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TPG Week 183: A Clinic In Wrong

| June 27, 2014

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Hello, and welcome back to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a new Brave One in Ben Goldsmith. We also have the return of Steve Colle! We also have the return of the rant! So, we have Steve in the soothing blue, I’m in the hyped-up red, and we’ll all see how Ben handles

Widow’s Peak

I’ll tell you right now, before I even begin, that the formatting is a real turn-off. (You should have seen it beforehand. I was kind and told Ben that he had a choice: to either beef up the panel descriptions to something an artist can work with and an editor can see, or leave it. Leaving it…wouldn’t have gone well. It would have gone a lot worse than it’s going to go today.) I’m already seeing a lack of page breaks, a point form look to your panel set up (with P.1 and onward having the indented descriptions), and a few other gripes that make this look extremely unprofessional. (I don’t know about unprofessional. Format is format—I just care if it’s consistent.) I know Steven is going to comment on the fact that this is 11 pitch instead of 12 (insert rant about pitch here!), so add that to your list of things against you right out of the starting gate. As an editor, if I were to receive this from any writer, I wouldn’t give it the time of day (Which is deep. Steve is much, much kinder than I am. There was a time when he would have gone out of his way to help a writer with format. All of you have changed him.) . If you want to be a serious comic book writer, you have to know how to present your work. There are tons of examples of script formats online. DARK HORSE COMICS even provided aspiring writers with a sample of what they look for in a format at http://images.darkhorse.com/darkhorse08/company/submissions/DHScriptFormatGuides.pdf. Do the research, do the work, and you’ll better your chances of getting your script past that editor’s impulsive trash dump. (Not so impulsive. A good editor has a practiced eye, so the trash dump shouldn’t be impulsive at all. Just because the consideration wasn’t long and deliberate doesn’t mean it’s impulsive.)

Pg 1(5 Panels) (Right off the bat, you haven’t spelled out the word “Page” and you’ve missed a space between the 1 and the opening bracket. This shows me that you didn’t proofread and didn’t care to go beyond simple abbreviations. It’s showing laziness and a lack of respect for your own work. Take yourself seriously and others will, too.)(Commenting because the word “page” wasn’t spelled out? Know what this means? It means this script really, really got under Steve’s skin. Me? I don’t care, as long as you’re consistent.)

P.1 Establishing shot of a lonely grey pier jutting out 30 feet from a stone filled base where it touches down at the beach. The pier resides above cold black New England waters foaming where the waves hit the wooden stands that support the structure. The angle is from the beach to the water with the pier on the right. It is Autumn. Grey hues. (I’m having trouble getting a visual sense of the setting based on what you’ve written here. In some ways, you’re being specific with things like “30 feet” [Is the artist supposed to measure?] and “cold black New England waters” [How do they differ from any other waters hitting the shoreline and pier supports of any other place in the world?] (In the northeastern US, the water gets damned COLD!). Then, you don’t give enough clear information on where your camera is placed. You say it’s a “lonely grey pier”, but that would tell me that it’s empty of people and props, which means it’s a shot from the top of the pier in order to see these things. However, you also give the impression that the shot is from underneath, which makes the opening information moot. Choose a specific location for your camera and work with that.) (Also, we read from left to right. If the pier is jutting out from the right, that means it’s going to be leading the eye to the left, and back out of the book. Which might be a good thing.)

P.2 An empty booth in a small café. (Why wasn’t the exterior of the café seen in the opening panel? How does this relate to the introduction of the pier in Panel 1? Why a sudden jump to the interior of an establishment instead of staying outside to build the landscape for your reader?) The leather is worn and red-brown. The table is planted to the floor on a single center black iron base. The booth is framed by a window on either side of the double sided neck high booth backs. Between the windows and over the center of the table, the wall is a yellow sponge speckle pattern. It is empty. It retains the same gray (Didn’t you spell “gray” as “grey” in the previous panel?)(Nit.)hues as the establishing shots (You’ve only shown us a partial one so far…), as do all the shots in this epilogue of no copy frames. (This contains a lot of really needless information. Again, you’re concentrating on the more minute details instead of providing a camera location. Be informative, but succinct. The other thing is that you’re telling the colorist that all of the images on this page are going to have the greyish hue in this panel’s description instead of giving this direction separately at the beginning of the page. If it applies to the entire page, make sure it’s explained in a totally separate description.)

