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TPG Week 280: A Race Of The Ages (Or: One Week To The End)

| May 6, 2016

TPG Forbes-Kroboth

Welcome back, one and all, to the next-to-last installment of The Proving Grounds! That’s right, folks! Next week is the big finale. After that, there will only be memories that can be revisited in the archives. Lots of good material in there. You should definitely check it out.

Anyway, this week brings us Gavin Falcon as our Brave One. We also have Steve Colle in blue, we have Ryan Kroboth with his mighty pencil, and I’m the guy lounging in red. As for Gavin, he said he’s been following along lately. Let’s see if this is true, or if this script has been

Jury Rigged

PAGE 1 (3 panels)

Panel 1: We’ll open the story with an extremely far and wide establishing shot of the Scraplands, a blasted out wasteland covered in huge piles of scrap, rubble and a few crumbling concrete buildings under a noxious grey sky (think post-nuclear without the nuclear). It’s very early morning, and a decent portion of the land behind the scrap heaps is shrouded in shadow. A few settlements, which are mostly just tight clusters of run down, makeshift metal buildings sparsely dot the landscape as well. At this distance the piles would probably just appear as formless grey and rust colored masses, with the area between them being uncovered dirt. The area used to be forested, so a few burnt out trees are probably still standing (they might not show from this far out though).

1/NARRATION

My mother used to tell me that the world was once a better place…

Panel 2: Still a fairly wide establishing shot, zoomed in enough that we can clearly make out a cluster of six or so individual scrapheaps in varying sizes and compositions. Pretty much anything metal can be found in them, so go wild with whatever you think would look cool. Most of it should be broken down or rusted out though, to continue with the theme.

2/NARRATION (Continued)(I’m not much of a stickler for “rules.” There are certain things that I hold true, like page breaks, but really, lots of things can be done to make up a script. I’m lazy, though, and have never thought of needing to have a note that said “continued” for the letterer. It’s one more thing that has to be typed, and that takes time. Time you could be doing something else with, like discovering a clever bit of dialogue. Yes, this is me being long-winded in saying that the “continued” note is unnecessary.)

That, when she was young, it hadn’t always been a battle just to survive in the land we call home.

Panel 3: Zoomed in even further to focus on one of the pillars at a slight worms eye, angled just enough so we can see the edge of a makeshift platform and a booted leg belonging to our protagonist dangling nonchalantly over the edge. In the horizon beyond, the sun is just starting to crawl up the sky, obscured and warped a bit by a layer of smog. I imagine the platform itself to basically just be a highway sign sticking out of the scrapheap near the top, or the equivalent of it. (I was going to ask about the style of the boot the dangling leg is wearing and then saw the character file that describes it. Thanks.)

3/NARRATION

Now, I can’t really say for certain, but if the world has gone to hell– (Ellipsis instead of double dash)

Generally, I’m not having any issues with your panel descriptions. Everything is clear to me as to how you are visualizing it and you are, in my opinion, effectively conveying it to your artist. Great job. Your dialogue is also easy to read and sounds natural. This page works for me.

We have P1 on the books!

Yes, I’m bored. Blame Mad Max. I do.

I’m bored with post-apocalyptic, barren worlds. I’m tired of protagonists who talk in voice-over in these types of stories. It all feels the same. I’m bored.

Yes, the dialogue is natural and not forced. But it’s also boring. I’m not intrigued. I’m not forced to turn the page to find out what’s going on. Doing something different would be much more interesting. Saying something powerful would be best. Something that makes the rest of the page just pop, where there is no option of turning the page.

I want to be hit square between the eyes with dialogue that makes me sit up and take notice. I want to be forced to turn the page because something interesting or clever was said. That doesn’t happen on this page. Yes, it stands above lots of opening pages we get here at TPG, but when your average is crap, being mediocre makes you stand out.

I want better. I haven’t gotten it.

No, this isn’t crap (so far). It’s just uninteresting.

PAGE 2 (splash) (No page break save for hitting the return key) (And here I was, thinking Gavin payed better attention. Flawless Victories are so easy to achieve. Alas, it was not to be…)

Panel 1: Splash of Glory from the side, sitting on the edge of the platform and looking out over the wastes with a serene smile, her other leg propped up on the edge of the platform with her arm resting against it. In the immediate background, a rusty metal sign juts out of the heap with the title of the book crudely painted in red across it (we’ll probably want the credits on there too if there’s room). Further in the background, we can see a few rays of sunlight piercing through the clouds to shine down on the desolate wastes below, hopefully to invoke a sort of barren glory feel.

