TPG Week 224: Padding and the ‘Splode

| April 10, 2015


Welcome back, one and all, to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a new Brave One in Galen Schultz. We have Liam Hayes in blue, and I’m the one losing their mind in red, and we’re all going to see how Galen does as he treads

High Water

PAGE ONE (six panels)

Panel 1 is a thin, full wide panel looking down from extreme distance, showing seagulls in flight. (Unclear. Are we looking down at the seagulls from extreme distance or are we looking at something in the extreme distance with sea gulls in foreground/mid ground. Not a big issue in itself, but clarity is key to getting your point across.) A high cliff at the end of a land mass with ocean surrounding it can be seen below and trailing into the far distance. This entire coastline is forty foot cliffs with very narrow sandy strips at their feet. The sun is a couple hours above the water, so shadows are long.

Panel 2 is a little thicker, full wide, showing a closer view of the cliff, which has a town (Longshore) a hundred yards from the edge of the cliff. (Hm… I’d have like to have seen this town in panel one. I think we should have, really.) There is a very thick wall (Material?) surrounding it, though it is crumbling (Stone then, I presume.) in places. Any buildings in the town are going to be squat, single-story affairs with roofs sloped away from the ocean (west, for reference). In the western edge of the town a raised scaffold in a deserted square can be seen with one man in the center (In the center of the scaffold or the square? I’ll assume you meant square.), and three off in a group a little further away. Longshore is otherwise abandoned.

Panel 3 is the top-left quadrant for the next four panels. Show a close up of Ashley with a noose around his neck. Grimacing cough. (So he was on the scaffold? You need to be clearer.) Three days of stubble.


Cough (Put asterisks round that. Otherwise it looks like he’s just saying cough, unless your letterer knows what they’re doing.)

Panel 4, second quadrant. A full body view of Ashley on the gallows standing with hands tied behind his back and the noose around his neck. His face is lightly bruised, (Where was the bruising in the previous panel?) his long coat is scuffed and dirty, the shirt beneath it can show wear and stains. He has looser breeches stuffed into boots turned down at mid-calf. Except for his shirt, he wears darker colors.


Hey, uh… Hey, Greco. You wanna hurry your tubby self up?

Panel 5, third quadrant. Three men standing together, Greco turned from their conversation with a scowl. The other two are Marques and Yezst and they both look a little squirrelly. Nervous.



Panel 6, final quadrant, a view of Greco menacing up the stairs of the gallows from behind and below him. (How do we know he’s menacing if we’re behind him? You know, wide threatening stance.

SFX (from boot): (Where’s this from? You didn’t say he was stamping on anything.)



Oh, is it gettin’ to be a bit much for ya Captain? Wish I’d just pull the lever?

I’m not really liking your establishing shots, if you can call them that. We go from really zoomed out to really zoomed in. I don’t think it gives the reader a very good sense of place. Also, those first two panels, while atmospheric, just waste space. I’d like to see the close up of the guy in a noose for the first panel. That works. As for the story, I’m a little interested.

We’ve got P1 on the books!

And what do we have with P1? Not much, really. The first two panels don’t do much at all, especially panel 1. We could have started with panel 2 and saved some space. Starting with panel 3 doesn’t do much, in my opinion, because we’d still need to pull out some in order to establish the space.

As for what’s being done in these panels—again, not much. I’m bored. There isn’t much here to make the reader want to turn the page, and the panel description for panel 6 is almost prosaic. Menacing up the stairs? That doesn’t mean what you think it means. I understand what was being attempted, but it wasn’t done well at all, because that part of the sentence doesn’t mean anything.

I don’t think this is a good start for our hero.

(No page breaks. Oh dear.) (No page breaks? No Flawless Victory for you!)

PAGE TWO (seven panels)

Panel 1. One third the page, full wide panel. Greco standing on the scaffold with Ashley, looming threateningly. Ashley’s expression is overly wide innocent eyes.


Yeah actually. I’m pretty thirsty.

Panel 2, small, Ashley looking down.


I have to pee. And this wait seems pointless.

(Panel two is kinda pointless. Why not just move his dialogue onto panel one and save yourself some space?)

Panel 3, small, Ashley looking to the side and down a bit as if trying to see the rope.


Also this rope chafes and– (Again, this line could easily fit in panel one.)

Panel 4, similar to panel 1, Greco looming, scowling. Ashley is hamming innocence.


–Ye’ll get yer wish. And I’ll get my money. Just wait.

Panel 5. The top half of Ashley‘s face, his eyes at zenith amid-roll.


Great, Fatty—can I call you Fatty?—but that’s what I mean. I don’t want to–

Panel 6. Greco throwing his weight into a punch in Ashley’s gut. (Ashley’s reaction?)