P.3 A sign on the side of a street leading into a small town. (This is an example of too little information. A sign: How big is it? Is it on a post, framed, or resting against a rock? A street: What does the street look like? What kinds of structures, if any, are on the street?A small town: Do you know how many small towns there are? And you still haven’t told us when this story is taking place to give us an idea of time period to draw from. You can’t leave the artist with so little on the important details and so much on the details that really don’t matter.) The sign is wooden, white, and hand carved. (Is the print a different color so it stands out on the white?) It reads, “Rockport, MA pop (Where’s the period after the abbreviation for “population”?) (Small nit.) 6952 (Do they have to change this number when there’s a birth or death? This is pretty damned exact, don’t you think?) (Nit.) . Home of Sandra Summerset” (Where’s your closing punctuation?) The town is a new New England town. (You wrote “new” without the capital N, giving us the idea that it’s a new town in England. Proofreading would have found this.) Reference pictures will do more than I ever could to describe their sea side town languor. (I honestly had a bit of a laugh with this last sentence, mainly because you’re saying that reference pictures would help, but then you leave the artist to his/her own devices instead of providing a link or attachments in the document. You have to give them at least some form of direction or guidelines as to where they can find what you’re visualizing.)

P.4 An old black typewriter half covered by a white sheet with a manuscript next to it, hidden almost behind the typewriter. They sit on a writing desk covered with other sheets. Dust has settled on the lot. (I’m going to deal with my confusion on the jumping around of images at the end of this page, but what I do have to say is that this makes no sense. Why is there a sheet half-covering a typewriter? Why not all the way on or all the way off? How is the manuscript beside it, and yet almost hidden behind it? Why is there a manuscript and how can we tell it’s a manuscript? Why are there other sheets and are they folded or loose? What the heck is happening here??)

P.5 Inside of an old (Define the era.) boxing gym. The ring sits in the center of the wide shot. The ropes sag and the springs underneath the mat are exposed. (Would this really happen to a ring and ropes that haven’t been used for an extended period of time, even decades? And we still don’t have a current time frame for the story.) There are two punching body bags (Body bags?? Are there cadavers in them???) (Come on. Nit. Body bag, as opposed to a speed bag or an agility bag. Another name for a body bag is a heavy bag. I’m not even a boxer and I know the difference.) hanging from frames bolted into the wall opposite frame POV (Excuse me, but… Huh? What do you mean by “opposite frame POV”?), behind the ring. The bags are set apart with about 6 feet between them. There are frames (You’re using the word “frames” to describe a couple of different things here, which makes it confusing to read.) and a pair of boxing gloves hung on the wall in between the bags. The frame is too far away to discern with any clarity the contents of the pictures. (You have so many things going on in this panel that don’t seem to jive together. You have the severely dilapidated ring and ropes, the punching “body” bags, and yet, you still have a pair of boxing gloves hanging and pictures on the wall. Two plus two shouldn’t equal twenty-two, but that’s the impression I’m getting when reading stuff like this.)

There are so many things wrong with this first page that go way beyond the issue of descriptive clarity to your artist. Let’s look at the main issue first, that being the jumping around to seemingly unconnected images. I’m going to put this into a bit of perspective for you: If all of these pictures were in an art gallery under a general showing title such as “Small Town Abandoned”, then I would at least have some forewarning or guidance as to how I should interpret their connection to one another. However, without that, even in the gallery setting, they are just a bunch of pictures on a wall. With that said, by having them together on a comic page without any such direction doesn’t do what the purpose of the comic should do: To tell a story. They are just pictures, and not necessarily good or important ones that would guide us to understand what is going on. The next thing is that you’re jumping from exterior to interior shots, so you aren’t even showing us the big picture. In reality, there is no establishing shot because none of these give us that big picture. The third point is that you’ve put the only image that has a location listed as your third panel instead of your first, so your sequencing is off. Then you’ve decided to have grey hues for all of the images so nothing stands out (I can’t tell time period based solely off of black and white pictures instead of colored images). Finally, you’ve gone the route of having no text, no captions, and no dialogue to help the reader put the pieces of the puzzle together. Nothing makes this a successful page, and given the fact that this is the first page of your book, it’s a fail of monumental proportions.

I’m going to echo what Steve said at the very end.

P1 is a failure.

I don’t know much. I’ll tell that to anyone who’ll stand still long enough for me to tell them. I’m not a smart guy. But this is what I know.

