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TPG Week 187: Too Much Imaginating, Not Enough ‘Splainin’

| July 25, 2014

 

TPGFeatured_04

 

Welcome back, one and all, to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a newcomer from across the pond, Luke Pierce! We also have Samantha LeBas in purple, I’m in the soothing red, and we’ll see what Luke has to say about

 

The More Things Change

 

Aren’t you folks getting tired of the rant about font size? The semi-funny thing is that Luke saw the hubbub, saw what he had done (this was at 11), immediately plotzed, and fired off an email of apology. So, I won’t rant, because he saw his mistake and then emailed me about it.

 

Now, if only the rest of the script went as well…

 

 

Page One of Five

Five Panels (Know what I’m loving? Luke put a header in the document. This isn’t it, and you won’t see it, but it’s there, and I love it.)

 

Panel One

 

This is a small establishing shot, of a modern glass windowed building. This is primarily to establish that this is a research facility of some kind.

This is intended to be fairly anonymous rather than any particular establishment.(How does a nondescript modern glass windowed [as opposed to…?] building indicate that this is a research facility?)

 

No Copy.(Here’s the answer to that question. “No copy” is not the answer, “Editorial caption: Blah Blah Research Facility,” comes closer.)

 

 

Panel Two

 

One of our primary characters, Dr Alfonso, is looking at a set of test tubes, but set up in a way that invokes the spirit of 1920s Sci-Fi. As far as what’s in my head, I’m thinking more along the lines of the laboratory of Rotfang, the mad scientist from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.(Link to ref photo, though it shouldn’t be, this is an obscure reference.)(Hey! I love Metropolis! Or, another thing would be a scientist’s lab out of a Hammer horror movie.)

On one of the benches is a large mug (Plot Point!), which is used for drinking.(Again as opposed to? Also, just a note, I am not familiar with the way you have used benches here. It seems like that’s what you are calling the counter tops [like work bench I assume?]. Benches mean something different to me: long flat un-upholstered seating. An artist might be similarly confused.)(This could be a symptom of location. With Luke being from England, it’s a possibility. Scripts don’t need to be universal, but it’s helpful if they’re as close to universal as possilbe.)

 

Dr Alfonso is obviously deep in thought as he contemplates his experiment.(What’s the camera angle here?)

 

Alfonso: Hmn.

 

 

Panel Three

 

We shift our view and we’re now looking over the shoulder of Dr Alfonso. Behind him, we can see that his laboratory is a bit more of a mess than the reader initially thought. A little bit further back, the reader should be able to see a door. The door should have a frosted glass panel. (We never see it in full, but this leads into a reception style area, rather than straight out into a corridor.)

 

Dr Alfonso has a steely look in his eyes, suggesting that he is either going to try and overthrow the world or that he’s concentrating on his experiment.(You need to be more precise, this is a feeling… something you might tell an actor, not an expression. What does this look like?)

 

SFX (from door): taptaptap

 

Panel Four

 

We’re more focussed on the door now, especially as it has been opened by our other main character, Anita. She has a slightly nervous look on her face as she looks out from behind the door. She’s instinctively using the door as a shield, indicating that Alfonso does usually conduct dangerous experimentation.

She’s dressed very professionally.(How is this going to come through in a still panel? Again this seems like stage direction. Also, ask yourself, is this the most important thing that you need the audience to know about Alfonso and Anita? That he sometimes does dangerous experiments? Nothing about their relationship?) (These two things do not go together: using the door as a shield and showing her being well dressed. These two cannot be shown together.)

 

Anita: Alfonso?

 

 

Panel Five

 

Dr Alfonso has spun around reminiscent of a classic mad scientist. His body language is over the top for a simple question. (This cannot be drawn, because you haven’t described the actions.)

 

Alfonso (1): Anita!

