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TPG Week 37: Put The Names Where My Eyes Can See

| September 9, 2011 | 28 Comments


Welcome again to The Proving Grounds! We have another Brave One this week in LJ Wright. Let’s see what he brings us in


On Time


PAGE ONE (three panels)


Interior. Q’s D Delivery Ship Number 63. (See this, folks? This is screenplay writing. It isn’t wrong. However, in my experience, getting close to a screenplay format means you’re going to have moving panels. Let’s hope it isn’t the case here.)


Panel 1. Medium shot facing Regiliana and Jamie sitting in the cockpit of the delivery ship. Regiliana is the captain of the ship, but you wouldn’t know it to look at her. She has wild anime-like hair (Google Washu if you’re unfamiliar with the style to see what I mean) and sits slouched in her chair, slightly drunk with a goofy grin. Her work clothes look battered and cut up; she’s obviously a person who doesn’t mind much about her appearances and looks to take all the shortcuts she can. Her protégé, Jaime, looks more professional. Her clothes are all nice and clean, much like her short almond colored hair. Her look is blank as she stares down at a small computer notepad through thin rimmed glasses. (Yep. Screenplay mode. This is the type of panel description you’ll find from people who are used to writing prose or things for the screen. The stuff in blue, LJ? Totally unnecessary, even as flavor. The point being that the artist won’t be able to draw it. If the artist can’t draw it, it is generally unnecessary, and if it is unnecessary, then you’re costing yourself time. If you’re costing yourself time, then you’re also costing yourself money. Writers get paid by the page of script, not by how many pages the script takes up. The more you write in a script, the longer it takes, which means the less money you can potentially make. Now, where is the camera? And better yet, where’s the establishing shot? And the character descriptions aren’t helping you here, either. Put those in a separate document for the artist. It isn’t needed here.)



Yep, another good delivery and, more importantly, a fast one. (Comma-fail. You want a hard stop at the beginning, not a soft pause.)



We are definitely ahead of schedule.


Exterior. Space.


Panel 2. Big establishing shot with the front view of the delivery ship coming towards the camera and three other much larger ships a little farther behind it. The other ships are large cruisers shooting at our heroine’s tiny ship with lasers. The planet the ship has just left is seen in the background. (What is this panel supposed to be showing? You did it in reverse. You established the characters first, and then the place. Because of that, there could be a small disconnect. If you put them in the proper order of establishing shot first, then you’ll get a better response from your readers. Think of it like this: If there are ships following them, shooting at them, then the contrast is that much greater when we go inside and see them being calm. It also helps to establish the tone that much faster. That’s first. Second, where is the camera supposed to be? If it is supposed to be something of a bird’s eye, then the other, smaller ships are going to get lost behind the large one.)


Interior. Q’s D Delivery Ship Number 63


Panel 3. Same shot as the first panel but now Jaime has a shocked look. She’s leaning forward looking at an off panel monitor. Regiliana’s position doesn’t change, but she also has a more surprised expression.






Did they just shoot at us? THEY SHOT AT US!






Holy shit! (Okay. First, you’re giving the small appearance that they didn’t know the ships were behind them. Right on top of that is that they didn’t know the ships were hostile. Right on top of that is the feeling they know who the ships belong to. Some of these things don’t fit, and we’d have to work out how to resolve it by reading more and seeing what’s up.)


PAGE TWO (six panels) (Page break)


Interior. Alien Cruiser


Panel 1. We shouldn’t be able to see the floor (this will be a more important later). The ship is filled with aliens that look like a lizard version of Predator without the helmet. They have clawed hands and wear thin visors. One sits in a seat maneuvering switches wildly. Another one stands behind it against the wall with back to us frantically pulling switches and pulling buttons on the wall. Another can be seen in mid run. It’s chaos. (So, if this were to be described from left to right, what would we see? And without being able to see the floor, it’s going to be tough to show someone running.)


Interior. Q’s D Delivery Ship Number 63.


Panel 2. A close up of Jaime’s face with teeth grinding and eyes wide.



They’re answering hails, but our translators aren’t working or they’re encoding. (Know what I hate? I hate the Rob Liefeld, clenched-teeth-but-people-are-still-speaking panels. It never worked for me. Open her mouth so she can talk. And if she’s under pressure, where are the exclamation points? Okay, the big questions are these: what is this panel doing to push the story forward or to reveal character? It’s the second panel on the second page. I’m hoping we get to something good soon.)


Exterior. Space.


