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TPG Week 68: Don’t Let Your Endings Kill You

| April 13, 2012 | 9 Comments

Hello, and welcome to another pulse-pounding installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a returning Brave One in Liam Hayes! Let’s see if we have any elderberry sucking leeches this week, as he brings us

A Tale of Sadness and Woe

(Liam has his characters described on the first sheet of his document. Smooth move!)

PAGE 1 (Six Panels)

PAGE 1, Panel 1

We open to an establishing shot of a Suburban house during a rainy night. A car is visible parked in its driveway. (Simple yet effective. Only a reference pic for the house could make this better. You might also want to describe in what type of neighborhood the house is located. After all, the owner of the house, Amelia, seems to be some kind of top-notch scientist so I bet she rakes in enough dough to have a house in the nice part of town.)

PAGE 1, Panel 2

Cut to the inside the house. (I always bristle at this line. Sure, it’s not bad per se, but it’s useless. There’s no cutting to be made since we’re dealing with static pictures. You know what I’d like to see instead? The camera angle for this panel.) We’re in a child’s bedroom, in which we see a bed, positioned with its head against a wall, opposing a wardrobe. Litter the room with children’s toys, games and posters ect. (“etc.” from the latin et cetera, meaning “and all the other things” – yes, I’m feeling pedantic today. And it’s always preceded by a comma too. Good thing this is just in the description!) We see Charlie sat on the floor, with his back against the end of the bed, facing the wardrobe and crying. To the bed’s left is a doorway in which we see Amelia stood holding the door open and peering in with a worried expression. Light from open door seeps into the room and illuminates the scene.


PAGE 1, Panel 3

A side shot of a worried Amelia kneeling down in front of Charlie with her back to the wardrobe. Charlie looks towards the floor and continues to cry.

AMELIA: WHAT’S THE MATTER, PUP? (YES! Oh yes! That felt SO good! FINALLY someone places a comma at the right place when calling a character! A lot more of you folks should be doing this. I was just about to set up a Word macro for inserting “Comma-fail” but Liam saved your collective honor.)



PAGE 1, Panel 4

Angle the camera so that we’re looking over Charlie’s shoulder at Amelia. The wardrobe should be clearly visible behind her. Amelia’s expression has turned blank.


PAGE 1, Panel 5

Same shot. In the background, we see one of Mister Woe’s hands as he opens one of the doors from inside the wardrobe. The rest of him is occluded by the wardrobe doors. Amelia’s smiles (“smiling”).



PAGE 1, Panel 6

Face shot of a shocked Amelia. (Has she turned toward him or is she still facing Charlie?)

MISTER WOE (OFF-PANEL – FROM BEHIND AMELIA): OH, I DISAGREE. (You know what would really be cool for Mister Woe? If you asked your letterer to give him his own scary voice with a creepy font and different-colored speech balloons.)

(This is off to a great start. You got your establishing shot, nice panel descriptions and interesting angles, and you end this page with a guaranteed page-turner. Bravo, Liam! I’d change only two things: 1. I’d have Charlie crying off-panel in panel 1 so you eliminate a silent first panel and 2. I’d reverse the room’s disposition. Have the wardrobe on the same wall as the door with the bed against the opposite wall. That way, Charlie is facing the door and Amelia can walk directly to him and past the wardrobe. The way you have it now seems a bit contrived.)

We’re on P1, and really, I don’t have much.

We have two name drops, which are done organically. I LOVE it when characters are named organically in the script. Love it. However, the second one was awkward. I’m getting the sense that Mr. Woe is “new” to Charlie, and thus, Amelia. I don’t get the sense that they’ve encountered him before.

If he’s new, then the line is okay. Not fine, but okay. If he’s old, or Charlie’s met him before, then the line needs to be changed. One way or the other, I think Charlies’s lines need a little love.

