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TPG Week 164: You Need To Add Story To Your Premise

| February 15, 2014

TPGFeatured_06

Hello, one and all, and welcome back to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a new Brave One in Calvin Gimpelevich. Also, while I know you’re looking forward to having Steve Colle in blue, this week it’s just me. Steve should be back on his next rotation. So sit back, relax, and let’s see what Calvin brings us in

 

 

[Wolfmen]

Just a small aside: this is issue 2, just in case anyone is extra lost.

PAGE 1

Three small panels across the top. Panel 4 is thick and takes up the whole horizontal page.

PANEL 1

Small panel. Close up of a heavy box being dropped on the asphalt. (What kind of box? Wooden or cardboard?)

SFX

THUD

PANEL 2

Large hairy man-arms lifting another box.(Lifting it from where? If we can see the arms, we can see something of the surroundings.)

NO DIALOGUE

PANEL 3

That box being dropped on top of the first.

NO DIALOGUE

PANEL 4

Pan back. Wright is unloading boxes from the back of his jeep. He is in front of the ARMY/NAVY SURPLUS back door. The door is propped open with a brick. He looks military enough–cameo pants, sweaty green t-shirt–that this might actually be a military base. It’s a hot sunny day. (I’m not going to nitpick too much, but the fact that it’s daytime could have been given in panel 1.)

NO DIALOGUE

PANEL 5

Elongated bust shot. Wright is wiping his the sweat from his forehead with his forearm.

WRIGHT (LARGE)

AIDEN!

PANEL 6

Lifting another box from the jeep, but his head is turning around shouting.

BOSS

Get over here. (Who is this? This still Wright? If so, the name just changed for no reason.)

PANEL 7

No response from Aiden. Wright is frowning, dropping another box on the stack.

NO DIALOGUE

So, direction is given for the first four panels, but none for the last three… Interesting.

As a first page, this isn’t too bad. It starts out a bit slow, but I wouldn’t worry overmuch about that. Not yet. It isn’t turning anyone away. Just a couple of minor problems that are easily corrected.

The problem arises in the fact that this page doesn’t do anything. As a first page, what’s the compelling reason for the reader to go to the next? The page itself is nearly silent. It’s taking up precious space. I’m not going to call it a waste. Not yet. Let’s see what’s on tap for P2.

PAGE 2

Four square panels. Aiden looks slightly more physically male than he did in the last issue. In real life, this would play out in a squared jaw, light mustache, upped body hair, and increased muscle mass (particularly more boxy shoulders–better able to fill a men’s shirt) and less female fat distribution. At the end of the second wolf-night in this issue, he should look significantly more male. It’ll be a steady increase for the next few issues. (And while some of you are going Huh?, I’m going to let you off the hook early: Aiden is a female-to-male transexual, as well as a werewolf.)

PANEL 1

Aiden is sitting on the sidewalk in front of the store’s entrance. He’s got an energy drink next to him (he was up most of the night after all) and is talking on his cell phone. The bite mark/hickey on his neck is lighter, but still visible. (Facial expression?)

AIDEN

I woke up naked.

TY (JAGGED OFF)(I have no idea what this means. Is this supposed to be from the phone? If so, you could use an electric balloon for his dialogue.)

Don’t you always?

AIDEN

Not half a mile from where I went to bed! Plus, I couldn’t find any of my clothes. Isn’t that weird?

PANEL 2

Ty is at the fire station. He’s wearing a casual uniform, leaning back in his chair at a table. (Casual uniform? No such thing. Firefighters have a couple of different uniforms: what they use to dress up in for special occasions, and what they use to run medical calls. This does not include their turnouts to fight fires. That isn’t a uniform, that is protective gear. I know this because I dispatch firefighters as my day job.) The chair is tilted back to it stands on two legs. There’s a deck of cards spread on the table and a book. Bunk beds are behind him. There’s a fire helmet on one of the beds. He’s alone in the room. (This is a little haphazard. Say where he is (fire station), then say where he is inside the fire station (a bedroom), and then go from there. Let the artist get a visual of the place in their head, in the proper order, so that they don’t have to do a mental flip and start placing characters where they need to be. And where’s his facial expression?)

TY

Considering how many other times you’ve lost your clothes? No, it isn’t that weird. You’ve graduated to somnolent-stands.

AIDEN (JAGGED OFF)(Still no idea what this means.)

Haha. Very funny. I’m sleep-fucking the world.

PANEL 3

Back to Aiden. (That’s nice. What’s he doing?)

TY (JAGGED OFF)(You do know that this sounds like jack off, right?)

I’d come babysit you tonight, but I’m at the station.

AIDEN

Another day of video games?

TY (JAGGED OFF)

To protect and serve in whatever ways we can.

BOSS (OFF)(Okay, if you’re going to be lazy and abbreviate things, then do it the right way. OP is standard, and saves you a letter.)