 

Alfonso (2): Why are you here?!(underline to indicate emphasis)

 

(Okay, if someone pulled mad scientist in charades, for example, I would have a hard time guessing what they were miming. I think you are overestimating how universal this ‘mad scientist’ description is.

 

Also, imagine how silly it would be if you were writing a story in which a policeman was doing police work and you said that he did something like a policeman. You need to think about how this looks, describe it. Right now you might as well be saying, ‘and he does that thing that my friend Marvin does when he laughs.’ We can’t see your mental image. Just because it is clear to you doesn’t mean anyone knows what you see in your mind.)

 

P1, and all is not well…

 

I guess we’ll start at the beginning and work our way down.

 

The panel descriptions don’t work. I have a location, and I have that there is an older-looking set of laboratory equipment in the room, but I have no real idea of what’s in the room itself, of how much space in in the room, or what’s actually happening. There’s a guy who’s just…looking. That’s all.

 

The panel descriptions need to anchor the scene. What you tried to do was a two-panel establishing shot, but you forgot to answer the important questions: When, and What. I have no idea what time of day it is, or what the timeframe is. Having a lab with beakers and retorts and bunsen burners and so on is all very well and good, but modern labs aren’t like this. Without a time/date stamp, there’s no telling when this is taking place.

 

The panel descriptions aren’t moving (and to tell the truth, I’m fully expecting to see at least one before we’re done here), but they aren’t doing much to really explain what the characters are doing. Too much imaginating, not enough ‘splainin’.

 

I’m not a fan of the end of the page, either. There’s a question asked, so that the reader is forced to turn the page if they want to know the answer—but is the question itself enough to actually warrant the turning of that page? It is an extremely minor mystery, and it hasn’t been properly built up.

 

In essence, it fails. It doesn’t do what it is supposed to do in order to garner the reader’s interest, because nothing has been properly built up.

 

Let’s see what P2 brings us.

Page Two of Five

Four Panels

 

Panel One

 

Anita is visibly taken aback at Alfonso’s reaction and she shows signs of being upset already. (This cannot be drawn. Taken aback? What does that look like? Being upset? What does that look like?)

 

Anita: We… arranged to have lunch together…

 

 

Panel Two

 

Alfonso is bent over some other equipment, with Anita in the background looking on. If there is the room, Anita should be looking a lot more upset. (This doesn’t make any sense. If she’s in the background looking on, we can see her. What does the amount of space have to do with how upset she looks?)

 

Alfonso: It can wait. I am at an important step.

 

 

Panel Three

 

Alfonso strikes yet another mad scientist pose.(Yeah. you are seriously overestimating the descriptive power of this phrase.)

 

Alfonso: It cannot be interrupted!

 

 

Panel Four

 

Anita is teary eyed, shocked by the sudden turn of events. It would be clear to a blind man that she loves him, but it’s unreciprocated at the level she would like.

Her hand is over her mouth as she tries to suppress her shock.(It should be mentioned that Anita is in love with Alfonso the first time she appears on panel if you want it to come through visually. That is the point of the interaction, yes? It needs to be played up. I am not sure that your description of her expression is clear, it seems more like motivation than appearance.)(Seems, Madam, nay, it is. I know not “seems.” Sorry. I was about to get my Shakespeare on. Anyway, yes, this is more motivational than anything else.)

 

No copy.

(What is the point of this page? To show that Anita loves Alfonso and Alfonso loves science, right? Have you written to that idea here, addressing every line of dialogue and action toward that theme? In a short story you have to make very deliberate decisions. I suggest you research the term, ‘singular effect,’ as it applies to short fiction. Force yourself to pick one aim and direct all your attention toward it. Don’t let anyone miss your point. I think this point is missable, maybe not in your descriptions, but definitely in what you can expect to from the final product.)

P2, and something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Forgive me. I’m in a Shakespeare mood today. As you can see, lines of Hamlet keep coming to me. (Don’t mistake that for education. If I were truly educated, I’d be reciting from King Lear or The Tempest or something.)