This right here? This is crap. This first page is a waste of time and space. There is one thing that is missing from this page that could have made it all better. That thing? Something to tie the disparate images together, whether it be a location (like the gallery that Steve mentioned), or better still, dialogue. Or, if all of these are in the same place (the town), you could have helped yourself by ordering things correctly: the town name, then a couple of places around town, and then you stop at the most important place that will catapult the reader to the next page. However, you didn’t even do that.

 

Instead, you tried to take the reader on a magical mystery tour, but it looks like you left out both the magic and the mystery.

Another way this page fails is that it’s a silent opening page.

As a new writer, you have too much work to do in setting up your world. A silent opening page that’s a mosaic of nothing? That’s not going to go over so well with readers. They’re going to want to know why they’re reading this. Having no dialogue to open your story is like telling them you’re not interested in getting them interested in your story.

You have to earn the right to open a book with a silent page. And by “earn the right”, I mean that the audience has to know you and trust you enough to understand that you’re going somewhere with a hodgepodge of images. They don’t know that about you. They don’t know anything about you yet. Give them reason to believe you know what you’re doing. Believe me, readers have seen enough bad books. Don’t throw more onto the pile.

Pg2 (6 Panels) (I know Steve already mentioned a lack of page breaks, but really, folks, format isn’t hard at all. The lack of page breaks has cost you a Flawless Victory.)

P.1 Old brown leather gloves (What kind of gloves? Are they ladies’ dress gloves? The fact that you’ve been jumping around has prevented me from connecting these gloves to anything that has happened before this point.) thin from use (Do they have holes in them or are there obvious sections on the leather where you can see the material underneath?) are hanging from a string that has them tied together (If these are the boxing gloves, is this string that’s tying them together the laces from both gloves?) on the wall next to faded 1960-1970’s era photos of the same man boxing other opponents or training. (So we’re finally getting some sense of a time period for the past tense aspect of the story, but have still not been given a present tense.) One picture has the man with his gloved hand raised post victory in the ring by a black and white striped shirt referee. it It stands out in both its size comparably to the other smaller ones as well as the plaque underneath that reads.. “Alfonse Guiseppe. ‘The New Hampshire Hammer’. Golden Gloves Champion 1962”. The framed newspaper clipping directly to the right of this says “Hammer retires undefeated at 39” (Where’s your ending punctuation?)(If it’s a headline, there won’t be ending punctuation inside the quote. However, outside the quote…I can’t help you, Ben. I’d say it makes me see red, but since my remarks are in red, it won’t really help to express the depth of emotion I’m feeling right now where punctuation is concerned.)

I’ll be honest, not being from the United States forced me to do some research to compare the locations of New Hampshire and New England. I’d heard of New England before, but also knew it wasn’t one of the States (yes, some of us Canucks know a bit about U.S. geography). My main point to looking was to get a better sense of the location for your story, which you had said was based in New England. Then you mentioned New Hampshire here, so with that knowledge, I have to ask: Why isn’t the story taking place in New Hampshire instead of Massachusetts, one of the other six states that make up New England? If he’s the ‘New Hampshire Hammer’, then shouldn’t he be honored in his home state? Makes perfect sense to me. Two plus two, Ben… (I have a slight rant. Just a slight one. The thirteen original colonies here were all British, and all up and down the coast. So, technically, almost the entire east coast of America is “New England.” Even if you don’t think so, “New England” should extend all the way down to New Jersey. Rant over.)

P.2 Same Empty booth from before. (And we’re back to the booth in the restaurant, correct? Then say so. It just seems like you’re writing this exclusively for yourself, because you aren’t spelling things out properly for a collaborator.) An older woman wearing a robin’s egg blue knee length dress (What the heck is a robin’s egg blue knee length dress? I had to look it up and found a few different styles, so which is it, exactly?) with a white apron strap wrapped around her prodigious backside has her knee on the booth’s right padded seat so we can see her white Ked shoes (Again, what do they look like as there are different styles?) while she hammers something (Is it a nail or hook, by chance?) into the previously blank wall space. (I honestly don’t get it. You’re giving information on her dress and shoes [which, in the grand scheme of the story, is it really important?], but not going the next step of providing exact details. The dress, for example, could be a waitress’s dress or it could be the more well-to-do owner trying to protect it from being soiled as she tries to get the restaurant back on its feet. You really need to discover what’s necessary information and, if needed, then just how much you need to give.)

P.3 A man with a newsboy cap and blue overalls over his off-white t-shirt (Why is his style of dress important? Is it a period piece or present day? We still don’t know.) paints an amendment to the population sign. We can see “Home of Sandra Summerset (and in fresh paint…) (1941…” (Where’s your ending punctuation?) The painter blocks the rest. (That’s awfully convenient, isn’t it?)

