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TPG Week 171: Prosaic Thinking Is Not Your Friend

| April 5, 2014

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Welcome, one and all, to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we have another new Brave One in Cody Stewart. We also have the ravishing Sam LeBas in purple, I’m in the ravaging red, and let’s see how Cody swims in the

 

Tides

 

And we have yet another script in a font that is smaller than 12 pitch. Le sigh…

 

PAGE ONE (Splash Page)

 

Panel 1: Panoramic shot of the White Sea. A calm day of gentle breezes and gentle water. The White Sea is the barrier between the planes of existence. It is a cosmic lubricant that keeps realities moving smoothly. It is a fantastic, mystical place. The white water is littered with islands each with exotic, alien-like flora and fauna. Some islands float high above the water. Roots dangle beneath them and reach down toward the sea. One of the floating islands has black sand along the edges and towering mountains and dense jungle in the center (we’ll be traveling there next). The black sun shines high over head. The horizon of the White Sea is an ever-changing cosmic tapestry, like the sea flows, self-contained, through the depths of space. Stars, planets, celestial bodies shimmer in the distance. (I am going to say something that Steven has said to me several times about my own writing, this is prose. You need to trim this down to the essentials. What does an artist need to know to make the stuff on the finished page look like the stuff in your head?) (Most of this is undrawable crap.)

 

CAP 1:(Tell us who is speaking here)

Any sailor worth a damn knows the Song of Bartholomew Tate.(Capitalize ‘The’ set the title off in quotation marks.)

 

CAP 2:

I fell asleep to it my first night in chains.(Change period to comma, lowercase ‘a’) And woke to it every morning after.

 

CAP 3:

It’s a lullaby and a ghost story.(Change period to a comma, lowercase ‘a’) A birdsong and a funeral dirge.

 

CAP 4:

The freedom to roam the length of a cage.(This seems disconnected from the rest of the thought process.)

 

(This is an interesting start. I wonder if there is a way that you might build some suspense with your last line. How can you make a reader need to turn the page?)

We have P1 on the books! That was fast, wasn’t it? The reason why, of course, is the unearned, uninteresting splash page.

Here is my belief: newbies should never start out with splash pages. They don’t yet know what works for their story, they’re just learning how to tell a story in the medium, so the story hasn’t yet earned the splash page. Neither has the storyteller nor the reader.

A splash page has to be used judiciously. If you’re going to start a book with it, you want to give something that’s punchy (or at least vaguely interesting). This isn’t punchy enough. It’s like starting out a book with a boring look at a Qabbalistic Tree of Life, or looking at an overview of the Nine Realms of Norse mythology. There’s nothing here to bind the reader’s attention to the art.

That panel description? Undrawable. I have no idea where anything is placed, so there’s no idea as to where my eyes should be focused. There’s no clear direction given to the artist. Feeling? Yes, there is some feeling there. Some of that claptrap is evocative. However, you can be evocative and still give direction at the same time. This isn’t about how clever you are as a writer. The reader isn’t going to see the panel descriptions. They’re just going to see the text. The only thing prose does is extends the panel descriptions needlessly, and makes the rest of the creative team work that much harder to try to understand what you’re saying. And the worse the prose, the more arduous the read or the team.

You don’t have enough dialogue on this page to keep reader interest. Not interested enough to turn the page. This is a splash, and as such, you have a LOT of space in which to give voice to the story. These are also captions, giving you even more space than word balloons do.

Sam may think this is interesting, but me? I’m settling in for an arduous read. I hope I’m wrong.

PAGE TWO (three panels)

 

Panel 1: Zoom on the island with black sand, looking up at it (from a downward angle. This phrase is confusing. I suggest deleting it. )(Confusing? Nope. Impossible? Yes.)

 

CAP 1:(Is this the same speaker as on the previous page?)

Oh(comma) it beckoned him forth(You are going to need some ending punctuation on each line.)

From his home on firm shore…

 

CAP 2:

The glistening White Sea(comma)

The shining White Sea.

