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TPG Week 217: Writing Challenge Entry 2

| February 21, 2015

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Hello, one and all, and welcome back to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have someone who’s no stranger here: Alyssa Crow is this week’s Brave One! We have Samantha LeBas in purple, and I’m in red, and we have the second script from the Digital Webbing writing challenge I did.

Let’s go over the rules again:

The story cannot be longer than 5 pages

The story cannot be a tragedy

There must be an artificial intelligence involved

There must be at least 50 words of spoken dialogue

The word “enlightenment” must be in the dialogue

String cheese must be an object, not just mentioned

Pretty straightforward rules, right?

Well, let’s see how Alyssa does.

PAGE ONE (6 panels)

PANEL #1

It’s late morning, what light makes it down into the narrow street is warm (This last part is prose. It cannot be drawn.). We’re looking at EDMÉ more or less front-on, who is happily peddling a rusted bicycle on nothing but bent rims, whistling a tune. He’s carrying a small, patched duffle-bag over his shoulder, bursting with mail (the word “mail” is written on the side of the bag in big letters made of masking tape). We can see some of the SCI-FI SLUM stretching out behind him. (Knowing what I know from the end of the story, I have to wonder if he would look so carefree. Should he be a little nervous here?) (Just a quick note: I deleted some info from this. Character descriptions, location descriptions… I cut ’em because while they’re a great thing to have, I’m more interested in getting to the important stuff.)

EDMÉ

♪♫

PANEL #2

Edmé is breaking in from the left of the panel, riding down the alley towards a brightly painted PRISS’S HOUSE at the end of the road (main focal point, towards the right of the panel). PRISS‘S form can be seen in the single second-storey window.

EDMÉ

PANEL #3

We’re closer to Priss’s second-storey window, so we have a clear view of her. She is looking down towards Edmé, who is almost completely out-of-frame (he hasn’t yet peddled close enough yet to be properly in-frame), with a look of mild horror.

PRISS

Hang and quarter! Edmé’s comin’!

PANEL #4

We’re inside Priss’s house now, looking towards Priss standing at the window. Priss has her hand on the window sill (merely a repurposed piece of wood), but is turned to look towards us, still distressed. If the shot allows, perhaps we can see Edmé down on the street, riding closer (unaware of Priss up in the window).

PRISS

What’ll I do, DiDi?

PANEL #5

Bird’s-eye view, so we can see more of the room. DIDI is standing in the middle of the room, facing Priss, though as a robot she lacks gesture or emotion. Priss, on the other hand, looks at DiDi quizzically with her brows furrowed, head tilted to the side.

DIDI

Why, I expect you would take any written correspondence he is coming to deliver, milady. (Would it be better for the voice to be somewhat robotic? More Siri than Cortana? Just wondering. It isn’t wrong. If you wanted it more robotic, it doesn’t even need to be electric. The word balloon could be a rounded rectangle instead of an oval.)

PANEL #6

Priss has stepped closer to DiDi, exasperated, with her arms thrown up in the air. DiDi, as always, stands robotically indifferent.

PRISS

Bugger my dugs, DiDi!

PRISS

I don’t care for his bloody mail!

(So, I am not sure that this is a revelation, so far as the content, but I have to commend your form, and knowledge of pacing. This does everything a page 1 should. Let’s look at it. Panel 1 – Introduction of character and setting. Panel 2 – Introduction of broader setting and additional character. Panel 3 – Introduction of conflict. Panel 4 – Move into interior setting, introduction of third character. Panel 5 – Reveal that Didi is a robot, create interest, show her voice. Panel 6 – Hanging question to make us turn the page. What does she care for, then? Really well done.)

We’ve got P1 down!

Don’t we all feel better now? I know I do. Let’s take a look at this page, shall we?

I agree with Sam in that this is very well done. No disagreement there at all. What I would do, though, is make the ending panel stronger. How? A little bit more dialogue. Something to show what she’s really into. Flustered? Wringing her hands? Or just a little more to get us that much more interested to turn the page? Almost anything can work, but it needs to be added.

But, really, that’s the only thing I have to say “against” this page.

 

PAGE TWO (6 panels)

PANEL #1

Goofy panel; the background of this panel has been replaced with love hearts. Close on Priss. She has a dreamy expression on her face, hands held to her heart.

PRISS

You see, he don’t know it yet, but me and Edmé (suggest separating balloons) are in love.