P.4 Shot of a red delicious apple in round wicker basket on table of a kitchen. The kitchen is clean and well kept. The table sits in the center while 2 chairs sits round the table (Period) One is close to the table, while the other is askew as if someone has just gotten up. That is all that can be seen from this frame. (What is so important about this image? It doesn’t even coincide with a previous visual from the first page! You’re throwing things into the mix that have no bearing on the big picture.)

P.5 Close up of plaque at booth. Sandy’s picture. It is of her in her 50’s. (When was the picture taken? Sure, we know her age at the time of the photo, but when was it taken? This is important information.) Warm and kind with a very Diane from cheers look. (This confused me to no end. You meant “Diane from the sitcom, CHEERS”, right? The way you wrote it doesn’t say that, does it? Even if you had placed a capital C at the beginning of “cheers”, it would have been a name and not a verb, right?) It is her promotional picture (What do you mean by “promotional picture”? Promotion for what? Was she an actress, politician, etc.?) so she is in a tall bed of sunflowers with the light hitting her medium length blonde hair from behind. (Why is this important, especially that the light is hitting her from behind?) The plaque says, “In memory of Rockport’s own Sandra Summerset” (Where’s your ending punctuation?)

P.6 The sign where the painter was. He is leaving down back to the town by foot with his paint in his hand. Fresh paint finishes the sign “1941-2014” (Where’s your ending punctuation? Why is his walking away important?)

I’m honestly holding back A LOT of frustration as I read this script. I can’t understand why the basics of spelling, punctuation, and capitalization aren’t being met. It’s the foundation of writing, and EVERYONE should know it. The fact that you didn’t care enough to do these basics tells me how little you care about your writing and about those who will be reading it. It’s completely atrocious. Why should we, as editors who do this FOR FREE to benefit the writing and creative community, take the time to put in the effort when it’s obvious you didn’t? Seriously, damned frustrating.

Visually, this page is worse than the first, if you can believe that. Here’s what you did that (somewhat) worked: You followed up on images that you had presented on the first page such as the restaurant booth and the sign. By doing this, you gave some value to their presence by connecting them, by giving them something of a story unto themselves. When you introduce more than one image to a setting, you give it a sequence, and a story begins to form within itself. But you also did something that had no place on the page, and that’s the introduction of the kitchen table with the chairs and fruit. You’ve discounted images from the first page by not following up on them and have introduced an image that has no previous match to give it meaning.

All together, though, these are two completely wasted pages. You still haven’t given us anything to grab onto. You still have nothing more than a bunch of sporadic images with no text to pull them all together into a coherent structure. It isn’t that I’m lost, because being lost means that I had a direction to start off with that deviated into confusion. It’s that you never had me to begin with, and that’s a damned shame.

Page 2 is down, and really, it’s more of the same.

Two whole pages that have absolutely no dialogue? Two whole pages with no way to discern what the story is about? Two whole pages that do nothing to draw the reader in?

Know what the reader is going to do? They’re going to see a kaleidoscope of images, that make no sense, they’re going to see there’s no words to tell them what’s going on, then they’re going to put the book back on the shelf, walk over to the nearest comic shop worker (or owner), and wipe their hands on that person’s shirt. Then they’re going to pick up the latest Image book, pay, and leave.

Why? Because you didn’t respect them enough to even begin to try to tell a story in the first two pages. And readers don’t like it when you don’t respect them.

 

Page 3 (3 Panels) (I noticed that you finally wrote out the word “Page”.)(A bit of a nitpick, but only a bit. You have to be consistent.)

P.1 Picture of Alfonse and Sandy wedding photo. She has a red stain on the chest oh of her white dress and his tux left arm and breast pocket are ripped. There is also a wine spill on his white dress-shirt chest. All of this considered they are still at the alter altar smiling and delighted. (You’ve added components to the image that need to be explained in order to work. The fact that there are stains on their clothes and that there are rips in his jacket mean nothing without some form of textual explanation. It’s just a weird picture without it.)

