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TPG Week 107: Making Strides

| January 11, 2013


Welcome once more to the Proving Grounds!


We’re into our third year doing this, so we must be doing something right. This week’s Brave One is no stranger to these parts, either. We’ve got Connor McDonald stepping in. (Yes, I misspell his name almost on purpose. It’s all in fun, and he knows why.) So, we’ve got Steve Colle in blue, me in the fiery red, and both of us going over




Panel 1. Mid shot (What do you mean by a mid shot, exactly?), of ROOSTER BOOSTER, his wings cuffed behind his back, with two stone faced alien guards on each side of him, one of which has Roosters space helmet under his arm. Rooster smiles a cocky smile. They are moving along a long, cylindrical hallway of a space ship. We can see through port windows lining the walls the star speckled curtain of space.

I’m Rooster Booster, of planet Gallus 4.

An intergalactic swashbuckler.

(These two captions can be combined into one for better effect by having it read “I’m Rooster Booster, intergalactic swashbuckler of Gallus 4.)(GMTA.)

Panel 2. Wide shot (What distance?) of Rooster Booster, stumbled forward, looking back to the guards annoyed. Bleeding in from off panel is the forearm of one of the guards, with his hands forward shoving.

I’ve zipped from one end of the galaxy to the other. (Connect with ellipsis to the next caption.)

Easy now!


I’ve (Take out “I’ve” and add connecting ellipsis from the previous caption) battled everything from sentient vegetables, (Comma-fail) to gelatinous cubes. (Connect with ellipsis to the next caption.)

Panel 3. Medium, low angle shot from behind Rooster, looking down at him from tall raised desk is the committee of ex-girlfriends. (The way this last sentence is written is very confusing to me. Separate this into two sentences to read “Medium, low angle shot from behind Rooster. Looking down at him from tall raised desk is the committee of ex-girlfriends.” This divides the fact that it’s a low angle shot and that the ex-girlfriends are above him.) In the centre is the Gladius seal, a double ringed planet with a sun raising behind it. From left to right is PZZ6, NADIA, PRINCESS GLADIUS, YOKE and MUR MUR MAGAR. Detailed descriptions of their appearances will be found in a separate file.

(Add connecting ellipsis marks from the previous caption.) But nothing is as scary as this. (Change this to “… but nothing is scarier than this.”)

Oh (Missing comma) hey.
Being that I’ve rested my head all across the galaxy, I’ve broken a fair few few fair hearts.(This one could go either way. Not looking for “correct” as much as “character.”)

Panel 4. Close up, Rooster he has his shoulders up shrugging awkwardly. (Um…sentence structure?)

How is everyone? Good?

I cheated, lied, and scammed these females ladies. (Cheating, lying, and scamming all mean the same basic thing. You could, however, say “I cheated on and lied to these ladies.”)

(“That said,” or “However,” to start this line off.) It never occurred to me that they could possibly would organize.


Page One ends with a few suggested changes in your dialogue and in the approach to connecting captions. You also need to ensure that your panel descriptions are absolutely clear to the person who will be reading it. If you’re not sure, ask someone to read it over to get their take. Generally speaking, though, you’ve got my interest.


We have P1 down! And what do we have?


Well, we have a chicken… We also have poor sentence structure, punctuation problems within the panel descriptions, and an overall lack of proofreading. With this, I am severely disappointed. Conner knows better.


However, let’s look at Panel 1 and see what was done there. Something special was done, and I wanted to point it out.


Camera angles. They’re important, folks. They offer clarity to a panel description, so that the artist knows where to put the camera. Clarity is of extreme importance, and part of that clarity is the camera angle.


Now, camera angles are not needed in every panel description. Sometimes, as a writer, you just don’t care where the camera is, leaving it up to the artist to put it where it would be most interesting. You can be explicit in stating this to the artist, or you can be subtle about it. Explicit is just telling the artist, “Put the camera anywhere. I don’t care. Make it look cool.” Subtle is not coming directly out and saying you don’t care, but writing the panel description in such a way that the camera can only be in a few places and still make sense.


