TPG Week 142: Newbie Mistakes

| September 13, 2013


Welcome back to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have someone who’s no stranger around these parts, a Brave One by the name of Jon Parrish! (I’m feeling game-showy. I’m watching The X Factor. Sue me.) We’ve got to welcome back the man in blue, Steve Colle, and I’m forever in red. This week, we have something that’s pretty rare around these parts: a redraft from Week 106! Let’s see what Jon does with his


[Page 1][5 Panels]

Panel 1: An establishing shot of a city street at night, centered on the entrance to an apartment building.  From the left, we can see Darryl James walking on the sidewalk looking straight ahead with a tired look on his face. He’s almost scowling. (What does a scowl have to do with tiredness? It seems like you’re trying to convey two different facial expressions, one tired, the other moody. Try to focus on one or the other.) Virgil Lane, styrofoam cup (Even though I can understand the use of the styrofoam cup as Virgil using what he has available, I can honestly say that I’ve never seen a homeless person use a disposable cup. (I’ve seen styrofoam cups. Just saying.) I’d actually suggest this get changed to something like a ratty baseball cap, which is what I’ve usually seen from my time in two of Canada’s metropolitan cities.) in his outstretched hand, is standing on the sidewalk next to the entrance of an apartment building. (I’d like to know how he’s standing: Is he hunched over or standing straight with confident posture, showing indifference or begging, his eyes making contact with passersby or avoiding contact? These are the little things that will give your character personality.) To the right of the panel, there is a woman walking off-panel on her cell phone. She looks somewhat nervous. To the far right is a muscle car parked, but we can only see about 2/3 of the car. (We’ll see if this car being in the panel was warranted soon enough, I assume. If it isn’t a major prop in the scene, it honestly has no place being in the shot. I’ll be watching for it.)

Part of the benefit of an establishing shot in your first panel is the broad scope it presents of the setting, the big picture of the locale. However, what it doesn’t do is allow much in the way of seeing the little things, like facial expressions. Almost scowling and somewhat nervous are very slight expressions that would require a closer look to notice. It would be hard for the artist to convey these details effectively given the distance of the camera from the characters in the shot. Something to consider.

VIRGIL: Change?

Panel 2: Virgil is  holding out his cup to Darryl as he approaches. Darryl has a serious look on his face but is looking straight ahead.

VIRGIL:  Spare a dollar? Help a guy put  food in his stom-? (The industry uses double dashes instead of single dashes in circumstances such as your cut off word or dialogue that is interrupted. Get used to it as it shows your knowledge of the rules of scriptwriting.)

DARRYL: Get a job.

Panel 3: A side view of Darryl. He’s walked by Virgil without even looking at him. Virgil to the left of the panel and is looking over at him in shock.

DARRYL: Goddamned bum. (It could work either way. The correction is correct, but when said aloud, it sounds like the way it was originally. You have to make a conscious effort to make the suffix before you make the consonant of the next word. They don’t flow together easily.)

NO TEXT (I’m not understanding why you put NO TEXT here as you obviously have text in this panel. Take this out.)

Panel 4: An angled view from over Virgil’s shoulder. He is watching Darryl walk into the apartment building. (Is this the same apartment building Virgil is standing in front of? How close is Virgil to the doorway, given Panel 1 states that the entrance to the building is centered in the shot and Virgil is standing next to it? With this being the case, I’m not seeing this shot from over Virgil’s shoulder working as it would mean that he has turned to look into the building that Darryl has just entered, which is fine, but not what is described. Think about the whole of the page when figuring out the staging of your elements and maintain a consistency.)(It sounds like I’m defending. I know. I’ve seen a lot of apartment complexes in my time, and they come in a variety of shapes. The breakdown is the fact that you don’t say where this city is, Jon. LA is different from NYC is different from Chicago. You say where, and the artist will be able to deliver a better look. You do that on P1, and this will come off better.)


Panel 5: A close-up of Virgil, now grinning evily. (You say a close-up of Virgil , but don’t specify that it’s his face. The addition of that one word to read Virgil’s face makes the description clearer.)

VIRGIL: You’re perfect.

I’m really liking this first page. You’ve done a great job in my opinion of moving things along at a good pace, establishing the characters in the story, and providing the reader with a hook that piques our curiosity as to just what Virgil means by You’re perfect. The way the facial expression is described really helps develop that sense of curiosity as, if you had just had Virgil turn away or give a Humph! kind of physical reaction, it would have completely changed the meaning of the dialogue, reading more like Wow. You’re perfect. At least you think you are. You’ve moved away from disdain and have made us wonder what Virgil has planned for poor Darryl. Nice work.