Panel 3. A middle shot of the side of the delivery truck with the stylized logo reading Q’s D facing the camera. Little lasers from the alien cruisers are flying by rapidly. (What are you trying to accomplish with all the inside/outside stuff?)



Dammit, this ship isn’t equipped for this kind of fire fight. This is it isn’t it, Boss? What they told us about in training when you get step right in the shit you didn’t even see? (Comma-fail, as well as sense-fail. The third sentence doesn’t make much sense. And firefight is one word.)


Interior. Q’s D Delivery Ship Number 63.


Panel 4. A close up of Regiliana’s angered face with brow curled and a snarl on her face.



Shit, I can’t believe this. I’ve heard of hostile planets and species going after you even when you’re clearly on time with whatever crappy delivery they ordered – (Okay, break this up into two balloons. The first sentence gets its own, and the second gets its own.)


Interior. Alien Cruiser.


Panel 5. The alien’s positions remain the same but with some subtle changes. The front and center aliens remain the same but seem to be slouching slightly. The alien who had his back to us earlier is in mid fall. (It’s hard to show “slight” in comics. You can do subtle, but it is difficult. It is easier to say that you can’t show “slight.”)




— I can’t believe this. (Nope. Why am I saying no, Kyle?)


Exterior. Space.


Panel 6: Same shot as panel 4. The top of the ship is finally hit with one of the lasers. (How bad is the damage? How big is the explosion?)


SFX: Ka-boom (Despite how cool it is, you know that there’s no sound in space, right? I’m not saying to cut it. I’m just making sure you’re aware of that fact.)



PAGE THREE (five panels) (Page break)


Interior. Q’s D Delivery Ship Number 63.


Panel 1. Regiliana now stands with a fierce look on her face and hands gripped in fists. She’ll be the main focus of the panel with only Jaime’s head being seen, who now looks back down at her notepad off panel. (This sounds extremely unnatural. It will look posed. I once had a script where the writer had a character have a flashlight in their hand, and wanted them to wave dust away from their face with the hand holding the flashlight. I told the writer it would look extremely awkward, especially when the character had a free hand to do the waving. When the artwork came in, the character looked like they were doing some sort of martial arts dance with the flashlight. It looked stiff and posed. This will look like that.)



I guess this is it, then. Dammit, I never thought it would end like this. Well, let’s turn this ship around. We can’t stand against them, but at least give some hell before we go come. (The pacing of your dialogue is off by a lot. Yannick, what do word balloons do? Be loquacious, but stay on point. Besides that, the last sentence makes no sense.)



What? We’ll just use the defense systems; flash bangs, computerized decoys…all the other stuff we have. (Okay, do you know what a flashbang is? Let me assume for a moment you don’t. A flashbang is a grenade that has a bright flash and a loud bang that does very little damage except for temporarily startling/blinding opponents with the combination of light and noise. They won’t work in space because of the lack of a medium for the sound to travel through. So, that’s not something I’m seeing as part of a ship’s arsenal. Whew! Okay, after that, when you end the sentence, you make it seem very much like you don’t have anything to follow up the computerized decoys, and hoped to bluff your way out by saying “all the other stuff.” It doesn’t look good. If you have a laundry list, then start giving it, and have someone interrupt partway through. Don’t try to be vague and hope no one notices. You call more attention to it that way.)



Guess that makes more sense than what I said.



Infinitely…but it doesn’t look like we’ll need to do either. They’ve stopped. (Three. Person A, Person B, Person A. That’s typically what a good panel can hold. Push this down into the next panel.)


Panel 2. Same shot. Regiliana looks down at Jaime surprised, no more clenched fists. Jaime’s face looks much calmer, but fear has been replaced with confusion and curiosity. (Where is Jamie looking?)






Stopped dead. Not showing any sign of life forms with the scans, either. Weird. By the way, are you high right now? (The last sentence should go in its own balloon.)


Panel 3. Camera switches to a tight shot on the side of Jaime’s face with Regiliana’s lower body visible. (Facial expressions?)



I’m not going to be high on the job, give me a little more credit than that.







Off my ass…but definitely not high.


Panel 5: Same shot. Regiliana has sat back down and her face is visible and even with Jaime’s. She’s back to having the cocky and relaxed grin from the first panel with her hands now put firmly behind her head in comfort.



Wow, lucked out there, huh?



I think maybe a little more than luck. It’s something more when all the people in the ships attacking you apparently drop dead.



Act of God, then? Yeah, I’d say God digs me.



Looks like the package had one of those specialty cameras. Let’s take a look, if they didn’t smash the damn thing. Maybe we can get something. (Like I said, three. When you do more, you’re doing two things: you’re playing around with the space in the panel, and you’re making the panel sound a little awkward, like the second person just HAS to get in the last word.)