PANEL #2

DiDi leans forward from the side of the panel, apparently assessing Priss’s dreamy moment. Priss is still in her pose from the previous panel, but her expression has fallen flat as she looks at DiDi.

DIDI

Milady, I must remind you that I lack the computational requirements to properly understand and advise on emotional–

(Note to letterer: perhaps have the following speech bubble encroach into this panel and into DiDi’s balloon, giving a stronger visual of Priss’s interruption?)

PANEL #3

Priss is holding up her hand, stopping DiDi from continuing.

PRISS

Don’t matter none, DiDi. I just gotta give Edmé something that shows him how much I care.

PANEL #4

Priss is crudely gesturing down at her crotch. DiDi is looking down at Priss’s hands indifferently.

PRISS

What do boys like more than a girl’s muff?

PANEL #5

DiDi and Priss in profile, silently looking at each other.

NO COPY

PANEL #6

Repeat of panel #5, but Priss has a quizzical look on her face.

DIDI

String cheese.

PRISS

String cheese?

DIDI

Indeed, milady. (Capital M)

(This story is cheeky, I don’t know if I have ever had cause to use that word before, but that’s what it is. I’m not sure how the accent relates to the post apocalyptic setting, but it’s good. The character has strong presence and lots of personality. She’s memorable.)

P2 is done, and really, it’s almost perfect.

Sam made the suggestion that I would have in separating the word balloon in panel 1. Other than that, this does what it needs to: we’ve got at least 50 words of spoken dialogue here, we’ve got an artificial intelligence, we’ve got at least a mention of string cheese—still looking for it to be an object, but we’re definitely on the right track.

And to be honest, this is going in a really fun direction.

 

PAGE THREE (6 panels)

PANEL #1

Priss has rushed past DiDi, careening at the top of the rickety stairs leading down to the ground level of the house.

PRISS

String cheese it is!

PANEL #2

Priss at the bottom of the stairs, where there’s a small, rusted bar fridge. She’s crouched in front of the fridge, about to open it. DiDi is walking down the stairs, still near the top.

PRISS

Thanks, DiDi! Better than a roast pig on Wintersday, you are.

DIDI

You are most welcome, milady(M). I am here for your tutelage and enlightenment.

PANEL #3

Close up of the fridge interior, looking pretty bare but for a couple inexpensive food items. Priss’s hand has reached into the fridge, about to pick up a lone stick of string cheese (it’s wrapped in its own plastic wrapper).(Can we see Priss here? Like inside the fridge looking out? Or is this from her POV?)

PRISS

Yes!

PANEL #4

Priss is crouched in front of the open bar fridge, turned to face DiDi, but she’s looking at the stick of string cheese in her hand. (How much of DiDi can we see in this panel?)

PRISS

Kiss a saint, I’ve one left. (I’d add a stress here, either on “one” or “left.” Either would do.)

PANEL #5

Close on Priss, she’s holding the stick of cheese up to her face, nose scrunched up. The wrapper looks kind of old, and the cheese itself has some slightly discoloured blotches on it.

PRISS

I hope it ain’t too ripe.

PANEL #6

We’re looking past Edmé, who is standing in the (doorless) doorway, still holding his mail bag over his shoulder (if it’s visible in this shot, his bicycle is laying in the dirt behind him a short ways). He’s peering into the house at Priss and DiDi. Priss is in the process of standing from her crouch, cheese in hand, looking towards the door in surprise. DiDi stands behind her.

EDMÉ

What’s too ripe?

(Simple little story, but you keep the pace steady. I have questions, like: where would one find string cheese in the Mad Max post apocalypse, but I don’t really care. It’s silly and tooth ache sweet. It knows what it is.)

So, P3 is down, and with it, we have the objectified string cheese, and we have the word “enlightenment” in the dialogue. Almost everything has been satisfied.

Really, this is how a short story should be told: relatively simple, and to the point. Something that can be read, has an effect, and then it moves on.

I’ve got nothing bad to say about this. That’s what’s terrible! I don’t have anything bad to say!

You know how you hear about stories where the editor just gets out of the way and lets the writer do their job? This is turning out to be one of those stories. What direction to give? Where’s the mole to whack? I can’t find it. A bit of prose in P1, panel 1. So what? Easily overlooked.

This is just a (so far) story well told.

 

PAGE FOUR (7 panels)

PANEL #1

Mid-shot of Edmé. He bashfully holds his hand behind his head, suddenly awkward.

EDMÉ

I mean, if you gots fruit goin’ bad an’ all, I know Miss Mable has some right nice strawberries growin’ on her front porch.

