Welcome back, one and all, to another installment of The Proving Grounds. Once again, this is one of the last ones. (I know most of you don’t come back regularly.) I’m closing up shop on 5/13/2016, so there are only two more after this. Enjoy it while it lasts.
This week, we have someone who is no stranger to these parts—our Brave One is Luke Pierce. (No Star Wars jokes. I’ve already made them…) We also have Steve Colle in blue, Ryan Kroboth with the pencil assist, and I’m the curmudgeon with the new office in red. (Yes, I have a new office. I’ll talk about it throughout the script.) Now, let’s all sit back and see what Luke does with the For—I mean
Page 1 of 22
Tall panel. NIGHT.
Setting: Southlake Town Square: http://www.grapevinetxonline.com/southlake-town-square/
This is supposed to be small town America, however I realise that Southlake isn’t exactly a small town and is a shopping district. But this style of buildings, surrounding a small park, is exactly what I’m envisaging here.
The park itself has a few trees, but is generally quite an open space to allow families to have some fun together. (You’ve given us location, but what about timeframe [past, present, etc.], time of day, or even weather conditions [sunny, cloudy, rainy, etc.]. These details are also necessary to paint the picture of the setting.)
1 HENRY (blue): What did you think of tonight, Jasmine? (You know what? I want to kiss Luke right now. Lay a Leia on him. Why? Because he used a comma correctly. I’m very comma-deprived. Sorry. Continue, Steve.)
2 JASMINE (honey): It was, er, nice to just go out. (Here’s a suggested rewrite: “It was… er… nice to just go out.” The use of ellipses creates a better pause or sense of hesitation than simple commas.)
3 HENRY (blue): Good.
I’m a little confused with the colour reference bracketed after the speaker names above. I noticed that you made a comment in the attached lettering note about Amy’s caption boxes having white print on black, but there wasn’t anything about Henry and Jasmine’s. Is the above speech in caption? If so, then you need to identify them as such. I noticed the characters aren’t in the panel description, so does this make their speech coming from inside? If it is in captions, both of their dialogues here should be in quotation marks as voice over.
We have now shifted camera angle to see JASMINE HUNNYBUN and HENRY PARKER sitting next to one of the trees in the park. Their body language is polar opposites. JASMINE has her arms crossed across her chest and she isn’t being overtly engaging, showing no interest in what HENRY is saying to her. (You’re talking about her arm positioning, but her facial expression would probably give a better idea of her state of mind. What expression is on her face and is she looking at Henry or are her eyes deliberately avoiding contact?) HENRY has an arm outstretched, indicating the parkland. (Same thing here for Henry.)
4 HENRY: Doesn’t seeing this make it all worth it, Jasmine?
5 HENRY: Like how a perfect date should end?
Close up of JASMINE. Her head is turned away from the reader (as if the reader were HENRY), but her eyes are looking towards us. (I want to clarify my understanding that she is looking at Henry/us out of the corner of her eye, showing avoidance but still making eye contact.) She has an uncomfortable look about her, as she’s going to be breaking some bad news.
5 JASMINE: Look, Henry, this – (Ellipsis here instead of a dash) this is hard…
6 JASMINE: You need to ease off.
JASMINE is leaning slightly (Is she leaning or isn’t she? How do you lean “slightly”?) against the tree, her back to the reader. Ahead of her, HENRY now has both arms outstretched (like trying to encourage JASMINE to just cuddle him).
In other words, the reader should be aware that there is now a sense of danger and HENRY should be making us all feel uncomfortable. (Mr. Kroboth? Put down the donut (or at least share!) and grasp thine drawing instrument comfortably, and please help us to see what Luke isn’t. Because there are things at work here that just don’t help things.)
