TPG Week 143: Preserve The Mystery

| September 20, 2013


Welcome one and all to The Proving Grounds! This week, we’ve got Brave One Frank Martin, who hails from somewhere on the east coast (New York, I believe, but I could be mistaken). This week, we’ve got Samantha LeBas looking regal in purple, I’m always stunning in red, and let’s see what Frank does with






Panel 1. Black, military-like boots walking through high, jungle grass. (I’ve got problems already. I don’t know what the camera angle is, although I could take a guess. However, I hate guessing, and is it necessary? Not really. There’s room for artistic leeway there. The main problem I have are the lack of a time of day.)


JOSH (Off panel in front of the boots)

I’ll leave. I’ll go home.


Panel 2. A close-up of a black glove holding up a handgun with the jungle trees behind it.


JOSH (Off panel in front of the hand)

I won’t come back. I promise.


Panel 3. Josh, an eighteen-year-old boy with brown hair dressed in a white, red and gold ripped and tattered superhero costume(This could go in a character doc, if you don’t have a a document with a more in depth description, you need to flesh this out somewhere. Again this is not the place for a long description of Josh, but it’s a fairly minimal amount of information. He could look like anything here.), lies bloody and beaten in the high, jungle grass. Blood drips from his noise and shoulder, and his left eye is swollen.



Please I didn’t know. Is he saying this out loud, now? To whom?


Panel 4. Close up of Josh’s battered face.



I I just wanted to be strong.


Panel 5. An overhead view of the jungle trees from high above the ground.






Who knows what quantum mechanics is?


This is an interesting opening. Though I am not sure if you are referencing dialogue that occurred at some other time, showing the character’s thoughts or if the character is actually speaking. It sets up a mystery, which is never a bad thing. It’s a little unclear that the boots and the gloved hands do not belong to Josh. You might want to have one panel that shows Josh looking up at the assailant (while still concealing his identity).

We’ve got P1 on the books. Doesn’t everyone feel better now?

There are some problems, mostly with setup.

The panel descriptions aren’t clear. That’s the biggest thing here. Follow my train of thought: the boots are said to be walking, and then there’s a gun being held up (which we’ll come back to), and then there’s a guy lying in the grass, beaten and bloody. The descriptions then make it seem like it was Josh that was walking, instead of the one about to be killed. Confusion.

What would have been better is to set the expectation up a bit better. The Josh’s dialogue should have been off panel, because the way it sounds now, his dialogue is coming from the wearer of the boots. You can also talk to the artist, which is something I think I would have done. Hey, Graeme, here’s what I’m seeing for this panel: a pair of black, military-like boots in high grass during the day. We don’t see who’s wearing them, and we get the sense that he’s been circling Josh, who’s lying on the ground but unseen. Maybe have a bit of a path behind the boots? Also, there may be a few drops or smears of blood on them, from where the boots have kicked Josh in the face.

That gets the scene across a bit better, getting the feeling across, and makes no mistake for the letterer that this dialogue will be coming from Josh and not the wearer of the boots.

I know I harp on using the fewest words possible, but that is a secondary thing. The first is to make sure the panel description is clear. If there’s no clarity, you’ve already lost. This page could have been clearer. I think talking to the artist would work better here than just a static set of instructions.

Now, the gun being held up.

Let’s talk about guns for a bit.

Guns are the modern day slingshot. They are weapons, used to kill things. Now, there are a few positions to hold a gun. The first position is the safe position that you have here, with the barrel pointed to the sky. Why is this safe? Because you won’t accidentally shoot someone in that position. It is more difficult to pull the gun down into a firing position. It takes a longer time.

The second position is the ready position. Here, the arms are straight, and the gun is generally pointed down. However, it’s easier to bring the arms up to a firing position. It’s a much smoother action than bringing a gun down from the safe position.

The final position is the firing position. Arms are straight out ahead, barrel aimed at the target, sight alignment and sight picture working in concert to put the bullet on target.

If you watch any half-decent cop show/movie, you’ll see all three of these positions. You see them over and over again because they work. (There’s a lot of history and theory behind these positions that are beyond the scope of this column, but if you’re interested, the information is out there for you.)

