?) He strikes down ferociously at the air. The sun sets behind the trees mirroring the light from panel one of this page. The old samurai is wearing his blue dress still. Ryoichi is shirtless and shoeless. He wears baggy pants that tighten at the ankle.

OLD SAMURAI:

<You would do well to suffocate your enemy. If he cannot breathe(missing comma) he will become predictable.> (The dialogue has nothing to do with what is happening in the panel. What does a naginata have to do with suffocation? If someone has been suffocated, they are dead. The dead do tend to be predictable, unless they are zombies; in which case, awesome. This line could be deleted altogether. )(For those that don’t know, and I don’t know why most of you would, a naginata is basically a sword on a pole. This is why Sam is saying the dialogue makes no sense: because it doesn’t. It’s like punching someone in the face and calling it webbing.)

Panel 4. Ryoichi is 16 now and the Old Samurai is almost ninety. (He’s 84, and if you are using Old Samurai as his name it needs to be capitalized.) They are at a fire and it is the only light source. The Old Samurai gives the boy a katana, still in its sheath. The sheath is a simple black, with some gloss that is wearing with age. The hilt is wrapped traditionally with red cloth that also shows wear.(You can just say, the katana described on page one, panel three) Ryoichi now looks like a young samurai with a similar dress as the old samurai except his is black. Ryoichi has shoulder length hair that he wears in a samurai topknot. (If his hair is in a top knot, we don’t need to know that it is shoulder length. This is another good spot for a reference photo, by the way. This panel description is vague. How are they positioned? Seated or standing? What is Ryoichi’s expression like? Are his hands out to take the katana?) (Where are they? Still out in the woods, or in a building?)

OLD SAMURAI:

<This was made by a master sword(hyphen)smith,(change to period)It is probably the finest sword ever made. It was your father’s soul, and now it is yours.> (Here I have a question. This sword was Ryoichi’s father’s most prized possession, yes? This means this sword would have been the one in his hand when the Black Tiger attacked. Why then, did the the Old Samurai take this katana from the castle in the midst of a raging battle? Was the shogun already dead? Did he give the Old Samurai the sword, and charge him with taking care of Ryoichi? I am wishing we had seen more of that.) (At least that would have been an interesting opener.)

CAP:

A legendary sixbodyblade that had been a gift to the shogun. This is a fragment, a subject with no predicate. Easy to fix: The legendary six body blade had been presented to the shogun as a gift. Often(missing comma) the swords like this have names.(change period to comma add ‘but’)this one did not.” If it doesn’t have a name, how is it referred to in legend? There has to be a phrase or word that makes it identifiable in written record.

After this page I think I am beginning to notice a pattern in your story-telling. You are not sharing the best parts of your own narrative with the audience. On page one, you cram the battle between the Hojo shogun and his loyal samurai and Black Tiger into two incredibly abbreviated panels. You have presented an interesting story, and ignored it. This element is there only because you introduced it. You have ownership, you can go deeper into that aspect of the story. Let us know why you the Old Samurai saves the child. Tell us about the moment when he takes the katana. Build tension as they escape. Right now, this story needs action, and you have created a scenario that allows for it. Take advantage of it.

On page two you introduce a weapon that is legendary. You call it a six-body-blade, meaning it can slice through six people in one blow. That is interesting, but unless the audience already knows what that phrase means, or takes the time to google it, they won’t know how truly badass this katana is. Right now, you are dwelling on less entertaining aspects of the story, but there are really great ideas here, do something with them.

P2, and what do we have?

We have a terribly done growing and training montage. Nothing shown is interesting, but the things that are hinted at and intimated are.

Couple that with the simple fact that Schuyler is focused more on minutia than actually telling the story, and you have a script that is very difficult to read. It isn’t holding my attention.

There’s a couple of good things and a bad one going on with this page, though. Let’s take a look at the good.

The passage of time. We aren’t forced to watch this as-yet unnamed character grow page by page. (Why still unnamed? Because the reader hasn’t read the character’s name anywhere in the dialogue.) Schuyler condensed the passage of time on a single page, which is good. This goes along with the second thing.

