TPG Week 204: Language Can Be A Barrier

| November 21, 2014


Welcome back, one and all, to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a new Brave One in Nanda Irfan Lauzan. We’ve got Liam Hayes in blue, I’m the guy in red, and we’re going to see what Nanda has in

Rangers Intiative



The setting is in the old-palace. (That’s vague at best. Describe the old palace.) (Hopefully, this location is described in a separate document. I’m thinking of something along the lines of the Xavier Institute of Higher Learning, or Avengers Tower (or, for old codgers like me, Avengers Mansion). However, more than likely, it’s not a place that’s going to be gone to time and again. This is just a roundabout way of saying that Liam is right and this is vague.) The sky is dark-red. Thunders sound painful as if it stabs a heart. (That line is prose. Wretched prose at that. It can’t be drawn. Sound and feeling can’t be drawn.) The ruins are everywhere but still have short stairs in there. There is no wind. It’s hard to breath. (Another thing that can’t be drawn. You can show this, by having characters choking, but you haven’t described that here.)

SFX: BLAR BLAR BLAR (I don’t know what’s causing these sound effects. I can’t think of anything that makes noises like this.)

SFX (Human): HOSH HOSH (There’s no human in the panel description. This is also sound I can’t fathom.)


NOTE: Two superheroes have worn their own suit but theirs are affected by lightless impact.(I don’t know what ‘lightless impact’ means.)

NOTE: Two superheroes are a girl and man. (Why isn’t this in the panel description or a separate character sheet/document?)

NOTE: A girl, long-black-hair, wears full grey-uniform and there’s a grey sapphire in the middle of her chest but it’s tight. She’s 23 and 5.7 ft. She has sexy lips. Her pupils have different colors such as grey and blue. She’s a sharp-nose.

NOTE: A man, medium-hair, wears kung fu-uniform. Its colors are black and gold. It’s rather tight. He has a tattoo in his face that is up and down his eyes. He’s an Indonesian-Chinese but he has white skin.(What are these notes? They should be panel descriptions. Their separation is confusing.)

(None of these characters are placed. You’ve just described what they look like – which should be in another document or page.)

Lone Ranger (Mikaeel Skylar) (This character wasn’t even described.) looks behind then seeing four mysterious superheroes wait for his command. (This isn’t a static image. This is several which will need dialogue.)

Mysterious man (frightened): El, what should we do? He just — started this mess!

Mysterious girl (handled weapon in her hands) (This is panel description. Why is placed as a dialogue tag?): JUST STOP HIM!

Lone Ranger wants to say something but he couldn’t. He doesn’t know what happens to him. (This is prose. Even if it was proper description, it shouldn’t be entangled amongst your dialogue.)

Mysterious man: –what, El? Do you wanna say somethin’?

(How is the artist and letterer supposed to know who is who if you’re calling them mysterious. Don’t keep things from the creative team. They need to know.)


NOTE: Two persons who are looked by Lone Ranger are just a shadow because the situation is far away and mists.(This sentence makes zero sense.)

NOTE: Shadow man wears a long-black-gown and his crown. He has a long-black-hair, sharp-nose and light-brown-skin. He handles a wand that has a big red emerald. This man has a long black hair.

NOTE: Robert wears a long-grey-gown. He has dark brown skin and pug. He has medium-white-hair. He has a birthmark in his-up-lip.

Lone Ranger looks ahead and sees shadow man. Shadow man holds his spear, then he was extremely surprised because Robert, his private driver, is beside this person. (This doesn’t make sense.) A shadow man casts a spell — a long spell.

Spell: DEVIRPED EB LL’ ECAEP EHT-ESIR LL’ SSENKRAD EHT. (Who’s saying this? The spell?)


Lone Ranger (mumbling): What’s going on in here? I supposed not to be here. (That last line should read, I’m not supposed to be here. )


NOTE: The shadow man is in a far range (What does far range mean?)of Lone Ranger. The shadow man aims his wand to Lone Ranger.

The shadow man: Final Blast!

Lone Ranger (Mysterious woman’s jumping in front of him and hitting her (More description in the dialogue tag.)): NO!



This panel has to be a quarter panel of a page. Her head is laid in the embrace of Mikaeel Skylar. Mikaeel Skylar’s head looks up to the sky and he bawls.

Mikaeel Skylar (shouting): NO! –You’ll – PAY FOR THIS!

Thunder sounds boomed.


Okay, I’m finding it hard to comment on things. Not because there’s nothing wrong with this script – god no! I’m find it hard because there’s little here that makes sense. I can’t understand what you’re trying to say.

P1 is down, and I’m sorry to say that things aren’t looking good for our hero.

Elephant in the room? There seem to be a couple of them.

First, this I have to give it up to Nanda. It doesn’t look like Nanda is a native English speaker. There’s no shame in that at all. This is a great effort. Successful? Not in the least. However, the effort is there, because this is a script written in a language that Nanda obviously isn’t too comfortable with. Props for all kinds of bravery there.

The next elephant in the room is the format. It’s terrible. It’s sloppy. With having some panel description mixed in with the dialogue labels, this has lost the Flawless Victory.