PAGE FOUR (Three panels) (Page break)


Panel 1: Close up on Jaime’s face with a look of mild shock.



Oh, shit.


Panel 2: Same shot but now Regiliana’s face is leaning in with a raised eyebrow and a curious look. (You can’t have the same shot and then ask for something else. It doesn’t work that way. What should he have said here, Rich?)



Oh, wow.



I guess that’s why they were after us.



Well, it’s their fault. They ordered, and we delivered. That’s how it works


Panel 3: Jamie rubs her forehead with a look of embarrassment, and Regiliana’s gaze is now focused on Jaime, though with a similar look of curiosity mixed with confusion. (And here, you should have just said to pull out a little, so that both ladies can be seen.)



Well, maybe.






Looking at the records, I think this package was actually headed to the main lab on Terminulus 7.


Exterior. Alien Planet.


Panel 4: A shot that comes from the camera looking out from a crate, so edges cut off the side a little. A lot of the aliens like we saw in the interior cruiser shots lie around unmoving close to the opening and in the distance. We’ll be outside with the logic that the package was delivered as food and would be distributed as quickly as possible.



According to this it was some type of new virus that was discovered on a meteor in the Centurion systems. It spreads incredibly fast, and they speculate it might be deadly to the majority of organic beings, so extreme caution is advised. These guys actually ordered a huge supply of twister donuts, apparently for some kind of annual celebration. Hmm, guess that’s why they questioned me about the crate being so small… (Someone knows that I just lost my entire mind. No, I think regular readers know that I just lost my entire mind, seeing the bulk of words here. First, this is 72 words. Roughly 40 words more than necessary, and roughly 40 words more than this panel can comfortably hold. That is the biggest crime, right there. And then, we go back to the same problem that Kyle should be explaining before too long. Lastly, if this is the big reveal and the reason you didn’t want the floor to be seen, then this is extremely anticlimactic.)



PAGE FIVE (six panels) (Page break)


Interior. Q’s D Delivery Ship Number 63.


Panel 1. Medium shot of the two sitting in silence. Jaime looking down at her computer notepad with Regiliana turned in her seat facing her with a blank expression.


Panel 2. Same shot



We were on time, though?



Definitely. In fact, we’re well ahead of our estimated schedule.



Ah, good.


Exterior. Alien Planet.


Panel 3. A bird’s eye view of the alien ground from before zoomed in just enough to see the crate and all the scattered bodies around it from above.



And what is it my captain told me, and her captain before her, that I’ve tried to pass to you? (Nope. Back to the same problem Kyle is going to cover.)



When it comes to delivery 99% of the job comes down to getting the package there on time. (And again. As well as comma-fail.)


Panel 4: Back to the medium shot of our two heroines sitting similarly to when we first saw them. Regiliana has returned to her cheery disposition from the very first panel. Jamie has reverted back to her business-as-usual look, tapping her computer clipboard.



Absolutely, that’s exactly what delivery comes down to. Get something somewhere to the hands of someone as fast as possible. 99%. Yeah, that’s a good, solid number. (The first sentence is just you repeating yourself. Leave it as only one word, and then get to the next sentence. It could either be “absolutely” or “exactly.” I don’t care which. However, the rest of the sentence is superfluous.)



And what was the other 1% again?


Interior. Alien Cruiser


Panel 5: A wide shot reveals the entire bridge. All the aliens that were once standing now lie on the floor unmoving near their previous positions. The driver’s body droops forward with head down to chest. (Why is the driver important in this panel? You already said everyone was dead.)



That other 1%? Well, I guess there is something to it, but really, when everything is chopped down– (Nope. More studying needed on format. Isn’t that right, Kyle? Besides that, why are you again repeating yourself? I could understand if there were a page turn here, but there isn’t. It’s just an echo…echo…echo…echo…)


Panel 6: We’ll end with a close up on one of the alien’s faces staring at the camera; the visor cracked and one of the dead rolled back eyes exposed. (What is this panel supposed to do? Please explain how it is either pushing the story forward or revealing character.)



–that’s just relative. (And again with the format.)



The End.


And that’s all!


Let’s run it down.


Format: Some more studying is needed, but not a lot. Once you know your scripting terms and understand them, then you’ll see exactly what it is I’m talking about. I’m not going to give it away here, because Kyle still has some work to do, but there’s that problem, as well as the page breaks. Two little things, but as Boyz II Men said, “little things mean a lot.”


