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TPG Week 208: Wordiness Is Next To Confusion-ness

| December 19, 2014

TPGFeatured_08

Hello, all, and welcome back to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a new Brave One in Rin Kiyoko. I’m alone this week, so there’s no one else to blame for missing stuff. It’s all on me. Rin and I, locked in mortal(ish) combat of right vs crazy, good vs lazy, badass vs no-ass… Enough, let’s see how Rin handles

Eblis O’Shaughnessy # 1 – Cap and Boot

Okay, folks. First things first. Usually, I’m not one to disparage the use of a particular font. Most of the time, fonts don’t bother me. Font size will drive me crazy, but fonts generally won’t. However, since becoming an editor and learning things about lettering, I’ve come to become disparaging of one font in particular. It’s the same font that Rin used: comic sans. Comic sans is terrible for a variety of reasons: horrible kerning, some letters are just badly formed, some letters lean left and others lean right, leaving gaps within words that will turn anyone’s brain who’s into calligraphy into mush.

When you are doing your practice lettering of comics, never, ever, ever EVER use comic sans. Not if you’re going to show it to people. There are tons of free fonts out there. Nate Piekos of Blambot gives out free fonts (as well as paid ones). Go check them out, download to your heart’s content, and pay for some. (For those of you who don’t know, Nate has lettered more than his fair share of comics from Marvel to DC to Dark Horse and more. Unless the letterer has created their own fonts, you’re probably seeing his work in Image books, and most self-published work. Nate knows his stuff. He’s also a member of Digital Webbing.)

Enough font-shaming. Let’s get into it.

Page 1 (5 panels)

1.1 (See this numbering? I like it. It instantly tells the entire team where they’re at: page 1, panel 1. Do I use it myself? No. But it isn’t wrong in any way.)

Long shot of the burnt-out ruins of a cobbled, stone building. The roof is missing and the walls at their highest only reach knee-high. It could house thirty plus people, but only six figures are present, spaced far apart from each other. We’re too far away for precise details, but from their postures: a 7’ tall menhir is being carried on a stooped-over golem’s back, being moved towards panel right; the two teens slump exhausted against the walls; the woman sits on a box in the centre, calling towards panel left. There’s a silver glow between her hands, which are held in front of her chest. The undertaker’s hands are clasped at the small of his back as he stares into the background where yellow paths wind, meet and diverge across a scorched black lawn, and smoke rises from the embers and coals of what once was a hedge maze. The Fi’null encroaches off the right of the panel. It is daytime. The sky is grey. NOTE: I’m deliberately not naming 5/6s of these characters and I’d like the art reflect that “mystery” – avoid full facial reveals, choose angles that hide as much of their faces as they reveal, use shadow, glare, perspective and other characters to obscure and hide things. This does not apply to the Fi’null. (Long-winded. Okay, I have no real problem with this being long-winded, because everything given is useful. However, there are some things I’d change. The first thing is to place the time of day much closer to the beginning of the description. The reason for that is simple: it sets the time of day right away, so the mind is properly set. The second thing I’d do is change it from day to night. The reason for that is simple, too: calling for a long shot doesn’t do much to hide shapes during the daytime, especially when there’s nothing to cast shadows. Because the time of day came so late, I was seeing everything in shadow already because nothing was distinct. Third, I absolutely hate hate HATE lens flare. I hate it with a passion, because it is very often overused by new colorists. When editing The Standard, I had to tell the colorist to kill all the lens flares because they were unnecessary. They quite often are. Calling for flares will only cause my blood pressure to rise. The last time I saw a good lens flare was in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek. Take that as you will. Lastly, I don’t recommend keeping the artist in the dark. They have to know who they’re drawing, even if they’re only going to be in silhouette. Let’s say these were superheroes in silhouette. Captain America has a much different body shape than Spider-Man, who has a much different shape from Luke Cage. Mystery is for the reader, not for the creative team.)

CAPTION (EDITORIAL):

This story takes place during The Sandman 70 – 72. (This caption, calling it an editorial, I don’t have a problem with. Not at all. It tells the letterer exactly what’s going on. Do all captions need to be labelled? Nope. Not if it’s an internal monologue or an omniscient narrator. But if it’s a voice-over? Definitely.)

WOMAN:

Hey, guys! I have it!

1.2

The woman sits on a cardboard box with her front towards the reader, using her left hand to pull one of the strings of what looks like a hammock-configuration cat’s cradle (see Ref 1 on attached Visual Ref doc) floating above her right hand. The “hammock” is as large as her torso and made of luminous silver energy that casts a glow / shadows over her. The string she pulls is much brighter than all the others, and instead of bending, it is being opened like a scroll. Her posture should suggest effort and energy is being exerted – muscles straining, fingers curled into rigid claws, feet braced rather than resting on the floor, taut mouth.