This is a long-winded way to say I have a problem with the gun being held in what I’m seeing in my mind’s eye as the safe position. It just doesn’t seem like it would be practical. More practical, more authentic, would be for the gun to be held in a very casual ready position. The wielder knows he’s going to use it, and knows there isn’t anyone else in the area who may get shot, so holding it pointed in a ready position makes more sense to me.

I do like the setup of the mystery, though. I think it works well to intrigue the reader and get them turning the page. I also like that we don’t see where the shot went. It gives us finality while letting our imaginations do the work, but it also leaves us an out because we don’t actually see the person die on screen.

I like it.


(I suggest adding an editorial caption that lets readers know how long ago this was.)


Panel 1: In a classroom, Josh, now unharmed wearing typical teenager clothing, sleeps on his desk with several kids behind him. Drool flows out of the boy’s mouth and onto his hand. (How old are the ‘kids?’ Are the kids all male, or is this is a coed class? Where is the sleeping kid? Are the other kids sitting in desks?)


PLANK (Off panel in front of class)

Anybody? Does anybody know the definition?


Panel 2. Repeat of panel 1.


PLANK (Off panel in front of class)

It was in last night’s reading, so(comma) somebody should have a vague clue as to what I’m talking about. Ms. Matson, perhaps you can enlighten us? ( I would call the character, Jane Matson, by her full name the first time you mention her in a panel description, especially since you refer to her by last name only here. Just make everything as clear as possible for your collaborators.)(I wouldn’t do this. This is a classroom, and I’ve had plenty of teachers call me Mr. Forbes. Calling me by my first and last name would not sound natural. First name, last name, but not both. Not here. Now, I understand wanting to get the character’s name in as soon as possible, but this isn’t the best way to go about it.)


Panel 3. Camera in same position as previous two panels. Josh, with his eyes still closed, lifts his head a little of his desk and wipes the drool from his face. (So, Josh is sleeping? You need to make that clear in the previous panels. As that first panel is written now, it could be a classmate of Josh’s who is sleeping on the desk.) (I don’t see that. I’m seeing Josh sleeping on his desk. If there’s any confusion, it would be in that it seems that Josh and several other students are sleeping on the same desk. Some small lack of clarity there, but it’s firmly established that Josh is sleeping on his desk.)


JANE (Off panel to the side of Josh)

It’s the study of small stuff, right? Like molecules and atoms.(If Jane needs to be in this scene, you have to mention that in the establishing shot, so the artist will include her, and know where she should be placed.)


PLANK (Off panel in front of class)

It’s a little more complicated then that, but yes. It’s the study of small stuff.


Panel 4. Josh is still sleeping on his desk. To his side, JANE, eighteen year old with short blonde hair, looks over at him from the desk next to his.(Again this is a very minimal description, this should be expanded and included in a character document. How is this shot set up? What can we see in the background?) (A decent establishing shot would fix the what do we see in the background question. But, since one is never done, the question is valid.)


JANE (whisper)

Psst. Josh, wake up.


PLANK (Off panel in front of class)

But there are many problems with the study. In fact, Albert Einstein is known for rejecting many claims made by quantum mechanics.(Einstein is not ‘known for’ this. He may be ‘known to have rejected claims,’ or ‘famously rejected claims,’ but that is not his claim to fame.)


Panel 5. Jane leans closer to Josh into the space between their chairs while keeping her eyes on the front of the room.(Close up?)


JANE (whisper)

Josh, you’re drooling everywhere. (Hm. Here’s the thing: in order for us to see that he’s drooling, he has to be facing the camera. In order for us to see her face, she has to be facing the camera. In order for her to be to the side of him—either side—his back has to be to her. This means she can’t see he’s drooling.)


PLANK (Off panel in front of class)

Einstein was a determinist. He believed that everything happens as a consequence of a sequence of ordered events.


JANE (whisper)

Mr. Plank is gonna have a fit. Get up.


PLANK (off panel in front of class)

But quantum mechanics allows for probability.(change period to comma)Allows for chance.


Panel 6. View from the back of the room. Mr. Plank has his back to the class in the middle of writing Quantum Mechanics on the board. A kid at the back gets ready to fly a paper plane to a kid on the opposite side. From the middle of the grid of desks, Jane is leaning over in the middle of the rows.



Many theorists have tried to explain the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics. Can anyone tell me one such theory?


This is a little slow. I assume you are building to a conflict between Plank and Josh, that’s good. However, you need to wake your main character up, so he can engage with the other characters and the reader.