Then, there’s the example afforded us in Panel 1.


Even though Conner gives us a type of view, he didn’t have to, and the artist would still know where to put the camera: in front, possibly mid-range to low, so that the characters are walking toward us and we can see something of the background and the stars out of the portholes. That is what I’m talking about when I say that camera angles aren’t needed in every panel description. This is a good example of it.


Good work with that panel, Conner.


Panel 1. Mid shot (Again with the use of the mid shot. Do you mean “medium shot”?) of Princess Gladius, on her left side is Nadia, one her right side is Yoke. They all have scornful expressions on their faces.

Head of this motley crew of scorned women, (Comma-fail) is Princess Gladius.

Rooster Booster! You fowl (I’m assuming that this misspelling was deliberate, correct?) excuse of a man!

Panel 2. Close up of Rooster smiling, his one eyebrow raised. (I cut Steve’s text here in order to re-institute some interaction here. Interaction, and getting your thinking caps on. So, Liam, tell me what’s wrong with this panel description.)

Pun intended? (This is unnecessary as the reader is the one who would get the joke. You shouldn’t spell it out for them.)(True! However, this is a joke that only works because of the visual wordplay. You would actually have to read it in order to get the full joke. I’m not a fan of jokes like that. Not saying that it’s wrong or incorrect, I’m just saying that I’m not a fan. Now, I love bad jokes, but I don’t believe that this particular one works if read aloud.)


The Princess has six orifices comparable to a mouth– (Now, Sam Roads, tell me why this bit is unnecessary.)

–I wet my beak on all of them, just to get an inch closer to her riches.

Panel 3. Wide shot of the comity of exes, behind their long raised desk, all five of them are leaning forward menacingly. (So this is basically an over-the-shoulder shot from my understanding. Is that correct? If so, then why isn’t RB in the shot?)(It doesn’t have to be an over-the-shoulder shot. The camera could be just in front of RB, which would give this effect.)

I was able to get my feathers on enough to buy a small shuttle.

You are here to be judged–

I just had to marry her to get at it.

The following Cap should go across the top of panels 4-5. (This should have a notation like NOTE or a star (*) beside it to help distinguish it from the rest of your text.)

–by the female beings that you have wronged, (Comma-fail) through your insensitivity, manipulation and lies.”

Panel 4. Close up of NADIA a crazy bug eyed look on her.
Nadia of Oolong, I cheated on her with her clone.

Which I’d argue doesn’t count. (This can actually be part of the above caption to read “Nadia of Oolong. I cheated on her with her clone, which I’d argue doesn’t count.”)

Panel 5. Close up of YOKE, arms crossed nose turned up.

Captain Yoke. I was stranded, (Comma-fail) She had a ship. (Personal preference: I wouldn’t have changed this.)

A little passion got me off that rock.

I’m two pages in and still interested, which is a plus. However, your consistency of clarity issues in your descriptions needs to be addressed for future scripts. Also, some minor changes to be made in the dialogue. That said, what’s going on with the comma-fails?




The overall problem, aside from what Steve is seeing, and which he is alluding to but hasn’t come right out and said, is that the dialogue is choppy.


Before I continue, remember that dialogue is the most subjective part of scripting. Everything else can be perfect, but if the dialogue doesn’t sound “right” to the reader, then they aren’t going to have an enjoyable experience.


Now, aside from the comma-fails (it isn’t just for missing commas, but for misused commas as well), you have captions and dialogue that just don’t flow well together. There’s continuances where there should be stoppages, there are stops where there should be continuances, and there are breaks when the dialogue should all be in the same caption.


RB has a distinctive voice. So far, so does the female speaker. I like that. Just don’t make it so choppy. That is dragging you down, and makes it more challenging to read than it should be.


Now, with that being said, and maybe because I’ve been watching a decent amount of this show recently, but I’m getting a definite Captain Kirk vibe here, as well. The cocky (if you’ll forgive the word usage) attitude, the choppiness of the dialogue, and the fact that we’re dealing with women. If Kirk was less conscientious about taking advantage of people while still being a slut (and if he were a chicken), then he would be RB.