We’ve got P1 on the books!

Despite the amount of blue on the page, there isn’t much wrong here.

Basically, it’s about some missing information from the establishing shot. Giving us a few more details here and there, and this would be fine.

This is a good opening page. Like Steve said, it does what it needs to do, and it intrigues the reader. I know that I want to know more.

[Page 2][6 Panels]

Panel 1: A side view of Darryl standing in the apartment hallway at his door. He is standing The doors and walls are a light-greenish blue ( The carpet is a dull, faded red. The overhead lights don’t have a cover and we can see the light bulbs. He is standing at his door with envelopes in one hand (This description is a bit confusing with needlessly repeated information. Darryl is standing in the hallway of the apartment at his door. He is standing. He is standing at his door with envelopes in one hand. Why did you repeat this information? Simply put, you could have easily written that Darryl is standing in the hallway just outside his apartment door with envelopes in one hand. Now, here are a couple of things to consider: First, I have to assume that he stopped and got his mail as he entered the building, but there was nothing in the previous page that would suggest that, so the reader may wonder why he wasn’t carrying these envelopes as he entered the building. It’s leaving a question as opposed to making it clear. In other words, he should be shown at some point from A to B that he has stopped by his mailbox and grabbed his mail. The second thing is you don’t have him reaching for his door handle, which would have made his entrance into his apartment imminent, where he could have avoided the verbal exchange he is obviously trying to avoid below. It’s the little details that make the difference.)

DARRYL: Home sweet- (Again, double dash.)

GLORIA (op): Darryl?

DARRYL 2 (What is with the 2 here? Take it out.) (muttered): Shit.

What you have here is two panels instead of one if you look at all three lines of dialogue. I can see you having the Home sweet home and Gloria calling out Darryl’s name in the first panel, but you would need to move Shit to another panel if you wanted to keep the first line. What that first line is doing is establishing the mood of the character, which seems relieved or happy to be home. What the third line does is completely change the mood of that character, from relief to dread or disgust. You can’t have both represented in the same image. Let’s say you were to take away that first line and just went straight for Darryl? and Shit . It wouldn’t work as well because he needs to show a dramatic change in his attitude based on her presence. In other words, you need that first line in order to establish that change. That said, Home sweet home is pretty weak. It also completely contradicts what happened on the first page for me. He is moody or tired even before he encounters Virgil, which comes across as an aggressive response when approached. If you’re trying to show Darryl as a prick, start him off happy or cocky as he walks down the street, snaps sarcastically at Virgil when approached, and then goes back to being happy as he prepares to enter his domicile, which leads to his change in attitude with Gloria. Now, one other problem with this panel description is you never describe Darryl’s mood. You simply describe it as he’s standing with envelopes in his hand. Show us his mood. That will make the reaction to Gloria all the more real. (Okay, now for some real dissent. You can be a prick, tired, and still say home sweet home. You’re just tired when you say it. It happens. I say it all the time. Either that, or jiggity jig. The mood doesn’t change. However, what’s correct is that there’s no facial expression here. This is something that I constantly harp on with Jon. The character can say just about anything at first, as long as the very last thing they say matches their facial expression. So as long as that matches, there’s also the possibility that the reader will also assign a particular voice to what was said first. Also, the third line of dialogue doesn’t necessarily need to be moved…as long as the facial expression matches.)

Panel 2: A view from Darryl’s POV of Gloria standing at her door, across the hallway, holding a dinner plate. She is looking at him nervously.

DARRYL (op): Hey, Gloria.

GLORIA: I didn’t know if you’d eaten. I had some extra left over (Missing comma) so I made you a plate.

DARRYL 2 (Take out the 2) (op): I’m pretty tired. (This line needs to be spruced up. Here are three examples that create completely different reactions. The first, Y’know, I’m pretty tired , shows his lack of desire to deal with Gloria right now. The second, Y’know what? I’m pretty tired , is aggressive and impatient. The third, I’m pretty tired, actually , is more passive. Play around with a variety of ways of saying the same thing differently. Your characters will be stronger for it.)

Panel 3: A medium side view of Gloria standing in the open doorway. She’s looking away while biting her lip nervously and holding the plate out in front of her.

