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TPG Week 156: A Worthy Entrant

| December 20, 2013

TPGFeatured_06

Welcome once again to The Proving Grounds! We’re nearing the end of the year, and there’s no rest for the weary! We’ve got Brave One Frank Martin with another script from a writing challenge, we’ve got Steve Colle in blue, and I’m menacing in red. Let’s see what Frank does with

 

My Monkey Likes Creamed Corn

 

Page 1 (5 Panels)

 

Panel 1

A close up side shot of a clean cut thirty something year old MAN (we just see his head). (Seeing as how you’ve described this as a side shot and that this is the first panel of the page/story, which side would you suggest having it face? Trick question…) The background, barely seen in the panel, looks like the wall of a typical school hallway during the day. The man has a blank expression with his eyes closed.

 

GUIDE (tailless off panel balloon) (Or Just plain “off-panel” or “OP” to avoid writing it out so much.)

Open your eyes.

 

Panel 2

An angled shot from behind the man, wearing a tuxedo, so that we can see him looking down the elementary school hallway. Like an elementary school, the hall is small and we see silly streamers (Not getting the whole “streamers” concept as this is an elementary school and not a party, but okay…)(Streamers help to break up the stark angles in most schools. I remember streamers in elementary school.) and kiddie drawings on billboards. The man is standing in kind of a surprised stance.

 

MAN

Is… is this my elementary school?

 

GUIDE (off panel from behind man)

That is correct.

 

MAN

What am I doing here?

 

Panel 3

A head on shot of the man, standing straight now, with a confused look. Behind him stands his GUIDE, an identical twin of the man except dressed as a stereotypical Indian with a small headdress, face paint and loincloth. The Indian has a stern look of seriousness on his face.

 

GUIDE

You’re searching for truth. Apparently, this is where you think you’ll find it.

 

MAN

So, I’m dreaming?

 

Panel 4

A medium shot of the guide holding out his arms with his palms up as if he was weighing two options. His head appears as if it’s two, one looking in the direction of his left hand and the other looking in the direction of his right. His two dialogue bubbles each come from a different head.

 

GUIDE (looking towards left hand) (This is direction for the artist, not the letterer, and besides, it should read “right hand” here as it would be his right.)(No, this is a comment for the letterer. If there are two heads looking two different ways, which side would you put the letters? However, you’re right in that the directions need to be reversed. As we look at it, this has to go from left to right, not right to left. As we look at the guide, his left is on our right. But, really, does it matter, especially if both hands are equal in height? I don’t think so.)

Well (Missing comma) you might be dreaming. (Connecting ellipsis here…)

 

GUIDE (looking towards right hand) (Same comment as above, but left hand now.)

(… and connecting ellipsis here as well.) Or you could’ve dropped acid and locked yourself in a closet.

 

Panel 5

A medium close up of the guide pointing to the man’s head, with the man now looking at him.

 

GUIDE

Either way, all of this is happening in your head. (The “of” is added, but I look at it as the writer’s prerogative. Personally, I would have left it.)

 

We’re at the end of P1, and I’m finding this interesting. However, there comes a problem.

 

The stereotypical Native American.

 

Personally, I’m generally a “live and let live” kinda guy. I can be militant, but it takes some doing to bring it out of me. There are others who look to be insulted, and this could be seen as such. While stereotypes are called so for a reason, most of them are incorrect. However, they are also visual shortcuts. I’m not saying that this is right or wrong. I have no feeling on it one way or the other. I just want to bring up the specter that some people may be insulted by the depiction. That’s all.

 

As a page, this works. I like it. The final panel is a tad weak, but it gets people to turn the page. I wouldn’t stop right here, as a reader. It’s intriguing enough to see where it goes.

 

Page 2 (4 panels) (Watch for those page breaks. This isn’t your first script with TPG, so you know we ding writers on them.)(That sound you hear? The Flawless Victory flying the coop…)

 

Panel 1

A medium shot of the man and guide. The man is now holding out his hand as if to display/gesture towards the guide while the guide is in the process of nodding his head.

