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TPG Week 265: Don’t Turn The Reader Off

| January 22, 2016

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Welcome back, one and all, to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week we have a new Brave One in the form of Riccardo Martino. I’m going to be by myself this week when it comes to editing. There was a surprise that had been lined up for all of you, but it fell through, and it wasn’t enough notice for Liam to jump back in. So it’s going to be all me, and all red! Well, not really “all me.” We’ve also got the stupendous pencils of Ryan Kroboth as well. Anyway, we’re all going to see if Riccardo gets stuck in

The Middle

Page 1

Panel 1

Night, establishing shot from a bird eye perspective of these docks (These docks? What docks? It’s the first sentence, and I’ve already got the urge to elbow piglets in the eye. This doesn’t bode well. These docks? If the docks have already been described, I wouldn’t mind. Now, I’ve got to ask these nice people not to pay any attention to the squealing sounds they hear.). It’s like one of those typical crime series docks, with various containers, container transporters and two trucks surrounding one singular warehouse, from which a light comes out of the windows and main entrance. The warehouse is the subject of the shot, everything is concentric at the building, concentrating the attention to it. (A dock, with concentric circles made of containers. This makes no sense because it doesn’t make the best use of space. Put a dresser in a room. Where are you going to put it? You’re going to put it against a wall. If you want to lose space in the room, you’re going to make it kitty-corner. Same concept here: you’re losing space because of the placement. It makes no sense.)

Balloon” Gerhman’s docks, Convoy Bay. Febrary 12th 2013” (Maybe I should get some padding for my elbows. Maybe I should also put the piglets on a conveyor belt. It would be that much easier. Le sigh. Okay, the beginning: These aren’t “Balloons.” Either someone is talking, and thus that person needs to be labeled accordingly, or it’s a caption, and should be labeled accordingly. Script elements are named the way they are for a reason. Learn the labels and where they go, and your team will be all the happier to work with you. There are times when money doesn’t make up for aggravation. I’ve turned down jobs because I knew the work wasn’t worth the aggravation. Second, quotation marks are generally only needed when someone is talking to someone else in a voice-over caption. It’s too early to tell if this is a voice-over or if you just don’t know what you’re doing. I’m leaning toward the latter, though. Why is it that I’ve already written more in corrections than you’ve written in script?)

Little Fuse (screaming from inside the warehouse): No, Please! Please let me go, I’ll give up the suit, I swear! I’ll give up everything! (Watch your use of capitals. In general it won’t matter because most dialogue fonts letterers will use will be all-caps, but sometimes they’re sentence case. It also makes you look more professional. This also means you have to watch your punctuation. That comma after “go” should really be a some sort of ending punctuation.)

Narrator (is The Middle) (Will the reader be able to tell this? I’m betting they won’t be able to. Anyone want to take me up on that bet? No, I haven’t read ahead. Anyone? It doesn’t have to be money. We could bet for shots. Just understand that I don’t drink cheaply…): do you want to hear an origin story? Do you want to hear about what broke me up? my personal vengeance? You know, the fire who ignited my “Criminal intent”, as someone would say? (Do you want to hear about capitalization? About their correct usage? You know, the “looking like a professional,” as someone would say? Do you want to hear about writing that doesn’t do anything to draw the reader in because it’s trying too hard? Do you want to hear about any of that? Do you want to hear about how this isn’t a Narrator, but really just a Caption that’s being used as an internal monologue? Do you want to hear about learning to write for your chosen medium?)

Narrator, continuing: after all, this is the Supers age, right? We love this comic book bull crap, right? Because who doesn’t love a bad guy with a good story on his back. It makes the villain more human, fleshing him out. Right? (I might have to apologize to one of the piglets. The blatant attempt at over-writing made also punch it in the ovaries…)

Panel 2

Frontal Close up of a beaten up teenage boy, roped to a chair with his hands behind his back, with some freckles on his face and medium long curly red hair, almost covering the yellow mask on his eyes, similar to a yellow headband if someone carved out two eye holes from it. The tears are wetting his cheeks, while mucus and blood from his nose covers up his lips, all swollen and bloody. His eyes are looking up, while his face is completely distorted in a desperate expression. He is all dressed up in this ragged looking suit, yellow and red in color, with a simple t shirt as the yellow part, with a flame drawn on it, and long sleeves underneath as the red part. A red towel covers his neck and shoulders like a cape. Behind him there’s just a blue background with some yellow lights effects, similar to rain, even if it isn’t rain. (Most of this is a character description. If this is a recurring character, then they’re going to be designed by the artist before they draw him on the page. Most of it can more than likely be cut. That last sentence…I don’t even know what it means.)

