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TPG Week 184: A Study In Not-Good

| July 4, 2014


Welcome back, one and all, to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a Brave One who’s no stranger to TPG: Schuyler Van Gunten!

This week, unfortunately, will be the last week that Yannick Morin will be with us. He’s stepping away for his own reasons. We’ll miss you, Yannick. The door is always open.

So, we have Yannick in the sad green, my eyes are rimmed in red, and we’ll all see how Schuyler does with his rewrite of



TECHNICAL – Misplaced information: Just before page 1 were two whole pages of a combination character description/story bible/location description, which I don’t think Steven is going to include here for the sake of brevity. While very useful, this kind of information has no place in a script; put it in a different document. (Meh. It was short, and possibly things that the artist needed/notes for himself. At the beginning, before the script, is fine. It gives enough separation from the script itself and doesn’t bog down the panel descriptions. Basically, what readers need to know is that Golgoth is a skull.)


PAGE ONE (seven panels)


Panel 1. Big panel. In the foreground Golgoth sits next to Ambrogio’s corpse on a small hill at the bottom of a mountain, in what would be modern day Iran. The hill is covered in desert grass. In the middle ground there is a river that runs at the base of the mountain. Kuga was walking by the river. He was a little surprised and stopped when Golgoth called out to him. In the background beyond the river is a lot of desert grass. The sun is setting. This can be on panel or off.


CAP (Editorial):

Fall, 1512 A.D. Safavid Empire


GOLGOTH (yells):



KUGA (yells):

Did you just say something to me, corpse?!


GOLGOTH (yells):

No, I am the skull! My name is Golgoth!


LINGUISTIC – Grammar error: “Modern-day” instead of “modern day.” (Meh. It’s not in the dialogue, so I don’t care that much.)


TECHNICAL – Confusing panel description: Your description is both in the past and in the present tense, giving the impression you’re describing both what happened before and what we can now see in the panel. Stick to one tense and tell the artist what he has to draw.


TECHNICAL – Unconventionallettering tag: You don’t have to use an (EDITORIAL) lettering tag. Usually, when a caption doesn’t use any tag, it’s understood as an omniscient narrator caption.


TECHNICAL – Unconventional lettering tag: Usually, the tags (LOUD) or (SHOUT) are used to signify yelling. The tag you used here isn’t wrong per se as long as you use it consistently. After all, comic scripts are more about consistency and clarity rather than dogmatic conventions.


NARRATIVE – Unclear location caption: Most people will need Wikipedia to know what the Safavid Empire is. Unless it’s essential to the telling of your story, you might want to use a better-known name like “Persia.”


Panel 2. Kuga Pov or camera moves behind Kuga. Golgoth rests on a small hill at the base of a mountain. There is a cliff wall behind Golgoth.


KUGA (yells):

What do you want?!


GOLGOTH (yells):

I just want to talk! Most people are not so comfortable with me at first!


LINGUISTIC – Spelling error: “POV” instead of “Pov.”


TECHNICAL – Inefficient camera angle: Of the two shots suggested, the POV shot is the weakest. All you’ve had is an establishing shot and you’re already zooming into a character’s perspective. Ease us into the story; keep your characters on panel.


TECHNICAL – Redundant panel description: You’ve already established there was a mountain behind the hill; no need to repeat it here. You’d be better off describing Kuga’s actions or expression instead.


Panel 3. Kuga climbs the hill warily. He squints his face in disgust at Golgoth’s suggestion.



There are worse things in the world than you, Golgoth.



It is getting dark. I was hoping you might choose to camp here…?



Do I want to sleep next to a rotting corpse and a talking skull?


TECHNICAL – Unclear panel description: Although you’re now describing actions and expression, you’re not telling the artist where the camera is.


Panel 4. Kuga stands before Golgoth pointing at Ambrogio’s corpse.



No…but thank you…I guess.



What happened to this man?



Oh, Ambrogio? He was a greedy and murderous man. He tried to steal an orb from the tomb that sits below us.


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Missing space after the ellipsis in “No…but thank you…I guess.”


NARRATIVE – Inefficient dialogue distribution: There’s no added value to splitting Kuga’s question (“Do I want to sleep next to a rotting corpse and a talking skull?”) from his answer (“No…but thank you…I guess..). Better to move the answer into the previous panel and keep the dialogue in this panel as a cohesive set (one question – one answer). But then you’ll have too much dialogue in the previous panel instead of in this one. Would it be that you’re having the opposite of the usual issue here on TPG? Most writers have too little dialogue; are you that rare writer who has too much?


Panel 5. Golgoth medium shot. The gems in his eyes are just swirls of purple.



Unfortunately for him the tomb was guarded by ancient undead warriors. He pulled one of my eyes out before he died. Can you find it for me?


NARRATIVE – Continuity error: Your panel description says that the skull has gems for eyes. Now he’s saying that one is missing. Or is there something I’m not getting? Not clear…


Panel 6. Kuga searches through some grass on the hillside.



