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TPG Week 233: A Nice Effort, Indeed

| June 12, 2015

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Welcome back, one and all, to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a Brave One who’s no stranger here: Ronnie Massey! We also have Liam Hayes in blue, and I’m the cranky one in red.

This week, we have another entry from a writing challenge I ran over at Digital Webbing. (I’m also running five more, right now! Go see!) Here were the rules for this particular challenge:

Cannot be longer than five pages

Must have an alien (take that as you wish)

One page must have 2 panels or less on it

There must be at least 200 words of spoken dialogue

Bacon must be an object

Chainsaw must be in the spoken dialogue

Let’s see how she did!

Page One (6 Panels)

Panel One: We are in what appears to be the bedroom of a frathouse.
We can see two twin beds, sports equipment scattered here and there, a large poster with three Greek letters in it, as well as a desk with a single chair. On the desk there is a laptop and a covered, styrofoam, takeout plate. There is no door that we can see. High on one wall we can see a circular speaker embedded in it. Seated on the side of the bed closest to us is KIERRA. Dressed in jeans, a dark tank top, and no shoes, she is facing us and has her head resting in her hands in a manner that prevents us from seeing her face. The light source is directly above her in the form of a light fixture that we can’t see.

(I already have problems with your format. Starting the panel description on the same line as its header, both of which share formatting, makes the script bunched up and unclear.) (This is an editorial prerogative. This isn’t wrong, folks. Remember: there’s no such thing as a standard format for a script. It just has to be consistent.)

CAPTION: Somewhere near Carolina Coastal College, Myrtle Beach, SC.

KIERRA: *Groan* Oh, jeez…what was in that last drink?

KIERRA: My head is killing me, and–

Panel Two: This is a shoulder-up view of Kierra. She has lifted her head and she looks completely shocked.

KIERRA: This isn’t my room.

Panel Three: Kierra is now standing next to the bed. There are motion lines to convey the quick action. (She’s standing, but what’s she doing? Characters have to act.)

KIERRA: This isn’t my–(Break. She’s interrupted herself. A new balloon will emphasize that effect.) Door?!

KIERRA: Where’s the goddamn door?!

(I’d like to see a header that tells us this a continuation of page one. In case the script is printed out, see?)

Panel Four: This is an overhead view that lets us see the entire room. (Seeing an entire room while in said room is near impossible. We’ll be able to see a large section of it sure, but not all of it.) There are three faded images of Kierra as she darts from one wall to the other, running her hands along them looking for a door and a solid image of her standing at the last wall, her fist pounding against it. This is the wall that has the speaker in it. There are motion lines to convey the actions. (Ghosting! Something we don’t see too often. I love it! This is how it’s done, folks. This is how you can have a character doing multiple things in a single panel. Most writers don’t think about this too much. It’s a great technique. Good show, Ronnie!)

KIERRA: Ok, Omegas, hah-hah, you got me–Joke’s over! (That last bit isn’t an interruption, it’s a continuation.) (I’d put the last part in it’s own balloon. Also, I’d label these a bit more, if each is supposed to go to a particular ghost.)

KIERRA: What the hell did you do with the door?!

KIERRA: I can see the speaker, so I know you hear me!

KIERRA (BURST): Open the damn door!

SFX: WHAM WHAM WHAM

Panel Five: We are looking directly at the circular speaker.

MARTIQ (ELECTRONIC VOICE-COMING FROM SPEAKER): Please refrain from beating on the walls, Ms. Thibodeaux. (Break.) I can assure you, there is no way out.

Panel 6: We are looking at a waist-up view of Kierra. Her fists are resting on either hip and she is shouting at the speaker.

KIERRA: Yeah– (Again, no interruption or cut off here.) Well, I can assure you that I’m gonna kick your ass every way humanly possible the moment I get my hands on you!

KIERRA: I’m a black belt in four disciplines, so that’s not an idle threat!

MARTIQ (ELECTRONIC VOICE-COMING FROM SPEAKER): I’m afraid it is–(Again.) as I would have to be human for you to make good on your threats. (I like this line. A nice sideways approach at creating a minor mystery.)

Not a bad start. Not bad at all. Let’s see where this goes.

P1 is down!

Overall, this isn’t bad. We get to see a technique that not many writers use with the ghosting, and I’m very happy with the way it was done. We just have to get the characters to act a little more, and this page would be fine. We’ve got the dialogue going at a nice clip, and we have a minor mystery going on. Really, I have no complaints about this at all. Good work, Ronnie.

(No page break. Odd, since you put a one in the gap between page 1 and its continuation.)

Page Two (6 Panels) (And thus, the Flawless Victory goes down in flames…)

Panel One: Waist-up view of Kierra. One hand is hanging limply at her side and she’s got one hand in the hair at her temple. She looks confused and scared. (We’ve seen this panel already.)

