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TPG Week 191: Trite Is Not True

| August 22, 2014

TPGFeatured_06

Welcome, one and all, to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a new Brave One in Joshua Crowther.

A bit of business before we get into Josh’s piece.

Unfortunately, Steve Colle will no longer be joining us here at The Proving Grounds. He has left comics to pursue other interests. We thank him for his time, talent, and energy, and we wish him well in whatever he does next.

We still have the services of Samantha LeBas in purple, though, and I’m ever in red. We’ll both see just what Josh does with

Transgression

PAGE ONE (six panels)

Panel 1. A wide, aerial establishing shot. It is day time. The sky is a dull-grey hue. We are looking down on a market town that resembles Edinburgh in the very early 18th century. Small patches of snow have yet to melt from many of the rooftops. The initial focal point is a large, ominous cathedral with a tall bell-tower in the center of the town. It casts a large shadow over an adjacent market square that is bustling with tiny, human figures. From the center of the market, a distant voice shouts.(We may need more info on the baker’s stand, if it is going to come into play in later panels.)

1. BAKER(shout): THIEF!

Panel 2. Ground level. We are now in the large market square, from whence the voice emanated. The cathedral is glaring over a rather filthy marketplace. Small patches of snow litter the muddy, dirt ground. Dozens of patrons bustle around the various, scattered market stalls. The clothing of some of the citizens, as well as the presence of some beggars, denote the town struggles with some poverty issues. Don’t overdo it however, not everyone is poor. A BAKER is shouting and pointing at a THIEF who is frantically running off with a loaf of bread. The citizens next to the thief stare in bewilderment.

2. BAKER(shout): STOP! THIEF!

Panel 3. Ground level. Cut to a full figure shot of the LAWMAN. He is leaning against a three-story townhouse, smoking from woodstock pipe. He also holds a nightstick under his arm. Above him a woman leans out the window, looking down the street towards the shouting.

3. BAKER(OP, shout): HELP! HELP!(Would you really chase a man down the street crying ‘help!’ if he stole some bread? It’s not like he kidnapped an infant.)

Panel 4. Over the shoulder of the lawman, we see the thief running towards him. We see the cathedral and market in the background, showing the lawman was just a block or two away. Behind the thief, the baker is shaking his fist in the air. The lawman drops the pipe in preparation of pursuit.

4. BAKER: STOP THAT MAN!

Panel 5. Downward shot. Looking down over the shoulder of the woman leaning out her window, we see the thief shoving his way past a crowd on the street, trying to avoid the lawman who has started chasing him. (This panel doesn’t help you. If you wanted a top-down view, just say so. Looking over the shoulder of the woman doesn’t help.)

NO COPY

Panel 6. A large, wide panel. Slightly below eye level. The lawman is chasing the thief toward the reader. The thief is hurdling over wooden barrels. A large sack of potatoes, which was on the barrels, is falling into small, muddy puddle on the dirt road. In the background, we can see the baker keeled over and exhausted. To the left of the thief, a mother pulls away her young child from the thief’s path. Use the large panel to bring the city to life! Show pigs walking through the street and various people carrying about their day: sitting next to the road eating, carry sacks over their shoulders, gossiping, etc. (Obviously, some of them are now distracted by the commotion.)(Left to right, Josh. This has to be described left to right. You went from the middle and then to the left, and then you described things to the right. It’s confusing.)

NO COPY

(I think you are going to need to write a long explanation of the market in a separate document. The action is getting lost in the description. You might be better off organizing the information in order of interest or importance. This reads like prose, think of it more as a news article.

Who? What? When? Where? How?

Delete all nonessential information. The city should not change as they run through it. There will be a little snow, dirty people, livestock, vending stalls, a cathedral in the background, etc. throughout the chase. This entire script will be more effective if you say that once, thoroughly, and then focus on the action occurring in each panel.)

P1 is down!

I’m not a fan, since we want to get down to brass tacks.

Let’s take a look at what happens on this page: we have a setting, we have a thief who’s already stolen something, and we have a chase. One panel gives us the setting, and then the rest is nothing but a chase.

Anyone care to guess how much I care about the chase? Anyone taking bets? What’s the over-under? No takers? Fine.

There is absolutely no incentive for the reader to turn the page, except habit. Have you pulled the reader in with any interest? Any witty dialogue? Anything that gives a hint of the story that follows? Not at all.