NO COPY

1.3

Elevated view over the woman’s shoulder at the opened string, which her left hand has pulled into a projector screen shape. At the left edge of this screen is Despair’s naked back and buttocks, and Desire’s puffy sleeve. (See Ref 2 on the attached doc.) In the centre of the screen, Destiny stands in front of some stone steps, reading from his book. Delirium stands on the steps, leaning over his shoulder to look down at his book. The rest of the cat’s cradle is starting to fade. Watching the screen, coloured chiaroscuro from the glare a la Sin City, from left to right: the undertaker, standing perpendicular to the woman’s left shoulder; the black teen, then the Chinese teen stare over the woman’s left / right shoulders, respectively; the golem at panel right.

DESPAIR:

And where do we find an envoy?

GOLEM:

What are we looking at?

WOMAN:

The prelude to a building.

1.4

Side-on view of the undertaker as leans over from panel left to peer at the screen from close range. We cannot see much of his face due to glare (GAH!), but he’s impressed. The screen takes up most of the panel; on it, Delirium holds a handful of black-veined mud. (See Ref 3 on the attached.) Note: the screen can now hover unsupported, and the other strings have nearly faded from view.

UNDERTAKER:

That’s Litharge, isn’t it? How has your espionage overcome the protections around the Necropolis?

DELIRIUM:

We don’t find one, silly-old-lady-sister… We make one. (I’ve read most of the Sandman. I’ll get around to re-reading them, eventually. However, I remember two things. The first is that Delirium wasn’t too coherent most of the time, and the second is that her balloons and font reflected her craziness. That note should be somewhere for the letterer, methinks.)

WOMAN (OP):

With a dead Endless on our hands, the rules are in flux. Some protections can be hooped around until the universe recovers. Besides. I have help. (I wouldn’t keep the last four words in this balloon. I’d combine them into one sentence, and break them out into their own balloon.)

1.5

The Fi’null’s hand encroaches from panel left. It is mid-shove. The undertaker falls towards panel right, his mouth startled, arms outstretched. He has been shoved. The screen is again the central image, although the undertaker will cover most up some of the image of Delirium, kowtowed as she slaps the first handful of mud to the base of an upright stick that Destiny leans into the ground. The other strings have vanished. (Most of this makes no sense, and I’ve read it thrice.)

FI’NULL (burst):

Move!

DELIRIUM:

Out! Of! Mud!

WOMAN (OP):

Hey!

We have P1 down!

I’ll tell you something: I hope to glass figurines everywhere that these panel descriptions get shorter. The shorter the panel description, the happier I am, and the longer the figurines will remain un-smashed.

The problem with long panel descriptions is that the more words you add, the easier it is to lose the artist. Honestly, I believe that if you’re more than 50 words in on a panel description, then you’re being too wordy, and your artist isn’t going to want to read all of that.

So, let’s see… Let’s see… Plotz-gal! Please rewrite panel 1, cutting the word count in half. The word count is at 166, if I’m not mistaken. (I removed the note from the count.)

Other than there not being any panel less than 70 words, I’ve got no problem with this page. I was at the edge of getting lost sometimes (that last panel lost me), but from a pacing standpoint and an interest standpoint, I’m good. I’d definitely turn the page.

Page 2 (8 panels)

2.1

View from behind the woman as she rises to her feet, her arm outstretched. The Fi’null looks outraged her arm blocks his path. (Moving panel, and a word missing. I get the gist, but hopefully, the missing words won’t be a trend. Methinks there were words missing in at least the previous panel description.)

FI’NULL:

Woman, get your arm out of my path. I will collect what’s owed to me.

WOMAN:

You can’t go there. Not yet. There are rules.

FI’NULL:

You said the rules are in flux.

2.2

Profile views: the Fi’null leans in towards the woman in an intimidating manner. The woman stands upright, unruffled, staring him down (she’s taller). We can see a little of the screen at panel right, but not enough so we can an image on it.

WOMAN:

Not this one. You’ll wait.

2.3

Panels 3 to 5 should be laid in a tier across the middle of the page. All three have the screen as the central image, with Eblis’ completed body shown from the pectorals to the top of his head. In this panel, Desire’s finger burns a heart shaped scar between Eblis’ pectorals, causing the skin to smoke. Eblis’ eyes are shut.

FI’NULL (OP):

This waiting grinds against my nature, woman.

2.4

On the screen, Destiny is closest to the reader, turned at an angle so his left shoulder and the spine of his book point directly at us. His right hand is raised, palm open towards Eblis, but from our angle we cannot tell if Destiny is giving his benediction or warding Eblis off. Blocking our view of Eblis’ torso, Despair leans in, her finger burning a furrow into Eblis’ closed, left eyelid. Both the scar on the right eyelid and the smoke rising from the left are serpent shaped.

FI’NULL (OP):

Woman, if you seek to prevent me gaining those co-ordinates — (Close up the space between the word and the double-dash.)

WOMAN (OP):

Pipe down, Fi’null.

2.5

On the screen, Death stands between us and Eblis, the back of her head towards us, tilted as if giving him a kiss. Smoke rises around Eblis’ face. Eblis’ eyes are open.