That mouth o’ yers is what got ya into this.



(Reverse those lines. Ashley’s should come first. Greco’s takes longer than the punch itself.)

Panel 7. Ashley is hunched as much as the rope allows. Greco can be seen looking at the sunset seen above one of the crumbling parts of the wall, so that in the deep distance you can see the horizon line. End of scene. (That last bit is unnecessary.)

ASHLEY (thought):

And your mouth is what got you into that porky body, Lardass.


Just a bit longer. They’ll be here soon.

Half of this page isn’t needed. That said, I’m still a little intrigued as to where this is going.

Remember, folks, Liam is the nice one. Because right now, I don’t care. I’m not intrigued. I’m bored as hell.

The pacing is off. Galen is trying to build up suspense, but doesn’t have anything really to say, and is trying to draw things out in lieu of that. Panel 5—we only see the top half of his head. Why? What’s so interesting about the top half of his head? Not one thing at all.

If you want to show him being a smartass, then you have to give him more to say. And then, after he’s gut-punched, he still has to speak. Instead, you’ve showed that he’s been cowed into submission, despite the fact that he’s thinking his defiance. Your character is no longer interesting, because he’s allowed himself to be bullied. That’s what you’ve told the audience.

Any interest you may have gained for why he’s there, how he got there, and what’s going to happen when they arrive just flew the coop, because we know your character backs down in the face of adversity. That’s not an interesting character.

I’m bored.


PAGE THREE (five panels)

Panel 1. Same time as previous scene. Middle distance, left side shot of Leyta climbing down a rope ladder on the starboard side of a ship. She’s most of the way down to a longboat in the water. The ladder would run between lanceports (gunwales) and would be tied on the other side of the railing on the ship and run down to a longboat with a crew mate below. She is speaking to Tom who’s on the deck of the Fortune looking down to her (You should have started at the top and worked your way down, instead of starting at the bottom and worked your way up, just to go back down again.). Leyta is wearing a vest over a loose shirt and tight breeches. She’ll have a pistol in a bandolier across her chest running from her left shoulder to her right hip, a knife strapped to her upper left arm, a short rapier with a basic hilt design on her left hip, and a custom gauntlet hanging from her belt over her right thigh, though you probably can’t see that in this panel (the gauntlet has raised, thick, rigid pieces of metal ridged down the forearm for catching/deflecting swords. The knuckles have short, nasty spikes on them). (That’s something you’ll discuss with the artist beforehand. Take it out and put it somewhere else.) Tom has his a permanent grimace. He wears a long-sleeved shirt rolled up over hairy forearms and unbuttoned to show some chest hair.


Twenty-two should be plenty, Tom. You just keep the ships out of trouble until we return with the Great Ashley Grim.

Panel 2. Tom shouting down to Leyta from over the railing but shot from inside the longboat looking up the side of the ship. Another crew mate has their leg over the railing to begin their own trip down the ladder as Tom yells a little to the side. (Where’s Leyta now? In the longboat?)


And if it goes poorly, Leyta?


Take the Fortune and the Silver Gull to Rutland Green as planned.

Panel 3, full width of the page. A silhouette at medium distance of four longboats traveling away from the two anchored ships, the second of which is much further in the background. There are twelve people in each longboat, several of whom are rowing, though nobody need be recognizable or countable. Just for reference. The sun would be three or so lengths above the water. The shore is not in sight. (Of course the shore isn’t in sight. I’m assuming the shore is behind the camera, and the boats are coming toward us. That’s the only real way this works.)

Panel 4. The boats heading back to their ships with only one person in each one. This is not a silhouette. The positions of ships/shore is the same as previous panel. (Why do we need to see this?) (This is a waste of space.)

Panel 5, 45 degree view of the pirates clustered around Leyta and Tad (Who’s Tad? Where did he come from?) in a semicircle on the beach they landed on. The shot is far enough back you can see the foot of the cliff and that the beach is actually a rather steep affair leading up to it.


Full disclosure, I lied to Tom. I’m not sure what we’ll find. Here’s what I do know.

This is a boring page. Do we really need to see the pirates disembarking? Can’t we just skip ahead to them being on the island?

P3, and I’m outrageously bored. Again, the pacing is off.

What’s worse, though, is that Galen doesn’t have much of a story here. This is a really, really fast read. Why? Because the characters aren’t doing anything worthwhile, and because they aren’t doing anything worthwhile, they have nothing to say. Galen’s trying to cover up the fact that he doesn’t have a story by showing inconsequentials. (Get it? Inconsquentials ? I kill me! Hey! It’s the only amusement I’m getting over here!)

