Welcome back, one and all, to another installment of The Proving Grounds. This week, we have a new Brave One in the form of Josh Fay. We also have Steve Colle (who’s decided to stick around for a while) in blue, we have Ryan Kroboth with the heavy duty pencils, and I’m the one in red, wondering why the world hasn’t ended yet… We’re all going to see what happens when Josh gets
Lost in the Library of Wyndharp
Panel 1: Shot of Wynharp glistening in the sun. Beautiful gardens and fruiting trees dotting the horizon surrounded by a forest near a mountain. Crystal towers and Earthy/Organic style architecture. (Pretty lazy way to start out. I’m hoping that you have a document somewhere that gives a description of the city. This document should also have the character descriptions. That’s what I’m hoping. Otherwise, this is especially lazy, and laziness in a writer is truly something that I cannot abide.)
Title Text Across the sky: Lost In the Library of Wyndharp (A couple of questions: 1) Which spelling is correct for the name of your city, Wynharp or Wyndharp, as you wrote the former in your panel description, and 2) When you write “title text across the sky”, does this mean you want it as clouds spelling this out or just that the title is placed in that area of the image?)(Both of these are extremely good questions. If you can’t settle on the spelling of your own creation, how are others supposed to? Is it Mxyztplk or Mxyzptlk? It’s P1, panel 1. Someone is supposed to care. I just don’t know if that someone is supposed to be me…)
Panel 2: SEFERIN (You’re assuming your artist will know who Seferin is, but seeing as how I didn’t see a character sheet attached to the script file, I’ll have to assume you don’t have one. With this said, is Seferin male or female? What age? How is he/she dressed? You’ve provided no information to help us visualize your character.) outside in a garden or park making a portal alone. It’s spring time, with flowers/colors. The portal is a small purple sphere with purple lightning energy surrounding it. SEFERIN’s hands are close to the sphere. (This needs to be rewritten in a way that is immediately clear. You said that he/she is making a portal alone, but don’t tell us until later what a portal is. Then you describe springtime “with flowers/colors”. I’m sorry, but what exactly does this mean? Yes, there are flowers in spring, but what kinds? What colors and what do they apply to? Your being vague is going to cause your artist to either ask too many questions they shouldn’t need to or you’ll end up getting something as a final product that doesn’t fulfill your vision. Whose fault will that be?)(Greg, what is it that these two panels make up (if they were written better)? After you answer that, please rewrite this panel description so it makes better sense, and explain why you made the decisions you made.)
Panel 3: SEFERIN in similar but different clothes (??) is in a council chamber with ELORIN, RADMAAR and NOVASLY behind a table. (More characters without description and no clear guidance on what your setting looks like. Not good.) He is still making a portal but his hands are farther apart and the portal is larger and more elliptical. (So now I know that Seferin is male. You had better be providing a character sheet to your artist – and to your editor even before it goes to the artist – because names alone with no reference will result in this getting sent back real quick.) (Ryan? Time to put on the Assumption Hat and try to make heads or tails of this with thine pencil, please. Thank yew, sirrah.)
Panel 4: SEFERIN is on a stage silhouetted in a mostly, if not completely, full purple portal. Hands are main focus and are fully apart. (I’m having trouble visualizing this. What stage? What does it look like? Are there people around? How are they dressed, in general? When you say he’s silhouetted, does this mean the only thing we see is his outline? Is the portal in front of him or behind him? Is it backlighting that is creating the silhouette? If his hands are the focus, then how can we concentrate on them visually if it isn’t a medium shot or close up? We’ll be seeing the whole and not the part, so how do we figure out what it is that is actually the focus? See what I’m getting at?)(Steve took all the fun out of this for you, Rin. He asked all the questions I was going to have you ask. We’ll see how much meat is left on the bones.)