 

Panel 2: Level shot of the island. A campfire flickers at the edge of the jungle. A man is seen from a distance sitting beside it, but he is not seen in detail.(If this is a character you may want to identify them here, or at least note his body position.) (This is just writing without knowing what the hell you’re doing. This is prose thinking put into a comic script format. This is not going to work well.)

 

CAP 1:

With a devilish grasp(comma)

He was put ‘tween the masts…

 

CAP 2:

Of a brig of the White Sea(comma)

The Chevalier of the White Sea.(I assume that ‘The Chevalier’ is the name of a ship? You should probably italicize that name so that is clear.)

 

Panel 3: Zoom on the man by the fire. WEBSTER (WEB) COLLINS sits cross-legged, alone beside it. He is unrecognizable compared to how he appears in the rest of the story. The reader is not yet meant to know who he is. His outfit looks to have been muddled together from rags and whatever materials he could find to work with. His head is concealed under a hood. (What characteristic will make him identifiable later? We must tie this version of the character to the other.)

 

CAP:

He sought no riches, no glory(comma)

Just a calm, peaceable fate(period)

But the Sea does as it pleases…

(This has a nice cinematic flow to it. Should this be your first page, or the bottom half of your first page?)

P2, and we have the niceness of Sam. Me? I don’t want to tear my eyes out, but what I do want to do is hurry up and get to the story.

This is the second page, and we have what could be seen as bad poetry that doesn’t yet seem to lead anywhere.

Poetry is subjective, folks. Some people see genius in terrible poetry, others see people who should stop trying to write and go into a fulfilling career of ditch digging. While I’m not telling you to get out the shovel just as yet, I think it would be a decent idea to start heading toward the tool shed.

All told, we have two pages and four panels between them, with a dearth of dialogue. It’s called a comic book. Emphasis on the “book” part. You need more words. This is going to be an extremely fast read. Want the reader to slow down and stay on the page longer? Then you have to add something for them to read. Without that, the only ones who will see this will be your family and the friends who love you. (Those who don’t love you won’t read this, because they won’t be that interested. They’ll flip through it, skimming it, but they won’t really read it)

Panel descriptions have to be thought of in a visual way: what you see with your eyes and thus, is not only visible, but what can be drawn. This is not about the mind’s eye of prose. Prosaic visuals have no place here, because they can’t be drawn. Anything that can’t be drawn is a waste of effort and time.

PAGE THREE (four panels)

 

Panel 1: Night. The Spine –(a rough section of the White Sea littered with rocky outcrops. All ships in the White Sea are a mix of 18th century era sailing vessels and futuristic technology – as if Jack Kirby designed a pirate ship. The Deep, a brig with two masts, 5 cannons on each starboard and port, and crew of twelve,)(Everything in parentheses, with the exception of the vessel’s name, could be in another document.) fires its starboard cannons on the Shepherd, a merchant schooner. The cannons are energy based weapons as opposed to traditional cannonballs, (that require charging between firing. The Deep flies a blue flag with a black “tree of life” type design. THE DEEP is written on the hull, near the bow. For reference: http://www.cornwallmodelboats.co.uk/acatalog/mm60_lrg.jpg.)(This could also be accounted for in another document) The Shepherd is devastated by the attack. Its mast topples over. The hull is splintered. ALISTAIR KETCHUM (KETCH), captain of the Deep, barks order from the deck, but he is unseen. (Something of a moving panel.)

 

CAP 1:

(connect with ellipsis)And so it did to Bartholomew Tate.

 

KETCH:

FIRE!(If you want the letterer to emphasize this word, underline it)

 

CAP 2:

The Chevalier took to the wind(comma)

Sailing away and back again(period, suggest separating balloons)

Crossing the whole of the White Sea(comma)

Under Captain Cole of the White Sea.(This may be too much text for one panel.) (Or one brain.)