DARRYL (op): I’m just going to knock out. (This dialogue and his subsequent closing of the door, basically in her face, tells me that the Y’know what? I’m pretty tired would be the most appropriate for this scene.)

GLORIA: Well, you could always refrig-. (I understand why you used a dash [which should be a double dash] to interrupt her speech, but I don’t understand why you put a period after it. Typo?)(Her dialogue doesn’t match the panel description.)

Panel 4: A view of Darryl’s door. It’s now closed.

SFX: Click.

GLORIA (op): Or not. (I’d take this out. Let her be hurt, not insulted. The way you have her speaking to Darryl shows me she has feelings for him, but the feeling isn’t reciprocated. As a matter of fact, it seems like a marriage going bad. She’s sheepish and he’s aggressive or dismissive. Use that to establish a bad relationship.)(Her last line of dialogue works better down here. She starts talking, then the double-dash, and then the sound effect. It’s then up to you as to whether or not to leave this line. Cutting it makes it more powerful, though.)

Panel 5: A view of Gloria’s apartment door about to close. Gloria is inside of her apartment.


Panel 6: Angle on same. Virgil is now standing in front of Gloria’s door and he is facing the reader with a deranged smile. Almost as if he came out of nowhere. ( Deranged to me means psychotic, which I think may be too strong for your story as I’ve read thus far. My other problem is the whole coming-out-of-nowhere thing. If you wanted to show him coming out of nowhere, pull back your camera to show the empty hallway once both doors are closed and then have the same shot with his sudden appearance. Otherwise, you’re giving him time to walk into the scene by not having him visible, allowing the reader to assume he’s been walking through the hall since Darryl closed his door.)(Hm. I get the intent, but the problem isn’t with this panel. The problem is with the previous panel. In order to get this panel to work properly, we need to pull out to see more of the door. Actually, we need to get a medium view of her standing in the door, talking to Darryl. This way, when we see her going back inside, closing the door in panel 5, we’ve already established that view. This gives us the teleportation of Virgil in this panel, because we would have seen that he didn’t come from off-panel from either the left or the right.)

SFX: Click.

NO TEXT (Again, there is text, that being the sound effect above. Don’t write this when another form of text is present in the panel.)

P2, and we start to have some problems.

The major problem is the same thing I harp on over and over again with Jon’s scripts: the lack of character facial expressions. Do they need to be there all the time? No, not at all. But when you’re just establishing moods, or changing moods, then yes, they need to be there.

The really important thing is that the character expression should match the last thing said in the panel. What you’re doing, really, is playing with the reader’s sense of time. Here’s what happens:

Panel 1: She-Hulk is standing on the street, wearing a sundress, large floppy hat, and shades. She’s smiling, with one arm raised to hail a passing cab. Mercedes can be seen in the background, wearing a skirt suit, arms crossed, a dark look on her face.

Mercedes: Jen, you need to take this seriously! You could be disbarred! You could–

She-Hulk: Mercedes, the only thing I really need to do right now is find some sand. I was on vacation as of twenty minutes ago, remember?

She-Hulk: Taxi!

What I did there was play with the reader’s sense of time. That whole conversation was seen as taking place, and the hailing of the cab was seen as the natural end of that panel.

Now, here it is again, with slightly different dialogue:

Panel 1: She-Hulk is standing on the street, wearing a sundress, large floppy hat, and shades. She’s smiling, with one arm raised to hail a passing cab. Mercedes can be seen in the background, wearing a skirt suit, arms crossed, a dark look on her face.

Mercedes: Jen, you need to take this seriously! You could be disbarred! You could–

She-Hulk: Mercedes, the only thing I really need to do right now is find some sand. I was on vacation–

She-Hulk: Stop, theif!

Now, since the panel description no longer matches the last thing said, what happened to you as a reader? You were thrown completely out of the story, wondering what the hell happened. Not fun, is it? It also does its best to invalidate everything said within that panel. Why? Because you’re trying hard to reconcile what you’re seeing to what’s being said. Yes, you want readers to think, but they shouldn’t have to be thinking about what is and is not valid. They shouldn’t have to work so hard to connect the dots in your story. That’s your job, and the job of the editor.

