TPG Week 163: Actions Alone Do Not A Story Make

| February 7, 2014


Hello, one and all, and welcome back to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a new Brave One in Ezra Dixon. We have Sam LeBas in the lovely purple, I’m in the damning red, ad we’ll see what happens when Ezra goes

Into the Abyss

By Ezra Dixon

Page 1:(It’s just a personal preference, but I like a panel count at the top of each page.)

Hey, folks. Remember last week when I stated that I was tired of seeing scripts in 10 pitch? Well, this one isn’t much better, as it’s in 11. Yes, I bumped it up to 12. Here’s what happens: you send this script in to an editor, unsolicited. They get tons of unsolicited material, so they have to weed through the pile in some way, and one of those things are whether or not the script is easy to read. That means if they open the script and see that it’s in a 10 or 11 pitch, they can then decide whether or not they want to read the thing. More than likely, it’ll be deleted, and you won’t get a response on it. Your default is 12. I highly suggest you use it.

Panel 1: (full page/splash)

This is a landscape view of a small family grave-plot at night. It is raining, with clouds and a treeline in the background. The moon is peeking through the clouds but mostly obscured. Maybe the moon has the subtle illusion of looking like a skull? (Uh huh… If the moon is mostly obscured, why go through the trouble of asking to to look like a skull?)

In the midground, there is the small family grave-plot (You said this already.). It is surrounded by a waist-high wrought iron fence that has a few bent or missing posts. The area has tall knee length grass, and there is a gnarled dead tree bent over the right side of the plot. The 3 graves have slight wear with moss growing on some, and have Victorian era designs (Victorian era designs? What does that even mean?). One of the graves has a hole dug in front of it, along with a pile of dirt , a shovel stuck in the dirt, and a simple hand lantern on the ground next to the headstone. The lanterns light creates dramatic shadows from the fence, graves, dirtpile, shovel and tree.

In the bottom left foreground, there is a parked Wolsely Stellite 1910s era auto. Its front end facing right.

(You have written a novella, and yet, I have so many questions. Is this in a rural or urban area? Are these graves marked with headstones? Wooden crosses? How many graves are there? (Three.) A plot is usually a designated area within a larger cemetery, but it seems like this may be something more like a private cemetery on family land, which do you intend? It seems that something like a private cemetery [specifically the ones that can be found on plantations or large estates] would offer the privacy that this anonymous character needs, but I guess people rob graves in cities, too.)


Unseen Speaker: (coming from inside hole by grave) (Let’s name this guy if he’s going to be a main character later.)

There you are! (More study is needed, right here. You don’t need to have quotation marks around dialogue. We’ll go into why a little later.)

So, we’re at P1, and we have a splash page.

I’m of the mind that a splash page has to be earned. Both the writer and the reader have to earn it, be worthy of it, because it is a large investment in space.

I don’t believe this warrants a splash page. What is going on that warrants a splash page? Not a thing.

The panel description is wordy. As a splash page, I can see that somewhat, because you want it just so. However, there is information in there that either gets lost, is repeated, or unnecessary.

The line of dialogue is supposed to draw the reader in, intriguing them enough to turn the page. That doesn’t happen here, because the line is boring. It doesn’t have enough punch in order to pull the reader in and get them to turn the page. Maybe if you had built it up a little, taking this page and making it around four or five panels, and either have him talking to himself, or have that be the first and only line on the page. However, you have to adjust your pace for it. If you had closed in on some elements of the scene, making it feel tight and claustrophobic, you’d have gotten further with the story. As it stands, while I applaud the effort, the effect is wasted.




(One day, y’all… one day; Forbes will email me to see why I haven’t sent my edits for the week only to discover that I have gone on a murderous rampage wielding an ax and yelling, ‘Insert page break!‘ Let’s not let that happen, please use a page break. At this point if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem. Sorry for the rant, I have just been seeing way too much of this lately.) (Someone who feels my pain! And this also cost you a flawless victory.)