This page, I’m sorry to report, does nothing. And it does a whole lot of it. Possibly with bells on.

Four panels, and what does this page do? It strains the reader’s patience.

Between these two pages, there are nine panels and a whopping 26 words. There’s going to be some word culling in order to make it all fit! (Wait… Today isn’t Opposite Day?)

This story is suffering from anemia. The pacing is extremely anemic. What story is being told that encourages such a stately pace over five pages? I don’t know. If I were just reading this as a comic, I’d have no idea what the story is about—and I’m about halfway through.

This is supposed to be a comedic piece. I know how difficult it is to be amusing on paper, let alone outright funny. Me? I’m not funny on paper. I know it, so I don’t try too much. It’s safer for everyone that way. But this piece has yet to be funny at all.

The panel descriptions aren’t doing their job, because you haven’t done your job in adequately describing what’s going on. You’re vague, and the only thing that accomplishes is the that the artist is going to be forced to ask you clarifying questions.

Hey, Luke, what’s a “mad scientist pose”? When did he strike the first one? Is it kind of like “Vogue”, but different?”

Like I said before, lots of imaginating, not enough ‘splainin’.

What happens if we cut this page? P1 has 5 panels with very little dialogue. We can easily rearrange some stuff and add another panel or two to it. Probably end the page with the “mad scientist pose”, whatever that is.

So, what happens if we cut this page? We have actual space to tell some story. However, if there were story to tell, there’d be story to read. And there hasn’t been any story to read.

This is great. (Wait. We’ve already established that this isn’t Opposite Day. Sorry…) This is terrible.

You want to tell the story? Add more words. Come at it from the side, so that the dialogue isn’t blunt. There’s a time for bluntness. (There’s a time to laugh, a time to cry; a time to live and a time to die. A time to break and a time to chill, to act civilized or act real ill… Sorry. Sugar Hill Gang. At least it wasn’t Hamlet!)

Like Sam said, everything needs to point toward the end when it comes to a short story. There has to be a laser-like focus. This is moving much too slow and doesn’t have enough practical visuals to do anything else besides be mildly annoying.

It’s P2 of five, and visions of Jeri Ryan aside, this is mildly annoying.

Page Three of Five

Six Panels

 

Panel One

 

Anita has turned away, ready to step back into the reception area (How can we tell she’s ready to step back into the reception area? How is the reader supposed to know this?). She is gritting her teeth and trying to hold back her tears (This is not going to look like what you want it to.).

A small bottle (Plot Point!) is on a bench within her peripheral view. It’s an innocuous bottle and would look like a juice bottle.

Dr Alfonso still has his back to her, oblivious to what he’s just done.(I don’t think this works. The expression you describe is going to be hard to marry with the point that she has seen this bottle, If the bottle is so nondescript, why does she mettle with it? She just sees it here, right? She doesn’t pick it up, or anything?)

 

Alfonso: We’ll talk later.

 

 

Panel Two

 

Anita begins to exit the laboratory, looking towards where the bottled liquid is. (You can’t show someone beginning to do something. They either are or they aren’t.)

 

Anita: That utter creep!(Why doesn’t he hear her? Why would she call him a creep? He’s always been this way, and she still liked him five seconds earlier. This isn’t a surprise. Something like, ‘not this time,’ that speaks to a pattern would fit better here.)

 

 

Panel Three

 

Anita has seen the bottle and she has a half smile. A plan is formulating in her head.(I thought she saw the bottle out of the corner of her eye in panel 1?) (How does the reader know she’s seen the bottle?)

 

No copy.

 

Panel Four

 

The contents of the bottle is being poured into Dr Alfonso’s mug. The liquid resembles water.(Why on god’s green earth would she do this? You have just made a completely illogical jump. The nondescript bottle is supposed to contain what exactly? It looks like water. Does she think it’s water? What does she think the result will be?) (This, methinks, is part of the joke. Part of the mystery. She knows what it is, or at least she should, and we don’t. I don’t mind this, because it should pay off.)