How did you get jewels for eyes? Are you a cursed skull, made by some, long dead and forgotten, sorceress?



The eyes were given to me by a sorceress but she…


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Extraneous commas around “long dead and forgotten.”


LINGUISTIC – Grammar error: “Long-dead” instead of “long dead.”


TECHNICAL – Unclear panel description: Where’s the camera? Where are the characters placed in relation to each other?


Panel 7. Kuga picks something up out of the grass but it is obviously just a smooth stone. The stone can also be invisible to the reader. That is up to the artist and largely depends on what camera angle.



…is neither dead nor forgotten.



Here it is. I want to hear about the sorceress first, though.



Very well…I woke up and I was nothing more than an object, buried in the snow.


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Missing space after the ellipsis.


TECHNICAL – Inefficient camera angle: For it to be “obvious” for the reader that Kuga picked up a smooth stone instead of a gem, you need to zoom in on the stone, which means we won’t be seeing Golgoth on panel, which means his dialogue line should be (OP).


NARRAVITE – Inconsistent character: If Golgoth can see into the future, why doesn’t he see through Kuga’s ruse?


NARRATIVE – Lack of a page-turn hook: “I’m going to tell you a story” is not the most efficient tease to get a reader to turn a page. On the contrary, this comes off as “What you’ve just read is irrelevant. In fact, my story starts for real on the next page.”


NARRATIVE – Unnamed character: Kuga has not been named. This is particularly egregious since a corpse has been named.

Okay! We’ve got P1 on the books!

I’m going to say this right now and just get it out of the way: almost all the dialogue on this page is terrible, and I’m treating it as a placeholder until the writer can think of something better to say. It’s only P1, and the dialogue is painful. Pain isn’t supposed to start until we get to P2. That’s the idea: get the reader interested enough to turn the page. It isn’t going to happen when the dialogue is terrible (and nearly wretched).

The problem with the dialogue is that it’s as lively as a puppet with cut strings, encased in carbonite. It doesn’t sound like conversation. It sounds like words that you thought up long and hard for, trying to tell the story, and forgot to be natural.

Good dialogue doesn’t start with writing. It starts with listening. It doesn’t seem like you listened, Schuyler.

Try doing this: cast your characters with actors in certain roles, and then have the characters act as those actors would. That may help. Because right now…the dialogue on this first page makes me want to go around slapping septuagenarians and older. And there are a lot of them in Tucson.

As for the rest of the page, it’s padding. All of it. It’s nothing more than a set up in order to get to tell another story. The thing though, is that it’s set up badly. Reader interest in turning the page is zero. Confidence is low. Repeat: confidence is low.

What’s a better setup? Have Golgoth singing or something. Reciting poetry, or a story. Then have the unnamed man wonder where the singing was coming from. Then things can start to take shape from there.

Also, what time of day is it? What are the distances between the man and the skull? I won’t even get into asking why the man was walking along the shore.

PAGE TWO (seven panels)


Panel 1. Big panel zoomed out, on a Venetian country side during the middle of the night. In the foreground is mostly snow. In the middle ground a sixteen year old girl stands next to a half burnt wall that was once on the perimeter of a small village. Her name is Vittoria. In the background a small village was recently burned down entirely and the burned out ruins are covered in snow. Behind the half wall where the camera cannot see is Golgoth, buried in the snow. The scene is lit by the moon. Vittoria wears a golden hairpin that is important to a later development.


CAP (Editorial):

February, 1504 A.D. Venice


CAP (Golgoth):

The first time I spoke to Vittoria it gave her quite a fright and we didn’t get to talk.”


VITTORIA (whispers):

Hello? Old Ghost?



You have decided to return…Have you overcome your fear?


VITTORIA (whispers):

I am still afraid…


LINGUISTIC – Spelling error: “Countryside” instead of “country side.”


LINGUISTIC – Grammar error: “Sixteen-year-old” instead of “sixteen year old.”


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Missing comma after “The first time I spoke to Vittoria.”


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Missing space after the ellipsis in “You have decided to return…Have you overcome your fear?”


TECHNICAL – Omitted information: If it’s Vittoria, say “Vittoria.” Don’t say: “a sixteen year old girl.”


TECHNICAL – Unconventional lettering tag: Like I said earlier, as long as you remain consistent and clear, you may use whatever lettering tag you want. Just know that the “standard” is (SOFT).


NARRATIVE – Inconsistent location caption: The location caption on the previous page used a season as a point in time; now it’s a month. Why not say “winter” here? Even better, why even mention the season or the month? The art already establishes the season and it looks like an exact timeline isn’t necessary for your story.


NARRATIVE – Erroneous location caption: If this panel shows the “Venetian countryside,” then the caption should say “Venetian countryside” and not “Venice.” In the 16th century, Venice was already a very large city, nothing like what you describe here.


Panel 2. Camera zooms in and spins around to a medium shot of Vittoria; she has fear in her eyes and face. A road slopes up behind her to a one story house in the distance.