The Middle, Off screen voice: Little Fuse, the Amazing Teen, prodigal son of Convoy Bay. How long have you been playing with the caped, uh? Three weeks? One month? One year? Uh? Why don’t you answer me? (These questions don’t mean anything. Three weeks or a month is fine, but a jump to a year? First, why doesn’t he know at least a little something about how long this character has been active, and second, what does it matter? I hope the reasoning for this line of questioning is revealed.)

Little Fuse: Please… I just want to go home…

Narrator: Of course, I will not let you know everything. I’m a “villain”, as you good citizens like to call those like me, not an idiot. Maybe you will forgive me if I’ll let myself be a little cryptic, right? Gives some distorted mystery to my humanity, right? Isn’t that what you want?! (I want what this snot-nosed boy wants: to go home. Barring that, I want you to miss some ending punctuation so I can rage-quit and no longer be subjected to bad writing. And it’s only panel 2.)

Panel 3

Medium shot, from his right angle, of little fuse, getting hit to the jaw by a wrench, from his left, while spitting blood and saliva with his face completely stunned with his eyes closed (This is impossible. Mr. Kroboth? Could you show just how impossible this is? Please and thank you.). In the foreground we can see only part of the attacker left forearm, surrounded by a dark green sleeve, while his gloved hand, the same color of the sleeve, is grabbing the “weapon”. Behind the arm and the boy there’s a yellow background, with orange shadings and lines converging to the boy’s face, the point where he is hit, to be more specific.

The Middle: Wrong answer! We already discussed my policy about giving the same type of answer twice, right?

Narrator: Come on, I know what people think about being cryptic, right? Just adding some drama to the situation, right? One occasion to be a pompous and pretentious individual. Yeah, right. But wouldn’t it be a disgrace if I would give up my secret identity, without even pulling out a fight? Come on, you are heroes, after all. Every one of you, right? (This is what I think: I think Riccardo has listened to a lot of Earth, Wind, and Fire. If you ever listen to their songs, you’ll notice that they say the word “yeah” a lot. Like, almost to the point of over-use. I think Ric listened, took it too close to heart, and changed “yeah” to “right.” I want to shoot myself in the face with a cannon if I have to see it one more time in this mis-labeled dialogue.)

Panel 4

Full shot from a bird eye perspective. We see the entire figure of Light Fuse, roped to his chair, crying and screaming, with blood and tears mixing in a pool around his head, fallen on his right side,on the gray concrete floor. He has a pair of torn blue jeans , without shoes and with cuts on the feet, signs of old tortures from The Middle. The perspective is from above the boy, creating a false point of view from his aggressor. Little Fuse must be at the center of the panel, with the perspective giving some sense of deepness to the figure, with darker shades of gray to black in the background too give the illusion, like a tunnel vision.

Little Fuse: Stop! Please!

The Middle: Do you think that was good!? Do you call that a cry for help? Do you think your fucking chief scout would rescue you with those screams? (I hate to bring it up—no, really, I do—but he didn’t scream. There was no screaming. The non-screaming renders this line of dialogue moot.)

The Narrator: No… I know you all. I know the ways of you law abiding citizens, of the law bringers and of the terrorized people behind the safety of their walls. You fear and despise me, right? You protect yourself behind the Supes, attached to their capes as a child to the skirt of a mother. Of course, I am the monster, Right? I am the wolves pack watching the cattle, nothing more nothing less. (I’m not even really reading this anymore. It’s uninteresting. Have you folks seen the latest Samsung commercial? The stupid one where the guy is running and then fighting on the roof of a building and then he gets a call—from his mother! She’s talking about squirrels, the fighting is happening on a roof, and even though the commercial is stupid (what’s the point that they’re trying to drive home? How are they trying to sell you something? What’s the selling point?), it’s much more riveting than this drivel. Why are there 74 words here? The good thing is that this is a caption, and as such, can hold more words. The bad thing—well, the really terrible thing—is that there are precious few words actually worth reading so far. And I haven’t even gotten off the first page.)