So, we’re now on P2.

Slow? I wouldn’t call it slow. We have the mystery of Josh being killed on P1, and now he’s alive and drooling on P2. Questions the reader should unconsciously be asking themselves are along the lines of what happened, and was that a dream? I think there was enough momentum from P1 to carry this page.

The questions to be asked about the page itself are different than the ones the reader is going to ask. The first question is simple: do they teach quantum mechanics in high school? Sure, high school was many moons ago for me, but my daughter just started college, and I don’t remember her having quantum theory as part of her curriculum. Then again, it could just be the region. Usually, as soon as one thinks of quantum mechanics, they think of advanced courses. Is this an advanced course? Dunno.

The lack of camera movement isn’t much of a problem. I understand where the focus is supposed to be. But here’s the thing: for a teacher, standing up in front of a class, they’re going to notice one person’s head down. It sticks out. That is going to be doubly true when they call on the person sitting next to the person who’s head is down. That’s how things work.

You changed the setting, but didn’t give a real establishing shot anywhere on the page. That’s not good. Every time you change a location, you have to do an establishing shot, and you should do it as soon as possible. Here, that would have been panel 4.

Now, the dialogue. I understand the role of the teacher. He’s giving the reader information that they might not have otherwise had. He’s getting everyone up to speed and on the same page. The question to ask, though, is is this the most effective way? I don’t know. I’m on the fence. It’s revealing character while moving the plot along, giving information to the reader, but is it the most effective way? Would the explanation of quantum mechanics be better served coming at a different time, and from someone else? Are you going to blow your load on part of a mystery on the next page?

I think that the information is coming too fast. This page is a set-up for a revelation for the reader, if not the character. I think it should come later in the story.



Panel 1. View of Mr. Plank’s back as he writes MWI underneath Quantum Mechanics on the blackboard.



Come on, people. They were all in the reading. Here, I’ll give you a hint.


Panel 2. View from the front of the room with Mr. Plank’s back to the camera facing the class. Jane is leaning over slightly in between the row of chairs and Josh is clearly sleeping on his desk.(Why aren’t we seeing Plank? It seems like this would be more dynamic if we could at least see the person talking. Are you holding out for a reveal?)



MWI ? Ring any bells


Panel 3. Close-up of Mr. Plank’s old wrinkled face with his mouth open as he screams.



.MR. EVERETT!?!?(You don’t show Plank reacting Josh sleeping. Might he call on him first, and yell when he doesn’t respond? Again, include his full name the first time in panel description, make every effort to eliminate confusion. Confusion is the enemy. And, no, no reveal.)


Panel 4. Josh shoots up off his desk with drool still hanging from his mouth and an imprint of his hand on his face.(Does he jump to his feet, or does he sit up quickly? Not clear here. Where is the camera? Can we see anyone else in this panel?) (Reaching a bit here, methinks. Here’s my line of reasoning: if you’re asleep in a place where you know you’re not supposed to be, you’re going to do whatever it takes to blend in. When caught, you return to the position that you were supposed to be in. I don’t think anyone who’s ever been asleep in school would jump to their feet when woken. Not unless they had reason to do so, such as a terrible dream. [Now, I want to watch the original Nightmare on Elm Street.] Anyway, I think it’s safe to say that he is sitting up, and not standing.)



What? It wasn’t me!(Suggest changing ‘What?’ to something more mumbly. Consider: ‘Huh,’ or ‘Whaaa..’)


Panel 5. View from Mr. Plank’s back as he walks through the rows of chairs towards Josh. The rest of the students are looking at Josh with smiles on their faces as Josh looks at Mr. Plank with sleepy eyes.(Plank’s back is kind of starring in this issue so far.)



What wasn’t you, Joshua? (Nope. You started using his last name, continue to do so. Using his first name here breaks the voice the teacher. You know how your mother calls you by your ENTIRE name when you’re in trouble, but just by your first name or a nickname when you’re not, or when they’re feeling mushy? That’s what you’ve done here. You’ve turned Plank into a Noodle, and an overcooked one at that. Mr. Everett works just fine.)





(This scene is longer than it needs to be. I suggest condensing it. No one wants to sit through an entire class with these characters.)


