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TPG Week 185: Hand-Waving, Slaps, And A Porcupine

| July 11, 2014

 

TPGFeatured_03

 

Welcome back, one and all, to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week brings us a new Brave One in Justin Schepper. This week also sees the return of Samantha LeBas. She’s a mother for a second time! Give her a round of applause, and welcome Odette “I’m Too Damned Cute To Be An Infant” LeBas to the world! As always, Sam is in purple, I’m in red, and we’ll all see if Justin can

 

Carry the Burden

 

Before we begin, I’ve got a couple of things to say.

 

The first, I feel like I’m talking to myself here lately. I’ve been railing about pitch sizes that are smaller than 12. Few seem to pay attention. While TPG is here to say “this is wrong/this is right”, it gets very tiresome talking about the same things over and over (and over and over) and over again. Pitch size? Easily handled. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about or how to change it… You’re on the internet. Educate yourselves about the tools you use.

 

Secondly, this script was obscenely large. Most scripts come in at 200kb, and that’s at the extreme high end. This came in at nearly 4mb. Why? Photo reference. Now, I’m a believer of photo reference when I either can’t think of how to put something in words or the artist asks for it. Besides that, I don’t use it. That’s just me. However, at nearly 4mb… I’m thinking it’s overuse.

 

Also, note that I only copy the contents from the word processing file and paste it directly into the site. If the pictures don’t copy over, then that’s too bad. I’m not going to upload them all and place them back in.

 

Okay, let’s get started.

 

I suggest putting a header on each page, and making sure the pages of your document are numbered so collaborators can keep them straight.

 

PAGE 1

Panel 1

Medium shot facing Mickey on his motorcycle flying down a dark highway on rainy night in the Florida Everglades. The wind blows through his long, greasy hair, throwing it up behind him. His eyes are bloodshot and wild. He’s recently taken a variety of psychoactive drugs, giving him intense hallucinations with violent and horrific imagery (While it doesn’t take up a lot of space, this info is unnecessary.). We can’t see his visions in this panel, but his expression should be one of fear, confusion, and anxiety (This cannot be drawn. This cannot even be represented in real life. This is a prosaic description. It sounds good in prose, but real life doesn’t work that way. Remember, the simpler the emotion, the easier it is to draw.). A red light glows behind Mickey that is later revealed to be distant police lights, but it is more ominous and abstract in this panel (Why? Are we looking at him as though we’re drugged, or are we looking at him as though we’re sober? Ominous and abstract doesn’t work here. There needs to be a good storytelling reason for it.).

Mickey’s bike with case-style saddlebags.

1. ELEC. CAPTION – MICKEY’S BOSS(where is this coming from? Is this off panel? I think this needs to be in quotation marks.)

WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU, MICKEY?! DON’T ANSWER YOUR PHONE–YOU KNOW HOW MANY TIMES I’VE CALLED?! YOU MISSED THE DROP YOU PIECE OF SHIT!

Panel 2

Flashback — Mickey’s POV looking down at a white porcelain sink where he rinses blood off his hands in the restroom of a Miami nightclub. The room has a neon blue color to it, similar to this reference pic below. Splashes from the bloody water leave pink drops on the clean porcelain. On the side of the sink is used heroin paraphernalia and an altoids-sized open tin that’s chockablock with a variety of different colored pills.

CAPTION AT TOP LEFT

ONE HOUR AGO

MICKEY(FROM ABOVE)

I KNOW…I FUCKED UP–UNGH. I FELL INTO SOME STUFF.

ELEC. PHONE(FROM ABOVE)

WHAT STUFF? YOU HAD A JOB TO DO, MICKEY. WE DON’T GET ANOTHER SHOT AT THIS.(change period to comma, or delete ‘and’) AND BERMEJO WANTS HALF PAYMENT FOR THE RISK.

Panel 3

Angled shot behind Mickey washing his hands at the sink. He has bloodstains on the right side and front of his white shirt. A cell phone is pressed between his right shoulder and ear. A silver revolver tucked in his waistband behind his back. His leather jacket lies on the tile floor beside him. The bathroom door is off to Mickey’s left, in the background. (This panel is set up wrong.)

MICKEY

BERME…SHIT…TELL HIM–I’M–THE MONEY, IT’S NOT–

ELEC. PHONE

WHERE’S MY MONEY?

SFX AT DOOR

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK

AARON FROM BEHIND DOOR

PETER…?

Panel 4

Close on Mickey cradling his phone against his head with both hands. He looks toward the door(off-panel) with a worried expression.

AARON/DOOR( OFF FROM RIGHT(Should this be left? I’m turned around now.)

PETE, YOU IN THERE? UNLOCK THE DOOR, MAN.

MICKEY(QUIET)

SHHH…

ELEC. PHONE

DON’T SHUSH ME, SHITHEAD! WHERE’S MY FORTY THOUSAND?!