The following Cap should go across the top of panels 1-2 (By this, you mean ABOVE panels 1-2, so that it doesn’t exist within the frames, right? Because otherwise this is confusing to the letterer. That said, why not just have an extreme close-up of her eyes as she says the words, as if to demonstrate her “Blah blah blah”. Also, this way you aren’t creating two different caption boxes.)



“We have spent a great deal of time calculating your punishment.”


Panel 1. Close up of PZZ6. Since she is a robot she cannot show emotional expressions. (You explain here that she can’t show emotion, and yet you say in the dialogue below that she gained emotion. What’s the scoop?)(I just had a flashback to Slick Rick the Ruler…The Great Adventures of Slick Rick. He was an 80s rapper. Back when rap was lighthearted and fun. And good. He had a song called Kit (What’s The Scoop). I might have to listen to it later today, just because. Anyway, gaining emotion and showing emotion are two different things. When I was a kid, it never bothered me that Iron Man and Dr. Doom was able to show emotions through their helmets, even though those helmets were made of metal. As I got older, it bothered me. Same thing, here: just because she has emotion doesn’t mean she can show it.)



PZZ6, (Comma-fail as it should be a period.) She was a primitive AI that gained emotion. I convinced her I was god (God, unless you had said “a god”.)(It doesn’t matter, since it more than likely is going to be all caps when it gets lettered, but I get the point.)



…I’m totally not. (This honestly ruins the statement above as it’s obvious he isn’t. Again, you’re spelling things out, pointing out the obvious.)(Reminds me of Piers Anthony. [I might have just dated myself.] In his Xanth series, he spells things out a lot. Kinda ruins the fun of the stories, just like this.)



Panel 2. Close up of Mur Mur Magar foaming at her mouth with rage.



Mur Mur, (Again, comma-fail as it should be a period.) I broke up with her by jettisoning her into open space…(Rewrite this. One too many “her’s”.)



… to be fair, she can hold her breath a REALLY long time. (It’s starting to sound like you’re reaching for snide remarks. They’re coming across as forced, unnatural.)


The following Cap should go across the bottom of panels 1-2 (Just as I suggested above that the caption over Panels 1-2 should take place with her eyes, this caption should have her mouth in the panel. That way the middle of her face is covered by Panels 1-2.)



“We contemplated various methods of torture, considered (considering)(Considered is correct, because it’s the past tense. Considering is present tense and doesn’t match the first part of the sentence.) both, (Comma-fail) humane, (Comma-fail) and inhumane forms of execution–“ (By saying “contemplated various methods of torture” and then having “considered both” with a comma after it, you’re saying that there were only two options as methods of torture as you only considered both of them. That’s the reason for the comma-fail in that instance.)



Panel 3. Mid (What do you mean by mid?), Profile shot of Princess Gladius, a smile across her face, a sadistic look in her eyes.



Burrow worms under your eyelids, strangulation pod, force feed you a gygax cube. (Ellipsis to trail off the thought.)



We were being creative. (Unnecessary.)



Panel 4. Mid shot (Cut it out with the mid shot. If it’s meant as a medium shot, say medium shot.), Rooster seems bored, his attention has wandered. The two guards stand on each side of the entrance way at ease, eyes forward. (Are the guards framing him in the panel?)



But in the end, you all voted on boring me to death.



Always so cocky.



Again, pun intended?


(Take out these last two bits of dialogue. Again, forced, unnatural, and completely unnecessary in forwarding the story. The serve no purpose but to add sarcasm.)


This is the first page that did absolutely nothing for me, both visually and textually. It was poorly designed with the lack of visual anchors for the dialogue above and below Panels 1-2 and the dialogue itself was there for the sake of having something said. It didn’t work. That, plus the comma-fails, is pulling me out of the story.

P3, and like Steve, I’m starting to get bored.


Here’s the thing: this is P3. This is supposed to be a page turn, but you haven’t given the reader any impetus to go any further.