Panel 5: Wide shot of stage with ELORIN and SEFERIN holding hands raised in the air. (Are they lovers? Family? I ask because you haven’t described the situation or context or even who the characters are in the story for me to know what is happening.) SEFERIN is wearing a medal. (Okay… why…?) Next to them is a board with a big picture of a stickman/sketch vitruvian posture man standing on a large mostly off frame circle. The man is in his own circle that intersects the big bottom circle. And above the man the circle intersects with another not-as-large-as-the-bottom circle that has 5 smaller circles inside of it with one right at the point of the man’s head. I hope this emoji helps. }[>–|o(o]8 The } is the big bottom circle. The [ ] are the circle around the man. The ( is the upper large circle. o is both the head and the circle of possible spatial location and 8 is those same shapes but not as close to the threshold. (I put a drawing at the end.) (You have officially lost me.)(There was a drawing at the end of this crap. However, here is my challenge to all artistic types: see if you can draw this just from the description. Please post whatever it is you come up with.)
ELORIN: For his work in portal theory and innovative teaching techniques, I am honored to award Seferin Silentveil with our highest honor. (Huh? This dialogue comes out of nowhere and has no build up to introduce or support it.)(And with this, we’re spared a silent opening page. It isn’t good dialogue, but it’s something that gives a glimpse into the world and what’s going on.)
I want you to really look at what you’ve written in this script. I’ll tell you that it is NOT pretty from this side of the computer screen/editor’s desk.
For a first page, you have given us nothing but confusion, Josh. I have no idea what is happening, why it’s happening, who the characters are, what this place looks like – nothing that will help me see in my head what it is you’re seeing in yours.
Then there’s a major problem with pacing. You have five panels and all you’ve done is jump from one situation to another. What makes it worse is my next point: there’s no dialogue to explain any of it until the last panel, and even that is confusing without context. So what you’ve done is create a page that has a title at the top and a blurb of dialogue at the bottom, with nothing in between.
It’s not often I want to stop so quickly, but this is one of those cases.
So we have P1 down, and I’m pretty tempted to set the Line of Demarcation and just call it crap and be done with it.
However, I’m trying to cultivate patience. (I’ll soon be cultivating crops… The house that we bought? She wants to tear up all the grass and plant herbs and vegetables. I’m going to reserve a little plot of land just for myself. That’s where I’ll cultivate patience.)
What do we have here?
Not a whole hell of a lot.
I’m willing to give a pass on some of the lack of a setting. Some. Not all. There’s some leeway given at the beginning where there could be information given to the artist in the form of another document where things are described. There could be. I doubt that there is, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and say there could be. (The benefit of the doubt is a great thing, no?) However, that only goes so far. When we get into specific places and rooms, there’s no excuse not to have a description of the room.
The lack of dialogue doesn’t help at all.
I’ve already described how art illustrates and dialogue illuminates. Pictures are pretty, but words give context. There’s no context given here. Who’s the guy, and why is he fondling orbs? The answer is “dunno” to both of those questions. The next question is “Do I care enough to turn the page?” The answer to that is an emphatic “No.”
Why don’t I care? Because nothing has been established. I don’t know who this person is, what they’re doing, or why they’re doing it. If I don’t care about any of that, why should I care as to whether or not they get an award for orb-fondling? What does an orb-fondling award have to do with anything within the context of the story? Dunno. Why don’t I know?
Because the story hasn’t started yet.
This, my friends, is a terrible, terrible, terrible opening page. It would be better served if there were just two words that said “OPENING PAGE” and then we go on to P2. Because that’s as much information we have/how much was actually accomplished on this page.
As an opening page, this is terrible because nothing happens. Nothing that a reader would care about. This entire page could be cut, and no one would be any the wiser. We’re going to have a discussion about pacing when we run this down, but just suffice it to say that this isn’t well paced.
And that extremely over-complicated description of the symbol? Don’t do that again. Ever. Draw it first, and then give that drawing to the artist, letting them know what it is you’re trying to achieve. Let them embellish from there. Trying to describe that in words will get you nothing but a “draw this for me” response. Why go through the hassle of writing it out when you could just draw it?
Roger Zelazny never drew the Pattern of Amber. He described it at various times, but he never drew it, and he never got overly specific about it, either. He described it as angular in places, with tight switchbacks; other times/places it has a series of arcs and curves. It’s rarely described the same way twice. Why? Because it was written for a novel, and it was meant to look however the reader wanted it to look in their imagination.