When I read a story from a new writer, I want to be punched in the face with the first page. I want to be enticed to turn the page, either with the action or the dialogue. As the editor, I know I’m being tricked into turning the page. We all know we’re being tricked into turning the page. However, having us actually turn the page is where the trick is.

To make use of a phrase…this doesn’t turn the trick.

I have to agree with Sam: the panel descriptions are too wordy for my tastes. Do they have to be sparse? No. Not at all. But that last panel description has 119 words. What for? If you set up the town and its citizens properly in the first couple of panels, also giving the time of year, you could cut amount of words used. Lord and Lady knows that I’m not the soul of brevity, but I also know how to be interesting and keep it moving.

There isn’t much dialogue here besides “stop,” “thief”, and “help”. Why? You could have done more. It’s the first page of the first issue of a new story by a new writer. You don’t have to load us up, but give us some sense of the story.

I love The Godfather. (Watching it right now, as a matter of fact.) The opening scene perfectly sets the tone: an Italian immigrant is talking to someone, talking about his belief in his new country, and the trial his family has just gone through with the law concerning the assault on his daughter. It’s a poignant speech. “I believe in America.” BAM! “America has made my fortune.” BAM! It’s a black screen, it’s quiet, and these words are said directly to us. And then we get to see who’s talking, with the camera doing a close-up on his face, and it slowly pulls out to see where he’s at and who he’s talking to. It’s a trick to keep you watching, but you’re riveted by what’s being said. Turning away isn’t an option. Not until that conversation is over.

This doesn’t need to be The Godfather, but it has to do the same thing: it needs to rivet the reader, making sure they turn the page.

Let’s see what P2 does. I’m hoping the chase doesn’t take too long, and that we get some actual dialogue that gives a sense of story. I don’t think we’re going to get it, but I’m hopeful. (I’m ever hopeful.) Know what I think, without looking? That we’re going to get more chase but no real dialogue, and that the entire page can be cut. Without looking. Anyone wanna take that bet now? Remember, I’m not that smart. Let’s see if I’m right.

PAGE TWO (nine panels)

Panel 1. Medium shot. The lawman violently shoves the mother and her child out of his way. Use any angle that emphasizes the force with which he barrels over them.

1. LAWMAN: GET OUT OF THE WAY, YOU CODPIECES!

Panel 2. A close shot of the mother shielding her child as she slams against the ground painfully. Once again, the angle is up to you. (What does this panel do to push the story forward? Nothing. I’m going to call it padding.)

2. SFX: UMPHF!(SFX? Or does the mother say it?)

Panel 3. Full figure shot of the thief from behind. The thief is rounding the corner of a building, into an alleyway. His hand grasps the corner of the building helping him change momentum.

NO COPY

Panel 4. Reverse angle. Fairly low angle slightly above waist level. The thief looks over the head of the reader, trying to discern what is ahead of him. He looks frantic. His right hand still grasps the corner of the building. The alleyway is moderately dark, but not so much that objects are not clearly visible. It is even filthier than the main street. There are wet piles of rotten food and refuse on the ground and against the buildings. (Don’t care.)

Panel 5. Zoom in on the bottom half of the lawman’s legs sprinting through the muddy road. A puddle of water splashes around his distinctive boots. In the foreground some rats scurry across the panel. (Don’t care.)

3. SFX: SPLASH

Panel 6. Small panel. The camera is slightly tilted to the left or right. Imagine snapshots of a man with a shaky camera running toward the thief. We are 15 feet behind the thief who is running away from us. The walls of the alleyway get more narrow. (A still from a shaky cam? This is confusing, there has be a better way to say this. I don’t know if you mean that the image is off kilter, or blurry, or if the subject is off center? I don’t like not knowing.) (And I don’t care. 9 panels, and you want a small panel here? Really?)

NO COPY

Panel 7. Small panel. Reverse the tilt from the previous panel. 10 feet behind the thief. Action lines from the sides of the panel narrow in on the thief. Maybe the panels themselves can get smaller too? (So we see his face here? Or the panel tilts the opposite direction? I think the latter, correct? Reverse tilt is so similar to reverse angle, you might be better off to say ‘tilts the opposite direction.’) (Don’t care.)

NO COPY

Panel 8. Small panel. Reverse the tilt from the previous panel. 5 feet behind the thief. We can almost reach out and touch him. The action lines extend further into the center. (Lots of reversals. Is this pirate ship ride, like in an amusement park? Should we be getting seasick? Three panels, three reversals.)

