TPG Week 152: Various Mistakes

| November 22, 2013


Welcome back, one and all, to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a new Brave One in Doug Wood. We also have Steve Colle returning to us in blue, I’m in red, and let’s see if Doug is able to go through

Hell’s Gate

Page 1 (4 Panels)

Panel 1 Int. seedy motel room. In this first panel show Rebecca in lingerie. She should be shown adjusting her push up bra in front of a sink mirror. She is standing in front of a sink, but she is not in the bathroom, it’s that kind of motel. The bathroom door, which is closed, should be to her right and should have the light on. (What my understanding here is that you’re concentrating your camera on the bathroom area of the room. Is that accurate? This isn’t bad, but you should have an establishing shot on the page. Will the next panel fit that bill?)

Motel room reference:,r:20,s:100,i:64&iact=rc&dur=467&page=11&tbnh=178&tbnw=229&ndsp=12&tx=163&ty=84

The link, when I looked at it, didn’t show any interior shots of the seedy kind of room. As a matter of fact, there were some good reviews on the Comstock Motel. I guess my question would be: Do you really need to have a visual reference to show a low-grade motel room? If the artist can’t imagine one, then allow them to look up reference photos themselves.

Lingerie reference:,r:18,s:0,i:146&iact=rc&dur=49324&page=2&tbnh=182&tbnw=134&start=12&ndsp=18&tx=51&ty=115

This link didn’t work when I tried it, just taking me to a page that read it as an error. Again, do you need to provide this reference?

Caption Damn it, I hate push up bras. I wish I could go back in time and slap some sense into the man who invented them. (Look at your script format here, Doug. You’ve got your caption and the text associated with it on the same line. Then look at how you have the rest of your dialogue formatted below. Keep it consistent. I personally have no preference as an editor, so go with what feels more natural for you. And by the way, I really like this line of dialogue. It gives a good sense of character.)

Panel 2 Rebecca has walked to the bed. She should look annoyed and impatient. (Is this your establishing shot? Maybe ensure the entire room is seen in this panel.)


Hey, you almost done in there? You’ve been in there forever. If you don’t hurry, you’re going to have to pay me double. (This line is a little long. The second sentence can be taken out and the last one could be changed to give her more attitude with If you don’t hurry, you’ll be paying me double. Read your dialogue out loud to A– check for a natural voice and B– check for length beyond what’s needed to get the point across.)

Kyle Stevenson


Almost done.


I swear to God, my pimps pimp’s going to come in here soon. You lose your nerve?

Where is Panel 3?

Panel 4 Kyle enters the room (Do you mean he has left the bathroom?) with a scalpel in one hand and pair of pliers in the other. (I understand the scariness of the scalpel, but why pliers? One shows he may have surgical experience, while the other is less refined or haphazard. The two don’t go together. Stick with the scalpel alone.) He should only be wearing a pair of boxers and rubber gloves. He has a sinister smile on his face. This is a medium shot. Maybe the panel is on a tilt? (Here’s where you’ve revealed a key aspect of the story on your first page instead of allowing a hook such as a close-up of her petrified face to entice the reader to turn the page. This would have also begged a few questions, such as What is she so scared of? and Is he wearing something kinky? or other less mentionable questions for this column.)

Scalpel reference:,r:0,s:0,i:161&iact=rc&dur=4714&page=1&tbnh=187&tbnw=104&start=0&ndsp=8&tx=69&ty=110

Pliers references:,r:5,s:0,i:176&iact=rc&dur=485&page=1&tbnh=192&tbnw=252&start=0&ndsp=8&tx=102&ty=64

Okay, Doug, this is where your use of referential links goes a bit too far. Scalpels and pliers? Get rid of these altogether.


Oh, quite the opposite of that. I think Now we can start having a bit of fun.

So, Page One basically did what it had to do: It set up the situation that is going to carry the story forward. A few mistakes here and there with missing words in the dialogue, too many words being used at some points, a missing third panel, and a reveal on the first page that should be moved to the second. Also, really consider what key references you would absolutely need to provide your artist to give them a proper view of your vision. Some things they can find for themselves if they haven’t experienced these things themselves. And instead of these long links, look up how to do hyperlinks, where you can attach the link to a key word as opposed to line upon line of information that detracts from the reading of the script. Definitely things to watch out for.