Panel descriptions: Not bad! Some things need to be beefed up a little, but otherwise, not bad at all. Don’t forget facial expressions. They’re not always obvious.


Pacing: The pacing of the dialogue is not good. If Yannick does what I think he will, you’re going to learn a lot about dialogue pacing and the use of word balloons. If not, then I’ll have my say about it. But that’s the biggest thing about the pacing of this story.


I also don’t like the flipping back and forth from inside to outside, from the alien ship back to the apparently human ship. If you’re outside, have a reason to be there. There were a few instances where it was nothing more than a blatant attempt to change up the scenery. Not good. Every panel is precious real estate. Because of that, they have to be used wisely. Something for you to remember.


Dialogue: Again, the dialogue is badly paced. You have too many back and forths per panel in some cases, but that’s pretty easily fixed, as is the pacing. You repeat yourself for no apparent reason, but that is also easily fixed. Overall, the dialogue isn’t that bad. Nothing I’d pull my hair out over…except for one huge failure. And it has to go in the dialogue, because it doesn’t really fit anywhere else.


Let’s say this story were to be produced. So, it’s produced. Pages are drawn, letters done, and then, the story appears in an anthology. Everyone with me so far? Good.


Nowhere in these five pages do you name the characters where the reader can see it. One of the chicks gets called “Boss,” and that’s about it. That’s a huge fail. The hell of it is that there were opportunities to use a name in an organic fashion. If nothing else, you could have used captions to name the characters. You didn’t. If I were a teacher, this script would fail, because naming characters is something that is insanely important.


Content: I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt and call this a practice script. As a story goes, nothing of interest happens here. Pretty straightforward and bland. Nothing to hold the imagination, and the explanation is a big letdown. Extremely light reading, and not something I can see even in an anthology setting about either space or aliens. It’s just bland. That’s why I’m giving the benefit of the doubt with this being a practice script. If this were produced, I’d be highly disappointed if I were a reader.


Editorially, if this weren’t a practice script, there are some things I’d change. The ending, for one. It needs to have punch. Some rearrangement of the dialogue to punch it up and make the story have a point. Other than that, there are only a few things to shore up, editorially, and that is always a good thing.


And that’s it for this week. Check the calendar to see who’s next!

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Category: 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 for rate inquiries.

Comments (28)

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  1. LJ Wright says:

    Well, I expected it to be bad, but I didn’t cry, so that was okay. Anyway, yeah, I guess you could call this a ‘pratice script.’ It was the first script I wrote when I began getting really interested in writing comics. I figured it was pretty rough, but it’s the smallest piece of comic writing I’ve attempted, so I figured it was a good model to begin with.

    I do have a bit of an inquiry about something, though, and that’s what you said about the ‘screenplay mode.’ I’m not entirely sure if I follow that. I guess it’s just my ignorance in writing comics to this point, but I’m not sure I understand what you’re referencing with ‘moving panels.’ Is what you said in my first panel description what you were talking about? Just never really seen that term before.

    Anyway, thanks a lot for the advice and criticism Steven (or Mr. Forbes…what do I call you here? Not sure…). I’m really just now getting the hang of how to do the multiple word ballons thing by looking at sample scripts from professionals. You were right on the money about me coming from writing prose. I’ve read comics for a good portion of my life but am just now getting down to trying to write them in script form, and the actual amount of reference material I found for writing them isn’t quite as plentiful as some other mediums. I’ll try to improve a lot for my next submission, or just give up. One of those. Thanks again.

    • Hey, LJ.

      Steven or Steve is fine. Really. Mr. Forbes is my grandfather. Or me in a suit. I don’t wear ’em too often.

      Anyway, giving up makes you a damned dirty quitter. You don’t want to be a damned dirty quitter, do you?

      When I say “screenplay mode,” I meant that usually, you’ll find in screenplays things like INT: Steven’s house. You usually don’t see that too much in comic scripts. Like I said before, it’s not wrong. There are few things that are “wrong” when you write a comic. The biggest “wrong” thing you can do is fail to be consistent within your own format.

      A moving panel is when you have something that happens that takes at least two panels to be drawn. Think of breathing, or a flickering light. Remember that these are still images, and as such, these frozen moments in time can only do so much.

      If you have any other questions, let me know.

      And I’m looking forward to your next submission!

      • LJ Wright says:

        I consider myself a bit of a professional quitter, but no frets, I tend to stick with something for awhile before becoming an official damned dirty quitter. We’ll see if this sticks.