This page isn’t doing much of anything, to be honest. It’s just taking up space. Again, I think the information you’re trying to get across would be better served coming out later, instead of right now. But this page is nothing but padding. You could cut it, and it wouldn’t affect the story one bit.



Panel 1. A view from the side as Mr. Plank leans on Josh’s desk and Josh pushes himself back into his chair. The rest of the class looks at them trying to hold in their laughter.(What are Josh and Plank’s expressions like?)



Were you the one that wasn’t sleeping? (Consider a separate balloon, if you keep these together you’ll still need to delete question mark and add a comma.) Or the one that wasn’t about to tell us about the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.(Change to question mark.)



Can I not be both?


Panel 2. An upward view of Mr. Plank standing over Josh. (Is this from Josh’s point of view, or is he in the shot? You need to flesh this description out a little more.)



No, sorry.(This doesn’t make sense to me here. I would delete this phrase) So(comma) why don’t you enlighten us all with the answer.(Delete period add question mark. If Josh answers the question he will be both. Maybe have Plank say, ‘we shall see,’ instead of ‘no.’)


Panel 3. Close up of Josh as he rolls his eyes and scratches his head clueless.





Panel 4. Mr. Plank walks back to the front of the class.(Do we see his back or his face? How wide is the shot?)



I’ll take that as an I didn’t do the reading. (Maybe here he can say something like ‘no, apparently you cannot be both.’ If you change that other line. Why would Josh challenge him if he didn’t have the answer.)


JOSH (Off panel behind Plank)

I guess so.(consider changing ‘so’ to ‘not’)


Panel 5. Mr. Plank reads from a heavy text book on his desk in front of the room.(What’s in the shot? Where did the book come from? Has it been there for the entire scene? How is Plank positioned? How much of him can we see?)



What should have been learned in the reading is that many theories of quantum mechanics break down in certain conditions, for which other theories explaining these paradoxes were created. (He’s not reading, he’s paraphrasing. Why would a science teacher need to look at a book to give this information?)



One of these theories is the many-worlds interpretation, or MWI for short. (He wanted a student to summarize the theory, he hasn’t done so yet.)


Panel 6. Jane’s head leans into the aisle, with a condescending smirk, and whispers to Josh, whose arms are crossed with an angry look on his face.


PLANK (Off panel in front of class)

Coined by Bryce Seligman DeWitt in the 1960s, the many-worlds interpretation states that whatever the possibilities are in a given situation actually happen in other universes.


JANE (whisper)

Awww. Does little Josh-y want some ice cream after being yelled at?(I am not sure what you are trying to develop here. Is she trying to take the lead, asking him out? Or is she just teasing him? If you are going to build her up as a love interest, you need to have Josh seem more… interested. I only picked up on that because I have read ahead, it’s not clear here. You’re taking a great deal of time to develop characters and relationships, and you’re still leaving things out.)


PLANK (off panel in front of class)

For example in this universe I screamed and embarrassed Mr. Everett for sleeping in class.


(Three pages of class? If your main can’t be bothered to stay awake, why do you think readers will be interested?)


P4, and you just blew your load.

What is this classroom scene doing? It’s doing two things: it’s letting the reader know that Josh is a bit of a slacker, and it is also letting the reader know that there are alternate universes, and that Josh was killed in one. And as a reader, here is where I lost interest.

It’s the age-old story of slacker-becomes-saviour. The only mysteries now are simple ones: who killed Josh, and why?

The first one is simple if you stop to think about it. The only real question left would be why?

This is what happens when you give information too early. Everything else becomes easy to predict. The actions are simple, and the only real surprises would be the how and the why.

Again, this classroom scene is not doing you any storytelling favors. It needs to be cut totally. There are other ways to reveal character without giving everything away. Maintain your mysteries for as long as possible. And I don’t mean in a Chris Claremont-esque, who is the third Summers brother way, either. Maintain the mystery, build it, and let the pressure go in stages. This? You just gave up almost the entire story in four pages, in what is supposed to be at least a 22 page story. Not good.

So, the only real reason for this scene is to give information about alternate universes. Other than that, it’s padding. Cut it. Aside from giving away the bulk of the story, it’s uniintersting.



Panel 1. Close up of Jane as she lowers her head with a guilty look.


PLANK (Off panel in front of class)

Which then resulted in him talking to Ms. Matson.