Why do you call me ‘Old Ghost’?



You sound old…are you not?



I suppose I am…


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Missing space after the ellipsis in “You sound old…are you not?”


TECHNICAL – Inefficient panel description: Don’t describe your camera angles as camera movements. This isn’t film; the camera doesn’t actually move. All you’ll accomplish doing this is to confuse your artist.


Panel 3. Small panel. Vittoria leans over the wall to look at the snow piled up on the inside. Golgoth is packed inside a snow drift and cannot be seen.



Why can’t I see you?



There is not much to see. What is left of me is buried in the snow.


Panel 4. Vittoria turns now to sit on the wall.



My Mom died in the fire. Did you die in the fire?






Then you can’t really be an old ghost. You are just a ghost…a friendly one…


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Missing space after the ellipsis in “You are just a ghost…a friendly one…”


TECHNICAL – Unclear panel description: Is Vittoria facing us as she climbs up on the wall?


TECHNICAL – Ellipsis overuse: You sure love those little dots. It feels as though your characters are always hesitating or trailing off. Coupled with the fact that a lot of your dialogue is padding, it makes for a very tedious read.


Panel 5. Small panel. Vittoria sits on the half wall staring into the distance.



It’s complicated. Perhaps, I am not an old ghost, but I feel old.



Last time, before I ran away, you said you needed to tell me something.


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Extraneous comma after “Perhaps.”


Panel 6. Fear turns Vittoria’s face sour as she looks down at the spot where Golgoth is buried.



Yes… first, you have potential to wield powerful magic, something not common for humankind.



Second your family is in danger. They may not survive, but you probably will.



You’re scaring me! If you know the future then you can change it! You’re an evil forest spirit not a friendly ghost!


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Missing comma after “Second.”


Panel 7. Small panel. Tears well up in Vittoria’s eyes as she pushes herself off the wall.



Vittoria…Yes, you can change it if you try…but I cannot.



No! I am not a witch who talks to spirits in the snow! You leave me alone, and my family will be fine!


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Missing space after the ellipsis in “Vittoria…Yes, you can change it if you try…but I cannot.”


TECHNICAL – Impossible panel description: You want the artist to show both Vittoria’s action of jumping off a wall and tears welling up in her eyes? And in a small panel too?


NARRATIVE – Abrupt ending: This feels unfinished as a scene as there’s no resolution for half the characters involved. We know that Vittoria goes off crying, but what about Golgoth? But then again, you’re already packing this page tight with seven panels of sometimes-padding dialogue.


It’s part 2, cause I’m pumping what you’re used to, until the whole juice crew gets me in my goosedown…

Sorry. Had a Public Enemy moment. Prophets of Rage, off of It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back.

I don’t know what to say here. (Not only is it page 2, part two, it’s also day 2 for me.) I mean, I could say lots of things, but they won’t have the same invective. I’m not feeling it.

And that’s the sad truth about this. I’m not feeling it. We’re on the second page, and I’m kinda wondering why we’re here. The story seems to meander…which is an amazing thing to do on the second page.

We have people who are talking to a skull, and are nonplussed about it. I consider myself to be something of a curious person. I’ll talk to just about anyone about anything if I find it interesting. I’ll even talk to a ghost. I’d find that fascinating. But these people…

Okay. The dialogue here is slightly better, although Vittoria sounds like she’s nine, and not twelve. She’s acting younger than her years.

You tried to inject something of interest here, but it didn’t do the entire job. She has powerful magic, but her family is going to die. Way to spring that on a person! “Hey, you don’t know me, but I’m a ghost, you’ve got powerful mojo, and you’re family is gone bite the dust. Have a nice day! Tra-la-la…”

What has happened on this page: we flashback to a different time, and the skull tells us that the first time he tried talking to a little girl, she was scared and fled. Then she returns (we don’t know the timeframe—it could be an hour, it could be a year), and she gets comfortable enough to sit and talk—only to be told some outrageous stuff about having great power and her family dying.

The skull isn’t the greatest conversationalist. This skull is no Bob. (Bob is a character in The Dresden Files—a talking skull that’s basically like a Wiki for magic.) At least Bob knows how to converse.

I’m not a fan of P2. I’m still waiting for the story to start. Where’s the inciting incident?

PAGE THREE (five panels)


Panel 1. Venetian country side during midday. A small newly built building rests on a low hill. It is the single story building that could be seen in the background of the last page. Theodore’s home. Spring has begun and the snow is all but melted.


CAP (Editorial):

Two weeks later


CAP (Golgoth):

The future is neither like the mountain that stands in one place, nor like the river, which has only one destination.”


VITTORIA (Loudly inside the building):



LINGUISTIC – Spelling error: “Countryside” instead of “country side.”


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Extraneous comma after “The future is neither like the mountain that stands in one place.” (I wouldn’t call that an error. There’s a pause needed there.)