We’ve got P1 on the books! Let’s see what we’ve got!

I’m with Steve: an establishing shot of the outside of the motel would have been much better to start off with. We start outside, then go inside, and you give a better sense to the reader as to where they’re at. It sets up their expectation more. Then, you can move the other panels down one, so that you’re no longer missing a panel, but you would actually have four on the page.

I do disagree about panel 2 and the dialogue. The word count is fine, but you can get to the point faster by taking out the second sentence. The second sentence is made redundant by the first. The third sentence brings it home. So you’re doing okay, you just need to get rid of the redundancy.

As for the format… You have the elements, but you’re not consistent with how you’re using them. Format is about consistency. I’m not going to give you a Flawless Victory, but it was an extremely close thing. I’d have given it to you even with the missing panel, but the inconsistency is what killed you.

Finally, I semi-agree with Steve in that you didn’t take advantage of a storytelling opportunity.

It would have been better to keep the focus on the as-yet unnamed woman before going to the as-yet unnamed guy. That last panel is a decent enough hook, but seeing a look of fear on her face first would have really brought it home. Ending on her expression would have meant making the current last panel a splash page for P2, and I don’t know if I want that. It definitely would have worked, though. I’m just not sure if it is what’s necessary for the second page. I don’t think the first page builds up enough to it.

As a different idea, how about this: a nine-panel grid of the rubber gloves on the toilet, and articles of clothing being piled up as he takes them off. The guy is unseen, or maybe a little bit of his body, but the focus should be just the clothes piling up, and the gloves. The woman can be heard through the door, which means she’d need more dialogue. He puts on the gloves, picks up something (the scalpel, but it is not seen well), and then leaves the bathroom. P2 would then be a splash page with an inset. The inset would be her reaction, and the splash would be what is currently the last panel on P1. I think that would build up the tension more. Of course, there’s still the establishing shot of the outside of the hotel on the first panel.

Does this first page do enough as is? I don’t think so. Four panels is a short buildup. It’s really only 3 panels before you get to the threat, and even though I like getting to the thick of things as soon as possible, there’s something to be said for going too fast. I think this goes too fast, but I wouldn’t call it a pacing problem. Not yet.




Page 2 (5 or 6 Panels) (Two things here: First off, you didn’t create a proper page break. Hitting ENTER a number of times isn’t going to cut it. It’s easy to do in your Word program. Look up directions online. Second, this 5 or 6 panels setup is one of the reasons some scripts don’t have panel counts. Looking ahead, you only have five panels on this page, so the answer would be 5 . Accurately define what you have if you’re going to write a panel count. Don’t lead your artist astray.)

Panel 1 Int. motel room. (The scene hasn’t changed, so this reintroduction to the room is unnecessary.) Rebecca‘s face should show some shock in seeing Kyle with his tools. Kyle has walked closer to Rebecca; closing the distance between them. (You didn’t really establish a distance between them beforehand, as he was just standing there, so how do we tell that he’s closer than he was?) This is shot from behind Kyle, maybe over his shoulder? (I would have used this shot, without revealing the tools, as a third panel on the previous page.)(That works, too.)


Fucking slut, god despises you. (This is a bad line. It’s cliché and reads very poorly. Work on this one.)


Please… don’t hurt me. (Unfortunately, the previous line was the beginning of ineffective dialogue. Be original and get yourself into the situation. Role play to get a better sense of how to present verbal tension.) (Is the look of this grainy? I almost feel this could be a 70s film or something. Ever see the movie Driller Killer? I hope not. Really. Terrible movie. Absolutely terrible. However, the dialogue here is better than that film. Not by much, though.)

Panel 2 Medium shot from the side of the two. Kyle has moved himself within striking distance, so in this panel he lunges out to grab Rebecca’s arm. He has placed the scalpel in his teeth to hold while he grabs for her. (This doesn’t really make sense. To begin, when did he put the scalpel between his teeth? Next, the pliers have suddenly disappeared. Finally, the actions themselves don’t feel like something that would happen. What is his intention with the scalpel? If it’s to slash, he has plenty of opportunity. If it’s to do specific surgical damage, then he shouldn’t have revealed the scalpel until he had her properly subdued.) If necessary, show a smaller inset panel of him putting the scalpel there and him with a wicked looking smile as he does.