NO COPY

Panel 9. A large panel. Wide shot. Zoom back a little bit. We are now about 8 to 10 feet behind the thief, from a slightly elevated angle. The alleyway has opened up. The thief stands at a dead end in front of him. A looming shadow of the lawman emanates from bottom of the panel outwards.

NO COPY

(I just don’t see the point of this page. It does not advance plot, we were already in a chase. The Lawman is a jerk in the first panel, and then the jerk chases the dirty man for 8 panels. We don’t even see him closing in on him. We see the thief running out of road, not the lawman overtaking him. I’m not loving this.)

P2, and while hope springs eternal (because I am ever hopeful), my hope is not rewarded. Except for the first and last panel, I could cut this page. I could push panel 1 to the end of P1, and push panel 9 to the beginning of P3 (actually, the new P2), and the middle wouldn’t be missed at all.

So, anyone who bet against me…you lose.

The real shame isn’t that I called it correctly. The real shame is that I saw from P1 that P2 wasn’t going to do anything.

This looks like it’s going to be staying on the shelf.

When I was in high school, I started dating my ex-wife. I was a freshman when we met. She was short, and walked very fast, dashing between students as she made her way to her locker or to class. I had to learn to keep up. It was something of a chase.

We broke up, as things go. (It was our own special dance.) It’s high school, so I started talking to one of my friends from middle school who had also gone to the same high school, and whom I had dated for a brief while. She was having a party, and called me while at it, and she put her older cousin on the phone. Then her cousin started calling me, even though we hadn’t met. But she’d never call me while she was alone—she would always call while someone else was on the line, generally a friend of hers who also lived in the same town.

After a lot of three-way conversations, she finally decided that we should meet. We should meet at the movies. Flowers in the Attic was out, and I had no interest at all in seeing it. However, I didn’t pick the movie, she did.

The closest theater was at the mall, and since we’re talking the 80s, the mall was the place to go. My father dropped me off, I got my ticket, and since I had a lot of time on my hands, I promptly went to the bookstore. (I loved that bookstore, and was sad to see it close.) So I’m looking at books, seeing a couple that caught my eye (the Courts of Chaos by Roger Zelazny had a distinctive cover, and I went back and bought it as soon as I could), when this tall woman came up to me and asked if I were Steven.

When I say “woman,” that’s how she looked to me: tall, pretty, older than myself, thick, wearing a jacket (it was cold in NY), a skirt, and black fishnets. Yowza! She introduced herself as the third party on the phone, and that the second party was at the theater. I said I already had my ticket, so we were off to the races.

Remember that I said she was tall, right? Around six feet. And thick. Not fat—not fat at all, but had everything in all the right places. She shoots off into the crowd! Not as fast as my ex, but fast enough. Faster than most people walk. I shrugged my shoulders and followed her. She kept looking back to see if I was there, and whereas I’d usually be looking down at her derriere (because I’m male), I was actually scanning the crowd, seeing where she was going to dip and if I had enough space and time to follow her, or if I was going to have to go in a slightly different way. I was on her heels the entire time, though. After she looked back a couple of times and saw me there, she put on even more speed! I still kept up easily.

We finally get to the movies, I meet the second party (can you tell she was VERY shy?), we talk before the movie starts and after the movie ends, and we don’t talk anymore after that. (The second party thought me ugly, the third party thought me handsome, so the third party and I started talking. She was a junior in high school.)

After I got home from the movies (no, I didn’t enjoy the movie at all—the second party didn’t want to sit with me, but the third party did. My thoughts on the second party? Not cute. I didn’t miss her. Hey! I was a teenager.) the phone rings. It’s for me, and it’s the third party, telling me that the second party wouldn’t be calling anymore because she thought I was ugly (no, she didn’t say “ugly” at first. I had to coax that out of her), but she thought the second party was crazy. She was also surprised at how fast I walked, because she thought she might lose me in the crowd, but when she looked back and saw me there, she started walking at her regular pace.

Why did I tell that story? Well, it has two “chase” scenes in it, and is much more interesting than what we’ve read so far.

PAGE THREE (six panels)

Panel 1. POV of the lawman, we see the thief turn towards us in fear. He is only a few yards away.