P.2 Pull back frame to see the picture is fallen flat on a small round side table in a writing room with sheets over bookcases and a lounge chair. (What do you mean, that the picture is fallen flat? Is this image a follow-up to the previous one, in that we now have a direct sequence? If so, what made the picture fall flat? It doesn’t make sense, but then again, nothing really has since the beginning of the script.) (Basically, what Steve is saying is that there’s no frame of reference for laying the picture flat. It the first panel, it won’t look flat. When you pull out, in order to see that it’s flat, you’re not really pulling out, you’re pulling up. That then makes the rest of the room look weird, because it’s a strange camera angle.)(This is the same room where the writing desk with the half covered typewriter is). There are other photos. One says 50th wedding anniversary and the boxer and the writer drink from wine glasses. The other photos but some are reflecting the light and imperceptible. (Not only does this not make sense, even more so, I’m not understanding why you have the components as imperceptible. What purpose does that serve? Why introduce props to your image if they aren’t going to convey information to the reader?)

P.3 Back up to view from the balcony into room. (Is the balcony outside?) The balcony has a peaked roof and the color of the house itself is grey with white window rudders and border common to New England houses. (This is a common design in six states? First of all, why do we need to know this and second, why should we care? What importance does this have to the story, such as it is?) White curtains billow in the breeze from the inside out and the double glass-paneled doors lay open outward. There is a 5 feet by 5 feet space to stand on the outside and it is enclosed by a 4 foot high white carved wood railing supported by slender formed wooden rods set inches apart ¾ way around the deck. (All of this measuring makes it sound like you’re writing a description to give to a potential homebuyer, not an artist drawing a comic book. Again, you’re going into specifics for something that could have easily been loosened up.)

Page 3. No dialogue. No discernible reason to continue reading. No reason to turn the page. No reason to believe that there’s actually a story here. No reason to waste money on this. No reason to waste time on this. There’s just no reason here.

I guess it’s time for a story.

I’ve always been interested in magick. (Notice the “k”.) Even as a kid, I knew that there was something out there that was actually magickal, and not just tricks that a magician would do with sleight of hand and misdirection (although that’s fun, too). I found a book in my parents’ stuff (because all kids go through their parents’ things when the ‘rents are out) entitled The Dark Arts, and I thought I had found Nirvana. Witches were real!

I had an out of body experience when I was in my teens. Scared the hell out of me. Scared me so much that I haven’t been able to get out of my body since. However, I keep trying. When I can remember. I have a lot of other interests now.

Anyway, I join the military and then I go to Japan. When I get to my first command, I’m a Private First Class (I’d been promoted out of Private), and I’m told about a Lance Corporal Gibson, who’s a witch. We were talking about comic books in the office, and I had seen Gibby a time or two without knowing who he was. I was told that Gibby was a collector of comics, and that he was also a witch.

I was immediately interested. Comics and witchcraft? I’m all over it! So I made sure to introduce myself to him the next time I saw him (he worked in the next building over, too), and we started talking comics, and I dropped the witchcraft thing as subtly as I could. I wanted to learn!

We became fast friends. (You could do that without having to worry about chain of command. He was my superior because he outranked me, but he wasn’t yet a non-commissioned officer, or NCO. That happens at Corporal and above.) I was only in Japan for about a month before we had met, so I didn’t know many people there at all. Gibby had been there for a while, and he let me read his stash of comics, and taught me how he read them (he saves what he considers his best for last. I one-upped that, separating them by company, and read them from “worst” to best.), and he also started teaching me about magick.

I made a copy of a copy of a book he had (still have it, too!), I read some other stuff he had, I bought my own copy of Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft, I read Seth Speaks. I bought a Psychic Circle, because Ouija boards tend to attract more negative forces. I met other people who were into the paranormal.

One of the Marines I met, a female Marine, had a family demon. One night, while the group of us were together, she decided to channel it. Then it wouldn’t leave. I helped to exorcise her of it. Then I went to my room and protected it.

The demon came after me that night. I had gone back to my room and put up a barrier against it. It wasn’t a windy night at all, but I heard it banging against the window as well as trying to get in from above and below me. (The barracks had five stories, and I was on the third floor. I had never heard any Marines bouncing on the floor above me before or since. And Marines are a rowdy bunch.) Needless to say, it didn’t get in. Interesting night, though.

I started with magick, I ended with a demon. I set an expectation, and then I took you on a trip that hopefully more than met that expectation. I told a story, and at no point were you wondering if I had an actual story to tell. That’s how a story could be told. A montage of images with no through-story, and nothing to tie it together is not the way to go.