Panel 5

All of this is from the perspective of Little Fuse. The vision is all blurred, giving only a medium shot, from a worm eye, of a distorted dark green figure, with two bright orange bug eyes, from the ground. The background is just various shades of orange.

The Middle: Oh! Are you sleepy? Is your head spinning around? Why don’t you take a nice nap? It’s very good against head injuries. I swear, some scientists told that! (And with this, it becomes obvious that English is Ric’s second language. Here’s what I’ve got: Kudos for taking the time to learn English. Not just learn it, but learn it well enough to write well enough to be understood very well by other English speakers. You speak English much better than I speak your language (I’m assuming Spanish). So thank you. It’s greatly appreciated. However, it doesn’t get you off the hook at all for nonsensical writing. Words have to tell a story. Yours has yet to really make a point—yet you’ve used a lot of them. More can be done with less.)

The Narrator: I am the only menace to you, right now. The only thing that matters right? Supes against villains, good against evil, hunters against wolves. Who cares about all the insects crushed or the pups gutted during the hunt?

Panel 6

The same shot with a similar figure, only this time is a graffiti, on a gray wall, of a bug eyed creature, completely made of red paint with black markings, similar to tribal tattoos, and spiral instead of eyes, the wall is full of dirt and green, yellow and blue spots, made with paints from other street artists.

Balloon: Convoy bay, Hamilton’s old Canal. August 6th 2008.

The Middle, offscreen: Dan, that sentence is like a condom for bullshit, right (I like this sentence. It’s hilarious! It’s great! I might have to steal it. Not for my own writing, no. That’s plagiarism. For my own personal use!)? I mean, you could say anything, and I mean anything, even something that is utterly crap, and that sentence would just make it true. Like the moon landing mission.

Dan, offscreen: I swear to Jesus H. Christ, dude. Scientists told that: blood transfusions from the Supes will give you superpowers, I’m not even joking.

The Middle, offscreen: Yes, and we only use the ten percent of our brain.

Dan, offscreen: Why? Isn’t that true?

The Narrator: This is the how the hunt began, as with all the hunts: with a bait for the wolf.

P1, and I hardly know where to start.

I guess the panel descriptions.

There’s a point where they’re okay, but then you go past that point and they stop being okay and they start to reach toward bad. They’re going toward bad because they are going toward a point where they can’t be drawn. Less is more.

The pacing of the page needs some work. You have a sidekick being tortured. Fine. But the reader is also being tortured because of the amount of words that don’t mean anything that are being used. We’re dropped in the middle of the torture, but we don’t have any point of reference for it. That would normally be okay because we should get some reason as to why things are happening sometime during the scene, but that doesn’t happen. Instead, we go to a new location for some strange reason.

Your character is really damn annoying. Makes me want to shut him up by placing copious amounts of nitroglycerin in his mouth and then adding a single Mexican jumping bean. Because I’m fun like that.

Less is more. Cut the captions in half, and have something real be said in them. Right now you’re just talking to hear yourself talk, because the words don’t have a destination, right? When your words have a reason for being, your character should hopefully be less annoying, and I can stop poking random infants in the eye.

Page 2 (No page break. No Flawless Victory. Having one would have been a pleasant surprise.)