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Extraneous comma after “nor like the river.” (Meh. Maybe.)


TECHNICAL – Insufficient establishing shot: There’s nowhere near enough information on what this building actually looks like except that it’s new and only has one story. If you can’t express it with words, it’s time to dig up a picture of a 16th-century Italian house.


TECHNICAL – Continuity error: Teodor is called “Theodore” in the panel description.


Panel 2. Inside the house two twins age sixteen, one female, the other male, look inside a large standing wardrobe. The wardrobe is empty. Camera looks over their shoulders into the wardrobe. Far enough back to show that they could easily hide in the wardrobe together. Vittoria is on the left, Heironomo on the right. There is bed in this room that is more than likely off panel left.


CAP (Golgoth):

The future is more akin to roads. Some roads are just more traveled than others and thus become predictable.”


TEODOR (op):

Yes, Vittoria.



Where is our new clothing?!


LINGUISTIC – Syntax error: Missing word: “There is a bed in this room that is more than likely off panel left.”


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Interrogation mark instead of a period after “Yes, Vittoria” (debatable depending on character intention).


TECHNICAL – Omitted information: The characters here are Vittoria and Heironimo. Go ahead and say it.


TECHNICAL – Inefficient camera angle: I have a problem with you introducing a character (Heironimo) with his back turned to the camera. Is showing the inside of the wardrobe that important? If they can both fit in it later in the same scene, then you don’t need to establish it now. I’d suggest placing the camera inside the wardrobe instead, looking at the twins.


Panel 3. An old Venetian man (Teodor) sits at his desk that faces a window. He is writing a letter and holds a quill in his hand. See artist letter for full description of the house.



I returned the clothing to Vicenzo.


VITTORIA (loudly op):

But Father?! That was a gift!


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Missing comma after “But.” (Nope. Because those two words make up a single sentence. If you want to call it a missing comma, change the interrobang into a comma, and then change the capital to lowercase in “that.” It reads better that way, anyway.)


TECHNICAL – Omitted information: Again with not naming the characters outright in the panel descriptions. This isn’t prose!


TECHNICAL – Unclear panel description: Is this in the same room?


TECHNICAL – Inefficient dialogue distribution: Vittoria’s expression in this exchange is much more important than Teodor’s; yet it’s his face we see on panel. Why not move his line as (OP) in the previous panel, stay with the children instead of jerking the reader from character to the other, and then later introduce the father as the twins go to him.


Panel 4. Teodor set his pen down as his children entered the room.


CAP (Golgoth):

Teodor chose the road I expected him to, when he did not accept a bribe.”



Calm yourselves…the clothing was not a gift. It was part of a bribe. A bribe I have chosen not to accept.


LINGUISTIC – Grammar error: “Teodor sets his pen down.”


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Extraneous comma after Teodor chose the road I expected him to.” (I have to disagree. The comma gives the pause the writer wants. Dialogue that is grammatically correct is also lifeless. This is the best dialogue yet, even though there’s yet to be a reason as to why we’re here.)


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Missing space after the ellipsis in “Calm yourselves…the clothing was not a gift.”


TECHNICAL – Unclear panel description: Where’s the camera?


Panel 5. Teodor, Heironomo, and Vittoria, are all shocked at the sound of a voice from outside.


INIGO (Roars from outside):



TEODOR (Whispers):

Quickly, children, hide!


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Extraneous comma after “Teodor, Heironomo, and Vittoria.”


TECHNICAL – Erroneous lettering tag: Not only did you use a new tag instead of your established “(yells),” but you also made it more complicated then you should have by writing “from outside” instead of simply “(OP).”

P3, and I’m not interested. I don’t think anyone is interested.

The skull has two voices. One is very informal and says “yeah,” and the other is much more formal and says “thus.” These two don’t really go together, like peanut butter and shredded coconut.

Why are we here? What is this story about?

So far, this is wasting the reader’s time, because it’s uninteresting. However, the level of the dialogue has risen. That’s a plus.

PAGE FOUR (five panels)


Panel 1. Profile of Íñigo as he steps up to the building his horse tied to a post behind.


CAP (Golgoth):

The road Teodor chose, led to, Íñigo ‘The Wolf’ Ibarra*.”


INIGO (Roars):

Is there someone in there with you, old man!?


CAP (Editorial):

*Íñigo, pronounced En-yay-go


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Extraneous comma after “The road Teodor chose.”


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Extraneous comma after “led to.”


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Inverted question/exclamation mark combo: “?!” instead of “!?”


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation errors: Missing quotation marks around “En-yay-go.”


TECHNICAL – Misplaced asterisk: The asterisk either goes directly after the element that the footnote refers to (in this case, the first name) or after the period.


TECHNICAL – Useless copy: There is absolutely no added value in telling us how the character’s name is pronounced in a purely visual medium. In film or theater, yes; here, no.