Page 4 (2 Panels)

P.1 Back up to see the walk is a widow’s peak on the top of the house. (Where is your camera?) The doors to the room high up on the 3rd story are open. It is dark and stormy. Grey clouds choke the sky. The words “Widows Peak” spelled out over frame. (Do you mean to say that there is a plaque or something over the frame of the 3rd story door that reads “Widow’s Peak”, or is this supposed to be the title to the story somehow? This is very unclear.)

P.2 Same shot in great daytime color. The sky is now blue with fluffy white clouds. The doors to the room from the widow’s peak are now shut.

So, you’ve got two images that resemble one another save for the weather conditions and the doors being opened or closed. I realize that you’re trying to create a sense of passing time to bring the reader from the past (when exactly, I don’t know) up to the present, but due to the all-over-the-place nature of what has happened on the previous pages, this page is too little, too late. If you had had text to give us a background to what we were seeing, it would have created a better transition to what we’re supposed to be experiencing here.

V.O. (It was an unlikely match (Missing comma) but Hammer and Ms. Summerset lived very happily here.) (This is the first sign of any form of dialogue, and yet, it’s directionless and provides us with nothing of note. It’s a voice in the proverbial dark, popping up with seemingly needless and useless information in a bland manner. We’ve waited for four pages for something to give explanation to a jumble of images, and we get “It was an unlikely match but Hammer and Ms. Summerset lived very happily here”. Very disappointing. Then there’s the format issue of how you wrote it on the page: It isn’t clearly defined as a captioned voice over and definitely doesn’t read as one. Why is it in brackets? Why doesn’t it have quotation marks around it, seeing as how it’s spoken by a character from a distance off panel? If you had done your research, whether here on Comixtribe’s BOLTS & NUTS or by reading the myriad edited scripts offered in THE PROVING GROUNDS, you would have known what to do. But you didn’t, and it shows, Ben.)(Head? ‘Sploded. Why? Because I want someone to show me where brackets are acceptable in dialogue, when it isn’t an aside. I bracket things all the time. But dialogue? Especially the very first words said? It’s like you’re trying to make my head ‘splode.)

Let’s see what we have here.

This is P4. We have two panels on this page. Why? Until panel 2, there hasn’t been a single word said this entire time. So, what storytelling purpose does two panels here serve?

The object is to get the reader into the story as quickly as possible. What did you do? You took 4.5 pages to have some dialogue. And then you put it in the wrong place.

This is like a clinic. “How To Do Everything Wrong”. This is not the clinic you want to give.

Oh, if I hadn’t said it before now, this is crap. Just so that it’s official. In case anyone was worried, you can all relax now. This is crap, and we all know it. Now, let’s talk about that final panel.

If, by some miracle, you were telling an interesting story, and decided that your first words were going to come after a couple of pages of silence, what you’d want to do is to put that dialogue on an odd-numbered page. Why? Someone who isn’t Sam Read or Yannick Morin tell us why you’d want it on an odd-numbered page.

Now, you want that dialogue to be interesting. This isn’t interesting. You stopped being interesting on P1. Right now, we’re all just trying to escape with our sanity. I don’t know if we’ll all make it out, though.

 

Page 5 (5 Panels)

P.1 Shot of Tour guide and crowd of tourists in front of the house. (What does the house look like? How far away is your camera? You haven’t given us any information on the look of the whole structure of the home, nor an idea of the look of the surrounding community. Give your artist more details.) (I think this is supposed to be the same house we’ve been looking at previously, but I’m not sure. And I shouldn’t have to guess.)The tour guide has his back to the front walk which is covered on either side of the sloped walkway to the front door by trees with red yellow and brown leaves. (Though nice to know the colors of the leaves, it doesn’t tell us what kind of trees they are. What kinds of trees would these be and are they natural to the landscape?) (And, what does the tour guide look like?)The house itself is higher up on a 6 foot raise rise in the mound of the earth it sits on. We see the backs of the tourists in the foreground. Some take pictures.

Tour guide- “Our little tour will continue to Sharky’s Shake Shack (Missing comma) home of the famous Shark bite sundae!” (This is so out of place. You haven’t given the reader any information beyond the couple who lived there were happy, and now, you’re completely diverting and avoiding your potential story. What are you doing and why? And again, if you had done your research, you would know that you don’t put quotation marks around dialogue that isn’t a voice over in a caption, unless it’s quoted from another source.)