Scripting is vastly different. For comic scripts, things are supposed to be drawn. Sometimes, when things are overly complicated, it’s better to find photo-reference or just draw the thing yourself and tell the artist to reference the picture. Don’t try to make someone’s head explode with an overly complicated description. You won’t be thanked for it.
Let’s see what happens on P2.
Panel 1: A post award ceremony party scene. (You need to explain this a lot better. What exactly does a party scene look like for these people and/or their culture? Is it a few people or is it many? Where is it taking place?) SEFERIN is wearing his medal surrounded by several important wizards including ELORIN and RADMAAR. (Are they dressed in such a way that they are easily identifiable as ‘wizards’?) The high wizards are praising with hand on SEFERIN’s shoulder and one compares him to one of the founding wizards of wyndharp. (This sentence, save for the mention of “hand” [single or plural as you said “wizards”?] on Seferin’s shoulder, has no place in a panel description.) SEFERIN is on the right side of frame and looking curious and possibly offended that there could be someone better with portals than him. (I can understand and visualize a curious look, but “possibly offended”? And the balance of that description has no place here either.)
RADMAAR: I imagine your mastery of portals rivals even the great Draygoth.
PARTYGOER: You’re a prodigy! Hoorah! (I really dislike the use of the general term ‘partygoer’. It shows many things: 1) You didn’t want to go the extra mile with a name because he/she is an incidental character, which I find lazy; 2) you haven’t put a number such as Partygoer #1 or Partygoer #2 next to the designation because they will be the only anonymous person in the scene, which is lazy; and 3) you didn’t want to put the work in, which is lazy. Do I appear annoyed? You could assume that… and you’d be right.)(Not to mention the fact that this is bad dialogue. Hoorah! Speaking of this dialogue… Where is this person placed? I’ve re-read the panel description, and this person is nowhere to be found. Why is this important, Anh?)
Panel 2: ELORIN and SEFERIN are in the Library (What does the library look like in your setting of “crystal towers and Earthy/Organic style architecture”?) near a wall with bookcases and the corner of a painting of a man in dark robes. (You describe “a man in dark robes”, but aren’t taking the time to describe further. Do you want to know what you’re going to get in your artist’s rendering? A dark robe shaped in a man’s build. No face. No ornate designs. Nothing more than the dark robe shaped like a man. Will you be satisfied with the end result?) SEFERIN is leaning in inquisitively and ELORIN is jovially and animatedly storytelling. SEFERIN asks about Draygoth (This isn’t visual direction. Get rid of it.)(He’s talking about the last sentence.)
SEFERIN: Elorin, who was that wizard that Radmaar compared me to after my award ceremony?(Why doesn’t he know this? Don’t people study anymore? Don’t people know their history? Sadly, no. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have taken so long for people to make the comparison of Donald Trump to Adolph Hitler. Those who don’t study the past are doomed to repeat it. America could be doomed… But I digress. And yes, my digression is more entertaining than this piece of crap. There, I’ve said it. Line of Demarcation. I feel better now.)
ELORIN: He was a genius with portals and used his great power to explore the horizons of the world. A very high esteem was given with that compliment, my young Seferin. (So, now I discover that Seferin is young… or is he? This is, after all, one person talking to another and not a physical description. Could he be young in experience? Young at heart? Younger than the speaker by only a few months or days? And why do I feel my rant is more thought provoking than your story? Hmmm…)
Panel 3: Different shot of the two with ELORIN more serious, maybe hands on beard. (You’d better have character sheets, because otherwise, we are just finding out now that Elorin has a beard.) The two are framing the bottom of the picture now. Draygoth is wearing dark purple/black pants and robes and holding a leather bound book with a purple septagem, (a 7 sided jewel,) hinted at and barely in frame. (Here we go again: This description would have been more appropriate to be in the last panel description where the picture is first seen. But I notice that you have described more clearly what he is wearing in the picture, what he’s holding, and even given a rough idea of what is visible in the picture, but what you haven’t described is what Draygoth looks like. Young or old? Is he Caucasian, Asian, etc.? Does he have hair and, if so, what colour and in what style is it kept? You’ve established this isn’t going to be in a character sheet by starting to describe him here, so finish the job!)(Yes, those items described are magically delicious, seeing as how they just appeared. Since we’re dealing with wizards, this may not be a bad thing, but that isn’t the point. Are we near the end of this thing? I’d have a better time painting my office than going over this script.)