AIDEN!

PANEL 4

Aiden standing up. (That’s nice, too. Goes from sitting to standing in one panel. The time compression here is awkward. Not insurmountable, but not natural, either. And again, missing a facial expression.)

AIDEN

Uh oh. Gotta go.

TY (JAGGED OFF)

Hey, if he keeps messing with you, just start a fire. I’ll hit him with the pressure hose.

AIDEN

Always looking out for me.

P2 is down, and I’m not interested.

This is the problem that can crop up with second issues. The first issue can be a lot of setup, maybe even get some action, but the second issue is a letdown. It doesn’t always follow through with what was set up in the first issue. I’m bored, and I haven’t even gotten off P2.

We start with a guy unloading a truck. Why? What does that page do for the story so far? Nothing yet. I can see cutting it and saving the space. I’m hoping that I’m wrong, but I don’t think I’m going to get far enough into the story to see where that page is going.

This page is nothing but conversation. It gives some information, but not enough that’s actually interesting. This makes a better P1, though. At least there’s reason for the reader to turn the page. Maybe.

You have some studying to do. Learn your scripting terms. They’re not difficult. Also, your panel descriptions should have some sense of what the characters are feeling. I’m not getting that sense on this page. Some of it is coming through in the dialogue, but not all of it. You need to start giving facial expressions.

PAGE 3(Your page breaks are strange. They aren’t showing up where they should. In just looking at it, they’re butted up against the previous page, and they don’t move until I add a space at the bottom of the page in order to add my comments. Unfortunately, I have to ding you on that. No flawless victory for formatting. Sorry.)

PANEL 1

View from inside the store. Aiden is opening/walking through the door. Angle should be up top so we get a near birds-eye view of the place with all the weird goodies it would hold. Issue credits go here. Takes up full top half of the page.

AIDEN

I was on break.

WRIGHT (This person right here? They don’t appear in the panel description, so they’re not there. This means Aiden is talking to himself.)

Break’s over. Get those boxes unloaded.

PANEL 2

Aiden walking to the back door. He looks annoyed. He’s cursing under his breath.

AIDEN (SMALL)

I’m supposed to get a lunch.

PANEL 3

Aiden bending to pick up the top of the stacked boxes.

NO DIALOGUE

PANEL 4

The box is obviously too heavy for him. It’s in his arms, but he’s leaning too far back, straining to keep it up.

NO DIALOGUE

Yep. Three pages in, and still nothing has happened. Almost nothing of interest at all.

P2, so far, is the saving grace, and that’s only for a couple of panels, and those aren’t even that interesting.

This is slow.

Now, there are only 2 panels on this page, and neither one of them does the page justice. Panel 1 is almost a splash, but it doesn’t reveal anything important at all. What’s it there for, then? What big moment warrants this large panel? None. Panel 2 is almost an afterthought to it, and it also doesn’t do much to move the story forward.

In all, P3 is a waste.

PAGE 4

PANEL 1

Aiden struggling as he walks the box into the shop. Wright is watching him, disappointed in Aiden’s lack of manliness. (How is this supposed to be drawn so that the reader understands Wright’s disappointment? How can the artist get that across to the reader? Anyone?)

NO DIALOGUE

PANEL 2

Wright takes box from Aiden.

WRIGHT

You ought to join up.

(cont)

Put some hair on your chest.

PANEL 3

Wright easily walks it to the cooking-gear section.(How is “easily” supposed to be drawn?)

WRIGHT

Even the military takes faggots now. (Yeah. See that word? That’s going to get you in trouble. I’m just letting you know.)

PANEL 4

Wright kneeling down, unloading the cast iron military cookware that’s in the box. He’s putting the initial stuff in piles on the floor. Aiden salutes in the background. Wright’s shaking his head at Aiden. (Head shake makes this a moving panel.)

BOSS (Is his name Boss or Wright? Make up your mind.)

It’s a goddamn golden age for your kind.

AIDEN

Sir, yes, sir.

BOSS

You gonna stand there like a pansy or get the rest?

PANEL 5

Wright is still kneeling. He’s stacking some of the cookware onto the shelves, organizing it. He likes it when everything is in its place, spick and span. (What does this panel do? It doesn’t do anything that leads the reader to go to the next page.)

Another absolutely useless page.

You were doing well in the beginning, but then you started to get more prosaic: carrying easily, shaking head, disappointment… As soon as you get prosaic, your artist stops being able to draw what you’re describing, because you aren’t describing things that can be drawn.

What makes this page useless is that it isn’t doing anything to push the story forward. It’s revealing character of the unnamed boss, as well as Aiden, who takes the slur without any outward sign.

That slur, though, is going to bite you right in the ass. That slur is going to cause outrage. The reason why is simple: it is no longer acceptable. If black people don’t want anyone else besides another black person to call them a nigger (and depending on the person—such as myself—not even then), then what makes you think that a gay person is going to let you get away with calling someone a faggot?