Voice in crowd “Could he read?” (So, here’s where we get a bit of meat, but why should we care about the answer? You haven’t developed a relationship between “Hammer” and the reader for us to give a crap. There is sooooooo much more you could have told us about “Hammer”, but instead, you’re concentrating on his ability to read. Now, the other thing that’s bugging the hell out of me is the way you’ve written the format for the dialogue. First of all, it’s inconsistent with how you set up the Tour Guide’s dialogue with his name and then a dash to separate name from actual dialogue. Here, you didn’t even put a comma. This is just plain lazy as all get out, and it frustrates me to no end.)

 

P.2 Crowd parts so we see a little boy in jeans and Red sox Sox tee. The kid’s dad has his hand on his own face.

Boy “My dad says he couldn’t read.” (Again, format issue. And why hasn’t the tour guide asked the boy to repeat himself, which would bring on this subsequent comment?) (And why would the crowd part? Is it important that we see the speaker?)

 

P.3 Frame is profile of tour guide patting little boys boy’s head. The boy stands slightly in front of crowd.

Tour guide “Well (missing comma) you heard true! It was the great irony of our times. He married one of New England’s most famous authors and (Missing comma) to this day (Missing comma) hasn’t read one of her books.” (A few things here: First, you’re continuing the trend of format issues, which I imagine will last till the end of the submitted script, a place I promise you now, will not be visited by this editor. Next, you’re introducing the fact that the “Hammer” is still alive and not simply a dead historical figure. So, the question isn’t “Could he read?”, but rather, “Can he read?” Watch how you phrase things.)

Crowd “ooow “ “Wow” “I can’t imagine” (This is atrocious. Not only is it formatted incorrectly, but the dialogue is terrible. And where is the punctuation?)

P.4 Waist up panel of tour guide enthusiastic as only paid people can be. (Excuse me?? What kind of description is this?? “Enthusiastic as only paid people can be”? That is so shallow as a comment and even worse as a panel description. Wow.)

Tour guide, “Good question (Missing comma) kiddo. Which reminds me…. (An ellipsis is three dots, not four) stay in school (Where’s your punctuation, of any sort?) ” cheesy chuckle from crowd. He moves them on. (Why in the world is there panel description in the dialogue space??? And why is it giving direction to create a moving panel?) “Let’s go get ice cream. (Where’s your closing quotation marks, regardless of the fact you don’t need them? Where’s the consistency??) (This right here? This shows that you don’t have a command of anything. I understand that everyone is here to learn, but if you really wanted to learn, then you would have actually sat down and read some scripts and understood why things are and aren’t done. You didn’t do that. I’ll have more to say in a little bit.)

P.5 Shot from inside laced curtain window of Alfie’s (Who the hell is “Alfie”? Oh, yeah, he’s Alphonse, more commonly known as “Hammer”, so why didn’t you just call him Alphonse or Hammer to avoid the confusion?) house. We can see the tour leaving outside. There is a voice that eminates emanates from the right side of the panel (Where’s your closing punctuation?)

Voice, “The Boy bOUnced the ball…and…b-b-brOUght it back” (Where’s your punctuation? That’s the least of my issues with this dialogue. What in the world are you trying to do here, Ben? Beyond the fact that you’ve got capital letters in the middle of single syllable words to try to put emphasis on them, this dialogue is incomprehensibly some of the worst material I have ever read! MY GOD!!!) (That sound you heard was Steve’s head ‘sploding. Please wait one moment while he gathers his brains back in his head so he can continue.)

I am completely deflated, Ben. Deflated and angry at the time I spent working on a script where the writer didn’t care enough to put any effort into not only the story, but the format and, even worse, the following of simple rules of writing. I’m honestly disgusted. (And thus, Steve’s turn to the Forbes Side is complete! Forever will I dominate his destiny!!!) I really hate to say that and it pains me to even go there because I seriously want to help others grow. With that said, however, you’ve presented me with a script that has no visible redeeming factors from a writer who just doesn’t seem to care. For that, I’m at a total loss.

The story has no story. You are all over the place with single sporadic images for the first three pages, images which never really tell us anything that we need to know, especially when you look at the inclusion of the pier and the kitchen table, neither of which seem to tie in with the history of the characters you are writing about. You keep the pages completely silent up till Page Four, when what you do have spoken has no power or sense of purpose. I can’t even talk about pacing because there’s no real sequence flowing through the pages till Page Five, where you introduce information and actions that are weak and don’t move us in a direction that will allow us to care for the situation or the characters. As for the dialogue, I can’t even say that you went for a minimalist approach because there is so little of it, that it serves no purpose in getting the story moving.

