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TPG Week 186: Nothing To See Here, Move Along…

| July 18, 2014

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Welcome back, one and all, to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a new Brave One in Jim Mello. We also have Steve Colle in blue, I’m in red, and we see what Jim has to say about the year

1945

Page One, Four Panels

  1. 1. TOP DOWN VIEW: A BED. The bright white linen of bed sheets (Missing comma) ruffled from use (Missing comma) are washed over by orange light from various candles burning off panel. (Three points here to mention: First, it’s hard to tell that the sheets are meant to be white when you have an orange glow on them. Second, I just see mention of the linen and not of blankets and pillows. Are they on there as well? Finally, I’m wondering why you’re keeping the candles creating this orange light source off panel?) On the bed sits discarded articles of clothing from various German Wehrmacht Officer uniforms. An AFRIKA CORPS HAT, FIVE IRON CROSSES, A GESTAPO OFFICER CAP, A GREY OFFICERS JACKET, and a LIGHTER. A large trunk sits flung open with what looks like more garments inside at the end of the bed. (Are we supposed to be looking at a bed, or a bed and a trunk? And you do know that you’re going to cause the artist to do a lot of research, right? And what kind of lighter? I watch a LOT of old movies, and lighters were much different from then to now. You were very exact with what you wanted with all the other items except the lighter. This, folks, is where photo-reference would be necessary.)

 

DAVID BLOCK (O.P)

I need you to tell me what all of this is.

 

  1. 2. CLOSE ON: The tanned, dirty, Afrika Corps hat. It’s dyed in sweat and faded by desert heat. (This should be interesting to see a colorist interpret.)

 

MARION (O.P)

Why are you holding that gun? (What gun? What kind of gun? You’re making a reference to something you haven’t shown the reader. You also don’t say how he’s holding it, for that matter, so what we get is a mixed message to interpret with no visual to pull the right answer from. Is he aiming it at someone or something? Is the hammer cocked? Is it loaded? Is he just inspecting it? What exactly is happening? All this, and we don’t even know what it is you’re referring to. Not a good position to be in.)

 

  1. 3. CLOSE ON: The polished medals glint against the white sheets. (Remember, the sheets aren’t white due to the light source of the candles.)

 

BLOCK (O.P) (No. If you call him David Block as an element once, you have to call him that throughout. This is just lazy. It should cost you the Flawless Victory.)

I’m afraid, love.

 

  1. 4. The lighter embroidered with the AFRIKA CORPS SYMBOL — the palm tree with a swastika in the center. (Telling what’s on the lighter still doesn’t tell us the shape of the thing.)

 

BLOCK (Is this coming from off panel again? The reason I ask is that you haven’t included the character in the panel description.)

I don’t know what any of this means.

 

You haven’t quite caught my attention with this page, Jim. You start off with a shot of the items on the seemingly unmade bed, and then put focus on three of those items one by one. I think the dialogue in the final panel says it best: “I don’t know what any of this means.” What are you trying to say here? What are you trying to introduce to the reader? Part of the problem is the pacing you’re trying to establish, while the other part is the lack of effective dialogue. Let’s look at the visuals differently: You could have gone with a large splash page of an establishing shot of the room with the items on the bed (and also showing the light source of the candles) and then had inset panels sitting on the larger picture. But that leaves us with a question: What is the purpose of placing focus on these items if the dialogue isn’t carrying us along, guiding us to understand their purpose in being? That’s kind of the million-dollar question, one that isn’t being answered here. Don’t go the minimalist route with your dialogue when there’s obviously so much more to say.

 

Another thing is the introduction of the question, “Why are you holding that gun?” This is a question that incites an emotional reaction from your reader because it introduces a possible situation of tension, peril, and drama. However, you say it and leave without playing upon its potential potency. Choose your words, choose your sentences, and above all, choose the best time to say it where it will count the most. This could have made a pretty good hook to Page Two.

 

We have P1 on the books, and I’ll tell you exactly what it is: a study in bad storytelling.

 

There’s only one thing that has any sort of emotional impact, and that’s the line with the gun. Steve is right in saying that there are multiple ways to take the line. However, you don’t follow it up in any way at all.

 

Again, Steve is right. I don’t know what any of this means. And really, I don’t care. There isn’t anything on this first page that makes me want to care.

 

This first page is a failure.

 

It fails to capture the reader in any engaging way.

 

I’m going to tell you a secret about the items shown: no one cares. There is an extremely small subset of WWII buffs who are also comic book readers. Except for the Swastikas, most aren’t going to recognize these as German. Most won’t recognize an Iron Cross as being German. (Call it a lack of education as well as a lack of interest.)