ELORIN: The old wizard built the library as a place to store all the knowledge he found in his worldly travels. The legends say he built more than what we have now, but certain sections were lost somehow. God only knows. (I like this expression. “God only knows”. I think I’ll take it as my own, because God only knows why I’m putting the effort in to edit a script from a writer who has obviously not put the effort in himself. My annoyance is coming through and for that I apologize, but seriously, I can feel my blood pressure rise as I’m writing my comments. Should any editor have to go through this, especially as a free service?)(It’s penance. For all of us. This isn’t terrible exposition per se, but it’s telling the listener something they should already know. If they don’t know it, why don’t they know it? What are the rules for your world? None of that has come through yet. Just a bit of an uninteresting history lesson. How does history become interesting? Through context. Where’s the context?)
Panel 4: SEFERIN is in the library near that same wall in front of a desk with books and scrolls laid out and stacked he looks very intent and focused. (Where was the desk before? Was the shot so close before that we couldn’t see it? If so, then why wasn’t the picture description in the first panel it appeared in as, obviously, it would have been close enough?) The full portrait of Draygoth is behind SEFERIN. It shows a gray bearded elf man. (Now we learn Draygoth was a gray bearded elf man! Why do we have to explore your entire script to get to details that appear in earlier panels??) He has a leather book in his hands that is embedded with a purple septagem. Maybe a sketch of a similar/younger looking elf wizard on one of the pages/scrolls. 2nd possible sketch could be a library looking building or maybe a hobbit style library. (I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be apologizing for my building anger at this script, but most likely due to my being Canadian and it being what we seem to do best, I’m trying to bite my proverbial tongue on the written page, but it’s getting harder and harder the further I get. What’s worse is I haven’t even reached the end of Page Two yet. ARRRRRRGH!!!)(What Steve means to say is that this is impossible to draw. Felix? It’s been a dog’s age. You’re up: why am I saying this?)
Panel 5: This panel is a septagon merged with the surrounding panels: (Huh?!) Similar library shot as before, but more focus on SEFERIN and the desk. SEFERIN is haggard looking and his hair is messier. He has been there for days enthralled in his reading. There are now more books, in addition to that there are crystals, amulets, a beholder flower, (if you put a stem onto the back of a beholder and the eyes swirled together like a flower,) and a purple squiggle dagger. (I’d ask why this scene switch occurred on this page, but given that’s what you’ve been doing throughout, I won’t bother.) (I wouldn’t call this a scene switch, seeing as how we’re still in the library (I believe), but the focus has changed without any real reason as to why.)
SEFERIN: If the plane of existence is perpendicular…
SEFERIN: The portal needs to rotate! (P2. There is no story. This has no basis in anything. Go up to someone, anyone, and ask them about the nature of rose petals in snow, and how that affects riding horses bareback. Same thing here.)
Panel 6: Wide shot of a clearing in a forest. SEFERIN is at the bottom of the frame with his back to us. Standing in front of a decently large sized septagram inscribed in a circle. SEFERIN is laughing maniacally with a bloody knife in his left hand and a bloody hand on his right. The circle is made of blood and is being blocked from vision by a portal opening up on the floor in its place. The portal is blood red with bubbles, and purple lightning is sparking across it and/or around the edges. (Describe the setting first, then populate it. It’s much easier on the brain than going back and forth like this.)
SEPTIMUS: With this sacrifice (Missing comma) I realign my reality! With this shift (Missing comma) I will become the most powerful wizard in all of Exillion! (More bad dialogue.)
I’m done. I’ve had it. My blood, sweat, and tears went into editing two freaking pages and I’m done.
I can’t remember the last time a story made me this angry. I take that back: it wasn’t the story. It was the writer. Josh, I can’t express how much energy went into my edits of only two pages of your script. All I can say is you had better get better at writing because I don’t want to do this again.