 

Panel 2: Zoom in on the deck of the Deep. Crewmen climb into small vessels being lowered into the water as Ketch issues orders. (Ketch is over six feet tall, in his mid thirties. He has a long red beard, intricately woven with beads and bones. His hair is tied up. The tattoo under his right eye identifies him as a member of one of the seafaring tribes of the North Sea. He is an expert sailor and fierce warrior with a commanding presence. He wears an open gentlemanly coat that has been mended and patched many times with no shirt underneath. His chest is scarred and tattooed. He has several knives of varying shapes on a belt slung over one shoulder, a sword on his hip and a bandana tied around his arm.)(Belongs elsewhere) LARK, the first mate, stands at Ketch’s shoulder. (Lark has a scar running the length of the right side of his face. He has two pistols strapped to his chest. The pistols, like the Deep and all other technology, are a mix of classic and futuristic. He wears a long, open, tattered leather coat. He has a crooked look about him, untrustworthy.)(Belongs elsewhere) (So, what are these as-yet unnamed gents doing? What are they doing that makes them stand out in the crowd, except for the speaking part of one of them? Where’s the acting?)

 

CAP:

Cole was a man of even keel(comma)

Long as the colors of profit did fly(period)

But with the change of the tides, fortune does flee…

 

KETCH:

Take the ship, lads! Empty its belly of riches and you’ll fill yours with wine tonight!

 

CAP 2:

(connect with ellipses)And a devil of a man became he. (This has leaped over the line of torturous into new territory. Where’s the Enterprise? It’s going to take a crew braver than I to explore this…)

 

Panel 3: Angle on Ketch and Lark as they overlook the salvage of the Shepherd.

 

LARK:

Don’t see a body on deck. Cowards scurried below like rats. (It’s a fight. Ship to ship. What does going below have to do with saving their lives? In a fight like this, there are only two choices: fight, or surrender. This dialogue is telling an action that makes no sense.)

 

KETCH:

These waters are rife with all manner of terror, you know. Men who sail with no moral compass to guide them, doing as they please.

 

LARK:

So I’ve heard.

 

Panel 4: MARA approaches the edge of the deck near Ketch and Lark, readying to join the salvage crew. (Mara is sixteen. She is stunningly beautiful, tan, piercing blue eyes, intricate tattoos on her arms. She wears a vest, a flowing sash wrapped around her waist in which are tucked two deadly daggers, layered bangles on her wrists, and large turquoise jewelry around her neck. She is defiant and proud. The sash should be easily identifiable and memorable as it will appear separate of Mara later this issue.)(Elsewhere)

 

LARK:

Takes are getting fewer and farther between, Captain. Our stores are near empty. Crew’s pockets, doubly so.

 

KETCH 1:

Few merchants brave the Spine these days, Lark. Reputation is currency on the Sea. Ours seems to keep our purses empty.

 

KETCH 2:

But this is the only place in this part of the Sea beyond the Admiral’s reach, so(comma) we’ll make do. (All the dialogue in this panel? Butler-maid. They’re telling each other what they already know for the edification of the reader, not themselves. Exposition of the most terrible sort.)

 

(I would suggest setting off the names of the ships in all caps upon first mention, as you do with the characters.

 

Also I think this should start on page 2. This is a major scene change, you need to put it on an even page. I don’t know that the first two pages have enough content to justify not condensing them.

 

I want you you to realize how much information could be omitted from this document. Here is panel 1 with all the excess information stripped.

 

Panel 1: Night. The Spine – The Deep fires its starboard cannons on the Shepherd, a merchant schooner. The cannons are energy based weapons as opposed to traditional cannonballs. The Shepherd is devastated by the attack. Its mast topples over. The hull is splintered. ALISTAIR KETCHUM (KETCH), captain of the Deep, barks order from the deck, but he is unseen.

 

Trimming out character descriptions and erroneous detail may help collaborators focus on details that matter most. It also makes the script a smoother read and allows your actual story to come into focus.)

 

P3, and I’m ready to go screaming into the night.

 

This is the start of your story. The first two pages are nothing more than clearing your throat, taking up precious space as you try to find your way. Start out with the action, and as long as it is interesting, you’ll get the reader to come along for a while.