Actually, you know what? I’m just going to call it the Line of Demarcation right here. It’s crap. We’re three pages in, and there’s nothing really going on to gain the reader’s interest. Like I said, Liam’s the nice one. Me? I have more fun watching otters mate.

What’s of interest on this page? Why do we need to go all the way back to the boat in order to just reach the island? We could have cut the entire boat scene, as well as the dialogue on the beach, and said something truly interesting. Instead, it’s being drawn out because Galen doesn’t know what else to do.

I’d rather go watch different youtube videos. Here’s one about Mount Weather.

Oh, yeah! The boats? They probably should have been seen on P1, panel 1. Just thought I should mention that.


PAGE FOUR (Six panels)

Panel 1. A middle closeup of Leyta’s face. She has her usual no BS look.


Longshore has been dead awhile. The six-masted idiots built it on a stormward cliff and then wondered at the wind blowing over their wall. (This right here, kiddies? Info-dump!)

Panel 2, Tad is wearing his usual Ashley-esque black coat, that fits tighter to his frame. (More description that should have come earlier, or been removed and put elsewhere.) He is looking at Leyta, who is still talking but mostly off panel. (Mostly? She is or isn’t.) He should look rapt. If you can manage obsessed, even better. He should have a saber at his left hip.


What that means is there was no going Between Blues for the Longshoremen. Hence us being on this beach. (I don’t know what this means.) (Liam’s not alone. This is either not thought out well, or there’s missing information, or both. I vote for both.)

Panel 3. A view of the cliff where it meets the sand. There’s a switchback trail leading up to a tunnel entrance a short walk up the beach from where the crew is gathered. (Shouldn’t we have seen that earlier?)


Lucky for us, those caves were built right. They lead from there to the town square. (You can build a cave correctly? When does a cave become a tunnel? There are other obvious questions that I won’t ask.)

Panel 4. Very high bird’s eye view of the town above on the cliff, with the group visible as a smudge on the sand far below. This is just for establishing position for the reader. If this is a bad idea, cut the panel. It doesn’t add much. (Yup.) (This is the first time I’ve ever seen a writer notice his own padding. It’s still crap, but this gives me an extremely small hope for the future of humanity. About a baby egret’s feather’s weight, vs the weight of Jupiter.)

Panel 5. Leyta holding up two fingers. Frowning slightly.


When we get to the square, we file off in two groups. Mine and Gideon’s. (What? Why wasn’t this direction given back at the beach? What are we even doing here?)

Panel 6. Full body view of Gideon with his arms crossed. He wears a thin coat with a hood on. His left hand, if you can see it, is wrapped in strips of linen, like a bandage, which disappear into his sleeve. There are others standing next to him, but not near him, mostly out of panel. Rifle over his shoulder.


My group pairs up on the perimeter. We provide cover and confusion. (Again, this plan should have been finalized on the beach.)

What a boring page. Why are you telling us this? Cut to the story.

Remember when I said this was crap? Just keep that in mind.

P4 adds extremely little to the story. To be honest, both of these pages should be cut and burned for the useless flotsam they are. (Get it? Talking about boats on the page, and I’m talking about the pages as though they’re wreckage from boats? Laugh, folks, laugh! I’m much more entertaining than this crap.)

Really, these two pages are padding. I don’t know why we need these pages, and they don’t add anything at all to the story. So far, they can be cut, and the participants can just show up wherever they’re going to pop up next and just do what they’re going to do with almost no explanation, and it wouldn’t hurt the story.

The question must always be asked: why are we here? What am I trying to say with this? Then, after those questions are asked and answered, ask yourself if it can be done a better way.

There are better ways to do this. However, while you figure it out, enjoy my theme song.

(Another PB needed.)

PAGE FIVE (Five panels)

Panel 1, full width. (Insert crude diagram of town square with a few strips of buildings around the north, south and east, the scaffold in middle. Arrows showing where Gideon’s group will go from to where they will end up: from the underground entrance to the town in the east end to be ranged out on the perimeter of the square. Leyta’s group will be labeled as spearing into the center towards the scaffold). The rest of the panel is Leyta still addressing the group. For reference, the group and crew number 22 altogether. Leyta, Gideon, Tad, Cid, Aerick, Arman, Ben, Hadwin, Henrik, Faye, Nyx, Ramsey, Samuel, Sebastian, Gorthon, Stev, Devan, Drogo, Sasha, Hedo, Gaines and Deved (all descriptions of course in supporting document) (Apart from the ones in the script?). Seven have unlit, rough torches like sticks with pitch covered rags tied to them, one of these needs to be Aerick. Several of them are looking at Hedo. (You’ve now described the people we saw first on page three.) (Why wasn’t this done on the beach? I really, really don’t understand. I know I already called the Line of Demarcation, but really, the sheer stupidity of this is gonna… I feel like… I can’t hold… ‘SPLODE!!!)