Now, let’s talk about this.

There are too many notes. I don’t even know what the notes are for. Most of the notes are basically character descriptions, and when they aren’t, they’re panel descriptions. This means the panel descriptions themselves aren’t doing what they should be doing: telling the story.

I’m not going to lie: I’m lost. I’ve read this, and I have no idea what this is about. Where is this taking place? Panel 1 isn’t much of anything of a setting. It’s supposed to be, but it isn’t there. Very, very lite. It doesn’t answer Who, Where, When, and What. Nothing that happens on this page answers much of anything.

What are these people doing here? What are they doing? Why are they doing it? What are the stakes? Who are the heroes and who are the villains? Why are these people designated as such? Why should the reader care about anything that’s going on?

The dialogue is hurtful to read. Part of it is because English isn’t your primary language, and part of it is because I’m getting a Dragonball Z vibe with the overacting and the final blast bit. Some people love Dragonball Z, but I’m not one of them. It never grabbed me. (If you can go away to train more while your friends literally fight your battle for you… Yeah…) None of the dialogue accurately does its job, though. None of the dialogue reveals why we’re reading this.

I’m definitely one for starting a story as late as possible. In media res, Latin for in the midst of things. That’s always a fun way to start. The problem with this can be that, as a writer, you can literally forget to bring the reader along with you. I think that this could be one of those instances, along with just losing the reader due to the language barrier.

And you notice the difference in font? Not fun. There was also a difference in font size that I fixed, too.

Let’s see what the next page brings.

PAGE TWO (No page break. Yet another reason to lose the Flawless Victory.)


This panel is just a tiny panel (like double-strip lines). It’s all black. It’s just for separating a nightmare and a real life.

SFX: ZAP (with red font color)

(Apart from that line about nightmares, this is workable.)


This is a page-width panel. There’s a time (7 a.m.) on the left corner of reader’s read. (What is the reader’s read? Do you mean the corner of the panel? If so, this should be left to the letterer and placed in a caption box. An example of this is CAPTION (DIGITAL CLOCK FONT – BOTTOM LEFT CORNER): 7.00 AM.) The wall color is light brown. He’s (Who?) on the bed. He awakes and realizes it is just a nightmare. (This is more than one single action, meaning this is moving panel.) He can’t believe this because he knows Robert will not betray him. (This can’t be drawn by the artist. This is something you will get across with dialogue.)

NOTE: Mikaeel Skylar has aquiline nose, and a medium black hair. He’s a 66-year-old man but his appearance and strength are like a teenager. He wears T-shirt.(We already saw this character, I think. We should already know what they look like. If you took out the descriptions and put them before the script, or in another document, this problem would be solved.)

Mikaeel Skylar (gasping): What’s that? What a nightmare!

Mikaeel Skylar: Honey — Could you make me a glass o’ hot coffee?

Mikaeel Skylar’s wife: (What? Where’s she come from?) With milk or sugar?

He realizes she was in the next room. (Huh? That’s a thought, not something that can be drawn.)

Mikaeel Skylar: neither.

(This dialogue is awful. It doesn’t sound human.)


A high shot. It takes a shot-view from the roof. Mikaeel Skylar sits on the chair. His wife comes to give him a glass of hot coffee. She puts the glass in the table. (Moving panel and a lack of description.)

NOTE: His wife looks older than him. She’s 25 but she seems like 40-year-old woman. She has a less wrinkles in her lower eyes, a long black hair, sexy lips, and celestial nose. She has a nice body. She wears pink pajamas. (Celestial nose? I have no idea what that even looks like… I have an idea, though, and it reminds me of the original Captain Marvel’s cosmic awareness. Starfield on the nose? That’s an interesting look.)

His wife: (She doesn’t even get a name? Wow.) your coffee, honey. No milk, no sugar.(Capitalization.)


This panel has to close up to Mikaeel Skylar’s face. He smiles to his wife.

Mikaeel Skylar: a wonderful day with you, honey. (What? How does that make sense in relation to anything?)

Okay, I give up. Anything else I say will be a waste of time for you, me and those reading. See the end of this page for my notes.


It’s small panel. His wife gives a dark-red envelope to him with her right-hand. Close up to her right hand with the envelope.

His wife: You’d better look at this envelope, honey. I think it belongs to you. It’s strange because its cover has no text at all.

Mikaeel Skylar: for me? — Sometimes a red one means a serious danger, honey. (Dialogue is…painful…to read. Just imagine that being said by Captain Kirk.)


A small panel and beside panel five. Take a side shot. Mikaeel Skylar starts to read the letter. His wife let him read and leave him alone in living room.

Mikaeel Skylar (surprising): Very classified? Lost files? You gotta be KIDDING ME! (That’s what I’m saying about this dialogue.)


This panel takes close up of the dark-red paper. The paper text is VERY CLASSIFIED: THE LOST FILES OF MARITIME KINGDOM. This is important that this secret information have to be delivered to Lone Ranger because we have a very dangerous situation. Several files have lost. We have no idea who are the performers of this case. We, S.A.P.E, invite you to attend in the place that you know previously. This will be burnt after you’d read. (Everything inside the quotation marks should be broken out and put into its own element as just text.)