Panel 2. Íñigo’s POV. He has just stepped inside the door to the house. He sees Teodor turned in his chair towards the door. Teodor does not rise from his chair; his face shows contempt for Íñigo. Vittoria and Heironomo are hiding in the wardrobe. Íñigo rages at Teodor.



Íñigo, you are naught but a glorified errand boy with delusions of grandeur!


INIGO (roars):

Making me angry will not prolong your life old man!


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Missing comma after “Making me angry will not prolong your life.”


TECHNICAL – Inefficient camera angle: Again, you’re switching the POV of a character you’ve just barely introduced. Too fast. Not only that but how are you going to show his anger if we can’t see his face?


TECHNICAL – Useless information: “Vittoria and Heironomo are hiding in the wardrobe.” You’re telling the artist things not to draw? Is the wardrobe even in this room? Can we see it on this panel? Not clear.


Panel 3. Face shot of Íñigo. He has calmed down and smiles a sinister smile.



Or perhaps you seek to protect someone else hiding in the house… a woman?


Panel 4. Teodor screams for Heironomo to run.


CAP (Golgoth):

In that moment I am sure that Teodor knew Íñigo would search the house and find his children.”


CAP (Golgoth):

He sacrificed one to, ‘The Wolf’, hoping to spare the other.”


TEODOR (Screams):

Heironomo, run!


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Missing comma after “In that moment.”


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Extraneous comma after “He sacrificed one to.”


TECHNICAL – Lack of panel description: You’re describing dialogue instead of what the artist should draw.


Panel 5. Wide shot from behind Íñigo. On the left is Teodor starting to push himself to his feet from the arms of the chairs. Behind him is a door that leads to the pantry. On the right is a small room with the wardrobe. The room has a doorway but no door. Heironomo is bursting from the wardrobe at full speed.


INIGO (Roars):

You fool! I will kill you both!


TECHNICAL – Useless information: Who cares about the pantry? Tell us the fleeing characters’ expressions instead; that’s a lot more important.


TECHNICAL – Delayed information: The location of the wardrobe should have been made clearer a lot earlier.


TECHNICAL – Erroneous lettering tag: Again with the “roars.” Is this your new standard? Make it consistent!

What page is this again?

Know what? It doesn’t matter. I still want to know why we’re here, and it feels like I’ve been reading this for a century already.

Oh, and do this: learn to use the comma. Le wow…

PAGE FIVE (four panels)


Panel 1. Heironomo is running past Íñigo headed for the front door. Íñigo has just stabbed Teodor as he tried to rise from his chair. The sword entered right in the center of Teodor’s abdomen blood flowing around the wound. Teodor is slumped in his chair looking dead already.


CAP (Golgoth):

Heironomo played his part without flinching. He lured Íñigo away from the house.”


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Missing comma after “The sword entered right in the center of Teodor’s abdomen.”


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Missing comma after “Teodor is slumped in his chair.”


TECHNICAL – Unclear panel description: Where’s the camera? It’s even more important seeing as this is some pretty complicated action you’re asking for.


Panel 2. Split panel, I imagine it to be split diagonally. Half for Heironomo half for Vittoria. Heironomo runs down a path surrounded by grassy fields, with the house behind him. Vittoria is huddled inside the wardrobe with her knees against her chest. Light spills in from the door Heironomo opened to run away.


CAP (Golgoth):

Perhaps they both knew what their father had intended…but it was fear that kept Vittoria from revealing herself, not obedience.”


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Missing space after the ellipsis.


TECHNICAL – Inefficient layout: Heironimo is running for his life through a grassy filed while Vittoria is sitting in a wardrobe. Methinks it would be a better use of space to give Heironimo the whole panel and Vittoria a simple inset.


Panel 3. Camera behind Íñigo, who is halfway on his horse, Heironomo runs away in the background. Burned ruins from page two in the left background.


CAP (Golgoth):

There were other outcomes that I had foreseen for this particular event.”


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Period instead of a comma after “who is halfway on his horse.”


Panel 4. POV. Íñigo is riding his horse aiming his crossbow with his right hand, holding the reins with his left. We are looking down the sight of the crossbow right at Heironomo, who runs down the path towards the ruins. The burned ruins are closer now.


CAP (Golgoth):

They all required intervention, and some of them were more gruesome than the tale I tell you now.” (But are they as boring?)


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Missing comma after “Íñigo is riding his horse.”


LINGUISTIC – Grammar error: “I’m telling” instead of “I tell.” (Schuyler’s way sounds better.)


TECHNICAL – Inefficient camera angle: Again you’re going into POV perspective without any proper introduction. In the last panel, Íñigo was just getting onto his horse; now he’s in full gallop after Heironimo, already aiming his crossbow. You’re missing a panel that show him riding the horse in order to make the POV shot work.


NARRATIVE – Factual error? Did pistol crossbows exist in early 16th century? Better check up on that…

I think this is P5, and I’m bored. I’m bored, I don’t care, and nothing in this story is even vaguely interesting anymore.

For a story about someone mystical, there’s not a whole lot of mystic-ing going on with the mystiker.