 

What’s the purpose of the close-ups of the objects? There isn’t any reason that I can see from a storytelling point of view. From a storytelling view, focusing on the items instead of the people is a mistake.

 

The dialogue isn’t helpful, either. Except for the one line, there isn’t anything of interest, moment, or drama that is being said. There is absolutely nothing here to make a reader want to turn the page.

 

So, this page is a failure on multiple levels.

 

 

 

Page Two, Four Panels (Why isn’t there a page break? Don’t take the lazy way out by hitting the RETURN key over and over.)(And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a more concrete reason to lose the FV.)

  1. 1. MAJOR DAVID BLOCK, Royal Air Force, sits pretzel legged in his stark white RAF issued boxers on the bed with his back against the headboard, a cigarette clinging to the edge of his lips, and a revolver clutched in his right hand. (So many questions here: What does Block look like beyond his white boxers [which aren’t white because of the orange light source]? Why is it important to know that the boxers are RAF issued? Would that make them look any different than standard, plain white boxers? You’ve concentrated on aspects of his description which are so specific and yet, so vague. And what about the revolver? What kind is it? How is he holding it? You aren’t giving us anything to work with. Try harder.) Around him are the edges of a an attic-type Parisian loft — wooden frames held up by wooden beams with a roof that slants downwards toward the street. (You’re talking about the roof slanting down towards the street, but we’re inside, right? Concentrate your efforts on identifying the setting as we see it, not how it applies to the exterior look of the structure.) (This panel fails. Schuyler, tell us all why this panel fails, please. Tell us what the writer did.)

 

BLOCK

Tell me.

 

CAP.2 (Block) (You have “Block” in brackets, but playing devil’s advocate, I have to ask if you’re referring to the character of Block or a lettering direction, such as O.P.?)

Form the parts of yourself not completely whole and say words to quiet this monster just formed in my chest. (You have lost me with this caption. I have no idea what you’re saying or what you’re referring to. You refer to “yourself”, which I interpret as his talking to the reader, and then talk about “my chest”. What are you trying to say, because it’s coming across as mixed up? Another issue is the introduction of the caption altogether. First of all, it’s interrupting the flow of the spoken dialogue between the characters. Second, what’s being said is coming out of left field without something to connect it to, something that would have grounded and given purpose to its use. At this point, until I know what purpose it serves, I’d say to just get rid of it.) (Oh, that was torturous!)

 

MARION (O.P)

Scared I’m not what you thought I was? (Why is this coming from off panel and not, instead, presented in the next panel where we actually see who’s talking? It would work much better to have her facial expression and body language accentuate what she’s saying.)

 

  1. 2. MARION, sleek and dark looking, (Really vague details here. When you say “sleek”, do you mean she’s slender or athletic? And what do you mean by “dark looking”? Is she a black woman, mulatto, or even simply tanned by the sun? Fill in the blanks.) stands in her robe (What does it look like?) looking out a small rectangular window that opens into the city smoking a cigarette of her own. (Okay, so I want to give you an idea of what I interpret from the term “small rectangular window”: Here in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, there are many homes with basements that have a small rectangular window at about 6 feet above the floor inside the dwelling. They measure about 8 inches high and about a foot and a half across. They open out by pushing at the bottom and will stop at about a 45 degree angle, so anything trying to get in would have to be pretty damned small, and likewise with anything trying to get out. As a matter of fact, it’s “supposedly” illegal to rent a basement suite in a house with windows of this size because if there’s a fire, there isn’t an adequately safe point of exit. Why did I just tell you that? Because that’s the kind of visual I’m getting when you describe the window as “small”, that the setting may be in a basement. You need to elaborate and provide the artist with a much better description. Otherwise, you’re going to be either getting lots of unnecessary questions that could have easily been answered here or you will get an image that looks nothing like what you had in mind.)

 

BLOCK (O.P)

Tell me. (Didn’t he just say this in the last panel? Is he saying it with the same degree of emotion as the previous time? Is he growing impatient at her skirting of a direct answer? What I’m actually picturing in my head is a straight-faced, emotionless man saying “Tell me” in a monotone voice not once, but twice to explain herself. Just how desperate is he to get the answer? I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem to be phasing him much. Do your job as a writer and pull your reader into the story.)

 

  1. 3. CLOSE ON: Marion — her face is washed by Parisian street lamp glow as cigarette smoke curls past her face. (I can only assume here that she is still inside the room and that the light from outside is actually shining on her face. Is that correct? Now, if that’s the case, then where is the exterior light source when she’s standing at the window in Panel 2? And where is her gaze? Towards the male character or, perhaps, towards the happenings outside the window? More details, please.)