My interest was tenuous to begin with, but now, I’m no longer interested. And it’s P3. What does that say?


There are only four panels on this page, and five on the previous. These two pages could probably be combined, making P2 into either a seven panel page or a nine-panel grid. That would free P3 up for more important things that would keep the reader’s interest and get them to turn the page. You haven’t kept the reader’s interest here.


Let’s look at that last panel, and the dialogue as you had it.


RB is supposed to look bored, yes? Yes. His first line of dialogue fits the panel description perfectly. The last line? Not at all.


Conner knows better, folks. Or at least, he should. The last thing said should be a reflection of the panel description, and vice versa. If they don’t match, then simply put, you’re wrong. This is wrong, which is part of the reason why Steve cut it.


At least the jokes didn’t have to rely on visual wordplay this time, which is a step in the right direction.



Panel 1. Close up of Rooster, alarmed by the space helmet that’s been forced on his head by one of the guards, whose hands are still holding onto each side of the head gear. (Who gave the guard direction to jam the helmet back on his head? There was no indication of direction from the Princess or anyone else, meaning that he’s done it on his accord. Shouldn’t he be waiting for orders?)





SFX (From the helmet):




Panel 2. Close up of Princess Gladius, with the same expression as in panel 3 of the previous page. (The same expression, but is it the same shot or different?)



Your space suits (suit’s) power is depleted, (Comma-fail as it should be a period.) You have exactly 24 hours of oxygen left. (Two points on this last bit: 1- That is EXTREMELY convenient that it’s exactly one full day’s worth of oxygen, and 2- always spell out a number when writing for comics.)



In a few moments, you will be discarded on the asteroid Lv-426 (These sci-fi planet names are a tad cliché, don’t you think?). Perhaps you’ll use your remaining time to think about what you’ve done. (Bring “Think of it as time out” up here to replace this last line, which is indeed cliché.)



Or figure out a way off. (Get rid of this line altogether. You’re searching for dialogue and it’s becoming obvious.)



Panel 3. Over Princess Gladius shoulder looking down at Rooster, one of the guards is standing directly behind him. From this angle we should be able to see that Rooster is standing on some kind of circular hatch. (Was he always on this hatch or was he moved to it at some point? It’s convenient that we didn’t notice it before.)



Think of it as time out.



Except in the end, you’re (your) blood boils, your eyes bulge (out), and (your) lungs explode.



This is why our relationship could never have worked. (Reaching for words to say, man.)



Panel 4. Mid shot of the guard hunched forward undoing Roosters cuffs. Rooster is looking up to the off panel Princess Gladius, smiling.



She always reminded me of my mother.



May I say something?



Panel 5. Close up of Rooster smiling. (Do you really need this last panel? Not really.)



I mean (Comma needed) its (it’s) only right (fair) that I get some last words. (More needless dialogue.)


I’m going to stop here. You had a good run of two pages before losing me. It’s like you lost control of the story and were trying hard to regain it. I could see you had something planned out, but your execution of the material, especially the dialogue, became seriously lacking. I could almost pinpoint where things went wrong. Another thing that really bothered me was the lack of proofreading before you submitted this script. Look at the spelling mistakes and punctuation errors. Do us a favor, and this applies to anyone else who plans on submitting a script: Please read over or have someone else proofread your work before sending it in. You lost a lot of marks for this carelessness in my eyes. Always consider this column as if you were sending to an actual publishing house. I say that with regards to proofreading, because the first error they see will result in your work being quickly disposed of. Take yourself seriously as a writer and us seriously as editors. Now I’ll let Steven have his say.


P4. Piece of crap. Nope. My fault. Piece of forced crap.


Usually, I go for the rundown, but there’s a glaring error here that I have to address first: the huge gap in border time.


So we go from the end of P3, and then on P4, he’s having his helmet smashed down on his head. There’s no signal from anyone for the guards to move to do this, and in fact, the guards haven’t moved to do it—they teleported. Not good.