MICKEY

IT’S ON THE BIKE. IT’S FINE.

Panel 5

Medium, angled shot of Mickey’s motorcycle parked outside along the curb beside the nightclub at night. There are palm trees and the glow of neon lights. Rain pours down. There is a locked saddlebag on the side of the bike (and in yellow text over the saddlebag are the numbers “$40,000 – $12,430”. Beneath it in red text is the number “$27,570”.[this text should be by the caption as a note to letterer])

TEXT (OVER SADDLEBAG)

$40,000

-$12,430

=$27,570

Panel 6

Cut back to the bathroom. Medium shot behind Mickey standing on his tiptoes, reaching up toward a window on the back wall of the bathroom(I am not sure where this window is supposed to be in relationship to the mirror. Need to clarify.) (Mirror? What mirror? There’s no mention of a mirror anywhere.) He’s pushed the windowpane up and open.(camera angle?)

ELEC. PHONE

IT’S BEEN TWO DAYS AND THIS IS THE FIRST I HEAR FROM YOU…WHAT EXACTLY HAVE YOU BEEN DOING DOWN THERE?

MICKEY

IT’S ALL KIND OF A BLUR.

(I actually like this first page. I think the bloody hands are an interesting draw. We get an idea of the desperation and disorientation that Mickey is experiencing, and just how down on his luck he is. The guy on the phone is a little longwinded, and verges on obvious at times, but I like the tension between the two of them. Not seeing who Mickey is talking to works well here, but you may want to tell your collaborators who it is supposed to be.)

So, we have P1 down.

It does the job of garnering enough interest to have the reader turn the page. That’s the goal. But panel 3 is giving you some trouble. It some elements cannot be drawn, and you’re going to give your letterer fits. There is a technical term for this that I learned while in the Marine Corps. It is called being a “buddy-fucker.”

So, we read comics from left to right, yes? Western comics. I don’t wanna hear anything about manga. Left to right.

Describing this panel from left to right, we have the door on the left, and then Mickey somewhere in the middle or more to the right. Because we read from left to right, the letterer will be forced to place Mickey’s dialogue to the left, and high in the panel, near the door. Then the phone’s response, and then the sound effects from the door, and then the dialogue from through the door.

Since Mickey and the phone have to be high, and the SFX has to come from the door, as well as the dialogue from through the door, and because the door is in the background, the door is going to be small, so the SFX will be coming from about the middle of the door, and the dialogue from the door will have to be low. This will make the speaker on the other side of the door look like they’re short or a little person, or like they’re on their knees and speaking under the crack (if there is one).

Also in play here is the fact that you have a timing issue with the dialogue. You have dialogue-sfx-dialogue, which means the sound effect is part of the timing of the dialogue.

There are occasions when SFX has to be timed. It doesn’t happen often. Most of the time, you can get away with it being put just about anywhere. But when you have to have it tied to your dialogue, you have it in your timing, and it has to be handled as such. Right now, we cannot read the knocking and the question asking before we read the phone conversation, even though the door is to the left of the panel.

That’s only part of how you fucked your buddy.

In order to see the jacket on the floor and the phone in the crook of his neck, the camera is going to have to be pulled back. A medium shot won’t do, because you have to show the door, too. So you have to see him from head to toe. However, we can’t see the blood on the front of his shirt, because we’re seeing him from behind. Even at an angled view, it’s still from behind, because you want to show the gun. So, the blood in front is out.

Then there’s the lack of the mirror. It’s never mentioned. While it isn’t inconceivable that there’s no mirror in the bathroom, more than likely there’s one there. Your artist would like to be nudged in this instance to remember to put the mirror there.

Hopefully, this is the only instance of buddy-fucking, but we’re only on P1. Let’s see what the rest of this holds for us.

PAGE 2

Panel 1

Something like a postcard in style. It’s taking up a large portion of the page. The word “MIAMI” is in large, bold letters across the top third of the page. The letters are filled with images that make-up a kind of visual montage of Mickey’s drug and alcohol induced weekend. Go crazy with this. Each image can show a different drug Mickey has done: Snorting cocaine, smoking weed, drinking Lean w/ a PCP base, shooting Heroin, and taking Pills, Pills, Pills.(What is in the negative space behind the word? Does it matter?)

CAPTION TEXT (TOP LEFT CORNER)

THE LAST 48 HOURS…

Panel 2

Outside the nightclub. Mickey is hunched over, covering his head in the rain. He’s running away from the bathroom window and toward his motorcycle parked along the curb in the foreground. (Covering his head with what?)

ELEC. PHONE

LISTEN TO ME. THAT MONEY ON YOUR BIKE, THE NUMBER YOU JUST DIALED, IT ALL LEADS BACK TO ME. IT’S GOTTEN OUT OF HAND–

MICKEY

I KNOW. THAT’S…THAT’S WHY I CALLED. I NEED YOUR HELP.

