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TPG Week 250: Complete Rewrite Needed

| October 9, 2015

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Welcome back, one and all, to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we have Brave One Jave Galt-Miller. We also have Liam Hayes in blue, we’ve got Ryan Kroboth on pencils, and I’m the guy in raving in the red.

Let’s see what Jave has with

POLIS

CHARACTER NOTES

ALCIBIADES: (35) Athenian aristocrat. Born with everything: money, looks, intelligence, an impeccable bloodline. On his mother’s side, he is descended from the founder of the Athenian democracy; on his father’s side, he is descended from the gods. His heroic father died in battle when he was four, the great Pericles raising him thereafter as his own son. Sometimes student of Socrates. Alcibiades has everything: including an insatiable ambition, and a young man’s lack of tact. He is always looking to be better than his father, and his ward Pericles.

NIKIAS: (50s) Grizzled soldier, a scar from ear to chin. Born into money, he’s never known poverty, but his blood is from common stock and so he remains a man of the people. He’s seen the ravages of war, and he therefore will do what he can to remain at peace. Pious to a fault, his dependence on signs from the gods may get him in trouble in the future. But as of now, he has never lost a battle, and Athenians refer to him as “The Lucky”. Lately an ulcer in his stomach has been causing him pain.

THERAMENES: (30) Friend of Alcibiades. Short and stocky, he is very strong. He prefers order to chaos, and he is always loyal to his friends. He comes from an undistinguished family, and he has never been wealthy. Quick-witted, he is not afraid to buck tradition and authority. (Prefers order to chaos, but not afraid to buck tradition and authority…which causes chaos. Oooookay.)

These character descriptions have me scared. More than the fact that everything is in bold for

some reason.

ART NOTES

Despite the artifacts that have survived to our day, the Greeks lived in a world of color. Much of the white marble was painted in bright, rich colors. So too with the dress, the men trying to distinguish themselves more in this regard than the women. The older men are predominantly bearded, while the younger less so. It was Alcibiades, in fact, who popularized the clean-shaven look.

I want to be as meticulous as we can be in making this world reflect what we know from the archaeological record. While at the same time, I hope to fill in the gaps of our knowledge (So you want to be an archaeologist… That’s the only way to make this statement true.), and make this world our own.

LEGEND

OP = Off panel

FG = Foreground

BG = Background (This, folks, is known as covering your bases. I’m not a fan of putting in things that are pretty obvious, but what do I know? It doesn’t hurt anything. I just find it unnecessary.)

PAGE ONE (FOUR PANELS)

PANEL ONE

A MAP of Greece and Asia Minor. (Reference.) ATHENS (blue) and SPARTA (red) marked on the map, with PERSIA (yellow) crashing like a wave from the East. (Persian Wave: the crest is made up of cavalry and chariots, which dissolve back into a wave which starts in Asia Minor; near Plataea (north of Athens) stand two stylized Hoplites, red and blue, spears forward, and ready to stop the oncoming wave.) (I’m having a hard time visualizing this. A literal wave? How can that be shown in a static image?)(‘SPLODE! It’s P1, panel 1. Ryan, if you’d do us the honor?)

1. CAPTION:

IN 479 BCE (Comma.) THE INDEPENDENT CITY-STATES OF GREECE DEFEATED THE INVADING PERSIAN EMPIRE. TWO OF THESE CITIES ROSE TO PROMINENCE:

2. CAPTION:

ATHENS AND SPARTA.

(Why are your nouns underlined for emphasis?)

PANEL TWO

A JAVELIN ATHLETE (20s) throws his spear straight at us. He is graceful, sculpted, naked. His face is contorted in the ecstasy of excellence. (Where is this? When is this?)

3. CAPTION:

IN THE FOLLOWING YEARS, BOTH STATES SOUGHT TO EXTEND THEIR POWER.

4. CAPTION:

WAR WAS INEVITABLE.

PANEL THREE

Two PUGILISTS (20s) trading punches in a sand pit, a strip of leather wrapped around each fist. Naked, ripped, fierce. Blood and sweat splatter as fist connects with chin.

5. CAPTION:

IN 431 BCE IT CAME: A BLOODY, TREACHEROUS CONFLICT THAT LASTED DECADES.

6. CAPTION:

THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR.

(MORE)

PANEL FOUR

RUNNERS running a relay on a dirt track as SPECTATORS cheer. The lead runner, inches ahead of the others, thrusts out his chest as he breaks through the finishing rope. (Sparse. More description needed. Where is this? It’s in the daytime, I guess. What do these people wear? What do the spectators wear?)