OH GOD, please no. (More of the same, sorry to say.)

Panel 3 Kyle has wrapped his arms around Rebecca’s body. He is behind Rebecca as he is doing this.

Panel 4 Rebecca head butts Kyle, breaking his nose. The shot is on the side, left of the two of them.


FUUUHHHH…. (Three dots, not four, for an ellipsis. Now, with regards to the dialogue here, wouldn’t it be better if he were to say ACK! instead, something a bit more pained?)

Panel 5 In the foreground of the panel, Kyle goes down and is holding his nose. In the background of the panel, Rebecca has moved for her bag that is under the bed. (Why under the bed ? Wouldn’t things like condoms be in there for her john?) Medium shot.

The dialogue on this page is terrible, Doug. If it were a sex scene, it would read as oh, baby baby . It’s forced and unnatural, lacking realism or emotion. That, however, is the icing on the cake that covers a lopsided base, one where the actions seem stereotyped as well. Bring something new to the table. Again, role play to figure out how this tension-filled scenario would best play out. Ask questions from the women in your life as to how they would react given a similar situation. Give it that touch of reality that is so sorely lacking.

So we’re now on P2, and I agree with Steve: the dialogue here isn’t working well.

To be honest, here’s what I’m hoping: I’m hoping this is a movie set. I’m hoping these are actors, because I don’t find anything enjoyable about a guy menacing a woman with a scalpel and a set of pliers. We see enough of that in the movies. To bring it to comics as well…? Unnecessary, in my opinion.

Yes, we have the woman fighting back. I’m happy about that. However, I’m not all that thrilled that we’re seeing this in the first place. Hopefully, she gets away. This is not a Hostel situation that I want to be reading about in my comics. Torture porn is not something I enjoy in my comics. It barely has any redeeming qualities in film. (In film, they like to label it as horror. I’m sorry, but Saw is horror/thriller. Halloween is horror. Even Friday the 13th is horror. Hostel is torture porn. Touristas might be, too. I haven’t seen it. The Final Destination films are death porn. But I digress.)

I watch a lot of movies. I’ve watched a lot of bad films. This reminds me of something from the 70s: Driller Killer; Silent Night, Bloody Night; I Spit On Your Grave; Last House on the Left… I see this as having a grainy look to it. The bad dialogue and the seedy setting puts me in that mindset.

Is this mindset a good thing? If that’s what you were going for, sure. You’re to be congratulated. However, if that’s not something you were going for, then you’re off to a bad start.

It’s P2, and the story is moving, but I can’t say I’m enjoying it.



Page 3 (4 Panels) (Bad page break.)(No page break is more like it.)

Panel 1 As Rebecca pulls out a pair of handcuffs out of the bag, Kyle recovers and has stood back up. (This is a moving panel.)

Handcuff reference:,r:3,s:0,i:170&iact=rc&dur=2156&page=1&tbnh=160&tbnw=238&start=0&ndsp=8&tx=63&ty=122

Why are you providing your artist with a reference photo of handcuffs? Even more than the scalpel that can come in different designs, handcuffs are pretty standard across the board. In other words, focus on providing reference that they couldn’t find for themselves or that absolutely has to look a certain way. This doesn’t fit the bill.


You little bitch. (Exclamation mark, as he should be a lot angrier than how you’re presenting him.) (Not necessarily. It’s scarier this way. The only downfall is this: there’s no facial expression in the panel description.)

Panel 2 Kyle stabs the scalpel into Rebecca’s shoulder. Rebecca’s face is in agony. This is a medium shot from in front of Rebecca. (I don’t see a need to call your shot here. Let your artist figure that out.)


Aiiiiiieeee (No ellipsis needed.)

Panel 3 Rebecca hits Kyle with the handcuffs. Overhead shot. (Again, I’m not seeing how the overhead shot is going to magnify the effect of being hit with the handcuffs. Choose your battles. Also, how is she hitting him with the handcuffs? Is she swinging them like nunchucks? This seems like a feeble attempt to retaliate.)