I guess it’s story time.

(All of you are going to know a LOT about me if this keeps up…)

The house I grew up in is haunted. The spirit in it is benevolent, but has scared the crap out of me when I was a kid.

The house has three levels: a finished basement, the main level, and then the attic, which was converted into living space. That’s how my parents bought the house, and for the time and place, a finished basement was something of a novelty. The attic had the biggest room, although you had to deal with sloped ceilings on the sides. My parents had that room, but then decided to move downstairs, and I moved up.

I loved that room. I had a lot of space to play with my action figures. I had two beds—one I slept in, and the other where I threw my crap (and where my cousin slept when he spent the night). I just had to be careful about bumping around during the day in the summer, because my father worked nights, so he slept during the day.

The stairs leading up to my room were a bit steep, and there were around fifteen of them. They were uncarpeted. Then you had to go around the railing, passing a linen closet on your left with the railing on your right, then there was an open area with two closets that faced each other on your left and your right, with my room door in the middle. There is no carpet.

I’m about twelve, no older than fourteen. It’s a Friday night, and there’s a storm. I was upstairs, asleep in my room, with my door closed. My father had already gone to work. I heard him leave before I went to sleep. I didn’t hear him return.


That’s what I heard on the bottom tread of the stairs. A heavy boot. Then I heard it again. And again. And again. Not fast. Very even and measured.



The steps were getting closer. They were coming up the stairs.

My house is made of wood. Only those who know where to step can make it to my room door without me hearing it, because it creaks. This person, whoever they were, wasn’t trying to be quiet. Slow, even steps, up the staircase—and now, it was coming directly towards my room!




Slow, measured, and coming closer.

Now, I had been awake ever since the first sound of a step at the bottom of the stairs. It wasn’t a usual sound of the house, and even though there was a lot of wind and rain, this didn’t sound like anything I had ever heard before. I had been living there for a few years by this point, so I knew the sounds of the house. And those damned bootsteps were getting closer to my door!

I finally screwed up the courage and crept out of my bed. The boots were almost to my door. I wanted my mommy! I opened the door…

There was no one there.

Fuck this! I ran! I wanted my mommy, and I wanted her NOW!

As I ran, about three steps outside of my room, I got cold. Damned cold. No draft. No open window. It was a cold spot. I was through it in an instant, and nearly busted my entire ass as I thundered down the stairs. I then went and got in bed with my mother. Safe!

Of course, I told her what happened. And that Saturday morning, I told my father. They looked at each other (they thought I didn’t see it), and then my father tells me that what I heard was acorns from the oak tree falling on the roof of the aluminum shed in our neighbor’s backyard. (This is the house that we moved next door from. There used to be a small garage in the backyard, but the landlord/my uncle had that demolished and removed, and the aluminum shed put up instead.)

Did I believe that story? Not for a heartbeat. It was something to tell a child to make them not afraid.

And that story is more interesting than the five pages of story that Schuyler has so far tortured us with.

PAGE SIX (five panels)


Panel 1. A crossbow bolt struck Heironomo in the leg causing him to stumble. He was headed for the burned ruins and almost made it to some cover. The small half wall from page two.





LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Missing comma after “A crossbow bolt struck Heironomo in the leg.”


LINGUISTIC – Grammar error: Capital letter at the start of the dialogue line.


TECHNICAL – Missed beat: You’d have a better flow between your panels if we could first see the crossbow firing. On top of that, you never show us the bolt hitting Heironimo. (By the way, I hate typing your characters’ names.) One panel, the bad guy is aiming and, in the next, the victim is already falling down with a bolt sticking out of him.


TECHNICAL – Unclear panel description: Where’s the camera?


Panel 2. Heironomo stumbled and is headed face first for the ground. He is falling behind the half-wall of a burned building.




TECHNICAL – Useless beat: The kid already stumbled in the last panel. How long will you be stretching that? Oh well, you had missing beats earlier so it’s practically good news to see you have panels to burn now. One thing that is surely not helping is your insistence on using past tense on your panel descriptions. Describe things as they are, not as they were just before the panel.


TECHNICAL – Unclear panel description: Where’s the camera?


Panel 3. Heironomo landed with his face right next to Golgoth. He is quite out of breath and wounded. His eyes are wide from shock. Golgoth does not have his eyes and is still attached to his skeleton.


HEIRONOMO (breath marks):






HEIRONOMO (breath marks):

I must be dying…huff…you are not real…



I am real. The wound on your leg isn’t fatal…you aren’t dying…yet.


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Missing space after the ellipsis in “The wound on your leg isn’t fatal…you aren’t dying…yet.” Also… HOLY ELLIPSIS OVERLOAD, BATMAN!


TECHNICAL – Unclear panel description: Where’s the camera?