 

MARION

They are trophies.

 

4. OUTSIDE: A Parisian street alive for the first time since 1940. (So, what year is it? You tell us when it isn’t, that being 1940, but you don’t tell us [and especially the artist] when it actually is for us to get that visual in our heads. And why is this image even on this page, let alone being an exterior shot when you haven’t properly packaged things inside the situation? It doesn’t belong here because it’s detracting from what’s happening inside that room. You’ve taken a side step away from the story to give us a pretty picture [I think] of something you haven’t lead into. One thing at a time. Focus on moving the story forward.) The electric glow from the city of lights perforates the atmosphere and the streets are crowded by people united by pure joy. (What kind of shot is this? Where’s your camera? What kind of street: A side street or a major thoroughfare? What colors are the lights? Forget about the flowery, poetic language of “perforates the atmosphere” and stick with the facts, giving us something we can sink our teeth into instead of a smokescreen of indirectness.)

 

CAP.1 (Block) (Again, name or direction?)

Outside — (Why are you using a double dash here? Never, ever use a double dash like this. It needs a comma instead.) Paris lives. A world celebrates. (This isn’t an effective way of establishing your setting or situation. And again, it’s taking away the focus from the happenings inside the room with the man and woman.)

 

CAP.2 (Block)

Inside — (Same deal here.) She begins to speak. (First off, you’re slapping the reader in the face with this blatant explanation. Second, she’s already been speaking, so it’s redundant. And third, would someone actually say this to someone else? It sounds like you’re trying to have the character play the first person narrator and the omniscient narrator at the same time. This is terrible.)

 

CAP.3 (Block)

It is May 9th, 1945.

 

Just as an aside before I go into my comments, I have to explain that you didn’t even do multiple taps on the RETURN key this time to create a defacto page break, but rather went for a simple double spacing. It’s a good thing your page headers are centered, as otherwise, they would blend in really well with the rest of the document. (And by the way, that wasn’t a compliment, in case you’re wondering.)

 

I’m having a hard time getting into this script. It’s sooooooo sloooooooooow and yet, so quick at the same time. “Slow” because you haven’t given us anything to grab onto, to ingest, to care about. We’re still waiting for so much information that will truly start the story. “Quick” because you’ve given us 8 panels so far with 12 lines of dialogue, with a total word count of 79 words for a total average of 6.6 words per caption or balloon. I hate to say it, but that breakdown of statistics was more interesting than this story has been so far. (Amen, brother! Preach on! Hallelujah, praise Jaysus-ah!)

 

So here are a few more facts: We have reached the end of Page Two and we still have yet to know the names of the two characters interacting. We still have yet to know the full layout of the room they are in and how each element (such as the bed and the window) applies to the look of the whole. We don’t have an idea of room décor or style of dress to give us a sense of time period and when you do give us the year, it’s spoon fed to us in a matter-of-fact fashion, thrown in because it somehow needs to be in there somewhere. As for the story? I’m still not sure what’s happening and, to be honest, I haven’t been enticed to care. That’s a lot of really basic problems.

 

Here’s the thing: If you had incorporated a newspaper as a prop into the visuals, you could have introduced the image of the people in the streets, written a headline for the article that would have established circumstances, had the name of the newspaper prominent as a historical reference, and finally, put the date and year in view, then you could have made it more natural to the story and saved the story from being sidetracked “for station identification” (a television reference, for those who don’t know) (Radio, too.). This could have been incorporated into the number of items on the bed on the first page. Use your imagination.

 

P2 fails.

 

What’s the story? I dunno. What are they talking about? I dunno. What in the name of Norman Bates is he talking about in the captions? I really don’t know (and am a little afraid to find out).

 

The page has epic written all over it. Epic failure, that is.

 

I’m not going to give away the answer that Schuyler is going to give, but that’s a doozy. I’m actually surprised that Steve missed it. (Perhaps he was saving some for me. In that case, thank you.)

 

Character descriptions: don’t do what you did. I’m a huge advocate of having the character descriptions be in a different document, so that you can get to the task of writing. Scripts are enough of a pain to read without having to also read what the characters look like on top of the actions that said characters are performing. However, you went and started doing some physical descriptions, but you didn’t go all the way, leaving it seem extremely unfinished. (Yes, you put yourself in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.) If you had described their emotions and clothing, that’s one thing. But to partially describe their physicality, that’s another. It’s a terrible thing, and a bad use of your time.

 

You haven’t done anything to establish where this is. I know you think you did, but you haven’t. Where are they? How is the reader supposed to know? You haven’t given the artist anything of real value to work with.

