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TPG Week 206: A Decent, Short Entry

| December 5, 2014

TPGFeatured_08

 

Welcome back, one and all, to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a Brave One who’s no stranger here: Frank Martin. I’m going to be going it alone this week–Liam had some personal things to take care of. So I’m here, all by my lonesome. It’ll be fine. Frank and I, mano a mano, or, if I were The Tick, braino a braino. Let’s see how Frank deals with a

Deadlock (3 pages)

 

Note: This story is of a typical, cliché Mexican standoff in a classic old Western town. There are five characters involved. The layout of the standoff is as follows.

 

BUILDINGSBUILDINGSBUILDINGS

 

SHERIFF

/ \

 

OUTLAW — — PARTNER

|

 

\ | |

BH — LOVER

 

BUILDINGSBUILDINGSBUILDINGS

 

 

> = aiming at

 

Outlaw > Partner

Sherriff > Outlaw and Partner

Partner > Outlaw and Lover

Bounty Hunter > Sheriff and Outlaw

Lover > Partner and Bounty Hunter

 

 

Page 1 (6 Panels)

 

Panel 1

A medium angled shot of an Old Western OUTLAW stoically and calmly holding a scuffed up and old revolver straight out with his right hand. His dirty poncho and cowboy hat look rugged and torn. The desolate desert of nothingness is behind him, but at the right edge of the panel we can see the end of the small, typical Western town he’s in. (Time of day? I can see this, but I don’t know the time of day.)

 

OUTLAW (caption)

People often forget the forces that control this world.

 

Panel 2

Same angle as the previous panel except it is now pulled out way further and located behind the BOUNTY HUNTER, who is aiming a clean and shiny revolver in the outlaw’s direction. The bounty hunter’s other hand (his right) also holds a gun out at a 45-degree angle towards someone off panel. The outlaw is looking straight ahead, though, in the direction of where his own gun is pointed off panel and not at the bounty hunter. From what we can see of the bounty hunter’s head, he looks clean-shaven with a manicured haircut.

 

OUTLAW (caption)

They get comfortable.

 

OUTLAW (caption)

Dull.

 

OUTLAW (caption)

Lazy, even. (Comma.)

 

Panel 3

Flip the previous panel around to a medium, head on shot of the bounty hunter. His other gun (the one not pointed at the outlaw) is pointed straight at us. The bounty hunter’s outfit is clean, pristine and expensive, like that of a gentlemen from the era. He has a cocky smirk on his face and more of the Old West town is revealed behind him. (Back-to-back panels of the bounty hunter? Uninteresting.)

 

OUTLAW (caption)

I’m just as guilty of it as anyone.

 

OUTLAW (caption)

You get so caught up in the drama…

 

OUTLAW (caption)

…you forget what really matters.

 

Panel 4

Similar to what panel 2 did to 1, the previous panel is now pulled back from the same angle to see where the bounty hunter is aiming the gun. We are behind the SHERIFF and looking at his point of view over his iconic sheriff’s hat. Only the right half of his body is in the panel, where his head is looking over his right arm holding out a pistol appropriate for the era at the outlaw. In the distance we can see the bounty hunter holding his weapons out at both the sheriff and the outlaw.

 

OUTLAW (caption)

But every once in a while…

 

OUTLAW (caption)

…chance reminds us what it means to be alive.

 

Panel 5

Similar to the previous panel except now we see the Sheriff’s left side. His head is looking left out over his left arm which also holds a similar pistol at the PARTNER, another dirty outlaw, grizzly, unkempt and ragged with a bandana around his neck and a bushy mustache under his nose. While sneering his teeth like an animal, the partner is holding two revolvers of his own. One is pointed dead ahead of him, which is at the outlaw off panel. The other is pointed at the LOVER positioned further back in the panel. She is a high class woman in an elaborate, fancy dress and hat completely out of place for the scene. She is also holding two small pistols of her own: one pointed at the partner and one at the bounty hunter off panel to her left.

 

OUTLAW (caption)

It’s not money.

 

OUTLAW (caption)

Or women. Or honor.

 

OUTLAW (caption)

It’s this.

 

Panel 6

Mirroring the position of panel 1, the angle of the previous is now zoomed in to give a medium close up of the partner, where we can see him in all his dirty, no-good, rotten scoundrel glory. Through the grime covering his face we can see that one of his sneering teeth is gold. He is in the same position as the previous panel, both arms out holding old revolvers. Behind him the opposite edge of the small town is revealed on the right side of the panel. The only difference in the characters’ stance between this panel and panel 1 is that the partner’s other hand (his left) also holds out a revolver towards the lover. We can see her at the edge of the panel in the same stance she was in before.

 

OUTLAW (caption)

Life and death.

 

We finally have P1 on the books. Seems like forever, right?

