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TPG Week 271: Lots ‘O Green & Red

| March 4, 2016

TPG Forbes-Kroboth

Welcome back, one and all, to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week we have a new Brave One in the person of Jason Menard. We also have Steve Colle back in green (he’s missed all of you!), we have Ryan Kroboth wielding the mighty pencil (he may break it on this one), and I am gibbering in the corner in red. We’re all going to see what’s left of the

Remnants

This came in at 14-point font size. Understanding you’re new to this, always write your document in 12 point. Read previous editions of TPG, as this is something Steven has spoken about almost every time and which not many pay attention to. (Honestly, I don’t mind too much bigger, depending on the font chosen. But smaller is definitely a no-go. 12 is the default. Leave it there. Let the editor punch it up if they wish, but they shouldn’t have to punch it up because you picked a smaller font for whatever reason you care to give. Font size will always be something we notice first, because we look at so many scripts. Something to remember.)

Page 1

Panel 1:

Panel opens with a close in shot of a road wheel of an AMX Leclerc (French MBT) in a dilapidated state. (Not knowing military jargon, I looked this up. Knowing that you are working with an artist already on this particular project makes this between you and them, but realize that when you write for someone else, it would be a good idea to provide a link, hyperlink, or other form of visual reference.) (I have no idea how to approach this, and neither does the artist. I’m going to ask the questions your artist probably asked, and that Ryan would ask if I let him: What time of day is it? Is the tire attached to a vehicle? Is the tire vertical or horizontal? I know you’re trying to be coy with the location because you asked for a close-up, but where is this (the location of the tire can inform the state of the tire)? Why am I being forced to ask so many questions in the first panel when I should already have the answers? (Well, Ryan probably wouldn’t ask that. He’d think it, but he wouldn’t ask it. Me? I’m the asker.))

Narrative begins: The war to end all wars. (Let this stand on its own and start a new caption with the following sentence.) That phrase had been used before, (Take out comma) and it had proved no less wrong (Add “back”) then. There would always be a reason to visit the greatest of travesties upon ones neighbour, brothers and sisters, on their enemies. (Read this out loud or, better yet, ask someone impartial to read it. It isn’t coming across correctly. It sounds more like you’re trying to wax poetic. It doesn’t flow at all. Consider revisiting this.) (No, don’t consider revisiting this. Revisit this. Dialogue takes some getting used to, but it also sets the tone for the book. That’s first. Second, this sounds very personal. This doesn’t sound like an omniscient narrator, but like it’s coming from someone. If that’s true, then the caption needs a label as to who’s speaking so that the letterer can know. Doing this will save you lots of trouble down the road. Third, you don’t need “Narrative begins.” All you need to do is write “Caption” or “Cap”, and don’t forget to number it. Why do I say that, Rin?)

Panel 2:

Shot moves to the forward road wheel of the tank and begins to pull back showing the beginning of the front slope of the Leclerc (Period. However, because it’s just a panel description, it’s not major. The bigger point is how you are phrasing your directions with “moves” and “begins to pull back”. Remember that panel descriptions need to be static in this medium. Right now you are giving motion direction more appropriate to film.)(This is different from a moving panel. This doesn’t happen often. Instead of a character performing different things at the same time, which is normally impossible, here, the camera is moving around. No. It can’t. Just like all the actions are static, so is the camera. And because the missing period is in the panel description, I won’t rage-quit. Remember, folks: editors are looking for reasons to throw your script in the trash. Now I’m going to be looking for a missing period in the dialogue so I can rage-quit, which means I’m going to be distracted from the writing—however, considering panel 1, this might be a good thing. Oh, and there are other questions the artist is going to ask. Why? Because this is vague. While there are times that vague can be good, it’s usually when things can be left to the artist for their interpretation. It is not good to be vague when we still don’t have any kind of clear idea as to where we are. Hell, dancers in a strip club are less vague about whether or not you can have sex in the champagne room—and they want your money.)

Narrative: A perceived slight, a grab for power or resources, a call for freedom. War would always be a part of the human condition. The one that had reduced the planet to but a shade of what it had once been was no different.

I’m getting lost in your dialogue because it isn’t phrased properly. It isn’t just a case of adding or subtracting punctuation, separating text into different captions, or even a matter of dialect, syntax, or accent. It’s the phrasing. It isn’t clear, and that’s going to be a problem for your reader regardless of age, background, etc. How else can this (and the previous text from Panel 1) be rephrased? (I get what you’re trying to say here, Jason, but it isn’t good. It’s like you’re reaching for meaning through your words, but don’t know how to put them together, although you’re close.)