TECHNICAL – Erroneous lettering instructions: “Breath marks” are not proper lettering tags. If you want to indicate breath marks, there are a number of ways. For example:

I must be dying. >huff< You are not real… OR

I must be dying. [huff] You are not real… OR

I must be dying. =huff= You are not real…

Resist the urge to use asterisks for two reasons: first, they can be interpreted as bold and, second, the letterer might mistake them for characters you want to actually appear in the speech balloon.


Panel 4. Heironomo grabs his leg, his face crumpled in worry as Golgoth reveals his future.



It’s the wound that you’ll receive to your neck that’ll be deadly. (See how the voice changes?)



What do you mean!? I don’t want to die!



I am sorry…it’s too late. If you do not mention your sister she’ll survive. Can you do that?


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Inverted question/exclamation mark combo: “?!” instead of “!?”


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Missing space after the ellipsis in “I am sorry…it’s too late.”


TECHNICAL – Unclear panel description: Where’s the camera? You’re showing clear signs of fatigue on this page, Schuyler!


NARRATIVE – Inconsistent language level: Golgoth’s dialogue goes from using contractions to not using them. Here it occurs within the same panel, in the same line even. Compare: “It’s the wound that you’ll receive to your neck that’ll be deadly” and “If you do not mention your sister she’ll survive.”


Panel 5. Íñigo’s feet land hard on the ground after he dismounts his horse. The panel shows just his feet where they landed and horse hooves behind them.








LINGUISTIC – Syntax error: When you dismount something, you take it down from where it was. For example, a pikeman might dismount a knight. However, when you yourself get down from something, you either dismount – period – or you dismount from that thing. Hence, Íñigo should be dismounting from his horse.


TECHNICAL – Moving panel: Unless you call for – or the artist decides on his own to show – clouds of dust forming, pebbles skittering, or impact lines, this shot will be undistinguishable from having the guy just standing next to his horse.


NARRATIVE – Inefficient focus: Why are you showing us the bad guy’s feet just as Heironimo is uttering THE most important line his character will ever have in his short existence. If you’re really adamant about showing Inigo (I’m calling him Inigo; no way I’m typing all those crazy diacritic signs and I’m a native French-speaker!) dismounting, at least do it while some other less dramatic piece of dialogue is happening. And come to think of it, why the feet? Why not show a sword getting drawn? Or a predatory smile? Anything here could be more expressive and dramatic than just feet. It’s like you’re playing this game where you try to rob the reader of any interesting relevant or dramatic viewpoints to show the most mundane things instead. If I ever get married I’ll know not to ask you to film the ceremony; you’ll be pointing the camera at my dad’s feet while I’m kissing the bride.

Missing: point of the story.

Really, the only reason I’m still going is because this is Yannick’s last hurrah. Otherwise, I probably would have stopped at around P5. This is already back on the shelf, the would-be reader has already left the shop screaming, and if it weren’t for the fact that I protect your location, there would probably be a lynch mob outside your home right now, wanting you to come out and play the pinata. (You being the pinata, of course.)

This is crap, Schuyler. There’s no joy in saying that, either. There’s no story here. Why are we reading this? I don’t know. Right now, the only reason people are staying is to see how far I can be pushed before I totally lose my cool. However, the good news for me is that I have it totally under control. The bad news for the readers is that they don’t get to see my head ‘splode. (Although why they’d wish that on me is beyond me…)

There isn’t anything of interest here. Let’s all just move along.


PAGE SEVEN (Three panels)


Panel 1. Worm’s eye view. Íñigo stepped around the corner of the wall with his sword in his left hand and his crossbow in his right. The camera looks up at Íñigo, Golgoth and Heironomo are both off panel.


INIGO (Loudly):

Who is here!? Who are you talking to?!


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Inverted question/exclamation mark combo: “?!” instead of “!?”


TECHNICAL – Unconventional – no, INCONSISTENT lettering tag: And now it’s “(loudly).” I notice that… not only are… your characters often… pausing, but also they’re all very loud! As if they were excited by everything they said! With exclamation marks everywhere! Now isn’t that annoying to read?! The point of the matter is that – in a lot of cases – you can dispense with a good deal of those “!” and “?!” with just the (LOUD) lettering tag. The reader will get it that the character is yelling when he sees the bold font, three points larger than the rest of the dialogue. (You know what also has a lot of exclamation points? Marvel Superheroes Secret War. The first, original universe-wide crossover event. Written by Jim Shooter, most of the characters are yelling in that thing. You have to look for the periods, instead of looking for the exclamation marks. Don’t believe me? Go read it. [Hell, go read it anyway. It’s more enjoyable than reading this train wreck.])


Panel 2. Heironomo looks up at Íñigo, terrified of his imminent death. Íñigo has his sword arm reared up ready to plunge it into Heironomo.


HEIRONOMO (burst):

There is no one else! It is the skull! The skull speaks to me! It is a magic skull that sees the future!


INIGO (burst):

Stop your blubbering!



Please spare me! I won’t tell anyone what happ–


LINGUISTIC – Punctuation error: Missing comma after “Íñigo has his sword arm reared up.”