KIERRA (MUMBLE): Not human…bullshit.

KIERRA: This is some weird, rush week, hazing-thingy…or I’m being punk’d…or on Scared– (“I’m on Scared” works better here. Makes it less confusing.)

Panel Two: We are looking down at Kierra and can see most of the room. The walls and floor are now smooth and dark-metallic in appearance, one bed is gone and the bed that Kierra was on is now an exam table. The only thing that didn’t change is the desk and its contents, and the speaker in the wall. Kierra looks terrified. (That’s not going to came across as the room changing. It’s going to look like Kierra teleported somewhere else. You’ll need more panels to show this. Two at least.)

SFX: FFWWZZZZZZZZ

MARTIQ (ELECTRONIC VOICE-COMING FROM SPEAKER): This is the reality of your situation and it is not a television show. (I was expecting some sort of reality TV joke. I was disappointed.)

MARTIQ (ELECTRONIC VOICE-COMING FROM SPEAKER): We have been watching you for quite some time, Kierra, and are pleased to finally have you with us. (We got in a name, and it was done organically! I love it!)

Panel Three: Side view of Kierra as she bangs her fist against the wall under the speaker. There are faded images and motion lines around her fist to convey the action.

KIERRA: HELP! Please, anybody!

MARTIQ (ELECTRONIC VOICE-COMING FROM SPEAKER): You’re a fairly intelligent example of your species…

MARTIQ (ELECTRONIC VOICE-COMING FROM SPEAKER): …So I think it goes without saying, the (these) theatrics aren’t going to get you anywhere.

Panel Four: Kierra is looking towards the desk and its contents with a puzzled expression. This is view that allows us to still see the speaker on the wall.

MARTIQ (ELECTRONIC VOICE-COMING FROM SPEAKER): If you will direct your gaze to the desk…it has been thirty-six hours since your arrival… (36 hours? Isn’t she hungry? Doesn’t she have to at least pee? Know what? Forget it. We almost never see characters doing the mundane things of life, more’s the pity.)

MARTIQ (ELECTRONIC VOICE-COMING FROM SPEAKER): …(No leading ellipsis. This is not a continuation of the previous line.)We have research on your eating habits (“We have researched your eating habits” is more concise.) and have prepared you an appropriate breakfast. (Ah! Food! Good.)

KIERRA: Seriously?

Panel Five: We are looking down at a close view of Kierra’s bare feet. The metallic floor beneath her feet is glowing blue and there are sparks of electricity shooting into the air near her. Kierra’s feet are a few inches off of the ground and there are motion lines to show that she jumped.

SFX: KAAZZART

KIERRA: DAFUCK?!

KIERRA: Ow wow wow–that hurts! (There isn’t enough time in this panel for these lines to be spoken. Think about it. She’s just jumped. That takes as little a few seconds to do and land. And this is without the landing. You could fit the first line it at a stretch.)

Panel Six: This is a rear view of Kierra. She is in the process of heading toward the desk. (How did she gleam from this that she has to go to the desk? No, you need more dialogue from the speaker to convey that malformation.) (In the process? What does that look like?)

KIERRA: You didn’t have to do that.

MARTIQ (ELECTRONIC VOICE-COMING FROM SPEAKER): We take your health very seriously… (Why is this ellipsis here? It makes the speaker sound less assertive than hard stops would.)now if you don’t mind.

KIERRA: Fine–I’m going! (No interruption here, either. You sure love your dashes and ellipses. Break your heart if you want to be a better writer.)

A few technical issue on this page. I was interested. You lost it a bit here. Let’s see if page three can recover it.

P2 is down!

I’m with Liam in that I’m interested, too. How often does that happen?

Okay, comic book punctuation is a little different from regular punctuation. I know a few writers that live by the ellipsis and the double-dash. Ronnie, you seem to be one of them. Don’t. It isn’t enhancing your writing or the voice of your characters. They don’t have to be short declarative sentences, but they do have to basically be declarative sentences. Every time you use an ellipsis, you lose power. Every time you use a double-dash, you lose power–especially if the character isn’t being interrupted. (See what I did there?!)

Teleportation. This can be a challenge, because you don’t really want to teleport the character, you just want to change the surroundings a bit. This is best done by showing some elements slowly withdrawing over a couple of panels. Just make sure you keep the camera still during that transition, so the reader knows what they’re looking at. If you move the camera, you might as well teleport her.

(A page break!)

Page Three (6 Panels)

Panel One: Using Kierra’s POV we are looking down at the open takeout container as she holds it open. Its filled with bacon.

KIERRA: You obviously aren’t too concerned because I’m going to have a coronary with meals like this.