1/NARRATION (Continued)

…guess I may as well make the most of it.

I want to refer back to the last dialogue from the previous page and how it connects with this bit. I’m going to have it read as one long line instead of separated: “Now, I can’t really say for certain, but if the world has gone to hell, guess I may as well make the most of it.” Do you see how “I can’t really say for certain” affects the balance of the speech? Here’s a rewrite: Now, if the world has gone to hell, I may as well make the most of it. Something else to consider (and because I don’t know anything about the story at this point): her saying this makes it sound like she is new to this situation. If this is hell, she may as well adapt. That’s how I read it. Is she new to it? I guess I’ll find out, but at this point, her serene smile is telling me otherwise. That, or she likes hell.

Now, I know I’m supposed to concentrate on what I have right in front of me, but I think it’s worthwhile including a piece of character description from your adjoining document that describes her look: She’s fairly young (right around nineteen or twenty) with a short black frazzled pixie cut, roguish features and moderately tan skin. Her attire is a sort of hybrid between biker and punk rock, with a few other styles thrown in for a sort of mishmash, post­apocalyptic look. The boots she wears are the knee­high kind with buckles up the side, kind of similar to the Goth style but a little more practical, especially in the heel (they should probably resemble something closer to a combat or biker boot from the ankle down). She also has a pair of blast goggles situated above her brow, mostly for effect but they will see some use in a couple of scenes. On her left bicep she wears a cloth wrap, which hides scars from drug abuse (which will be expounded upon later in the story). Her gloves are a sort of blocky, cyberpunk gauntlet, which helps to amplify her innate ability to shape and control metal. Tubes of blue energy extend like lines of circuitry from power sources about halfway up her forearms, connecting to pads on the palms and knuckles where the power is released.

I added the above to point out that her look and her environment need to match if she is natural to her setting. Right now, I don’t know if her look should be represented with tears in her clothing, her hair unkempt, etc., or if she should look the way you have her described above. This is due to my not knowing enough about your story beyond these pages so far. I felt it necessary to share this with the others reading this entry.

I don’t feel Page Two warrants a splash page because it isn’t providing anything of note or focus. Are we learning something important or pertinent to a key aspect of the story? No. In this case, I think adding this image to the first page would have been fine, though if you wanted to place more focus on her directly, you could have her in a larger panel on that page.

As for your suggestion of the crude painting of the title on a sign, you would definitely want to make it stand out from other such signage text. Heightening your chances for clarity of this would mean lowering your amount of competing text in this manner. Here’s where you want to also consider what information a sign can provide to help the reader understand your setting, time period, and situation. What’s more important: that you’re giving information the reader needs to understand the context of the story or to incorporate creative design into the artwork for a title and credits? That, and can you do both without compromising the first?

P2.

Padding. It can be cut, and no one would be the wiser. Not a good use of space.

There is nothing that is the least bit dramatic about this page. It doesn’t warrant a splash. Half a page, and that’s pushing it.

Real estate is precious, folks. You have to use it to the best of your ability. This is the first issue of a story. The first couple of pages of a first issue. Do you want the book to sell? Do you want to be able to continue telling the story? Then you have to get the reader interested. You do this with drama, with both words and pictures. Neither of these are filled with drama. Not yet.

Interesting visuals will always be the name of the game. I’m bored, and so far, this is filled with empty calories. I’m hungry for story. Feed me, Seymore!

PAGE 3 (5 panels) (No page break)

Panel 1: Medium of Glory from the front, in the same posture and looking down with a little bit of disdain towards the bottom of her perch. I picture her keeping her head level while she does this, but it might make her look too aloof, so go with what you feel looks best if that doesn’t work. Clinks’ dialogue comes in from below.

1/UNSEEN SPEAKER (Clinks yelling) (This is off panel dialogue. A better way of writing this is 1/CLINKS (Off panel), because we know it’s Clinks, as you describe. When introducing the dialogue of an unseen speaker, whether off panel or in voice over, it’s better to identify them by name in your script. Remember, the reader isn’t reading your script: just your fellow creators and editor.)