7. CAPTION:

At its midpoint, neither city with an advantage, both sides exhausted, Athens and Sparta negotiated peace.

Very dry. That would be fine if this was a factual piece, but is seems you’re going to be telling a story with this. As such, the first page is boring. Necessary? I don’t know. I don’t think so. Information like this could be gotten across more organically, and interestingly, through dialogue.

P1 is down!

I’m going to agree with Liam: this is boring. And panel 1 goes out of its way to make itself hard to parse. I mean, I started to get it, but when you have to put what you mean in an aside in order to be understood… Yeah. Not good. Say what you mean. That’s what the panel descriptions are for. You don’t need an aside for panel descriptions, unless you’re going off on a tangent about something.

The panel descriptions are sparse. Every single one of them on this page is missing a crucial element: a location. I might even let you slide with the time of day missing, but it’s hard to do that when the location is missing, too.

I remember being on Digital Webbing one day, and was going through scripts in the Writer’s Showcase. This one writer posted a script that had been produced, and as I read it, I saw that the panel descriptions were very sparse. They didn’t have necessary information in them (like locations, actions, facial expressions), and I said that the artist had a lot of questions in reading this. The writer said I was correct and asked me how I could tell, and I said because it was missing the necessities. I then went on to explain exactly what was needed per panel, and the writer said that the artist asked the same questions as they read it and drew it. Finally, the writer discovered that they could have saved both themselves and the artist a lot of time and effort if the panel descriptions were more complete.

You can do shortcuts, folks. You don’t have to put in a setting every time you write a panel description, as long as you’re in the same location. It’s called an establishing shot. If you write an establishing shot, you’ll have the Where, When and most likely the Who as well. That’s your shortcut.

However, you can’t have a shortcut if you don’t do it right the first time around. Generally, the establishing shot is the first panel on the scene. (Generally. This is a generalization. I didn’t say “always”, I said “generally.” This means “not all the time.” There are myriad examples where this is not the case. We good? Good.)

I don’t know why the panel descriptions are in bold. Stylistic choice. It’s not wrong. It’s a personal preference.

So, too, are the caps for the dialogue. Not something I’d ding a writer on. The letterer will more than likely use an all-caps font, anyway. This could help better visualize the amount of space the dialogue will take up. I’ve got nothing against it.

I also like the numbering on the dialogue. It lets the letterer know exactly how many balloons will fit on the page. I’ve got nothing against it.

The two big things here are the fact that it’s boring, and the fact that it’s forcing the artist to ask questions that should be in the panel descriptions. One of these is easier to fix than the other.

(These aren’t page breaks. You’ve just hit enter a few times until you were on another page.)

PAGE TWO (TWO PANELS) (No page breaks? No Flawless Victory. Yes, I’m still missing my friend.)

PANEL ONE

Nineteen CHARIOTEERS stand in a line outside the walled Hippodrome, or racetrack. (This thing about setting this in a historical accurate time period is that you have to be ever more specific with your descriptions. What does this look like? Do you have reference images?) Young, fit, and predominantly short, they are dressed in chitons (Reference.) – a simple white robe that leaves one shoulder bare. A PRIEST (50s) presents a bronze bowl, one of the Charioteers reaching inside. ALCIBIADES (35) and THERAMENES (30) arrive on horseback, the former wearing a bronze helmet and a purple cape, the latter in plain dress, stocky and strong. (And with the last line, this panel becomes a moving panel. Nobody can arrive in a static image.)

1. CAPTION:

BUT EVEN DURING PEACE, MAN AND CITY WILL FIND WAYS TO DOMINATE.

PANEL TWO

Alcibiades holds his helmet under his arm as he approaches the line of charioteers, his cape whipping in the breeze. He is extremely good looking, his dress and manner standing out from the rest. He is strong: lean and dexterous like a swashbuckler, rather than the bulk of a warrior. This is our hero, bigger than life. His smile tells us he knows it as he dominates the page. (Prose. Total prose.)

(What you’re doing his is describing a character you’ve already described in character descriptions. And you’re doing it one panel too late. We’d have already seen this guy in panel one. Why make your artist read this and then go fill in the blanks? Unnecessary and annoying.)

2. PRIEST: (Where is the priest?)

WHERE IS YOUR RIDER?

3. ALCIBIADES:

MY HORSES. MY RIDE.

P2 is done, and really, I don’t have anything to say. Liam already said it all.