FI’NULL (OP):

Now?

WOMAN (OP):

Nearly.

2.6

Panels 6 to 8 should be laid in a tier at the bottom of the page. On the screen, Eblis in full frontal, his arms extended before him, palms open, the fingers straight. He is examining his new body. His expression is like a child’s surprised delight.

DELIRIUM (OP):

I want to name him.

DESPAIR (OP):

A good name though, sister. It must be a real name that people can say.

DELIRIUM (OP):

Plippy ploppy cheesecake? (Better!)

DEATH (OP):

Mm. No. Try again.

2.7

On the screen, close up of Delirium, eyes worried, biting the nails of her left hand. In this panel only: both Delirium’s irises are green; a shadow covers her eyes like a blindfold.

DELIRIUM:

Norsey Forsey Bonaphor Ponies? Finky Do-Nothing? Raspberry Fields? The Idle Wilder? Skillet A’Dorer?

DESTINY (OP):

You know what he must be called, sister.

DELIRIUM:

<sigh> Alright then, brother. Be like that.

DELIRIUM:

Eblis O’Shaughnessy.

2.8

On the screen, Destiny looks straight at the reader. A gleam shines out of the shadow cast by Destiny’s hood, where his left eye should be. The right side of his face reflects flame-light.

DESTINY:

Eblis O’Shaughnessy: you were created and gifted by five of the Endless, but you can neither Dream nor, ultimately, Destroy, and that will be your triumph and that will be your tragedy.

WOMAN (OP):

Okay, Fi’null. Now.

Okay, we have P2 down, and there isn’t much to say about it except that this is good stuff.

Now, people who know me know that I’m not a fan of an eight-panel page. I’d rather see it cut down to seven or go up to nine, but I think this actually works.

Notice how Rin calls for three panels to be the middle tier of the page. I don’t mind that he asked for that, because he has something of a specific vision of how he wants the page laid out. Does it encroach a bit on the artist? Yep. But as long as it’s an occasional thing, I don’t see the artist getting too upset about it. They should be providing thumbnails of the pages before getting started, anyway, so that everyone is on the same page as to what needs to be done and give a vague idea as to what the pages will look like.

I’m about to say something I don’t say that often at all: based on these two pages, this is a story I’d read. I already want to know what happens next. That’s because of the combination of dialogue and actions taken, with a good pace. And that’s despite the nightmare font that is comic sans.

Page 3 (7 panels)

3.1

Long shot from outside the ruins showing the group has split up and are spread out again. The golem and the Chinese teen face panel left, standing before the menhir. The golem leans over her, hands gesturing as if explaining something to her. The black teen leans back, elbows raised, both hands on his head. The Fi’null holds his left forearm close to the screen. The woman stands close beside him, her left hand by the small of his back casting a silver glow. The undertaker continues to watch the screen but we’re too far away to see what image it shows.

GOLEM:

ask for him specifically as a character witness. Remember, the blood of the executive, even at a small amount…

BLACK TEEN:

Finky Do Nothing… Man, I am trippin’!

WOMAN:

Got a fix on the location yet?

3.2

The Fi’null’s point of view as he holds his left forearm to the screen, the inner wrist and opal on his bracelet facing us. The opal is red with a thin line of green going ¾’s of the way across the diameter. Behind his forearm, all we can see on the screen is a luminous jellyfish.

FI’NULL (burst):

Silence, woman! I need to focus!

FI’NULL:

There must be some mistake. I can’t pinpoint —

WOMAN (OP):

Let me help.

3.3

A ground’s (worm’s) eye view looking up at a 45 angle. The order of images from near to far: three strings of the silvery light, glowing faintly near the woman’s hands; above that, the woman’s hands grasping the silver strand that forms the base of the screen; then the Fi’null’s forearm; then the Fi’null’s forehead and chin in the background. It is important that the three strands do not extend or light up the area beyond his forearm. The idea is that Fi’null does not have line of sight of these new strands, as his arm is in the way.

WOMAN:

Try it now.

3.4

The opal on the Fi’null’s wrist is purely green.

FI’NULL:

Good! There’s still time to intercept him.

3.5

Looking over the woman’s shoulder at the Fi’null in full body shot. He holds his wrists crossed before his chest and looks towards us. He is surrounded in an opaque, green haze that extends over his whole body but only a finger’s width beyond his clothing. Behind him, a swastika-shaped portal has developed in the air, the edges blurred as if spinning like a fan. It is taller and wider than him. The insides of the swastika is the star-strewn blackness of space. Force lines indicate air and surface-lying soot and ash being sucked in towards the swastika. Though we can’t see it, the woman’s arms are holding down the pouches on her chest. Bear that in mind when drawing her shoulders / elbows.

FI’NULL:

A word of advice for you, woman:

FI’NULL:

Bathe. You stink.