ELEC. PHONE

YOU DON’T WANT ME CLEANING THIS UP, MICK. TAKE CARE OF IT. FIND A MOTEL OR SOMETHING, SOMEWHERE YOU CAN SLEEP IT OFF.

Panel 3

Mickey is pumped down on the kickstart, firing up the motorcycle.(Is he still on the phone here? Or is he saying this to himself? When does he hang up the phone?)

MICKEY

I’VE GOT TO GET OUT OF FLORIDA.

SFX MOTORCYCLE

KRNK

VROOM VROOOOM

(The postcard idea is interesting, I want it to work.The letters have to be big enough to get detailed images into some odd shapes in order for it to read well. This means that you may have a little too much dialogue in the second panel, since it will need to be small in relationship to the first one. Just something to keep in mind going forward.)

P2.

The postcard thing? Space can be saved by angling the word across the page, instead of it being horizontal. Makes it more visually interesting, too.

And Sam is very right about the pacing. When did he end the conversation and hang up the phone? When did he store his head covering? The pacing on this page is off, although it can be fixed in dialogue.

PAGE 3

Panel 1

Back inside the bathroom. Tilted shot of the bathroom door that’s been kicked open by a large, muscular bouncer from the club. The bouncer’s foot is out in the air in the foreground.

SFX DOOR

BOOM

Panel 2

Two shot of Peter’s friend(just call him Aaron to eliminate confusion) shoving the bouncer aside as he pushes past him. The bouncer shifts his weight to the side.

AARON

PETER?! PETER, YOU IN HERE?

Panel 3

High-angle shot over a Miami intersection on the rainy night. Mickey’s bike swerves through traffic. He’s cut around a car and barely dodged the on-comer before swerving back into his own lane. A colorful trail follows his taillights, showing the quick maneuver. Both cars are blowing their horns.

SFX ON-COMING CAR

SCREEEECH BEEEEP BEEP

SFX MOTORCYCLE

VROOOM

SFX OPPOSITE CAR

HONK HONK

Panel 4

Angle shot inside a cop car from passenger’s side, so it’s almost a side-shot of the officer in the driver’s seat. His head is turned, watching Mickey’s bike fly past. The red and yellow of the motorcycle’s lights create tails in the rain. The rain falls heavy on the cop’s window obscuring the view of what’s outside.(How are we supposed to know that this is a cop car?)

Panel 5

Medium shot behind Mickey. He is looking back over his shoulder with wide, bloodshot eyes. The red and blue lights of the police car light up the scene. The wind throws his wet hair all around.

SFX SIREN

WEEEIIOO WEEEIIOO WEEEIIOO

MICKEY

SHIT!

Panel 6

Over the hip shot, between the bouncer and Peter’s friend(Aaron), so their bodies are framing the shot. The two stand in front of a bathroom stall, with the door open. They’ve discovered Peter, who is sitting back on the toilet, leaning against the stall, with several bloody knife gashes to his stomach.

AARON

PETER!

(I don’t know how I feel about the page being broken up this way. It seems like this should either cutting between the bathroom and the street scenes every other panel, or these sequences should be completely separate. As it is written now, it seems like you are just skipping around with no purpose. You need to make this seem more deliberate.)

P3!

I understand where you’re going with this. As a page, you’re trying to add kineticism to it. Make it energetic. Make it with seeming fast-cuts.

But the pacing is off.

Want to know how to do fast cuts on paper? You lower the panel count. The more panels you have on the page, the more time you’re adding to the page itself, and the more time you add to the page, the more time you add to a scene. The fewer panels, the less amount of time on a page and in a scene.

This page has too many panels/too much time.

I get what you want, though. You want the bathroom discovery to bookend the flight from the scene. I think you have padding here, though, because you have the space to burn. You don’t have much meaningful dialogue here, just a guy looking for Peter, and then he finds him. You could have a little more of the flight on the previous page (basically, Mickey riding away from the scene), and then you could have devoted three panels on this page to the breaking down of the door and the discovery of Peter.

That would have been a better use of the page, methinks.

PAGE 4

Panel 1

Establishing shot on a dark highway in the Florida Everglades. Cypress trees and swampy waters line both sides of the road. A sign on the right side of the road reads “Help Protect our Beautiful Florida Everglades”. Small lights angled up at the sign illuminate it in the dark, rainy night. Mickey’s motorcycle roars past the sign. (This is a moving panel. Alyssa, what makes it a moving panel, and how do you fix it?)

SFX MOTORCYCLE

VRRROOOOOOOOM

Panel 2

Title panel. Something like this, with the title “Carry the Burden” and the credits written out in dripping, neon glow paint. (This is a waste of space. What is this panel doing to tell the story? Nothing. And in case the picture doesn’t copy over, it’s just a lot of words in various neon colors, scrawled on a wall. It doesn’t tell a story. It doesn’t do anything. This is a wasted panel if the only thing that’s going to be here are story credits.)