I’m loving the page turn, though, as well as the character placement (back to the wardrobe). Top notch. Just add a camera angle to the second panel, and this page is golden. Good work, Liam!

PAGE 2 (Five Panels)

PAGE 2, Panel 1

Big Panel; make it half the page. Over the top of Amelia’s head as she’s looking back at Mister Woe, as he stands behind her. He points both a handgun and a contemptuous expression at Amelia. If the wardrobe is visible, its doors are now open.

MISTER WOE: HELLO, AMELIA. (And the last name! All done in record time!)


PAGE 2, Panel 2

Face shot of Mister Woe with an angered expression.


PAGE 2, Panel 3

On Amelia from over Mister Woe’s shoulder. She is now stood, facing Mister Woe with a fearful expression. If Charlie is visible, he’s still sat against the end of the bed looking down at the floor and crying. (But what is Amelia doing besides standing up? Is she reaching towards Mister Woe in a pleading gesture? Is she shielding her son?)

AMELIA: PLEASE DON’T HURT MY S—(And THAT is how we use the double-dash, folks!)

PAGE 2, Panel 4

A side shot of Mister Woe hitting Amelia over the head with the hilt of his gun. Amelia’s expression of pain.


PAGE 2, Panel 5

Take this shot from over Charlie’s shoulder. In front of him is Amelia, lying unconscious on the floor, with Mister Woe standing over her, holding his gun down by his side and looking down at Charlie with a stern expression.



(Two good pages! TWO! HA! HA! HA! Sorry, had my Count on.)

Okay, a couple of things:

We have a classic “Liam-ism” here when it comes to getting across expressions. Again, I want you to work on making complex sentences, getting those expressions in there without it feeling like it was tacked on. While you’re at it, I want you to see about cutting the word “expression” from your vocabulary. Just say how people look, without using the word “expression.”

The next thing to work on are camera angles. Not every panel description needs one, and not every one needs to be an “over the shoulder” view. You have a LOT of those in your scripts. I want you to work on reducing those. That is your next project.

Now, I’m a little confused on why a Closet Monster ™ is carrying a gun. And it isn’t enough to say that it’s a handgun. Is it a revolver, a semi-automatic, a flintlock? See the images I evoked with those descriptions? Personally, I think a flintlock would be best, but what do I know? It isn’t my story. Anyway, describe the gun better. Make and model isn’t necessary, but type definitely is. A five- or six-shooter is different in look from a nine-mil. Know what I mean, Vern?

So, no, I’m not feeling the gun. Not for a Closet Monster ™. ‘Splain it to me, Liam. I needs to know.

And, finally, it’s called a “butt.” The bottom of a gun is called a “butt,” not a hilt. Swords have hilts, handguns have butts. Got it? Good.

PAGE 3 (Five Panels)

PAGE 3, Panel 1

Establishing shot of an abandoned warehouse on an industrial site. It’s now early morning and the rain has stopped. We see the car that was outside Amelia’s house, now outside the warehouse. (Once again: a reference pic would be of great help to your artist. If you don’t provide one, you’ll have to go into more details as to how you want this warehouse to look.)

PAGE 3, Panel 2

Cut to inside the warehouse. We see it’s full of old abandoned laboratory equipment, most prominent of which is a table holding various chemistry apparatus; Glass tubes, a box of empty syringes and a centrifuge. Beside this is a shelf stocked with numerous chemicals in glass vials. (More reference pics please!) Mister Woe stands facing the table with Charlie is next to him, muzzled and strapped to a chair by duct tape. He has one hand on Charlie’s shoulder and the other holding his gun out at Amelia who stands in front of him. Bruising is visible on her face from Mister Woe’s strike. (I thought he had hit her “over the head”?) Charlie is looking down at the floor with sadness, Mister Woe is staring at Amelia with a stern expression and Amelia displays worry. (Lemme get this straight: we can clearly see all of these characters’ expressions yet some are facing each other. Is it a side shot? And that table bothers me. If Charlie is duct taped to a chair, I’m not sure we’ll see him behind the table. You know what that means? It’s not clear where you want that table to be located.)