3.6

Looking over the woman’s shoulder, the swastika is one tenth of the size that it was in the last panel, and in its centre is the tiny, opaque green shape that is the Fi’null – he hasn’t shrunk, he’s been sucked into deep space, so we’re seeing him from a vast distance. (This won’t work. You can’t show something being smaller, and then something sucking someone through it, and say that things haven’t shrunk. That may work prosaically, but artists have to work within the bounds of physics, and physics say that this won’t work. The reader is going to say that things shrunk. It’s just better to say that the guy is being sucked through the same-sized portal.)

WOMAN:

A word of advice for you, Fi’null…

3.7

The woman’s upper body and head, seen from the front, obscured by glare. Her head is thrown back and she laughs uproariously.

WOMAN:

pull yourself together. (Tit for tat? Here I was, liking the dialogue, and then this clumsy thing is uttered.)

WOMAN:

HA HA HA HA HA!

P3, and a lot going on. Things are still mysterious, but I’m still interested.

The bad thing, though, is that we’re starting to get into the more expansive panel descriptions again.

Quite possibly (here’s me, giving the benefit of the doubt) it’s the subject matter. Maybe Sandman needs more explanation, due to its subject matter and the things the characters can do. I have to think: would I be as garrulous if I were writing this piece? Would I be able to break it down to what was necessary to get my point across?

Then, I say that the answer is yes. I can take the panel description and break it down, clearing it up for the artist.

Here’s Rin’s:

Looking over the woman’s shoulder at the Fi’null in full body shot. He holds his wrists crossed before his chest and looks towards us. He is surrounded in an opaque, green haze that extends over his whole body but only a finger’s width beyond his clothing. Behind him, a swastika-shaped portal has developed in the air, the edges blurred as if spinning like a fan. It is taller and wider than him. The insides of the swastika is the star-strewn blackness of space. Force lines indicate air and surface-lying soot and ash being sucked in towards the swastika. Though we can’t see it, the woman’s arms are holding down the pouches on her chest. Bear that in mind when drawing her shoulders / elbows.

Here’s mine:

Over the woman’s shoulder, looking at Fi’null, who’s wrists are crossed over his chest. There’s a green haze that surrounds his body. There’s a largish portal behind him, swastika-shaped, with the edges blurred like a spinning fan. There’s a starfield inside of it, and we can see small things being sucked into the portal.

124 words vs 54. I cut it down nearly by 2/3. I could get those extra words out, and still keep the same gist.

Over the woman’s shoulder, looking at Fi’null, who’s wrists are crossed over his chest. A green haze surrounds his body. There’s a largish portal behind him, swastika-shaped, the edges blurred like a spinning fan, a starfield inside of it. We can see small things being sucked into the portal.

Now I’m down to 49 words. I got rid of everything that’s not important, and still kept the gist of what’s going on, without losing the artist in a morass of words.

That can be done with every panel description here.

Being long-winded can only lead to confusion if you’re not careful with your word choice.

I’m late to a lot of parties. One party I was late to was The West Wing. I heard lots about it, but I never really watched it. Politics didn’t interest me. (Still don’t for the most part.) But when I started watching it on Netflix, I was hooked after the second episode. Very, very smart writing, and you could tell that there was a lot of care given to each character.

Now, for the first few seasons, one of the main characters was a speechwriter. He was also a lawyer, but he loved words, and he loved not only his job, but you could tell that he cared about words and their meanings. He cared about the impact his words had on people. He knew when he was good, and more importantly, he knew when he wasn’t good and had to rework some things.

I honestly wish more scripters took that view: understanding when they were good, and also understanding when they weren’t, and reworking things to make them good.

We write drafts for a reason. Drafts are generally to get the words out into a concrete form, and then rework and revise them so they have the impact you want them to. Extremely few of us don’t need to write a first draft of anything. If extra words don’t give clarity, then remove them. They’re nothing but clutter.

I was watching some late-night television show, back when I was a kid. (I might be misremembering this a bit. It was a long time ago.) I don’t know if it was Johnny Carson, David Letterman, or Dick Cavett. (How many of you did I just take with me in the Way Back Machine?) Anyway, Truman Capote was on, and he said something about poetry is picking not just a word, but the right word. All writing should be that way, in my estimation.

When I speak, I have a lot of pauses in my pattern because my mind is racing, and my mouth is trying to keep up, but I’m also searching for the right word in order to be precise. Precision generally won’t lead to a misunderstanding. (This is why legal documents can be so long, even when they’re in plain English. In order to cover most eventualities, precise words must be used, and sometimes, precision means using a lot of words.)

Let’s see what P4 is like.

Page 4 (6 panels)

4.1

The golem stands over the woman, looking to where the Fi’null disappeared. She grins. (Moving panel.)

GOLEM:

Did the Fi’null just disappear?

WOMAN:

Yep. He split. <Snicker>

4.2

Profile view of the golem, peering at the screen of light, in which the Endless watch Eblis walk away from them, following the glowing jellyfish. At panel right, the woman hides a secretive smile. (Hides the smile how?)