However, I’ve noticed that this is a great place to drop a name. Missed opportunity.

PAGE THREE (SIX PANELS)

PANEL ONE

Close as Alcibiades reaches his hand in the bowl.

PANEL TWO

Alcibiades glances up slyly after reading the token. (I can see this, but its written as a moving panel.)

1. ALCIBIADES:

BEHIND THE DOLPHIN (He completes the statement. This isn’t an interruption.) (I’d rather an ellipsis, personally.)

2. ALCIBIADES:

COULDN’T HAVE BETTER PLACEMENT HAD I BRIBED YOU MYSELF, NO?

PANEL THREE (TALL)

The Priest gives a disapproving look as he moves down the line. Alcibiades tosses his helmet to Theramenes, still on horseback beyond the Priest.

3. ALCIBIADES:

THERAMENES! (First time someone has said a name. We’re only three pages in…)

PANEL FOUR (TALL)

The helmet sailing through the air – (Waste of a panel.)

PANEL FIVE (TALL)

Theramenes catches the helmet.

4. THERAMENES:

TRY NOT TO FUCK UP OUT THERE. (Threw me right out of the story. If we’re talking ancient times, how is it that a word first used in the 15th century is known? I thought you were going for historically accurate? This is no longer the case right here. I don’t mind language and cadence that is easier to understand, but I do mind things that are just blatantly wrong and flies in the face of what you stated. It’s like saying you’re celibate but going out and cornholing everything that moves. Just because it’s not vaginal means its not sex? Bullshit. Just like your stated claim for historical accuracy.)

PANEL SIX (WIDE)

Alcibiades joins the line, as the Charioteers walk toward the arched entrance to the Hippodrome. (Not seeing this. It’s no a specific moment in time.) Speaks more to himself. (Huh?)

5. ALCIBIADES:

WISE COUNSEL.

None of these people are placed particularly well. I’m having a hard time seeing the scene at all. Your panels are described in motion, and lack a specific point in time from which to draw a coherent scene in the mind’s eye.

P3, and I’m pretty unimpressed. One person is named, and something is supposed to be happening, but no idea what. At first it almost appeared to be the origin of the Olympics, but then it just kinda went somewhere else.

I’m waiting for the story to start. So is everyone else.

The moving panels aren’t helping your cause any, either.

PAGE FOUR & FIVE (SPREAD, FOUR PANELS)

PANEL ONE (SPREAD)

Alcibiades and the Charioteers march through the dark, ceilinged (Not a word, but nice effort.) gate, sunlight flooding in through the archway, a massive crowd cheering in anticipation from the tiered seats that surround the track beyond. (Again, how are the characters placed? Where is Alci?)

PANEL TWO (SPLASH, SPREAD)

High angle view of the Hippodrome: Approximately 600 meters long and 250 meters wide, a wooden barrier runs around the track to protect the Crowd. The spectators are all men: women are not allowed to witness the games. Marble pillars mark the turning points on either end of the oval racetrack. (This will definitely need references. Or more description. Preferably both.)

Twenty chariots, each with four horses, are waiting on the track, strung out in a V-formation, as the Charioteers walk toward their rides. At the apex of the V-formation hangs a large bronze DOLPHIN raised on a pole. (In the middle of the track?) Directly behind the dolphin, and behind the two chariots which form the point of the V-formation, is a mud-brick altar, a bronze EAGLE perched on a small platform before it. (Again, in the track?) A metal barrier, chest-high and four horses long, blocks each chariot from forward movement.

1. CAPTION:

THE OLYMPIC GAMES, 416 BCE

PANEL THREE

Alcibiades stands by his chariot. Looks up. Soaks in the energy of the crowd. Loves it. (The first two sentences are easy to draw. The second two sentences…I don’t even know what that looks like. Not as a static image combined with the first two sentences.)

PANEL FOUR

Alcibiades affectionately pats the nose of the nearest horse.

2. ALCIBIADES:

BY APOLLO’S SPEED.

What a waste of two pages. Hell, all of these pages have been a waste so far. Can’t we start with the interesting bit the chariot race?

There is one good thing I can say here: the double-page spread was done correctly.

Go back and look at it. It’s okay. We’ll wait.

Back already? Good. Let’s break this down.

P1 starts on the right. You turn the page to get to P2, which is on the left. This means that even-numbered pages are on the left, and odd-numbered pages on the right. This means if you want to have a double-page spread, you have to start on the left (even) and end on the right (odd). Again, this was done correctly.

