TPG Week 235: Different Mistakes Made

| June 26, 2015


Welcome back one and all, to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week is something of a treat. We get to go over a script that we saw a few weeks ago. Amit Sharma has submitted his script again, so we get to see what was learned. We have Liam Hayes in blue, I’m the crotchety guy in red, and we all get to see if Amit is

Title: Wise.

(Your format hurts my eyes. It’s all bunched up and hard to read, making the script off-putting straight away. If I were paid to do this by a publisher, i.e a professional editor, this would already be a miss for giving me a headache. I’ve spaced it out a bit as not to make a dent in the world’s stock of painkiller.)

NOTE: 2 pages, 9 panels per page in a 3×3 grid. I envisage this being black & white, Clean lines with blank white backgrounds mostly. The story is mostly talking heads from the chest up.

NOTE: There are 4 characters in this story.

WISE: Central character to the story. Male late teens, white

FRIEND: Male late teens, black
(Can this guy get a name? He’s in both pages. It’ll make things less confusing.)

OPPONENT: Male early 20s, East Asian

JUDGE: Late 20s, white is wearing a plain t-shirt with JUDGE on it.

(You’ve only described what one of these guys is wearing. I’m okay with that, just making you aware that you’re putting that onto the artist.)

NOTE: During the story the characters will take part in a collectable card game tournament. The game and cards aren’t important in themselves. The size and detail of the cards will depend on what is practical to the panel, so none of the following may be needed, but just in case. All the cards will have simple symbols on them. The backs of the cards will have two fists punching each other. The play side of the cards can have a variety of fantasy and science fiction motifs e.g. sword, shield, robot, cannon, space station, Grey (alien), knight etc.
Takes place in London, set in modern day 2015.


Panel 1) Medium shot. This is WISE speaking to camera. WISE has his right hand up in greeting. He has a slight smile on his face. (This is a literal white void. We’ve come full circle.) (Really? We had this problem the last time. Le sigh.)

WISE: Hi, I’m Wise, by name anyway, not by nature. (Okay, there’s one too many commas in here. The second comma should actually be a period.)

WISE: This here is an example of how not to live your life.

There is no background detail. Plain white background. (This is panel description. Why is it after the dialogue? Format wasn’t confusing enough?)(This? This loses the Flawless Victory.)

Panel 2) Medium shot. WISE is sitting at a round kitchen table with FRIEND sitting next to him. FRIEND is grinning at WISE. There are a number of cards laid out across the table. WISE is looking intently down at the cards laid out on the table. There is a box of cards on the table in front of FRIEND. FRIEND has his hand in the box grabbing cards. WISE is on the left FRIEND on the right. (That was a tough read. Mostly because of your short sentences and repetition. I know scripts aren’t supposed to be entertaining, but they aren’t supposed to actively put the creative team off, either. Also, this doesn’t strike me as a medium shot, but a full shot to set the scene.)

WISE: I’m taking this to the tournament; don’t think anyone has seen this combo deck idea. (I’m not someone who likes semicolons in dialogue. It isn’t incorrect—I just don’t like it. Personal preference.)

FRIEND: Can’t believe you’re deck building the night before the tournament.

Panel 3) Medium shot. Similar to panel 2 above. WISE is scooping up the laid out cards, gathering them together, he is smiling looking at FRIEND. FRIEND is holding up 8 cards fanned out in his hand to WISE.

FRIEND: Okay to borrow these for my aggro deck?
WISE: Sure.

Panel 4+5) Double panel. A large hall filled with gamers sitting opposite each other at rows of simple rectangular tables. The tournament is in full swing, players sitting opposite each other, looking at the cards in their hand, or cards on the table. Have the players be from a diverse range of backgrounds.

No dialogue. (Captions are dialogue.)

CAPTION: Tournament day.

Panel 6) Medium shot. WISE and OPPONENT are sitting opposite each other at a simple rectangle shaped table. (Were they in the previous panel?) WISE is on the left, OPPONENT on the right. They are shaking hands. Both are smiling. The table has a table number on one edge, the table number is 9. Cards have been laid out in front of each player as well as their decks.

WISE: Good game.

OPPONENT: Man, your deck smashed me, it’s really good. (I’m starting to look at bad punctuation not as something that makes me want to shoot myself in the face with a bazooka. I’m starting to look at it as something that keeps me in my job. But really, I’d feel much less like a parrot if writers learned when to put in periods, like changing that second comma to one.)

WISE: Cheers, doesn’t look like anyone can handle the combo. (Yeah. I’m keeping my job.)

Panel 7) Medium shot. WISE talking to camera. WISE looks pleased with himself, a little smug.

WISE: So that was the best ranked player in the country.