 

No copy.

 

 

Panel Five

 

Switching back, Dr Alfonso looks upset as his experiment has failed once again. (See this look of upset? Is it different from her look of upset from a few panels ago? See what I’m getting at?)

 

Alfonso: Dammit! Failed again!

 

 

Panel Six

 

Anita, carrying the mug, has a slightly furtive look.(Just slightly, hmm?) (Carrying the mug? She’s picked it up, has she? Where’s she taking it? Or is she just going to carry it for the rest of the story?)

 

No copy.

 

Page 3, and really, the only thing I can say is that this is vague. Again, lots of imaginating, not enough ‘splainin’. Enough to make my head ‘splode? Not nearly. But it’s frustrating, because I want to “see” what’s going on. I know what I see in my head, but that’s my head, not yours, and it’s your head that we need to get into, Luke.

 

The good thing is that something actually happens on this page. The bad thing is that I have to imagine it. I don’t want to imagine it, I want to see it.

 

This is what I want you to do. All of you.

 

Go dig into your movie collection. Find a movie you haven’t seen in a while—the longer, the better. Put it in, turn the volume to a place where you’re comfortable, and then I want you to close your eyes and just listen. Can you see all the movements of the characters? Are you getting an inkling of what they’re doing?

 

What’s that, you say? It’s vague? You can kinda get the gist of how people should be acting based on the dialogue, but you’re not sure?

 

That’s exactly how I feel about this script. I can kinda get the gist of how they’re supposed to be acting, but I’m not really sure. And the story suffers for it. (What little bit of story there is so far.)

 

Why does she pour the contents of the bottle into the mug? No, don’t answer that as the writer—answer that as the reader.

 

You’re the reader, and you just saw a woman have a lunch date broken. Why does she pour the contents of the bottle into the mug? All the information you have as the reader is that the lunch date was broken, and the guy is a little weird. What precipitates her actions? Do we have any insight into her actions? Not at all. It fails.

 

It’s probably approaching crap. Let’s see if we can get there. (And I’m still hunting the moving panel in this piece.)

Page Four of Five

Four Panels

 

Panel One

 

Anita hands Alfonso his mug, with a cute smile. (In her head, she would assume that she looks sinister rather than adorable)(Really? How exactly does one draw looking adorable while trying to appear sinister. If you can’t draw it, don’t write it.)(What does what’s going on inside her head have to do with the panel description? Also, call me Ishmael, because I’ve found my white whale [moving panel].)

 

Anita: Nevermind, here, please… drink.(Why? Why is drinking what is presumably coffee or tea [because what else does one put in a mug?] the appropriate response when an experiment fails? Is this supposed to be calming? She should say something to calm him down, or cheer him up, or explain why the beverage is supposed to help. Don’t you think?) (And how about that sentence, huh? Two commas, an ellipsis, and a period. This is terrible, even though it’s short.)

 

 

Panel Two

 

Alfonso is sipping at the mug, with a slightly calm expression.(What is a slightly calm expression?) (How can you show a sip? Lots of imaginating, not enough ‘splainin’.)

 

Alfonso (1): Thank you.

 

Alfonso (2): You’re so important to me, Anita.(Why? Because she brought him coffee and told him to drink it? She has done nothing of consequence and he has not given the audience any hint that she is the least bit helpful.)

 

 

Panel Three

 

Alfonso is now gripping his stomach, with his mug in freefall, spilling the remaining liquid. (Does he look slightly uncalm? What’s his face doing here? All of this is happening in the white void, apparently. They’ve stopped interacting with their environment entirely.)

 

Alfonso: Argh! (I get that this is supposed to be a comedic piece, but “argh”? Really?)

 

 

Panel Four

 

Anita is reaching out, her hand stretched out, trying to offer help. Her worry and concern is obvious, with the whole body language looking important and dramatic.(Right now, my whole body language looks frustrated and important.)(Meaning, the panel description has not.)