A half of letter is burning but the words still can be read. It must look dramatically. There’s a box that fill with He can’t believe it because S.A.P.E. has a very tight security in making ‘very classified’ files safety . (What’s the mechanism that’s causing it to burn? Is it automatic? That makes about as much sense as anything else here. And your last sentence makes little sense.)

Mikaeel Skylar: It’s impossible. I assume there was black campaign in S.A.F.E. I’m pretty sure. (This makes no sense. Remember what I said about forgetting to take the reader along with you? Here it is.)

It’s hard to begin commenting on this script, because there are so many things wrong with it and a lot of it doesn’t make sense. It’s plain that English isn’t your first language, so it’s commendable that you’re writing in it. I couldn’t even begin to write in another language – some would say I struggle with this one –, so kudos. Unfortunately, you still need to relay the important information to the creative team and tell a good story. This does neither. I’m struggling to understand what you mean, so I’m struggling to give you notes on what is wrong other than that it doesn’t make sense. I can only categorically state that this script is trash and will need serious rewrite in order for it to be readable and serviceable to the creative team. This, as it stands, will not be made into a comic. Even if it is somehow, nobody will read it. It’s impossible to understand.

My advice to you would be to study and get a better grasp of English before even trying to write a comic script in it. I’d suggest first writing prose and getting that critiqued. Comic scripts are a difficult enough concept to grasp for those writing in their native language – just look at some of the other TPG entries – and you’ve got the added difficulty of writing in your second language.

Let’s run this down.

Format: The format is a failure. Besides the lack of page breaks, there’s the problem of panel description being in the dialogue, and the notes that didn’t really need to be there.

I’ve said it before, folks, and I’ll say it again: I’m not a stickler for format, as much as I am for consistency. Format really is consistency.

Now, with that being said, you still can’t have panel descriptions in your dialogue. You can’t. It doesn’t work. Best case scenario: you confuse your artist as they’re trying to draw. Worst case scenario: you totally contradict what you’ve written in the panel description. It doesn’t work.

Format is important, folks. It sets the stage for the rest of the team, and ignoring it can set you up for failure.

Panel Descriptions: Lite. The reason for that is because instead of putting the actual panel descriptions where they’re supposed to be, they’re in notes and in the dialogue. It’s broken up and spread around, and it shouldn’t be. It should all be where it’s supposed to be.

Now, along with being light, you also have two different things going against you—the moving panels and the prosaic descriptions. Giving the benefit of the doubt, I’m going to say that part of that is the fact that English isn’t your native language.

You have things to fix. We’ll talk about that more in a little bit.

Pacing: Pacing depends on a lot of different things. Broken down, from largest to smallest, you have the number of scenes in a book, the number of pages in a scene, the number of panels on a page, and the number of words in all of that. Then, you have to add in the actions and words in each scene and panel. Fun, right?

Now, with the explanation done, this is moving too fast. You’re not bringing the reader with you. P1 is nothing more except a dream sequence, and then the guy wakes up on P2 and gets a confidential file that starts to self-destruct as he reads it.

Now, besides the fact that there’s no point of reference for the character, there also wasn’t a point of reference for the acronyms used.

Because things moved so fast, it’s very difficult to tell what the story’s about. No one and nothing is properly introduced. Where are the character names so that people can read them? Where are the hooks that bring the reader along with the story? They aren’t there. Not fun.

Dialogue: Dialogue is where the writer really gets to shine. Dialogue is where the story gets told. Art is beautiful, but it can hold attention for only so long. The story has to be there, too, and most of that is done through dialogue.

Dialogue is where the writer gets to really be seen. The panel descriptions are interpreted through the artist, so this is where a great artist can make a poor writer look good. The audience doesn’t really get to see what the writer asked for in the panel descriptions, they only see what the artist has drawn. Panel descriptions can let the writer hide.

The writer cannot hide when it comes to dialogue. The dialogue is filtered through the letterer and possibly the editor, but for all intents and purposes, the writer is naked when it comes to dialogue. Without an editor, this is where a failure of not having a mastery of a language shows.

Missing and juxtaposed words are the topping of what is also just terrible, terrible dialogue. Aside from the fact that it makes little sense, the dialogue is just bad to read. It’s very, very blunt. Unpleasantly so. This is hard to hide.

Content: This is not crap. This suffers from the handicap of not being extremely proficient with the language. Like Liam, I wouldn’t write a comic in a language I wasn’t facile with. However, this isn’t ready for anyone to read. If I picked this up from the shelf, I’d more than likely put this back. However, it wouldn’t get that far. No company picks this up. Reason: language barrier.

Editorially, this needs two things—a rewrite, but only after you’re more comfortable with the language. Learn the language better, and then do a rewrite. I think learning the language better will be instrumental in helping with the format and the dialogue. Again, this is not crap. There’s a large handicap here with the language.

Now, with that being said, if Nanda were to come back and say that they’ve been speaking English from the day they were born, this craters right into crap territory. While I don’t believe this is the case, I’ve been wrong before.

Become better with the language. Read and write more within the language, and your next serious work should be much, much better.

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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