GOLEM:

So he’ll be translocating amongst this lot, will he?

WOMAN:

Well, that depends…

GOLEM:

On what?

4.3

A Litharge graveyard. The Fi’null’s lower torso, from the hips to padded feet, lie on the gravel, the intestines spilled onto the ground. The upper torso lies draped sideways over a headstone, the arm with the opal facing us so we can see the opal on the wrist coloured mostly green but with two red stripes separating the green into three areas. We can also see there is no head on the torso, just neck. A custodian, rake in hand, shields his eyes and looks puzzledly up at the sky. (We’ve shifted locations. What do we need here, Luke?)

CAPTION:

On all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, and what they learned following Humpty Dumpty.”

CAPTION (in different colour to the last):

What does that mean?”

4.4

Close up view from behind as the woman stands before the menhir, rapping her knuckles on the rock. The golem stands beside her. On the menhir we can see a grey-green, bogey-like gloop on the surface. You can put any of the other characters in the background on any of the rest of the panels on this page, they would be listening interestedly or wandering around, but they’re not necessary.

WOMAN:

Tell me about this.

GOLEM:

It’s petrified Taklamakan sand coated with a Ymirian/World-Serpent-sleep compound. With one more ingredient, plus the universal invite, we think it sufficient. It’s a tactic that’s worked before. (This? This is the first instance of made-up bullshit that I’ve seen. It sticks out like a sore thumb. Not my idea of a good time.)

4.5

View from over the golem’s shoulder as the woman tilts her face back to question the golem, her expression serious.

WOMAN:

A regular Trojan horse, huh?

GOLEM:

I was thinking of a more recent example, hitting closer to home.

WOMAN:

And he knows about Cornipus and Sessaruss? What they look like, how to persuade them?

4.6

Long shot of the woman and golem in the distance, both looking our way at the screen, the edges of which are in close up at panel right.

GOLEM:

He knows, but there’s a stop before that one, remember. Unless…? We just send him directly to Eblis?

WOMAN:

No. The funeral, later, is more convenient. At the moment…

P4, and I’m starting not to feel this anymore. It’s becoming a drag, but only because this one page of six panels took up three pages. Would it keep the reader interested? Yes, until they reached the part of the bullshit dialogue.

Yes, I’m calling it bullshit. It’s a more grown-up version of the Thriller character from my childhood, with the power to dance people into madness. (Thank you, Michael Jackson.) It doesn’t mean anything.

Let’s see, you have a “universal invite”, Ymir and the Midgard serpent, both from Norse mythology, and petrified sand from China. (I did some research, of course, but I still don’t understand how sand can be petrified. Here I was, thinking that only organics can go through the petrification process.) Ymir was birthed from poison (does it matter what kind? Only to our more scientifically developed minds), and the Serpent has a sleep agent? The two of these combined aren’t lethal? (It could be that I’m thinking too much.) However, it just strikes me as gobbledygook. I believe you can do better. I’ll call this the first real mistake in dialogue you’ve made.

Page 5 (7 panels)

5.1

Medium shot from the side of Eblis walking in a corridor dimly lit by the jellyfish. Mummies stand in alcoves along the walls (see Ref 4). The floor is mosaic. NOTE: until page 8, the light will be provided by the jellyfish. If I don’t mention the jellyfish in panel descriptions it’s because the Unknowns’ are taking up the space, in which case the jellyfish is ahead of Eblis, hovering just above what we can see in the panel.

CAPTION:

“… Eblis O’Shaughnessy is inside the catacombs.”

5.2

Side-on wide shot of Eblis walking in a large, empty stone cobbled hall with enough empty space around him to have all of the Unknowns’ captions.

(NOTE TO LETTERER: the Unknown voices all have their own separate, distinct font.)

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 1):

Ooh, this is a turn up for the books, eh?”

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 2):

Rather! Whomever would have thought it, us ending up here? (Missing the quotation marks.)

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 3):

What’s ’e ’ere for again? Did anyone ’ear?”

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 4):

I believe I am hearing mention of the word cerements. And a book, also.”

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 5):

Yup. ’S what I heard, too.”

5.3

Front-on close up as Eblis looks to the left, puzzled. We could have a few jellyfish tendrils wafting in so readers don’t forget it’s there. Up to you.

NO COPY

5.4

Front-on close up as Eblis looks to the right, really puzzled. Again, jellyfish tendrils, remind readers it’s there?

NO COPY

5.5

Shot of the back of Eblis’ head, two mummies to either side in alcoves along the walls, the open doorway with descending steps ahead of him in the distance. (See Ref 4.)

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 1):

Did he just…? Can he hear us? HELLO! CAN YOU HEAR US?”

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 2):

Do you mind?! This is someones’ last resting place, and on the eve of a funeral. Show the proper decorum, please.”