7 HENRY: Ease off?
I’m honestly getting no sense of danger out of Henry’s actions or words and definitely no sense of discomfort. You haven’t gone into their exchange enough to build that desired feeling from Jasmine or from your reader. If he’s possessive, jealous, clingy, or whatever other direction you may have for his personality as it applies to this relationship, you haven’t shared it with us. Also, his verbal response doesn’t match his physical one. If he’s wondering why she wants him to ease off, then why isn’t he taken aback by her comment? If he’s reaching out to hug her, then why isn’t he saying something like “Come here and let’s talk about this”?
Close up of JASMINE, the sole focus of the panel. She is shouting in anger. (At us [as Henry] in a front shot or in profile?)
8 JASMINE: Don’t you get it?
9 JASMINE: I only agreed to come tonight to tell you to leave me alone. (So she wants him to leave her alone, and yet she goes on another date and THEN tells him to leave her alone? Shouldn’t this have been done a few different ways: by phone, text, email, through a friend or acquaintance, or even when she first sees him before the date starts?)(Yeah. This doesn’t ring true. It’s not that I don’t know of any women who wouldn’t go out with someone they’re not into in order to tell them to leave them alone, it’s that it’s very, VERY rare. Especially if she felt the other person was dangerous.)
10 JASMINE: You’re a creep, Henry Parker, and I wish I didn’t have to see your face!(Oh, that’s terrible. And not the good kind of terrible, either.)
I’m not a fan of this first page. You jumped into the story and have put the reader into a situation where they have no reference – past or present – to base Jasmine’s comments on, thus not providing information to pull the reader in. There’s no trigger present to indicate the reason for her sudden and aggressive verbal attack on Henry. The dialogue itself doesn’t sound entirely natural either. I wish we had more build up to the situation, a sense of motivation to her actions, and a clear and natural flow to what is transpiring.
So, we have P1 on the books.
Beginnings are the hardest. There are extremely few times when I took an excerpt from the middle of a script, simply because beginnings are damned difficult. There is a lot of work to be done on the first page: you have to establish story, you have to pique the reader’s interest enough to want to turn the page, you have to establish a time and place, you have to establish some sort of relationship, you have to give a hint at character motivation and stakes.
All of this has to be done on the first page in order to get the reader to go to the next page. If any one of those things are missing, then there are a lot of other things that can go wrong.
There are a lot of things missing here.
There are no stakes. We have an emotional outburst, but we have no real stakes. There’s supposed to be menace, but I feel as menaced as a child being offered strawberry ice cream by a stranger. There’s supposed to be a relationship, but a shortcut was taken and we’re really at the tail end of what could have been a relationship if one didn’t want to see the other’s face. We have no character motivation: we have no idea as to how Henry is a creep—only Jas’ say-so. He hasn’t done anything except maybe offer her some ice cream. We have a place, but no real time—and I’m shocked about it, to be honest. Luke knows better because I harp on it constantly. Despite the emotional outburst, there’s no piquing of my interest. Nothing has happened that makes me want to turn the page. If anything, all this talk of ice cream is making me want some.
There’s no interest here. We have the breaking of a storm, but there was no building of that storm.
Long-time readers know how much I love bad movies. There’s one, Ancient Evil: Scream of the Mummy (the mummy never screams or really utters a sound) where there’s a storm that never breaks. You get thunder and lightning for about half the movie, but never once any rain. A t first it’s there for atmosphere, but then it goes on for too long and is just terrible. (If you ever want to see any truly terrible films, just watch any David DeCoteau masterpieces. He’s more terrible than Uwe Boll…and that’s saying something.)
Anyway, there’s a storm there that builds and never breaks, and here we have a storm that has broken but was never built.
Basically, it’s bad storytelling.
So, my office: I think I mentioned the arduous task of stripping the floor. If I haven’t, the recap: I had to sand the floor twice. The first time was because there was carpet on the floor, and the carpet hid a small piece of damage. We didn’t sand down far enough the first time, and the sander didn’t have a working vacuum, so there was sawdust in the air and floating throughout the house. It settled onto everything and was a real pain in my ass.