 

MAN

So (Missing comma) you must be my spirit guide or something.

 

GUIDE

That is correct. (This panel should have done more.)

 

Panel 2

Same camera position as previous panel. The man is now scratching his head while the guide shrugs his shoulders.

 

MAN

Why are you dressed like an Indian?

 

GUIDE

Because it would seem your subconscious is racist.

 

I like this exchange. Clever. (Exactly. This diffuses the specter, methinks.)

 

Panel 3

A normal shot (What would be considered a “normal shot”?) of the man and his guide, who is now dressed like an orthodox rabbi in a black robe, with a Tallit (prayer shawl) and yamaka. The guide is leaning back slightly and has his hands out as if showing off his look. The man is leaning forward and has his hands under the rabbi’s Tallit as he examines it.

 

GUIDE

There. Is this better?

 

MAN

But I’m not Jewish. (Another panel that could have done more.)

 

Panel 4

A medium shot of the guide holding open a classroom door ushering the man inside.

 

GUIDE

Neither am I, but this comic is only five pages long. (Comma instead of period here.) so, (Take out comma) let’s get this show on the road, shall we?

 

Nice breaking of the fourth wall, Frank. More cleverness.

 

P2 is in the books!

 

The biggest problem here, from what I can see, are the stereotypes. Again, some people look to be insulted.

 

Short story time:

 

I’m married. We all know this. We just celebrated our 8th anniversary this past Halloween. What may not be known is that not only is my wife 15 years my senior, but she’s also white. She’s also 6′ tall, and enjoys wearing 3” heels. When she gets dressed up, all eyes are on her.

 

So, being statuesque, red headed, and walking hand-in-hand with a younger black man, we draw eyes. We hold hands wherever we go, and we hold hands and talk when we eat out. (About half the time, especially someplace new, the waiter/waitress asks if there will be separate checks.) We’re together, and we draw a lot of eyes.

 

Now, I’m oblivious to people looking. I truly don’t see it. My wife, however, seems to go out of her way to look to see if people are looking at us, and mumbles under her breath when she finds someone. About us, she’s looking to be insulted.

 

Yes, I’ve asked her about it, but haven’t gotten anything near an answer that I would consider satisfactory. She just looks, and is insulted if she finds others looking.

 

So it happens, folks.

 

There are two panels here that should have done more in the dialogue. There was more story that could have been told, but the opportunity wasn’t capitalized upon.

 

I do like the final panel on this page, but again, I think a little more could have been done.

 

This page does what it needs to, though, in that it gives us the setup, it relieves some pressure, and lets the reader inside more.

 

It also lets us know that the story is going to be a little trippy, since it’s taking place inside someone’s head. That trippiness is evidenced more with the transformation of the guide. There’s good work here.

 

Page 3 (3 panels) (Same page break issue.)

 

Panel 1

A head on shot of the man and his guide, now dressed like a traditional catholic cardinal, inside the classroom. The man is standing still at the front of the room with a look of disbelief and confusion. The guide is standing still and has his hands resting together peacefully in front of him.

 

MAN

What the hell is this?

 

Panel 2

Large wide panel up and behind the man and his guide, now dressed like a Tibetan monk with a bald head, overlooking the elementary school classroom. Although there are kid decorations and drawings along the walls, there are no kids, desks or chairs. The only thing in the room is a long, fancy dining room table set up in the center with elegant silverware and a big chandelier hanging above it. On top the table is a big, gourmet meal consisting of a roasted turkey, champagne, breads and other well-prepared foods. Sitting around the table are several weird and eclectic characters. Starting at the near left seat: there is a middle-aged woman dressed in a leather sex outfit petting a tuxedo wearing MONKEY sitting on the table in front of her. Next to her is an elderly couple consisting of a cliché and stereotypical Dracula (slicked back hair, cape, pale skin, etc) and witch (pointy hat, long nose, grey hair, warts, etc). Now at the head of the table (opposite us) is a blond woman in a wedding dress wearing a white mask with an absolute blank expression. She is sitting peacefully and gracefully with her hands on her lap. Sitting next to her (down the other side of the table) is a middle-aged man with glasses completely wrapped in bubble wrap and typing on a typewriter on the table. Next to him is an empty chair, but standing behind it is a girl dressed as a bozo-like clown and juggling empty glasses and plates. Lastly, the person sitting closest on the right is a knight drenched in full medieval armor, futilely trying to bring a fork full of food to his face hidden behind a visor. (See? Trippy. And he got the monkey in there, which was part of the challenge.)

