TPG Week 203: Bad Storytelling

| November 15, 2014



Welcome back, one and all, to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a new Brave One in Toy Spears. We’ve also got Samantha LeBas in purple, and I’m the overbearing one in red, and we’re both going to jump up and down on Toy as they play with the


Sword of the Shadow Moon.


(OH MY GOD… PUT A FREAKING TITLE ON YOUR WORK, OR YOUR NAME, OR SOMETHING. Didn’t you learn anything in second grade? If you want credit for your work, put your name on it.)

PAGE 1&2 (Three PANELS)

PAGE 1&2, Panel 1:

DOUBLE SPLASH – A small valley bathed in moonlight, with lots of trees in every direction around a clearing. A Japanese forrest with tall bamboo clumps here and there. On the right side of the valley stands a large Buddhist Temple surrounded by a stone fence with large posts separating sections of fencing. There is lots of bamboo around the temple. Standing outside the gates of the Temple is a old, bald and fat monk YOSHIHIRO. Yoshihiro wears traditional monk garb of black robes and a large straw Kasa that covers most of his face to above the nose. He holds a shokujou staff in his right hand with the bottom set on the ground. (for shokujou and kasa see pitch board link

Panel 2:

SMALL PANEL in upper left. ECU of Feet wearing tabi leaping over a downed tree. (’t know how you are going to show feet in downward motion and a tree in Extreme close up.)

Panel 3:

SMALL PANEL in lower right. ECU of top of shokujou staff. Tight on the rings. The rings are in motion, vibrating.


(SFX from the rings)

(Page 1, traditionally, is a single page. You open the cover, and the page on the right is page 1, right? That’s fairly basic formatting knowledge. Think of every comic book you have ever opened, how many throw away that first page on the right? You are either suggesting that we do that or assuming that half this spread will be printed on the cover interior. Either way, no. This is not going to work. There are only a few reasons to have a DPS in a comic. Usually, they are used for a big reveal, high impact action, or in a case where there is so much visual information that the space is needed to really get the point across [visual maps, busy scenes, detailed settings, etc]. This isn’t that. It’s a temple at night with a monk and a staff. You don’t need this much space.)

And it begins.

P1 is on the books, and already, I can feel my blood pressure increasing. We’re going to do something that Sam hinted at, but didn’t go into enough detail on: how to count in comic books.

Imagine you’re holding a closed comic in your hand. What you see in front of you is the cover. You open the book, and you have the inside front cover, and then P1. The inside front cover is on the left, and P1 is on the right. This means you have to turn the page to get to P2.

Know what else this means? It means you can’t have a double-page splash here, because physics tells us it’s impossible.

It also means you haven’t done any kind of research at all when it comes to writing a comic. This is basic. Guess it’s time for me to start looking for moving panels, bad punctuation, and spelling problems.

As for what’s shown… You’ve committed another newbie sin: you have a silent opening page.

This page does absolutely nothing at all to set anything up. This is the first page of a new story from a new writer. You have to build the world. You’re going to bore the reader and make sure they never get any further than the first page. You have too much worldbuilding to do to have a silent opening page. It’s a sin.

And Sam is right. This doesn’t need two pages. It doesn’t need one page. You could do this in half a page, and then continue with the story. This means you’ve got at least an entire page of padding. Terrible.

PAGE 3 (four Panels)

Panel 1.

1/4 Panel across top – A cloaked figure kneels before the Monk, her arrm(arm) across the front of the chest in a salute. Most of her face is hidden in the cloak, but she has the frame of a teenager.(Camera angle?)


I received your summons…(Tell us her name in the panel description)


Rise(comma) Naoko.(His, too.)

Panel 2.

MS on Yoshihiro. His face still hidden.(You didn’t tell us his face was hidden before now.)


…Eleven years ago, as an orphan you came and sought refuge here at Horyu-ji Temple. You were adopted(is this the right word?) and trained as Konoichi. On that night I told you I would look into your father’s murder… (Lord and Lady, save us from bad exposition! And why are you starting off with an ellipsis? What sense does that make? And take the double-space out of the dialogue after the ending punctuation. Actually, remove it all. It’s no longer the standard. And you’re going to cause more work for the letterer.)