Panel 3:

Shot moves up to see Talon on the broken, bent barrel of the Leclerc, a ragged leather bag at his feet (Stop here.) only half-full with the goods he’d managed to scavenge in the wastes. (This part here has no bearing on what the artist needs to understand in order to draw this panel. This is prose. Concentrate on what is being seen in a static picture, not with a moving camera. This isn’t film, so learn to focus only on the single picture. What do you see in this specific image? Capture that and nothing else.) (I’m in a white void. I have no idea as to where this is happening: in space, in a garage, out on the sand dunes of Tatooine…)

Narrative: For those that remained in the aftermath, life was a constant struggle, eking out meagre livings off the bones of what had been the greatest technological age that man had ever known… (Separate caption) and still, those few left, (Take out comma) found reason to fight one another, believing themselves to be right. (More of the same, of course. I wouldn’t expect any different, but what I will probably do is stop commenting on the lack of clarity and flow in your phrasing as it will just be beating a dead horse. Learn from it and let’s carry on. And by the way, any words or expressions that result in a full-on stop for your reader, as “eking” did for me, will take them out of the story. Make it approachable to a variety of readers in order to expand upon your market potential.) (What Steve is too kind to say here is that this is just bad writing. I’ll say it: this is bad writing. I get what you’re going after, but read on it’s own, I have no idea what the hell is going on. And I should. You’ve written enough already that this shouldn’t be obscure.)

Panel 4:

Shot moves (Not film. Remember that.) further back to show the entire tank in it’s its decrepit state, (Period) Talon is looking to the north (Where is “north” in your image?) (Rin? Why do I hate cardinal points in a script?), it’s early morning, and the (Missing word) has just risen to cast it’s its first rays over the landscape. (Prose.) In the distance, about a kilometre away, you can make out the town of Safe Harbour (Are you sure we can make out a town at that distance? And if so, how much of it? Where are they that they can see the town from that distance? On a hill or mountain?) (It could be flatlands. It’s only a klick. A town could be seen that far. However, there are other problems.) a trading port built by the Remnants to be used to trade with the Pheanïr and Outlaws so long as they follow the rules of the Remnants. (Again, more information that has nothing to do with what the artist needs to know in order to draw the panel. Stop writing prose!) (Mr. Kroboth? This be thine cue!)

Narrative: Everyone knew, War was coming again. (There are a few ways to write this: “Everyone knew war was coming again” or “Everyone knew: War was coming again” or in two captions with “Everyone knew…” [1st caption] and “War was coming again.” [2nd caption] All of these work, but yours doesn’t.) One question remained…When? (And this can’t stand as is with the ellipsis marks connecting thoughts on one line. This either needs two captions [“One question remained…” and “When?”] or one caption with a colon [One question remained: When?].) (

What did this page accomplish? Absolutely nothing. Here are a few of the problems that I can identify and which I’m pretty sure Steven will add to (Quite possibly. Remember folks: I don’t read ahead and then come back to make my notes. What you see is what you get as I see it. I will always say when I’ve read ahead.):

  1. There is no clear setting. I have no idea where or when this is taking place. I don’t even know weather conditions, but did find out that it’s early morning by the last panel on the page, something that should have been identified in the very first panel to allow for light source.

  2. I don’t know where the camera is or from what perspective we are seeing these panels. To me, it would make sense to have the actions taking place in each panel going from left to right, but did you think of this?

  3. Your panel descriptions lack focus on the important stuff and spend too much time on fluff that has no bearing on what the artist draws. What is directed doesn’t tell us anything. The road wheel: Is it on a tank tread? Why focus on the road wheel in the first place? That’s just one example of lack of information and lack of focus on the right stuff. (We don’t go over the script beforehand, either. I get the script, and then I schedule it and when there’s another editor, I send them the script. They make their notes and send it back to me so I can make mine. Then I post it. If two people are saying the same things over and over again, independently of one another…you’ve screwed the pooch.)

  4. The images and the sequence aren’t telling us anything of note. Two shots of the road wheel(s), a guy sitting on a bent barrel, and a shot of a decrepit tank a long distance away from a small town, one that we shouldn’t even be able to see yet. Where is the information that will pull the reader in?

  5. The text in the captions is confusing and, more importantly, tells us nothing about the story. (That whining and yelping you hear? That’s the pooch wondering why it’s being cornholed.)

  6. The text and visuals have no correspondence. The images don’t accentuate what’s being said and the words aren’t helping define the pictures or sequence of such.