 

Looks-wise, rather than a panel, this could be one without borders, just to emphasise the chaos Anita feels right at this moment.(I didn’t know a full bleed panel indicated chaos or that one could feel it.)(Not at all. Want to show chaos? Show something chaotic, and have a strong-looking border around it. I have no idea where you got your storytelling skills, but you may want to give them back and get others. These aren’t working for you.)

 

Anita (1):ALFONSO!

 

Anita (2): Oh god, what have I done to you?!(What did she think that she was going to do?)(Comma-fail.)

 

(Okay, so, I am about to give you a piece of advice that will never, ever not be true. [Much like the advice: Don’t use a double negative.] Ready? Words mean things. Here’s why I bring this up: you are not telling your artist a lot of useful information, but you have written words that you seem to think describe a scene. Let’s look at panel 4 together, shall we?

 

Anita is reaching out, her hand stretched out, trying to offer help. Her worry and concern is obvious, with the whole body language looking important and dramatic.

 

Anita is reaching out, (To where?) her hand stretched out, (this is what reaching is, you have already said this. Words mean things.) trying to offer to help (Let’s break this down even further. ‘Trying’ – attempting, ‘to offer’ – to make a proposal that can be accepted or rejected, ‘to help’ – to make it easier for someone to do something…) Her worry and concern is obvious, (First of all they ARE obvious, now I am just being mean, but it’s a pet peeve. Secondly, ‘concern’ means ‘worry,‘ and thirdly, ‘worry’ means to fret over real or imagined problems. Does she look like she has just realized that she might have left the curling iron on, or that the man she loves may be dying? What are you actually trying to tell the person illustrating this story? Is she panicked? Horrified? Dismayed?) with the whole body language looking important and dramatic (Oy, okay… because you have ‘the‘ and not ‘her‘ before ‘body language,‘ this description could refer to Anita, Alfonso or both. ‘Looking’ means that the body language sees something. Then we come to ‘important’ – having great value and ‘dramatic‘ theatrical.)

 

So, what have you actually written here? Here’s a literal rewording:

 

Anita is reaching out toward something, reaching, attempting to propose to make things easier. Her fretting about a problem and fretting about a problem are obvious, the whole body language sees valuable and theatrical.

 

That’s nonsense, right? That’s my point.

 

So, that’s what you have said. What didn’t you say? How much of Anita is visible on panel? What else can we see in the frame? What is Alfonso doing? What is she reaching for? What’s the camera angle here? …The short answer is, a lot.

 

How can you fix it? Answer these questions in your description. Who is on panel? How much of them do we see? How much of the background? What kind of shot is it? What is the expression of the character? What are they doing, and why?

 

Something like: ‘Full body shot of Anita in the same location in front of the door, looking panicked as she reaches out theatrically, attempting to break Alfonso’s fall.’ Would work, it doesn’t have to be Faulkner, it just has to have all the necessary information.

 

Pay attention to the words you use, and try your very best to say what you mean, the whole of what you mean, and nothing but what you mean, so help you, God. Tirade over, #sorrynotsorry.)

 

P4, and really, this has slipped into crap.

 

It’s contrived. There’s no reasoning given for anything. People are just doing things because you want them to, and you steadfastly refuse to put in the necessary information that the artist needs in order to do their job.

 

Crap it is, so crap it let it be.