We sanded on a Sunday, and I returned the sanders(!) on Monday morning. (The second sander was gotten for a totally different reason, for a totally different floor.) After cleaning the floor in my office, we discovered that it looked like there was some water spots in the wood that didn’t come out—so we had to sand again. Pissed me off, because those damned things are HEAVY.
We try to sand the next weekend, but the sander was already checked out, so we worked on the bathroom instead. We also got me a desk.
We sanded on Friday into Saturday, and then sealed and put ‘thane on it. Three coats of ‘thane. We also went and got a cabinet to hold my action figures. It’s a huge china cabinet, but it holds them all, along with a few statues.
Let’s get to P2…
Page 2 of 22
HENRY has closed the gap between JASMINE and himself. He is using his height to intimidate her further. (How does his height come into play unless he is now standing, as you said both were sitting in Panel 2 of Page One and never said otherwise?)
1 HENRY: You don’t want to see me? Fine.
2 HENRY: I can arrange that.
This is our impact moment. (Is she a witch? Will she turn him into a newt?)
HENRY has pushed JASMINE against the tree and using it to help him push his forearm into her throat. JASMINE is reaching towards his arm, but her hands are nowhere near close enough. (I thought she was already against the tree? And this doesn’t make any sense. How are her hands NOT close enough to do anything? Is he Mr. Fantastic? Does she have T-Rex arms that are stubby and useless? Ryan? Forget the last one. Please see if you can make visual sense of this with your magic pencil.)
3 HENRY: Why you agreed to meet me alone is beyond me. (Me, too. But why he’s saying this to her is also beyond me…)
4 JASMINE: Hhhhk!
This is all happening too fast. There was no build up to her reaction and equally none to Henry’s.
The silhouette of AMY STONE is sprinting across the parkland, her cloak pretty much following her body form. Every indication here is that she’s going to be rescuing JASMINE. (What time of day is it to create only a silhouette? Who is this person coming out of nowhere? Why is this person running? What exactly is happening with the cloak, as “following her body form” is confusing to me? What indications are you referring to that show she is going to rescue anyone? Are Jasmine and Henry in this panel? How can the reader put 2 + 2 together to arrive at the fact this silhouette is planning to save Jasmine? If I’m asking this many questions, then you know the artist and even the reader are going to do likewise.)
5 CAP (AMY): I just have to keep calm. Everyone has a first time. (I have no idea where this is coming from and how it applies to the situation started with Jasmine and Henry. This tells me Amy has more importance than the two characters who started this story. Are they incidental characters and is that why you spent so little time telling their story before getting to this point?)(Minority Report, and I’m—uh, I mean they’re the minority…)
AMY is approaching HENRY and JASMINE, (So Jasmine and Henry weren’t in the previous panel? Is Amy still in silhouette? Is she still running?) AMY has her right arm outstretched and the outline of a Scythe can be seen (although still mostly see-through) and this is to indicate that AMY is literally summoning the Scythe from thin air. (Which direction is her outstretched arm facing? In front of her? Behind her? And why is a scythe appearing out of the blue?)
6 CAP (AMY): Just need to remember what Mom told me… (You have a scythe like Death uses popping up out of nowhere and follow that up with Amy trying to follow her mom’s guidance. Does anyone else think the prop matches the character here, because I sure as hell don’t.)(Dead Like Me springs to mind, even though I’ve only seen a single episode, lo these many moons ago. Basically, I watched the episode because I wanted to see if Jasmine Guy was still hot. She wasn’t, and Mandy Patinkin didn’t hold my attention, although he’s a great actor. I loved him in Chicago Hope.)
It feels like this story started out going one direction and quickly veered to the left (not the right, because I’m not feeling anything “right” about how this story is going so far).
You have a bunch of different ingredients being added to your story soup that, when put together, are leaving a bad taste in my mouth: Jasmine’s outburst and Henry’s sudden violent reaction; the unknown Amy Stone appearing out of nowhere and sprinting along to an assumed destination; Amy’s mystical scythe; and Amy’s “first time” self-talk of reassurance and motivation. I’ll keep going, but this isn’t boding well.