Panel 1

In the foreground we a have a close up of Dan, from his right profile, spraying some red paint on the wall. From what we can tell from the shot he is very pale, young, late teens, with a green beanie on his head and long black straight hair, over the shoulders. He has a protective medical mask, the kind used to work with spray paint, covering most of his face and no shirt. The emotions are only told by the expressive red eyes, with the eyebrows lifted like a surprised expression now. In the background we can see, in the left zone of the panel, sitting on a slab of concrete, The Middle on the right and a girl, Lucy, on the left. From what we can tell, the middle has pale white skin, with black short hair, has a gray hoodie with a pair of light blue jeans, while the girl, brown hair and tanned skin, has a black leather jacket, with a pair of shorts. The two, of the same age of Dan, are sitting on a slab of concrete, the middle is moving his arms chaotically, with his legs falling to the ground, relaxed, while Lucy, the girl, is looking at him, sitting relaxed with her legs crossed. Behind all of them, in the background, we can see the setting, which is basically an old dry canal, with pillars and slabs all around. The entire place seem to be falling down, with construction equipment lying around, scaffolding, and metal bars literally coming out of the ground. On the ground we can see various can of spray paint (No ending punctuation, and there are 271 words here. Why? I haven’t even read them yet. I don’t want to. They’re just going to make me Sad Steven. Why don’t we talk about rap music instead? Beverly Hills Cop 2. That was a good movie. Do you like rap music? Do you like rap music? If you like rap music, why ain’t you smiling then? I’m from the rap coalition of America—throw your gun over there… You like rap music, we’re gonna do a little rap. Say “Yo baby, yo baby yo!” Say “Ow!” Okay…I’m going to go back and read this. Give me a moment. Okay. This isn’t described from left to right. It’s a little confusing, and it’s boring to read.)

The middle: Are… are you serious? do you have some kind of mental disability?

Dan: Hey! No reason to be offensive, dude. It’s just… I only misheard something.

Lucy: Dan, mishearing something is when I ask for the remote control and you give me the time. What you actually did was like believing in a talking dingle only because some guy on the internet said it was true.

Dan: Even you, Lucy? Jeez, next time I’ll keep my mouth shut, because that means having friends ready to listen what you have to tell without judging!

Lucy: Aww… Danny is offended? Did we have been too rude with little Danny?

The Narrator: I remember, the time before the hunt. The time of peace that my mind was following during those moments.

Too much back and forth.

Panel 2

We have a wide frontal shot of the two, where we can see more of their appearances. The Middle, in his late teens, is shirtless under the hoodie, with cuts on the knee part of his jeans. His short hair are all messed up, with signs of dust and dirt, while his eyes, brown, have very deep eye bags. He is very thin, with a little bit of chest muscles, more because of his skinny figure than anything else. Now he is pointing his left index finger toward the viewer, basically pointed at Dan. His shoulders are lowered, giving a calm attitude to the character, mixed with a smirking look with his right eyebrow raised. Lucy, she too in her late teens, while still with her legs crossed, can be seen now with a green shirt under the jacket, with written on it ”Free from the master mind”. She has a pair of blue and black shoes, while her shorts, a pair of jeans with the leg part shortened, end with strings, holes and signs of cuts. Her arms are resting on her knees, while she gives a little smile to the viewer, again, to Dan. Her eyes are yellow in color, very big, giving her more expressiveness compared to The Middle. Both are slightly tilting towards each other, giving some kind of asymmetric look, but not enough to make the viewer notice the tilting, but still enough to give him some signals about their affection. The background is very similar to the last panel, with a piece of clear blue sky visible and an interrupted bridge, with a scaffolding around it. (No. Rin, please rewrite this. 50 words. That’s your limit.)

The Middle: Dan, we are not picking on you. If you say bullshit, we call it, right? Next time don’t listen to that crap, or at least keep it for yourself, like you said.

Dan, offscreen: I swear to god, if the next time I hear you saying something stupid… (I feel the exact same way.)

Lucy: What? Tell me the last time we said something stupid?

Dan, offscreen: your “boyfriend” said that pineapples makes your juice taste good!

The Middle: Because that’s true! There’s an entire book about it. (I’m reading this and waiting for a point. I understand this is P2, but damn…)

The Narrator: my heart was still devoid of ghosts, ignoring all the pain that surrounded it. It still had my friends to give it something to sing about. There wasn’t enough silence and enough fire to shut it up, and make it realize the subtle sound of the hunt above all else. (Do you know what I did? I stopped reading The Hand of Oberon, a book by my absolute favorite author, in order to have my mind rended by this… I wonder if you can get hemorrhoids in the brain… This doesn’t mean anything! Words have to tell a story. What story are you telling with these words?)