PAGE 4, Panel 3

ECU of her eyes, kind of a 3/4 shot. She is looking up eyes wide.(Is it a close up of a 3/4 shot? I don’t know how it can be both. 3/4 of her eyes showing? You need to rephrase, if so.) (Just writing, without knowing what you’re talking about. Also, make up your mind when it comes to your labels. This cost you a Flawless Victory, because you’re not consistent.)


Panel 4

Naoko, as she is pulls the hood of the cloak back. This is a seventeen year old girl, Naoko. Her long black hair is tied in a ponytail. Under the cloak, she is dressed in a ninja wares.(If she is just pulling back hood, how can we see what she is wearing?)


You have learned something?

(I will never understand why people feel the need to use passive voice when writing in a non-modern setting. Fantasy setting? Passive voice! Unfamiliar culture? Passive voice! The distant past? Passive voice! It’s called passive for a reason. It’s a snooze to read. I don’t think this reflects any kind of cultural knowledge or accuracy. Consider revising this dialogue using a more active voice. By having your characters kind of shirk the action, [example: you were adopted] they become less interesting and more difficult to relate to. Something like: ‘we took you in’, or ‘I adopted you’ reads better. It provides more characterization and establishes more of a relationship between the characters. It’s just the littlest change and it makes a lot of difference. You use passive voice throughout the script. Take a look at that and see where you can make changes.)

P2 down. (I don’t care what Toy calls it. It’s P2.) Know what we have? A mess.

The panel descriptions don’t help as much as they could. We have people who are magically delicious (the monk), we have information that doesn’t come as soon as it could (the monk’s face is hidden), we have a panel description that doesn’t make any sense (the entirety of panel 4).

The panel descriptions are giving me the impression that English isn’t Toy’s first language, but then, the dialogue isn’t half bad to actually read. I don’t have to jump through hoops to make sense of it. That’s a little strange.

This is a personal aside: I don’t get the fascination with the Orient that some people have. I’ve never understood it. I’ve been to Japan. I had a great time. I grew up in the 80s. I wanted to be a ninja. I’ve taken martial arts. I’ve loved kung-fu movies. Doesn’t mean I want to immerse myself in an ancient culture in ancient times.

This isn’t just for the Orient, although that’s a big part of it. I also don’t understand the country/western thing, or the ancient European thing. (From a mystical standpoint, sure, but not from a want-to-dress-up-and-live-it standpoint.) I don’t get manga or manwah, and I have no inclination to want to. That is the reason I will never willingly edit it.

I don’t understand it. Comic scripting isn’t difficult. You describe the still image you see in your head, giving as much information as necessary to get your point across without being too wordy. The panel description is the action that propels the story, and it has to give the artist enough information for them to do their job. This page doesn’t do that effectively. Some of it is difficult to understand, some of it calls for impossible angles, which means you’re writing but not really understanding what you’re doing.

Now, about the story: another page that doesn’t do much. It helps, but it doesn’t do much. We know she’s adopted, we can guess she’s after vengeance… However, there’s a better way to get the information across rather than an info dump. It’s a small one, thankfully, but it’s still an info dump. A butler/maid issue, where one character is telling another something they already know, for the benefit of the reader. It’s clunky, because it calls attention to itself.

And your pacing is off. With one character being magically delicious, you’re not helping yourself.

And what’s with the hidden faces? What is that accomplishing, from a storytelling point of view? There’s no real reveal going on, because we’re still really only on P1. (Believe me, we are.) Nothing has happened, she hasn’t done anything to warrant hiding her sex, especially if you’re going to reveal it so soon. It’s a wasted effort. (Not as bad as last week’s, though. I’m very thankful for that.)

You need to think about why you’re doing what you’re doing. How the way you’re telling your story will affect the reader. Think it through. I’m not seeing any thought being put into this.

Page 4 (five PANELS)

Panel 1

TWO SHOT Naoko and Yoshihiro tilting his Hasa back revealing his eyes.(Anything special about his eyes? Why did you make a point of hiding them until now?)