Panel 3

Same as “Panel 1”, but now Mickey is much farther down the road and a cop car roars past the “Everglades” sign. (Another moving panel.)

SFX COP CAR

WEEEIIOOOO WEEEIIOOOO

Panel 4

Side-shot of Mickey with a swirling psychedelic swampy background behind him. Lightning shoots across the sky in the distance. The colors around Mickey suggest the drugs are really kicking in. Strange images of warped figures, distorted faces, and wild patterns appear in the background and in the shadows around Mickey. The eerie red light of the cop car fills the air behind him.

NO COPY

P4 is history!

Know what P4 is? Padding. It’s a chase scene that doesn’t do much besides give a location and the credits. That’s terrible.

Now, I know that you had to have the cops chase him. That’s part of the “excitement” of what’s going on. But what is this page actually doing? What is going on here that couldn’t have been done in a caption?

Is the chase necessary? That’s a great question to ask, isn’t it? Is this chase something that had to happen? If so, why?

Padding, until I’m convinced otherwise.

PAGE 5

Panel 1

Medium straight on shot of wild-eyed Mickey, similar to Page 1, Panel 1. He looks rough. The rain stinging his face has turned to blood. It runs down Mickey’s face and through his thin, flapping hair.

NO COPY

Panel 2

Close on Mickey’s face, wide-eyed with a startled expression.

MICKEY

WHAT?!

Panel 3

Large panel. Angled shot behind Mickey as his bike swerves on the wet road. He’s heading straight for a massive alligator in the middle of the road. However, because of the drugs, the alligator appears as some massive prehistoric dragon-like beast crawling up out of the pavement in front of Mickey. Its mouth is open wide, with sharp dagger-like teeth.(Should we see this as a normal alligator first, so we know that the monster is Mickey’s hallucination?)

MONSTER(DARK)

MICKEY(You need some ending punctuation on this: ellipses, question mark, exclamation mark, just needs something)

SFX BIKE

SCREEEEECH

P5.

I’m bored.

If there was a story here, it isn’t being told. It started out okay, but then interest petered out pretty quickly, because nothing is really advancing the story.

When you’re in the military, your life isn’t your own. All of you and your time belongs to the government. Basically, it’s legalized slavery. If you got a tattoo that someone didn’t like, you could get Non-Judicial Punishment for destruction of government property. I’ve never heard of it happening, but the threat was definitely there. I’ve heard the threat made, but never seen it carried out.

There was a drug test to get in, of course. I don’t recall any drug tests in boot camp. However, once out of boot camp, drug testing was few and far between. And someone was always scared of the test.

One of my bosses was scared of the test. Every time. “Forbes, I don’t do drugs. I’ve already had my fun. I drank, smoked, did a little bit of drugs while I was with my band. I had my fun. So, I’m not scared about the test because I did anything wrong.

I don’t like the idea that someone else messed up, and I have to pay the price for it! I’m scared every time. I’ve seen the mistakes happen, and the investigations into your life. That’s not something I want to put my family through.”

Yes, while I’m somewhat naïve to human nature, he was someone I believed—and not just because he was my boss. I believed him when he said he had had his fun. He was once in a battle of the bands during the 70s. There was a A&R guy in the crowd, looking for talent. His funk band came in second…to Wild Cherry. Wild Cherry basically had one song: Play That Funky Music (White Boy). My boss’s band tried to convince the A&R guy of that, but they were unable to. So Wild Cherry got a contract, put out the one song, and then faded into obscurity.

Me? I’ve never done drugs. I hate cigarette smoke (not allergic, like some people, just can’t breathe it), and I’ve seen what drugs do not just to an individual, but to their families. My father threatened me once over drugs.

It was the 80s, and the drug wars were fierce. It was a Saturday morning, in the autumn, and it had rained the night before. Everything was still wet. My father called me outside and held up a very small plastic vial with a blue cap. It had what looked like little rocks in it. “You know what this is,boy?”

No.” (I was about fourteen.)

This,” he said, holding it between his right thumb and forefinger, “is crack. This is your death. One of these, just one, and I’ll kill you. I love you too much to see you go down that road. One of these, and I’ll kill you myself. You understand me?”

Now, I love my father. Shortish, stocky (he works out—the man just turned 60 and is still bench pressing 315lbs), and pretty quiet. Not the most clever of men, but very, very solid. The kind of man who does what he says, moving heaven and earth to keep his word. The kind of man I hope to be one day.

This man, this solid man who keeps his word, had threatened my life. And he was damned serious about it. And I went cold inside. I had never had my life threatened before. Not in a serious manner. He never raised his voice. He wasn’t hysterical. He was just laying out the facts. “Hey, son. Water is wet. Grass is green. There are four seasons. You smoke one of these, and I’ll kill you. Rocks are hard.”