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 3):

Wot you talkin’ about, ‘decorum’, ’e’s walkin’ around starkers! Mind you, if I ’ad a cock like that I’d –“ (Make sure you have a double-dash at the end. I know that the double-dash turns into an em-dash when you type a character after it. You’ll just have to make sure it doesn’t. There are ways.)

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 4):

Kindly do not finish that sentence, sir!”

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 5):

Hey, Eblis, that’s your name, right? Raise your hand if you can hear us.”

5.6

Front-on close up of Eblis with his hand raised, his eyes really wide, his mouth a small hole of anticipation. (Note: Eblis must look as child-like as his adult form will allow.)

NO COPY

5.7

View from the top step as Eblis, in silhouette, descends the stone stairway.

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 1):

He can hear us! He can!”

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 2):

How thoroughly astonishing.”

EBLIS:

Just who are you —

P5 probably wont’ work as well as you want it to. The artist is going to have to do some permutations with the panels in order to get in that amount of dialogue.

Understand me: there isn’t a lot of dialogue on the page, per se, and there isn’t exactly too many words per panel…it’s just that there are too many panels, methinks, for the amount of words you’re trying to have on the page.

Let me explain.

We all (should) know that a panel can only comfortably hold a certain amount of words, and that amount of words is directly predicated on the size of the panel. We all also (should) know that captions take up less space than word balloons. (Someone tell me why—I don’t care who.)

However, with all that being said, there’s still the fact that there are five different captions in a single panel. Space is still going to be taken up, despite the fact that three of the panels are silent. It helps to mitigate what happens with the dialogue, from a purely physical standpoint, but I don’t think it will be enough.

One way to get around this is to make the three silent panels very skinny. That saves some space. Another would be to get rid of at least one of the panels. (I’d probably cut the head turn panels in half, butting them together to make a “whole”, but with a head turned in either direction.)

There’s also the factor of time.

When you add dialogue to a panel, you add time to it. When you add more people speaking, you’re adding even more time to the panel. So a way to mitigate that is to move the captions around some. Don’t make two panels caption-heavy, because you’re also making the time in those panels stretch out, possibly past their breaking points (because of the amount of people talking, not because of the amount of words in the panel).

This isn’t a bad page, but I’d definitely call it uneven because of the caption density of two panels. Spread that out, and this page would be balanced much better. Do that, and you should be able to keep all seven panels.

Page 6 (6 panels)

6.1

Elevated view looking down from the front (This makes no sense. From the front of what?). Eblis, standing at the top of the stairway, covers his ears with his hands, his face scrunched up in pain.

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 3):

WHOA!!”

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 4):

Please do not speak out loud in here, Mr O’Shaughnessy!”

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 5):

“‘S right, bub. We’ve known many folks come a cropper in here for hollerin’ too loud.”

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 3):

Talkin’ aloud! ’e’s either very brave or very stupid.”

6.2

Side-on close up of Eblis with one hand to the side of his mouth, hunched over slightly.

EBLIS (whisper):

So, who are – ? (Double-dash turned into the em-dash again. And since he didn’t finish the question, I’d remove the question mark.)

6.3

Elevated, front-on full body shot of Eblis flinching, looking truly terrified.

SFX:

RAHH!!

6.4

Front-on close up of Eblis, seen from the top lip upwards, looking timid, cowering over his raised fists. (If we can only see him from the top lip up, we can’t see raised fists because they’re below our sight-line.)

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 3):

Well. ’e’s not brave…”

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 4):

Oh, hush. Mr O’Shaughnessy is doing fine for someone who is only being (been) alive for twelve minutes.”

6.5

Elevated long shot from the rear. Eblis has his hand raised, the other covers his mouth. In the distance, an open doorway is illuminated by the jellyfish, which leans, bowed-over against the wall, exhausted. (Yeah, because we know what exhaustion looks like in a jellyfish…)

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 1):

You don’t need to raise your hand to speak to us, dearie. Just think it. We’ll hear.”

EBLIS (thought):

What made that roar?

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 5):

Lotsa nasties in here.” (This doesn’t answer the question.)

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 4):

The Necropolis is sending its people down frequently to deal with such creatures, but there are very many of them.” (Neither does this.)

EBLIS (thought):

Will it come this way? (This pushes the bounds again, and it really doesn’t match the panel description. He’d have lowered his hand by now, yes?)

6.6 – A sprinting Eblis’ foot and trailing arm protrude from the doorway he’s just run through. The wobbling jellyfish now trails Eblis.

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 3):

Not if you ’urry up about it.”

P6, and I’m growing steadily more bored.

Time for a ghost story.

This one is recent. Like, within the past two weeks recent.

When you walk into my place, you step immediately into the kitchen. On your right is a wall, three paces ahead of you is an opening that leads into our library. As soon as you go through that opening, there’s the door to the master bedroom about a pace to your right. So, from the kitchen, everything basically extends out to the left.