However, again, I agree with Liam: this is boring. We’re five pages in, and nothing has happened. In five pages, we’ve got nothing happening, we’ve got a single name, and we have information presented in a very dry way. We also have cursing, which immediately limits the audience. Kids won’t be able to read this. And kids need the history lesson more than adults.

Cornholing. Cornholio. Beavis & Butthead. The start of the downfall of MTV. I’d rather watch that than be bored here…and I’m not one for stupid television. (Say what you want about South Park, it’s not stupid.)

Let’s keep it moving.

PAGE SIX (FIVE PANELS)

PANEL ONE

AGIS (30s) watches silently from a high-backed chair. He has a neatly trimmed beard, his long, dark mane held back by golden clasps. He wears the RED dress of a Spartan King.

1. NIKIAS (OP):

IT IS GOOD THAT ATHENS AND SPARTA ARE MATCHED HERE AND NOT ON THE FIELD.

PANEL TWO

On the judges’ raised platform, where the wealthy and important watch the race. Agis is set apart from the others, Nikias (50s) standing over his shoulder. (Why didn’t we see this guy in the previous panel?) A military man used to having his orders carried out, his patrician face is marred by a jagged scar that runs from ear to chin. Still, he is deferential to the younger man.

2. NIKIAS:

I SEE YOUR MAN HAS A GOOD POSITION. IS HE AS SKILLED AS THEY SAY HE IS?

3. AGIS:

I SEE THAT YOUR MAN ALSO HAS FOUND GOOD POSITION.

PANEL THREE

Nikias steps up to the railing for a better view below. Agis behind him and smiling from the chair, giving his first sign of emotion. (Waste.)

PANEL FOUR

High angle POV of the Charioteers. Hard to make out details, but Alcibiades’ purple cape is distinct as he looks up toward the Judges’ platform. (Where is any of this happening? Place your characters better.)

PANEL FIVE

Close on Nikias, surprised, as it sinks in.

4. NIKIAS:

GODS BELOW — WHAT’S HE DOING THERE?

Boring exposition to start. Boring lead up. Boring boring. Don’t even know what’s happening now. This needs work. Cut the fat. Fix your scene descriptions and character placements. Rewrite.

Liam’s done, so I’m done. Let’s run this down!

Format: Really, all we need are page breaks, folks. That is the single thing that stops most Flawless Victories.

Panel Descriptions: These, I’m sorry to say, are close to useless. There needs to be more information given to the artists, or photo reference. Or both.

I love old movies. Anyone who knows me knows this. I’m particular to b/w horror and sci-fi films, but I’m also partial to sword and sandal filmed in early color. As I read this, I keep seeing the deep, almost garish colors of those old films, and placing them in the panel descriptions. (Another use of deep, almost garish colors were the Hammer films.)

I say this because that’s what the story reminds me of (Ben-Hur with Charlton Heston, anyone?), but done in a deplorable way that cuts out any real sense of place. Being prosaic isn’t helping. Being prosaic is telling the artist you don’t know what you want them to draw, so you’re filling up the panel description with words in an effort to hide the fact that you don’t know what you want. It doesn’t work.

Locations. Character placement within those locations. Characters acting within the placement of the locations. Not describing the things you already described other places. These things are your job, and won’t have your artist cursing your name.

Pacing: Terrible. Non-existent. Six pages and nothing really happened. No one was introduced or built up or anything, so there’s no feeling of attachment for any character. Names help. But since nothing happens, it’s hard to care.

This entire beginning feels like padding. Like you’re feeling your way. Or like you’ve watched too many sword and sandal films and tried to adapt that pacing to this medium, which you can’t do. Things don’t have to be fast or slow, they have to be interesting. And there’s nothing interesting happening here.

Dialogue: Again, I don’t mind the updating of the dialect in order to make for an easier read, but using words that are just blatantly not within the vocabulary of the time is just too much. You might as well have been talking about NASCAR.

Other than that, the dialogue was readable. However, it was generally uninformative. It didn’t reveal much character, and it didn’t do much to push the plot forward. Not a good time by far.

Content: As a reader, I was bored. I didn’t know who any of the characters are, and I didn’t care about what was going on. I’ve had better times shining my shoes.

Editorially, this needs a complete rewrite. Everything needs to be gone over. Just take everything that’s been said, let it simmer for a while, scrap this draft, and start over again fresh. The good news is that the Line of Demarcation wasn’t set. You have that going for you.

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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