TPG Week 189: What A Resubmission Should Look Like

| August 9, 2014


Welcome back, one and all, to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have something of a treat: Brave One Jon Parrish has done a resubmission! We don’t get those too often around these parts. We have Samantha LeBas looking svelte in purple, I’m looking crazed in red, and we’ll see what Jon does with


[Page 1][6 Panels]

Panel 1: An establishing shot of a two-story beach house on the coast, something like  this. It is nighttime with a full moon. All of the lights in the house are off. The front doors are open. There are two dead guards in suits face down on the front steps and blood trickling down the stairs.

CAP (SAM): I don’t understand. Is this about money? Because I can get you—

CAP (PATRICK): Mr. Murphy, haven’t you been paying attention?

Panel 2: A bird’s eye view of the entrance of the mansion. It is a circular room with stairs on both sides of the wall, leading to the second floor. On the floor in the center, there are three dead guards with gunshots to the head.

PATRICK (no tail) 1: We hunted you down, took out your defenses, and eliminated your security detail.

PATRICK (no tail) 2: Effortlessly.(Why no tail ? Is he off panel? Yes, then why isn’t this a caption, like the dialogue in the previous panel? Where are the quotation marks? The lack of quotation marks would mean that this is internal monologue. Is this internal monologue?)(I m going to talk about dialogue and space at the end of this page.)

Panel 3: A full shot of Patrick and Oscar, both dressed in all black with black ski masks over their faces, standing side by side over Sam. Sam is kneeling on the floor with his back to us and his hands behind his head. Patrick is also wearing night vision goggles (why?) and has the gun (which he is holding in his left hand) to Sam’s forehead. Oscar is standing with his arms crossed with a gun in his right hand. They are in the main bedroom and we can see the bed and the bedroom window in the background. The room is blue.

PATRICK 1: We’re not just some thugs you can pay off.

PATRICK 2: We’re professionals(needs ending punctuation)(Usually, that would drive me crazy. However, I know Jon is usually very good about ending punctuation, so I’m more than willing to let that go.)

Panel 4: A close-up of Sam with a frightened look on his face.

SAM: But I—

PATRICK (op): Goodbye, Mr. Murphy.

Panel 5: A medium shot of Patrick and Oscar looking down at Sam. Patrick is pushing the hammer back with his thumb.

SFX: Click.

Panel 6: Same angle. Patrick has a wide eyed look on his face.(A look of… panic? disbelief? anger? clarify this expression) Oscar is looking down.

PHONE (MUSICAL NOTES): Drop it low! Drop it low!

[Page 1 cont’d]

OSCAR: Ah(comma) shit. I thought it was on vibrate. Sorry, cuz. (This last sentence doesn’t match the panel description.)

(You start out making this look like a serious action piece, and then show us it’s funny. I like that, makes the reveal/punchline do double duty. Makes me want to turn the page.)

P1 is on the books!

This is starting out better than the last time. We’ve got clearer panel descriptions, and we’ve got the story moving. I like how this has cleaned up.

What am I not liking? The tailless word balloons in panel 2.

Having the balloons being tailless does a couple of things, neither of which are good, in my estimation.

Someone reading this would think that the people/person speaking are in the room, or very near it. Not good, because there are no tails.

The other thing that it does is it makes the reader think that the balloons have no source, which is also not good, because dialogue almost always has a source. And since this isn’t a supernatural story, there will be a very mundane source.

So, I agree with the call to make it balloons instead of captions, but I disagree with having them tailless. These balloons should have tails, and they should be in the direction of the room that the characters occupy.

There’s also a way to make it look like there’s some distance between where we’re at and the room that is occupied. You know how when you’re in a house and you can hear voices, but they’re a little lower and somewhat indistinct? Then as you get closer, you can hear them better? The same thing can be done here.

The letterer should take the font size and lower it a point or two, and place that in a balloon that is also a bit smaller. That will give the illusion of distance as we move through the house.