P2, and the pacing is the opposite of good. I don’t know what else can be said that Steve hasn’t already.
So there’s this china cabinet with my action figures, there’s a huge desk, there are bookshelves that need to be filled. I need to put pictures/posters/art on the walls, and Kat is going to make a something with the comic book boxes I have, but it’s going to turn out very well. It’s just been a long process, and I’m tired. My weekdays have been about 18 hours long, and my weekends have been filled with doing all manner of house-stuff, and I go to work to rest from the house-stuff.
At least the weekend’s almost here, and that makes better sense to me than this script does.
Let’s see what P3 brings.
Page 3 of 22
The panel should be surrounded by black in order to suggest a flashback.
We now see ALICE BRIDGES (MOM) for the first time. As is usual for her, (We have no previous history to know this, so why does the artist need this information?) her expression is blank and difficult to read (see character notes). (No background location/information at all?)
1 ALICE: Just do it.
I feel like I just jumped into a bad manga story. First of all, if her expression is blank, then why show it? She could have easily said this with her back to the camera to the same effect. Second, why in the world would this panel be necessary? What purpose does it serve other than to distance the reader even more from the initial situation that started this story?
AMY has the scythe drawn back, ready to strike.
The town background is still here, however it needs to be drawn slightly fuzzy in order to suggest the otherworldly situation that is about to happen.
2 CAP (AMY): Thanks, Mom.
Otherworldly situation?? “Thanks, Mom”??? The pieces aren’t fitting, like a bunch of different puzzles being crammed together to make a picture that resembles Frankenstein’s monster more than a beauty like Charlize Theron.
AMY has passed her scythe through JASMINE. (Huh?) AMY is looking away from JASMINE (or rather her hooded face should be looking away from the action). (Why is Amy/her hooded face looking away from her apparent victim?)
JASMINE still has her neck being pushed by HENRY’s forearm; her eyes are wide open, suggesting that HENRY has finally killed her. (How can we tell Henry has killed her? With no sound, we can’t hear if she’s gasping for breath, has let out a death rattle, if her neck has snapped, nothing to ‘suggest’ anything of the sort. Wouldn’t your eyes be wide open if you were gasping for breath?)
You’re placing a lot of reliance on the reader automatically being able to read your mind and decipher the intention of your characters and the course of your story, just like Amy’s “indication” of rescuing Jasmine based on her sprinting. (Rin? Why doesn’t this panel make sense when thought of in conjunction with the others?)
Letterer note: This and the next panel should literally have no onomatopoeia as this is literally trying to replicate the movie “beat” that has no silence (??) when something dramatic happens. (No silence? You mean “sound”?)
Panoramic panel. (Do you mean a wide panel?)
JASMINE has landed on the floor, her eyes still wide open. Her body looks quite stiff (Can this be drawn? No. And besides that, how do you draw or, in film, show rigor mortis? You rely on the characters referring to rigor in their speech, that’s how.) and, underneath, small dust clouds have formed from her landing. (I thought she was under a tree??? Where did the dust clouds come from? How high up was she that, even if she were in the driest of climates, it would produce small dust clouds?) (And where do we find floors, folks?)
Full body shot.
JASMINE remains in her frozen state and lying on the floor. Near her head and looming over everyone is AMY (Reminder: She’s 6’4” and the tallest character in this scene). Her right hand (left as we see it) is outstretched and the scythe is now back to being an outline again (So much like before in Page 2, Panel 4). To Amy’s left (our right), HENRY is bent over slightly, horror in his expression and body language (He meant to scare her, not kill her). (Okay, confusion has set in amidst the details in this panel. My biggest question has to be: Are we to assume she is a ghost or spectre or something and that Henry can’t see her? This was never established to the reader. Why would she be sprinting if she’s a spectre? Why not just appear?)