Page 2:


Panel 1:

This shows a top-down close-up view looking at a decaying male skeleton in a newly opened casket. Showing the top of his head to below his ribcage. The skeleton has patches of medium-length gray hair along with mutton chops.(Is this a corpse or a skeleton?) He is wearing late Victorian era garb (black suit). Both of his arms are folded over his torso grasping onto a large red book (about as thick as full sized dictionary) (I have no idea what this means. Generally speaking, all dictionaries are abridged, because they don’t contain all the words, both contemporary and archaic, that are in use. Even the unabridged dictionaries are abridged. Just saying.). The red book has strange, gold, rune-like markings along with a large skull resting inside of a triangle at the center. There is a spider crawling out of the upper right eye socket area (This last sentence was just tacked on. How do I know? Because it should have been described when you were describing his head, instead of down here, past the book.).


Unseen Speaker: (coming from off the panel at bottom)

Sorry, old friend. (Again, no quotation marks in the dialogue.)


Panel 2:

This shows the unseen speaker (totally covered in shadow) as he is leaned over and pries the book out of the hands of the skeleton. The skeleton is also covered in shadow and is falling limply back into his casket, along with a few fingers snapping off from the book.



Panel 3:

This is a close-up shot of the Unseen Speakers face and upper body. He is standing upright now (still in the hole) and the hand lanterns light is shining on him. So maybe a bottom looking up shot to add effect to the lanterns lighting on his face, while the books backside and his hands are shown only as shadow. He is an elderly Caucasian man, in his 70s and of average weight. His face is slightly gaunt with a few distinctive age lines (accentuated by shadows). He has a gray moustache(mustache)(his spelling was correct) that covers all of his upper lip and some of his lower lip. It curves down and then up to a point (like waxed). His eyes are slightly squinted while observing the book held in both hands, with a stern or determined look. He is wearing a black bowler derby hat along with a black 3 piece suit from the 1910s era. They are both rain soaked. His head is shaved bald.


Old Man(No, no, no-He’s either the Unseen Speaker or the Old Man, or if you must, the Unseen Speaker (Old Man), but you may not switch a character name around like this. It’s confusing.):

But its(it’s) time to let go. (suggest connecting this line and the one from the second panel with ellipses)

(Please tell me that the irony of having a visual description of a character that you refer to as, the Unseen Speaker, does not escape you. Most of this description could be in a separate document, other than the aspects dealing directly with his expression and appearance on this page. Also, this fellow needs a name.)

This page has more story to tell. You have the space, but are not using it wisely.

I’m going to just call it right now: your pacing is off, causing you to pad this out a bit. Let’s see what else you’ve done. However, I believe you’re writing for a page count, instead of writing the story you’re trying to tell.




Page 3:


Panel 1:

This shows the Old Man climbing out of the hole. The view should be looking at his frontside. He is using one arm to both hold the book and try to lift himself out of the hole, while the free hand is reach further and grasping at muddy rain-soaked ground. His coat and pants get a bit of mud on them in the process. (Can we see his legs on this panel? Why are you telling me about his pants if we cannot? And if we can see them you need to reword this, because it seems that his bottom half is in the grave as it is written now.)



Panel 2: (semi splash)(semi-sure this is not a thing) (Fully sure this is not a thing, but as long as the artist understands it, that’s all that matters.)

This shows the Old Man is now out of the hole and beginning to stand up. The view is now from behind and slightly above his head looking towards the moon again, there are a few drops of water rolling off the brim of his hat. In this instant there is a flash of lightning in the distant clouds. A small distance away from the grave-plot are standing 3 black cloaked figures in a semi-circle, hovering slightly above the ground. They should look supernatural and ghostly so maybe transparent or at least no shadows casted by them. They are fairly tall and lean, with no real discernable(discernible) features besides their arms and hands. They are covered by wispy and tattered black robes and hoods. Their heads are all slightly tilted or drooped, as their arms hang limp at their sides.(These cloaked figures sound like dementors, make sure that they do not look like them. Include some differences in the description so an artist does not inadvertently draw one for you.)