As I thought, your father was Shinobi, the leader of the Kage-Tsuki Clan. He was betrayed and murdered by the allied Koga Clan.




…the night your father was assassinated, he was retrieving an ancient sword wielded by your ancestor, founder of the Moon Shadows. The Koga stole the Sword of the Shadow Moon. It is a mythical weapon, said to be a demon slayer.(Lots of text in this panel. Also are you going with Moon Shadows or Shadow Moon? I think pick one and stick with it. He doesn’t acknowledge her question at all. Seems rude.)

Panel 2

CS of Naoko, Her eyes are steel now, determined,(period, delete comma)


And the sword, the Koga still possess it?


No, the sword had been lost.

Panel 3

Yoshihiro has again lowered the Hasa covering his eyes and face.


…now the sword has been found. Tonight it will pass through these lands on its way to the Shogunate. The Koga will undoubtedly attempt to reclaim it. My spies indicate that they are already on the move.



Panel 4

LOW ANGLE on Naoko, she stares up at Yoshihiro. On right side of panel, Yoshihiro’s Hasa intrudes into the panel.


This sword is mine by birthright; I shall destroy any who stand between it and me.(This line is blah.)(Never use a semicolon in comic book dialogue.)

Panel 5

WIDE PANEL – TWO SHOT – Naoko is in a deep bow to the priest.


Good, go now and retrieve the sword. Bring it to me upon Mount Sasaki before the sun rises.


Hai, Shidoshi.(If the sword is hers, why is she bringing it back to the monk?)

(There has to be, no, there *is* a better way to do this. I get that you are giving us the background on this character and her quest, but you are also making us sit through pages of talking heads and cloaked figures. There is little to no visual interest on these pages. What about a flashback? The stuff the monk is talking about sounds interesting, lets look at that. Or cut the bit where she says she’s going to get the sword, put it over a getting ready montage, or over the eventual fight. We can kind of assume she is going to go try and retrieve the sword, so without dynamic visuals this is just padding.)

P3 down.

This isn’t making any sense. First, the storytelling mechanics.

I want you to think, Toy. You’re just sitting own and writing, without really thinking about what you’re doing. What are these images doing to tell the story?

You have to be very choosy about what images you pick to tell the story. You have to pick each moment in time to really get the story across, because otherwise, you’re just wasting time.

So far, not one single image here is thought through to actually tell the story. You’re wasting the artist’s time, as well as your own.

Actually, this reminds me of comics in the 90s, where it was all flash but with no real substance. Images that were mashed together but didn’t tell a story. Not good.

From a storytelling point of view, this isn’t making any sense at all. Murder, vengeance, a sword… We’re on the so-called 4th page, and while we have some inkling about the story, we’re left scratching our heads. What’s not making sense is the dialogue.

The dialogue is cliched. Awfully so. On top of that, some of it is just awful. The sword is mine by birthright… ? Just cut my head off with it now. At least that will save me from reading more cliched dialogue.

Let’s see what the next page brings. This scene should be over. If it is, that means you know a little bit about pacing. Let’s see if I’m right.


Panel 1

Naoko sits cross legged in the middle of a humble Japanese room. A cylindrical pillow lies off to the side and Japanese Armoire (primitive style from the 10th century). Weapons are set around her, shuriken of different sizes and designs, long and short swords. To another side are two brass knuckle-like devices and a savage looking sickle with handle and chain attached (kusarigama). She holds a bowl in one hand and is dipping something into it with the other.

CAPTION 1 (Naoko):

Ancestor, tonight I seek your wisdom and guidance….(Why are these captions? Why isn’t she saying this out loud? Is she saying this, just OP? If so, it needs to be set off in quotes. Also, if a specific character is responsible for the text you need to note that.)

Panel 2

SMALL PANEL – ECU of Shuriken being dipped into the bowl. There is a white paste in the bottom of the bowl the point is in. A 2nd point on the star is glazed in the poison.