When it comes to numbering of the dialogue, I’m going to call it a half-assed job. Here’s the reason why:

Generally, numbering the dialogue is used so that the editor and the letterer know how many dialogue elements are on the page. All the word balloons, thought balloons, captions, and sound effects get numbered on a per-page basis, and then you start all over again on the next page. (This is why comic book scriptwriting programs fail so far: if you’re going to number the dialogue, using something like smarttype, which fills in the character’s name, can’t be used because things change on a per-panel basis, let alone per-page.)

Why is it half-assed? Because you don’t number the first time they speak, but the second time, as long as it is in the same panel. You’re better off leaving it out, unless you want to go all-in. Totally up to you. The good news about it, though, is that you’re consistent with it. I can definitely live with that.

I also liked the fact that you got both names in there extremely organically. It’s P2, and there is no question as to who these two characters are. Good work.

[Page 3][5 Panels]

Panel 1: A view of Darryl at the door. (Inside the apartment, right? Say so.) He has removed his coat and is hanging it on a hook by the door. (How is he hanging it? Calmly, haphazzardly, throwing it on the hook? Have his actions reflect his mood.) His house keys are on a smaller hook next to it. (Is this really important? It’s such a small action and prop that, unless it has significance, I’d suggest getting rid of it.)

DARRYL (muttering): She’s like a goddamned puppy…

Panel 2: Pull back to show Darryl’s apartment. In the foreground, there is a couch with a small wastebasket on the right side. There is also a small table with a lamp on the left side. There is also a small coffee table in front of the couch. The walls are white and the carpet is a light beige. (Are these color choices paramount to the story?)(Harping on the color choice is unnecessary. If it is or isn’t, it isn’t doing much of anything to damage the integrity of the panel description.)At the far right of the panel, there is a door to his bedroom. Darryl is in the background, looking at the envelopes in his hand and walking toward the couch. (This panel description confused me a bit. The reason is the single sentences for each detail. There’s a wastebasket. There’s a small table with a lamp. There’s a small coffee table [the fact that it’s in front of the sofa is redundant as that’s where it should be, right?]. There’s a bedroom door. Bring it all together. It won’t be a run-on sentence. By the way, is that all there is in the room? Now, here’s another problem: Darryl is in the background walking towards the couch, so how can we see the coffee table? It’s being blocked by the back of the couch, right? What you could do here is have a high angle shot of the room. That would allow you to show all the decorative details and still show what Darryl is doing. I assume he’s looking down at the mail in his hand, so you wouldn’t have to worry about seeing his facial expression.)

DARRYL: Let’s see. Bill, bill, bill…

Panel 3: A close-up of Darryl’s hand dropping two unopened envelopes into the wastebasket. (Here’s where detail is important. Are these bills, or are these letters? I’m getting that these are letters, but here is where you should have put exactly what they are, so the artist or the letterer knows to put these in actual handwriting showing some sort of address, and not just have it be random blank envelopes and we get told what they are.)

DARRYL: Letters from Mom and Pam.

Panel 4: A view of Darryl, who has just dropped down on to his couch. The rest of the envelopes are on the couch next to him. He has his head tilted back and is looking at the ceiling. (This would work as a high angle as well, so you’d have to choose which would suit the technique better, Panel 2 or Panel 4.)

DARRYL: sigh. (Separate balloons. Let the sigh work on it’s own. And by the way, why is the s in sigh in lower case?) Why can’t they take a hint?

DARRYL 2 (Take out the 2) : I just want to be alone.

This sounds whiny and out of character. He’s shown that he’s aggressive, moody, and sarcastic. This doesn’t fit. Change up this dialogue, both lines, to have him appear angrier, impatient with others, and just generally give him a Get outta my f’n face attitude. That’s what seems to be interesting to Virgil anyway, from the way I’m reading it.

Panel 5: A close-up of Darryl with a wide-eyed look of shock on his face.

VIRGIL: Really? Well… (I’m assuming that this is coming from off panel, correct? It doesn’t say that, but it is a close up of the non-speaker.)

The one thing that is standing out for me the most in your script is the lack of acting on the part of your characters. Where are details on posture, body language, and facial expression, especially coming from Darryl? The best example of what you did right in this regard is the following: A medium side view of Gloria standing in the open doorway. She’s looking away while biting her lip nervously and holding the plate out in front of her. THAT’S the way you should be treating ALL of your characters. You need to provide this to your artist. Showing nervousness? That’s something that, even though basic direction, can be imagined and worked from, but when you’re lacking any form of expression, that’s where you’ll either end up with flat characters with no life or having artists assuming direction that may not be accurate or appropriate to the story. Put the best work in and you’ll pull their best work out.