 

I used to work for GEICO. I was a Claim Service Representative, one of the lowest rungs in the company. Well, there are lower rungs, because there are always lower rungs, but we were part of the voice/face of the company. The training was serious—eight weeks in classroom, going over everything from the contract to phone etiquette to systems to work flow to…

 

Basically, when you call GEICO, you’re calling for one of three reasons: you want insurance/a quote (sales), you already have a policy and you have questions/want to make a payment/do something else with it (service), or you were involved in an accident (claims). The three faces of GEICO. The first two don’t have much of a career path. You can make a lot of money in Sales, because of the commissions. But, you’re either on the phone or you’re a supervisor. For Service, you’re either on the phone or you’re a supervisor. For Claims, though, you had a path that went from simple liability (another word for fault—and you were either at-fault or not at-fault, and this is where I worked), to partial liability (you had some fault and so did the other party), to accidents with simple injuries, to accidents with extensive injuries, and you worked your way all through that before becoming a supervisor.

 

I loved my job. Honestly. I got to help people through some trying times, times that are stressful to them, and be that soothing voice on the other side of the phone. (Helpful tip: when you’re in an accident, don’t call your insurance company from the scene. Exchange information, and then call them from home. You’re not helping if you call from the scene. Or, if you must call from the scene, wait until the police have come and gone.)

 

However, I was also the voice that had to break the bad news to my customers.

 

Simple fact: if you rear-end someone, you were following too closely, and you’re going to be at fault. I’m sorry you feel that way, sir. Yelling at me isn’t going to help. What does this mean? This means we, your insurance company, is going to pay the other party in full, and put them into a rental vehicle if they ask for one—one that is comparable in size to what they’re driving. I don’t care what the police report says. You hit someone in the rear. You were too close, and we’re going to pay for their damages so that you aren’t sued for the damages you caused, and have to then pay for their lawyer fees and court costs. We’re going to do this for you, no matter what you want and what you think. I understand that you feel they stopped short. If you kept a safe distance, you wouldn’t have hit them.

 

Your vehicle? Let’s take a look at your policy. Well, it seems that you don’t have collision coverage on your policy, so while we’re paying for the damage you caused to the other car, we aren’t going to pay for the damage to yours.

 

Or

 

Your vehicle? Let’s take a look. I see that you have a thousand dollar deductible. What this means is that we will pay for all the damages done to your vehicle except for one thousand dollars. You will owe the body shop that money. No, sir, we don’t write the check to you. We write it directly to the body shop. What if there’s more damage? Then we write a supplemental check for that. You’ll still owe the body shop that thousand dollars. Lower your deductible? I can’t do that here, and even if you lowered it, it wouldn’t matter for this accident, because this was your coverage at the time of the claim. A rental car? I’m sorry, sir, you don’t have rental reimbursement on your policy.

 

See how nice and easy that was? Whenever I got a policyholder that was pissed off because they were “not at fault”, or “it wasn’t an accident, it was an incident!”, and who wanted to tell me what I was and was not going to do, I made sure that I made my notes in the call while I still had them on the phone, ranting and raving, and then I’d sit back, put my hands on top of my head, and put on my most pleasant voice, and continually stick it to them. And the more polite I was, the more pissed they’d get.

 

I loved it.

 

One woman had a Mercedes Benz. She was involved in an accident, and she was at fault. I had inherited her file from someone who was let go. (Working for GEICO is not easy.) Her vehicle had not yet been looked at by us, and I wanted to get her vehicle seen, have her check cut, and get the file moved. So I called her…

 

She was unreasonable.

 

She didn’t want to take her vehicle to us in order to have her vehicle seen. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t drive my car when it’s dented.” That’s an actual quote. She wanted to wait for an adjuster to come out to see her car. And, she wanted to drive a rental car while she waited.

 

I tried. I tried to get her to bring her car in. There were appointments available the next day! It wouldn’t take that long—under an hour. See the car, cut the check, and then she could get it fixed anywhere she wanted, and if she used one of our approved shops, GEICO would guarantee the work for life. Nope. She didn’t want to do it.

 

Fine. I sent her an adjuster. It would take him a few days before he got to her. “That’s fine. I want a rental car while I wait.” Unfortunately, ma’am, your vehicle is drivable. Rental reimbursement is only available while your vehicle is not in a drivable condition, such as when it is being repaired from the result of an accident. You are choosing not to drive your vehicle. You will be eligible for a rental once yours goes into the shop. “That’s not right. Let me talk to your supervisor.” That’s fine, ma’am, but she’s going to tell you the same thing I am. It’s in your contract. “Let me talk to your supervisor.”