 

GUIDE

It’s your family having dinner. Why? Does it look like something else?

 

MAN

Well… no. Not really. But this doesn’t make any sense.

 

Panel 3

Another head on shot of the man and his guide, now dressed like a Hindu priest wearing a bright orange robe and turban. The guide is kind of looking towards the man confused, while the man looks like he is sarcastically thinking.

 

GUIDE

How? (The question should be “How so?” or “How’s that?” or even “Why?”. Just having “How?” seems like the wrong question on its own.)

 

MAN

Hmmm. Where should I start?

 

P3 shows us the trippiness!

 

Usually, I don’t like long panel descriptions. Panel 2 has 287 words in it, which is a lot. However, at no point in time was I ever lost, and every word has a purpose. There’s no fat to that panel description. That’s good work.

 

Three panels to this page, and every panel is doing its job.

 

This is good work. I like it.

 

Page 4 (5 panels) (Same page break issue.)

 

Panel 1

A medium close up of the elderly couple (witch and Dracula), who are laughing while feeding each other forkfuls of turkey.

 

MAN (off panel to left)

First off, my grandparents are vegan. That’s factual error number one.

 

Panel 2

A medium close up of the bubble wrap man diligently typing on the typewriter looking smugly at it through his glasses.

 

MAN (off panel to right)

Secondly, my dad is on a typewriter, which I don’t think he’s ever used in his whole life.

 

Panel 3

A medium close up of the knight banging a fork into his helmet’s visor. To his right (our left) is the empty chair and the clown can be seen behind it dancing foolishly.

 

MAN (off panel to right)

My brother and sister haven’t been in the same room with one another in a decade.

 

Panel 4

A medium close up of the mom smiling deviously as she rears back to spank the bent over tuxedo wearing monkey on its butt. The monkey is pointing casually at an off panel dish across the table.

 

MAN (off panel to left)

And why is my mom spanking a monkey… which oddly enough is wearing a tuxedo similar to mine.

 

MONKEY

Could someone pass the creamed corn? (And here is the second portion of the requirement of the writing challenge. This seems a little forced to me. Let’s see if Frank can write his way out of it.)

 

Panel 5

A head on shot of the man, who still looks perplexed, and the guide, who is now dressed like a Muslim imam. The guide is shrugging his shoulders with his arms up in the air.

 

GUIDE

Don’t look at me. I’m not the one with the perverted Oedipus complex. (And another escape! Nicely done.)

 

This is another good page. Really, I don’t have anything to say about it. The people are explained, keeping the reader’s interest, and there’s nothing in the dialogue to correct or tweak. Just good work here, Frank.

 

 

Page 5 (6 panels) (Same page break issue.)

 

Panel 1

An over the shoulder shot of both the guide (still dressed like an imam) and the man, with one on either side of the panel. In between them we see they are both focused in on the bride, now wearing a frowning tragedy mask, as she reaches for a big bowl sitting on the table.

 

GUIDE

But I do find it interesting how you left someone out. (Did the guide leave someone out, or should it read “But I do find it interesting how someone got left out”?)

 

MAN

Who is that?

 

GUIDE

You’re asking the wrong question. It doesn’t matter who she is. What matters is why she’s here. (Here’s where I’m a bit confused. You say in the previous dialogue that someone was left out, and yet here, you’re stating that someone is there who shouldn’t be.)(Everyone has a relationship to him. The bride is the only one who doesn’t, and so, was left out. I had no problem with that.)