The rest of you will be with me and Tad. We rush Greco.


It’s just Greco. Why the caution?


We don’t know who all will be up there, but I have a feeling it’ll be more than just Greco’s boys.

Panel 2. Close up of Leyta frowning.


And don’t forget whoever is there, they’ll have the Captain’s life in hand. Let’s move. (Ah! So this is a rescue operation! And we’re just getting this information now… Again, none of this is necessary. It can all be cut and explained later.)

Panel 3. The group is heading towards the trail with Tad in front. Leyta is watching them a little off to the side.

LEYTA (thought):

Salvatore’s letter said at sunset. I hope Greco doesn’t decide to kill you early, Ashley. (I won’t even ask about the logistics of getting a letter in this timeframe in order to coordinate things. See? I’m a giver.)

Panel 4. The group is filing up the switchback trail in the cliff. There would actually be no plants on the rocks, since the storms would keep them from growing. Barnacles are totally possible though, especially near the bottom of the path. (No one cares. People stopped caring on P1, panel 1.)

Panel 5. Gideon standing outside the entrance while Arman and Aerick are passing behind. Ben is standing at the far side of the entrance opposite Gideon (background) holding a lit torch, and is lighting the torch in Aerick’s hand. Gideon is looking at a derelict winch system fastened to the cliff wall above the opening.

GIDEON (thought):

It’s only been ten years, but it looks like a hundred since people lived here. (Why are we hearing everyone’s thoughts at random? Head hopping isn’t fun.)

More boring.

I kinda wanted to see where this was going but now I don’t care. What you’re doing here is telling over showing. Planning is often used as a prime example to illustrate when to tell and when to show. Essentially, wouldn’t it be better the show the plan in action instead of telling us about the plan? Rewrite with that in mind.

One other thing I’d say is stop being so restrictive on your angles. Call for them when you want a specific shot, but don’t hog the tool. Let your artist have some fun with it.

Goodness! Liam has stopped, which means I can, too!

Let’s run away! Um, I mean, let’s run this down… (Sorry. Forbian slip?)

Format: No page breaks, no Flawless Victory. Simple.

Panel Descriptions: These have a lot of useless information. I understand the trick is knowing what is and isn’t important to put in, and that comes with time and practice. However, character descriptions should typically be left out, unless they’re incidental characters.

Pacing: I’ve seen continents that moved faster and were more agile than this. The reason this was so slow? You have three pages of padding. Three pages that add nothing to the immediacy of the story, with precious little information that couldn’t have been glossed over later. Again, everything past P2 could be cut, and the first two pages could be condensed down to 1. That means, of these five pages, there’s really only 1 page worth of material.

This means you don’t yet know how to tell a story in the medium. Not when the first five pages are this bad, with three of them being totally useless.

Condense. Ask yourself the questions. Ask yourself if you’re telling the story you want to tell. You should be asking yourself all kinds of questions before you ever start drafting. (Sometimes, there’s the need to get things down and out of the way first. I understand that. You have to get the bad words out first. However, you have to learn to recognize the bad words for what they are, discard them, and then start over with something better.)

Dialogue: A few things about the dialogue.

First, there isn’t enough of it. This is going to make for a very fast read.

Second, the only thing that was said that was of any slight interest was on P2. And then you killed any interest by making your protagonist a coward.

Third, there was extremely little of consequence said. And by extremely little, I mean just that.

Dialogue serves two purposes: to reveal character and to move the plot. Some of what was said revealed character (your protagonist is a coward), and precious little revealed plot (a rescue operation has been mounted). In five pages, we still don’t know why he’s there, who most of these people are, why they’re going after him, or what the ultimate goal is. Pirates of the Caribbean this isn’t. Captain Jack Sparrow is, at all times, an interesting character, and even when you think he’s cowed, he still has something smart to say, savvy?

Content: As a reader, I’d have wondered how this made it to the shelves. Actually, the best to be hoped for would probably be Comixology Submit, because I don’t see any publisher worthy of the name picking this up.

Editorially, this needs a complete rewrite. The first question I’d ask is what you wanted the reader to walk away with, and then start guiding you from there. Then we’d start building reader interest in the story by placing events in an order that made sense while not being boring, and removing the events that led to readers slipping away to Nod. Because they will. Then we’d talk about the dialogue, the lack of it, and the lack of it saying anything worthwhile. These things need to be addressed.

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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