Okay, I’m not ashamed to admit that I had to look up what a dementor was. I’ve never read any of the Harry Potter books. My kids have forced me to see a few of the movies. That’s okay. I’ve given them a taste of what it’s like to watch movies of quality, instead of terrible, cheap bootlegs. It works out.


Sound FX: (Lightning)

CRRRAAKKBOOOOOM! (Quotation marks ONLY go around dialogue, and then only when you cannot see the speaker on panel. Delete these, and the other quotation marks you’ve used here.)(And now, the dialogue discussion: There are only two times when quotation marks go around dialogue. The first, and extremely rarely used, is when the speaker is quoting someone. Doesn’t happen often at all. The second time, which is much more prevalent, is in a voice-over caption. A voice-over caption is when a person is speaking, but is not in the scene. Think of it as a film, when someone is talking about a memory, or going through a scenario—we see the memory/scenario, but we don’t see the person speaking, or we see the action that the speaker is performing, but not in the timeframe during which they’re talking. These are the only two times in comics that you’ll use quotation marks.)


Panel 3:

This shows one of the middle Cloaked Figures with a lifted hand reaching towards the Old Man. This ones(one’s) head is lifted and looking in his direction also. The view should show a closeup shot of the front of the Cloaked Figures.(No, not one of middle figures; there are three figures, so one is in the middle. I don’t understand where the Old Man is in relationship to the cloaked figures.)


Old Man: (coming from off panel at bottom)

Ohhh PISS.

(These pages are incredibly short, there is no dialogue and very little content, quantitatively speaking. So far you’ve had a full page spread, followed by two three-panel pages. This is going to read so quickly.)


We’re three pages in, and while there are signs of life, there is precious little story to be had here.

Here’s the thing, folks: books are meant to be read. In order to read them, you have to do something that tells the story and keeps the reader on the page longer. There are two ways to keep the reader on the page longer: add dialogue, or add more panels. That’s it. (Well, you could always be more intricate with the art, but that isn’t going to happen very often.)

What’s going to happen here is that the reader is going to take maybe ten seconds per page. Maybe. And you’re expecting them to pay money for this? Not going to happen. They’ll flip through, and then they’ll put the book back when they see there’s no real story here.

We’re at the end of P3, and while you started the story late (which is a great thing), and there’s a sense as to why we’re here, there’s no feeling that we MUST be here. Having dialogue will add that to the story.

This isn’t P3. It’s really the end of P2—and that’s only if you took the suggestion I had for P1. The pacing is off, and I feel it’s only going to get worse from here.

Also, this page reaches the limit that most readers will give a story before they close the book out of disinterest. Without a name behind you, you have to do everything in your power to make sure their experience is a great one. This doesn’t do it.


Page 4:


Panel 1: (semi splash)(Really, you should do research in order to understand what a splash page is. As soon as you do, I’m willing to bet you’ll never use this term again.)

This shows the Old Man running towards an old mansion in the heavy rain. The view should be angled, and a slight distance behind him and towards ground level looking up at an angle (to make the mansion seem tall and ominous). (This angle is un-drawable, we’ll come back to it.) In the foreground, the Old Man should be running while grasping the red book with both arms, his hat falling off as his head is turned slightly to look behind him. His eyes should be a bit wider and his mouth slightly O’d to show he is frightened but not hysterical. He should also have mud covering his shoes and parts of his coat and pants, also leaving footprints in the mud. His cars front end (from page 1) should be barely shown in the bottom right corner.

In the midground, there is a fairly large Victorian styled mansion. It is dilapidated and slightly overgrown with ivy in areas, along with some busted windows and shingles and shutters hanging off. Between the windows there are various 6ft tall statues(of what?) (possibly indistinguishable from the distance) and a short set of 2 steps leading to a single door.