 

This has “failure” written all over it.

Page Three, One Panel

FULL PAGE SPREAD: PULL BACK to view the Paris nighttime cityscape – millions of lights among thousands of buildings line the thoroughfares leading to the Arc De Triomphe. The Seine river glows from the fluorescent light with an army of ferries gliding up and down the river with lights of their own. The streets are packed full of revelers and the roads are full of cars packed tightly.

 

What does this have to do with the man and woman in the room with the “trophies”? You’ve left us hanging, and because it was an extremely short rope to begin with, I’m apt to letting go and seeing where the consequences of my disinterest take me. But no…

CAP.1

Our clocks have stopped. (Again, you’ve got a line of dialogue that is coming from left field. Where do you have a build up to this statement? Do you have visuals showing this happening? Do you have text that we can read to bring us up to date? No. So it’s an empty statement, one which isn’t even mimicked by the happenings in the panel. That’s bad.)

P3.

Know what this page is? Padding. It doesn’t do a damned thing to tell us anything about the story. This page can be cut in its entirety, dialogue included, and it wouldn’t be missed at all. That’s criminal.

I guess it’s time for me to spice this up.

I’ve only been out of the country a couple of times.

The first time I left the country, I flew to Japan. I was in the Marines, of course, and was going to my first command. I was woefully unprepared. Woefully. I was 19 years old, and I didn’t know a damned thing about the world.

I took a commercial flight (paid for by the Marines) to Japan. Since I was traveling on official business, I had to wear my Class A uniform (the green one). All I had with me was my duffel bag full of my gear, and a book. The flight was long, and I slept through most of it. Not because I was tired, mind you, but because I was bored. I love flying, but after a while, you can only watch so much ocean and cloud cover. There was a nice Japanese lady that woke me for the meals. She was very nice and gracious. The Japanese were very nice and gracious as a people.

Anyway, we land, and we go through customs. I looked as lost as I was, because I had no idea of how to get anywhere from the airport. Not only that, but I didn’t have any real money with me in order to get anywhere! In all the movies I watched, people are always coming and going from the base, so I didn’t think beyond landing at the base and then finding my way to wherever I was supposed to be.

I would have been stuck at the airport if it wasn’t for a warrant officer who adopted me. (A warrant officer, usually called a gunner, is an officer who was once regular enlisted but then got promoted via a warrant to the officer ranks. A W.O. is higher than regular enlisted in that we have to salute them, but they are lower than officers, in that they have to salute officers. A 2nd Lieutenant is higher than a W.O., even though they’re the lowest of the officer ranks. That’s for the Marine Corps. The Navy is a little different.) Anyway, the gunner paid for my ticket on the Shin (the super-train—this thing is FAST!), and got me to the base. I paid him back on the next payday.

I was then put up for a week in the Marine House. This is where Marines go to transition from the States to Japan, getting acclimatized to the timezone and the weather. I had no jetlag, since I slept the entire way.

I don’t do regrets very often, but I regret not using my time better in Japan. However, I was young and shy. If I could do it all over again, I’d have been all over the joint.

I only stayed a year, and then came back to the States. Even though I didn’t go out that often, I immensely enjoyed my time there.

My second time out of the country, I went to Mexico. And no, not deep into Mexico, either. I went to a little border town, not too far past the Mexican side of the border. Although I was based in upstate NY, I was doing Temporary Additional Duty in Yuma. It was October when I left NY, 46 degrees, cold, and overcast. When I landed in Yuma, it was 101 degrees. I was dressed in civvies this time, though, and had done some research before leaving NY. So, I wore a jacket and a t-shirt and jeans, so when I landed in Yuma, I wasn’t immediately punished by the heat.

I made a friend out of one of the guys who was stationed there. We went to the movies (Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers), he took me home and I hung out with his wife and kid, and even though we weren’t supposed to, he took me to a border town in Mexico.

While in the town, we went to a bar, I got a glass ball and stand (I collect crystal balls), and we went to another bar. While in the bar, we were approached by prostitutes. Let’s just say that I furthered my education on certain things, and that’s all I’m going to say about that. We got back home without incident.

I would love to travel more. I’m a tennis buff, so I’d travel to Australia, England, and France, and I could literally go home every night if I went to the US Open. I’d love to do three weeks in each place: a few days before the event, the event itself, and a few days after. That would be great.

So, what did I do with this story? A little boring, sure, but more interesting and pointed than the “story” we’re being told, along with a little explanation of the ranking system of the Marine Corps.

Page Four, Five Panels (Page break.)