Panel 2. Mr. Plank leans over his main desk at the front of the class. His face is down at the book, but his eyes are leering up at the class.(Is he sitting or standing?)



But there were many possibilities I could have done in that situation. I could have thrown him out of class. (Consider changing to ‘possible actions I could have taken,’ possibilities is a noun, you can’t do a noun.)


Panel 3. Josh holds his fist in front of his mouth and yawns.


PLANK (Off panel in front of class)

Or even better thrown him a beating.


JOSH (whispers to himself)

I’d like to see him try. (This doesn’t flow well. Is he yawning or talking?)


Panel 4. Josh’s eyes are slightly open as he slumps into his seat.


PLANK (Off panel in front of class)

Or any other of a hundred possibilities. And if I did, there would be even more possible consequences following those actions.(Just a hundred possibilities? Aren’t there an infinite number of possibilities?)


PLANK (off panel in front of class)

And so on and so forth(comma) creating a whole nether(delete space) world. (Netherworld is not the one you wanted. The two definitions are world of the dead, and other world unknown to most. That means the world is known to some, and can be reached. Personally, I don’t think of alternate universes/realities as being reachable to the general public, or even a privileged few. The problem is that I don’t have a different word for you. I’d suggest a change of everything after the comma, to the tone of going on forever. )


Panel 5. Close up of Josh sleeping on his desk again with drool starting to form in the corner of his mouth.


PLANK (Off panel in front of class)

These worlds are known better as parallel universes or alternate dimensions. And They combine to form an ever expanding multi-verse.


PLANK (Off panel in front of class)

Just imagine a reality that at sometime, in someplace


(I have to tell you, I hate that he falls back to sleep. It seems like this scene is supposed to do a few things. Introduce Josh, his version of ‘normal,’ his friends, and the scientific concept that shapes the series. So, let’s look at what we know about Josh. He sleeps through class. He gets embarrassed. He doesn’t do his homework. He challenges authority in no meaningful way. What are you trying to tell us about him about by having him go back to sleep? Any grasp of this character I was beginning to get slipped away with that choice. I thought you were building an average Joe. A kid that falls back asleep after being called out by a teacher seems like a slacker. A slacker wouldn’t be ruffled by a teacher picking on him. Also the relationship between Josh and Jane is not developed very well.)


P5, and now you’ve gone off the rails.

Instead of teaching the class, you’re now talking directly to the audience. You might as well grab a Bible, because you’re in the pulpit.

Yes, I’m turned off.

This page, like this entire scene, is nothing but padding, which is terrible. You’ve taken four pages to explain the scientific concept behind the book. You know what?

No one cares. Right about now, they know who the killer is, if not why, and they don’t care, because you haven’t given them anything to care about. The book is closed and back on the shelf, to be replaced by the Fantastic Four. At least the scientific principles there don’t take four pages of explaining. (Which reminds me, I really need to pick up an issue or two of The Manhattan Projects.)

Padding. Time to get to something interesting, because so far, you haven’t done anything interesting since P2.



Panel 1: In a city alleyway, a giant, blue whirlwind-like rests on the side of a building. A man and a woman in raggedy, homeless clothes are stepping out of the portal. Wind from the portal blows paper and garbage around the alley. (I have no idea what a whirlwind-like is. And, what are their expressions?)



anything is possible. (This theory posits that this IS our reality. So, I would have him say: ‘imagine that…’ maybe ‘picture if you will…’ if you are feeling especially Rod Serling-y.

(As I loosely understand this theory [thank you, Radiolab,] it amounts to this: there are multiple realities occurring in multiple universes. These universes are so numerous that every possible course of action that can be taken is taken in one of these universes. I don’t get that from what old man Plank says here. I am not claiming to be a scholar of this branch of science, but I think you are trying to say the same thing and missing the point a little.

Scene change is on the right page. I do not understand why you have spent four pages in class before getting to this. I think you should trim class down to two pages.)


Splash page.

Like Sam said, it’s placed correctly, but is it doing enough? The people are stepping through the portal, whatever it is, but what are their expressions? What are they doing, if anything?

I won’t call it a waste of space, but definitely a waste of an opportunity. I’d probably would have added a couple of inset panels, showing the alley being deserted, and then the portal starting to form, and then the large image of it being fully formed and them stepping through. I think that would help with pacing.