The second thing is the fact that this is an even-numbered page. The reader doesn’t have to do any work at all to get to the next page. They just have to slide their eyes over to P3 and see if anything interesting is happening there, before deciding that this story isn’t worth any more of their time and putting it back. (Because that’s going to happen. Just a matter of time.) But what I mean is this: normally, this would be seen as a dip in storytelling. Nothing on this page has to be compelling, because it isn’t a page-turn. It’s an eye-slide. This isn’t a dip because there’s no real story to be had as yet, but anyway, it’s there. This part of the “story” is well-placed, because the reader doesn’t have to do anything else to get more. They just have slide their eyes over and be done.

The bad thing is that this is just another nail in the coffin of uninteresting. The motor is running, the car may even be in drive, but it isn’t going anywhere. And it’s going nowhere fast.

PAGE BREAK PAGE THREE (four panels)

Panel 1. The Old Samurai and Ryoichi walk down a path back towards their camp. They are coming back from fishing and both have their catch and their poles. It is midday. Ryoichi wears the sword at his left hip now. (They both wear them cutting edge up.)

CAP:

Ryoichi grew up with the Old Samurai, learning the ways of Bushido and the art of survival.” (Define ‘Bushido,’ something like: ‘learning the ways of Bushido, the code of honor that guides all samurai, and the art of survival.’ Do not assume that your readers know what this term means, or that they want to do homework. Again this caption has little to nothing to do with what is actually happening in the panel. Move this up to page 2, panel 3.)

Panel 2. They are cooking the fish and a small pot of something, the smoke arises from their small campfire and drifts into the wilderness. Afternoon approaches. (This description needs more information. How are they positioned? How are they cooking the fish? Are they interacting?)

Panel 3. As the sun begins to set a warrior monk steps into their camp with a Naginata in his hand and a tantō at his hip. He wears a white hood that also wraps around his face, making his eyes the only visible facial characteristic. (Here you need a sound effect, something to make the Old Samurai and Ryiochi turn and notice the intruder.)

Panel 4. Side shot. The Old Samurai already has an arrow drawn and aimed. Ryoichi has his hand on his sword hilt. The monk holds his hands up, his right still holding his Naginata. (Yeah, right. That bow and arrow? Magically delicious. Where was it before? Anywhere near? Nope. Why? Because this is the first time on this page that this was mentioned.)

OLD SAMURAI:

<Stop, monk! State your name and purpose!> (Comma-fail.)

(This is dragging, and that’s too bad. Page 2 is a growing up montage, that makes sense, I guess. What is the purpose of this page?)

P3, and we have more of the same.

More of the writer mistaking minutia for story.

It’s P3, and I have no idea what I’m reading, or why. That’s terrible. No, let’s really look at this. This is page three, and I’m reading the script, and I have no idea what I’m reading. By P3 of reading the script, there should be some sort of idea of what you’re reading and why.

Now, imagine this as a comic. The reader has picked it up. They get here, and they have a decision to make: do I continue on, or do I put it down and stop wasting my time? Continuing means trying to figure out what this story is about. Putting it down means I can spend my time with a storyteller who appreciates me and won’t make me work as hard to try to figure out what story they’re trying to tell.

Nothing is happening on this page. Nothing except for one important thing: we finally get the name of the main character in a place where the reader can see it. That’s important.

We also have what could be seen as a minor mystery here. A guy with a sack over his head is being held at arrow-point. No idea who he is or why he’s there. But do we even care right now?

PAGE BREAK PAGE FOUR (four panels)

Panel 1. Front shot of the monk pulling his mask down while kneeling and setting his Naginata down. (Is he wearing a hood or a mask? Clarity is important here.) His left hand tugs at his mask while his right prepares to set his Naginata. His legs halfway to a kneeling position. (Either eliminate the first line or the last two sentences, the description is redundant and the subtle differences in wording harm the clarity of the description).

YASUO:

<I come in peace(missing comma) Yamabushi. My name is Yasuo. I am merely passing over this mountain(comma) on my way to China.> (Japan is an island. I am not sure one could walk to China from there, and with the wording as it is now, it sounds like that is his plan. Is he headed to the sea, to board a boat to sail for China? This needs to be cleared up.)

Panel 2. The old samurai lowers his bow. Ryoichi relaxes as the tension of the moment passes. (I assume that relaxing as the the tension of the moment passes means he lets go of his sword. This text does not describe static poses, try to clearly and directly explain what the characters are doing in your descriptions.)