        Oh, and I did forget to answer your question in my first post, but I am aware there’s no sound in space. I’ve seen 2001 all the way through at least three times (and started it without completely finishing at least a dozen times). Just couldn’t resist putting in a ka-boom.

    • Rich Douek says:

      Hey LJ,

      Moving panels refers to panels where you are describing a character doing one or more actions that cannot be shown in a single frame.

      For example, in a screenplay, you can have the following shot (forgive me but my screenwriting format is really rusty):


      That won’t work as a comic panel, though, because it’s a sequence of events that can’t be shown in a single frame coherently. If you want to show him turning around to back up, you can’t show that it’s a tight space. If you want to show the cars colliding, you can’t show the coffee spilling. To show it all, you’d need a sequence of panels, like:

      PANEL 1
      Inside the car, David turns around to back into the parking space.

      PANEL 2
      Overhead shot of the car edging into the spot – its way too small for his car.

      PANEL 3
      Closeup of the car’s rear bumper smashing into the car behind.

      PANEL 4
      Back inside the car, David’s coffee cup tips out of the cupholder onto his lap

      PANEL 5
      David throws his hands up in frustration.

      That’s 5 panels – a whole page, to describe a sequence of events that takes up 2 lines in a screenplay. A lot of writers who come into comics from screenwriting forget that each panel is a frozen moment – there are no pans, no camera movement, or any movement at all.

      All movement is created subjectively in the reader’s head as they read the dialogue and look at the pictures.

      FWIW, Steven didn’t actually call you out for any moving panels here – he just said upfront that he was expecting them from because of the screenplay terminology, since its a common mistake from people used to screenwriting.

      The stuff in the first panel is a separate issue – unnecessary details, or prose-style writing creeping into your descriptions – there’s a place for details like that – in a separate character document you’d provide to the artist for when they are doing character design – but it doesn’t belong in the panel.

      Hope that helped a little!

      • LJ Wright says:

        Ah, yes, I see exactly what you’re saying. I guess in rewriting any comic strip, I need to ask myself if any detail belongs in the gutter, and if it does, throw it in there and rewrite to reflect that. Thanks a lot, great help.

  2. Rich Douek says:

    Panel 2: Same shot but now Regiliana’s face is leaning in with a raised eyebrow and a curious look. (You can’t have the same shot and then ask for something else. It doesn’t work that way. What should he have said here, Rich?)

    Something like:

    PANEL 2
    Regliana has leaned in front of Jamie with a surprised (or curious) look on her face.

    Or, you could make it more active with:

    PANEL 2
    Regliana pushes Jamie aside and stares with a surprised (or curious) look on her face.

    Basically, however you decide to do it, the key is to call for a panel that shows Regliana’s expression while keeping Jamie in frame to indicate that they’re both staring at the same thing (i.e., what Jame was staring in the previous panel). It’s not the same shot, because the previous was a closeup on one character’s face, while here you will need to show both; to get both characters in, you have to pull back.

    That’s my take, anyway.

  3. “Yannick, what do word balloons do? Be loquacious, but stay on point.”

    This is what word balloons do:

    1. The most obvious function is that they tell us what the characters are saying. Since I’m on a word budget here (wink-wink) I’ll just repeat what I usually say in most circumstances: you have little precious space in a comic to get a whole story across to your reader. That goes for plotting in general as well as for specific elements like dialogue. This dialogue has to not only advance the plot but also define your characters. That’s a LOT of things to do in very few words. That’s why you have to reduce chatter to the bare minimum that is still both meaningful and entertaining. It’s an art in itself. If you rummage around online, you’ll find a lot of magic numbers for the maximum amount of words per balloon: 27, 35 … I’m no expert myself but I can give you one good practical guideline: say only what counts and say it only once.

    2. Word balloons take up space. The wordier you are, the less art the reader can see. If the reader can see less art, you cut yourself off from a good organic way of advancing the plot and you fall into what people call “talking heads”. Talking heads are boring, don’t do talking heads. Keep your dialogue tense and to the point. Keep your characters moving while they talk. Most importantly, don’t have them say what they can express with actions (the “show, don’t tell” rule).

    3. Word balloons take up time. You know what really irked me about comics in the 90s? One character would shoot a bullet out of his gun and 75 words out of his mouth. The next panel would show another character spouting 50 words though clenched teeth as the bullet hit him. Hated that. The size and repartition of word balloons denote elapsed time and rhythm – thus pacing. Huge chunks of dialogue take time so they’re not likely to happen during action sequences (like you have in your script). During action sequences, favour short expressive bursts that can fit in-between or during fast occurring actions; in calmer times, you can let yourself go a bit. As I find myself saying week after week: reduce, reduce, reduce. Another good way of regulating your pacing is to split your dialogue in multiple balloons when the character is starting a new idea or changing his mood. Readers tend to read all of the content of the same balloon with the same “voice” and flow. Breaking the dialogue up in two or more balloons introduce changes in rhythm and tone that confer a more natural bent to the talky bits.