In the background, there are thick clouds with a bolt of lightning flashing and partially obscured by the mansion.

(Why is this angle is un-drawable? Let’s go through it together. You say that the view is 1-angled 2-a slight distance behind him 3-towards ground level 4-looking up at an angle. How can a view point toward the ground and look up at an angle? You’ve written so much detail here that it is difficult to parse out what you want.)

This panel is still undrawable, but let’s take a look at it a little closer, putting the camera where you think you have it.

Basically, you’re asking for a worm’s eye view of the man as he runs away. Maybe a couple of feet above the ground, but definitely low, in order to look up. That’s what I understood from the panel description when it comes to camera placement. That’s where the sense of this stops.

In order for the man to be in the foreground, he has to be close to the camera. That’s just the way things work. If he’s close to the camera, we’re only going to be able to see a certain swath of him. If you want to get his face, then the camera has to be angled up pretty high, because it’s low to the ground.

Do this: take a flashlight and turn it on. A dimly lit room would be best for this—full daylight won’t work. You need to see the beam.

Place the flashlight where you think it should be, and then angle it up to where you want it. The beam you see will be the view of the camera. It won’t be able to see much of anything else. With the man in the foreground, all you’re going to see is the man—possibly his upper torso. This also means that everything else you describe will not be seen, because it’s impossible. The man is in the way.

Then, there’s the fact that we’re seeing his face. If we can see that much of his face, then we’re not behind him, we’ve swung around to the side of him.

So, the panel isn’t undrawable because of your poor description of camera placement (and there are terms that can be used in order to get your camera placement across more clearly), it’s undrawable because you don’t understand what it is you’re asking of the artist. You have little conception of spatial relationships in terms of camera placement. When you learn some of that, your panel descriptions will be that much better.


Sound FX: (Lightning)



Panel 2:

This shows the Old Man still running, almost reaching the front steps. The view should be behind him but closer to show his face. His head is turned to the right as he yells and looks more angry than afraid now. The door he approaches in the background has a statue on each side. On its left, is a statue of a skull faced grim reaper looking down at a small baby it cradles in its arms. On its right, is a nude Eve statue looking upwards as she holds a snake to her ear in her lifted left arm while she holds an apple in her lowered right hand.(This info about the statues should go along with the first mention of them. Also you describe his expression in detail in the previous panel, which makes me believe that you can see his face there, but here I you say that we are closer SO we can see his face. The wording here is confusing.) (If we’re closer to him in order to see his face, we’re not going to be able to see where he’s running towards. Not with the detail you’re giving here. If the camera is behind him, he’s not going to turn his head to the right at a 90 degree angle in order to shout back at his pursuers. In order to see his face, we’re going to have to swing the camera around to his side. This means we’re not going to be able to see the house or the detail you were adding to it. So, this is another undrawable panel.)


Old Man:

Get BACK you devils! (If you want the word ‘back‘ to be emphasized underline it.)

(This is wordy. I feel like I can say that because I struggle with being, as one English professor once put it, wordy and vague, myself. However, I carefully combed through what you have written here and I do not believe any of the descriptions contradict each other. With the glaring exception of the way you describe the angle, this can all work. This might be a great place to include a link to a visual reference of a dilapidated Victorian mansion, instead of going into such elaborate detail here in the description. Trim down your descriptions.)


Two undrawable panels out of a two panel page. At least you’re batting .1000 for this one. I just don’t think it was the way you wanted it to be.

So, here’s the story so far: an old guy digs up a grave (improbable, but okay), sees some ghosts, and runs away. Do we really need four pages for this? No. Two to three pages I can see, but not four going on five.

And we still have no idea why we’re here. Why? Because of a lack of dialogue. We can’t tell what’s going on from the art, because your panel descriptions are doing more harm than good. Couple that with the pacing (or lack thereof), and there’s no story being told.

