TPG Week 160: Deep Problems

| January 17, 2014


Hello, and welcome back to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a new Brave One in Christopher Knox, who brings us a very strange setup for a tale. It isn’t good, folks. You’ve been warned. We’ve got Steve Colle in blue, I’m forever in red, and let’s see what Christopher did to

Space Bear 54

PAGE ONE (5 panels)

Panel 1. From the rocky shore a vast cove stretches out. The morning fog clings to the still water and a red orange blaze on the horizon threatens the inevitability of the rising sun. In the middle of the cove the silhouette of an observatory precariously perched on an island of jagged rock sits. (This is prose writing: Flowery and expressive. You don’t need that for panel descriptions. Get to the point.) (I’m not a fan of flowery panel descriptions. When you do prose panel descriptions, you lose information that the artist needs. Luckily, this particular panel can be drawn. The others will not be so lucky.)


Panel 2. An aerial 45 degree shot of the island. Here, we get a better look of the land surrounding the observatory (Unnecessary, but could be instructions for the artist.). It is a lush green yard that is well taken care of (Meh.). There is a small garden plot in the lower right of the panel (Is this important?). The sun has not yet crested the horizon, the colors are heavy blues and deep purples (Good information for both the artist, so there isn’t a sun hanging in the sky, and the colorist.). JAMESON is bent over picking stones out of the plot of tilled earth that is near the edge of a cliff (Where is this?). The waters of the ocean gently lap against the black rocks far below (Where is this?). Jameson wears a large straw hat that will protect him when the sun is high. He is bare foot and in cut off jeans. (I’d love to know where your camera is positioned with regards to distance as it seems to me like you’re zooming in with this one panel, starting with a general overview to finding the details of cut off jeans and being barefoot.)(There’s good information here, but Steve’s right: where’s the camera? As it stands, this panel cannot be drawn.)


Panel 3. Medium ¾ shot, Jameson standing up, placing a hand on his back grimacing. He is old and wiry with thick hands. He wears a white tank top. He looks healthy and quite able for a man of his advanced years. (Roughly how old is he? You’re also giving a few details here, a few there, so try to make it clear all in one panel or provide a character sheet in a separate document.)(What is this panel doing?)


Panel 4. Medium shot, Jameson back to (What do you mean by back to ?), tossing a handful of pebbles off the cliff. The light of the morning sun begins to define things around him, the textures of the observatory wall, the plot of tilled earth, some farm tools. (I’m trying to picture all of these details in the description and am wondering if it can be drawn in a medium shot?) (I’m wondering what the use of this panel is.)


Panel 5. Medium shot of the pebbles spattering into the water below. The ocean water gently lapping against the black rock. (Hopefully, something rises out of the water in the next panel. I don’t think so, though.)


1 SFX: Pip-it-pip-pip tck-pip (This SFX doesn’t sound like water against rocks to me personally. It sounds more robotic or electronic. Is it doing its job effectively? I’d have to say No .)


Log (More on this in a moment in the page commentary)

Node (This part is confusing)


Technical illustration of the planet with information written on the sides with lines pointing to various locations.


The Planet Nepheus is 99% water .5% freshwater. (What about the other .5%?) There are 370 days in a year. Temperatures vary from -180 °f in the poles to 220 °f on the equator. Average night temps are between 45 °f-59 °f, dominate dominant species: Fishkin, surface gravity (m/s2) Nepheus is a moon orbiting a lifeless dessert (Anyone hungry? I’m assuming you meant to spell it as desert , right?) planet. (Lots of punctuation errors in this.)


I’ll tell you honestly, Chris: I’m already bored. Not only are the images and sequence dull and slow, I have to wonder: What does this have to do with building an effective opening? Here’s the thing: I like ambient music, with a light instrumental playing as the sounds of the water or light rain or birds chirping calm the body. I like that, but not on a page of art that is supposed to move a story along. Combine that calmness with the scientific information you have in your log, which is supposed to appear on the inner margin of the page according to your direction on your explanation page, and you have something akin to a director’s commentary intruding over an emotional scene in a movie. It’s like the visual and the text are fighting for the right to convey their information, like a Reese’s peanut butter cup commercial saying the chocolate is more important than the peanut butter and vice versa. They need to compliment each other, not fight for dominance. I hate to say it, but I’m tempted to stop here because I’m afraid there’s going to be more of the same in the coming pages. That wouldn’t be fair, though, so I’ll move forward, but be forewarned: I’ve already got a mindset in place that I hope you can change.