NO COPY

Panel 2. Slightly below eye level. We are now to the right side of the thief, who is facing toward the right of the panel. It is a full body shot. He is pacing backwards slowly, with the one arm extended in front of him like a shield. Behind his feet is a pile of litter in a small puddle of water. In the background crates and barrels are stacked against a wall. There is a cat that is leaping from one barrel down to another.(Where is the stolen bread? Did he drop it?) (Moving panel. Felix! You’re up.)

1. THIEF(whisper): PLEASE. NO.

Panel 3. From the same angle. The thief loses his footing in the puddle of water and begins to fall backwards. The loaf of bread flies up in the air in front of him. In the background the cat leaps from the barrel on to the ground.

NO COPY

Panel 4. POV of the lawman. We look down at the thief as he falls into the puddle in front of us. The cat is dashing in front of us chasing a mouse.

2. SFX: SPLUUUSH(This is too much sound for that action.)

Panel 5. Reverse angle. A large panel. From a very low angle just a foot or two behind the head of the thief we look up at the lawman. The thief is on the bottom left foreground of the panel. The law man is in the mid-ground on the mid-right. The thief’s hand extends out towards the lawman pleading. The lawman looks down at the thief. The lawman looks stolid and resolute. The lawman is putting the nightstick under his left arm. In the background, the cat has caught the mouse and is holding it between its paws.(That nightstick? Like the bread, it appears and disappears at will. Is that cat important?)

3. THIEF: MERCY! PLEASE, MERCY…

4. LAWMAN: MERCY, THIEF?

5. LAWMAN: YOU HAVE BROKEN ONE OF THE TEN MOST SACRED OF LAWS–

Panel 6. Fairly small panel. Zoomed in fairly close. Cut to the cat. It is eating the mouse.

6. LAWMAN (OP): –FOR WHICH THERE IS ONLY ONE FITTING PUNISHMENT.

(You really need to try and be more succinct. I am having a really hard time following these descriptions. Also, I don’t find the way you are organizing the information in your descriptions to be very effective. Don’t just throw ideas out, work through the description intentionally. Set up the shot, then tell us all about one character, then the other, then additional action. Try combining sentences, right now you have a lot of simple sentences stacked up together, and it’s difficult to parse out when you have finished talking about one subject.

Here’s an example:

The lawman looks down at the thief. The lawman looks stolid and resolute. The lawman is putting the nightstick under his left arm.

Consider this instead:

Looking down at the the thief, the lawman’s expression is stolid and resolute as he puts the nightstick under his left arm.

One sentence, the lawman is clearly the subject of the entire thing. I think that is easier to follow, maybe it’s just me.)(It’s not just you, but then again, I’m used to “choppy.”)

P3, and you know what’s happened?

I think my care left.

P1 is the start of a chase.

P2 is padding.

P3 is more padding, to be honest. What you did in six panels could have been done in three. Maybe four. Six, however, is overkill.

And there’s still no real dialogue. It’s P3, and do you know what we have? Ineffective dialogue that’s trying to hard to get the reader to turn the page and keep us reading. How do I know that it’s trying too hard? Because you tried for the page-turn cliffhanger, but because this is the most said on any page so far, with a hint of mystery to get the reader to turn the page to see what the guy is talking about, it’s obvious what you’re doing. It sticks out like a sore thumb.

This is not film.

In film, you can start out with a mostly-silent chase scene. You won’t be switching angles as much, but you can get away with it, because film moves fast.

When you add a lot of panels, you slow the pace down.

Three pages, 21 panels. That’s a lot of panels for a chase scene. It really should have been half of that. That’s still a lot, but as long as you have a beginning, middle, and end of the chase, it should be fine. The caveat, of course, is that it’s interesting.

You’re trying to force interest at the very end of this page. It doesn’t work. We’re tired, because you took too long to get there. Because we’re tired, we don’t care. All we want is a drink of water and to sit down for a bit. Barring that, we want to read something interesting.

So far, Sam and I are the most interesting things about this piece.

PAGE FOUR (seven panels)

Panel 1. POV of the thief. Cut to the lawman.(‘Cut to’ is killing me.)(Screenwriting speak.) Full figure shot. He is straightening the cuffs around one of his wrists.