    Now let’s have a look at that excerpt where Steven called me in:

    REGILIANA: I guess this is it, then. Dammit, I never thought it would end like this. Well, let’s turn this ship around. We can’t stand against them, but at least give some hell before we go come.

    You have way too many words here, you have your characters saying things that are wholly unnecessary and you repeat yourself.

    Beware of “fluff words” that we use in everyday conversation to mask hesitation and that students use in their papers to up their word count. Let’s start by taking out these unnecessary words:

    REGILIANA: I guess this is it. I never thought it would end like this. Let’s turn this ship around. We can’t stand against them, but give some hell before we go come.

    (I’m kinda glossing over the last nonsensical sentence – I’ll fix it later.)

    Better but we’re still too wordy. They’re about to make their last stand against unbeatable odds; no time to lose on run-on sentences (yes, I AM aware of the irony). Let’s see if we can’t take out some more and still keep the spirit of what the character is saying (we’ll also fix that clunky sentence).

    REGILIANA: This is it. Never thought it would end like this. Turn this ship around. We‘ll give them hell before we go.

    Much better but we still have pacing problems. Remember that repartition of word balloons help regulate pacing. Since we can detect a change of direction and mood in this dialogue, we’ll split it in two balloons.

    REGILIANA: This is it. Never thought it would end like this.

    REGILIANA: Turn this ship around. We‘ll give them hell before we go.

    Let’s pare it down some more for good measure:

    REGILIANA: Never thought it would end like this.

    REGILIANA: Turn her around. We‘ll give them hell before we go.

    Add a few expressive touches to liven it up:

    REGILIANA (small): Never thought it would end like this.

    REGILIANA: Turn her around! We‘ll give them *hell* before we go.

    (I put the word “hell” between asterisks since I can’t underline words in the comments.)

    So there you have. We went from one balloon sporting an impressive 36 words down to two balloons for a total of 17 words.

    And *I* just used more than 700 words and I bet I still didn’t say everything Steven wanted to hear. 😛

    • Heh.

      Thanks, Yannick. (See, folks? He can stay on point when goaded to it!)

      Okay, everything he said here was important, but what I wished is that he split the last few sentences of Point 3 into a fourth point.

      Multiple word balloons are like a little breath. If you imagine everything said in that balloon as being said with a single breath, the next word balloon is the next breath being used.

      Does that make sense?

      Even if you use multiple sentences within a single balloon, that next balloon is like taking a short breath. During that short breath, you’re keeping up or changing the rhythm of what’s being said, or you’re giving something a “voice” in being called out in particular.

      Good points all around, Yannick. Thank you.

      • You know, it’s even scarier when the reply notice comes in by email and I see my original text as this gigantic grey wall of text with no paragraphs whatsoever.

        I see what you mean about putting aside the last sentences of Point 3. It is in itself a very important notion, perhaps even the most important point being made here.

        The idea that word ballons represent “breaths” may seem ambiguous at first but it’s a very practical way of seeing it and it’s easy to apply by just speaking your dialogue aloud. In my book, that beats any fancy-worded theory any day!

        • Think of it this way:

          It was a test, and you passed with flying colors. You hit every single point I wanted you to hit, and did more, besides. All good stuff.

          That’s why I’m going to be ripping you apart… I mean, why I will be going over your script with a keen eye…

          • Do your worst!… er, best!

            You know, waiting for your edits is like sitting down to watch a horror movie: I’m scared but at the same time so very excited.

            But deep down, I know the fear is just a product of pride, of hoping I don’t spectacularly fail after yapping off so much.

            In fact, I sincerely hope there’s so much red here that the police will have to cordon off the website as a crime scene. The more crap you point out in my first script, the less I’ll put into my second one.

    • LJ Wright says:

      Wow, thanks a lot, great amount of detail here, greatly appreciated. Coming from mostly writing prose stuff, I have found this the most challenging to readjust with writing for comics. Even in prose you follow the same ‘no unneeded detail’, ‘never too wordy’ rules, but you have the blank page to go a bit wild with your dialogue if you want (and can pull it off), and, as I’m sure my posts here are showing, I can get a bit wordy at times.