We don’t know who these characters are, what they want, why they want it, and or what obstacles are stopping them from getting it. Sure, we’re only 4 pages in, but we should have at least some sort of idea as to the answers to some of those storytelling questions. It doesn’t need to be all laid out, but there should be at least an inkling of what’s going on.

I was recently watching The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia (and by recently, I mean a few days ago), and was struck by just how stupid this movie was.

It wasn’t a sequel. The only thing sequelish about the movie was the title. It didn’t take place in Connecticut, it took place in Georgia. Then you have white people going around being stupid. (My wife says that horror movies make everyone look stupid, but I disagree somewhat. Horror movies make white people look especially stupid. Especially when talking about ghosts.)

What does that stupid movie have to do with what’s going on here? (And I feel bad for calling it stupid, because it has Cicely Tyson in it, as well as Katee Sackhoff. And I lust me some Katee Sackhoff.) After the initial few minutes, there was a lull. You really didn’t want to watch it, even though you know there was story coming. You just wanted to get to the action. Have the ghosts attack, start killing folk, and having a good ole time.

The sad part is that we’re 4 pages in, and even though we have this extremely low panel count, we’re still waiting for something to happen. Not only are we waiting for something to happen, we’re waiting for some story to be told. The stupid movie had nothing going on but some talk, but it was trying to be revealing both of plot and character. This is trying to have action, but there is no revelation of either plot or character. So it’s failing.




Page 5:


Panel 1:

This shows the Old Man bursting through the front door with his shoulder, it is easier than he anticipated. The view should be to his right side.(Why does it matter that opening the door is easier than he expected? Does it show in his expression?) (Riddle me this: how can the door being easier to open than anticipated be drawn? Anyone?)


Old Man:

Get BA—


Panel 2:

This shows the old man tumbling on the floor after bursting through the front door. The red book being flung away from him in the process. The room is mainly shadow, besides a few mounted animal heads on the wall. The view is still to his right side.(Light source?) (She beat me to it.)


Old Man:



Panel 3:

This shows the Old Man crawling on the floor to close the door. The view should be from the inside of the room facing towards the still open door. As he crawls on the floor with an outreaching arm almost touching the door, a Cloaked Figure is nearly to the door as well, with one outside of the left window and another outside the right window. The room is still bathed in shadow, with only a few hanging paintings and mounted animal heads somewhat visible from the light shining through the windows and open door.(You haven’t placed the windows in earlier descriptions. I wonder if the ambient lighting would allow you see the detail of what is hanging on the wall.) (Nope. However, you can do anything with lighting when it comes to bad horror movies. I have two examples, one horror, one not. The first example, the movie is entitled Ancient Evil: Scream of the Mummy. It’s a terrible, terrible movie (almost good, except for the story and the acting—HA!), and there is a storm that knocks out the lights in a house, but the rain never ever falls. Lots of thunder and lightning, but no rain. It’s a great movie. Go watch it. The second example is from the Knight Rider remake. Mike is stuck in a lab of some kind, with bad guys (of course), and he knocks out the lights (on purpose). Well, instead of it being black in there due to a lack of a light source, it was a royal blue. Terrible. I understood the reason why, but it was terrible. The same thing is going on here. There’s a lot of terrible going on.)



Panel 4:

This shows the Old Man now sitting on the floor with his back to the closed front door. The view should mirror that of panel 3. There is a flash of lightning outside the left window and the cloaked figures are no longer standing outside. The flash of lightning brightens the room and reveals a few more objects hanging on the walls, like rifles, artifacts and portraits.(When you say, ‘the view should mirror…‘ do you mean that this is mirror image, or a repeat angle?) (You really have no idea as to where to place the camera for maximum effect of storytelling. This is not effective. Then again, the story isn’t effective. There is no story. Just actions.)