 

Panel 2

A medium side shot of the man and his guide, now dressed as a crazy voodoo witch doctor with a gigantic staff, face paint, headdress and a bone through his nose. The man has his hands on his head with his eyes wide in revelation as if he just realized something. The guide is angled slightly towards the man with a smirking look.

 

MAN

That’s right! I’m getting married tomorrow! (Personally, I’d put the second sentence in its own balloon. Either that, or I’d cut the first sentence. Or maybe change it a bit. Maybe have him saying “wait” or something like that.)

 

GUIDE

Is someone having a some little pre-wedding jitters? (I don’t understand the correction. The original way is better. “Some little” doesn’t make sense to me. It should either be “a little pre-wedding jitters” or “some pre-wedding jitters.” I wouldn’t have touched it, myself.)

 

Panel 3

An overhead shot of the dining table (and the family continuing to do their own crazy things), with both ends of the table (which includes the bride) off panel.

 

MAN (tailless off panel balloon)

Of course. I mean, just look at my family. They can’t even have a simple dinner without being crazy.

 

GUIDE (tailless off panel balloon)

You’re focusing on the wrong part. It’s not that your family is crazy…

 

Panel 4

A head on shot of the bride, now with a smiling comedy mask on, dumping a big bowl of food (a combo of stuffing and mac and cheese would be nice) on her head. She is holding the bowl upside down over her head with both hands, as the food is both falling out and already covering her head and shoulders.

 

GUIDE (tailless off panel balloon.)

… it’s that she’s right there crazy with them.

 

Panel 5

A medium close up, head on shot of the man smiling. The guide, now dressed identical to the man in a tuxedo, has his hand on the man’s shoulder and a proud expression on his face.

 

MAN

Yeah. I guess you’re right.

 

GUIDE

Now, there’s only one thing left to do.

 

Panel 6

A parallel shot to the opening panel of the comic. It is a close up side shot of the man’s head with his eyes closed and a blank expression on his face. The background is once again barely seen behind him, only now we can tell he has his head peacefully resting on a pillow as he sleeps during the night.

 

GUIDE (tailless off panel balloon)

Open your eyes.

 

Frank, my good sir, you have my congratulations on a fantastic story. I’d be doing a standing ovation for you if you were beside me right now. Great job and a pleasure to read. Save for a couple of minor issues here and there, you’ve given us a story worthy of publication. Thank you for making my job easy this week!

 

I’m just going to run this down.

 

Format: I understand that this was a writing challenge for Digital Webbing, and as such, page breaks aren’t needed there. That’s no excuse, though, for what we do here. The page breaks are the only thing that kept this from being perfect for formatting. Such a little thing, but it adds up.

 

Panel Descriptions: Very nicely done. Nothing that I’d tweak here. They’re just nicely done. Good work.

 

Pacing: Okay, there are only two issues here, and they’re small ones at that. One of them is only due to the reason for the script being written in the first place.

 

There are a couple of places where the dialogue could have done more to pull its weight. Those panels fell a bit flat. And the speaking monkey was a bit forced, but you had to get the creamed corn reference in there.

 

A fix for that? Have other family members speaking. You have the space for it. You have more than enough space for it, and I don’t believe the extra dialogue will take away from the story being told.

 

Dialogue: There are only a couple of instances where the dialogue could have done a bit more, but overall, this was a very well-told story. None of the dialogue seemed unrealistic to me at all. Nice work here.

 

Content: As a reader, I found this to be a nicely done short story. I got it. This is something I wouldn’t mind reading in some sort of anthology. Nicely done.

 

Editorially, there is little to do here. Add a little bit of dialogue and make sure that it works. That’s about it. Good work here.

 

And that’s it for this week! Check the calendar to see who’s next!

 

Also, we’re still close to running out of scripts. If you want to have your script critiqued and don’t want to wait, now is the perfect time to do so!

 

Like what you see? Steve and Sam are available for your editing needs. You can email Steve here, and Sam here. My info is below.

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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