1. LAWMAN: YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE RUN.

2. LAWMAN: INEVITABLY, THE LORD WILL BRING EVERY DEED INTO JUDGEMENT.

Panel 2. Zoom in on the lawman. From the waist up. He looks directly into the reader’s eyes. His face is cold and emotionless. The lawman reaches into his chest pocket with one hand, and begins to unholster his pistol with the other.(First time pistol is mentioned, and you don’t tell us where the holster is, if it is visible during the entire chase, under his coat, which side it is on, etc.)

3. LAWMAN: WHETHER GOOD OR EVIL(ending punctuation)

Panel 3. Same angle. The lawman pours a powder measure into the barrel of the pistol. He does not break eye contact.(Now you are not giving enough information. I am assuming he took the vessel containing the powder from his pocket? What is it? How is he holding the pistol, what position?)

4. LAWMAN: AND FROM HIS EYES THERE WILL BE NO SHELTER(ending punctuation)

Panel 4. Same angle. The lawman drops a lead ball and cloth patch into the barrel, still not breaking eye contact.(This feels like a moving panel, is he about to drop the lead ball in, or has he just done so? How can we make it out?)

5. LAWMAN: NO SECRETS(ending punctuation)

Panel 5. Same angle. The lawman pushes a ramrod down the barrel, still not breaking eye contact.(Where did the ramrod come from? Or the lead ball in the previous panel, for that matter?)

6. LAWMAN: FOR HIS ACUITY IS UNBLEMISHED(ending punctuation)

Panel 6. Cut to the side of the pistol and the lawman’s hand. Close up. The lawman cocks the pistol.

7. LAWMAN(whisper): AND HIS WILL–

8. SFX: Click!

Panel 7. A wide shot. Zoom out. POV of the thief. We look up at the menacing face of the lawman and down the barrel of the pistol.

9. LAWMAN(whisper): —ABSOLUTE.

(There are a lot of accessories required for this whole shooting an unarmed thief with a flintlock pistol thing. How is he juggling them all without putting something back in his pocket? Or looking at what he is doing? Wouldn’t his pistol be loaded if he was on patrol? If it is clear that the gun is not loaded, why doesn’t the thief knock him down and run? (I was hoping she’d get to this.) Why does he just sit frozen while the lawman gives his Jonathan-Edwards-as-a-Batman-villain speech? You’re losing me.)

It’s P4, and we’re circling the “crap” drain. Interest has already gone down it.

There’s the fact that the cop wears a gun, but flintlocks take a long time to load. Modern guns? Load, cock, and you’re ready to rock. Flintlock? Not a weapon to be used in an emergency. Sure, one can be loaded in about 30 seconds or so, but I can pull a knife and be within striking distance well before you can load the weapon—or reload it if you miss.

Punctuation.

Here’s my position: I’ve said a lot of words about punctuation. I’ve said a ton of words on it. I have no idea how anyone can call themselves a writer and not put in ending punctuation. Comma’s? I can understand that (barely). But ending punctuation? That I can’t understand at all.

Comic book punctuation isn’t that much different from prose. Ending punctuation should never be a problem, because something has to end a sentence. I just don’t get it.

Color me extremely disappointed. I can’t even build up a righteous annoyance right now. That’s how tired I am of saying the same thing over and over. I’m just disappointed and tired.

Let’s move on.

Any person who lies on the ground while someone spouts off and takes their time to load a gun deserves to be shot.

Actually, I’m thinking that all of us need to be put out of our misery. Who’s got the whiskey?

PAGE FIVE (five panels)

Panel 1. Wideshot. The panel extends from the left to the right of the page. Profile view of the lawman and the thief. The lawman points the pistol down on the thief, who cowers in fear on his back. (No. Alyssa, tell me why.)

1. LAWMAN: DO YOU WISH TO REPENT BEFORE I RELIEVE YOU OF YOUR GUILT?

Panel 2. Same size panel. The same angle. The lawman stands unwavering with his pistol still pointed at the thief. The thief holds his palms out, pleading.

2. THIEF(whisper): FORGIVE ME, FOR I HAVE SINNED…

3. THIEF: BUT WHO AMONG US HAS NOT?

4. THIEF: HAS NOT THE LORD ALSO SAID, “LET HE WITHOUT SIN BE FIRST TO CAST THE STONE”?

Panel 3. Same size panel. The same angle. The lawman stands unwavering. Pointing his pistol at the thief.

NO COPY

Panel 4. Same size panel. The same angle. The lawman is no longer pointing the pistol at the thief. His elbow is bent and the gun faces toward the sky. (Remember the lead ball would fall out of the barrel if he actually lowers the gun.)