I didn’t look at him. I looked at what would kill me if I did it. I looked at the vial. I didn’t say anything. I was spellbound at the idea that the man who loved me would kill me over such a (physically) little thing.

You understand me?”

I finally snapped out of it. “Yes, I understand.”

Good.” And he hugged me. Close and hard. “I love you, son. Don’t ever forget that.” And he kissed me on the head. Then he let me go and told me to go finish whatever I was doing. (Saturday morning in the 80s? Watching some great cartoons.)

Drugs don’t hold any interest for me. I don’t even drink beer. (Liquor is a different matter. And some of you reading this may owe me some Scotch/whiskey.)

The purpose of the story? Not much. But it’s more interesting than what we’re reading.

PAGE 6

Panel 1

Full shot of Mickey’s motorcycle crashing into the gator in the middle of the road. Mickey is flying over the handlebars. (And this is the problem. We saw it as a dragon-type creature at first, because we were seeing it as Mickey would. Now, we’re back in reality, and we’re seeing it as it is. There’s a break there, because we don’t know what is and isn’t real.)

SFX MOTORCYCLE

CRASH

Panel 2

Mickey’s body crashes into the muddy side of the road. A rough landing, but it isn’t fatal.

MICKEY

OOMF

Panel 3

Wide shot of the road and aftermath of the accident, including the bloody remains of the gator (which is now shown as simply a gator) (Wasn’t it simply a gator last panel?) and Mickey’s crashed bike, with the saddlebag busted open and a scattered, wet pile of money laying out over the road. The approaching headlights and top bar lights of the cop car can be seen in the distance. (Where’s the camera positioned so that we can see all of this?)

SFX DISTANT SIREN

WEEEIIIOOOO WEEEIIIOOOO

Panel 4

Low-level medium shot facing Mickey on the ground. Half of his face is covered in mud and the other half has blood running down from a split eyebrow and broken nose. He’s looking up toward a voice calling to him from the swamp (off panel).

MICKEY’S DAD (OFF FROM ABOVE)(Character name?)

C’MON, MICKEY, I BARELY TOUCHED YA. GET UP, SON!

MICKEY

UNNH…

Panel 5

Mickey’s POV, low-angle tilted shot looking out at the dark, swamp, where his father stands looking down at him, calling for Mickey to get up. (light source?)

MICKEY (WEAK)

…DAD?

MICKEY’S DAD

YOU GOIN’ WITH THE COPS? THINK THEY’LL TREAT YOU BETTER THAN YOUR OLD MAN?

(I really want you to name all your characters, I think neglecting to do so will only lead to confusion as you get deeper and deeper into the story. Once you have named them, make sure that you refer to them by name [Aaron, for example] instead of by relationship [Peter’s friend] in panel descriptions. There is going to be enough confusion with Mickey hallucinating people and monsters who aren’t really there. You don’t need to add to it by referring to the same character two different ways in the script.)

P6, and I’m wondering why I’m reading this.

Here’s what’s happened so far: a guy gets a call about drug money. He’s high. He escapes a bathroom and flees on a motorcycle, drawing the attention of the cops. He crashes into an alligator, and is now hallucinating about his father.

Where’s the story? Where’s the inciting incident? Where’s the thing that keeps us interested? Was it left behind in the bathroom? Is it under someone’s seat? It definitely isn’t on the page. Why is he fleeing? What is he fleeing from, and why is he short the money? Sure, these are questions that are great to ask, because it should lead to readers being even more invested in the tale. However, it’s P6, and answers don’t seem to be forthcoming. Instead, we get what seems to be more padding.

Where’s the dancing monkey?

PAGE 7(INSERT PAGE BREAK)(And here, ladies and gentlemen, is where the Flawless Victory is lost.)

Panel 1

Full shot of Mickey walking through the swampy waters away from the crash. We can see the officer’s lights in the background; his spot shines through the thick overgrowth.(Where is Dad here?)

MICKEY

WHAT ARE YOU DOING OUT HERE? I MEAN…YOU SHOULDN’T BE HERE–YOU AREN’T HERE. I HAVEN’T SEEN YOU IN THIRTY SOMETHING YEARS…WHY NOW?

Panel 2

High-angle shot behind Mickey following his father through the dangerous swamp. The image of his father is warping, parts of him fading away or turning into non-human things (tree limbs, haunting claws and faces). The rain continues pouring down and the world around Mickey is full of hallucinogenic, monstrous images. There are faces in the shadows, haunting images swirling in the water beneath him, and winged monsters in the trees above. (This panel is going to have to be large to get all this detail in Does this need to be broken up into two panels, one of his father, one of the images [maybe from his POV] to really get your point across?)

DAD

DOES IT REALLY MATTER, MICK? YOU WANT ME TO TELL YOU “I LOVE YOU(comma)” OR THAT “I’M SORRY(Move question mark inside quotes)”? WE’RE PAST THAT, AREN’T WE?(Comma-fail.)