 

Sam did you a favor. In stripping out all of the character description, she narrowed the focus to where the panel description should be: describing what’s going on in the panel. If you’ve got to describe a main character in detail in the panel description, then you’ve already lost. Primary and secondary characters should only need to have their facial expressions described. They shouldn’t have a ton of words dedicated to what they’re wearing and what weapons accompany them. The only thing you’re doing is boring the creative team, making it more difficult for them to do their job, and quite possibly ruining the panel descriptions because you forgot where you were going on what was supposed to be happening because you got more interested in describing what the characters looked like rather than what they were doing.

 

And the “poetry”? There isn’t anything good I can say about it.

 

However, I will say one thing: being poetry, it doesn’t have to conform that much to regular rules of punctuation. I wouldn’t add the commas and such that Sam is suggesting. I’d have you cut the poetry itself until you were better at it, and possibly have you do something else with the information to be gleaned from it. A story told in a certain voice? That might work. This poetry, though, is killing me and you.

PAGE FOUR (five panels)

 

Panel 1: Lark grabs Mara’s arm. Mara mirrors his scowl and tense stance.(Can we see Lark’s face?)

 

CAP:

Cole’s hoofed shadow fell on decent men…

 

LARK:

The hell you think you’re goin’, girl?

 

MARA:

First off, boy, my name ain’t “girl”. Second, you’d do well to take your hands off me…(I feel like you may be mixing Southern and Cockney accents here. Is that intentional?)

 

Panel 2: Mara draws one of her daggers.(You have gone from way too much information in panel descriptions to the most minimal amount possible.)(And this is a moving panel.)

 

CAP:

(Connect with ellipses here)And thus made them devils as well…(Change to period)

 

MARA:

Or you’ll be coming away with but one finger. I’m not cruel enough to leave a man without the means to wipe his own- (Double-dash at the end when someone is interrupted.)

 

KETCH (OP):

Mara! (Look! Someone’s been named! It only took 4 pages. And the nice thing is that it’s organic. I can see this happening.)

 

Panel 3: Mara and Lark part, but Mara firmly holds her dagger and Lark’s contemptuous stare. Ketch stands between them. (Part? Part how? This is prosaic thinking. This cannot be drawn, because you haven’t given the artist anything to work with.)

 

CAP:

Conscience was cast o’er… (Really, you can stop now.)

 

MARA:

I’ve grown up on this ship, Captain Ketchum. You under some delusion that I’d manage to do so without a salty disposition and foul mouth?

 

LARK:

A lady should be a lady no matter the circumstance!

 

MARA:

Present circumstance would find you becoming a lady if you’d step a bit closer!(That’s a lot of text in one panel.)(Lot of text? Not really. A lot of bad dialogue? Most definitely.)

 

Panel 4: Angle on Ketch, fed up with the situation.

 

CAP:

And their eyes they did lower…

 

KETCH:

Enough! Another word and I’ll drown the both of you!

 

WILKES (OP):

Captain!

 

KETCH 1:

Lords below… (This line does not make sense to me. Is he cursing under his breath?)(That’s what it seems like. However, it doesn’t match the panel description, especially seeing the next bit of dialogue. The panel description has to match the last thing said.)

 

KETCH 2:

WHAT?!

 

Panel 5: Angle on WILKES, calling to Ketch from the deck of the Shepherd. (Wilkes, 60, is a veteran sailor, oldest member of the crew, and quartermaster of the Deep. Despite his age, he prefers to be in the thick of the action. He is viewed as a fatherly figure by the younger members of the crew. He is fiercely loyal and protective of captain and crew and respected by all, except Lark. Wilkes is broad but not overly tall and carries an ax on his back.)(Elsewhere)

 

CAP:

(Connect with ellipses)As they set course straight for Hell. (Really, I’m not even reading these anymore. I have to eat later, and I still have a movie to watch. Going to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Getting through this script is my castor oil, and seeing the movie is my reward.)

 

WILKES:

You should really see this, sir!

 

(I think you have a knack for dialogue and character. I think Mara, Lark, and Ketch all have fairly definable voices. That’s wonderful.

You are putting in a lot of text in each panel, I wonder if the ballad is disrupting your pacing?)

P4, and I’m not having any fun.

Let’s talk about dialogue, actions, and pacing for a bit.