P1 is down!


What do we have? A silent opening page. There is no dialogue here, and not having any dialogue means that there is no worldbuilding going on.


Okay, folks: this story starts out with a glossary, telling what each element is. That was stripped out. It would only serve to confuse. Here’s the thing, Chris—if I have to read something more than once in order to understand what you just said, then it was either clever, amusing, or confusing. If I have to read it more than twice, it was either clever or confusing. If I have to read it more than three times, it’s either confusing or I want to commit it to memory. This was just confusing. Hopefully, it made sense to you.


Now, the Log and Node and other stuff…


Everyone knows I love movies. Know what this reminded me of? A book that is near and dear to a lot of people’s hearts, but whose original movie was seen as a stylized travesty. (I still wanted a weirding module, though, no matter what anyone said.) I’m talking about Dune. When Paul is in his room, looking at Caladan, Geidi Prime, and Arrakis, and he’s thinking about the information he knows about the three, what’s happening in a sloppy infodump. Fun, right?


That’s what this Log is. It’s an infodump that no one is going to care about. Unless the information is integral to the story, this is just useless information and needs to be cut.


Now, the placement of the information is going to be problematic. This is P1, and if you want this info in the inner margin/gutter of the book, then you’re going to do one of two things: you’re either going to go into the bleed, where the info has a chance of being cut off, or you’re going to make the art panels narrower. More than likely they’ll be narrower, because you have not just copy there, but some art as well.


This entire page is set up for failure, and that’s a terrible thing to behold.







PAGE TWO (6 panels) (Where is your page break in your formatting?)

Panel 1. Wide shot of the top of the island. Jameson, back to (Again, what does this mean? Does it mean his back is to the camera? Does it mean the camera is now back to him? Very confusing.), bent over picking rocks out of the tilled earth. The lush grass on top of the rocky island is growing a brighter green as the sun continues to rise.


Panel 2. Wide shot, the whole island is in view. A path is seen cutting into the cliff face of the island, leading from the garden down to a plateau of rock covered in seaweed. The slab runs gradually into the water. At the end of it is are a lantern and a boat that has been pulled up ashore.


Panel 3. Close up, profile of Jameson, sweat beading up on his brow. His face is tanned and like leather, deep wrinkles run through his face. He wears an expression of contentment, one that indicates joy in his work.


Panel 4. Ground Shot looking up at Jameson as he continues to work. The sky has turned blue, a great explosion erupts above him.


1 SFX: BUQUOW! (I will tell you this: The letter Q should almost never be in a sound effect. Doing it for fun, I can get behind that, but as a serious sound effect, it’s going to throw the reader right out of the story every time.)


Panel 5. Wide shot same as Panel 1. Jameson, back to, surveying the cove, a comet cutting a black scar across the sky headed towards the mainland peninsula.


Panel 6. Extreme close up of Jameson squinting eyes.


JAMESON: Your You’re late, Wojtaszczyk.



Woj. Group

THE SPHYNX OBSERVATORY (in the text below, you spell Sphynx as Sphinx , so I don’t know which way you want to spell it. You decide.)

Cross section illustration of the observatory.


Located on a .1 acre island called Atius, The Sphinx Observatory was built as Head Quarters headquarters for the scientists of Foundation Team. It appears Jameson moved into the structure in 601. The building has been outfitted with a powerful telescope. We hypothesize that Jameson kept an eye to the stars awaiting our return. When a Space Bear clone form from UNIcorp landed on Nepheus in 2867, Jameson mistook the Unit as one of our scouts.