EDMÉ

I could go pick some for you, or…

PANEL #2

Profile shot of Priss and Edmé (perhaps a cutaway where the wall would be, as they stand on either side of the open door?). Priss is standing there, with a goofily happy expression. Edmé is looking really shy.

EDMÉ

… somethin’…

PANEL #3

Repeat of previous panel.

PRISS

Hey, Edme!

EDMÉ

Hiya, Priss.(Do these lines go here? She’s not responding to what he said. It’s generic compared to the rest of her dialogue. ‘Hiya’ is cute, though.)(Sounds like teenagers to me. This exchange is something I can easily see a couple of teenagers uttering.)

PANEL #4

Repeat of previous panel, but this time, Priss is holding the stick of string cheese straight out in front of her, eagerly offering it to Edmé. Edmé has his hand raised, poised to accept it. He wears a mildly concerned smile.(I’m actually okay with the repeat shots here, because it is a humour beat.)

PRISS

String cheese?

EDMÉ

Uh, gee. Thanks, Priss.

PANEL #5

Edmé has a hand dipped into the side pocket of his mail bag, the other hand holding the string cheese.

EDMÉ

I, uh…

PANEL #6

Motion-lines to indicate Edmé thrusting a small, folded piece of paper into Priss’s open hands. Priss is mildly surprised, Edmé more nervous than ever.(What kind of shot is this?)

EDMÉ

… I gots a letter for you!

PANEL #7

We’re outside, pulled away from the front porch a little. Edmé has rushed back to his bicycle, and is in the process of pulling it up off the ground to ride, cheese tucked between his hand and the handlebar. Priss holds her letter in one hand while waving to Edmé with the other. She has a confused but still somewhat happy expression on her face.

EDMÉ

Uh, I gotta go! See you later, Priss!

PRISS

Oh, uh, bye!

PRISS (murmur)

What in the… (I’d move this last bit to the next page. I wouldn’t create another panel, because this page is crowded enough with panels already.)

P4, and it’s still good to go.

Give me something to rail against, Alyssa!

 

PAGE FIVE (5 panels)

PANEL #1

We’re looking over Priss’s shoulder, as Edmé rides away without looking back. Priss’s shoulders are slumped.

DIDI (O.P. Coming from behind Priss)

Master Edmé is in a hurry today, I see. Late for his mail run, perhaps?

PRISS

Damned to hell if I know.

PANEL #2

Priss is looking down at the letter, which she has opened and is reading. DiDi stands behind her, peering over her shoulder at the letter.

NO COPY

PANEL #3

Close-up of the letter (we can see Priss’s thumb holding the edge of the old piece of paper).

LETTER TEXT (child-like, messy handwriting)

Dear Priss.

Your nice.

I think I Luv you Lots.

~Edmé

PANEL #4

Repeat of Panel #2, though Priss’s face is now lit up with joy. She has a huge grin on her face.

NO COPY

PANEL #5

Repeat of Panel #4.

DIDI

I see that he liked the string cheese, milady(M).

(‘I see that he liked the string cheese, Milady’ is going to be a new euphemism for something, I’m calling it now. I think you hit all the challenge marks and it still felt organic. Nice work.)

Dammit! Let’s just run this down. (No Line of Demarcation, nothing to rail against… Pfaugh!)

Format: Flawless Victory! And, really, I’d have been supremely disappointed if she missed it. Supremely. With (string) cheese.

Panel Descriptions: Clear, concise, easily drawable without too many questions having to be asked. Who could ask for more?

Pacing: Tight. There is NO fat here. Elderberries are in another universe, this is so tight. Very nicely done.

Dialogue: I loved the dialogue, to be honest. It’s the real strength of the piece.

Writers, I want you to take note.

Alyssa used a different cadence and word usage/placement in order to create a different world for her characters. George Lucas with Yoda, Robert Jordan with his Wheel of Time series—these are writers who used dialogue in order to vastly differentiate their characters from the norm. This is very, very good, and I’d love to see more of it.

Content: This is a good story. As a reader, I’d love to have seen it in an anthology. It’s just something that you chuckle at, and then you walk away from feeling warm and fuzzy. I’d love to see this story illustrated.

Editorially, there’s nothing wrong here. A nudge here and there, but other than that, I’d step out of the way and let Alyssa do her thing. This doesn’t need an editor. This needs someone to just make sure it’s on the right track. And it is.

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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