So far, the person with the most personality is Mara. She’s had the most to say so far, and her temper makes her the most memorable. I don’t think there’s too much dialogue per panel, I just don’t think there’s enough actual dialogue that tells the story. It’s more bad exposition.

Don’t get me wrong, folks. Exposition is needed. It’s necessary. You don’t have a story without it. However, when we say “exposition” when talking about dialogue, it has a connotation that it is a bad thing. Exposition is only bad when it calls attention to itself, like the dialogue here.

Who is Mara telling that she grew up on the boat? The captain who was there, the still unnamed guy who was more than likely there, too, or the audience who’s eavesdropping? That’s bad exposition. That’s butler-maid, and you should be taken behind the tool shed that you’re heading toward, anyway, and you should be soundly flogged. After the flogging, get a shovel to start digging that ditch…

The actions here are moving actions, or actions that cannot be seen well. They’re in the mind’s eye, but they have to be seen by the eyes in your head. These are static images, so they can’t move. She can’t draw her dagger. Pick an action, and describe it. Has she started reaching for it, her hand near the dagger; has she grabbed it already, hand on the hilt as it is still sheathed; has she drawn it already and is holding it menacingly? Three different ways that could have gone down. Which way is best?

The pacing here is off. This is an even-numbered page, and as such, will be on the left hand side. You’ve created a minor mystery, and the solving of that mystery, or the actions that lead to the solving of it, should come on the next page. You should have to turn the page to get there. This should have been an odd-numbered page.

PAGE FIVE (five panels)

 

Panel 1: Mara and Lark follow Ketch as he walks across the battered deck of the Shepherd, toward Wilkes who points to the entrance to the lower deck. Mara and Lark continue to glare at each other.(You should be sure that you can tell the two ships apart even when you are zoomed in on a character. What sets them apart from one another?) (So, as a still image, you have these to walking forward, but looking at each other as they follow a third man, as they approach a fourth… Yeah, that’s not going to look terrible at all. [And for those of you who can’t tell, that was sarcasm.])

 

CAP:

Bartholomew Tate’s innocent desire(comma)

For quiet and comfort was thrown on the fire…(period)

 

WILKES:

Below deck, Captain. I’ll stay topside, if you don’t mind. (The second sentence should be in its own balloon, with a bit of a pause.)

 

KETCH:

Thank you, Mr. Wilkes. (Everyone has been named except Lark. Just saying.)

 

LARK:

What are you doing here?

 

MARA:

My best not to stab you.(You’ve put so many balloons on this panel. Do Lark and Mara need to talk here?) (Prince wrote a song, Cody. Letitgo. I think Mara could learn that lesson.)

 

Panel 2: Cut to below deck. Angle on Ketch, Mara, and Lark, frozen on the stairs, looks on horror and shock plastered on their faces. (Here’s the problem: it’s a ship. In order to get them frozen on the stairs, they’d have to see what’s in the room. They can’t. They have to go single-file, because stairwells on ships aren’t wide. They aren’t particularly long, either. Maybe twelve steps. When’s the last time you followed someone up or down stairs? Were you right behind them, or were they ahead of you by a little bit? A stair or two? Now, do that for three people, going to a place where they won’t be able to see into the room and this panel is impossible because it doesn’t make sense. The only person who can see into the room is whomever is in the lead. At least one of them can’t be seen. Prosaic thinking strikes again.)

 

CAP:

He was set alight…

 

KETCH:

By the tides…

 

CAP 2:

And the waters of white…

 

Panel 3: Ketch’s POV. The entire crew of the merchant ship, 15 sailors, has been ruthlessly and gruesomely slaughtered. The walls and floor are smeared with blood. The sailors’ weapons are all drawn and bloodied. Crates and barrels are stacked in the far end of the ship.(Light source?) (Wait. Was this the same crew they were just fighting against? The same ship that they just fired upon a page or two ago? Is that my head ‘sploding?)

 

CAP:

(connect with ellipses)Did run red(period)

 

KETCH (OP):

What happened here?(This is a really composed response to such horror.)