The only other thing is to make sure that the last thing said in the dialogue matches the panel description.

Remember, the panel description is a moment in time, but it is the last moment in time before the next panel. You could pack in a billion words of dialogue in that panel, and as long as the last thing said matches the panel description, then the reader will have the illusion that everything said before that last thing takes place in the timespace between the previous panel and the panel that the reader is in. If you have dialogue that goes past that, if the last thing said doesn’t match the panel description, then you’re breaking the reader’s sense of the timespace within that panel, and you’re going to be seen as having a problem with pacing.

Other than that, this is a pretty good page. Much better than the first go-round.

[Page 2][5 Panels]

Panel 1: A close-up of Oscar who has now lifted his mask up with his gun hand and has his cell phone to his ear using his free hand. He’s got a smirk on his face.

OSCAR 1: Hello? Oh hey, Lacy. I was hoping you’d call.

OSCAR 2: Nothing important. What’s up?

PATRICK: Oscar, what the shit? (Can we see him in this panel?)

Panel 2: A side shot of Oscar, now facing right, with his thumb covering the cell phone’s mouthpiece while looking over his shoulder at Patrick in annoyance. In the background, we can see a doorway leading to darkness. (Is Patrick on panel? Or is he just looking in his direction?)

OSCAR 1 (whisper): Can’t you see I’m on the phone!(question mark)(Interrobang, if you really want this to be forceful.)

PATRICK (whisper): Yeah, in the middle of our hit!

OSCAR 2: What? We’re killing him anyway. (Is he still whispering?)

Panel 3: A shot of Sam from Patrick’s POV. He’s got his hands behind his head and has a nervous smile look on his face.

OSCAR 1 (op): Besides, he doesn’t mind. Right?

SAM: No, take your time.

OSCAR 2 (op): See?(suggest separating balloons) Thank you.

Panel 4: A close shot of Patrick holding his hands up in frustration. Oscar is in the background with his back to his right the reader.(What is Oscar doing? You can still tell someone is holding a phone to their ear even if they aren’t facing you. Think this should read to his right, with his back to the reader.)

OSCAR (op)(He’s not off panel, he’s in the background): Sorry about that. Can I still swing by your place later?

PATRICK: Goddamn it.

Panel 5: A side shot of Patrick holding up his gun free hand as if to say one moment . Sam is still on his knees with his hands be has a nervous look on his face.

PATRICK 1: Could you excuse us for a moment?

SAM 1: No problem.

PATRICK 2: I apologize. It isn’t always like this.

SAM 2: I understand.

(Okay, I actually laughed a little. Congratulations.)


I’ve got nothing really to say here. I like it when I have nothing to say. Having nothing to say means I don’t have direction to give. It means that the writer is doing their job.

Just watch to make sure you’re consistent when you give the letterer directions. You start with whispers, and then you stop them, within the same panel, without a good reason why.

Then the off-panel dialogue that really wasn’t.

These are basically nits for me to pick.

This resubmission is better written. The humor is starting to come through. I smiled, myself.

This page works.

[Page 3][6 Panels]

Panel 1: A close-up of Oscar on the phone with a smirk on his face.

OSCAR: What did you have in mind? (Separate balloons to pause for her response) Oh really?

Panel 2: A side shot of Patrick reaching from off-panel and taking the phone.

OSCAR: You’re so nas—hey!

Panel 3: A side shot of Patrick, now with his mask up, holding to his ear. Oscar is looking at him in disbelief with his arms out.

PATRICK: He’ll call you back.

OSCAR: Patrick, what the hell? That was Lacy Jones.

Panel 4: Patrick is looking at Oscar angrily and pointing at him with Oscar’s phone in his hand. Oscar is standing with his hands up defensively with a nervous look on his face.

PATRICK 1: I don’t give a shit. Really? Answering your phone.(question mark)

OSCAR: Come on, Pat. What’s your problem? (You missed the r .)