MICKEY

I WANT YOU TO TALK TO ME. LOOK AT ME FOR CHRIST’S SAKE.

Panel 3

Side shot of Mickey trudging through the swamp. Skeletal arms and claws and tentacles are reaching up out from the swamp and grabbing onto Mickey. He reaches out with an arm, calling for his dad to wait for him.

MICKEY

DAD! SLOW DOWN…

Panel 4

Medium angled shot in front of Mickey. He has sunk deeper into the swamp water. He’s splashing water, trying to keep above the surface. The arms and tentacles and claws are all wrapped around him, pulling him down violently.

MICKEY

WAIT…DA–ACK!

Panel 5

Medium shot of Mickey with his upper torso and head just above the water’s surface. He’s struggling in the gripping arms and tentacles. A stranger’s hand is reaching in from the right foreground of the panel, grabbing ahold of one of Mickey’s wrists.

MICKEY

HUK-HELP!

(You are going to have to do a lot of discussing with your collaborators in order to make this visual concept play correctly. I suggest that you have some alternative ideas ready in case this doesn’t come together as is. You might only show hallucinations from Mickey’s POV, for example. Is there a color scheme that marks objects as hallucinations? Might want to consider that. I just worry that in the dark, with the indistinct mixture of fantasy and reality, you may lose some clarity. I like this idea, so, I don’t want to see that happen.)

P7.

This is already back on the shelf due to lack of interest. There is a decided deficit of story. We’re nearly halfway through a 22 page story, and so far, the most we’ve been able to do get out of the story is the equivalent of rambling.

I don’t need the story to be gripping. I need the story to be entertaining and to impart information. You started out with entertainment and some information, but now there’s nothing of real interest going on. And it’s going on for too long.

Where’s my whoopee cushion? Is it with the dancing monkey?

Oh! The plus side: you haven’t fucked your buddy in a while, so there’s that.

PAGE 8

Panel 1

Side shot of Mickey being helped by Peter onto a small piece of land in the middle of the swampy water. Several cypress trees are growing on and around it. Peter is wearing the same clothes he had on in Page 3, Panel 6, but without the wound and bloody stains. Mickey has one arm around Peter’s neck for support and his opposite hand planted on the ground. (Maybe you haven’t fucked your buddy, but you may be fucking the reader… I have no idea if we’ve gone back in time somehow, or if this is another hallucination, or if this is a ghost.)

MICKEY

*COUGH HA–ACK COUGH*

Panel 2

Two shot of Mickey on his knees and Peter squatting beside him with his hand on Mickey’s shoulder. The rain continues to pour down on them. Mickey looks a Peter with a perplexed expression.

MICKEY

YOU?! WHERE–

PETER

YOU OKAY? (YOU JUST NEED SOME FRESH AIR.[I don’t know if this line makes sense here])

MICKEY

YEAH, I…IT’S PETER, RIGHT?

Panel 3

Medium on Peter giving a charming smile.

PETER

DON’T PLAY SHY. IT’S A LITTLE TOO LATE FOR THAT. I’VE NOTICED YOU. YOU’VE BEEN WATCHING ME ALL NIGHT.

Panel 4

Tight OSS behind Peter looking at Mickey. Mickey is looking at him with a sincere, look of remorse.

MICKEY

I…I DON’T KNOW WHAT I–I COULDN’T TAKE IT. THE WAY YOU LOOKED AT ME, I THOUGHT–

PETER

IT’S OKAY.

MICKEY

YOU HATE ME, DON’T YOU?

PETER

NO, MICKEY, I DON’T HATE YOU.

Panel 5

Profile of Mickey and Peter kissing. Mickey’s eyes are closed as his passionately kisses, but Peter’s are wide-open with a look of shock. (Why is Peter shocked here? It seems like Mickey would have be more shocked by a. finding Peter in the swamp, b. Peter not hating him c. seemingly, even his own feelings catch him off guard. I am not following the reasoning here.)(Is anyone? Methinks this is the place where the story finally goes off the rails.)

NO COPY

(I would hate to alter the disorienting nature of this exchange, because I see the merit of that effect, but I think we may need another beat in this sequence to help the audience process what is going on. We have to go from surprise, to confusion, to remorse, to attraction; and I don’t know if we have enough information to follow that as these images read now. I don’t want you to rush past this point.)

P8, and I don’t know if we’re somehow back on track with actually story, or if we’re…lost in the swamp somewhere. All I know is that I’m wondering how we got here.

It doesn’t really matter, though. Readers aren’t going to get this far. The plus side, though, is that there’s extremely little wrong with the dialogue. It is very readable. Good work with that. I just want it to push the story forward more.