So that I may reclaim your sword(comma) and avenge the death of my father, your great grandson…

Panel 3

HALF PAGE PANEL – Outside the temple, Naoko, wearing her ninja garb, kneels at one of the large corner posts of the fence that surrounds the temple. There are spaces in the columns from top to the bottom, which shelve the ashes of the dead.(You are skipping around, when did she go outside? This doesn’t feel like a montage, it just makes no sense.)


Ancestor, allow your spirit to travel with me(comma) and help me bring honor to the clan…

Panel 4

Naoko bows while on her knees in front of the large post. Her hands form a triangle on the ground with her forehead bowing to the hands.


(Ok, so two things. The vocabulary makes this difficult to follow. I know that it is accurate, but do you every time I read a word that I don’t know it makes me stop, and completely disrupts the flow the panel description. Assuming you are not illustrating this yourself, and that you are not expressly seeking an artist who has a wealth of knowledge of Japanese culture, they are going to be googling like mad. Maybe something like this: Shuriken (throwing star) would suit you and be more accommodating to your creative team. And if Naoko was orphaned, how would she have access to her ancestral shrine?) (Just because she’s orphaned doesn’t mean she doesn’t know who her parents are.)

P5. Know what this page is? Padding. I believe this page can be cut in its entirety without hurting the integrity of the story.

What is this page doing to push the story forward or to reveal character? This page, in its entirety, taken along with what has come before. What happens if this entire page is removed? Nothing. This is a waste, just like your opening salvo wasted a page and a half.

Basically, there isn’t a lot of story being told here.

When it comes to the dialogue, Sam is very right: if you’re going to have captions from someone’s point of view, then they need to be labeled with the character’s name.

I don’t believe the dialogue on this page is a voice-over. Honestly, it’s a prayer. For maximum effectiveness, prayers should be spoken aloud. No, it doesn’t matter overmuch for this particular page, but in general, it works better if spoken aloud.


Panel 1

Naoko sprints under a large Torri Gate. A sword is sheathed on her back.


Panel 2

The Shogonate’s party has been slain. Bodies lie everywhere along the road. On the right side of panel the Mikoshi (portable shrine) sits on the ground, its bearers slain at its corners.(You make us wait 6 pages and then skip the fight scene? Tsk tsk. You built this up and then didn’t pay off. I’m not a fan of this choice.)(Writing without thinking. Basically, Toy, you haven’t yet learned how to tell a story in the medium.)


Panel 3

HIGH ANGLE OTS – Naoko looks into the broken Mikoshi, there is no sign of the sword.


Panel 4

TIGHT ON NAOKO – Her hand has gone to the sword hilt over her shoulder. She looks over her left shoulder. Her eyes cut left as she looks.


Panel 5

A Japanese maiden with several shuriken imbedded in her chest raises her hand to Naoko.

Japanese maiden

…help me…

Panel 6

Show motion as Naoko draws sword, slashes the maidens throat.(Moving panel.)


(Way to go, you skipped the action and made your character seem like a heartless asshole in a single page.)

P6, and literally, nothing happens. Wow. Way to not tell a story.

Remember earlier when I said that the scene had ended, and that would tell me you understand something about pacing? That’s still true. However, it’s still something about pacing. You don’t understand pacing intimately yet, and you don’t understand storytelling at all.

Comic book storytelling is a delicate lattice of knowing what actions have to be shown in order to tell the story to the reader. So far, the only thing the main character has done is talk. That’s all we’ve seen them do—except to kill a woman who was presumably already dying due to poisoned shuriken. Does it make the character look like an asshole? Possibly. It definitely doesn’t paint them in a good light.

What should have happened here? Well, let’s skip back a bit. A half-page montage of her getting ready—grabbing weapons and such. No more than half a page. I’d rather have it be a third of a page, but no more than half. The other half of the page should be her searching for the people she’s about to kill, and then a final panel of her finding them.

Then this page should be her killing people left, right, and center. Someone should give her a challenge. She should ask after the location of the sword, and not get an answer (for whatever reason).

Doing this shows she’s effective in tracking, and shows she’s lethal with her weapons. We get to see it, instead of just seeing the aftermath, and the killing of a defenseless woman.