(You are trying to be so specific that you’re obscuring what you want. As an exercise, try writing the fewest words possible to get your point across. Limit yourself to only the essentials. I suggest taking one of your longer panel descriptions and deleting every unnecessary, or repetitive word. See what your left with after doing that. Like I said, I struggle with wordiness myself, but you have to show intention in your writing and economy is essential to that end.)

Another page that does nothing to reveal why we’re going through any of this. It’s like a form of torture. Even when taken cumulatively, there’s no story. The actions should tell one, and the most basic reason—why–isn’t yet told, and doesn’t seem to be forthcoming.

The big news is that there are four panels on this page. I think that’s the largest panel count yet!



Page 6:


Panel 1:

This shows the Old Man lighting a zippo-style pocket lighter to get a better look. The view should be close-up and looking at his face. Lighting (warm) from the lighter and (cold) from the light coming through windows. The old man has an amused look on his face. (Zippo-style lighters came around in the 1930s. Does that still work with your timeline?) (I love the fact that incorporeal forms are stopped by physical objects. So much so that a person feels safe enough to smile.)


Old Man:

Hm. Too close. (suggest changing the period to ellipses) (This line of dialogue doesn’t go with the panel description.)


Panel 2:

This shows the Old Man investigating the room looking for the book he dropped. The view should be to his left side, with lighting coming from his lighter and the light coming through windows. He is walking near a wall where there is a collection of strange and frightening tribal masks hanging. Some of them look like their eyes are following him.(I’mpossible. This panel cannot be drawn. Someone tell me why.)


Old Man:

Now(comma) where is that blasted book?


Panel 3:

This shows the Old Man looking down at something that caught his eye. The view should be from below him looking up slightly. With the lighting coming from below his face where he holds his lighter. (I’m extremely tired of this shows, this shows… We know what the panel shows. Get to it already.)



Panel 4:

This shows the old man leaning down on a knee to look at a picture that was knocked to the floor. The view should be slightly over his shoulder, with a ring of light surrounding him and nearby objects (from his lighter). He is holding a small picture frame that has a few shards of glass missing and laying on the floor. Along with a small table and the large red book that knocked over the table lying beside him. (Almost every element of this panel description is wrong. He cannot be in a circle of light, because the light would have to be outside of him. He’s holding the lighter, so the light is stopped by his body. That is, unless he’s holding the lighter up like he’s at a rock concert, and I don’t think that’s the case. That table is magically delicious. It just appears out of nowhere. And if the book was heavy enough to knock over the table, which I’m guessing is wooden and decently heavy, then it was also pretty heavy and unwieldy to begin with. I’m not seeing a book knock over a table.)


I am beginning to think that this could be condensed, a lot.)

Another page in which nothing has happened.

Guess I’ll tell a story.

I had a birthday recently, and a friend of mine got me a present. She bought me a saxophone. I’ve been saying recently that I want to learn how to play 4 instruments: guitar, piano, saxophone, and violin. She asked me which of the instruments I wanted to learn first, and I said the sax or the piano. She’s a widow, and can’t yet bear to part with her husband’s keyboard, so she bought me a sax.

Now, I’ve never played an instrument in my life. The closest I’ve come to reading sheet music was when I was in middle school. We had to do a Christmas project, and I had to input the notes to Good King Wenceslas into a program. Got an A. But that’s the closest I’ve ever gotten to reading music. I blame my parents. I’ve shown interest in wanting to play instruments before—the piano—and they even went so far as to buy me an electronic keyboard. I guess they figured I’d learn how to play it on my own. I’m not that smart. Lessons would have been extremely helpful. And since this was the 80s, there was no internet.

I tried learning the guitar. My wife’s stepfather was trying to teach me. The problem was simple, though: he’s a terrible, terrible teacher. Not only that, he’s going deaf, having to wear hearing aids. So if he can’t teach, and there’s no one there to really correct me, the going is going to be rough. I tried the internet with that, too, but it wasn’t as helpful. I’ll come back around to it. Let me get decent with this one first.