 

Panel 4: The group splits up and explores the macabre scene.(This is so minimal.) (This isn’t minimal. This isn’t a panel description. This is prosaic thinking. This cannot be drawn.)

 

LARK:

Weren’t any of our men that did this, sir. Their blades are clean.

 

KETCH:

Something…smells. A foul stench on the air. Something…(change ellipses to double dash)

 

SFX:

BANG

 

Panel 5: They all draw their weapons (Mara, her daggers, Ketch, his sword, Lark, his pistols) and point them at a stack of crates in the far corner.

 

CAP:

Insides gone rotten…

 

(I wonder if you are giving your story points the space they deserve. Panel 3 is important, yet it comes in the middle of a page, is that the way you want to introduce this plot device?)

P5…

I have nothing good to say about this. It starts off badly, it continues badly. It doesn’t seem to make sense with what has gone before.

PAGE SIX (five panels)

 

Panel 1: A stack of crates moves as something pounds on the floor from below. (WHAT?! How is the artist even supposed to draw this? Moves how? And there’s yet another deck below where they are?)

 

CAP:

His dreams lay forgotten…

 

SFX:

BANG

 

Panel 2: The three inch closer to the stack of crates.(How are you going to show this? Can we see the crates on panel? How can we tell that they are moving?) (Moving panel. Prosaic thinking. Think there’s a theme running here?)

 

CAP:

So a demon of a man Tate became.

 

KETCH:

Lark, move those aside. (Lark’s name is finally said. It only took 6 pages.)

 

LARK:

Sure that’s a good idea, Captain?

 

KETCH:

Wouldn’t have said so otherwise.

 

Panel 3: Lark pushes the crates out of the way to reveal a hidden hatch in the floor. (Moving panel. No idea how many crates, their shape, how heavy they are… If I didn’t shave my head, I’d be pulling out my hair.)

 

LARK:

Smugglers.

 

KETCH:

Open it. (Where’s Ketchup? I mean, Ketchum? Is he in this panel?)

 

Panel 4: Ketch walks cautiously down the into the smuggler’s compartment, his sword pointed out. (Walks down… How does he get there? Another set of stairs? Le sigh…)

 

NO COPY

 

Panel 5: The only light in the compartment shines down from the open hatch, illuminating only Ketch as he stands at the bottom of the stairs. Ketch has to hunch forward to keep from bumping into ceiling. The water comes up to his knees. (What water? Some things are just simple fixes…)

NO COPY

P6. More prosaic thinking. At least there’s some story being told. That’s something. I’m not forced to tell one of my own because the writer couldn’t.

I just would like the story to be told well. Prose is NOT your friend when it comes to scripting. The only time prose is your friend is when you’re doing a plot-first style of writing. This isn’t plot-first. This is full script, and as such, prose has no place here. Characters have to act, they have to do actions that are static, and those static actions have to be described.

Describing static actions is a learned trait, but it can be done. The trick is exceedingly simple. Just put everything in the past tense. As soon as you put an action in the past tense in a comic script, it becomes a static action. As long as you think of each and every panel as happening in the immediate past (the action stopped one second ago), then you should be fine. If you try to describe things as happening right now, you’re going to get a moving panel almost every time.

PAGE SEVEN (five panels)

 

Panel 1: Lark calls down to Ketch as Ketch struggles to see. A voice then calls out from the dark.(This what happens, not what we see.)(What she means is, this cannot be drawn.)

 

LARK (OP):

What’s down there, Captain?

 

KETCH:

Hold a minute. I can’t see any-

 

VOICE (from the dark)(You can name the character and note that they are off panel):

Is…is someone there?

 

Panel 2: Ketch sheathes his sword and cups his hands in front of him. He breathes into his hands like he’s stoking a fire.(You’ve put two actions in one panel)(Moving panel.)

 

VOICE (from the dark):

Please…

 

Panel 3: Focus on Ketch’s hands as light builds in them. This is a technique commonly used by members of his tribe. (Why didn’t he do this before, knowing it was dark down there? Yes, this makes sense. Yes, that’s more sarcasm.)