Panel 3

Frontal close up of the two, The Middle and Lucy. The second is now looking at The Middle, with a laughing mouth and closed eyes, giving a very playful and joyful attitude to the character. The Middle is still moving his arms (basically those needs to transmit his emotions), while looking at Lucy, with a surprised, almost scared, with some sweat drops on his forehead. The background, as usual for this scene, is still the canal, with the scaffolding and broken pillars.

Lucy: He’s… Jesus: do you seriously really believe in that?

The Middle: I… I don’t… is proved!

Lucy: proved? By who? Did you seriously…

The Middle: I… is on a book! I swear is on a book!

Lucy: calm down: Dan has his scientists, you have your fetish books. To each their own I guess…

The Narrator: My heart still had his muse, the bait, you know? It still had her, chanting for it, laughing for him… it.

Panel 4

Big frontal close up of Lucy’s face, she is smiling, her eyes, full of joy, are the main focus of this panel, so the need to be placed at the center of it. The light must converge the attention to them. the background is the same amalgamation of concrete pillars and scaffolding as before.

The Middle, offscreen: Then, what do you have?

Lucy: Why don’t you find out by yourself?

Dan: …Guys?

The Narrator: …And then…

Panel 5

Close up of Dan’s head from the right angle, with a slightly worm eye perspective (not from the ground, just tilted a little bit). His eyes are shocked, while looking up to something incoming. There’s still the background of the canal, now with more part of the sky visible, since the camera is pointed up.

Dan: Guys: are you seeing this?

The Narrator: …The hunt began.

This is still drivel. I can’t tell the story that’s attempting to be told due to the bad writing. Bad writing that has nothing to do with English being a second language.

Do you know what is affected by ESL? The use of the colon within the dialogue itself. Generally, it’s incorrect. It’s also overused.

I don’t know how much more strength I have. This is terrible, and on top of that, I have no interest at all. What I want is to go back to doing things I was enjoying, such as cutting my toenails, listening to death metal backwards (is there a difference in sound between forward and backward?), or stapling my tonsils together.

I want words that mean something. I want to not be annoyed by overly large panel descriptions. I want the story to start.

Page 3

Panel 1

Big Close up of Little Fuse’s face, lying down, from a bird eye perspective, on the right side of the face, on his own blood oozing from the nose, with a now livid left cheek. He is senseless, without giving any signs of life.

The Middle, offscreen: Are you seeing this, Fahrenheit!? Hey! Are you seeing this? Did you see what I did now, Fahrenheit!? (Is there any indication of who’s being talked about/to now?)

The Narrator: like a fiery lightening, it began. (There’s a difference between “lightening” and “lightning.” Which one is it that you really want?)

Panel 2:

Full shot from a bird eye perspective of The Middle, with Little Fuse behind him lying on the ground, apparently dead, with pieces of wood from the chair around, behind him, on the concrete ground full of blood. The Middle is dressed with one of those dark green fireman suits, with little fluorescent green lines around the shoulders and gloves and boots with matching colors. The suit has pieces of armors covering the chest and legs,green in color, similar to ceramic military armors. His head is completely encased in a heavy gas mask, with orange luminescent lens and a black fireman hat, attached to the mask with belts, tapes and bolts around. He is raising his armed fist, the left one, while keeping the other down and closed in a fist, looking above him, with blood on the chest piece of the suit and on his boots. On his back there are two cylindrical containers, similar to gas cans, all black in color with only an orange line dividing the cylinders in half, (not literally, it’s just painted in the middle of them). (I didn’t read that. I don’t think there’s anything overly important in there that I’m missing.)

The Middle: Can you see me now!? Can you see me now, Fahrenheit?!

The Narrator: that bloody sport of ours…

Panel 3

Same structure of Panel 5 from page 2, only inverted, with The Middle’s head instead, and with an orange light around him. In the background we can see the iron walls of the warehouse with some pipes.

Fahrenheit, offscreen: I can see you, wretched monster!

The Middle: Finally.

The Narrator: … a heritage of an antique war… (Line of Demarcation. Which really should have been set earlier, but I was trying.)