This page has provided no information, making it ineffective and, essentially, useless.

P1 is on the books.

I’m going to wait a bit before setting the Line of Demarcation, but just know that unless this gets better very fast, it’s coming.

Editors aren’t here to make your life difficult. We’re here to help you realize your vision—even if that vision has to change focus for clarity or because something better was found.

If the panel descriptions were actually something that could be worked with, then I would be able to focus more on the copy to make sure it was understandable and made the most impact. Making the most impact is done through punctuation and breaking up the captions/balloons.

As an editor, I absolutely hate rewriting a creator’s dialogue. (For our purposes, dialogue/copy is anything that the reader can see.) My feeling is this: the reader won’t see the script, and the writer more than likely won’t be doing their own lettering. This means everything they do is filtered through someone else. As an editor, I try to preserve the original words as much as I can. The words themselves are the only thing of the writer that the reader will see, so I want to preserve as much of that as possible.

There are times when that isn’t possible, though.

I’ve rewritten dialogue before so it would be penetrable. If you go through the trouble of writing a script, the dialogue needs to be understood. There’s very little point if it isn’t.

What’s written here is not clear. Not by a long shot. If I were editing this, I’d give Jason another crack at making it clearer before I rewrote it. No, I would not take any credit for it, because I’d be doing my job.

Is this page a waste? No. I wouldn’t call it that. It just needs to be made clearer. The reader needs to know why we’re here, or be intrigued enough to continue reading. Neither of these things are done, but the talk of war and a post-apocalyptic land sets the tone of what’s here.

Do the pictures need to have correspondence with the copy? No, but it helps. There’s no point/counterpoint here, and talk of war has some congruence with the tank, so there’s that. The writing just needs to be better.

Remember, you can tell an entire story with just pictures. Words aren’t necessary. This means the words of any comic are there to illuminate the pictures and give them more depth or impact. The same can be done without words, but you’d need a lot more pictures in order to tell the story and still get the emotional responses.

Page 2 (No Page Break)(No page break? No Flawless Victory. Sad, but not unexpected.)

Panel 1 (full length panel) (This can also be called a splash page, especially if you put the credits on it.)

Talon is passing through the makeshift gate of Safe Harbour. (What does Safe Harbour look like? We were so far away, about a kilometre in the last panel, that we couldn’t see anything. And describe the gate, please. What is it made of? How big or small is it? Does this mean there are posts on which they are attached?) On either side of the gate are two squat platforms on which are mounted heavy weapons facing out into the wastes (What wastes? You never described it or any other form of setting.) manned by guards (How many?) looking rather disinterested with the goings on. Their only concern is if Bandits or Genos were to attack the town from the landward side, not concerned with one traveller. (Are we to assume that there is land on one side and something other than land on the other? And this whole sentence here? Frustratingly needless.) There’s one guard on the ground near the gate with a rifle leaning against one post of the squat tower on the left side of the panel, and he’s the only one that seems at all interested with Talons Talon’s passing. For Talons Talon’s part, his head is slightly bent forward, his bag slung over his right shoulder as he passes, and under his trench coat (What trench coat? You never mentioned it before.), you can make out the pistol grip of one of his guns. (I can only assume you have character sheets that will cover details like this. I also feel like you’re trying to concentrate on the minutiae in this panel instead of providing information on the bigger picture.)(Greg? No. You get something different. Anh? Please rewrite this, using less than 50 words. Keep in mind everything Steve has pointed out thus far.)

Narrative: The town of Safe Harbour. A place of trade, (Take out comma) and a town that didn’t live up to it’s its name. (You already said “town” in the previous sentence, so change this to something like “A place of trade and one that didn’t live up to its name.” Repeating words or variations of a word, such as thought and thoughtfully, so close together is a prime situation where editors intervene.) The guards stationed here did well enough, but there wasn’t a day that went by that their there wasn’t some kind of violence. (Spelling and punctuation are just two of the many peeves of any editor of value. Their trash bins, both physical and virtual, are filled with story/script submissions that can’t show this simplest of care to writing. Learn from this and take the time to have your work proofread before submission… and make sure they know what they’re [not there or their] doing!)(Spell-checks won’t catch grammar errors. There are grammar-checks on lots of programs, but since the overwhelming bulk of us don’t care about a gerund or a danging participle and can barely remember what a conjunction is, we don’t turn on the grammar-check. The reason is simple: most of what we write would have squiggly green lines underneath it, and if we were to make our fiction grammatically correct, all the life would be sucked out of what was written. That being said, if you don’t know the difference between too, to, and two, or their, there, and they’re, and more…then you’re not yet ready for prime time. Hell, you’re not ready for late-night, either. You’re just not ready.)