The Empire Strikes Back. Han Solo doesn’t really know how to use a lightsaber, but utilizes it to cut open his just-dead tauntaun in order to keep Luke warm before Luke freezes to death. (Heh. Luke warm. Lukewarm…) He doesn’t use it to kill the tauntaun. If he tried to use it to kill the animal, he probably would have failed. He would have used his blaster instead. (There’s also the fact that you don’t see Han actually kill someone/something that hasn’t threatened him first. This is the reason there was the change to A New hope. Han is cast more as a villain because he shoots Greedo before greedo fires. By changing it to Greedo shooting first, Han becomes a bit more sympathetic. He’s no longer a villain. ) Anyway, I think my point got lost, but that’s what her killing the woman reminded me of: Han using the lightsaber to open up the tauntaun.

Your character’s actions inform the reader about the capabilities of the character. You want us to know that she’s driven to get the sword back and knows how to use her weapons—this is shown in the aftermath of what we can guess to be her ambush; what we see is that she’s a killer of defenseless women—this is shown by you showing her literally cutting down a defenseless woman. There is a distinct difference between an action inferred and an action seen. We don’t see her fighting, we only see her killing a person who can’t defend themselves. That isn’t the story you want to tell.


PAGE 8(NOPE), Panel 1

DOUBLE PANEL- Six ninja run single file through a bamboo forest. Each is looking in a different direction, searching for the enemy with hand on their sword ready for a quick draw. These are the Koga; there is a blue wolf symbol on front and back of their clothing. A wolfs teeth bared on the face mask. (I have no idea what a double panel is. Anyone want to enlighten me, or is it just another case of the writer not knowing what they’re talking about.)


PAGE 8(NOPE, AGAIN), Panel 2

WIDE THIN DOUBLE PANEL – Think Cinemascope, Naoko is running paralleling the Koga ninja that we see running in the BG.(I don’t understand how she knew to follow them, or when she caught up. When did she see them? How did she track them?) (:singing: Do you believe in magic…?)


Panel 3

Rear view of Naoko, she is now on an intercept course to the Koga ninja ahead.


Panel 4

ECU of Naoko’s hand, she grips the brass knuckle weapons, there are curved blades protruding from each end.(How do we know this is Naoko?)


Panel 5

CU – The rear Koga ninja running towards us, his head is slightly turned, eyes cut hard to his right.


Panel 6

ECU of his eyes straining hard to his right. Reflection in the eyes is that of Naoko leaping both weapons held high for the strike.


(I do not care for these silent pages. I get that ninjas are silent, but I have the script in front of me, and I am finding it hard to understand her motivation and decision making process. I think some captions could really help you out.)

Great. It feels like we’re getting near the end. This is P7, and the writer has totally forgotten where they’re at.

Forgetting where you’re at isn’t hard to do. However, it’s easily fixed by either looking up or going back a page or two. What’s even worse here is that sometimes, Toy puts in the page number with the panel count, and adding in that page number as part of the panel count is where they went wrong. Terrible, when all that needed to be done was to look up.

And this page? Another example of not knowing how to tell a story in the medium. It doesn’t do anything to push the story forward or reveal character. Two ninja basically appear out of nowhere, and are showing their cowardice by running. Does either of them have the sword? More than likely not. And then there’s the teleportation that the character does. Follow me…

She somehow tracks the caravan, and then takes the time to kill everyone except for two people who are now running away (and presumably for their lives). Let’s say they started running when half of their force is killed—or even ¾. She then stops to look for the sword, and instead of finding it, finds a woman who’s already dying, and finishes her off. (There is the possibility this is seen as a mercy killing.)

How does she know that six people escaped, where they’re at, where they’re going, and how to track them, let alone is fast enough to catch up to them? Magic, forcing of the story, and watching too many bad martial arts movies.

In a martial arts movie, people can be shot in the heart, have their heads chopped off, and be totally drawn and quartered, and they’d still have time to make a speech, reach for someone that can’t be seen, make tea, have children, and grow old, all while they’re flopping around in a rictus of pain, before finally dying.