5 HENRY: Jasmine – ? (Why would there be a dash, especially a single dash? If he’s calling her name knowing she won’t answer, it would be written as “Jasmine…?” to create a trailing off vs. interruption in speech.)
Letterer note: Henry should have a smaller font size than usual in this scene and with a “wobbly” word balloon. (This wobbly word balloon also tells me this is probably manga, but the elements of the story are too all over the place to fit into a more comedic story in that style.) This should suggest his horror and upset.
HENRY is crouched over the unseen body of JASMINE. His face has a panicked expression and his hands have grasped at his face.
6 HENRY: Oh god, what have I done? (And for my fourth script back in The Proving Grounds, I can take a line of dialogue and apply it to myself. Oh God… WHAT HAVE I DONE?!)
In all honesty, my face is raw from repeatedly running my hands down both sides in disbelief and slapping myself in the forehead with sheer frustration, which actually begs the question: Did I have the headache before I started slapping myself in the forehead or was it there as a result of reading the script? Come to the think of it, it’s an inside and outside headache that can only be cured with a dose of common sense. I’d better go get myself some.
Luke, I haven’t read any of your previous scripts and will take the time to look for them in the near future, but let me tell you, my good man: This was ARDUOUS to read and edit. Let’s see what Steven thought of it…
It’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure thing, but really, the choice you have to make is where you set the Line of Demarcation. Because this is crap. Steve just saved us from having to read more of it.
Let’s run this down. I have an office to finish.
Format: Flawless Victory!
Panel Descriptions: When you leave out the things that are necessary for an artist to draw, it is very difficult to say that the panel descriptions are good. These aren’t good. Sometimes there is sense to be made of what has been written, but often there isn’t. Slow down and think: can this be drawn? Have I succinctly described what I need to convey to the artist? Has what I’ve put down made sense?
If you ask yourself these questions and make yourself a cheat sheet, then you’d be ahead of the game. (Actually, don’t worry much about the cheat sheet. I’m going to make one for new writers relatively soon.)
Pacing: Horrible. Things happen extremely fast with no build-up at all. Imagine having the entire Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan converted to a comic that was only three pages long. Not each book converted into a three-page comic. The entire series condensed into three pages of comic. While it could be done, it would be extremely ineffective at anything that has to deal with getting the reader invested in the characters or the story or anything. It would have to move extremely fast by necessity.
This piece hurtles in that way. It isn’t good. Slow down and think about what’s coming. Yes, you have to move fast, but don’t sacrifice moving fast for reader interest. There’s no interest here because of the speed. That speed is causing you to seemingly lurch from here to there, and you’re asking a lot of the reader. Most will not be able to keep up, and those that do will want some actual story to go along with it.
Remember the words of Brand Nubian: Slow Down.
Dialogue: There isn’t much context, and some of it is just downright execrable. How do you fix it? More listening, more writing, and definitely more getting out of the bad words. Give thought to what conversation is and what it accomplishes. How does conversation make you feel? Why? How do you get tone across with the use of vocabulary, syntax, and punctuation in conjunction with stress, balloon placement, balloon shape and size, and font shape and size? (Color can also be used, but generally, words are black on a white background. We don’t generally use color for the actual letters to help convey meaning, although it would be a pretty good experiment.) Dialogue is easily the most difficult part of scripting.
Content: I don’t know what the story’s about. While I love a supernatural tale, I also like them decently told. They don’t even have to be well-told. Just be decent. This isn’t decent. Remember that we make comics in order to sell them. It’s the only thing that justifies the cost. This won’t sell. This will barely be given away, and if read, people will wonder why they wasted their time.
Editorially, this needs a rewrite in the worst way. I would read it, and then go over the pace with you, and we would discuss where I think things need to slow down and be explained and where things could be sped up. Where the actual starting point would be and how to get and keep reader interest. This doesn’t do it.
And that’s all I have to say about that.
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.
Category: ComixTribe News