PAGE 9

Panel 1

Three shot of Mickey, his father, and Peter. Mickey has taken a step back, his arms are thrown up in the air and he has a startled expression. Mickey’s father stands between Mickey and Peter, holding a knife that he has just torn through Peter’s stomach. Blood flies through the air, following behind the knife. Peter is hunched over with a fearful, worried expression. He has a massive wound at his stomach identical to the one he had in the bathroom on Page 3.(I am worried that the shocked expression from the last panel of page 8 is going to confuse Peter’s expression here. Was that in reaction to the kiss, or being stabbed? The intention might get a little muddled here.)

MICKEY’S DAD

YOU GODDAMNED QUEER!

PETER

UNGH!

MICKEY

DAD?!

Panel 2

Angled behind Mickey tackling his father, his shoulder laid into his dad’s stomach. Mickey’s dad is falling back, but his hands are grabbing at Mickey. His face is gritted. He looks furious.

MICKEY

NO!

MICKEY’S DAD

C’MON, BOY, WHATCHU GOT?(Seems like this entire exchange should happen before Mickey makes contact with his dad.)(Yup. Bad timing. The pacing is off. There needs to be another panel before this one in order for it to be correct.)

Panel 3

Aerial of Mickey and his father wrestling on the wet muddy ground beside Peter’s body. Mickey’s dad is getting the upper hand, positioning his body to get on top of Mickey. (This cannot be drawn.)

MICKEY

I HATE YOU! YOU BIGOT! YOU INTOLERANT PIECE OF SHIT!(I don’t know if ‘bigot’ is a word that would come out in this kind of rage. It’s a little on the nose.)

MICKEY’S DAD

LISTEN TO YOURSELF, MICKEY! YOU PUT THE WORDS IN MY MOUTH, DIDN’T YA? PUT THE KNIFE IN MY HAND. WELL, FUCK YOU!

Panel 4

Two-shot of Mickey and his father. Mickey’s father’s is straddling over his son, his hands are gripped around his Mickey’s neck as he chokes the life out of him. Mickey’s face is red, his eyes are squinted. Mickey is reaching out helplessly with one arm and grabbing at his dad’s hand with the other.

MICKEY’S DAD

THIRTY DAMN YEARS YOU PUT YOUR BURDEN ON ME. I AIN’T GONNA CARRY IT NO MORE. TIME YOU MAN THE FUCK UP AND OWN IT, SON.(Is this a statement or an exclamation?)

MICKEY

FF-FUUH…

Panel 5

Medium shot facing Mickey. His head is to the side, against the wet ground, so he’s looking over to his left at Peter (off panel). The rain beats on his red, bulging face, mixing water with his flowing tears. He looks terrified and in immense pain. With his weak left hand, he reaches out for Peter (toward us). His father’s hands are still clenched around his neck.

MICKEY

I’M…SORRY. PLEASE…

Panel 6

Mickey’s POV of Peter, lying dead on the ground, with his eyes wide-open, almost staring at Mickey. (Ronnie, what’s the question that immediately comes to mind after reading this panel description?)

MICKEY(OFF FROM LEFT)

I–ACK! AGH!

(Make sure that you account for the orientation of the bodies. I think that you may need to see either Peter partially on panel 5, or Mickey partially on panel 6.)

Page 9 is done, and we’re coming to the conclusion of the work that Sam has done. And I’m happy about it, because although we have some “action”, we’re still sorely lacking in story.

So, Mickey is gay.

For some, this is a big deal. For some, this is a huge deal. And for the rest, it doesn’t affect them one way or the other. For the parties making a fuss, their fuss is about the same thing, but in opposite extremes.

Tangent time.

For whatever reason, our language has differentiated homosexuality between “homosexuality” and “lesbianism.” I know the historical journeys of the words, so I’m not going to get into that. If you want to know/are interested, you’re on the internet.

I’m going to speak in generalities. I don’t care about specifics in people. I’m just making general statements.

In general, men like seeing two women kiss/make out/have sex. In general, women don’t mind seeing two women kiss/make out/have sex. In general, men are sickened by two men holding hands, let alone kissing, let alone having sex. In general, women are turned off by seeing two men together.

It’s a double standard, and it isn’t fair, but that’s ‘Murica. We’re getting better, though. I recently wrote that the mantra for 21st century America is acceptance. Let’s see how far we can take it.

Anyway, we have a character going on a tear, literally beating himself up over his homosexuality. While interesting and very Fight Club (the literally kicking his own ass thing), I’m not sure that readers are going to care. It’s P9. There are still questions to be answered. You don’t seem any closer to answering them. What you’re doing is hand-waving, trying to get the reader’s attention over here, away from what you’re really doing, which is procrastinating, because you don’t seem to have an actual story to tell yet. Or, you don’t have enough story to tell, so you’re trying to pad things out and trying to make it interesting while at the same time hoping no one notices you don’t have much.

