Welcome back, one and all, to The Proving Grounds! This week’s Brave One is no stranger here: we have Schuyler Van Gunten! It’s just going to be me this week in red, and we have Ryan Kroboth with the pencil assists. Now we’re all going to see how far Schuyler has come and see if he is
A Giant Among Men
The images I drew are only meant to be a map. The scales and proportions are often wrong. Angles and zooms are subject to change at your discretion. The only thing to be wary of, is what order the characters appear on the panel, because it will affect the lettering. (Nicely done, Schuyler. No, I’m not going to include the pictures et al. They’re there, and they will prove useful to any artist who gets to draw this script.)
Bashaa- A middle aged man from the beginning of the Copper Age. He wears a skirt and carries a spear, and is very stoic. He can be black or white, that is up to you. Give him a big nose either way. The length and style of hair is up to you. (I like the descriptions. There’s a thing about Schuyler that I’ve noticed, though: he likes working in the past. There are few scripts that I’ve seen of his set in the present. If we can have personal tropes, then I’d call this a trope of his. It reminds me of John Lees, who had a trope of starting with a flashback. Something to be mindful of.)
Kiri- A large female dog. You can make her look however you want, but be reasonable. I imagine her to look like the depictions of dogs we might see in ancient art. They are almost lion-like, but only take that idea if you like it.
Sin-Nada- Bashaa’s wife, and a strong woman. She also wears a skirt and a leather strip across her chest. She also has a big nose, but not as big as Bashaa’s.
Almas- look like Big Foot or Sasquatch.
The Giant- looks like a huge man with only one eye, or no eyes. He was once human, so he should look mostly human.
The Stranger- is a human from the North. He can be white or black. I imagine he is much older than Bashaa, has long hair and a long beard, and wears a loin cloth instead of a skirt.
PAGE ONE (four panels)
Panel 1. Inset into top left corner of panel two. Midday. Front shot of Bashaa, from the shoulders up. His eyes are half closed, and he has a small frown. He looks tired, not just of exhaustion but of life. Background is just clouds and sky, or none at all.
CAP: I’m sorry, Sin-nada. I let my fear control me. I let it make me weak.
Panel 2. Large panel. Bashaa stands with his back to us, the bottom half of his body cut off by the bottom of the panel. He is standing in a massive footprint, but I want to reveal that in the next panel (Nice. Telling the artist what’s going on, while at the same time saying it’s not being shown here.). He stands on a path that leads through a destroyed village, and he holds a spear in his right hand, using it to support himself. Kiri is on the path right ahead of him. The houses on the left and right of the path have been destroyed by weather and the giant. The houses are not built to last, clay and straw walls, with thatch roofs. As the path stretches it reaches a river. There are piles of human bones that sit randomly throughout the small village.
CAP: I was just so afraid…
BASHAA: We’re close now, Kiri.
Panel 3. We can see Bashaa’s whole body now, and the giant’s footprint. Please note that the giant did not walk straight through the village or we would have seen more footprints in the last panel. The footprint has to point as if he was walking past the village.
CAP: Afraid of the change that comes for everyone…
Panel 4. Close on Bashaa from the shoulder up, looking very similar to panel one. Bashaa’s eyes are closed and a tear rolls down his cheek. Background is just sky and clouds, or none at all. (This would be kind of boring since we’ve already seen this panel before. Remember that storytelling has to be interesting.)
CAP: As it came for you, my beloved.
We have P1 on the books!
I wish you could see the pictures that Schuyler drew. They’re thumbnails, and their basic use is to give the artist the gist of what’s going on. They don’t have to be pretty, they have to be effective. I think these are effective. (Imagine my surprise when I saw them transfer without a problem! Woohoo!)
It’s a pretty sedate opening. There isn’t anything really striking about it, either from a dramatic standpoint or a visual one. I do think that there’s a pacing problem, though, because I think Schuyler is burying the interest in the footprint by putting another panel after it.
There’s also a dearth of dialogue here. Four panels of a brand-new story…I think there’s a lot of worldbuilding to do. That can be done most effectively with more words to go along with the pictures.
Where are we, physically speaking? When are we, geologically speaking? If this is the Time of Giants (nephilim), will we see more than just the footprint? What can be done on this page in order to bring the feeling of a more complete world?
This isn’t a bad opening page. It isn’t great, but it isn’t bad. Let’s see what P2 brings.