PATRICK 2: My problem is that you’re making us look bad. Stop dicking around.

OSCAR 2: You didn’t care before.

PATRICK 3: This is different, Oscar. This is important. (Five balloons in this panel. There’s a lot of back and forth. I don’t think this will fit.)

Panel 5: A medium shot of Patrick leaning with his back on the wall. He has a serious look on his face.

PATRICK 1: This isn’t some lame cheating spouse hit. This is next level mafia shit. This could get us in with the Mondragons.

PATRICK 2: But if we make a mistake, we’re fucked. We have to be professionals. (This dialogue doesn’t match the tone of the panel description. The panel description gives the impression that he’s casual, for all of his seriousness of his expression. This would be better if he were leaning forward, gesticulating.)

Panel 6: A side shot of Patrick holding out Oscar’s phone. Oscar is standing and looking at him seriously.

PATRICK: Got it?

OSCAR: I think so.

(Fair enough.)


Kinda flying through this.

We now have more story than we had before. This page right here gives us the reason for why we’re here, and I like it.

Just watch the back and forths. Make sure you have the space for it.

Really, there’s nothing much or me to say here.

[Page 4][5 Panels]

Panel 1: A side shot of Oscar with his gun aimed at the reader and firing.


Panel 2: A shot of Sam getting hit in the chest by the shots. He is falling backwards and has a look of surprise on his face.


Panel 3: A downward shot of Sam, now sprawled backwards in what looks like a very uncomfortable position.

OSCAR (op): Mission Accomplished. Can I have my phone back, now?

Panel 3: A shot of Patrick looking down at Sam’s dead body in shock. Oscar has just taken the phone from Patrick’s hand.(Where is Oscar?)

PATRICK: I hate you so much.

OSCAR: I’ll live.

Panel 4: A side shot of Patrick standing over Sam’s dead body and reaching into his own back pocket.

OSCAR (op) 1: Hello? Sorry, where were we?

OSCAR (op) 2: Heh. Oh, yeah. (Comma-fail.)

PATRICK: Count your blessings, buddy. At least you aren’t related to him.

Panel 5: An upward shot of Patrick holding his camera phone up to take a picture of Sam (who is off panel).

PATRICK: Confirming kill. (Do we need this line here?)

OSCAR (op): What? No whip cream. I’m lactose intolerant.

SFX(from phone Patrick’s phone): click.

(You seem to be having trouble remembering where you have placed people on panel, or at least having trouble remembering to mention it. When someone is on panel, we need to know what they are doing, what expression they have, etc. It would really benefit your writing to be aware of that.)

It’s nearing the end.

The previous work reached for the funny. It didn’t grasp it, but it definitely reached. This has gained some humor, but now, it doesn’t really seem to want to be funny. The funny seems to be an afterthought. I don’t think it’s a change for the better.


[Page 5][4 Panels]

Panel 1: A side close shot of Patrick typing something on his phone.

PATRICK: Mission Complete. And send. (I don’t think we need this line, either.)

OSCAR (op): Roleplay? Nah, that shit’s for nerds.(separate balloons) It doesn’t?

Panel 2: A close-up of Sam’s face. (What’s the expression?)

PATRICK (op) 1: Sorry you had to go out like this.

PATRICK (op) 2: On the bright side, your death is going to put us on the map.

Panel 3: Patrick is holding up his phone. It is lighting up and vibrating (perhaps use motion lines).

PATRICK: So, thanks for that.


Panel 4: A shot of Patrick holding the phone to his ear.

PATRICK 1: Hello?

BOBBY(from phone?): Who the fuck is that? (This is a major point in the story. I think you need to make it crystal clear.)

PATRICK 2: What?