 

CAP:

But down in the deep…

 

Panel 4: Ketch opens his hands like he’s releasing a bird and light floods the smuggler’s compartment. Two boys of sixteen are chained to the wall by a manacle around one ankle. WEB COLLINS sits on top of a crate with his knees pulled in tight to his chest. His black hair is shaved bald on the sides, giving him a Mohawk. He has blue, Celtic inspired tattoos on the sides of his head. He wears leather cuffs, black, thick rimmed glasses and has blue eyes. LIAM BAKER has medium length blond hair and green eyes.(This could be in another document) Their clothing (that of New York City street teens) clearly shows they are foreigners in the White Sea. Liam stands eagerly, pleading for Ketch to help. (Moving panel, but easily fixed.)

 

CAP:

In the dark he did keep…

 

Panel 5: Angle on Web and Liam. (What are they doing? Characters have to act in every panel.)

 

CAP:

(connect with ellipses) What little of his soul that remained.

 

LIAM:

Please help us.

(Interesting way to introduce the twist on the timeline. Should you do this and introduce Ketch’s abilities on the same page?)

P7, and more moving panels, more prosaic thinking. Out of five panels, two of them are moving, and one cannot be drawn. The fourth doesn’t have anyone acting. So, there’s only 1 panel that’s worth a damn, and it has info that may not be relevant to the panel description.

This is a page that isn’t good.

PAGE EIGHT (four panels)

 

Panel 1: Cut back to Web sitting by the fire on his island of black sand. LITTLE BROTHER runs eagerly toward him from the edge of the island. Little Brother is a red ruffed lemur. He is incredibly fast and intelligent. One gets the impression he understands English and, if able to speak, would do so with a British accent. For reference: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1b/Varecia_rubra_(habitus).jpg (What is he doing as he sits by the fire?)

 

WEB:

News, Little Brother?

 

LITTLE BROTHER:

Myarp!

 

WEB:

No need for excitement. We knew he’d come eventually.

 

Panel 2: Web flicks his wrist and the fire dies.

 

WEB:

We should prepare.

 

Panel 3: Web stands and walks farther down on the beach toward the edge of the island. (Moving panel.)

 

WEB:

After all he’s done…

 

Panel 4: Web raises his arms, and, as he does, the sand follows, forming large black columns that will soon be revealed to be the start of a massive castle.

 

WEB:

It’s the least I could do.

 

P8, and we no longer have any idea as to when either of these actions take place. The boat: is that a flashback, and the actions of the island are happening now?

 

I’d say that I’m feeling lost in time, but I don’t care all that much. The switch in time is abrupt, though. It’s not dramatic, though, for all of that. There’s no mystery built. It just happens, and my initial reaction is “So?” Not good.

PAGE NINE (three panels)

 

Panel 1: Web continues building his castle. (This panel says nothing at all. It cannot be drawn.)

 

CAP 1:

Cole cut a wide bloody wake…

 

CAP 2:

Under the red flag of freedom(comma)

 

Panel 2: Web puts the finishing touches on the castle, but the reader does not get a comprehensive view of what the structure is until next panel. (Another panel that says nothing.)

 

CAP 1:

From laws, from constables, from crown(comma)

 

CAP 2:

But his false liar’s heart sought a thrown of its own…

 

Panel 3: Shot of Web from behind as he looks at his creation – a giant black castle.

 

CAP:

(connect with ellipses)And a castle that blocked out the sun(period)

(You have to connect Web to the kid in the smuggler’s area. We need to know that this is not some random castaway.)

P9.

Three panels to build a castle. Three panels that could have been one. And again, the pacing is off. If you’re trying to hide what the reader sees, then you need to hide it. You do that in page turns. This is an odd-numbered page. The reveal of the castle should have been on an even-numbered page, at the very start.

This entire page is padding. You could have tacked the last panel here to the end of the previous page and saved some space, and you wouldn’t have slowed your story down or tortured your readers with poetry more than you had to.

PAGE TEN (five panels)

 

Panel 1: Cut back to the Deep. Ketch stands on the deck and stares contemplatively and skeptically at the wrecked merchant ship. (I won’t call it teleportation, but it seems that way. Although the interlude was two pages long, it doesn’t seem to add much to the story, so there’s no sense of time passing, so we’re just popping around the place, whenever this particular piece of the story takes place.)