MARTIQ (ELECTRONIC VOICE-COMING FROM SPEAKER): Humans love pork. Please consume your–

SFX (COMING FROM SPEAKER): WHACK THONK (I’d like this SFX to occur on another panel, just to emphasize the interruption. It doesn’t have to be anything more than a similar panel, but it’ll go a long way in adding to the pacing.)

Panel Two: We are looking at the wall beneath the speaker. There is a body-sized opening in the wall that looks like molten metal around the edges.

SFX: WRRRRRRR (What’s making this sound?)

DARQUE (COMING FROM OUTSIDE THE OPENING): Kierra!

Panel Three: Inset into panel Four. This is a close-up of Kierra as she screams with terror.

KIERRA: AAHHHHHH! (Something of an overreaction.)(Something? No. Overreaction.)

Panel Four: We are looking directly at Darque, who has both hands held out in an effort to calm Kierra down. (We’ve just lost all sense of place. Where is this?) Darque is shirtless, wearing loose cargo pants, and has ornate, metallic bracers on each arm. They are gold and look both alien and ancient at the same time.

*NOTE TO ARTIST: Feel free to make up the design for the alien race, as long as they are humanoid and not insect looking. (This Darque guy is an alien. You never mentioned that fact.)

DARQUE: Wait–WAIT! (Again.)

DARQUE: I’ve come to get you out of here!

Panel Five: This is an angled, rear view of Kierra as she faces Darque. They are about ten feet apart and she (has) thrown the container of bacon at him. There is bacon flying everywhere. Darque still has his hands held out in an effort to calm her down.

KIERRA: Stay the hell away from me!

DARQUE: Kierra, you don’t understand!

DARQUE: It’s me, Da– (The dialogue to panel action pacing is off here as well. It doesn’t take that long to throw something at someone. You can get Kierra’s dialogue in here, as we’ll assume she spoke prior to the throw. Darque’s however, will have to be on another panel. This will make for a good comedy beat if we see a bit of bacon draped over his face or something.) (I’d get rid of “you don’t understand” and put this line there instead. It gets to the point quicker.)

Panel Six: We are looking directly at Kierra. She is in the process of executing a spinning roundhouse kick. Her foot looks like it’s flying right at us.

KIERRA: KI-YAAAH!

P3, and we have bacon flying everywhere. We also have the alien. My interest is starting to wane just a little, but I’m invested in the story enough to continue. I do like the artist note, though, to make Darque look alien but not insectile. It just needs to be a little more explicit.

Watch your spelling and word usage. You’re missing some words here and there, and that could change the meaning of the panel description. Sometimes, words can get lost when you’re typing a mile a minute, but try to give a greater effort to be aware of what’s coming out on the page.

Page Four (7 Panels)

Panel One: Angled, rear view. We are behind Kierra as she faces Darque. Darque has strips of bacon stuck to him in various places. He’s caught Kierra’s foot and is frowning. (We’ve had this angle way too many times. This shot would work much better as a side shot, anyhow.)

DARQUE: I can’t believe you threw bacon at me, Kiki.

KIERRA: Kiki?

KIERRA: Nobody calls me that but my boyfriend. (This is an awkward position to have this conversation in, especially without seeing her face.)

Panel Two: We are looking at a shoulder-up bust view of Darque. He looks apprehensive.

DARQUE: That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you…I’m David. (Stop it with the ellipses!)

KIERRA: Bullshit. (She’s off-panel.)

DARQUE: I can explain everything, but you’ve got to promise not to attack me.

Panel Three: Slightly angled side view of Darque and Kierra as they face one another. Kierra has two fingers in the air. (Doing what with them, exactly?) Darque has both hands held up and is pointing at one of the bracers. (Her foot is down, I presume?)

KIERRA: You’ve got two minutes.

DARQUE: I only need two seconds.

Panel Four: We are looking directly at Darque who is sporting a sad smile. (Conflicting, but this can be done. The mouth smiles, the eyes show sadness.) His left hand is clutching the right bracer. There is a shimmering haze surrounding him and now he looks completely human.

DARQUE: My name is Darque (Comma.) and I am next in line to lead the Fhuwahe after my father dies.

DARQUE: My people have been on this planet for almost a decade…planning…

KIERRA (OP): I don’t like the sound of that.

Panel Five: Slightly angled, front view of Darque, (Is he still human?) who has turned away from Kierra. He is reaching back for her hand and looks very worried.

DARQUE: You shouldn’t…

DARQUE: (No leading ellipsis.)…Martiq will wake soon and we need to be far away from this facility by then.

KIERRA: Two sentences an answer does not make–Can you wait a minute? (She wasn’t interrupted or cut off.)

Panel Six: We are looking past an extreme close-up of the right ride of Darque’s face, at Kierra. She’s wearing a sinister expression and one hand is extended as she reaches for him.