PAGE TWO (seven panels)
Panel 1. Nighttime, lit by a full moon. Sin-nada and Bashaa are across a campfire from each other. Sin-nada stands and holds her hand over the fire, not for warmth, but out of muscle memory (This is a moving panel, and the last part of the sentence cannot be drawn.). She is frowning, as she speaks. Bashaa sits cross-legged on his side, poking the fire with a stick, also frowning. His spear rests on the ground beyond him (I don’t know what this means. Beyond him? Where is that? I say it’s over the mountain. What mountain? It doesn’t matter…). Just beyond the campfire, Kiri is asleep. The background is filled with thick forest. Leave a good distance, so we can zoom in over the next few panels.
SIN-NADA: I am tired of running! We should be hunting him! We are large game hunters!
BASHAA: I am the only hunter here, Sin-nada. Our tribe hunted large game, but as a tribe, with many men.
Panel 2. We see them both a little closer now as Sin-nada points and glares at Bashaa. Bashaa is staring into the fire, poking it, still frowning. Kiri, has rolled over, away from the arguing couple.
SIN-NADA: You may be the only hunter, but you, Bashaa, are a coward!
BASHAA: You are being foolish.
SIN-NADA: Better to die a fool, than live a coward! (Comma-fail. Usually, it’s the lack of a comma. This time, it’s an unnecessary one.)
Panel 3. Bashaa is sitting alone at the fire still poking it with his stick, frowning. Kiri is alert and now and looks at him with her ears in the air. (She kinda teleports away, doesn’t she?)
BASHAA: Don’t worry, Kiri. She’ll be back.
Panel 4. Close shot of Bashaa and Kiri, both looking alert. Bashaa’s eyes are wide and his lips pursed. Kiri’s teeth are bared and her ears are in the air.
SIN-NADA (big, op): Bashaa! (Finally, we get all three names in. It also didn’t take too long. Nice work.)
Panel 5. Bashaa is rising to his feet with is spear in hand, Kiri is already in motion running off panel right. Bashaa still has the same expression from last panel.
Panel 6. We see Kiri and Bashaa from behind, and almost a worm’s eye. Bashaa is hiding behind a large tree, peeking out to see what’s beyond. We cannot see what he sees because of our angle. The rest of the background is sky and clouds. His spear leans on the tree next to him.
BASHAA (small): It’s not the beast, it’s Almas… She is already gone Kiri… (Comma-fail.)
Panel 7. Two Almas kneel over Sin-nada, who is already dead. They are preparing to rip her apart. Kiri is running up in the background and even further there is a group of trees, where Bashaa hides. We can see his face leaning out as he yells at Kiri.
BASHAA (big): Kiri, no!
SFX: Arr, arr, arr
P2, and we have some problems.
My basic problem is that this page is a flashback, but there’s no indication of it being so anywhere in the panel descriptions. There are things the artist or colorist can do in order to show this is a flashback, but how are they supposed to know if they aren’t told? Why should they have do either ask or guess?
Then there are problems with the pacing. The argument seems to come out of nowhere. The woman just disappears from the panel. We don’t even see her walking off. These two are also big problems because we’re given no time to find out exactly who these characters are.
Schuyler does try to give us some motivation, though. We know what the woman wants: to hunt some as-yet unnamed large game, with only the single other person there for help. We know what the male wants: to be safe while hunting. She’s fiery, he’s mild. Does she deserve her fate? Possibly, because she was imprudent. And before anyone gets their knickers twisted, this has nothing to do with her sex and everything to do with her actions. I’d say the same thing if the roles were reversed.
This story is trying to develop fast. This can happen with short pieces. The problem is that we’re not given enough insight into these characters. That’s due to a lack of dialogue. A lot can be done with seven panels. Not enough of it is dedicated to words.
PAGE THREE (five panels)
Panel 1. One of the Almas caught Kiri as she leapt to attack, and holds her ready to deliver a fatal blow.
SFX (Kiri): Grrr
SFX (Giant, op): Raaaaaaagh
Note to artist: I was hoping that you would do this specific lettering. I want it to look more like a sound effect that stretches across these first three panels. That of course will depend on the layout that you choose for the page, and you should make the final decision about whether it works or not. (While totally possible and probable, I don’t like having the artists do the lettering. Unless they’re also letterers themselves, it generally turns out terrible. I’m also opposed to having the artist draw the letters on the page. Most of the time, because it’s so terrible, it is extremely easy to see who did what. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the request. This is an editorial prerogative. It might turn out fine. I’d much rather be safe than sorry, and if I were editing this, this request would not make it to the artist. It would instead be explained to the artist what was wanted, and the request would go to the letterer.)
Panel 2. The Almas are panicking. The one having thrown Kiri to the ground to run, the other already running off panel. (This second sentence makes no sense.)
COPY FROM PANEL ONE STRETCHES ACROSS THIS PANEL.