 

She talks to my supervisor. My supervisor tells her the same thing I did, nearly verbatim. I’m trying not to laugh, because I can hear the haughty woman raising her voice. She finally calms down, understands that she’s not going to win, and then comes back to me.

 

Fine. I want another Mercedes while my car is being fixed.” I apologize, ma’am, but you’re only eligible for a vehicle that is comparable in size to your vehicle. Your vehicle comes out to be a mid-sized sedan. Now, you can rent whatever type of vehicle you wish, and submit the bill to us. We will then reimburse you the difference.

 

Oh, she was hot! I was a little pissed, but only because I didn’t totally win. I like complete victories. However, it was enough of a win. I was decently happy.

 

Why did I tell that story? Because it was more amusing than the crap we’re reading now. One page left!

Page Five of Five

Five Panels

 

Panel One

 

A small panel, with a feminine hand reaching up, as if the owner was attempting to scale a mountain.(Reaching up toward what? From where? This is interpretive dance, all these reaches to nowhere.)(She’ll be here all week, folks!)

 

Alfonso: Hk!

 

 

Panel Two

 

The frame has pulled back to reveal a far more feminine looking Dr Alfonso staggering to her feet.(Is this a more feminine-looking version of Alfonso, or did he suddenly lose the Adam’s apple and grow a uterus? Your artist will need to know.) (Love Potion Number 9. That was a pretty good movie…)

 

Alfonso:

 

 

Panel Three

 

Dr Alfonso seems to recognise the change immediately and is grinning like a Cheshire cat. She’s not classically beautiful, but still attractive.(This is not a panel description, it’s observational prose. What is happening in this panel?)

 

Alfonso (1): Done it.

 

Alfonso (2):I’ve done it!

 

 

Panel Four

 

Alfonso is embracing Anita. Anita looks confused, but we can’t see Alfonso’s reaction.

 

Alfonso: I’m a woman! I’m finally a woman!

 

Panel Five

 

Close-up of Anita, as this is our final panel. She’s in tears, but it should look pretty funny.

 

Anita: Why does God hate meeeeeeee?(Oh, no. Please, please tell me that you didn’t just perpetuate all kinds of sexist stereotypes. Oh, you did? That’s cool I guess.)

 

(Okay, Alanis, let’s talk about irony. Here’s a fancy definition from the internet: a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result. Now, let’s use that to examine what you have written, and figure out why your car won’t start, and why it’s making that weird noise.

 

So for an amusing result we need a couple of things.

  1. an event, or a state of affairs

  2. expectations

  3. direct contradictions.

 

Your event is Anita turns Alfonso into a woman, I see that. But where are your expectations and contradictions? We as readers need to know what Anita believes will happen when she pours the ambiguous liquid into his mug. Does she think it will kill him? Does she think it is a love potion, or maybe a laxative? The only thing that we can rule out as a possibility for her motive is that she is trying to turn Alfonso into a woman? Because, she seems unhappy when this happens.

 

Equally thin is the foreshadowing for Alfonso’s desired outcome. He is trying to transform himself into a woman, why (and I ask this as a reader, not a woman who just had a baby 7 weeks ago) in the hell would he do that? Where are our clues? Where is the misdirection?

 

It’s funny if he is trying to make himself a better man and winds up as a woman. It’s funny if Anita is trying to make him ‘understand how hard things are for her’ and she turns him into a woman. You see how those set up expectations and then deliver the opposite. You haven’t built the audience’s expectations here, therefore you cannot contradict them and get your amusing result.

 

So it’s your foreshadowing belt, without it, the expectations won’t start and you will never get them to turn over. I can have it back to you by next week, I’ll need to order a part.)