TECHNICAL – Unclear panel description: Where’s the camera? It has to show both Heironimo’s face as he’s slumped over a wall AND Inigo about to stab him. I just can’t wrap my head around that shot.


TECHNICAL – Inconsistent lettering tag: And now it’s “(burst).” My, my, aren’t we getting all frisky and hot, with everyone screaming again. It feels like I’ve stumbled into the climax of a vaudeville with the husband discovering the lover behind the curtain. (No. Vaudeville was more entertaining than this. Hell, we’re more entertaining than this.)


NARRATIVE – Inconsistent language level: Heironimo’s dialogue goes from using contractions to not using them. Here it occurs within the same panel. Compare: “There is no one else! It is the skull! The skull speaks to me! It is a magic skull that sees the future!” and “I won’t tell anyone what happ–” Also, he’s awfully articulate for a guy with a crossbow bolt in his leg, a sword inches from his face and a talking skull who just predicted his imminent death. Unless it’s an effect you’re genuinely going for, having your characters go Shakespeare on us really does a job on our suspension of disbelief. Is this meant to represent Golgoth’s embellishing of the tale he tells Kuga the Unnamed?


Panel 3. Íñigo thrust his sword into Heironomo. The panel only shows Íñigo from the knees up. He and his sword hilt are covered in fresh blood that sprayed from the artery that he struck in Heironomo’s throat.


HEIRONOMO (op, dying breath marks):



TECHNICAL – Erroneous lettering instructions: See my notes above about breath marks.


NARRATIVE – Illogical action: Wait. He STABS him in the neck? Why not a slash? This guy is supposed to be some kind of badass killer and he chooses to STAB an artery?


I’m stopping here before I get too excited! (OH, THANK GOODNESS!)


Let’s run this down.

Format: Flawless Victory! I wouldn’t have expected anything less from Schuyler, though. However, this is also the best part of this travesty.

Panel Descriptions: Think of something terrible to say, imagine I said it, and then insert it in here.

Panel descriptions are meant to give the creative team a window into what you’re seeing in your head. There isn’t a lot to be seen here. A total failure to give the artist enough information to do their job.

Here’s the deal, folks: you can do what I call “panel description shorthand” after you’ve properly set the location. That means you have to answer Who Where What and When. After that’s done, you can be sparse on the details, because you’ve already given them. But this is only good as long as you stay within that location. As soon as you change to a new location, you have to establish the scene. And you do this every time you switch to a new location. If you’re going back to an old location, then you can give the shorthand.

Most of these panel descriptions are nearly useless because the scene isn’t properly set. If the scene isn’t set, everything else breaks down.

Pacing: Wretched. And that’s being kind.

The story moves forward with a facsimile of action, but it doesn’t have any sense or interest.

Some unnamed guy finds a talking skull, with a missing jewel eye. The skull asks him to find his eye, and the guy is like “tell me a story first.” So the skull proceeds to tell a story that is boring, and tells it boringly. Why? Because that’s what you do for people who are doing you a solid. You repay them with boredom.

I have no idea what the story being told has to do with anything, except as punishment. “Hold onto my eye, will ya! Well, I’ll show you!”

Really, these first pages are worse than padding. At least padding serves a purpose. These pages need to be replaced with something else. Something that is much closer to an actual story that has the possibility of keeping reader interest. Things happen too slowly and too uninterestingly. A new story is needed.

(Imagine: a young girl finds a talking skull. She has a brother and a father whom she loves. Does she tell them about the talking skull? No. Why? Dunno. She goes back to the skull. Why? Dunno. Then the improbable happens in that the brother finds the skull before he dies. Why? Dunno. Who is their father that he has to take bribes? Dunno. Why did he accept the bribe and then change his mind? Dunno. What was the bribe for in the first place? Dunno. See all those questions? That could have added some interest to the story.)

Dialogue: The first two pages made me want to stab my own eyes out with weasel toes. Then it started to get better. The problem is that it didn’t get loads better, and nothing that happened was of much interest, despite the yelling.

Dialogue is to push the story forward, illuminating the art. This doesn’t illuminate much of anything.

Then there’s the matter of the skull’s changing voice. That needs to be fixed.

Content: Remember when I said to say something terrible, imagine me saying it, and then insert it here? Doubly so here. What’s amazing to me is that the concept is story-rich, but you refuse to tell a story that a reader would find interesting. Readers are going to run away from this. Just letting you know ahead of time.

Editorially, this needs a complete rewrite. Really, this is bad. This is as bad a start as I’ve seen in a long time, and I expect better from you, Schuyler. Know the story, know what the interesting parts are, and work toward those as soon as possible. This was a study in not-good.

And that’s all for this week. Thank you again, Yannick, for your hard work! You’re going to be missed.

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

Like what you see? Steve and Sam are available for your editing needs. You can email Steve here and Sam here. My info is below.

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Category: Columns, The Proving Grounds

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at for rate inquiries.

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