HEY!!! (I think one exclamation mark would have sufficed here. Unless there have been multiple attempts to capture Glory’s attention prior to this or, more importantly, something akin to a scream for help is shouted, you should stick with a single exclamation mark. And besides, your use of capitals vs. lower case makes that point known.)(I beg to differ. I don’t care about the case of the letters because the letterer will more than likely use an all-caps font. Things can get lost. I’ve seen it happen. What’s harder to “lose” is underlining. I will always advocate underlining when it comes to putting stress on a word in dialogue.)

Panel 2: From Glory’s perspective, looking down at an angry looking figure (Clinks) shouting from the base of the spire, a small group (around half-dozen) of assorted individuals packing supplies a short distance away from him. (In your character sheet, you describe Glory and Cole and no one else. Make sure you add him to your list and also, make sure you describe what people in your story generally look like in the way they dress, etc. This helps us picture your populace when reading through your script. Right now, I have no idea if they are all in business attire or animal skins.) The reader should really get a feel of just how tall these pillars are here, with Clinks and the group having almost no easily discernible features. We’ll want some of Glory’s calf and boot in the foreground here, and some bits of broken metal jutting out of the sloping scrap heap with a large and flat surface (like the roof of a shed) sticking out near the bottom, which she’ll be interacting with next page.

2/CLINKS

Get down from there (Missing comma) girl, we’re leavin’! (Two things: 1) I have no idea why “girl” is italicized and 2) it would read better as “Get down from there, girl! We’re leavin’!”)

Panel 3: Close up on Glory’s upper body (front or side shot, up to you) as she gives a disappointed huff, her eyes closed.

3/GLORY

sigh

Panel 4: Glory stands up, stretching her arms over her head and clasping them with her eyes still closed.

NO COPY

Panel 5: Large medium (not quite a half-splash) of Glory wrenching a large, flat metal sheet out from the mass of scrap behind her, the palms and backs of the gloves as well as the metal itself emitting a faint blue aura. She’s got one foot against the pile as she pulls, strain evident on her face.

4/SFX (Metal sheet)

Skreeee!

This page really didn’t do much to advance the story. It didn’t name your main character (Glory), didn’t tell us who the people below were (even though one of them spoke), and there was no interaction between the as-yet-unnamed Glory and the man speaking to her below. What we did learn was she was enjoying herself before being called down, is disappointed by the interruption, and you’ve introduced the blue aura. Missed opportunities. Something that was reinforced for me was the lack of need for the splash page on Page Two.

P3, and nothing worth turning the page has happened. If this thing raced a glacier, I’d be hard pressed to say who would win. It would be a race of the ages! (Get it?)

No, the blue glow isn’t enough of a mystery to ask why it’s happening.

It’s P3, and I’m not intrigued. What would I gain by buying this if it were in a shop?

Imagine this: you’re trying to get into Diamond. You want to be able to get this book into as many shops as possible. The Diamond rep gets the book…and promptly falls asleep. No, it’s not narcolepsy. The pace is a soporific where sleep is inescapable. I want to take a nap right now. My office chair is cozy.

Hm. I’ve got two screens now. Maybe I’ll turn on Spider-Woman and give that some of my attention. I’ve got it to spare. Nothing’s happening here.

PAGE 4 (5 panels) (No page break)

Panel 1: Medium of a smirking Glory standing with her foot against the bottom of the metal sheet at the edge of her perch, gripping it like she’s a skateboarder about to enter a half pipe and bending the metal towards her (to give the sheet a lip so it won’t catch on the way down). Her free hand is pulling her blast goggles down, the blue aura still streaming from the glove and connecting to the sheet. (How big is this sheet?)

1/GLORY (Muttering to herself)

Sure, I’ll be right down…

Panel 2: Medium of Glory having just “dropped in” confidently, arms straight out to her sides and knees bent as she begins descending the mountain of scrap. The gloves and board are still glowing with that aura, hopefully really driving home that she’s controlling the metal to the reader.

2/SFX (Sheet hitting the other scrap)

Clank

Panel 3: Glory slaloms around a large metal pole sticking up from the pile, one hand reaching out to brush it as she’s passing while the other is angled closer to the side of the sheet.

NO COPY

Panel 4: Side shot of Glory bracing herself as she hits that large and flat surface shown a few panels back, beginning to go airborne with the back of the sheet a few inches in the air. Her palms are face down but her arms should look like she’s physically pulling the front edges of the metal upwards here.