PAGE 3, Panel 3

Face shot of Amelia and her expression of fear.



PAGE 3, Panel 4

Face shot of Mister Woe as he flashes contempt.



PAGE 3, Panel 5

Over Mister Woe’s shoulder on Amelia. Amelia’s expression of worry.

MISTER WOE: …BUT WHAT GREATNESS IS BORN OF CONTENTMENT!? (Perfect use of the ellipsis! I hope you’re all taking notes because Liam is showing how he learned his lessons.)


(Careful not to transform your well-started comic into a pamphlet. Your Mister Woe is starting to sound less like a villain and more like a mouthpiece. Time to have your characters DO something now before you lose reader interest!)

P3 brings us teleportation, presumably through the closet. He is a Closet Monster ™, you know.

So, what do we have? We have some character development. There are things we know, and things we can infer.

We know that Amelia is a doctor. We cannot infer anything about her doctorate, however. It could be a medical doctor, some sort of research scientist, or mental health doctor. Hell, she could be a dentist.

We also know that she’s not willing to take responsibility for whatever happened. We can infer that she is indeed guilty, but there’s the chance that she’s innocent. Outside chance, at best, given her dialogue.

The interesting inference is for Mr. Woe. We can infer that he was made into a Closet Monster ™, and because of that, is seeking revenge. This makes Amelia even more interesting if she’s able to make Closet Monsters (TM) that can teleport.

Then, we come to a screeching halt because of the dialogue. This is another Liam-ism. Liam loves to have characters spout off. Look at the word choice and placement. Defilement, contentment, defeat, dismay. If he were born a Closet Monster ™, and has an incredibly long lifespan because of it, I can see this dialogue working more than it does. Since I’m inferring that he was created, possibly from a regular person, then I’m not seeing this as something someone would say. I speak decently well in conversation, sometimes throwing in a word so that people would give me The Look (deer in the headlights), and I’d have to rearrange my word usage and sentence structure in order to accommodate the person I’m conversing with. This is not everyday speech, and because of that, it needs to go. Say it differently to get you to the same place, but in real-world speech.

PAGE 4 (Five Panels)

PAGE 4, Panel 1

Over Amelia’s shoulder on Mister Woe. His hand still on Charlie’s shoulder as Charlie looks down in sadness.



PAGE 4, Panel 2

A mid shot of Amelia as she displays a saddened expression.


PAGE 4, Panel 3

Angle the camera so that we’re looking over the top of the chemistry equipment on the table, at Amelia. Mister Woe and Charlie are also visible, in the background behind Amelia. Mister Woe points to the table with his gun, the other hands still on Charlie’ shoulder. Amelia is looking back at the chemistry table with shock.


MISTER WOE: TRY ANYTHING, AND CHARLIE WILL SUFFER. (You managed to finish your speech before it got tiring. That’s good!)

PAGE 4, Panel 4

Cut back to the establishing shot of the warehouse. It’s still early morning. (Why do you need this shot? You’ve already established this. You don’t need it to contrast with your next establishing shot.)

PAGE 4, Panel 5

Same shot. It’s now late afternoon. (How are you going to show this? And if you want this panel to have more impact as well as make a clearer cut for the start of a new scene, move it to the top of the next page.)


P4 is complete padding. There is nothing done here that couldn’t have been done on the previous page.


Woe’s dialogue is wearing on me. I’m quickly growing tired of hearing him speak. You want him to sound menacing, but instead, he’s coming across as butt-hurt. Let them have a real conversation, and you won’t have readers saying, “I liked the story, but Woe’s dialogue is turbl.”


Cut this page, making the previous one move faster in order to get the time passage that you’re wanting here.