Panel 2 (Wait. You want panel 1 to run the full length of the left side of the page? Is that what you meant? Because as soon as you hit panel 2+, this is no longer a splash page. It just means that I could be wrong, which happens. Or, it could be that you forgot where you were and what you wanted, which also happens. I’m willing to be wrong. I’m just curious as to which it is.)

Talon stops in a small square (How small? A centimetre? If we knew what the setting looked like, I wouldn’t be asking that question, right?) to look around. Most people that are in sight are just common Remnants, not fighters. (How do they look? How are they dressed? What distinguishes a Remnant from a soldier? Details!)(I don’t need the details provided that you and the artist know what a Remnant and a fighter look like.) There’s stalls (When you say “stalls”, I think of the stalls in a barn where animals are kept.)(I think of small shops where stuff can be bought. It might be a regional thing.) around displaying their wares or services (Since Jason went on to explain it, I’ll say it’s regional. They don’t have stalls where people sell things in Canada? They don’t sell fantasy books where such things have been called?). (Are the stalls displaying their wares or services, or are there people at the “stalls” displaying their wares and services? Watch how you write and have someone catch this – again – before submission.) Some are simple food carts with overly ripe fruit (How close is the camera to this fruit to see that it’s overly ripe? Again, the small things mean nothing if the big things aren’t taken care of.) or meat hanging from hooks, others are clothing or leather shops (Are these stores? What do they look like?), and even a weapon vendor (Missing a word) common rifles and pistols intermixed. (You use the word “common”, but we still don’t know what time period this is.) Talons (Spelling) eyes are focused on one shop in particular, a version of a general merchant. You can make out some mix-matched pieces of leather armour, some small cuts of meat with a basket of mixed fruit beneath it and some trinkets like mirrors, brushes, candle holders (Missing comma) etc. around the stall. (This is definitely more than one panel’s worth of detail.) (Greg? What did Talon do, and why do you say he did that?)(Also, Line of Demarcation. Because we’ve now gone into crap. Everyone feel better now? More relaxed?)

Narrative: He had no love for the town, or for people in particular, (Period) However he needed supplies and if Safe Harbour was good for one thing, it was getting a fair price for his salvage.

Who is the narrator in all of this? (Remember that we don’t do this in tandem, and I basically asked this question on P1.) Up till now, it seemed like it could be one of the characters, but then you started here with the “he” this and “he” that. And what the heck does this caption have to do with anything?! You aren’t using your captioned text effectively at all. What is the story about? I have no idea and it is boring the heck out of me.

Panel 3

Talon steps into the open faced shop (I can’t visualize this because you never established your setting properly.), the panel shot is over Talon’s (look, folks! He does know how to use an apostrophe!) shoulder focusing on the shop keeper named Harbin. Harbin is a shorter fellow with a receding hairline and a bit of a paunch. (Now you describe a character?!) (If he isn’t recurring, I don’t care. If he isn’t recurring, I would sincerely hope he was described.) He looks rather unkempt, his clothes look like he’d been sleeping in them for the past couple of days. (How does that look? And for that matter, what do his clothes even look like as we still don’t know time period or conditions?) He’s just looking up to see Talon enter and a small, shady smile is on his lips. (More crap. Ryan? Please don’t draw this. Please explain why I’m saying this is more crap, especially the last line. This is your writer-hat, not your artist one.)

Harbin: Well, well, well…. (An ellipsis is three dots, not four.) if it isn’t my old friend. Finally come home, eh? (This is really cliché.)(The pacing here is off. Ryan’s explanation should say why that is.)

We are two pages in and I still don’t know who these characters are. You want to know why? Because you haven’t named them for the reader yet. You had a perfect opportunity to name Talon in Harbin’s speech above, but stuck with “if it isn’t my old friend.”

To be completely honest, I want to stop already, but it’s only Page Two.

There are certain things that I hate, but at the same time, I understand where it’s coming from.

If you want to make comics, there’s no one stopping you. You don’t need permission. Yuo don’t need money. You don’t even need a partner or team. You don’t need anything except gumption. Like the Nike commercials of old, “Just Do It.”

A lot of people are taking that advice to heart, and there are a fuck-ton (actual, scientific measurement) of bad comics being created. You don’t have to look far for them, either.

Comixology Submit has a lot of bad comics, with series that don’t have a gradual uptick in quality over time. They’re just bad. Why? No editor. No oversight. No quality control.

We published the first issue