So I now have a saxophone, and I’m learning how to produce music from it. Reading the music, pressing the appropriate levers in order to get the appropriate keys, and as soon as I have some money, I’ll be going to a teacher in order to expand my knowledge base. I’m having fun. I feel like I’m growing again, since I’m learning something. And, it will help me with a story I’ve written but needs to be worked on again.

It was interesting going at first. I didn’t even know how to blow into the thing properly. Now that I know, though, it’s just going to be a lot of blowing and terrible sounds coming out until I get better. I’m better now than I was, and I’ll expect to be better still a month from now. Slow and steady will win this race.

That’s a story. Beginning, middle, and end, and I did it in less time and with more interest than this entire script so far.




Page 7:


Panel 1:

This shows a close up view of the photo the Old Man is holding. It is a black and white photo of 3 of his war-buddies and he standing in front of the Pyramids at Giza. They are dressed in Mahdist/Sudan British Military uniforms. From left to right, the first man has no facial hair, the second has mutton chops, the third has a beard, and the fourth has a mustache like the Old Man.



Panel 2:

This shows the Old Man has laid the picture back on the ground and is reaching for the red book with his free hand (other hand still holding lighter). The view should be from his right side, as he is looking down at the book on the floor. (What the hell just happened? He’s in some place, and just happens to find a picture of himself and three war buddies in the foyer? He doesn’t find this strange at all? I find it strange. This place is not his home, and may be the home of one of his friends. The question to be asked now is simple: what’s the timeframe of the picture and the guy now? Will the reader be able realize it’s him in the picture? How old is he in it? Questions unanswered.)


Old Man:

Don’t worry, lads, I haven’t forgotten. (Comma-fail.)


Panel 3:

This shows the Old Man beginning to stand as he is startled by a loudly ringing grandfather clock behind him. The view should be of his frontside from the waist above, with one arm clutching the red book as his lighter is falling out of the other hand. His eyes are widened a bit and his mouth slightly opened from the surprise. (You have to show the grandfather clock earlier or in this panel in order for this sound effect to make sense.)


Sound FX: (Grandfather Clock)

GONG GONG GONG (So, it’s three in the morning?)


Panel 4:

This shows the old man quickly spun around and dropped to a knee to shoot at the noise. The view should be of his frontside. He is facing the opposite direction now and on one knee with a Webley Mark 1 revolver firing in one hand (where the lighter was) and the red book still in the other. The lighter is shown hitting the floor in this instant and the muzzle flash from the revolver creates some lighting on nearby objects. The stern expression has returned to his face in this panel.(Where is the revolver before he draws it?)(It’s magically delicious.)


(This pacing seems off for gothic horror. Because everything has been going by so quickly, there has been little opportunity to build dramatic tension. It’s all right to have more than four panels on a page, I promise.)

I’m not going to tell another story. I’m just going to say meh and leave it at that.





Page 8:


Panel 1:

This shows the old Grandfather Clock that the Old Man has shot. The view should be a closeup of the clock face with a bullet hole somewhere on it with a warm yellowish red light shining through.



Panel 2:

This shows the Old Man walking to investigate the Grandfather Clock, while he is putting his gun back inside his inner coat pocket. The warm light from the clock bullet hole is shining onto his hand that is still grasping the red book. The view should be from his front.


Old Man:

Oh.. sorry(comma) old man.


Panel 3:

This shows the Old Man noticing the warm bullet hole light that is on his hand. The view should be top down and a close up of the hand grasping the red book.


Old Man:

What the?


(You are speeding through these pages. You are not slowing us down with dialogue, or narration, or content, or panel count. You have got to condense this this.)

He shoots a clock with a gun that teleports into his hand, then goes over to look at it. What’s the point here? I’m not seeing it.

More wasted space, and we’re back down to three panels for no reason at all.