Back in the kitchen. If you turn to your left, there’s some counter space over the dishwasher that’s on your immediate left. Continuing on your left, there’s a double sink, a little bit more counter space (about two feet worth), and then the refrigerator. Right there is another opening that leads into the office area. The desktop that my wife primarily uses is right there. She can reach out and touch the fridge if she wants to.

With me so far?

We have a cat named Xavier. I named him that because he has no rear paws. He was like that we we got him. Not a birth defect. We believe he got caught in a car’s fan belt or somesuch. He gets around fine, he has his front paws, and he’s very personable. He wants his attention, and he gets it. He likes being around people.

He doesn’t bump around too much on the faux-wood floor. He’s not much of a runner, for obvious reasons. But there are times when he’ll bump around some and play. He’s just not going to go at it full throttle.

So, my wife and I were lying in bed a couple of weeks ago. She was just getting to sleep, and I was in a light doze as I watched something on the television. I heard some bumping around, and figured it was the cat. Then there was more bumping, and then finally something that sounded like a small crash. I got up to investigate, and when I saw Xavier, it looked like he was asleep. I had some mild curiosity, shrugged, and went back to bed, finding something to watch.

The next day, I’m in the bedroom, working on a script. My wife is playing her Facebook game on the desktop. I hear a crash that sounds like glass breaking. I ask my wife what that was, and she says she hopes I wasn’t too attached to a pilsner glass I had been drinking water from earlier.

I had put the glass on the counter between the fridge and the sink. That glass was now on the floor, broken, down near the dishwasher. My wife said she saw something fly right out of the corner of her eye, and by the time she turned around, the glass was just hitting the floor by dishwasher.

No, there was no earthquake, the windows and doors were closed (while weather is nice in Tucson, it isn’t THAT nice), and Xavier wasn’t in the kitchen at all, and even if he were, he can’t jump up onto the counter. My wife was too far away to knock it down. The only thing we can think of is some force passing through.

There. Let’s see if there’s anything else of interest in this story.

Page 7 (5 panels)

7.1

The vaulted, pillared chamber. (See Ref 5). NOTE: the chandelier should be in the shape of an upright sword and its lights should be yin-and-yang the colours of flames and darkness, and the book should be small and bound in wire – NOT as per Ref 4.The jellyfish slumps on the chandelier. In the shadows outside the doorway, we see two sets of red flecks.

EBLIS (thought):

Is this the place?

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 1):

You tell us, dearie. You brought us here. You’re the one made for this purpose.”

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 5):

We didn’t even know this room was down here.”

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 3):

Wotchu think, that there’s a bazaar of sellers peddlin’ Endless-funeral clobber?! You lookin’ to shop around, get the best deal?! ’onestly! The case against your intelligence keeps gatherin’ evidence. (End-quote.)

7.2

Low shot looking up as Eblis stands behind the lectern.

THE VOICE (tailless balloon with jagged borders):

Which of them is dead? (A little bald, no? This could be dressed up some.)

EBLIS:

Dream.

EBLIS (thought):

It is Dream, isn’t it?

CAPTION (UNKNOWN 1):

Yes. (Quotation marks.)

7.3 – Eblis’ hand pulls at the cloth on the wall. Dream’s helmet mask is pictured on the cloth.

THE VOICE (tailless balloon with jagged borders):

You have come for the cere cloth, then, and for the ceremony.

EBLIS:

Yes.

THE VOICE (tailless balloon with jagged borders):

They are yours. Take them.

7.4 – Eblis’ hand reaches for the book on the lectern. The book now resembles the book in Ref 6.

NO COPY

7.5 – The same shot as panel 1 on this page, except: now Eblis is leaving the chamber, the cloth and book in his arms, his naked backside facing the reader, but he’s looking back over his shoulder towards us; the red flecks are gone; the chandelier has changed. Now, in an abstract way, it’s in the shape of Dream’s helmet and its lights are now ruby red.

THE VOICE (tailless balloon with jagged borders):

On your return, impart this message to the Endless for whom it applies.

We’re near the end, folks!

It’s only eight pages, but it feels like a slog. This thing takes up nearly as many physical pages as a 22p script. For me, they come in at around 36 pages or so. This came in at over 20 before I started adding comments. For eight pages! That’s too damned long.

Page 8 (6 panels)

8.1

Close up of Despair’s worried face.

DESPAIR:

This is taking too long. (See? Even the characters know!)

8.2

View over Despair’s shoulder as she leans over Delirium, who sits, delightfully playing with mud.

DESPAIR:

Your jellyfish wasn’t poisonous, was it? The Chironex fleckeri is particularly lethal; one inadvertent touch and we’re down one envoy. (No. No semi-colons in comic book dialogue. Double-dash, yes, semi-colon, no.)

DELIRIUM:

If it was a whatsama-callit I’d have given it little gloves, a gumshield and a belt to keep the punches above. And gilly gilly Gillians for O’Shaughnessy! But I didn’t. Because it’s not. Not the right time for Eblis’ pithos. (Better.)

8.3

Looking over the back of Despair’s head as she looks towards a neutral Destiny at panel left. Death stands at panel right, serenely unconcerned.