  1. 1. A GERMAN AIRFIELD IN TUNISIA – It’s hot sand and sun stretching out to a blue horizon. GERMAN FIGHTER PLANES and JUNKER TRANSPORTS sit twisted by fire and smolder angrily in the aftermath. (In the aftermath of what, exactly? Has there been a battle we aren’t aware of as the reader?) A few planes sit gutted by explosions, others are perforated by the metal on metal impact of bullets punching through the fuselage. (Where is your camera, because I’m getting a couple of different viewpoints with this description? Is it a long establishing shot to show the grander scale of the destruction or is it closer to show the “metal on metal impact of bullets punching through the fuselage”, or better termed as bullet holes? I also have to ask: Is there anything else in the scene, such as buildings?) THREE GERMAN OFFICERS sit in a car, watching the ruin of an airfield. Two of the officers sit in the backseat and one is driving. (Again, where is the camera? You have the destruction, the bullet holes in the fuselage, and now three German officers [How can we tell they are officers?] in a car. Are the men (or are they men?) in the extreme foreground so we can see the details that will show them as officers, then have a plane close enough to them that we can see the bullet holes, all the while having the grander landscape in the distance? You need to lay this out for us so we can get a clearer picture.)

 

CAP.1

North Africa — (Again, a comma would better serve you than a double dash, which shouldn’t even be considered here.) 1940 (So here’s another problem: You just established in the fourth panel on Page Two that the year was 1945, and yet now you’re jumping back to 1940, five years prior. Why? On top of that, you haven’t established in the reader’s mind that this is a German airfield in Tunisia because you haven’t specified a landmark in your visuals and definitely haven’t gone the extra mile in the caption. Instead, you’ve opted to go with “North Africa, 1940” as your introduction of a new setting. How is this effective?)

 

GERMAN OFFICER #1

They aren’t making this easy on us. (Who are they talking about? Who is “they”? You have so many opportunities to fill in the blanks by just adding more dialogue or even more text to the captions, but instead are going for the bare minimums. You aren’t making any effort to pull your reader in and I can’t understand why.)

 

EIFFEL (Who is Eiffel? All you said in the panel description was that there were three officers in the car.)

They shouldn’t, should they? The knife is at their throat, but their legs are free and free legs always kick, Lieutenant. (What I’m getting is that you’re not only waxing poetic in your panel descriptions, but now also in your dialogue. This may sound nice to you, but it doesn’t do anything to inform the reader, to carry the story forward.)

 

2. CLOSE ON: CAPTAIN WEHRNER EIFFEL sitting in the passenger seat watching the smoke curl and disappear in the wind. (What does he [or she] look like? If you had a separate document with character descriptions, that would help immensely. At least that way, we’d have a reference. And by the way, the concept of the smoke carrying over from the first scene [with the lit cigarette] to this one is a good storytelling device to build a connection between the two scenes, but it would have been more effective as a foreshadowing tool if the techniques were closer together. Instead, you have the splash page on Page Three blocking their correlation. Now, this is my assumption that it was intentional, which could be completely off base, so let’s see what you do with it.)

 

CAP.1 (Block)

She tells me Captain Wehrner Eiffel dies thousands of miles from North Africa in a Parisian apartment in 1943. (Okay, I’m officially lost. You’re somehow back to the captions of Block, in 1945, recounting the story [such as it is] talking about a person who was never identified as Eiffel in this image. What is the purpose of this interjection and why did you interrupt this scene after only one panel?)

 

CAP.2

She takes him to bed, (The comma’s in the wrong place.) and (Missing the comma here.) as he climaxes, she shoots him twice through the heart. (And somehow, that’s important to know. But who honestly cares, as you’ve done nothing to make us care?)

 

  1. 3. BACK IN THE APARTMENT (It was an apartment? I thought it was just a bedroom.): CLOSE ON: THE DUSTY AFRIKA CORPS CAP AND THE LIGHTER LYING ON THE BED. (Why are you back in the apartment, back in 1945? What purpose does this serve?)

 

BLOCK (O.P) (Why is this an off panel dialogue instead of a thought in caption to follow the caption pattern?)

Jesus… (I have to agree: Jesus (Hallelujah, praise Gawd!!) why is this happening? You mean to tell me that the only reason you went back to a shot of the hat [and lighter, for some reason] was to have Block say “Jesus…”? THIS MAKES NO SENSE!!! I’m seriously shaking my head right now because this story is a complete mess.)

 

  1. 4. BACK TO THE DESSERT (Desert. One “s.” Two makes it twice as sweet. That’s how I remember how to keep the two straight.): The officer’s vehicle starts up and begins to pull away as the men talk amongst themselves. (Moving panel.)