(All right, so, apparently irony is really tricky to work out as a writer. I feel like I have been talking about this a lot recently. This last panel is ironic, now, we need make sure that the audience knows that. You need to clarify Patrick’s expectations. Who does he think will be on the phone, what does he expect them to say? Connect the idea from panel 2 [your death is going to put us on the map] with the phone ringing in panel 3 [something about: here’s the boss now, etc] so it can all fall apart in panel 4. Additionally you need to clarify Bobby’s response to getting the picture [something like: Who the fuck is the dead guy in this photo, etc.] Don’t lose the humor in overestimating the effectiveness of a less than obvious set up.)


You know what? P4 was something of a lull.

Don’t get me wrong. It had the necessary elements, it did what it needed to do, but it didn’t have that much flair to it. You still have the humor, juxtaposed with a bit of wry gravitas, but we’ve come to expect that now. It wasn’t boring, but it was a low part of the story.

Then you bounce back with this page. It could have been a bit better, but it’s definitely a bounce back. I’m interested.

I’m with Sam. This could have been set up better in the preceding panels, but the story is defintely going somewhere. I like the tone. I like the tone of the phone call. I like where this is going. I’m starting to see where more funny is coming from. I like it.

Don’t forget your facial expressions. (Sound familiar?)


[Page 6][5 Panels]

Panel 1: A medium shot of Bobby Mondragon sitting in a leather armchair in the middle of what looks like an old basement. The phone is on the left arm and on speakerphone. Bobby is sitting back with his hands clasped together in front of his face like he’s praying. He is looking at something off-panel. There are empty wooden shelves in the background and the floor is cement. The room is dimly lit.

BOBBY 1: I mean, I know who it is(comma) but I don’t think you know.

PHONE (PATRICK): Stan Murphy?

BOBBY 2: Are you sure? Because I sent a picture of Stan Murphy to you yesterday. Does he look like the picture?

Panel 2: A side shot of Bobby with an angry look on his face.

PHONE (PATRICK): Not exactly. I just thought it was an old picture.

BOBBY: Why wouldn’t I send a picture that looks exactly like the guy I want killed?

PHONE (PATRICK): It was black and white, I—

Panel 3: An angled shot that puts Bobby and his chair on the left side of the panel in the foreground while in the background we can see a bruised and beaten man hanging upside down in the center of the room. There is a drain directly below him. Behind him is a man wrapping a bat in barbed wire.

BOBBY 1: Here’s the thing, I sent you out there to take care of our main rival

BOBBY 2: But instead, you blow away his brother. Nice job.(If he is the brother of the rival, wouldn’t that still be a good thing? Is Sam a spy for the other family? A mild mannered accountant who knows nothing of his brother’s life of crime? A local scoutmaster? Mayor one town over? Clear it up.)

PATRICK (op): Well, he hasn’t returned yet. Perhaps—

BOBBY 3: Oh(comma) you’ve done enough.

Panel 4: A close shot of Bobby Mondragon with a stern look on his face.

BOBBY 1: You can forget about me putting in a word with my father.

BOBBY 2: In fact, I’d probably leave town. ASAP.

PHONE (PATRICK): Mr. Mondragon, please.

Panel 5: A close-up of Patrick with a shocked look on his face. He looks like someone just sucker punched him.

PHONE (BOBBY): Fucking amateurs.(You need a click or something to show that Bobby ends the phone call)

OSCAR (op): Success!

(All right, you break it up right. You have the scene change on the right page, and you get us back in the room before you start the next page. Good job.)

Know what? I’ve got nothing to say about this page except to echo Sam. Good job.

This, folks, is what happens when you put in the work. You get the notes from the editor, you meditate on them, think about them, and then you get back in there and do the work to make the piece stronger.

This is a much stronger piece than before. You’ve gotten in there, and made the changes necessary in order to make the story the best it can be. It has gone far beyond the first piece.

This is what good work looks like.

[Page 7][5 Panels]

Panel 1: A medium shot of Oscar putting his phone in his pocket. Patrick is in the background with his back to us.