That’s really all I have for this page, although what happens here is a matter of too little, too late.

I lied. One other thing: if it’s a city, during the day, there are not many out-of-the-way places where a portal can just open up without being spotted.



Panel 1. The woman, CHRISTINE, looks down at a futuristic-looking reader device in her hand.(Now you have taken out all character description, and you are putting the characters names in all caps on their first appearance. This is fine, but use one type of introduction throughout the entire script.)



Josh Everett. 14 Wayside Drive. Wesley, Nebraska.(Something like this needs to be prefaced, have something like ‘we’re looking for…’ or having Jason ask ‘who is it?’ would be helpful here.)


Panel 2. The man, JASON, stands at the entrance to the alleyway looking up at the city’s skyscrapers. Christine is behind him in the alley and (and what? There are skyscrapers in Omaha? Who knew? [There are, I checked.])



Nebraska, Christine? You gotta be kidding me.


Panel 3. Christine stands beside him putting the device on her belt while Jason continues to look up. People on the sidewalk are walking by them. (How many? Three or three hundred?) (See these people? Some of them would/should have seen the portal open.)



Sorry, Jay. Omaha is the closest portal Plank could open. Our resources are getting weaker.(Plank opened the portal. This is important, and it gets lost here. I read right past it, have Jason react to his name in some way to highlight this reveal.) (This is one of those things that I believe would work better on the printed page. I don’t think readers would miss this. However, in the cutting of the scene and replacing it with something else, you get the opportunity to build another mystery about what’s going on.)



How far are we?


Panel 4. Shot looking at Christine as she strolls down the sidewalk leaving Jason still looking up behind her.



A day’s walk. Minimum.


Panel 5. Jason is about to walk off the curb and into the busy street of oncoming traffic.



Screw walking. I have a better idea.



P7, and while I’m getting intrigued again, most readers aren’t going to get this far.

I do like how you have the names in here. It feels very organic. Good work there. But now I have a different problem.

Plank sent them there, right? Right. That’s fine. The question I have, the problem I have, is this: they don’t know their target before stepping through the portal? They aren’t briefed on the mission beforehand?

One of two things has happened here: either they’re stupid, or you believe the audience to be. Personally, I’d rather have the characters be stupid than to believe you’re insulting what little bit of intelligence I have.

Everyone knows I’m not the sharpest fellow around. However, for me to believe that they don’t know their mission before they got there means his name isn’t Jason, it’s Sam Beckett, her name isn’t Christine, it’s Al, and she was looking at Ziggy. Is that what you want us to believe? I don’t think so.

So, yes, I have problems here. You could build up more mystery by having them appear, talk about who they’re looking for, but not say the subject’s name. Draw the reader in. Show them you know what you’re doing by building the mystery and letting things be discovered a bit at a time. They’ve already revealed Plank’s name. Do they need to say Josh’s name, too? I don’t think so.

I think you’re heading for a rewrite, Frank.



Panel 1. A big panel of Jason being hit by a car. He is rolled up on the hood and the driver’s face is wide open in shock.



Tshh!(I do not know what would make this sound in a car-hits-human scenario. This is more a sound like someone would make if they didn’t agree with something that had just been said.)






What the !(Driver’s dialogue should come before Jason’s.)


Panel 2. The driver’s door is open as he runs to Jason, who is on all fours in front of the car with his head towards the driver’s side. (Where is the camera?)



Oh my God! Are you all right?


Panel 3. Close up of Jason and the driver’s face close together. Jason has his hand bent back at the wrist and a small metal shaft extends out from under his sleeve. A pink mist shoots out from the metal shaft and into the driver’s face as his eyes roll back into his head.



I’m fine. Nothing a good nap can’t cure.(This doesn’t make sense here, if you added something like ‘and you will be, too,’ after ‘I’m fine’ it might be smoother.)

(So, you have spent very little time developing Jason and Christine and already I have more of a sense of their characters than I do of Josh, Jane or Plank. Something is not working out there. You are choosing better moments to showcase with this pair. Their personalities seem more consistent and their relationship dynamic is clearer. You’ve got to drive the Plank detail home a bit more, I have a feeling that it will be key.)

Three panels here. Really, not all that much to go wrong on. You have the page-turn on the previous page, giving a good solid break before the accident , you have the actions here which are consistent. It’s good to go (except for that sound effect and dialogue tweaks).