CAP:

Yasuo was indeed just a monk. However(missing comma) his arrival would instigate a drastic change for Ryoichi.” (Move this cap to after the Old Samurai says his line in this panel, so it comments more directly on that dialogue.)

OLD SAMURAI:

<If you are truly just a monk(comma) then you will be safe among us.>

Panel 3. The monk beams with pleasure.

YASUO:

<Thank you(comma) Yamabushi! I smelled your food(comma) and hoped that I might partake.>

Panel 4. The Old Samurai stares back at the beaming monk deadpan.

OLD SAMURAI:

<You may eat with us.>

You should consider combining pages 3 and 4. First move that cap on page 3 panel 1 to page 2 panel 3, since it has to do with Ryiochi growing up. The monk and supper are not interesting enough to sustain two pages. Cut the first two panels of page 3. If you add Ryoichi and the Old Samurai to the background of what is now panel 3, the action should work the same way. Then cut the last two panels of page 4, its still a light page, with only four panels, but at least something happens in every panel.

P4.

There’s nothing worth reading. There’s a stab at some foreshadowing, but nothing has happened. There’s no story here.

Again, nothing worth reading.

PAGE BREAK PAGE FIVE (five panels)

Panel 1. The Old Samurai, Yasuo, and Ryoichi eat rice and fish around their small fire. It begins to get dark outside. (How are the artist or the colorist supposed to show it beginning to get dark?)

Panel 2. They finish eating in silence, and the bowls sit empty. The moon has risen and it is a sliver in the sky. (This is not one panel, how do we know they finished eating in silence? Eliminate the first phrase.)

Panel 3. Ryoichi collects the bowls to clean them.

Panel 4. The old samurai stares into the fire, Yasuo watches Ryoichi as he walks to an off panel stream to clean the dishes. (This last phrase is confusing. Can he be seen on panel reaching to a stream off panel? Is he headed off panel but still close to the other men? Is he already off panel? The artist needs to know where to put him.)

YASUO:

<The boy is special(comma) Yamabushi. He has a powerful Kami(you need a powerful comma) but he has not yet realized his potential. One day his unique Kami will awaken.> (From what I gather, Kami are nature spirits in Shinto belief. They are usually animistic deities or gods. It does not seem like something one has lying about inside of them. Character and blessings are granted from Kami, one can please Kami, but it does not seem like one can have a Kami. In the context of this line of dialogue it sounds like Kami simply means ‘character,‘ or ‘spirit,‘ and I have yet to see the term used that way, as I research. You need more. You are introducing a word that is outside the vocabulary of most English speakers, your context is misleading, and you do not provide the audience with a definition. This does not create any emotional resonance, it’s like saying ‘the boy will have big feet, they’re not terribly large right now, but one day they will grow.‘ You have to connect your audience to what the characters are feeling. This monk has just told the boy’s surrogate father that he thinks Ryoi chi may be a something like a god. Why would he say that? Where is the reaction?)

OLD SAMURAI:

<He is just a boy who is haunted by powerful forces.> (Is the Old Samurai saying that this makes it unrealistic to think of the boy having a Kami? Is this an argument? If so, you need to add a negator like, ‘No.’ or ‘Impossible.’ to clear up the intention behind this line.)

YASUO:

<What kind of forces(question mark)>

Panel 5. Close up of a particular gruesome Edimmu. Human heads dangle from his belt. He smiles and his teeth look like interlocking daggers. (If we see his belt, it’s not a close up.)

CAP:

Demons.” (Expand this caption to tell the audience more about what Yokai are, or delete it.) (This should not be a caption. This should be off-panel dialogue. That’s first. Second, these demons need to be seen more, especially if they’re supposed to be part of the boy’s protection. That will give this line more weight when said. It doesn’t much matter, though, because this is already back on the shelves.)

OLD SAMURAI:

Yokai.

The dialogue seems unnecessarily formal. It does seem like it has been translated, badly. I almost expect the characters mouths to continue moving after they speak, as if these lines have been dubbed into a Japanese movie. Dialogue represents your best chance to get readers invested, since you are not showing a lot of action on these pages. Right now, the words are not doing their job. You must find a way to inject some feeling into these pages. Your panel descriptions are more interesting than your dialogue here, and the audience will never see those.

Sam went on for one more page here. I can’t. I don’t have the fortitude.