PAGE 5 (Five Panels)

PAGE 5, Panel 1

Cut back inside the warehouse. We see Amelia stood with her back to the Chemistry table, just in front of it. In her hand is a syringe full of a white liquid. Some of the vials of chemicals from the shelf have been moved to the chemistry table, and the floor around it is littered with empty syringes. (Careful: if we see the floor, that means this is either a far wider shot than you let on or the camera is angled down.) Mister Woe stands just in front of Amelia, with his back to her. Charlie remains duct taped to the chair looking down in sadness. (Charlie sure is one sad kid. In his place, I would have looked terrified in the previous scene and now I’d look very tired. Sad however, no. But I’ll allow tears.)


PAGE 5, Panel 2

Small panel. Amelia has plunged the needle into the base of Mister Woe’s spine and is injecting the liquid. (Can we see both figures or is this a close-up of the injection?)

PAGE 5, Panel 3

Face shot of mister Woe. His eyes are closed and his expression is blank.


MISTER WOE: I FEEL THE SADNESS (Missing period at the end of this line.)

PAGE 5, Panel 4

Zoom on Mister Woe’s eyes as they begin to leak tears.

MISTER WOE (OFF-PANEL) (Not really: we can see his eyes.): I AM FREE.

PAGE 5, Panel 5

Close on centrifuge as Amelia grabs it. The now empty syringe is visible on the table beside it. (Nice hook just before the page-turn! Well done!)

It’s P5, and the question now becomes: can sadness be distilled into a physical form, or was something done to Woe to block his ability to feel it? There is a difference.

The last panel is actually two panels in one. The centrifuge hasn’t been established yet. How can we have a closeup of it when it hasn’t been established, and then, how can we tell it’s what Amelia has grabbed? Remember, she’s in the act of grabbing it now, which means her hand is already on it, and there are probably motion lines to heighten the effect. How is the reader supposed to know what it is that’s been grabbed? This needs to be separated out into two panels. And there should be dialogue in both of them.

PAGE 6 (Five Panels)

PAGE 6, Panel 1

Big Panel. Amelia smacking Mister Woe in the back of the head with the centrifuge. He falls forwards in pain and loses grip of the gun. Tears are still streaming from his eyes.


PAGE 6, Panel 2

Close on the gun as it’s on the floor next to Mister Woe. Mister Woe is on his front in pain. Amelia is bending down and grabbing the gun. Her expression of determination. (You took the long way around to describe the camera angle in this panel. Lisa, care to take us through the shortcut?)

PAGE 6, Panel 3

On Amelia and Charlie. Amelia is stood knelt (Is she standing or kneeling?) in front of Charlie trying to free him by tugging at the duct tape that bonds him to the chair. The gun is visible in one of her hands. (Careful to make this a side shot, otherwise her body is going to hide both Charlie as well as what she’s doing.)


PAGE 6, Panel 4

Over Amelia’s shoulder as she tries to free Charlie. Charlie’s looks past her, at the camera, with an expression of shock. (Very nice!)


PAGE 6, Panel 5

Big Panel. (This is your second “big panel” in a five-panel page. Be wary of the space you’re asking the artist to use. I don’t think this page can fit both big panels. In fact, I think the first one has more emotional punch and so should be the one with the focus. In any case, you could always push this panel back at the start of page 7. That way, you finish this page with a mini cliff-hanger on panel 4.) A shot of Mister Woe, backhanding Amelia. She falls to the side, dropping the gun in the process, with an expression of pain. (Where’s the camera? Don’t get excited and forget the basics!) Tears are now (“no”?) longer flowing from Mister Woe’s eyes.

MISTER WOE: YOU BITCH!! (Hello, Teen+ rating!)


Okay, we’ve got some action.

The first thing I want everyone to pay attention to is the fact that there are no sound effects called for.

Sound effects can do a couple of things for you. You have to decide if you wish to use them or not, because once you do or once you don’t, you’re stuck for the remainder of the story.