SFX (Kiri): Arr arr
Panel 3. One Alma is already off panel while the other is running off panel right. Kiri has recovered now and runs towards us.
COPY FROM PANEL ONE STRETCHES ACROSS THIS PANEL, DEPENDING ON THE LAY-OUT.
Panel 4. Big Panel. The giant stands center panel over Sin-nada’s body. He holds a human body by the head, it dangles from his fist. The giant is cut off from the shoulders up, by the top panel border. (Teleportation? It feels like it.)
SFX (Giant): Sniff sniff
Panel 5. Bashaa is still hiding behind his tree. Kiri made it back to him and he holds her tightly by the fur. You can use the same background from page 2, panel 6.
BASHAA (small): It’s going to smell us, Kiri.
P3, and we still have some problems.
Where does the giant come from? Again, I say it’s teleportation. There’s no indication at all of where it comes from, or that it was even coming. It just appears. That’s bad storytelling.
We’re still in the flashback, and I no longer know what the story is about. Why are we here? What do these characters want? Nothing is clear here. If I cared about what happened and what was going to happen, I’d be frustrated. However, I’m not interested. Bad storytelling doesn’t hold my attention.
Let’s go to P1 for a moment. The man is standing in a footprint. It’s very reminiscent of Ferris Beuller and The Professional Meet A Dinosaur…I mean, Godzilla starring Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno. If something is big enough and heavy enough to leave a depression in the ground big enough for a man to stand in, then it is big enough and heavy enough to be felt as it walks by. Just saying.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s all about me, but I’m not impressed.
PAGE FOUR (six panels)
Panel 1. We are back in the village from page one. Mid-day. Bashaa stands in the large footprint and looks out across the destroyed village with his back to us. Kiri is on the path ahead of him. (So we’re back in the present. Got it.)
CAP: Why didn’t it smell us? (I recently had an email exchange with someone, discussing the use of captions vs thought balloons. Captions (internal monologues) take away the immediacy of the tale. It feels like the story is already done and is being told to someone. Thought balloons tell the reader what the person is thinking right now, much like spoken dialogue. Would one work better than the other here? I don’t know. It would definitely give a different sense of the story, though.)
Panel 2. Side shot of Kiri as she runs along the side of a building barking in alarm.
SFX (Kiri): Arr arr arr
Panel 3. The Stanger (Stanger? What’s a stanger? New character? You saw that red line when you wrote it. Ignore it at your peril.) stands center panel with Kiri growling at his feet. He holds his hands out in front of himself to show they are empty. His eyes wide in fear. There is a building on the left side of the panel.
STRANGER: Call of your dog! I am unarmed! (Call of your dog. Is the like the call of the wild?)
BASHAA (op): Kiri!
Panel 4. Bashaa stands resting on his spear with the same tired expression. Kiri is at his side eyeing the stranger warily. The Stranger stands facing Bashaa still holding his hands out. There is a building behind them.
BASHAA: I’m sorry about your village.
STRANGER: It’s not mine. I come from the north.
Panel 5. Bashaa is bottom panel left with his back to us. The bottom half of his body cut off by the panel border. We see the Stranger past him, facing us. Kiri is off panel or picking at a bone in the background, doesn’t really matter. Please note that I placed them this way for lettering reasons. (See this? This is a sign that there is a creator who is thinking. Makes my heart sing, it does. Ryan? You’re up, my friend.)
STANGER: I travel south. I’m hoping the beasts have not reached the Southern tribes yet. You should join me.
BASHAA: You come from the North? Our tribes have been destroyed or scattered, so have yours. The Southern tribes will be the same. (I get it, but it’s a boring exchange. Anyone have any ideas on how to punch this up?)
Panel 6. The Stranger stands with his right side to us and his arms out in front to stop Bashaa. Bashaa and Kiri are walking off panel right.
STANGER: Wait! That’s the way the beast went!
BASHAA: He will smell us all out eventually. I am going to face my destiny with spear in hand.
I’m still bored.
This isn’t terrible, but I’m totally uninterested because I’m bored. Bored as in bored. Bored as in I’d rather watch the new Turtles movie with the hope of seeing Megan Fox naked. (She’s not a good actress, and she was prettier before she had all the work done. Prettier in physicality, not in attitude. From everything I’ve seen of her, she’s always had a screwed up attitude.
So why are we reading this? What’s the story? It’s P4, and there’s no real indication of why we’re here. If it’s a short, then we have to get to the point faster.
Technically, there isn’t anything wrong with this page, aside from some spelling mistakes. I’m just bored.
PAGE FIVE (six panels)
Panel 1. The Stranger has dropped his arms and has a look of shock. Bashaa has stopped, and hasn’t turned around but looks back over his shoulder at the Stranger. Bashaa looks curios.