I have re-read these pages several times, now, I think that you mean all words in <these brackets> to be Japanese, but that is not what you editorial caption tells us. You have to clear that up. Also, because you used the TAB key instead of the ENTER key to format your script, I had to do a lot of work to get it back in the format you laid out. I see that you know what a script should look like, but your intention was lost when I tried to open your document. Make sure that you have preserved the work you have done as best you can. This means hitting ENTER instead of TAB.

You have some great ideas here. Monster samurai, epic battle for the Hojo castle, a legendary sword, a kid who is like a god, an Old Samurai that dedicates his life to raising a boy; these are all good ideas. You are burying these good ideas under the weight of your pacing, and the sterility of your dialogue. Some of the stuff that comes later in the script is really fascinating, but we are six pages in now, and we’ve mostly been watching men eat. Pick up your pacing, punch up your dialogue, and find the right moments to focus on.

This needs work, but the ideas are there. You may come out with something genuinely interesting, if you put in the effort.

Okay, let’s just run this down.

Format: Sam had problems with it, and I got her cleaned-up version. This was also sent over as a Google Doc. We’re no longer going to do that here, and the rules will change shortly to reflect this. Anyway, the only problem I had with format was the lack of page breaks. However, the format is the best part of this script.

Panel Descriptions: These were terrible. You managed to make them more complicated than they needed to be by getting lost in the minutia instead of trying to tell a story through them.

That minutia is going to hamstring the artist. They aren’t going to want to draw this.

A true artist is going to do their own research into how certain types of characters are drawn. If it’s a period piece, such as this, then they’re going to have to research dress, architecture, flora, weaponry, and more. Your script doesn’t help much in that respect. Once you get past the minutia, there isn’t much there to see.

Describe what’s going on in the panels. Remember that words mean something. The more words you put in, the easier it is to contradict yourself.

Pacing: Torturously slow. The greatest thing you did with the pace was P2, where you condensed the aging of the child to a young man. Everything else was just torture.

You’re taking too long to tell the story. Here’s the sad part: you took five pages and didn’t do anything with them. What was so interesting in those five complete pages that did anything to move the story forward? Okay, fine, the first two moved the story, because we had a child born and growing up. There’s no reason given why this is important, and it isn’t even the real interesting part (the interesting part would have been the battle and the retrieval of the sword during that battle), but those first two pages move the story more and better than the next three.

There’s no story here. There’s the attempt, there may even be a beginning of one by P6, but no one cares by then. I certainly didn’t. You lost readers by P3. By P5, they were putting the book back and going to the retailer and asking for a refund of something they didn’t buy.

Tell the story.

Dialogue: Okay. You’re mixing two different cultures. Sam is right: Japan is an island, and you can’t reach it by walking. The Chinese and Japanese aren’t all that friendly to one another, either. So, why you’d have someone from China telling the story of someone from Japan is beyond me.

One of the first things that strikes me about the dialogue is the lack of it. You have ample opportunity to tell a lot of story through dialogue, and instead, you have a lot of silent panels. Then, some of the dialogue that you do have doesn’t do much of anything to push the story forward, and there’s one point where it makes no sense at all. Absolutely terrible, in that respect.

Dialogue should expand on the images being presented. The dialogue here rarely does that. It isn’t helping to tell the story, and it should.

Content: As a reader, I wouldn’t read this. I couldn’t read this. I don’t know what the story is about, and I got five pages in. That’s unacceptable.

Editorially, the first thing that I have to say is that I’m not one for manga. It doesn’t interest me. I lived in Japan for a year while I was in the Marine Corps, and I still wasn’t interested. I know my strengths and weaknesses, and manga doesn’t even register for me. If someone had asked me to edit this privately, I would have told them to find one that specializes in manga, because I wouldn’t have been able to do this justice.

That being said, there are still things that need to be done. You still need to be able to tell a story in the medium. You still need to decide what is and is not important, and tell those important parts in an interesting way. That wasn’t done here. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: minutia does not equal storytelling. Minutia bogs down what you’re trying to do, especially when you’re not doing anything more than explaining what characters are wearing. That is extremely wearying.

This needs a complete rewrite, end to end. You need to find what’s important and interesting and tell that, without bogging it down and dragging it out.

And that’s about it. We’re still needing scripts, writers, so please send them in. The wait is a shortish one, so it won’t be long before you’re up.

Speaking about who’s up, check out Who’s Next to see who’s coming up.

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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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