3/SFX (Metal sheet impact)

Bmp

Panel 5: Glory lands heavily in a cloud of sand and dust, knees bent low and grimacing if we can see her face through the plume, with her hands pressed flat on the sheet as she tries to keep her balance. (Ryan? I think most of these are going to be drawable without much of a problem. However, I’m interested to see your take on this panel. Thanks!)

4/SFX (Glory landing)

WHUD

Another wasted page. Though I was able to visualize her actions through your effective panel descriptions, you’ve essentially spent an entire page concentrating on her showmanship rather than taking the time to introduce key aspects of your story that will pull your reader in. We still don’t know her name, we still don’t know if this is present day or the future, we don’t know what has happened to the world or at least this particular piece of it, we don’t know what the other characters look like or what motivations they have for their actions, and on and on and on. The pace isn’t allowing us to get to the point of what’s happening and the lack of open information (closed info being what you describe to your artist alone) is leaving us, after four pages, with nothing to grab onto. You need to get the story moving early and make sure you pull your reader in through both what is seen and what is said. That isn’t happening here.

I couldn’t have said it better.

Four pages, and at least a page and a half of that is padding.

This is back on the shelf.

PAGE 5 (7 panels) (No page break)

Panel 1: Side shot as Glory walks forwards while casually dusting herself off, gloves and now discarded metal sheet no longer aglow. (Because this is a new page, it would be better to have the blue aura fading, not gone, in this panel. This creates a better transition to her having a power.)

NO COPY (This is really bothering me. So many chances to tell the story and you’re wasting it. The only thing keeping me reading is my interest in how you write your panel descriptions and the hope that you’ll do something that will finally move the story forward. Right now, this is a lost cause.)

Panel 2: Same shot as Clinks approaches from the right side towards a now cautious Glory, red in the face with rage. (Why? What sparked her rage? I didn’t read anything that would have caused this reaction.)(I think it’s Clinks who’s in a fit of rage, not Glory.) Clinks is a few inches taller than Glory and quite a bit older, with intense eyes and gaunt leathery skin that suggest years of toil and hardship. He sports short black hair cut military style, stubble surrounding his mouth and chin from a couple of weeks without shaving. He wears a black leather vest over top of a dirty brown t-shirt, with a pair of thick chains slung over each shoulder and connecting in a loop around his waist. His gloves and boots are black leather as well, and his pants are dirty grey cargos. (Didn’t you introduce a visual of Clinks, though further away, in Panel 2 of Page Three? Why is this information here instead or, better yet, why wasn’t this included in your character sheet?)

1/CLINKS

And What did I fuckin’ tell you about usin’ those things fer fun!? (Always use the question mark first and then the exclamation mark. First and foremost, this is a question.) You know how much of a bitch it is to get the juice for ’em? (What is Clinks referring to? My assumption is that he’s talking about the gloves, but that’s based on my reading your descriptions and not what I’d be seeing as a reader. Them [or ‘em] needs to be identified, such as “You know how much of a bitch it is to get the juice for those gloves?” Identifying breeds information, something that is seriously lacking in your script.)(See? Clinks with the rage.)

Panel 3: Close up of Clinks yelling in Glory’s face, jabbing a finger at her head menacingly. Glory looks taken aback, physically leaning away from the extended digit with a bit of a wince. (Her reaction here goes against the rage you described her having in the last panel. Why is she not expressing defiance in some way? This isn’t making any sense.)

2/CLINKS

More than you’re worth, that’s how fuckin’ much!

Panel 4: Clinks stomping back to the group of scavengers (there should be six or seven), with his back to the reader, some of them closing up the crates they were packing and loading them onto a rickshaw-like cart while the rest awkwardly avoid looking his way. The scavengers aren’t wearing anything special, mostly just dirty rag like clothing, and come in various sexes and ethnicities. The only real constant is that they are all fairly dirty and look more than a little malnourished. (Again, where was this information on Page Three? And in the previously mentioned Page Three, Panel 2, you mentioned they were packing supplies, but never said what they were packing them into. Where were the crates and rickshaw in that panel?)

3/CLINKS

Next time (Missing comma) the money comes out of your ungrateful goddamn(ed) hide!

Panel 5: One of the scavengers (Man or woman?) glances hesitantly at Clinks as he storms by and tries to defend Glory, receiving a stern glare in return.