 

EIFFEL

If our airfields aren’t safe this far behind the frontline, we should stop denying it and make a concentrated effort to protect them. (This is an obvious statement. It’s something they should have been doing in the first place.) Then we hunt these marauding sacks of Tommy shit… (Again, waxing poetic. “Marauding”? Tell me people use this in everyday spoken language and not just in writing. And “Tommy shit”? Honestly?)

Page Four, Five Panels cont. (Excuse me? How did you have this formatted that you needed to write this as a continuation of Page Four? You don’t even have page breaks!)(This? This made me laugh out loud. Both the ludicrousness of the “break”, as well as Steve’s reaction. I can feel his pressure going up from here.)

  1. 5. Eiffel looks smug as they drive away. (If they are driving away, can we really see his face to tell he’s smug?) (“Smug” is not a “clean” emotion. It’s going to look like something else.)

 

EIFFEL

… And we cut their legs off.

 

I’m at a serious loss here. I have no idea what it is you’re trying to say in your story. You have little (and completely ineffective) dialogue to guide us along and the visuals are failing as well in delivering the goods. You’re introducing components that aren’t important to conveying the needed information to grab the reader’s attention and maintain it. You’re flip flopping around time and dealing with a flashback in a non-flashback manner. The only reason I’m still going to continue forward is because I’ve seen there’s only two pages left to edit. Otherwise, I’d be stopping here.

Steve is both a trooper and a glutton for punishment. Not saying that I would have stopped, either, but I’d be sorely tempted to. Sorely tempted.

So we’re at P4, and we still don’t have anything resembling a story. We don’t have anything that would come close to giving readers any interest in the happenings here. Actually, there’s a distinct lack of happenings here that is amazing, when you look at it.

In four pages, nothing happens. In four pages, the only thing you’ve done is turn the reader off, and want to make them slap the editor/publisher of whatever this is supposed to be. You’re going to cause your creative team to be attacked by readers.

I wrote a story a few months ago. An artist whose work I like, as well as a DW alum, sent me an email saying he’d like to work with me. They sent me over a pic of something they drew, and said they’d like to make a story around it. They didn’t have any ideas, except for it to be a space romp of some kind. Semi-retro futuristic.

I took up the challenge, and came up with names for the characters, their relationships, and the rudiments of a story in about 30 minutes. The artist liked what I came up with and asked me for a script. I thought about the best way to present the idea, and came up with a short script and sent it off.

The artist absolutely loved the script, saying that they had read a lot of scripts from writers, and the bulk of those scripts were terrible, because the artist often had questions about layout and couldn’t properly “see” the panel descriptions, and that the dialogue was often bad. However, in reading my script, everything was easy to “see,” I had packed in a lot of characterization in a short space without it seeming forced, and the dialogue felt very realistic.

If that artist had read this script, they would be well within their rights to refuse the work. This is that bad. Sure, I could be hyperbolic about it, but to be plain about it, there’s nothing good here. Not the format, the descriptions, the dialogue, and the story is missing. It’s P4. We should have some inkling as to what’s going on by now—or even intrigued enough to continue reading.

I feel like getting drunk. I think, Jim, that you owe me some Scotch. And my Scotch has to be like my women: of legal age to vote, or older. (And really, the older, the better.)

And I almost forgot!

Are they German, or are they English/American? Are they speaking English, or German? If they’re speaking English, why? Why speak it amongst themselves? If they’re speaking German, how is the reader supposed to know it? There is nothing denoting that they’re speaking any language other than English.

Terrible.

Page Five, Four Panels

 

1. MARION’S APARTMENT — Marion watches David. He’s raised his hand to his face to support it as he watches her in turn. (Okay, so first of all, was the opening scene taking place in Marion’s apartment? And second, what the #%$* does it look like?!) (Where is she? Still at the window?)

 

CAP.1

Paris — (Comma instead of double dash.) 1945 (I’m frustrated, to say the least. You established that the setting was Paris in 1945 in the first scene and then, because of how you incorporated a mix of 1940 and 1945 together instead of having it as Block recounting a story through captions throughout, in effect eliminating Eiffel’s dialogue, you’ve forced yourself to get back on track with a re-establishment of setting, which you shouldn’t have had to do if it had been done correctly in the first place. Terrible…) (I remember the days when Steve had trouble using language like “terrible”…)

 

BLOCK

Why? Besides him being a bastard.