There should have been a panel to bridge this. As a matter of fact, that bridging panel should have been the last panel of P3, so that would give the reader to a reason to turn the page.

But that didn’t happen. You just started throwing things out there, making them magically delicious, because they weren’t set up beforehand. Things such as the hatch RB was stanging on. Not good. It’s like you suddenly realized you were running out of space and then panicked, and started throwing everything in.


Don’t do that. Take your time, relax, think things through. This page should not have been anywhere near this bad.


Let’s run this down.


Format: Flawless victory! And I wasn’t expecting any different.


Panel Descriptions: There’s good and there’s bad here. The good: you don’t always need a camera angle, so that’s a great thing. The bad: proofreading, or lack thereof.


Don’t get me wrong: this is a nice step forward for Connor. He’s come a nice way from where he was. He still needs to slow down and think things through. And proofread! That’s important. It’s hindering the understanding of your script. It’s an easy fix, as long as you know how to use your tools.


Pacing: Could be better. I’ve seen a lot worse. We all have. This wasn’t bad at all, but it could have been better. How?


Remember that pacing is how many scenes in story, how many pages in that scene, how many panels in a page, and how many words per panel, as well as the actions that are happening in all of that. The pacing here isn’t bad, but it could be better.


Some of the panels here could be combined in order to better serve the pacing and placement of the page turns. Then you have that huge jump where the guards are teleporting. You have what could be considered a slowdown on P3, even though it reads fast because there aren’t a lot of words to anchor the four panels on the page.


Raise your word count. That will help to slow the pace. Make sure that the words you’re adding are either forwarding the plot or revealing character, if not both. Remember that you are in control. Wrestle with it until it comes out the way you want it to.


Dialogue: At a point there, I was thinking that if I went back, I could hear the faint narration of Kirk giving his summation of the story so far, after the initial credits. The choppiness and the subject matter gave me a definite Star Trek vibe.


RB has a strong voice. It just doesn’t need to be as choppy. Cut that down, and you will have given him his own personality. It could still be identified as Kirk, but it wouldn’t be as strongly identified as his, because there wouldn’t be as many pauses.


Content: This could be fun. I like humor. As a reader, I could enjoy this, until you started to bore me. That was around P3. At P4, I would have been bewildered, because there was no transition. I probably would have stopped there, as a reader, because I would have been thrown totally out of the story. Not good.


Editorially, this needs some work. Not a rewrite, like your previous entry, but definitely needs some work. I’m liking what I see here, Conner. You’re putting in the work. Keep it up.


As for Steve’s remarks:


I’m going to tell you all something—we work damned hard for you. This is going into my third year doing this, and I will tell you that we work very hard for you each and every week. To turn the mirror on you, this is what we see: writing ability notwithstanding, we see writers who don’t do the basics when it comes to spelling and punctuation. Hardly a week goes by where we don’t comment on a comma. You’re writers, and you’re not using your tools to the best of your abilities.


The purpose of this column is to help you be the best you can be. Every time you write, you should be writing to the best of your ability. I don’t care what it is: a forum post, a grocery list, a letter…it doesn’t matter. You should be writing to the best of your ability. You should be writing for clarity, and to make sure that you are communicating effectively.


I honestly believe that what gets sent in to TPG is also what gets sent to publishers. Your mistakes are costing you jobs, plain and simple. And proofreading is the easiest thing to do. Just give it a day or two before coming back to it, and slow down when you’re reading. Make corrections as you go.


TPG is a safe place for you to work the kinks out, and to get honest feedback on your stories. What does it say that the bulk of the comments are more about punctuation, syntax, and grammar than about the stories themselves?


I come down hard at times on those who don’t show any respect for what we do here, or for what they’re submitting. We work hard every week to make sure that the feedback given is not only honest, but measured, helpful, and timely. Steve and I could spend a lot more time going over the story and technicalities if we weren’t spending so much time going over things that are within your sphere of control. Help us to help you. Do your job, so that we can be of more help to you as we do ours. One follows the other.


And that’s all there is this week. Check the calendar to see who’s next.


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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 for rate inquiries.

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