I’ve seen martial arts movies where two characters fight for five minutes, one is then defeated, and the victor goes after someone else who has fled, and arrives in front of them somehow. Teleportation.

Anyway, this is another page of padding. You can cut most of the page, condensing it down to a panel or two, and get on with the story without losing anything.

Bad storytelling.


Panel 1:

Naoko is in mid-stride, one had behind holding a bloody knuckle knife. Her other hand striking the ninja ahead of her. The ninja behind her is falling back, a blood geyser(ugh) spraying from his neck.


Panel 2:

ECU knuckle blades – the curve of the blades is hooked around the blade of the sword trapping it. (What are you talking about? What sword? Which sword? It’s like you gave up trying to tell a coherent story right here with this panel.)


Panel 3:

Naoko kicks the ninja under the chin, driving her leg up high. The ninja is flying back. (Which ninja? The same one that was killed from the arterial spray from the neck?)


Panel 4:

The ninja rolls to recover.


Panel 5:

Naoko is moving forward to the ninja, who holds his sword out in defense.


Panel 6:

Tight shot on knuckle blades as they strike down at the wrist of the hand holding the sword.


(So you say that there are 6 ninjas, but I feel like A) You are not accounting for the placement of these characters. B) You have no way of differentiate between the ninjas and that makes it difficult to visualize your descriptions. I can’t impress upon you how difficult it is to parse out what is happening as it is written here.)

When I was a teenager, I got a Commodore 64 for Christmas. I loved that thing. It was the basis for me learning what I know about computers now (which, admittedly, isn’t a lot).

One of the games my parents got me was a ninja game. The Last Ninja. It was something of an action/adventure puzzler, and I remember growing extremely frustrated with the game. So much so that I eventually stopped playing it.

One of the first levels is like a wasteland. You’re exploring it, killing ninjas who pop out, collecting some stuff, but to finish the level, you had to kill a fire-breathing dragon.

The dragon would come out of a cave and block your way with it’s breath. You could only go on certain paths, and only had a little bit of wiggle room on those paths, so killing the dragon was pretty difficult, as being the level boss, was expected.

There is a finite amount of shuriken, and you couldn’t get too close with your sword or else you’d be burned to a crisp. Frustrating as hell. I think I only beat it once, and I don’t remember what I did in order to do it.

I didn’t like the game, just like I don’t like this story. At least with the game, there was the feeling of progress being made. There was a linear path that could be followed. This? I don’t know why we’re here anymore. I have more questions than answers, and to be honest, I’m not even interested in getting the questions answered.

Bad storytelling.

PAGE 9 (one PANEL)

Panel 1:

FULL PAGE – The ninja is facing away from us between Naoko and us. Her arms have crossed and are swinging down both knuckle blades slicing across his throat from opposite sides. Geysers(ugh) of blood from each side as the jugular and carotid artery are slashed simultaneously.(And she has a blank expression? No seriously, what does she look like here?)


(Again, I don’t know if this merits a full page. The ninja’s body is blocking out the majority of the main character’s figure and her action. So, we have the a ninja with her back to camera, and our protagonist performing an action that we can’t see in detail, and some blood. Is this interesting?)

So, we have another splash page.

No, wait. Let me rephrase.

We have another useless splash page.

There. That’s better. Much more accurate.

Splash pages should be used when something dramatic happens. The reader has to deserve it, and you as the writer have to earn it. You haven’t earned this, and the readers don’t deserve it.

The first waste of space was with that double-page splash that was incorrectly placed. What did the reader do to deserve that? Nothing. What did it do to introduce any real gravitas or great moment to the story? Nothing.

The same thing is going on with this splash page. This has delved somewhat into anime, where characters are fighting, and then one gets in a good shot, so things are slowed down and zoomed in to show the power and effectiveness of the blow. The difference, though, is that those powerful shots come at a crucial moment of high drama. There’s no drama here. There’s no reason for this.

Know what this is?

Bad storytelling.

Page 10 (Four PANELS)

Panel 1:

Naoko pursues along the edge of a creek. Ahead of her are the last three ninja. They are moving into a thick fog.