WISE: Yeah, I’m pretty pleased with myself. One more win and I top 8. (He tops 8? I don’t get this.)

Panel 8) Medium shot. WISE and FRIEND are sitting opposite each other at a simple rectangle shaped table. WISE is on the left, FRIEND on the right. The table has a table number on one edge, the table number is 7. Both of them are shuffling their decks, looking at each other grinning. No cards are on the table as this is before the game starts.

WISE: Can’t believe we’re playing each other in the final round.

FRIEND: Better than playing each other in the first round.

Panel 9) Medium shot. WISE talking to camera. He is looking down, his right hand over his face, trying to hide his embarrassment, in a I can’t believe I did that expression.

WISE: All good right? One of us gets to top 8 and I have the better deck. (And more job-keeping.)

WISE: Well, what happens next, it’s not good or right.
(Does this guy have knowledge of the future? Breaking the fourth wall is one thing…) (Right here is where the story breaks down. We’re now talking about Time, and Time is extremely important when it comes to comics. We’ll talk more in a minute.)

We sure are jumping around a lot. We start in nowhere land, jump to a kitchen, then to a tournament and several tables within that tournament. And this is all on one page. You’ve only increased the degree of headache this piece is radiating out.

P1 is down.

I don’t mind the jumping around so much. It’s for a purpose. My problems are twofold.

My first problem is the dialogue. There isn’t a lot of it. You have a lot of room here to tell a story, but it isn’t being used properly. You could get in a lot of character building and world building, even for a short story, but instead you decide to go with what seems to be the absolute minimum of dialogue in order to get the story across. While that means it’s very lean, it’s also means it’s a fast read. Having enough dialogue vs having too much dialogue is a tightrope we have to walk every time we sit down to write. I think you fell off on the too little side. It’s pretty easy to cut dialogue and restate things in a way that takes less words; it’s more difficult to add dialogue to something when there isn’t a lot there to begin with.

The big thing, though, is the playing with Time. Let me see if I can explain this properly.

Characters can break the fourth wall and talk directly to the audience. I have no problem with that at all. However, if they already know what’s going to happen, then questions arise: how do they know this information, and where in the timestream are they right now if they’re breaking the fourth wall? It isn’t paradox, but it definitely messes up the flow of Time within the story.

How can he know what’s going to take place, as he’s also moving forward in the same flow of time as the story itself? It’s one thing to say I’m going to punch Moe in the face , and it’s quite another to say Moe is going to punch me in the face. Both contain Moe, but one has an action that you have control over (punching Moe in the face) and can thus predict, and the other has an action you have no control over (being punched in the face by Moe), and is thus more difficult to predict.

Unless he’s psychic, and I don’t believe he is.

I’m not even going to talk about punctuation. I’ve either been broken, or I’ve seen the light. One is just sad, and the other is scary.


Panel 1) Medium shot. WISE and FRIEND are sitting opposite each other at a simple rectangle shaped table. WISE is on the left, FRIEND on the right. The table has a table number on one edge, the table number is 7. There are a number of cards on the table on both sides to show they are in the middle of the game. (Why are you re-describing the scene we are still in?) WISE is holding his play hand in front of him looking at the card FRIEND has just played, he has a surprised expression. FRIEND is placing a card on the table from his play hand; FRIEND’s body language is one of confidence. It would be best if we didn’t see what the symbol on the card played by FRIEND is.

WISE: That wasn’t in your deck last night? (Is that a question?) That card wrecks me! (I don’t get CCG’s. The object is to win the game, I get that, but to get upset over something like this? The object is to win the game, right?)

OPPONENT: Added it this morning.

Panel 2) Medium shot. Similar to panel above. WISE and FRIEND are sitting opposite each other at a simple rectangle shaped table. WISE is on the left, FRIEND on the right. The table has a table number on one edge, the table number is 7. (Again? Huh?) WISE is sitting back in his chair, arms crossed. His body language and facial expression is of a person who is annoyed/sulking. FRIEND is smiling, holding his hand out over the table to shake hands.

FRIEND: Close game.

WISE: Why would you add that card?

FRIEND: Come on, I had to tech for combo decks. (I don’t understand this sentence.)

WISE: My deck you mean.

Panel 3) Medium shot. Similar to panel 1, page 2. (Except in a totally different scene.) WISE is angry, he is leaning across the table grabbing FRIEND’s deck. FRIEND has a look of disbelief/anger, he is grabbing hold of WISE’s wrist, trying to stop him taking his deck.

WISE: I’m taking my cards back.

FRIEND: What! Don’t be a baby.

Panel 4+5) Double panel, full shot. WISE and FRIEND are wrestling on the table. They have each other in headlocks WISE has hold of FRIEND’s deck of cards in one hand and is trying to keep them away from FRIEND. FRIEND has hold of WISE’s outreached arm at the wrist trying to get his deck back.