By the way, your page-ending hooks are pretty good at carrying the reader forward in the story. Nice.

P3, and again, it’s more of the same things I always seem to cover with Jon.

If it isn’t facial expressions, it’s acting. If it isn’t acting, it’s necessary details. Well, these are all necessary details, to be honest. I can say that you’ve gotten a lot better, but it still needs work.

Personally, I think you’re choosing the wrong battles to fight, Jon. The car on P1? Sure, it’s nice to have, but did it need to be in the panel description? The car keys being on the peg here? Again, another nice to have, but is it necessary? You put in little, unnecessary details (wastebasket), but forget the important stuff (addresses on envelopes, characters acting). You’ve been doing this long enough now where you shouldn’t be forgetting stuff like this.

These are newbie mistakes, and you’re no longer in that category.

Yes, I’m basically telling you to pay attention to what you’re doing.

[Page 4][6 Panels]

Panel 1: A side view of Virgil and Darryl. Virgil crouched on the coffee table in front of Darryl (When you say crouched , you mean his feet are on the table and he’s basically in catcher stance as in baseball, right? This isn’t clear.) and looking at him with a deranged smile. (See, here the deranged smile works because he’s actually looking at his victim and trying to incite a specific response from Darryl. Just make sure to involve his entire facial features and not just his mouth.) His face has little lines and cracks in it and his skin looks significantly grayer. Darryl is leaning back and looking at Virgil in and shouting in fear. He has his hands pressed against the couch.

VIRGIL: Maybe I can help with that.


Okay, I’m having a problem with this panel. What you’ve done is basically repeat Darryl’s reaction from the last panel of the previous page, so what you’re getting is a sudden shocked response there and the same type of response here. This doesn’t seem like a continuation of his shock from the previous page, which it should be.

Panel 2: A head-on shot of Virgil, now standing on the coffee table. He’s looking past Darryl at the rest of the apartment. (I’m assuming that he was already on the table and just stood up here, but because I wasn’t sure of this fact in the previous panel, it’s up in the air. I have to ask, though: Is the camera behind Virgil and he’s in the foreground looking at the background and peripheral surroundings or is he in the background looking in our direction? Saying it’s a head-on shot isn’t defining this, so you need to be more specific. Also, is Darryl in the shot, given Virgil is now standing and much higher than Darryl, who is still sunken into the cushions of the couch? If he is, this would mean a tall panel would be in order. Otherwise, you’d have a high angle looking downwards instead of straight ahead. Which would be the focus or main purpose for the image, to show the setting or to show Darryl’s reaction to the comment? Hmmm…)

VIRGIL: Nice place you’ve got here.

DARRYL (op): Hey! (So Darryl quickly went from being in fear to snapping back based on Virgil’s comment. That’s fast. He’s basically saying to himself, I’m petrified of you, but you just made a comment about how nice my place is, so them’s fightin’ words! Doesn’t make sense when you put it like that, does it?)(I’m not getting that sense here. I do agree, though, that this really isn’t the word you want here, Jon. I’d go for more of a stuttering how or what, instead.)

Panel 3: A downward view of Virgil looking down at Darryl who is now standing. (See, this isn’t the time to use a high angle, but rather a low angle shot from behind Darryl. He’s not only standing up now, but is more importantly standing up to this stranger in his apartment, so play up to that fact.)(A low angle shot from behind Darryl puts the camera behind the couch… But, the real question is: what is he doing as he stands?)

DARRYL: How did you- (Double dash here.)

DARRYL 2: Get out of here now!

Here’s where the dialogue is becoming less natural. This is where role playing the scenario with someone would garner a more realistic reaction, preferably someone who can put themselves in the shoes of the characters. You see, here you have the bully in Darryl being bullied by Virgil, and Darryl isn’t going to let that happen. So what is he going to do? What the dialogue isn’t doing is keeping with the character of the character, so make sure his aggressiveness and sarcasm comes out. This currently isn’t working.

Panel 4: A close-up of VIRGIL looking down and smirking.

VIRGIL: Oh, I’m not going anywhere.

Panel 5: A view of Darryl, who has turned to run away.

DARRYL: Then I’m calling the- (Double dash here.)