I’m seriously battling with myself here. I honestly don’t understand what you’re trying to do with this story. Instead of incorporating captions and dialogue into the panels, you’re intent on making it hard for the reader (myself, in this case) to get into your story. Here, there’s more of the same director’s commentary and more of the arduously slow image sequences. I don’t know if it’s a fast read or a slow read, because you have nothing within the panels themselves to make me spend time in them and yet, the introduction of the logs is making it a slow read because I’m a bit dumbfounded by their purpose and have to read over it again and again. You seriously need to figure out what your intention is with this story.



P2 is more of the same!


Well, there’s a single line of dialogue. We have more information dumped on us, and as a reader, I have no idea what’s going on. There’s only one character named, and maybe I can assume that the human is Jameson, but I shouldn’t have to assume. Hell, I don’t even have information as to where we are in the universe. I assumed that we were on earth—and could still make that assumption.


There’s only one line of dialogue here. Is it enough to put the story over the edge into interesting? Not on your life. The reason for that is simple:


You haven’t done any worldbuilding. You think you have, but you haven’t.


What you’ve done is given us notes for the world, but the world isn’t built. We still don’t know where we are, who’s on the page, how they interact with anything—things that matter to the readers, and will get them to identify with the character. You’ve given us the barest sketch of something, with no indication that it is relevant to what’s on the page.


Thus, it’s boring. Not just boring, most of these two pages could be considered padding. And that’s a crime when you consider that we’re only two pages in.






PAGE THREE (7 panels) (Missing page break)


Panel 1. Looking out over a field of rolling hills of golden straw. In the trenches, robust dark green berry bushes cut through the field creating boundary walls across the landscape. Spherical robots (bots) hover in great numbers near these bushes. (This panel cannot be drawn.)


Panel 2. A large panel, wide shot of the berry bushes stretching far off into the landscape. Dozens of bots made of black cast iron and riveted together with crude bolts hover at a variety of distances above the ground. Each robot has two or three long spindly arms that delicately pluck berries from the bushes and deposit them in trays. Mixed in with these robots is a MAN. He wears a heavy slave color (?) with antenna and wires sticking out of it. (What exactly do you mean by slave color ?) (Wait. Crude cast iron robots hovering? The science is great enough to overcome the (admittedly weak) force of gravity, but not great enough to come up with something besides cast iron? Besides being a slave color , what is it that he’s wearing? A jumpsuit? Shorts? And where is this guy and what is he doing? I don’t know, because you don’t say.)


Panel 3. Medium shot, profile of the Man reaching deep into the bushes to retrieve a single berry, a pained look on his face. He is young, but covered in dirt, small cuts and dried blood. The berry bush travels down the landscape behind him. Bots continue with their harvest. (How is the reader supposed to know that this guy is getting a single berry? How can a berry bush travel? What’s its motive force? Is the guy being dragged along, or is he traveling, too? See what happens when you are imprecise with your writing?)


Panel 4. From inside the bush we have a close up of the Man’s hand stretching desperately as his finger tip is just out of reach of a ripe glistening berry. (Why are we even still here?)


Panel 5. Close up of the man’s face pushed up against the thorny bush. He is grimacing, straining to reach. Sweat beading up on his face. An EXPLOTION explosion erupts from the sky.


1 SFX: BUQUOW! (Again with the friggin Q… Or is this Star Trek: The Next Generation, and we just don’t know it?)


Panel 6. Ground shot looking up at Man in foreground. His back to the berry bush. The comet trails across the sky high above. (Wait. He’s reaching into a thorny bush, he’s already cut up, and now he’s turned around and seeing the comet trail? From one panel to another means he jerked his arm out, but you don’t say that he’s gouged at all because of his action. Just like Blondie, you can only have it One Way or Another…)


MAN: !!! (This is not dialogue. Well, it is, if you’re doing manga. Is this manga?)


Panel 7. Medium shot of Bot looking at Man who is still watching the event. Comet trailing off in the back ground. (So, the robot can know enough to look at the man, but is still made out of iron… Know what bothers me about Star Wars? The original trilogy is great, but the new trilogy looks like it’s brand spanking new, with better technology. So, even though the events of the second trilogy happen earlier in the timeline, the tech looks better. It makes me short circuit. Kinda like this: the robot knows enough, acts human enough, to look at the man, but is made out of iron… Something does not compute.)