With the entire package, as a whole, being at issue, you seriously need to look at yourself and decide whether or not you really care about what you’re doing. If you aren’t willing to put the work into yourself before you put it into your work, then you’ve already failed yourself and any potential you may have in the future. That isn’t something someone else can instill in you. I wish you luck.

So, with all that said, let’s run this down. There’s still more to say.

Format: This is, ladies and gentlemen, quite simply, the easiest thing to learn in all of comic book scripting. If you’re going to write in full script, then it’s quite simple: make sure your elements are separate, label them accordingly, and put in page breaks. There is nothing easier. Most of the time, creators lose the Flawless Victory because they simply forgot to put in page breaks. But to put more panel description in dialogue? I don’t understand how you thought that was okay. I don’t get it. But as crappy as the entire script is, your format is the best aspect of it.

Panel Descriptions: Most of your panel descriptions are a study in Focusing on the Wrong Thing. You give lengths and distances and colors and moldings and lace patterns and sounds and impressions and… Okay, you don’t give all of that, but you also don’t focus on the important things that will tell the story. If you’re not telling a story with words, then you have to do it with pictures, and the panels for the first four pages don’t tell a story.

Panel descriptions don’t belong in Dialogue. The only thing that belongs in Dialogue is dialogue. It’s pretty simple.

Pacing: You took four pages and nearly turned Steve into a raving lunatic.

There is no pacing here. Your first four pages don’t tell a story. At all. It’s a montage of images, and not only does it not tie together, it goes on for three pages too long. The first page could be gotten away with…as long as it told a story. That could possibly be done with some rearranging. Then the story should have continued on P2. And by “continue”, I mean having dialogue. Well, there should have been dialogue at least on the last panel of P1, but what do I know?

Five pages, and nothing happens. Nothing interesting, at least. We have four pages of montage, and then we have a tour guide talking, a kid asking about reading, and an unseen character possibly learning to read. All in five pages.

Now, tell me truly: how in the hell is any of that interesting?

There is no pacing, because nothing happens.

Dialogue: There isn’t a lot of it, and what there is doesn’t make a lot of sense. So, we’re going to set aside the inanity of it for now. (Inanity, not insanity, although you nearly drove Steve there, too.)

Here is where some simple studying would have saved you a world of hurt, and Steve an aneurysm.

If you had done any studying at all, you would have seen that comic book dialogue does not have any quotation marks around it, unless it is in a caption, and then, only when it is a voice-over caption. It isn’t difficult.

Content: As a reader, I’d wonder what my local comic shop owner was smoking when they ordered this. I’d probably start a movement to get mandatory drug screening in place in order to own a comic shop. Because this is crap, and readers shouldn’t be exposed to it. It’s like something that would be sold on a street corner, but the pusher can’t get anyone to bite. (Forgive me. I’ve got Ice T’s I’m Your Pusher going on in my head.)

Editorially… You didn’t think you were going to escape without me talking about punctuation, did you? HA!

I’m going to say it right now: anyone who doesn’t know how to use ending punctuation needs to go back to school. And I don’t mean college, either. I’m talking about first grade, where you’re learning to read and write with all the other six-to-seven year olds. See Spot run.

If you don’t know how to use ending punctuation—if you don’t know how to use punctuation, period—then you aren’t a writer. You’re just some person who wants to tell a story. Punctuation is important, because it tells the reader where and how you want them to pause. It gives your sentences rhythm. It helps to straighten out complexity of thought. It gives the thought process clarity.

If a writer hired me to edit them, and then handed this to me, I’d return the script and issue a refund and tell that writer to learn how to write first. It isn’t worth the frustration.

As writers, your job is simple: write. You’ve been learning how to write your entire life. Put that knowledge to use. Just sitting down at a desk and typing isn’t writing. I don’t know what it is, but it isn’t writing.

Now, with that said, editorially, this needs to be burned. After it’s been burned, the ashes need to be stirred, and then it needs to be burned again. After that, it needs to be hammered. Then whatever remains needs to be put in a biohazard container in order to be disposed of. Possibly by burning again.

Then, before trying to rewrite it, go learn how to write for comics. I’ve written enough columns about the subject to fill a couple of books, so you don’t even have to leave the site if you don’t want to. There are also a few books on the subject. However, before going there, go to your local elementary school, sit down with those first graders, and ask them where the period goes.

You have a lot to learn: how to write, panel descriptions, pacing, and dialogue. Put it to good use.

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

Like what you see? Steve, Sam and Yannick are available for your editing needs. You can email Steve here Sam hereand Yannick 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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