Okay, so here you have Darryl running away, seemingly in fear as the term running away denotes a need for escape. Is this honestly what Darryl would do? On top of that, the dialogue attached to this action is passive. He’s gone from being a bully to a wussy, doing a complete 180 ° turn on who he is as a person. If you don’t leave, I’m gonna tell my mommy! This isn’t Darryl. (A guy whom he left standing on the sidewalk outside his home, is now standing inside his home, on his coffee table, looking deranged and sick (gray pallor), and you’re expecting someone to go toe-to-toe with him? Isn’t this the ridiculousness we yell at the screen for when we see it in the movies?)

Panel 6: A side view of Darryl bumping into an invisible wall. (If he’s running away, would he be bumping into the invisible wall or smashing into it?)(And where is the wall? How far did he get? And when is this happening? It’s 2013 now. How many people without kids still have house phones?)

SFX: Thunk!

VIRGIL (op): And neither are you. (Here’s the problem with the order of this verbal exchange: Because you put a wedge of dialogue between the lines Oh, I’m not going anywhere and And neither are you , the flow and power of what’s said is compromised. It doesn’t have the same sense of menace when you divide what should be one smooth phrase. If you take out Darryl’s line and add ellipsis marks to the end of the first part of Virgil’s comment and to the beginning of the second part, making one sentence instead of two, it adds to the strength of the words and how they’re said.)

P4, and we’ve got some non-acting. That’s the worst thing about this page, really. The non-acting.

Time to grow up, Jon. You know what to do, and you’ve heard me harp on it over and over again for you to do it. So, it’s time to start putting it more into action.

I’m going to bring up Liam Hayes again. When we first started, he over-used a phrase for his camera angles, and he used simple sentences. I told him to use a different phrase, and to start combining sentences so that the panel descriptions were a more interesting read. He did so, and now, his scripts are that much better and need much less work on the part of an editor to get through. He grew up.

Time for you to do the same.

I have no problem with the characterization here. I think your character is acting sensibly. Remember, I enjoy bad movies, so I’ve seen a ton of them, and in those bad movies, we have the tough guy who won’t back down from someone whom he knows he can’t beat. I find that to be unrealistic. You just saw the over-muscled alien rip your friend in half, after walking through a brick wall, face first. Are you going to turn tail and run, or are you going to go and try to hit him upside the head with that small lead pipe? Discretion is the better part of valor in those situations, and having Darryl trying to escape seemed extremely sensible to me.

[Page 5][4 Panels]

Panel 1: Virgil is stepping down from the table while Darryl is pushing against the invisible wall in front of him with one hand and a second wall behind him. (Where did this second wall suddenly come from? Because you didn’t introduce it properly, either on the previous page or at the start of this one, it raises a big question mark in the reader’s mind that interrupts the flow of their reading experience. It takes them out of the story. Be sure to properly introduce story elements so as not to raise a stop sign in your reader’s face.)

DARRYL: How the hell are you doing this? (Is this the right question for Darryl to be asking, or would What the HELL is going on?! be more appropriate? I believe the latter serves the story and the character better, while maintaining the use of the word hell to keep what follows pertinent.)(Very good call here. This is not the question that he should be asking, at all.)

VIRGIL: Interesting choice of words. (Use ellipsis marks here to connect to the next line of dialogue.)

Panel 2: A view of Virgil’s skin hanging halfway off on one side of his face to reveal a black and red skinned demon with yellow eyes. He is looking at the reader with a large grin. (Why is Virgil’s skin suddenly hanging? How did this happen? This is the second time on this page that you’ve introduced a story element without explaining or showing how it got there. Not good, my friend. And by the way, how far away is your camera from Virgil?)

VIRGIL: (Here again, use the ellipsis to continue what’s being said from the previous line. It works better as one sentence instead of two.) Considering the circumstances.

DARRYL (op): Ahhh! (Weak. Could he have screamed Help! or something. This repeated use of Ahhh! [which should actually be written as AAAAH! , as the other way makes it sound satisfying instead of fearful, like drinking a good cup of coffee] is reminding me of a scene from MONSTERS VS. ALIENS, where the General is in conference with the military and political leaders talking about ways to attack the giant robot. Each time he introduces something, a massive scream comes from one of the women and, ultimately, from the President himself. I laughed my butt off in that scene. This, however, is not nearly as effective.) (Personally, I’d cut the scream altogether. What’s he screaming at? The revelation of a demon, or the fact that he’s about to be crushed by two invisible walls? If he’s going to scream, he should be screaming some words (I don’t think help is the right choice here), or he should be in the panel screaming because of the face-sagging. And if the latter, it should be more powerful than what you have here.)