OSCAR 1: Hey(comma) man, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t take this all so lightly. I know it means a lot to you.

OSCAR 2: So from now on, I’ll follow your lead. No more phone calls.

Panel 2: A medium shot of Oscar looking over his shoulder and smirking.

OSCAR: After all, we’re professionals. Right?(comma) Pat? (I don’t think there needs to be a comma there. I think that the last word needs its own balloon.)

PATRICK (op): I fucked up.

Panel 3: A shot of Patrick, who has dropped to his knees. He looks like he’s been punched in the gut.

OSCAR (op): What?

PATRICK: We shot the wrong Murphy. I thought it was an old picture. It was black and white. Who sends a black and white picture? (This could be rearranged to get the point across a little better: that he’s devastated, and that a b/w picture in today’s time is a bit archaic.)

Panel 4: A side shot of Oscar standing over Patrick. (Expressions?)

OSCAR: You’ve got to be kidding me. Well, how about we book it before the right Murphy shows up.(question mark)

Panel 5: Same angle. Both of them are looking at the reader with their eyes wide with shock.

STAN(off panel): Ahem.

(Cool. From bad to worse, tables turn, etc. Pay attention to your punctuation, you are starting miss a lot of little things. I know the end is in sight, but don’t type so fast.)

Who’s not enjoying this?

Facial expressions, Jon. As always, facial expressions. I know it’s a lot of things to hold in your head, but I have faith in ya.

No, no story from me this week. There’s no need to turn anyone’s attention away from this.


[Page 8][3 Panels]

Panel 1: A full shot of Stan Murphy standing in the doorway with a revolver aimed at Oscar (who is off-panel) with a stern look on his face.(Where is Patrick?)


Panel 2: A side shot of Oscar and Patrick, now standing. Both of them are holding their hands up. Oscar has a nervous smile on his face. Patrick looks like he’s going to cry. Stan has stepped in from the doorway.(What is Stan doing? How much of him can we see?)

PHONE: Musical notes. (From where? Whose phone?)

Panel 3: Same angle. Oscar still has his hands up, but is pointing down with a confused look on his face. Patrick has his head down in defeat.

OSCAR: You should probably answer that.


(Here’s a great big problem: I don’t know whose phone is ringing. You have done really well being aware of the connection between image and text, and the impact that has on humor. Here though? Not so much. The intention here is unclear. Is this Patrick’s phone on the floor, or Stan’s phone in his pocket? Don’t lose your punchline at the last second.) (And that’s the biggest flaw of this entire piece—and very easily fixed.)

Let’s run this down.

Format: Flawless Victory!

Panel Descriptions: These need a little bit of work, but they’ve always needed a little bit of work. Facial expressions and the little pieces that the artist will need to complete their job. Odds and ends. Better than the previous draft, definitely. So you can see what can be done when you’re pushed to it. The only thing is that you should be pushing yourself.

Pacing: I’ve really got nothing to say about the pacing here. It works very well, in general. A couple of small hiccups with having too much back and forth, the last thing said not matching the panel description, and some movement within the dialogue itself. Just a nudge here and there.

Dialogue: I like it! Just needs a little trimming/movement here and there. I’ve got nothing really to say about this that I haven’t already said. Just a couple of things here and there, but this is definitely dialogue that seemed realistic. I can see these people having these conversations.

Content: This is a better story than the first draft. This is something I’d read. It isn’t reaching for the funny as it tried to before, because it didn’t need to. Humor was a part of it, and it was enough present here to do its job. And then the turn that happened, and the twist at the end. After a touch of cleanup, this is something I’d read. It ends perfectly.

Editorially, this just needs a little guidance here and there. Not a lot of work for an editor, which means that the writer has done their job. That’s really the height of an editor’s job, to me: nudging a writer in the right direction so that they are telling the best story they can.

Really, there’s nothing but good work here.

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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