Panel 2:

She is throwing two shuriken with her right hand(period)(What’s the camera angle here?)


Panel 3:

Naoko stands between the two dead ninja with shuriken embedded in their backs. Her hand is on the hilt of her sword(You skip the stars hitting the ninjas, why?) (If these ninja are dead from just getting hit with a single shuriken each, why is it that the woman lives long enough to call for help, even though she had several shuriken in her chest? What sense does one of these make?)


Relinquish the sword and your death will be quick.(Who is she talking to?)

Koga master (OP right)

What is your clan?(How do we know that this is the clan master? Where did he come from?) (Why is it that none of these ninja have been identified as actually carrying the sword? Does one of them know where it is? Any of them? It’s just bad storytelling.)

Panel 4:

Several shuriken are flying at her she has drawn her sword and is deflecting one, another flies by her, others are on their way. (Periods and other punctuation marks would make this much easier to read.)


I am of the clan that you and your ancestors betrayed!(Is she really talking while dodging throwing stars? I don’t know about all that.) (Watch more martial arts movies. She’s barely said anything here.)

(This is like the Goldilocks of pacing. First it’s too slow, then it’s too fast, maybe somewhere toward the end of the book you get it *just right*, but we haven’t seen it yet. I am also not convinced that we have a compelling story, or a strong character, yet. You do have a story, this girl is trying to get the sword back. You have a character, in that she exists, but are either your story or your character well established or developed? Not really. We don’t know anything about Naoko except that she is tough and good at fighting [and pretty ruthless]. We know that she wants the sword, but not what she plans to do with it or why these fellas are so intent on holding onto it. You need to dig into the ‘why’ of this story, and you need to share what you find with your audience, otherwise there is not enough here to make anyone want to read it.

How is this different from every other tough girl on a revenge quest that we’ve all seen 1000 times? Unique details and motivation are the heart of a compelling story and you don’t have enough of either at the moment. The writing best advice I have ever heard is: no one is going to read it just because you wrote it. Keep that in mind, a story has to be different and engaging, you owe the audience that much from the outset. You have to create your audience by building interest and intrigue every chance you get. Try to turn every person who picks up your work into someone who can’t put it down. This starts with your script, and it has a long way to go.)

Sam has stopped, which means it’s time to run this thing down.

Format: No flawless victory here. There’s no such thing as a correct format, but you have to be consistent with it. This format is not consistent. Either have the page number with the panel number, or don’t, but not both.

Panel Descriptions: These need a lot of work. The panel description is the absolute base of the script. You have to tell the artist what to draw and how to draw it. That’s what it’s there for.

However, you also have to pick the correct moments to show. These moments will propel the story forward. Half of what you have here is padding, because the moments picked don’t move the story forward. (Yes, this is mostly Pacing. Remember, comic scripting is all interlocked with one another.)

Panel descriptions should describe what the action of the panel is. The setting has to be laid, and what the characters are doing. You also have to have the characters act. That means facial expressions. Sure, most of these characters’ faces are hidden for one reason or another, but the eyes can be very expressive.

Pacing: I’ve said before that you have an idea of what pacing is supposed to do. Things are happening here. I like that. However, like I said before, you’ve got a lot of padding here, which means your pacing is off. You could have covered all of this space within half the pages, or less.

Again, the moments you’ve picked are incorrect because they aren’t helping to tell the story.

You also have to stop watching bad kung-fu movies and/or bad anime. Don’t let those media inform your pacing choices here. They’ve led you astray. Not good.

Dialogue: Some of this is horribly cliched, and other parts don’t make much sense. However, you also have a dearth of dialogue to begin with. Since not much is said, it stands out just that much more when characters speak.

Content: Not good. As a reader, there isn’t a lot to read, and what is there is confusing and/or badly told.

Editorially, this needs a complete rewrite. You generally have to format down, but you haven’t yet learned how to tell a story with it. That’ll come with time and practice.

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

Like what you see? Sam, Liam and I are available for your editing needs. You can email Sam here and Liam 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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