DESPAIR:

He isn’t hunched up dying somewhere, is he? What does your book say?

DESTINY:

When it comes to the Necropolis, very little. I am blind here.

DEATH:

If it helps, Eblis O’Shaughnessy isn’t imminent on my “To Do / To Die” list.

8.4 – Despair’s raised index finger at panel left, the barb forming the question mark at the end of her speech bubble. Death’s face is at panel right, her eyes rolled back to look rightwards and her lips quirked.

DESPAIR:

You have a list? (How does this line make any sense within the context of the panel description?)

DEATH:

No. But if I did, Eblis wouldn’t be on it yet. That jellyfish on the other hand…

8.5

Looking over Desire’s shoulder and down her/his pointing arm as the small, distant, naked figure of Eblis, emerges from the gate carrying the cloth and book.

DESIRE:

There he is!

8.6

Looking over the back of Eblis’ head as he faces the Endless and Barnabas. (Where the hell did Barnabas come from? Say it with me, folks: magically delicious.) Destiny’s expression is neutral as he holds his book, though the hood has swept back enough so we can see his ears for the first time, Death smiles with her eyes (impossible to draw), Despair looks curious, her head tilted to one side, Desire stands as if ready to walk away but with head turned back to face us. The way the cigarette holder protrudes from his/her mouth, and the eyebrows suggests worry. Delirium, hugging her knees next to Barnabas, grins wildly, her thumbs up and pointing towards Eblis. They’re all attentive, but it should be hard to see which one of them is being addressed.

EBLIS:

I have a message for you, from the Voice in the catacombs…

We’re at the end! Let’s run this down, so we can all get some rest.

Format: Flawless Victory!

Panel Descriptions: These are never overblown, but a good portion of them are too drawn out and thus, somewhat confusing. Knowing what to put in and what to leave out can be a challenge, but even from a prosaic standpoint, some of these are difficult to parse.

Again, my personal opinion is that when your panel descriptions start to get into 50+ words, it’s time to start looking at them to see what’s going on.

Be aware of moving panels. There are more of them in there than I noted, but that’s only because I could see the stopped motion and knew what you were getting at. The best way to stop having moving panels is to write the action in the past tense. Sometimes, you just can’t get around it, but this method will stop the bulk of moving panels out there.

Also, be aware of things that cannot be drawn. When something can’t be drawn, like “smiling with your eyes”, then you’re writing prose, and prose has no place in a panel description.

Subtlety has little place in panel descriptions, either. In order to be clear, the artist has to exaggerate everything. It may not be what you want, but it’s definitely what you’re going to get. It’s the nature of the beast.

Pacing: I have no problem with the pace of the script. I’d remove a panel here and there, but no real problem at all with the pace. The beginning got my interest, and if I weren’t reading the actual script, as long as the art was decent, then I’d have continued turning pages till I got to the end. That’s to be commended.

Dialogue: I only had a couple of real problems with the dialogue. The first is the gobbledygook that was spewed on P3 (I think it was that page). As a pagan, I’ve learned to spot certain things when it comes to magick and spellcasting in comics. When certain things just don’t feel right, when it seems forced, when it seems made up on the spot, it usually is.

Before I got into magick, I read the Deryni series by Katherine Kurtz. I started with The Quest for Saint Camber, was fascinated, and then went back to Camber of Culdi. (Outside of Zelazny’s Amber Chronicles, Camber of Culdi is the next book I love the most.) In it, she gives some spells and rituals that I thought could actually work, even before I had even thought about magick, because it had the ring of truth to them. (When I got older, I tried some of the rituals. They work. Now, I just wish I had a shiral crystal.)

The menhir explanation didn’t have the ring of truth to it. To me, it was blazing “FAKE” in bright neon.

Then, the amount of captions near the end.

First, I don’t know if I’d have put quotation marks in the captions. I don’t think they needed to be there. I’d reserve that for voice-overs. However, I wouldn’t call it wrong, either. That’s how Rin decided to go, and since I don’t have anything better than “I wouldn’t have done it,” I’d leave it.

That being said, you have to follow through with it. Quotation marks were forgotten in a couple of places.

Overall, though, I found the dialogue to be very good. I was drawn in, and I was kept in. Just the smallest polish is needed to smooth out a few spots.

Content: As a reader, I’d read this. I was intrigued. I wanted to read more. (That’s not something you hear me say very often at all.)

Editorially, this needs some work in order to cut down the confusion that the panel descriptions can lead to. Cut down on the amount of words where possible, and you’d be in a much better position. There’s no reason why 8 pages should be more than double their length of actual pages. Originally, this was 21 pages. Almost triple the amount of pages of script, for 8 pages of story. And it isn’t the font choice, either, or the font size. You’re just a wordy bastard. Fix it, so that artists won’t dread getting one of your scripts. (It isn’t as bad as working with Alan Moore, but I could see it going that way.)

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.

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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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