DARQUE: No I can’t, not if you want to live. And fyi, (F.Y.I.) I hate Yoda…In case you haven’t noticed, I talk in complete sentences. (Cringe. That joke doesn’t work for me. Not at all.)

KIERRA: Fine, you’re not a fan–at least tell me where we are. (Delete those dashes.)

DARQUE: Still on campus, underneath the old women’s dorm.

Panel Seven – Inset into panel six: This is a close-up of Darque’s head and neck. His head is twisted back in an impossible angle making it obvious that his neck is broken. Kierra’s hands are clutching the sides of his head. There are faded images and motion lines to further convey the breaking of his neck. (This is awkwardly written. Just outright say that Kierra snapped his neck. Also, what’s his expression.)

SFX: SNAP

That last panel makes for decent page turner. A shame it’s on an even page. There also a lot of panels on this page. You could easily cut one or two and give your other panels more breathing room. That last panel, for instance, could do with being bigger.

P4, and like Liam says, we have a problem with pacing. It’s a small problem though. There should only be two large panels on this page: panel 1 and panel 7. All the other panels can be smaller. This means that panel 7 should not be inset to panel 6. Give this panel it’s full power!

The good news is that I’m interested again. And everyone has been named. We should also have reached our 200 word quota by now. What’s left? “Chainsaw” in the dialogue, and a 2 panel or less page. Let’s see if we can get them.

Page Six (2 Panels) (Hold on… Did we skip a page?) (We certainly misnumbered. This wasn’t supposed to be longer than 5 pages, remember?)

Panel One – We are looking at Kierra who is kneeling on one knee next to Darque’s body. The human illusion is gone. Kierra has her hands on one bracer and is in the act of taking it off. The other bracer is already off and next to her foot.

KIERRA: Alright, Dad, I’ve got the bracers (Comma.) and if our research is correct, you should be getting my transmission.

DAD (COMING FROM THE BRACER): … (Hmm… Silence? Nah. You can’t transmit silence. Go with distortion or something.)

KIERRA: Dad (Comma.) are you there?

DAD (COMING FROM THE BRACER): Yes. Reading you loud and clear. Did you have any problems getting out?

KIERRA: For a minute I thought that my acting had blown my cover…

KIERRA: …I’m not that good at playing ‘damsel in distress’… (Destroy those ellipses with extreme prejudice.)

Panel Two: We are looking at a full body view of Kierra. She’s now standing, has tears in her eyes and running down her face, and is clutching the bracers close to her heart. Behind her we can see Darque’s body.

KIERRA: … (Kill.) My biggest headache was the waiting game. I was beginning to wish for a chainsaw to use on the walls…but David came through.

DAD (COMING FROM THE BRACER): Just like you said…he… (Obliterate.) must have really loved you to betray his people…are you ok?

KIERRA: Dad, I’m a soldier and this was a mission…

KIERRA (MUMBLES): …I’m offended that you even had to ask. (The ellipses for this line and the previous are actually justified and well used.)

I’m not sure what happened in this story. I didn’t really get it. What was the strange changing room about? Who was talking over the speaker, and why? That aspect of this story seemed to go nowhere. You could have easily had this set somewhere else and have it made more sense.

On a technical level, you already know my issues with your zealous… employment.. of certain… elements… of punctuation. That was an incredibly pretentious way of saying stop using so many dashes and ellipses. You’ll ruin their impact by using them so frequently, and when you can use them effectively, like your last line, they’ll be all the more impotent. Your pacing could do with some work, too. On a panel-to-panel and page basis. Some of your panel transitions were unclear, such as the room changing. Page four (which I think is actually an amalgamation of pages four and five) was incredibly over populated.

Rethink this story. Rework the beginning. Keep it as simple as possible. There’s nothing wrong with simple. Simple is good, clear storytelling, especially when you’ve such a small amount of space to tell a story.

And we’re done! Let’s run this down!

Format: Very close to the Flawless Victory! A single page break away. Shame. I could taste it.

Panel Descriptions: These aren’t bad at all. You’ve come a nice way from where you were, Ronnie. You’re thinking things through and seeing them visually. Good job. Just watch out for teleportation now. Also, make sure you’re using all your words.

Pacing: This could use just a small shot in the arm. It isn’t terrible by any means. It just got a little boring. Also, watch your acting.

Dialogue: Not bad at all. Sometimes you took a little bit to get to the point, but that’s what editors are for, right? Not bad at all. Just make sure that all the dialogue points toward something. I agree with Liam in that some of this led nowhere. Fix that, and you’d have a much stronger story.

Content: Not bad. Not much to fix. It’s a readable story, but it could be stronger if everything were tied together better. Yeah, I know things were hard to pull together. That’s part of the point. But this was a good effort.

Editorially, again, there isn’t much to fix. Very nicely done.

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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