 

LARK (OP):

Quite a thing, eh, Captain?

 

CAP:

Bartholomew’s heart was not one of murder…

 

Panel 2: Lark stands beside Ketch and they both stare at the wreckage. Lark’s casual attitude about the ordeal is off-putting. (Off-putting to whom? How does that come across in either a drawable action or in dialogue?)

 

CAP:

But his mind was twisted by lust and fervor

 

KETCH:

Aye. Quite a thing.

 

LARK:

Ain’t stood in that much blood since we sailed under Laurent.

 

Panel 3: Ketch looks down at his boots, covered with the blood of the murdered sailors, and the bloody boot prints they’ve left on deck.

 

KETCH:

Aye…

 

Panel 4: A smile tugs at Larks mouth as he drifts in nostalgia.

 

CAP:

He wished a way out,

He sought to atone(comma)

 

LARK:

Makes you miss the old days, eh, Ketch? When the Sea was ours. Nothing we couldn’t take if so moved. We were- (Double-dash.)

 

KETCH 1:

If a fond bit of nostalgia is what you seek… (Is he in this panel?)

 

KETCH 2:

I’ll lash you to the anchor and dump you in the Sea we so mightily lorded over. You can reminisce with Laurent on the bottom. (Where did this come from? Seems extremely out of place. And if Captain Ketchup can’t been seen, then this bit of dialogue shouldn’t be here. Something like this, we should see either the speaker, or the listener’s reaction to the words. We get neither here.)

 

Panel 5: Ketch walks away. Lark glares at his back.

 

CAP 1:

He was a man adrift…

 

KETCH:

Where are the lads from the wreck?

 

LARK:

Settling in your cabin as instructed.(change period to a comma)Sir. (No need to change the period to a comma. The period conveys the tone of displeasure of the second sentence quite nicely.)

 

KETCH:

Good. Get the loot aboard and be ready to sail…

 

CAP 2:

Alone(period)

(I think you have strong ideas, I like your characters, and the story is unfolding well. The dialogue seems natural and I am curious to see what happens next.

I do think you struggle with isolating still visuals to emphasize your narrative and charatcter development. You have to put as much as much care into that as you do into the other elements of your writing.)

Blessed be! Time to run this down, so I can run out the door!

Format: Flawless Victory!

Panel Descriptions: These need work. You’ve got to stop thinking with a prose mindset. Panel descriptions are for actions, and actions have to be described. Static images, Cody. Not moving images, or images seen with the mind’s eye.

Dialogue: After you stopped the horrible exposition, and not counting the captions that have to come out wholesale or risk being keelhauled, this was pretty readable. The characters have voices, and that’s always good. Now, they have to have conversations that either move the story or reveal character. You had a bit of trouble with that in the beginning, but it got better after that.

Every caption? Cut it out, burn it with Greek fire, and then bury it. We won’t talk about them again.

Pacing: The pacing is off. You have actions that should be on page turns that aren’t, and as such, they aren’t helping the reader get deeper into the story. Comicbook storytelling is about pacing. Or, said another way, placement of elements on the page.

Want a master class of pacing? Go pick up Y The Last Man. There isn’t a foot put wrong in any issue of that story. It’s over now, but pick up a trade, any trade. Study it. Break it down. See how Vaughn does what he does. Then try to apply some of it to your own writing.

Content: As a reader, I wouldn’t be able to get past That Which Shall Not Be Mentioned. I’d have put it down after P3. It would not have been good.

Editorially, this needs some work. Not a total rewrite, thankfully, but some work. The panel descriptions and the pacing, with some tweaks to the dialogue. And it needs to make sense.

Part of this reads like you just started writing, saying “wouldn’t it be cool if…” and didn’t look back. That then colored the rest of the story, but if certain actions happened, then others don’t make sense. That would take a conversation, and would have to be fixed.

And that’s all I have.

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

 

Also, we’re getting close to the end of our scripts! Submit now, because the wait isn’t long!

 

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.

 

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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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