      I think I’ve gotten a little better with imagining the word balloons with the art in the more recent stuff I’ve written, but we’ll see with my next submission when it’s ready, I suppose!

      • Yannick Morin says:

        Glad to be of service, LJ!

        In the meantime, I had a flashback to a blog entry Warren Ellis made not too long ago on the subject of dialogue and word balloons. Here’s the link:

        Even though it’s Ellis, it’s not gospel. 😛 However, it might help you make your own idea or come up with your own tricks for eyeing your dialogue.


  4. Conner MacDonald says:

    LJ. You mentioned not being able to find many good examples of comic scripts for reference. So here is a page I found full of scripts, by a few names you should be able to recognize.
    Happy reading, and don’t stop writing.

    P.S. Here is a video of Crispin Glover dancing:

  5. Kyle Raios says:

    I’m a little busy with class homework today, but I’ll be on tomorrow for THIS homework. And I look forward to a break from historical theory. And for that Steven, I thank you.

  6. Noel Burns says:

    Great job with the comments this week; I think this is one of the most helpful weeks I have seen. Not that they all aren’t helpful, this one hit a number of points many comic writers have trouble nailing down. I am sure next week all my failings will be written in blood.

    Yannick , your breakdown of the dialog cutting process was most informative. Thank you. Is there ever a time that this stuff starts to feel second nature? Right now I am constantly second guessing what I am trying to write. I am afraid my script next week will show it.

    Also, does anyone have any advice about converting prose to script? I have been working on my story which started as an idea for a graphic novel, but had since changed to a novel with 45000 words done on it. Now I am working it back into the original idea, but I find myself with things I feel are important, but not seeming to fit in comics. As was pointed out in earlier comments you can say in a couple of sentences things that take a page to do in comics. I need to get some stuff sent to Steven, but I am waiting to see what he says next week. Sorry Steven. Though I expect to be told to cut and when you think you have cut enough… cut one more time.

    • The only thing I’m saying about next week is that I’m not saying anything about next week. (Because, as Ruiz would say, I’m evil.)

      Yes, there will come a time when scripting feels ‘natural.’ It still takes work, though.

      The best practice I’ve found for cinverting prose to script is to convert prose to script. If you want to see how it’s done, I suggest looking up a book like Nine Princes in Amber, by Roger Zelazny. I know for a fact that it was made into a graphic novel series, and I personally find the book to be a good read. The adaptation is also very faithful. I don’t know how faithful the adaptations of Servant of the Bones and The Last Unicorn are, as I’ve never read either of those books.

      Read those, and then adapt them. You can probably find both of them extremely cheaply at

      And yes, this has been a helpful week. Thank you, everyone!

    • Yannick Morin says:

      Thanks for the kind comment, Noel! And to answer your question…

      It *never* feels natural. Every single word is a frikkin’ C-section delivery. Sometimes I think it will never ever be natural for me unless I completely rewire my brain. You see, my whole life is in French yet I want to make comics and the big market for these is in English. There are some days it seems the words just come out and won’t stop, and those are the days I manage a paltry 3 or 4 pages. I feel pretty good with myself until I have a look at guys like Scott Snyder and Ed Brubaker and then I just wanna roll up in a corner and die of shame.

      I’ve been writing comics seriously for what? Six months? And I’m being generous with the word “seriously”. My experience pales to whiteness compared to other fantastic creators here like John, Rich or Tyler. If I have any claim to competence, it’s only because of Steven’s steady regime of patient schooling here and the combined imput of everyone participating in the discussions on this website. I have a knack for catching things pretty quick and there’s plenty to catch here.

      But understanding only takes you so far: I’m up since 9:30 this morning and so far I have one and a half pages done. The Xbox is looking pretty inviting right now, I gotta say, but I keep at it, squeezing words out just to get something on the page, telling myself “I’ll be rewriting this later, just get the story out.”

      I’m going to sound like the biggest suckup ever, but I have a post-it on my wall – it’s right here in front of my face – and it’s something Steven once said in a B&N column: “It doesn’t have to be good, it just has to get done. Good comes later.” THAT is single most motivating and useful thing I was ever told since I started writing anything back when I was 16 years old. That is what keeps my butt in my chair writing instead of sprawled on the couch playing Fallout: New Vegas. That is my mantra and it’s the biggest reason I’m now writing my third script.

      “Three” isn’t a big number but it’s astronomical when you’ve never been able to finish anything before because of second-guessing, doubt and just plain fear of failure.