However, I do want to applaud you. You’re doing much better than a lot of others, because instead of hand-waving, they lower the panel count in the hopes of stretching out a scene. You seem like you know what you want to say, but are challenged as to how to say it and still have it be interesting.

What is this scene doing here, and what does it have to do with the rest of the story? I don’t know. And I’m not drawn in enough to care. You could have done that around P4, but decided to be uninteresting instead.

PAGE 10 (Page break)

Full page Panel

Aerial shot over the small island in the swamp. Mickey’s hallucinations of his father and Peter’s body are gone. An enormous Burmese python has wrapped itself up one of Mickey’s arms, around his chest, and around his throat. Mickey is dead in its grip. His hand lies limp on the snake’s body around his throat. His other arm is out to his left, on the muddy ground where Peter’s body was lying.

NO COPY

(Do you mean that he looks dead, or that he is literally dead? If he is literally dead, I don’t like this ending. I feel like there is so much story left to tell, don’t kill Mickey. This episode feels like an introduction, not a short story. It’s really rare that I read a script and think that it’s not time for the story to end, but it is not time for this story to end. I actually think this is a strong beginning.

You have some issues with pacing, but they are very minor. You rush critical moments, but you have set up the moments well. Make sure you give the reasons and reactions are given enough space to be read and understood.)

That’s it? That’s the entire story? I just did something I never do: I checked the original file. Sure enough, this is how the story ends.

This… Let’s just run this down.

Format: You coulda been somebody. You coulda been a contendah. Instead, you missed a couple of page breaks, and now, no Flawless Victory for you.

Panel Descriptions: These need work. You need to know what can and cannot be drawn, without being a buddy-fucker. You only did that once, which is a great thing, but the fact that you did it at all means you need to work on it.

You also have a couple of moving panels in there.

You have a decent foundation here. Slow down, though, and think things through. Know what you want to say before you say it. If you don’t know what you want to say, there is nothing wrong with “talking” to the artist within the confines of the script. “Graeme, I want this to look powerful and cool. Show the struggle, but I also want the Pied Piper to look like he’s not giving up. Try to add some indignance as he stands there, a pie in his face.” That is perfectly fine, and I’ll applaud you for it.

Slow down, think it through.

Pacing: If I were giving out marks, this is the area where you’d fail.

There’s no real story here.

This is what happens: guy gets a phone call about some money. He escapes out a bathroom window before being discovered in that bathroom with a dead man. He rides his motorcycle to the everglades, high on drugs. He hits an alligator, and then stumbles into the swamp where he hallucinates about this father. He dies.

Sam is extremely right in that this feels like an introduction, because it certainly isn’t a complete story.

What does anything that happens in the first five pages have to do with the second five? What do the revelations in the second half have to do with the first? A plus B has no “equals to”, because the equation isn’t finished.

Your timing is also off. We see the first panel on P1 that has Mickey on his bike. Then we go into a flashback of one hour ago. Then we go even deeper into the flashback, talking about the past 48 hours. Do we ever come back to the original flashback? Yes, but not because there’s a caption telling us so. When do we hit the present? No idea. You never say.

Know what’s worse than not having a satisfying ending? (Because believe me, this ending is not satisfying.) The padding that went on beforehand. The unresolved issues that could have been cut.

Peter is dead. Why? Don’t know.

The guy who kicks open the bathroom door. What’s his deal? Don’t know.

The money on the motorcycle. What’s that about? Don’t know.

The supplier who’s on the phone. What’s his deal? Don’t know.

The opening page with the motorcycle chase. Where does that fit? Don’t know.

The cop who chased him as he entered the glades. Where did they go? Don’t know.

Mickey is on the run. Why? Don’t know.

Know what happens when you cut all that out? You get a guy who’s dead in the Everglades because he crashed into an alligator on a motorcycle. Know how interesting that is? Less than zero. No one cares, because we have no context at all as to his situation. If that isn’t a lack of pacing, I don’t know what is. And you had more than enough space to resolve this, and tell an actual story, even with all the elements you have here.

Instead, you have a lot of hand-waving going on, hoping we won’t notice.

Well, actually, the hand-waving on the left was so that we didn’t see the other hand coming from the right. The hand from the right was a slap in the face, because you just wasted the time of the reader in not having a story to tell.

And for that slap in the face, I wish you a porcupine to wipe your butt with after taking a crap.

Dialogue: This is highly readable. Just a tweak here and there, but these are characters with voices. I can see these conversations happening. Good work there. And really, that’s the only good thing I can say about this piece.

Content: As soon as you get to the end, and realize this was the end, you also realize that what you just read was crap, and you want your time back. As a reader, I’d be pissed, and would write you an impassioned letter, asking for a full refund of everything: purchase price, gas used, time spent reading, time spent being pissed, time spent writing the letter, time spent waiting for a response that would never come.

Editorially—this piece lives in Rewrite City. It has to be made into a story.

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

 

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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