Page 9:


Panel 1:

This shows the Old (Man) looking into the bullet hole with light coming through. The view should be a closeup side view (of his left side) of him looking into the bullet hole.


Old Man:



Panel 2:

This shows the old man opening the Grandfather Clock like a door (opens from left to right) and reveals a hidden room. The clock is attached to small door hinges and acts as a secret entrance. The view should still be from his left side, and the main lighting (yellowish red from a torch) is coming from inside the secret room. (I am actually a little bit murky on the placement of the clock/door and the Old Man in the panel. Has the door been opened all the way? Can you see any detail of the room? It seems like the clock will be behind him.) (I like how he just knows where the catch is in order to open it in the first place. Well, this stopped making sense around P3…)



Panel 3:

This shows a view of the small secret room behind the clock. To the Old Mans right is a lit torch on the wall, and in front of him is a rusted, old, birdcage style elevator with a lever. The room itself is crudely carved out of stone. The view should be behind the old man and over his shoulder. He is reaching for the torch on the wall.


Old Man

Well, this must be it.


Panel 4:

This shows the old man inside of the birdcage elevator, descending into the pitch black. The view should be from a distance, showing only the elevator with the Old man inside. The only lighting coming from a small ring of illumination off his torch. He is still holding onto the red book in his other hand.


Old Man:

Into the abyss we go.

(So, you have written 9 pages of content and here is a summary of what has actually happened in the script: A man digs up a body and steals a book, sees ghosts, runs, goes into a house, a clock chimes, he shoots the clock and finds a magic door. Do you really think this should take 9 pages to accomplish?

You’ve not really given us a way to connect to or empathize with this character. The obstacles you set up are very easily evaded. He has no back story or discernible motivation. I’m not sure what you are building. I am also not sure if this is meant to be a prologue for a longer issue or a standalone story. It’s not strong enough to stand alone as it is.

Find a way to connect your audience to a character, condense, and choose your words carefully. This is my advice.)

Let’s just call it crap and run it down.

Format: Page breaks. That’s the only thing stopping you from a flawless victory. It’s also the best thing about this story.

Panel Descriptions: These need work. First, they’re too wordy. Second, because you’re too wordy, you can confuse the issue. You’ve confused Sam at least once. Third, when you add more words, you lessen the chance of the panel being able to be drawn. Fourth, you’re not visualizing the camera placement in order to get the best camera angle available. Fifth, you’re not thinking the panel descriptions through in order to get the best camera placement. (Yes, these two are different.)

That’s a lot of things to work through. Sam gave some good advice. Cut down on the amount of words, and you’ll raise the chance of the panel being able to be drawn.

Pacing: There is none. Nothing of interest happens at all, and it all goes by too fast without any sense of self. No page has more than four panels, and while that in itself isn’t a crime, there is no dialogue to go with it. This is a two minute read. And really, it’s a wasted two minutes.

Dialogue: There is barely any here, and what’s here is only partially okay. When he’s calm, his dialogue sounds very contrived. However, there needs to be more dialogue added, because the story is not coming through in the art.

Content: As a reader, I’d be pissed off in looking at this. It’s a waste of time. Know what happens in this story? Not one blessed thing. Not anything that makes sense, at least. There’s nothing here that does anything that tells a story. It’s just a set of actions that doesn’t mean anything at all. It’s crap.

Editorially, this needs a complete and total rewrite. There’s no pacing, there’s no dialogue, there’s no story. This has to go back to the drawing board, with a conversation with yourself about what it is you’re trying to communicate with the reader and how to best get that across. What you have right here isn’t doing the trick, not by a longshot.

A story has to give the reasons behind the actions, either explicitly or implicitly. This was neither. Just some old guy going through some motions, with no inkling at all as to his motivations. Give the reader a reason, and as long as it’s halfway compelling, they’ll give you enough of their attention for you to keep going. I wanted to stop at P3.

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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