STRANGER: Please don’t throw your life away. The beast can only smell you if you’re wounded… (Interesting… However, I think it’s a case of “too little, too late.”)
BASHAA: It can only smell you if you are bleeding?
Panel 2. Bashaa is in the right foreground walking towards us, the bottom half of his body cut off by the panel border. The Stranger is in the left background, throwing his hands in the air in exasperation. Kiri is off panel. (This isn’t written left-to-right. This is literally written backwards. Why is that, Schuyler?)
STRANGER: Yes! How do you not know that?!
BASHAA: It doesn’t matter. I’ve already made up my mind.
Panel 3. The Stranger still has his hands in the air, pleading with Bashaa. He has his right side to us. Bashaa walks off panel right.
STRANGER: You are just going to die! You are being foolish!
BASHAA: Better to die a fool…
Panel 4. Kiri sits in the foreground on the edge of a river. Bashaa is wading through the river towards us. The Stranger stands on the far bank, with his arms at his side, looking defeated. (I feel like this river pulled the same trick that the giant did. However, there’s no way we could have seen it previously. It isn’t wrong, it just feels very jarring. Hm. Maybe we could have seen it previously. I think there were opportunities. What thinkest thou, Greg?)
CAP: It was that argument that got you killed, Sin-nada. I will prove you right or join you in the netherworld.
Panel 5. Bashaa is walking through a forest, he is pushing a thorny vine out of his way with his right hand and a thorn is jabbing into his hand. Kiri is behind him.
CAP: The time for talk has come and gone. Now is a time of acti– (I just want to be on record as saying that the captions are now officially killing me.)
Panel 6. Close on Bashaa’s wounded hand. Blood is oozing from where the thorn jabbed him. (Yeah. This isn’t a heavy-handed setup at all.)
CAP: Oh, no! (This would have been better if said aloud. Even as a whisper.)
Yeah. I’m going to stop here. Time to run this down.
Format: Flawless Victory. I would have been hurt if it wasn’t, though.
Panel Descriptions: I have seen Schuyler’s evolution here, and I like it. There’s still some work to be done, though. I think that the writing so specifically is taking some of the spontaneity out of it, especially with having a thumbnail for just about every panel. (Again, they’re there, folks. It’s just an immense pain in the ass trying to put them in the column. No, I don’t love all of you that much… 😉 ) It’s very rigid. That’s just me, though.
Also, writing that one panel right to left… Schuyler knows better, and I’m quite sure he’s sufficiently embarrassed by it.
Pacing: Oh, this is the crux of the piece. The pacing is bad. And not in a Michael Jackson kinda way, either. (No, I’m not listening to Michael at the moment, but I just had an 80s flashback.)
Things happen without any real reason. We go in and out of a flashback for no reason that I can tell, there’s a baseless argument, there’s a death, there’s a teleporting giant, there’s information given that then makes itself extremely apparent extremely fast, there’s a teleporting river…
These are things that happen. Why are they happening? What’s the story about? If I knew what the story was about, then the pacing could be fixed.
Pacing is about a lot of things, but when we get down to it, it’s about drama. Where is the drama in this piece? Why are these things happening? Why should we care? You answer those and apply it to the story better and you’ve made yourself some headway.
Dialogue: Not bad. While I’ve seen evolution in Schuyler’s writing, I haven’t seen much of it in dialogue.
Hidden secret, folks: Readers don’t care about the technical abilities of writers. What they care about is story. This means engaging characters with engaging dialogue, coupled with action. (Action can be anything dramatic, and not necessarily a chase scene, fight, or anything else. Star Wars: A New Hope, is a terrible movie made on a shoestring budget. Why is it memorable? Action/drama and dialogue.)
I’d love to see an evolution in dialogue.
The captions aren’t doing much for me at all. They aren’t actively getting in the way of me enjoying the story, but the internal monologue isn’t helping me get into the story itself.
Content: As a reader, I really don’t care. Nothing happens that’s of any interest to me or that I want to find out about. It’s really the touch of doom for a story. Not good.
Editorially, I’d have to ask what the story was about, and how many pages it was supposed to be before going for the complete rewrite. Yes, I’d ask for a rewrite of this because it isn’t effective the way it is now. I’d need to understand the story and the theme of it in order to give real guidance on making it better.
I’d also challenge Schuyler on a more personal level to do something more contemporary as well. Again, I feel like all I’ve seen are tales set in the past. I know this isn’t true, but it’s the way I feel.
And that’s it for this week! Check the calendar to see who’s next!
Like what you see? Liam and I are available for your editing needs. You can email Liam here. My info is below.