      You make me very happy by implying I make it seem natural but believe me when I say every sentence is an uphill battle against the language barrier and self-doubt. Just wait til September 30 when I have my turn under the bloody hatchet and you’ll be easily convinced of this. 😛

      And yeah, I constantly second-guess what I write, just like you do. It’s just that I’ve stopped doing it in the middle of the process of writing. Once it’s there on the paper though, boy do I ever twenty-eightth-guess it!

      Oh and it took at least half an hour to write this.

      Hey look: I used too many words again! 😛

    • rich douek says:

      Hey Noel,

      I don’t think anyone is ever 100% free of second guessing themselves, ornot being absolutely sure whether a given piece of dialogue or description works well or not. This is why working with an editor, or workshop group is critical. The beauty of having others critique your work before it “goes live” is that they’ll definitely tell you if something isn’t working – no guesswork involved.


  7. Lance Boone says:

    One thing I’ve noticed is how much the experience of attempting to create comicbooks is similar from person to person. Damn near identical in some cases. If you remove the French to English issues form Yannick’s post, it would be 100% identical to my experiences.

    Self doubt is the great un-motivator.

    If Yannick has a full time job and at least one young child deserving all of his free time, we could be comicbook creating soulmates.


    • Touché, good sir. I do have a full-time job and a 9 year old boy!

      But I also have a wonderful girlfriend who understands that this is more than a passion for me, that it’s in fact a budding second career. She gives me the time and space I need to work. She understands that I often have to let her go to bed alone because I feel like I haven’t done enough in that particular evening.

      Self-doubt is a funny thing though. With less of it, you can soar the crative heavens. With more of it, you keep a cool head and accept the critiques that make you better. It’s a balancing act that’s very tricky to practice. It’s a good thing there’s the ComixTribe community to tip us one side or the other!

  8. Noel Burns says:

    I have to agree Yannick, about the self doubt. I have seen plenty of writers and artist who have a long way to being a professional level, but feel they are already the better than the best out there. I often wonder just what it is they are seeing when they look at their own work. There is place for doubt. The trick is to keep it from stopping your work. That is the one I have the most trouble with. I have found the best thing for me is to have a required amount of writing each day. That way I don’t have time to doubt, but if I get stopped by life or something else it crashes down on me then.

    • Yannick Morin says:

      When we get forums here, I think one of the first things I’m going to do is start a Motivation thread. People can go there to state their short or medium term goals and get encouragement. They can also go there to toot their own horn if they’re proud of what they’ve just accomplished, even if it’s just “I sat down for an hour and I’ve finished the outline for my next issue.”

      • Conner MacDonald says:

        A motivation thread is a must, you should call it “Put down the pill bottle and get back to writing”.

        Since we don’t have one yet though, here are some wise words.”You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky

        We will all need to sacrifice going to bed with our girlfriends, and playing Fallout: NV, just to get few more words down.
        The only real shitty part, is our pesky, full time, soul draining jobs, that make us want to clean our ears out with a shot gun, as we dream of a day, where we can make money writing funny books.

  9. Kyle Raios says:


    – I can’t believe this. (Nope. Why am I saying no, Kyle?)

    JAIME (OP):
    According to this it was some type of new virus that was discovered on a meteor in the Centurion systems. It spreads incredibly fast, and they speculate it might be deadly to the majority of organic beings, so extreme caution is advised. These guys actually ordered a huge supply of twister donuts, apparently for some kind of annual celebration. Hmm, guess that’s why they questioned me about the crate being so small… (Someone knows that I just lost my entire mind. No, I think regular readers know that I just lost my entire mind, seeing the bulk of words here. First, this is 72 words. Roughly 40 words more than necessary, and roughly 40 words more than this panel can comfortably hold. That is the biggest crime, right there. And then, we go back to the same problem that Kyle should be explaining before too long. Lastly, if this is the big reveal and the reason you didn’t want the floor to be seen, then this is extremely anticlimactic.)


    And what is it my captain told me, and her captain before her, that I’ve tried to pass to you? (Nope. Back to the same problem Kyle is going to cover.)

    Alrighty, taking a break from Imhotep and Egyptian identity to do my most important homework of all…getting on Steven’s good side 😀

    I looked through the all the marks where my name was, and tried to find the connecting point. The first thing that jumps at me, and I hope I’m right, is that these lines of dialogue aren’t working when they come from off-panel. The scenes depicted are all outside of the person talking, and therefore should be captions instead of off-panel dialogue balloons. The balloons are going to come from nonsensical places, and not really work in terms of comic book conventions.

    Hopefully, after much waiting from Steven, I got that right. Thanks dude!
    (If not, tear me apart guys :D)

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