It’s not like your character is British and talking about a cigarette. This is a personal slur against a sexual preference. What’s going to happen is that it’s going to do what it did to me: it’s going to force the reader right out of the story. As of the moment of the slur, the story was no longer about the characters, it was about you as a writer. Why? Because it’s 2014, and that type of epithet is no longer acceptable. It shouldn’t have been acceptable at all, but it stopped being so prevalent in the 90s.

You want readers to concentrate on the story? Think about changing the word. I personally don’t care if you do or don’t, because it isn’t my story. I can tell you this: if this story were up for publication at ComixTribe, I wouldn’t let it through with that word unless you had a damned good reason for it. Your reasoning better be worth the outrage my company would be going through because of your story.

So, I want to hear your reasoning. And I’m betting others do, too.

Other than that, this page needs to be cut.

PAGE 5

PANEL 1

Aiden returns with another big box. He looks even wobblier this time.

NO DIALOGUE

PANEL 2

Aiden tripping over himself. It’s at the point that he might catch himself, but most likely won’t. (Yup. Because this can be drawn… Well, that’s sarcasm. That second sentence does not add anything that can be drawn.)

AIDEN

Whooaaa!

PANEL 3

Aiden in mid-fall.

NO DIALOGUE

PANEL 4

The box hitting the ground a few paces in front of him. The tape split open and camping cookware (cups and plates) are crashing everywhere. Sense that this was sudden and very loud.

SFX

CRASH

PANEL 5

Wright slamming his fists down. He looks a little crazed. Big panel that looks terrifying.

WRIGHT

GODDAMNIT!

PANEL 6

Know what’s bad? When the page is so useless that even the writer forgets to add a panel description.

WRIGHT

You’re done for the day. Get out.

PANEL 7

Wright slamming the back door on his way out. (Wait. Wright is leaving?)

NO DIALOGUE

Five pages in, and there’s no story here. I’m done. Time to run it down.

Format: The page breaks are what killed you here. Other than that, the format is fine.

Panel Descriptions: These started off okay, but then you went prosaic. They went downhill from there, describing actions that either cannot be drawn, or were moving panels and, as such, cannot be drawn.

Some of the panel descriptions were rambling, as well. Here’s a good rule of thumb: describe the larger place first, then the smaller place, and then start decorating. After decorating, populate.

The fire station is a perfect example of this. First, tell the artist that this is the fire station, or, that this is a bedroom of a fire station. Then decorate it, and then place the character within that space, treating them as a decoration themselves. It’s easier to envision a place then a person than it is vice versa.

Pacing: This is what’s killing the story. You have five pages here, and only a few panels that actually move the story forward. And those panels probably summed up what happened in issue 1. So, getting things summed up doesn’t push the story forward that much, and even if it doesn’t sum up issue 1, it doesn’t do that much to push the story forward. You only have about three useful panels out of five pages. That’s terrible pacing.

Nothing happens. You have a transsexual werewolf. I don’t see how it’s possible to have that as your premise, and nothing happens. That’s blowing my mind, but not in a good way. There is more than enough story in the premise alone for something of interest to happen on every page.

Instead, it’s another day in the park. It isn’t even a remarkable day. It’s a totally forgettable day, except that it was nice enough to go to the park. That’s terrible.

Dialogue: I have no problem with the dialogue. It sounds natural.

However, just because it sounds natural doesn’t mean there aren’t problems with it.

The first problem is that only Aiden is named in a place where the reader can see it. Everyone else is unnamed. This is the second issue, but every comic is someone’s first. Do you know why everyone knows character names? Repetition. You could probably find a character’s name a good five to seven times in a Marvel/DC book. Repetition. Put the names in where they would do the most good, while sounding organic. There are a couple of missed opportunities here. You could have named everyone that had screen time.

Naming characters is a tweak that needs to happen.

The epithet.

I’m not going to beat around the bush or beat it to death. Seeing that disappointed me while taking me out of the story. You are not making yourself any friends with it, and you may be making yourself enemies. Don’t be surprised if you get hate-mail.

Content: You have a transsexual werewolf. That’s enough to pique curiosity. However, you then proceed to do absolutely nothing with it. That’s not good. As a reader, I’d wonder where the story is, and then put it back on the shelf as an interesting idea that was very poorly executed.

Editorially, this is needing a rewrite. There is a veritable ocean of story here, and nothing is making it to the reader. You have a character who feels like they’re a man in a woman’s body, and is changing themselves so that their outside will match their insides. There’s GOLD there, and none of that is mined. None of it.

This needs a conversation with a competent editor. The discussion would be be what the story was about, how you wanted the story to affect the reader, and then the steps that could be taken in order to get that across. This story should be done well. Instead, you’ve shortchanged everyone with this second issue.

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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