Caption Damn it, this is going all wrong. Where is that back up? (Two things here: First, you’ve gone back to side-by-side vs. stacked lettering direction in the format. You had a good thing going with the format for spoken dialogue, but revert back to this when doing captions. One or the other, not both styles. Second, because this is a hook page on a negative number, you’re revealing something important that should only be presented on the page turn, that being the fact that she is waiting for backup, immediately telling us she’s a cop and that this is a setup. Let the reader discover this secret on the even numbered page. In other words, don’t say anything here.) (Hook page I understand. Negative number? I’m lost there. As for when the information about her being a cop is given…that really depends on whether or not there is more, better information to be given later on this page. This is P3, and as such, it is a page turn. There should be a hook or something at the end of the page to get the reader to P4. Is the information about her being a cop of some kind worthy of that final panel? I don’t think so.)

Panel 4 She begins to cuff Kyle. Overhead shot in front of Rebecca. (It is very difficult to begin to show something. She’s either doing it, or she isn’t. That isn’t really the question. The question is this: how is she cuffing him, and is he fighting back? What happened after she hit him with the cuffs? Where did she hit him with the cuffs? Is he awake or unconscious? Lots of questions, and you don’t come close to answering them. The next question is also simple: what happened to either the dialogue or the internal monologue? I’m calling dropsies on both.)

I’m honestly feeling like you’re going through the motions as you write the actions to this scene. There’s a major difference between playing it out in your head and playing it out physically. It’s lacking choreography. If this were better paced and better acted, I’d be able to feel her panic, her desperation to gain control over the situation. Whether cop or call girl, she’s lost control, so make us live through her. One way is to have the camera behind her or replacing her in a subjective viewpoint. Forget about giving direction that appears haphazard. I couldn’t figure out why you were choosing those camera positions or why you were being selective as to which panels were going to have that direction. Let the artist do his/her job.


I was listening to Queen Latifah while I was on my way home from work the other morning. Wrath Of My Madness. Her voice then sounds nothing like her voice now. Call it the effects of age and a studio setting. I like her voice now.

The voice here, though, is muddled. Captions that go in and out, dialogue that is pretty generic, and a setting that doesn’t really call anything to mind. This is like bland porridge, and you’re expecting us to be Oliver Twist and ask for more.

Like Dana Carvey doing an impersonation of George Bush: Not gonna be able ta dew it…

Let’s take it from the top.

I’m with Steve in that you’re giving references to objects that don’t need them. I’m surprised you don’t give a reference for the surgical gloves. And if your response is anything akin to everyone’s seen surgical gloves, then you should know that everyone has seen a scalpel and a set of handcuffs. Now, if the handcuffs were either old or nonstandard , then I could understand the reference. However, I’m just not getting the reason for it. Then again, I’m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, either.

You have a moving panel in there, and then you degenerate into actions that need more explanation than you’re giving. This means you’re not giving the panel descriptions your full attention. That last panel on this page is a perfect example. There is not enough information in it for the artist to adequately do their job. They’d have to ask you questions, and they shouldn’t. Not the obvious ones. That’s what the script is for: to answer the obvious questions.

Then there’s the dialogue. Tepid, really, and unremarkable. Everyone is saying what readers are expecting them to say. Of course we’re expecting the religious nut to attack the prostitute, and of course, the prostitute is going to be one of two things: the real deal, or a cop. Those are the only two options. So she has to say what she says, because whenever an undercover agent is in danger, they always wonder where their backup is. And if they gave the signal (or the scream, of course) and the backup doesn’t rush in, then there’s a problem with the comms and they weren’t heard properly. Or, there has to be some excuse as to why they weren’t there on time.

The internal monologue should be a running commentary as to what’s going on in her head. You can’t just go in and out of it whenever you please. If you find that the character doesn’t have enough to say, then cut it entirely. She should be saying something in the caption in nearly every panel—especially when he comes out holding the scalpel.

So far, this is all very pedestrian. Even though it goes fast, I’d probably be putting this back on the shelf. The art had better be extremely strong, because while the title is semi-intriguing, I’m not impressed with the opening at all. Generic and boring.



Page 4 (5 Panels) (Bad page break.)

Panel 1 Rebecca cuffs the second hand. Overhead shot. (Why an overhead shot? Is she flustered or disheveled? Tell the artist so they can properly represent her.)


You’re under arrest. (Straight and to the point, but lacking in frustration. Add to this.) (And what about the pain? I could have sworn she was stabbed just a bit ago.)

Panel 2 The room’s door has burst open and police officers flood into the room. Ground shot looking up from in front of the door.