Panel 3: A side view of Darryl, who has turned to run and just run into another wall. (No. He was just being crushed, remember? And this is a moving panel. He has to run first, before running into another wall. And in order to do that, he has to stop pressing against the other two first.)


VIRGIL: And for the record, this is your doing.

Panel 4: A view of Virgil sitting on the coffee table and smiling. (How he is sitting denotes his character. Is he cross-legged, for example? That would be a good way of showing how playful he is with his human plaything.)

VIRGIL: And I couldn’t be happier.

This is losing strength and momentum really fast, Jon. I’ve lost interest in the story and, more importantly, in the characters who live in it. Though you had a good first page, it’s been going downhill ever since. I’m going to stop here, but wanted to congradulate you on the strides you’ve made as a storyteller since your submission of the first version of this story back in our TPG Week 106. You’re getting better.

One thing I noticed through reading the balance of the script just now is that you never name Virgil in the dialogue, and yet establish his name as such as dialogue reference. I realize you probably didn’t want to write DEMON as speaker, but assigning a specific name vs. a designation such as HOMELESS MAN or BEGGAR leads to the expectation of the character actually being named in the story.

One of the weakest aspects of the story for me was the way Darryl went from aggressive to fearful to defiant to weak in the span of just a few pages. What made it worse was the lack of mitigating factors that lead to these changes in personality. Virgil didn’t say or do anything overtly terrorizing or suggestive to warrant these changes in behavior. Here’s an example from someone close to me who tried to scare a friend and failed miserably:

Sarah had a really bad case of hiccups and it seemed like nothing could stop them. She tried wives’ tale after wives’ tale, but they just seemed to gain in strength and frequency. It was hopeless. Enter Amanda and Maggie . While Maggie and Sarah tried to come up with ways to get rid of these damned hiccups, Amanda was scheming a plan to scare the hiccups out of her friend. She braced herself for the perfect time to act. Sarah casually turned to Amanda, who quickly screamed out SCARE!! Sarah and Maggie burst out in fits of laughter, while Amanda wondered what had just happened. That isn’t what I meant to do! , Amanda said, embarrassed. She did, however, cure her friend of her hiccups.

This is what you’ve done in this story, but instead of bursting out in laughter, I’m left scratching my head. You can do better and I know it.

Here’s looking forward to another script from you. Hopefully it will be my turn at bat when that time comes.

Let’s just run it down.


Format: Flawless Victory!

Panel Descriptions: Here is where you need to grow up. Pick your battles as to what is and is not important. Your characters need to do two things: they need to act, and they need to be emotive. They need to do these two things much more often than you have them doing. You need to put in the necessary, important details in the panel descriptions. You’ve been doing this long enough for you to know what those things are. Time for you to start doing them.


Pacing: I had no problems with the pace of what happened here. You got things moving along at a decent clip, without moving too slowly or too fast. You’ve kept reader interest. Sure, a couple of bits of dialogue could be moved around a bit, but I’ve got no real problem with the pace. Nicely done.


Dialogue: Pretty readable. I could see these conversations, for the most part. Only a couple of things to change here and there, but that’s what the editor is for. To help with clarity and voice.


Content: I don’t know if this is something I’d pick up and read. You’ve done all the right things, though, Jon: you’ve got the reader asking the right questions of the story. What’s going on? What’s that homeless man talking about? How did he appear like that? What does he want with Darryl? Why does Darryl want to be left alone? Good questions that the reader should be asking, instead of bad ones such as why the hell am I still reading this?


Editorially, it’s a nudge here and there. Again, it’s time for you to help yourself, so that the editor can concentrate on things such as story and character. This means making yourself a checklist of the things that get harped on the most, and making sure you either include or delete those elements in the script before handing it in. Making mistakes is a good thing. I love mistakes. I want you to make them. However, I want you to make different mistakes. If it’s the same thing over and over again, it means one of two things: either you don’t care, or I’m not bringing it up enough. Since I know I bring it up on every script you send, I know it isn’t me. Does it then mean that you don’t care? I don’t think so.


Like I said, time to grow up. Newbie mistakes aren’t going to cut it anymore.


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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