5. LAWMAN: YOU ARE RIGHT, THIEF.

6. LAWMAN: OF ALL THE MEN WHO HAVE WALKED THE EARTH, ONLY ONE HAS NEVER BROKEN THE WILL OF THE LORD.

Panel 5. Low angle. POV of the thief. The lawman looks pensive. He plays with his wrist cuffs of the hand holding the pistol.

  1. LAWMAN: I HAVE A STORY TO TELL…

(I am not sure that this requires an entire page. I realize you are trying to get the turn to fall on the right page, but you may be padding in an effort to do so.)(“May be” she says. This is why people love her, folks. She’s so kind-hearted.)

P5, and I think my brain is going numb.

We’ve got padding! We’ve got disinterest! We’ve got a guy who doesn’t care about his life! We’ve got religion! We’ve got science (the gun)!

Simple fact: no one cares.

In reading the dialogue, I felt my heart rate lower dangerously. It’s anemic. And it’s padding.

Where’s the story? Where’s the thing that’s going to keep readers turning pages? It’s P5, there’s nothing of any real interest going on, and I find my mind wandering off to the salad days of kitten kicking and stealing canes from the elderly. Where’s the zip? Where’s the story?

And why are these people whispering? What does the whisper have to do with anything?

And where’s the baker? They stopped after one page of the chase. (If I had stopped after one page, we wouldn’t have a column, but there are times when I think I should have…) Enough time has passed that he should be able to find them.

Again, this is circling the drain of crap. It isn’t there yet, but it’s close.

PAGE SIX (eight panels)

Panel 1. Match cut to the lawman as young man in his early twenties. Same exact angle as the previous panel. The lawman no longer has a scar or the sideburns. He looks much more attractive. He is still wearing a peacoat but not a top hat. He stands in a similar pose, but his hand is outstretched, helpfully to the reader. He is smiling brightly. We are no longer in an alleyway, but on a main road. Behind him is the market we saw earlier. The town, itself, also looks younger, cleaner, and more attractive. It doesn’t look as impoverished. In the background we see the cathedral is mostly finished, however the bell-tower is not complete. Some builders on scaffolds are working on the tower. It is midday in late spring. The sky is clear and bright.

1. CAP-LAWMAN: (quotation marks)LIKE MANY STORIES THAT HAVE, AND HAVE YET, TO BE TOLD–(close quotes)

2. LAWMAN: THAT WAS QUITE A SPILL. ARE YOU ALRIGHT?

Panel 2. Over the shoulder of the lawman, we look down at a beautiful young woman, HELEN, who had fallen down. She takes the lawman’s hand.(What is her expression like?)

3. CAP-LAWMAN: (quotes)–IT IS ABOUT A GIRL.(quotes)

4. LAWMAN: IT’S NOT OFTEN I SEE A WOMAN RUNNING SO RECKLESSLY THROUGH THE STREETS.

5. HELEN: IT’S NOT OFTEN I AM ROBBED.

Panel 3. Profile view. The lawman pulls Helen to her feet. They face each other.

6. LAWMAN: AND PRAY TELL, WHAT WAS IT YOU WERE ROBBED OF?

7. HELEN:` WELL IF YOU MUST KNOW, IT WAS A BLACK BUN.

Panel 4. Over the shoulder of Helen. Cut to the lawman’s face. Close up. He is hiding a chuckle with his fist.

8. LAWMAN: ALL THAT TROUBLE FOR A SINGLE PASTRY?

Panel 5. Reverse angle. Over the shoulder of lawman. Medium shot. Helen is straightening out her dress.

9. LAWMAN: THE HELL FURY I SAW IN YOUR EYES, WHEN YOU RAN INTO ME, HAD ME BELIEVE THE CRIME WAS FAR GREATER.

Panel 6. Profile view of both the lawman and Helen. Medium shot. Full figure. Helen pushes her index finger against the lawman’s chest accusingly.

10. HELEN: PERHAPS I WOULD NOT HAVE HAD TO CHASE HIM IF YOU HAD PERFORMED YOUR DUTY.

11. LAWMAN: PERHAPS, BUT DID SUCH A MINOR TRANSGRESSION WARRANT SO MUCH OF YOUR WRATH?

Panel 7. POV of Helen. The lawman smiles and gestures matter-of-factly.(What does a matter-of-fact gesture look like?)