4/SCAVENGER

C’mon, Clinks, I’m sure Miss Glory didn’t mean nothin’ by climbing up there. (Page Five, Panel 5 and we’re FINALLY learning their names. Not good.)

The visual you describe and the dialogue don’t match. When I picture “glances hesitantly”, I see someone unsure if they should engage or not, but his/her dialogue sounds more like he/she has not only engaged, but in my mind may have reached out and grabbed Clinks’ arm. What strengthens this interpretation is the “C’mon, Clinks” that starts off the speech.


5/CLINKS

I don’t give a shit, (Exclamation instead of comma) I’m not gonna be late to a job opportunity just because she wants to fucking sightsee! (The slang disappeared in mid-sentence and doesn’t follow Clinks’ previous speech pattern. “Because” should have been ‘cause and “fucking” shouldn’t have the ‘g’ to maintain a pre-established manner of speech.)

Panel 6: Glory puts a hand on the scavenger’s (Male or female?) shoulder with a small smile as Clinks storms off, having almost entirely exited the panel.

6/GLORY

Might just want to let him yell himself out in the future, friend… (Separate balloon) Don’t worry, I can take it. (Again, you had a chance to identify the gender of the scavenger with a simple “sir” or “ma’am” and didn’t take it.)


Panel 7: Out for a birds-eye of Clinks marching in front of the now moving procession of scavengers, two of which are pulling the cart along while Glory lags behind.

7/CLINKS

Now Let’s go! Town’s only a couple of hours away!

And I’m leaving, too. I’m done.

I’m frustrated that what started out so well in my eyes went absolutely nowhere after five pages. Structurally, I liked your panel descriptions and initially, I liked your dialogue for the most part, but the dialogue changed and the panel descriptions lacked the necessary information to be clear to your collaborators.

Pacing-wise, it isn’t that your pace was off, but rather that you spent too much time saying nothing to move the story forward. Why was Glory up there to begin with? Have her share that with us. Why is Clinks such a dick? Share that with us. Why are they where they are, by way of their location, situation, and circumstances? Share that with us. Instead, we got nothing in five pages that told us anything of importance, leaving us with more questions than answers.

Let’s see what Steven has to say.

It isn’t crap, but it isn’t good. It’s just boring. Let’s run this down. I’ve got other stuff to do. A ceiling to paint. Spider-Woman to watch.

Format: No Flawless Victory due to the lack of page breaks. Shame.

Panel Descriptions: Drawable! They’re just missing some information that the artist could use, but could also probably decide for themselves. Understand this, though: if you leave things up to the artist, you may be unpleasantly surprised by what you get when the art come back. I’m not saying to give the artist no room for interpretation, but let the artist know when they can make their own decisions as to what happens in the script. There are opportunities here for that, but they aren’t capitalized on.

Pacing: I’ve seen a river of frozen molasses move faster than this script.

Things have to happen in a story. When they don’t, people get bored, and they don’t pay to be bored. They pay to be entertained. What’s entertaining here? Nothing. It’s five pages, and what does the reader really know? There are some gloves that make the user want to skateboard on metal, and they’re expensive to power. Do they know anything else? No. That’s terrible.

You’re just starting the story. This means each panel has to either have dialogue in it that reveals character and/or moves the plot, or the pictures have to do it. Sliding down the heap: does that do either of those things after the first panel? Your main character doesn’t say much: why? You start off with an internal monologue (where she talks to no-one), but then it is completely dropped. What’s it dropped in favor of? Silence. Not good. Dialogue helps the pace.

Dialogue: It’s definitely readable. It’s actually the best part of this piece. The problem is simple: there isn’t enough of it, and none of it moves the plot forward. You can’t have that in five pages.

More dialogue that actually has a purpose is needed.

Content: As a reader, I’m bored. I don’t know why I’m reading what I’m reading, and no answers seem to be on the horizon after five pages. None of it pulls me in.

Editorially, this needs a rewrite, but only to add interest in the proceedings. The setup could be made immediately intriguing if something were actually happening, instead of someone just kicking back on a scrap heap. Seeing what the gloves can actually do would be a great way to start out, and then maybe some understanding as to why she has them and not someone else could be transmitted through Clinks. There are ways to make this interesting. You have to work harder on finding them.

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.

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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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