Panel 4

Full shot of Fahrenheit, jumping toward to the camera, at the center of the panel, surrounded by flames and with a hole in the metallic roof of the warehouse behind him in the background. His suit is similar to the armor of a crusader, minus the helmet. The main colors are yellow and red. He has a red metal hockey mask, with flames coming from every hole of it (eye holes, mouth holes…) a yellow tunic with a red cross on it, chain mail painted red on arms and legs and burning gauntlets and boots, painted yellow. His right hand is reaching to the camera, giving emphasis to the movement of the character.

Fahrenheit: get away from the kid!

The Narrator: …fueled only by the pain and hopes of the innocents.

Panel 5

Same shot of Fahrenheit and same pose of Panel 4 of this page. Only the setting is different, the old canal from the past, with a blue clear sky in the background, and without flames on boots (now red and yellow snickers) and hands (he doesn’t have gauntlets yet, nor gloves). The costume is also different, more similar to the Little Fuse’s one, with a simple yellow hockey shirt, over a red sweater. The mask is the same, without flames and only the two brown eyes visible. There are some burning marks on the various clothes, signs of a battle.

Fahrenheit: Out of the way!

The Middle, offscreen: What the hell is that!?

Lucy, offscreen: Oh god, is he…?

Dan, offscreen: Guys, get away!

The Narrator: with the hunt’s beginning , the Hunter followed behind…

This is crap, and I refuse to go any further with it. I have no patience for it this week. I started early because I’m going out of town (I’ll be in Milwaukee by the time you read this, with absolutely no time or inclination to do any of this while I’m there), and I’m anxious to get going. So this is crap, and doesn’t even have the courtesy of being interesting crap. Let’s just run her down.

Format: No page breaks. No Flawless Victory. Also, research scripting labels and elements to see what things are called and why. This will make your team happy and willing to work with you again.

Panel Descriptions: Overwrought to the extreme. A lot of them have hundreds of words for no real reason. Again, the more words you use, the more of a chance you have of writing something that can’t be drawn. Get in and out with the minimum of words necessary. Most panel descriptions only need 50 words. Usually, more than that is a waste.

Pacing: Oh, so terrible. Lots of words that are meant to entice, but instead they just annoy. Actions happen, but they are illuminated by words. The words here made me want to take the keyboard from you. Say what you mean. Don’t be obtuse about it in an attempt to elevate the writing or your voice. You’re not there yet. Be a lot more direct. You don’t have to be blunt, but your attempt at being cryptic would probably start WWIII out of both boredom and frustration. Not good at all.

You also throw a ton of words in the first page, slowing the reading down a lot. Words are great—they’re why we read books. But you have spoken dialogue, and then you have this internal monologue that doesn’t do anything besides annoy, and it just keeps going and going and going, slowing down the reading pace. This would be fine if the words were important or at least helpful. They aren’t either of these. The captions are just terrible all the way around. This has screwed your pacing.

Dialogue: What’s spoken isn’t too bad. It isn’t great, but it isn’t terrible. Dialogue should do one of two things: reveal character and move the plot. Generally, the dialogue here reveals some character—and it’s almost unrelentingly annoying. It’s a turn-off to read. I don’t care that there’s a Joker/Robin vibe going on. I don’t want to read a book that actively turns me off from P1. That’s what this did.

Content: As a reader, it would have had a really damned interesting cover in order for me to pick it up. Once I did and read the first page, I would have put it back, wiped my hands on the nearest patron, and then gone to the store owner/manager and saw about working out a deal about a good free comic to compensate me for touching the drivel that is The Middle.

Editorially, this needs a complete rewrite. It needs to be restructured in order to get to the actual story, it needs to be rewritten so that the main character doesn’t turn the reader off, and interest needs to find a way to be injected into it while at the same time cutting down the panel descriptions so that an artist would want to work on it. The dialogue can always be brought up to snuff by a decent editor, but that needs to happen after the issue is written so that there’s an idea of a direction.

Just because this is crap now doesn’t mean it needs to stay that way. Put in the work, and you’ll get there.

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.

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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 [email protected] for rate inquiries.

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