 

MARION

You need another reason? Besides the one you just fought for yourself? (Huh? Was Block a soldier? I couldn’t tell based solely on a pair of boxer shorts. And did he fight for something? I couldn’t tell because you never lead us to believe he was anything more than a curious man asking questions [in his underwear] of a woman who has memorabilia laid across her bed. See what I’m getting at?)

 

2. Marion sits at the edge of the bed, watching her feet. (Teleportation.)

 

MARION

After his actions in Africa (What actions? He said something smugly and that was that.), he became a liaison to Vichy (Person or place?)(Should be a place. And no, I’m not a history buff. I just like watching a lot of old movies. Funnily enough, I despise war movies as uninteresting.). The sort of tyranny he helped coordinate (Missing comma) I cannot imagine. We couldn’t allow that.

 

BLOCK

We?

 

MARION

I was part of something larger.

 

3. Block gestures to the trunk. (How can we tell he’s gesturing to the trunk? Where is it, in relation to him, her, and the bed? I have a trunk at the foot of my bed, and I often talk to my wife as I sit back against the headboard and she sits near the foot, on the edge. If I were to gesture to the trunk, how would she be able to tell? If the camera is only on the unnamed man, how is the reader supposed to tell where he’s gesturing?)

 

BLOCK

I’ve noticed that all of these, (You’re better off with ellipsis marks here instead of a comma.) eh, (Same here.) uniforms, (Take out the comma here) are not the same size. This isn’t all his, is it?

 

4. CLOSE ON: Marion looks up at him.

 

MARION

No.

 

So, you finally have some actual clear information in a clear sequential form on this page. Too little (really little), too late, I have to say. And again, why should we care about what’s being said? I have no connection to these characters or to Eiffel. That time has passed and was wasted away.

 

 

P5, and while something of a story is finally starting to be told, no one cares because you stank up the room so much that they fled as soon as they could.

 

You’ve got some placement/teleportation issues.

 

At least the dialogue is clearer. They’re still talking in a way that only they can understand, but at least the reader can start to get in on the conversation somewhat.

 

You do know that you’ve yet to name anyone in this script, right? Not where a reader can see it.

 

The only character that was sorta-kinda named is Eiffel, and the only good that does you is to get readers thinking of Gustav Eiffel, architect of the Eiffel Tower. That’s all. I think it’s a bad choice for a name, given the timeframe/location you’re using. All other characters have yet to be named in this piece, so the readers are left wondering who these people are.

 

If they get that far, that is. Well, they’ll get that far.

 

Know what this needs? No, not an editor. It needs bad art to accompany it. Then readers can start adding up everything that’s wrong with this. They’ll ask lots of questions, as they struggle to make sense of what’s going on. It’ll be a train wreck, and that’s why they’ll continue on—because everyone stops and gawks at a train wreck.

 

 

 

 

Page Six, Four Panels (Page break.)

 

1. Block reaches for a new cigarette out of a silver case. (Where did the case come from? More teleportation. Or did he use the Force? [I just had a Beverly Hills Cop II flash. Might have to watch that soon.] What about the gun? Is he doing this one-handed? Is the gun still held on her?)

 

CAP.1 (Block)

Christ, this world… (Tell me about it.)

 

2. He lights the cigarette, taking his first drag. (These are two separate actions. Moving panel.)

 

BLOCK

This bloody fucking world…

 

This was seriously wasted space. Instead of giving the reader a panel or two of valuable information, you have Block take out another cigarette (What happened to the first?), light it, take a drag, and complain about the state of the world. Twice. And it isn’t even that he’s complaining about the world, but rather that he’s commenting on the waste of Marion’s trunk, and life, containing more than one man’s clothes. So she was with other men! Who were they and (dare I say it?) WHO CARES?

 

3.THE COCKPIT OF A LANCASTER BOMBER: Captain David Block is in the co-pilots chair screaming back at his CHIEF. The PILOT, teeth gritted, tries to control the stick. Just outside the cockpit: anti-aircraft explosions and flak rock (This is an action that is hard to show from inside. You’re better off having dialogue express the crew’s reaction.) the airframe of the ship. (What are you doing, Jim? What purpose does this panel have to do with the story and, if it is indeed important, why is it a single image placed haphazardly in the middle of a page following nothing more than complaining from a character in 1945? Why not set up a flashback with Block actually thinking back to a fateful day?)

 

CAP.1

The skies over Italy — (Comma here, not a double dash.) 1943

 

BLOCK

Get the fuck down there and hold on to your bright white arse! Bomb bay doors open in thirty long fuckin’ seconds! (And there goes even more long-winded, unnatural dialogue. “Long fuckin’”, to use your own words.)

 

CHIEF

Christ!