 

This is boring, and not the best use of space, especially since you have two shots of the bounty hunter, back to back. There’s an easier way to do this without being boring.

 

I want someone new to give me their idea as to what would be easier for this page. Someone who isn’t Schuyler, Alyssa, or Felix/Sam. An easier way to do this entire page. It’s there, folks. Just think it through. (And I’m purposely un-picking on Schuyler, Alyssa and Felix in order to get some new voices in here.)

 

I’m not sold on the “old west” setting. I’d be happier if there were a year given, or at least a general timeframe. It’s a bit lazy, saying “old west.” How far west are we talking? Usually when we say “old west”, we’re really talking the Midwest, and it’s about 100 years ago. Something to think about.

 

The next thing that gets me is the laziness of the guns. Any artist worth their salt is going to need to know what type of gun you’re talking about, so they can research the look of it. Saying “gun” is extremely generic. These will be revolvers, and the “lover’s” gun will more than likely be a Derringer. So, research on your part is needed in order to make the artists’ job easier.

 

An aside—I have a metric shit-ton of information in my head, just swirling around. I do a decent amount of reading on anything that catches my fancy, and I watch a lot of different types of movies and shows. Sure, I absolutely love my b/w horror and sci-fi movies, but I’ve seen a lot of other things as well. Pawn Stars, Ancient Aliens, Monster Hunters, This Old House, Food Network, Restaurant Impossible, Travel Channel…and that just starts to scratch the surface. While watching Turner Classic Movies, I love the extra information that Robert Osborne and Ben Mankowitz give when they introduce movies. Then I get sent off into different rabbit holes and warrens as I look up all kinds of information that interest me.

 

All of that is in addition to the various jobs I’ve held, which has given me a wealth of experience to draw on. I’ve worked in a grocery store, I’ve held various jobs as a Marine (learning how to shoot a rifle, revolver, and pistol; survive, fight in a war, be a follower of instructions as well as a leader of men, be a desk jockey, and more), been a security guard, administrative assistant, play-tested video games, worked as an insurance claims agent, as a car salesman, not forgetting my present (and hopefully final) job as a public safety dispatcher (911).

 

Experience and information, in copious amounts. And I’m not that smart.

 

I say all of that to say that the experience and information inform my storytelling and editing abilities.

 

Writing needs a decent amount of research in order to give the authenticity a story needs. This authenticity will help the creative team to weave a believable tale.

 

It’s only P1, I know, but I’m not feeling the authenticity here. It’s generic, and aside from being generic, the dialogue makes it feel very modern. It doesn’t feel “old west” to me. There’s no real cadence, or the simplification of the complicated way people used to speak then. If you watch movies for that timeframe or read (good) books for that timeframe, people used to speak in a different way. More highbrow, and for the “old west”, there was a feeling of a simplification of the highbrow speech patterns. Read Dracula. The character of Quincey Morris is a Texan. You can get an inkling of speech patterns of the time from there. (And you’ll also be reading a classic.)

 

Okay. Enough. P1. Let’s see what P2 does. (And don’t think I forgot to speak about the dialogue. I’m waiting to see something.)

Page 2 (4 panels)

 

Note: This is a flashback page. Each panel depicts a scene that previously happened in a story. This could be represented by the border of the panels being wavy. In addition, the focus in each panel will be the outlaw and another character from the standoff. To express this, the characters should be in color while the background/surroundings should be in black and white.

 

Panel 1

A side shot of an old Wild West bank robbery. The outlaw and the partner stand in center of the room. Each one is holding a bag of money in one hand and their guns out with the other, aiming at a group of bank tellers.

 

OUTLAW (caption)

I know the reasons why we’re here. What brought us to this moment in time. (This dialogue? Not my idea of a good time.)

 

Panel 2

Another side shot from inside an old West jail cell. The outlaw is standing pissed off at the bars while the sheriff is in the process of locking the door.

 

OUTLAW (caption)

But the how doesn’t matter anymore.

 

OUTLAW (caption)

If it ever did to begin with.

 

Panel 3

A head on close up of the outlaw riding his horse fast through the desert. Over his shoulder we can see the bounty hunter chasing him on his own horse.

 

OUTLAW (caption)

We are all separate. Each one of us took our own path to get here.

 

OUTLAW (caption)

But now the thread of life has been weaved between us.

 

Panel 4

A side shot of the outlaw kissing the lover while on top of her in a generic Old West hotel bedroom. They are lying in bed, both wearing undergarments.

 

OUTLAW (caption)

Each individual controls the fate of all.

 

OUTLAW (caption)

And for better or worse…

 

P2, and I’m not that interested in the story. There’s nothing here to grab me.