 

Let’s just run this down.

 

Format: Flawless Victory!

 

Panel Descriptions: Atrocious. Wow. To quote Bob Ross, “two hairs and some air.” That’s really all that’s there. Lots of imaginating, not enough ‘splainin’.

 

Where are these people? Dunno. Not really. What are they doing? Basically standing around, doing a lot of nothing. That’s when they’re actually doing something that can be drawn. Otherwise, it’s a whole lotta nothin’. And that’s terrible. Not as terrible as to what comes next, but terrible nonetheless.

 

How to fix it? Learn to write for comics. Most artists would either ask you a ton of questions that should have been answered in the script, or they’d hand it back and tell you they can’t draw it because there’s hardly anything there. If you learn to write for comics, you won’t have to worry about it.

 

Pacing: This is where the real horrors start.

 

You have a few pages here that don’t do much of anything. The first three, to be exact. Things don’t get interesting until P4, and then there’s the “payoff” of P5.

 

The first pages don’t set anything up, and P5 doesn’t connect to anything that went before it. There are things missing, and the story cannot be enjoyed because of those missing elements.

 

You think something happens? You’re thinking wrong. There is nothing that propels the reader into the story until we get to P4, and then, really, P5 doesn’t give the payoff that we hoped for, because there was no setup.

 

So, if it were to be summed up by page, it would look something like this:

 

P1: Boring

P2: Boring

P3: Boring

P4: Something of interest.

P5: That’s it? I’m going to kick a baby koala.

 

See how that works? Not good, right? Think of the koalas!

 

Dialogue: Simply put, there isn’t enough of it. And what is there is a bit cheesy. Yes, I know that it’s supposed to be, but because there isn’t enough of it, the cheesiness doesn’t look natural. It almost looks bad. However, because there isn’t enough dialogue, it’s difficult to say anything on it besides “meh.”

 

Meh.

 

Add more dialogue. Adding more dialogue may also fix part of the pacing problem. Only part of it. You’ll still need to do rewriting in order to make it worth reading. We’ll get to that in a bit.

 

The dialogue isn’t terrible. There just needs to be more of it.

 

Content: Crap. Plain and simple.

 

As a reader, I’d be pissed off. This isn’t fun or funny. It’s contrived, and in being contrived, it’s insulting. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t like being insulted. If I were to read this as part of an anthology or something, I’d have to wonder about the efficacy of the editor. I’d wonder how this got published. I’d wonder what dirt you had in order to get this through. Compromising photos, proof of payoffs or backroom deals, something.

 

Editorially, this needs a complete rewrite. This isn’t funny. This isn’t humorous. This doesn’t even bring a smile to the face or a softening of the features into the beginnings of a smile.

 

I like British humour. Very often, it is smart, slick, and understated. When it’s over the top, it is still done with a razor’s edge. It is also understandable. With all of the imports from the UK to the States (straight imports such as Benny Hill and Dr. Who, and remakes such as Three’s Company, The Office, or The Tomorrow People, and game shows like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and The Weakest Link, all as a small cross-section of examples, which doesn’t include the boatload of actors in both film and television), it’s easy to see that we have an appetite for it. A voracious one. I won’t claim to understand all of it, but I can definitely say that I understand this piece.

 

This piece is not good. Too much imaginating, not enough ‘splainin’.

 

Don’t ‘splain to me why someone is doing something–‘splain to me what they’re doing. We can draw intent out of their actions. I don’t want to imaginate what they’re doing, I want to see what they’re doing.

 

The rewrite should show a setup and work toward a payoff. For a short piece like this, anything that falls outside of that needs to be cut as extraneous. Right now, the extraneous bits are the first three pages.

 

Lick your wounds. Rewrite it and send it back. I’ll be looking for it.

 

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.

 

Click here to make comments in the forum!

 

 

 

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Category: Columns, The Proving Grounds

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

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