The first thing sound effects do is heighten the drama of the panel with “sound.” The very next thing sound effects can do is cheapen the drama of what’s going on in the panel. Liam opted for no sound effects, and I think this is a wise decision. I think that adding sound effects here would push the story ever so slightly into the realm of silly. The lack of the sound effect is drama in itself, and is being called attention to even more because it isn’t there. Good work, Liam.

Now, with that being said, is seven pages too much to get to some action? It could be. The proposition that Closet Monsters ™ can be made in the lab is intriguing, and as such, it could be enough to hold the reader’s attention into the action bits. Tough call. I would make it easier by giving more background on the past, thus making it more interesting so that the wait for the action bits isn’t a turbl one.

PAGE 7 (Five Panels)

PAGE 7, Panel 1

Zoom out. Amelia is now on the ground in pain to the side of Charlie. Mister Woe is stood just in front of Charlie, bending down to pick up the gun with a blank expression.


PAGE 7, Panel 2

Over the top of Amelia’s head, looking up at Mister Woe and Charlie. Amelia is still on the ground and Mister Woe is stood facing her, holding the gun against Charlie’s head. Charlie’s expression of fear and Mister Woe’s blank.


AMELIA: NO!! (One exclamation mark is enough.)

PAGE 7, Panel 3

Close on the gun as it’s pressed against Charlie’s head and his eyes are closed tight.

PAGE 7, Panel 4

Same shot. Charlie’s expression now of confusion and his eyes open. The gun is still pressed against his head

PAGE 7, Panel 5

Over Charlie’s shoulder, on Mister Woe. Mister Woe’s gun now down by his side and he holds a confused expression.



The sadness is fading, just like my interest.

You’re dragging this out, Liam. The last page better have a hell of a kick to it.

This cold have been done a lot better. First, Woe should have shot him in the face. There was more than enough time to shoot.

Second, the second balloon in the final panel needs to go. It isn’t doing anything besides making the reader want to stop reading. Not good. Take the second line and put it into its own balloon, and stress the word “fading.” I think you should also add a question mark, to get the confusion across better.

PAGE 8 (Five Panels)

PAGE 8, Panel 1

On Amelia from over Mister Woe’s shoulder. She still on the floor, looking up at him with fear.



PAGE 8, Panel 2

Face shot of Mister Woe with an angered expression. He holds the gun to his head. (Pull back just a bit if you want to show him holding the fun to this head. A face shot is a bit too tight for this.)


MISTER WOE: I WILL NOT GO BACK!! (Suggestion: why not add a little emphasis to this line? Either put in a “LOUD” indicator for the letterer or underline that sucker for a nice bold finish.)

PAGE 8, Panel 3

Same shot. Mister Woe fires the gun, shooting through in the head.

(Now I’m POSITIVE this requires a SFX, something like a big fat BLAM.)

PAGE 8, Panel 4

Zoom out. We see Mister Woe, now dead on the ground in a pool of his own blood with the gun beside him. Amelia is on her feet, hugging Charlie, of who is still duct taped to the chair. Charlie looks down at Mister Woe’s corpse. (Camera angle for this? How about an elevated shot – almost bird’s eye view – to gently take the reader out of the story and show the whole scene of the aftermath?)



PAGE 8, Panel 5

Face shot of Mister Woe as he lies dead in a pool of his blood, staring at the camera with a blank expression.



Oh, wow.

That… That was bad.

You went through all of this, and what was the point? Who was changed as a result of this “story”? Woe is dead, and all Amelia can say to her son is “don’t cry”? That’s all?

What was the compelling reason for this story to be told? There’s no background given, and inferring things can only take you so far. I’m actually flabbergasted that you wrote this, Liam. Taken as a whole, this is crap. It’s crap because it’s pointless.

Let’s run this down.

Format: Flawless Victory. I wouldn’t have expected any less of you.