 

I will say that I like the idea of making the characters stand out by using color in an otherwise b/w panel. I think it would be better, though, if there were more people in the panels. Having more people in b/w will make the “coloreds” (heh) pop. I like it.

 

I’m still not grabbed by the dialogue, though.

 

What’s not coming through, for me, is the story. What is this about? Why am I reading this? What merit does this story have in being told? I’m not getting that yet. What I have is one of these five characters attempting to wax poetic about something. Does it tell us what the story’s about? Not yet.

 

Some guys rob a bank, get caught, somehow escape, get chased, and then one of them finds time to get laid, and now are in a variation of a Mexican standoff. Where’s the interesting part? Where’s the hook? What’s the theme? I’m not getting it yet. (And remember, I’m not that smart.)

Page 3 (5 Panels)

 

Panel 1

A straight on overhead shot of the standoff (see the layout at the beginning of the script for the exact character positions).

 

OUTLAW (caption)

…our ends are now bound as one.

 

Panel 2

An extreme close-up of the outlaw’s angry eyes. His eyebrows are scrunched together as if his dirty, grimy face is filled with a vicious hatred.

 

OUTLAW (caption)

Yet even knowing that…

 

OUTLAW (caption)

…I still can’t let go of how pissed I am.

 

Panel 3

A wide shot from well behind and slightly above the outlaw, seeing his point of view of the entire standoff.

 

OUTLAW (caption)

I’m here simply because a no good, two-timing, cheat ripped me off. (Ah. Something of an explanation.)

 

OUTLAW (caption)

Screw everyone else.

 

Panel 4

Similar to the previous panel, the “camera” is still behind the outlaw seeing his point of view, except now its zoomed in closer and positioned over the outlaw’s shoulder as he’s now focused in on just the one man he’s pointing his revolver at: the partner.

 

OUTLAW (caption)

I just want one man’s blood.

 

Panel 5

An identical panel to the first of the story, except now a shot is being fired from the outlaw’s revolver and his face is no longer stoically calm but filled with rage and anger.

 

OUTLAW (caption)

So fuck it.

 

SFX

Bang!

 

P3.

 

Short, but finally worthwhile. Let’s run ‘er down.

 

Format: Flawless Victory. (I wouldn’t have expected anything else.)

 

Panel Descriptions: P1 was tedious. I think that has to deal more with an inefficient storytelling mechanic than with anything wrong with the panel descriptions themselves.

 

No moving panels, thoughtful depictions, and a good P2 when it comes to making an impact on the reader. I have only good things to say about the panel descriptions, except for doing more research to get a better feel for the timeframe. Mode of dress, style of weapons…these things help.

 

Pacing: Three pages, and they’re pretty tight. There’s no fat here. (We’ll talk about the slight could-be-exception to that in a little while.) But, really, there’s no waste here. (P1 can be done differently, but I’m waiting on someone new to give ideas. As it is, there’s no fat here, but done a little differently, there’s a panel or two to cut.)

 

Dialogue: This is the biggest problem with the piece. It doesn’t feel authentic to me.

 

Neal Stephenson. I read his book, Cryptonomicon (I got to about page 300 two times before putting it down because it felt like the book wasn’t moving, finally getting through it and not being able to put it down—read it, when you get a chance), and it led me to his tour-de-force, The Baroque Cycle. Set in the 17th and 18th centuries, this set of books are a masterclass in the use of language, and dialogue.

 

Want realistic (and sometimes hilarious) dialogue from a different era? Read the Baroque Cycle. (Warning: it’s sometimes a slog to get through.) The dialogue in this piece is unrealistic to me. It sounds very modern, and doesn’t have a cadence that I can get behind.

 

And then there’s the fact that there isn’t one word actually spoken in the entire piece. It’s all captions. That bothers me. I don’t want to be told the story, I want to discover it as the characters are. (This is a personal choice, and doesn’t have any real bearing on the story.) I would rather have had at least the last line be spoken. (Again, this is a personal choice.) I think it would have made a better impact.

 

Content: As a reader, this is okay. Not great, but definitely not bad.

 

Editorially, there’s a question I’d ask: why is the woman there? Besides to break up the sausage party, I don’t think she has a real reason to be there. The outlaw? Yes. The partner, yes. The sheriff, no (more than likely out of his jurisdiction). The bounty hunter, yes (and needs to be somehow identified as such). The woman? No. She doesn’t belong. She sticks out like a sore thumb.

 

The story is sound-ish. I would remove the sheriff and the woman, and add a show of the treachery and how it was found out. Show, not tell. I think that would go a long way to making this a much more sound story. That, and getting actual dialogue in there.

 

Otherwise, it’s a good tale. It doesn’t take too long to get there, and that’s always a joy to behold.

 

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

 

Like what you see? Sam, Liam and I are available for your editing needs.

 

You can email Sam here and Liam 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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