The background in this panel will have the other gamers standing in a crowd watching the wrestling pair. There will be a mixture of surprise, amusement and disgust among the watching crowd. (That crowd was drawn pretty quick. I imagine a few people would have turned to watch, but not a horde. Not in that amount of time, anyway.) (I don’t mind the crowd. I can see it. They had at least a panel to notice and start gathering before getting here.)

No dialogue. (Why? They’re wrestling. Why would they be silent about it?)

Panel 6) Medium shot. JUDGE standing between WISE and FRIEND with a hand on each of their shoulders. The JUDGE is angry, WISE and FRIEND are staring daggers at each other. (From headlocks to a judge standing between them? That’s fast. I’d say the judge teleported in.)

JUDGE: You pair of morons are banned, now get out.

Panel 7) Full shot. WISE & FRIEND are walking away from camera towards a door. They are a bit more than an arm’s length apart. FRIEND is looking at/ turned towards WISE with disgust, his arm is up as he has just thrown his deck of cards at WISE. WISE’s head is bowed down, cards flutter in the air around him. (This is a jump in time from the previous panel. Too much of a jump.)(I wouldn’t say that. I’m good with this. There’s no need for it to be drawn out. The only thing I would do is put it on a new page.)

FRIEND: Idiot. That would’ve been my first top 8.

Panel 8) Medium shot. WISE talking to camera. WISE is looking down, not making eye contact with the reader.

WISE: Like I said, embarrassing. (How is the reader supposed to know this is directed toward them?)

WISE: Look, it would’ve been my first top 8
(Comma.) too. Being that close to it and missing out…

Panel 9) Medium shot. WISE talking to camera. WISE has his hand rubbing the back of head, looking up at camera. He looks uncomfortable, a sense of chagrin, having to admit an uncomfortable truth.

WISE: Yeah, don’t be me, take defeat with grace. (Break.) Games aren’t worth losing friends over.


Hm… Was this for a specific analogy? Otherwise, I can’t see its point. I’m thinking it would probably work for a kids book, but not much else.

Technically, your biggest problem is the pacing. Jump cuts do not make for a fun, interesting read. They make for a disjointed, awkward one. Pick the most interesting moment in this story – usually the moment the status quo is interrupted – and start it there, without randomly cutting to other locations mid-scene and leaving the reader without an anchor. As you do this, rework your panel descriptions so they aren’t repetitive and arduous to read. This means combining short sentences to create a better flow. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about when it comes to being staccato.

Let’s just run this down.

Format: This just missed the Flawless Victory. By a hair. Sucks, but I don’t make the rules. I just enforce them.

Panel Descriptions: These need some work. Again, we had the white void that we had last time. Thankfully we got away from there, but then a new problem cropped up: repetition.

It’s really simple to avoid repetition. You have to set up an establishing shot. As soon as you do that for the location you’re in, you don’t have to do much more establishing unless you change locations. If you start in a room, you don’t have to continue to describe that same room every panel. You can describe things in the room as they come into clearer focus, but you don’t have to describe the room over and over again. If you leave the location and then come back, you don’t have to do another establishing shot. Think of it as one establishing shot per location per issue. Follow that as a guide, and you shouldn’t run into too much trouble.

Next, compound sentences. Liam is right when he says he knows about staccato. I used to bead on him about it in his own writing. Look at him now! I know the script isn’t for the audience, but it should be a chore for the rest of the team to get through, either. The easier you make it on the team, the happier everyone will be.

Pacing: Your pacing is off, which is a shame to say, considering there are only 2 pages here. It’s the manner in which the story is told. You have a character breaking the fourth wall while in the same timeline of the story, knowing future events, without any explanation. It takes the reader right out of the story. Basically, you did the foreshadowing wrong because your character isn’t psychic.

I don’t mind the jumps the way Liam does. I like that you cut directly to where you needed to be. You conserved real estate. I like that. However, there were a couple of items that could have used more space, and that was the judge showing up and then kicking them out.

Dialogue: There isn’t enough of it. There were opportunities there to call characters by their names, and those opportunities weren’t taken. Important? I think so. Again, I think there needed to be more dialogue in total. What you’ve got here gets the story told, but there isn’t a lot of panache. Word choice and timing are also important.

Content: As a reader, I’m not a fan. This seemed very much like an extremely short after school program. (I’m ageing myself.) Don’t piss off your friends or you’ll lose them. And coming out and saying it is ham-fisted. Don’t be afraid to be subtle.

Editorially, this doesn’t need as much help as the previous installment. It still needs help, though. I’m very happy to see you’re making different mistakes. That means you’ve learned. Good on ya.

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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