 

4. CLOSE ON: Block in the apartment. He rubs his brow with his cigarette holding hand.

 

BLOCK

Continue. (I got lost with this, and not just because of the visual change from the previous panel. It’s a single word that could be directed at Marion or could be self-talk as he reflects back on what he was just thinking about. Its use has failed in it’s clarity.)

 

CAP.1

And to my surprise (Missing comma) she does.

 

That’s it. Wait a minute… That’s it?!? You stop the story by saying that the story continues??? What the %$#*!!!

 

This story could have gone somewhere if you had written it properly, Jim. If you had had Block and Marion dressed in regular clothing of the time instead of in underwear and a robe, you would have been able to isolate the time period a bit better for the reader. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t understand the reasoning of them being in underwear and a robe nor having them look through the trunk at memorabilia by candlelight when both could have been fully dressed with the ceiling light on. It didn’t change anything or set anything up, including their relationship.

 

Next, if you had had Marion tell the story in her present time through exposition and flashbacks, then you wouldn’t have had the mess of Block saying she said this and that. Get it straight from the source. This would have also clarified the “Tell me” and “Continue”. He’s interested in hearing what she has to say, so why shouldn’t we get it straight from her as well?

 

The inclusion of flashbacks that weren’t flashbacks made this a very hard read. Having Eiffel talk served no purpose as Marion wasn’t there in the car, as far as we know, listening to his rant. If she were, then we’d at least have something to base her killing him on. She experienced his ruthlessness first hand and had to kill him before it got out of hand. Why after sex? I don’t know, but having a relationship established between them, even through exposition, would have given us something to work with.

 

The last thing I want to mention is the way you ended the script. This is where you gave the reader a final farewell slap in the face by not only giving them nothing to care about in the six pages, but saying you don’t care to tell them anymore either. That was where you really failed the story, in my opinion, and that’s saying a lot.

 

Take into account everything that Steven and I will have told you and send this back in after a full rewrite. I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

 

Full rewrite? Okay. I can get on board with that.

 

Two weeks, two stories that end both abruptly and unsatisfactorily.

 

Oh! I never made it official! This is crap.

 

There. I feel better now. Let’s run it down.

 

Format: No Flawless Victory for you! Learn how to put in page breaks. Keep your elements consistent. It isn’t difficult. This is, literally, the easiest part of scripting.

 

Panel Descriptions: These need help. You’ve got moving panels, you’ve got panels that don’t describe much of anything, you’ve got panels that are impossible to draw. It’s like you just sat down and started writing, after partially studying the format. You’ve got a long way to go. Put in the work, though, and you’ll be fine.

 

Pacing: There is no pacing here. There is no story here. There is no conflict, and no resolution. Just people talking cryptically about…something.

 

Then, there are the interruptions. I’m not going to call them flashbacks, because I don’t know what they are, really. They’re trying to act as flashbacks, but they aren’t doing a good job of it. What are they there for? How are they contributing? They aren’t. Not in the least. The only thing they’re doing is getting in the way of whatever narrative you terribly attempted to weave.

 

If there was an actual story here, then we could talk about pacing in a better light. However, since nothing happens because there’s no story, I can’t really talk about the pacing, except for the lack of it.

 

Dialogue: Inscrutable.

 

What are they conversing about? Dunno. Why are they having the conversation? Dunno. What is the outcome that one of them wants of the conversation? Dunno.

 

And what was up with that one caption? It was like tuning in a radio and getting garbage from the airwaves. No! This is what it was like: going to a forum/comments section of a site, and seeing spam that was really just a random collection of words. Not even Ipsum Lorem. More along the lines of this: When watches rode shadows and herd of the luggage train, most of the horses took swords and shirts without pay irons. Lotion boxes in the cradle left pillow cups of floss.

 

The dialogue was not entertaining, nor was it illuminating. It wasn’t terrible enough to burn someone’s eyes out, but it wasn’t fun to read, because most of it had no frame of reference.

 

Content: This is crap. There’s no two ways about it. There’s no story here. It’s easy to think there is one, but when we reach the end, the reader will have found out they’ve wasted their time. The title should have been Nothing To See Here, Move Along.

 

Editorially, this doesn’t need a rewrite. Before you can rewrite anything, you need to have a story. Since there’s no story, there’s nothing to rewrite. What needs to happen is that you need to have a conversation with an editor, and from there, you need to say what you wanted to do with this. What are you trying to accomplish, how do you want it to affect the reader, and how best to effect that affect. (See what I did there?) Only after having that conversation and having a plan in place to tell the story more effectively should you rewrite this. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time.

 

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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