Why is this a silent panel? Why isn’t she asking what took them so long in this panel? How were they monitoring her, over a wire or standing outside the door? Either way, why didn’t they intervene sooner? Why wasn’t this the first panel on the page?

Panel 3 Rebecca should be on top of Kyle holding him down. She is smiling at the chief that enters the room. Medium shot from right side of the bed furthest away from the door, but is looking back toward the door. (The chief? As in, the chief of police? This had better be a small town, or set in the 50s when the police chief was always at the crime scene afterward and the hero had easy to access to them in every movie ever made.)


Damn it (Missing comma) Detective Stone, I hope you recited to him his Miranda Rights. (I don’t understand this comment being spoken at this time. He should know she hasn’t had time to read him his rights. They burst in just after she officially arrested him. Something like this should be used to bite her in the ass later in the story or even in the next scene if they have to let him go because she didn’t do so. Otherwise, it just makes it seem like she’s often forgetting to do her due diligence.)


Just about to. Why didn’t you shitheads move in sooner? (Wait. She just called the chief of police a shithead? And she still has a job?! I think my head just ‘sploded!)

It’s the end of the scene and I’m going to stop here. My first question pertains to your panel count for this page. You say that there’s going to be five panels, but only have three described. Establishing a panel count isn’t a necessary step in writing your script, so don’t feel you have to.

As I’ve been saying in my comments on previous pages, the biggest issue I have is the lack of choreography and role playing of this scene. You could have had a much stronger start if you had gotten into character and acted out this scenario. As it stands, it’s a weak opening that moves too fast to reach its conclusion. I could easily see more buildup being established between Rebecca and the criminal Kyle. Because it’s a crime drama, you need to put in the effort of pulling the reader into the story before introducing the turning point in the scene, which could have taken place on Page 4. Introduce the characters, develop a relationship, then have the conflict peak once the reader begins to care for the characters and their situation. Conversation between the two could have done this for you.

I see this as needing to be rewritten. Approach it by getting into character. Build up tension before giving away the turning point. Pace out and choreograph your scene. Your opening will be much better for it.

Let’s just run this down.

Format: Needs some work. Just a little bit. Consistency is key. Don’t make the team work harder than they have to. The letterer shouldn’t have to switch their mindsets when working. It’s just easier.

Panel Descriptions: Moving panels and panel descriptions that don’t have enough description in them for the artist to do their job adequately. The strange thing is that we can actually see them getting worse as the story continued. That’s not a good thing at all.

Remember what the panel descriptions have to do: they have to let the team see what’s in your head. If you can’t see it, how can they?

Pacing: Too fast. There are too few panels here, so the story moves too quickly. This needs to be slowed down by adding more panels. More panels, and more words.

Dialogue: Generic. Predictable. Except for the end there. I don’t see how an officer has the balls to call the chief of police a shithead. The chief of police answers only to the mayor. The mayor answers to the governor. See where I’m going with this? The officer? They have to answer to a lieutenant, a captain, deputy chiefs, and then the police chief.

Then there are the drops. The drops in spoken dialogue as well as the inner monologue. Those have to stop. Again, if your character doesn’t have enough to say, then they don’t have anything to say.

Being generic and predictable isn’t a good thing at all. We’ve seen it all before. Find a way to switch it up.

Content: A bit uncomfortable, and then it degenerates into every 80s cop movie we’ve ever seen before. I’ve said it several times already: generic and predictable. Tired of seeing it? I’m tired of saying it.

I’m not feeling this as an opening. I’ve seen it before. As a reader, we’re four pages in, and we don’t have a name for anyone except for the female cop. That’s not good. I can’t connect with a character as a reader if I don’t know their names. Four pages for one name? Not good. There were opportunities to give names here in a very organic way. You didn’t take them. It could have been done in the internal monologue, it could have been done when the john comes out of the john, it could have been done when the cops burst into the room… Lots of opportunities not taken. Not good.

As a reader, I’d put this back on the shelf.

Editorially, this needs a complete rewrite. I don’t think this is a good opening. This could have been much stronger. It should have been much stronger. I’d have to see what the story is about before I could suggest a better opening, but what you have here, the way you have it, isn’t working.

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

Also, we’re dangerously close to running out of scripts. We have only 1 script in the queue! If you want to have your script critiqued and don’t want to wait, now is the perfect time to do so!

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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