BOT(robotic style): Get back to work.



Woj. Group


Cross section and schematics of a BOT


The Bot is a crucial and fundamental part of the Omega Project. Without it, the basic civic functions of the city would not be met. Although the Godbot is a powerful entity, even it cannot attend to all the duties of the city. Bots are networked to the Godbot and perform day to day day-to-day civic tasks from garbage removal, street and sewage repair, to replacing light bulbs and the contents of vending machines. They can even act as enforcers during times that TK Gorillas are not available. (Hm. Things start to fall into place. None of it is interesting, but things are falling into place.)


I’m sorry, Chris, but I have to stop here. There’s no story to speak of in these three pages I’ve just gone through. I really wanted to give this a shot because I don’t like stopping so soon, but there isn’t anything to work with here. I don’t know what kind of direction I can give you besides to do a complete rewrite once you’ve established, in your mind, what you want to accomplish with this story. I’m seriously hoping Steven can give you more to work with, because I’m at a loss. Sorry.


I have stuff to say, but gonna save it for its appropriate spots. So, let’s just run it down.


Format: Flawless Victory. No, it isn’t a format I would have chosen, but it isn’t about me. You were consistent, and things were in their place. No one on the creative team has to look around for their part, and that’s what counts.


Panel Descriptions: Prosiac, too much information, or simply undrawable in some cases. That’s all I can really say.


Pacing: Terrible.


I’ve talked about a slow burn before, and how I’m not a fan of them. That’s a personal preference, I know, but at least with a slow burn, there is a story that’s happening. It can be followed. It may not be interesting to me, but it can be followed.


Here’s what you’ve done, though: you’ve got nothing happening for 3 pages, and are putting the audience to sleep with information they aren’t going to care about—if they’re able to actually read that information. With the amount of faux-worldbuilding info you’re trying to shove in there, you’re going to have to make a decision. Either you want this information (not recommended), or you want to tell the story with images (recommended). You can’t have it both ways. There is no space. P3 has seven panels on it. Where do you think you’re going to fit that 88 word paragraph, along with the cross section of art? I’m going to tell you now, it isn’t going to happen.


The dialogue you have here isn’t enough to garner interest. The first two pages can be boiled down to a single page, but the third page doesn’t seem to be doing anything at all. It could quite possibly be cut. It’s only purpose seems to be to give information about the cast iron robots. Maybe it gains more relevance on P4, but Steve was very right to cut it where he did.


With nothing happening to garner interest and extremely little dialogue, it’s safe to say that the pacing here is criminal, nearly non-existant.


Dialogue: There isn’t enough here to talk about. The words were spelled correctly, and the punctuation was in the right place.


Content: Here’s where I have the bulk to say. As a reader, I’d be baffled about what’s going on here, and in a bad way. I’d wonder how a publisher found merit in this.


Editorially, I have deep, extreme questions.


The first question would be simple: have you laid this out on the page? The information you’re trying to shove into the middle of the book, near the spine, is unwieldy and impractically placed. For the information you want, you’re going to have to shove the art to the side, toward the outer edge, so that it’ll fit. This means your panel descriptions are going to be compromised, because the page has to accommodate another element that you didn’t properly take into account.


The second question is also simple: is the information you’re trying to shove down the readers throats important?


Let’s go back to Star Wars for a moment. The information that George thought was important and that he was not able to get across through dialogue or action was given to us up front in text. That information sets the scene, and wouldn’t have been gotten any other way. (Well, it could have been, but it would have been inelegant.)


My contention that the information given is unimportant. Otherwise, it would have been in the dialogue or in captions.


This needs an extremely deep rethink. You have to get to the story faster, and you have to be more interesting while doing it. You have to rethink the approach. You have to make sure that everything fits within the story you’re trying to tell. Right now, I have no idea as to what story you’re trying to tell, and it seems like you’ve done everything in your power to make sure I don’t care about it, either.


This isn’t good.


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

Also, we’re still close to running out of scripts. 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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