The pacing of your story reminds me of hopscotch, jumping from one square to another, one panel to another, one scene to another with hopeless abandon, never staying in a scene long enough but to pick up the rock that was thrown. Your lack of spending time on your scenes was a major detriment because it didn’t provide enough time to understand what was going on. Hampering this even further was your almost complete lack of dialogue, with the dialogue that was present not providing enough to carry what the visuals were lacking.
And speaking of visuals, this is what got me the angriest. Lack of information, misplaced direction, and using the panel descriptions in a manner that didn’t serve the artist to fulfill their role as your collaborator made this a massive fail. I think flying blind in heavy fog would have been easier than trying to decipher what you wanted.
And since Steve has stopped, so I can. I can run this down, then we can all run away. I have dishes that beckon, as well as an office to paint.
Format: Flawless Victory!
Now, to be fair, Josh had some help from yours truly. The format of this was much, much worse. The panels weren’t numbered well. They were numbered according to their placement in either the Top, Middle, or Bottom row/tier, and then labeled Left, Middle, Right. There were specific notes as to where to place the copy. There were also shortcuts for the names: the names were said once, and then the first initial of the name was put into parenthesis from then on. A lot of word processing programs would turn an R that was put into parenthesis into the registered trademark symbol of an R in a circle. Yeah, no fun. This is much easier to read. You’re all welcome. (And really, I only did it so I wouldn’t have an aneurysm while going through this.)
No, I said nothing about page breaks. Those were put in all by his lonesome.
Panel Descriptions: These are crap.
Setting, then population. For the setting, you have to answer Where and When (both time of day and what season it is if it’s special to the story). For population, Who’s there and What they’re doing. You very rarely have to answer Why anyone is doing anything. That will come across either in actions or dialogue.
Describe things from left to right. This is how we read things. Left to right. Don’t zig zag.
Don’t be overly-complicated in your descriptions, and don’t give acting directions. Characters perform actions. Those actions have to be drawn. Writing intentions generally means you either haven’t described something well, or that you are writing more than you need to. In this case, I’d pick one from both columns.
Pacing: Crap. There’s no reason given as to why anything is happening.
From the largest piece of pacing to the smallest, pacing has to do with the number of scenes in a comic, the number of pages in a scene, the number of panels on a page, and the amount of dialogue per panel/page/scene.
Understand this. Study it. This is something you need to know intimately.
(Actually, read the first twelve or so Bolts & Nuts articles. Those will teach you the bulk of what you need to know for the rudiments of scriptwriting.)
Another part of Pacing is dialogue, in the aspect of what is being said and when. What I mean by “what” isn’t the specifics of what’s being said, but the overall sense. Does the dialogue move the reader through the book? If so, is it fast or slow? Also, is it interesting? If it is, when does that interest hit: at the top, middle, or end of a page? Does that also include a page turn?
There are a lot of moving parts to scripting, and you have a lot to learn.
Dialogue: This is bad, but I’ve read much worse. What’s here is either exposition or it’s nonsense. There doesn’t seem to be any inbetween. That needs to be fixed, post-haste.
Dialogue has to do two things: it has to reveal character and it has to move the plot. Does the bulk of your dialogue do either of those? If you said “no,” you’d be correct.
Content: This is crap.
Here’s a secret: Great art can bring up a bad script into being something passable. Great writing can bring bad art up to something passable. People may come for the art, but they’ll stay for the story. There’s no story here. There isn’t even an inkling of one. That’s terrible.
Editorially, Steve is extremely correct: this needs a rewrite. First, as always, a conversation to understand what’s going on and what needs to be done in order to achieve the desired effect.
However, before that rewrite, a lot of studying needs to happen first. You have to learn how to write for the medium. You haven’t learned that yet. Format is exceedingly simple (even though there are those who screw that up, too). Learning how to tell a simple story with a picture and some words is a challenge, but it can be done. Learn the limitations of the medium. Learn its strengths.
You can do that by trying smaller stories first. Five pages or so. Do a LOT of writing. Get out all of the bad words. Bear down and put in the time. That’s the only way to get better. Talent has to be honed. That’s what writing and having that writing edited is all about.
And that’s it for this week! Check the calendar to see who’s next!
Like what you see? Steve and I are available for your editing needs. Steve can be reached here. You can email me directly from my info below.