Panel Descriptions: Pretty good! They get away from you sometimes, but nothing that can’t be fixed with a little forethought. No major rewriting of the PD’s are necessary. Just watch the redundant camera angles, because they get boring to draw. Also, again, stop using the word “expression.” Once per script from now on. Yes, I’m forcing you to grow.

Pacing: Terrible. Remember, pacing is made of what happens on the page as well as what is said on the page. You have padding in there, which is slowing you down, as well as not enough dialogue to explain what’s going on. You were smooth at first, but then the waters got choppy. Smooth it out with inset panels and more dialogue that explains what the hell is going on.

Dialogue: What little of it there is needs a lot of work, especially Woe. I want to take his out wholesale and then chop it, burn it, grind it, burn it again, and then say the Black Mass over it. Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but bad enough. He doesn’t speak like a human being. He ruminating, he’s pontificating, but he isn’t conversing. That’s something you definitely need to work on.

Content: Crap.

There isn’t any other word for it. This, Liam, is by far, the worst story of yours I’ve ever read. I’ve been disinterested before, but the stories always had a purpose. I come away from this as a reader wondering if I can get a refund for my time. Not good. Not good at all.

Editorially, this isn’t a mess, but it needs to have an ending that is satisfying. Satisfying means that the story needs to have a purpose. I’d help you inject a purpose into this, and then we can work on the telling of the story.

That’s all there is. Check the calendar to see who’s up 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 (9)

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  1. Liam Hayes says:

    Thanks for the edit, Steven.

    With this story, I was trying to say that sadness is important and nothing good can come of a society that demonizes it.

    ‘Tis time to kill the ending with fire, cut out the padding and despeechify (It’s a word!).


  2. Charles Crane says:

    Just realized my day in court is fast approaching. As the kids say these days, shit is about to get quite real.

  3. Hey everyone,

    Here’s a question that came up for me as a result of looking this over:

    In terms of content, I didn’t feel like the content as a whole was bad, although I can see your point Steven that the pacing and the ending could have advanced the story better. I guess the question is as follows: minus the pacing, how much weight should the content prior to the ending be given, when evaluating the entire story? Does the ending of a story “reign supreme” such that we should forget what comes before the ending if the ending isn’t good, or can/should we on some level distinguish the two? This question may have more to do with my limited experience in writing comics, but I wanted to put it out there.

    • Jules Rivera says:

      In my opinion, the content prior to the ending has just as much importance as the ending itself. It’s what makes us CARE about the ending. The ending should be the resolution of a plot arc or a character arc. That’s what makes it satisfying.

      Case in point: Inglorious Basterds. Col Hans Landa is a horrible human being. He takes great delight in causing pain and suffering, and ultimately getting things his way. Over the course of the movie, he does unbelievably terrible things and all but gets away with it. The audience REALLY wants him to get what’s coming to him. What makes his ending satisfying is that the Basterds get the last laugh on him and the audience can let out a relief of “FINALLY!” that Hans Landa finally pays a price for his actions.

      The character arc that should’ve happened here was with Doctor Amelia. She doesn’t believe that her personal actions were wrong, and blames the company for harming Mr. Woe. She doesn’t take responsibility for her actions. What would be a satisfying ending to this is Amelia somehow realizing that what she did to Mr. Woe was, in fact, terrible, and ultimately taking responsibility and working to make it right. I’m not sure how that would be implemented, but if we’ve got Closet Monsters (TM) and teleportation I’m sure Liam can throw a mind meld in there somewhere. Anyway, it’s watching this character learn from her mistakes that would’ve made this rewarding. Instead, what we got was that Mr. Woe was a problem who took care of himself, easily eliminating the conflict and Amelia can go on her merry way chemically lobotomizing her way to retirement. That’s not a satisfying ending.

      TL:DR The ending is only as good as its respective plot arc or character arc. Make that arc count for something for the ending to pay off.

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