Panel 1. The driver lies on the floor and a curious crowd is slowly gathering around the car. Jason is walking towards the open driver’s side door.(How many people? Has Jason been visibly injured? You need to let the artist know one way or the other.) (Pet peeve time. I only have a few of them, and really, they’re simple. This one? Floors are inside, ground is outside. He’s not lying on the floor, he’s on the ground.)



Just relax. Everything’s all right, people.


Panel 2. Jason steps(wrong word, sits?) into the driver’s seat as Christine walks across the street towards the car.



Was that necessary?



Well, you might enjoy trekking across the state, but I’m not walking.


Panel 3. Christine steps into the passenger seat as the crowd builds over the body of the driver in front of the car. One man is bending down to check the unconscious driver and a woman points to Jason in the car.



He’s unconscious.



Why are they getting in the car? (I don’t think you need to include the bystanders reactions, this could just be shown visually. Mob forms, they chase the assailants…)



We could have caught a bus.


Panel 4. Inside the car, Christine’s looking down at the reader device she’s holding and Jason’s looking back with one hand on the wheel.



A bus? You’ve got to be kidding me?(Change it up. He’s already used that line.)


Panel 5: The car is sideways in the street turning around as the crowd starts to run towards it. Two men in front of the crowd yell out.






Stop! (Again, do we need this dialogue, it’s kind of implied.)



Oh, yeah. I forgot. Public transportation’s beneath you.


Panel 6: The car driving off down the street moving past traffic with the crowd chasing after them.



Well, can you do this in a bus?



Come back here! (Jason’s line loses punch because of this one.)


This pacing is better, far more interesting than the school scenes. I am stopping here, since you change scenes on the next page. You are not connecting the dots. There is far too much padding and far too little motion up until this point.

I noticed this is a 28 page script. I think that you could probably bring it down to 22 with no problem. I appreciate that you are spending time developing your characters, nothing wrong with that, but after reading these nine pages I still don’t think I have a firm grasp of who they are, what they want, or why they are involved. I think you need to cut to the heart of the matter. If you are going to spend time working with character development you need to use that time to get the audience invested in these characters. Right now I am apathetic.

Reconsider your structure, find a way to put the conflict up front, make us like the characters, and move on to something more dynamic. This is dragging, it picks up a little as it goes on. In the pages we’re not posting here, there is some humor, some action and a hints at the big story. Jason and Christine are interesting, but as for Josh’s involvement in the story? It’s lacking, considering how much time we have spent with him.


Let’s just run this down.

Format: Flawless Victory.

Panel Descriptions: They could use a little bit of work. Facial expressions sometimes, character actions at others. Establishing shots. Not a lot, just some minor tweaks.

Pacing: This is your major problem.

Although you gave away too much extremely too fast, the first few pages simply drag. It doesn’t have to be action, nor does it have to be overly dramatic. What it has to be is interesting, and that’s not what you have here. That entire school scene was a study in boring and space-wasting.

At no point in time did you attempt to preserve the mystery you built on P1. By P4, I knew everything I needed to know except the how and why. That’s not good, because as I keep saying, I’m not that smart. Here’s where you could really help yourself and the reader, by preserving the mystery by changing the pace.

Change the school scene to something else, or keep it in the school but change the class being taught. Hell, don’t even let it be in a class, let it be between classes, or lunchtime. Plank’s class is next, and Josh is planning on catching up on his sleep, or a food-coma. Two or three pages to reveal character.

Get rid of the quantum mechanics discussion. Have that come later. The only thing its doing right now is dragging the book down to a crawl. An uninteresting crawl, at that.

Dialogue: Very readable. Just make sure you stay in character. Plank should not have broken character by calling Josh by his first name. He’s prim and proper, and he wouldn’t have done that. Not in class. After class, maybe, but not during.

Content: As a reader, I’d be putting this back down before the school scene ends. The school scene gives away too much, and then the following scene insults my intelligence. Not a good combination. There’s no preservation of mystery here, and there are so many opportunities to do so.

Editorially, I’d ask for a rewrite. The pacing is off, there’s too much information given…it’s just easier to rewrite it than to salvage this. There’s a worthwhile story here, I just don’t think you’re making the best choices in the telling of it, and that’s going to turn readers off.

Time to take this one back to the drawing board.

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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