12. LAWMAN: BESIDES, THE BEAUTIFUL WOMAN GALLOPING TOWARD ME MAY HAVE CAUSED ME SOME DISTRACTION.

13. LAWMAN: BUT IF YOU ARE SO CERTAIN I SHARE FAULT, MAYBE YOU SHOULD ALLOW ME TO RECOMPENSE YOU.

Panel 8. POV of the lawman. Close up of Helen. She smiles at him.

14. HELEN: MAYBE YOU SHOULD.

P6.

 

I don’t have the words. I really, really don’t.

 

Follow me, now.

 

A thief steals some bread. Gets chased into an alley. Falls down. A guy pulls a gun on him, berates him with religious claptrap as the gun is loaded, and the cop points the gun at the guy, who has the sudden inspiration to throw religion back at the cop. The cop then goes into a friggin flashback! And he does it while posing!

 

I’m stopping here. This has stopped circling the drain and has officially become crap. Sam went to P9, but really, there’s nothing else to say here. It all becomes the same thing being said: no story, add quotation marks, blah blah blah.

 

Let’s run it down.

 

Format: Flawless Victory!

 

Panel Descriptions: Too long most of the time, leading to confusion. Learn to write in more complex sentences that can still get to the point. We read comics from left to right, so you should always strive to write the panels from left to right. If you start in the middle, you could cause confusion due to a lack of clarity.

 

There’s also a problem that happens when you just start writing without really seeing. Alyssa is going to explain what I’m talking about (after she picks herself off the floor), because there’s a perfect example of it that I asked her to explain. If she misses it, it’ll be open to anyone who wants a shot before I explain.

 

Get to the point, leaving out extraneous info. That cat? What is its purpose? It’s just hanging out, not doing anything. (And I’m not going to subject myself to more of this to see if it has any bearing on the story.) That cat would be extraneous.

 

Pacing: This is where you fail.

 

Four pages of nothing (a chase and a fall), then someone pulls a gun while trying to be high and mighty, and then we go into a flashback.

 

Where’s the story?

 

Story happens in the pacing. Why are we following all of this? Where’s the even smallest of payoffs that will keep the reader turning pages.

 

Most of this is padding. Six pages, and it should have been done in three.

 

Dialogue: Most of it is numbing. I mean, if I were smashed with a piano after reading P5, I don’t think I would have felt it. It’s a great anesthetic.

 

Dialogue is supposed to do two things, hopefully, at the same time. It is supposed to move the plot along, and reveal character.

 

P1, the baker is alerting the citizenry there is a thief among them. That moves the plot along. The thief gets caught, begs for mercy. Why? He never gives a reason as to why he wants the mercy. He just wants it. Why did he steal the bread? That could have come across in the dialogue. Instead, we get an ineffective plea for mercy. Useless.

 

The cop shows he’s a high falutin’ hardcase. That reveals character. The thief, thinking quickly on his backside, tries to get the mercy he’s asking for. That reveals some character.

 

The cop goes into storytelling mode… Why? I don’t know. I wouldn’t call it revealing character, and it certainly doesn’t seem to move the plot along.

 

None of P6 moves the plot along. All of it reveals character.

 

As you can see, this is lopsided.

 

That’s just a plot/character analysis. As to the things that are actually said? Some of it makes me want to drop-kick a koala, especially that transition into the flashback. It was mostly very trite, and extremely unoriginal. Anyone who didn’t see the thief was going to say “cast the first stone” wasn’t paying attention. Not good.

 

Voice-over captions need to have quotation marks in them. It shows that someone is talking. Otherwise, it’s either an internal monologue, or it’s an omniscient narrator.

 

Content: There’s no hint of a story here. Six pages in, and my skull is on the mantle as I type this, because I’m bored out of it. As a reader, I’d be severely disappointed, because there’s no hint of a story anywhere in here. Just unoriginal writing that dips into being crap.

 

Editorially, this needs a conversation before getting a rewrite. I’d want to know what the purpose of the story is, and then I could give some guidance as to how to achieve the goal. Right now, though, since I can’t even glean what the story is supposed to be about after six pages, I can’t give any real direction besides “try again, this time with story.” Not very helpful, right? That’s why the conversation.

 

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

 

Like what you see? Sam and I are available for your editing needs. You can email 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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