TPG Week 243: In Definite Need Of A Rewrite

| August 22, 2015


Welcome back, one and all, to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a Brave One who’s no stranger here: Ryan Kroboth! We’ve got Liam Hayes in blue, I’m the guy in red, and we’re all going to find out if Ryan hears

The Calling

Page 1 (Six Panels)

Page 1, Panel 1 (I don’t mind this. I think it’s unnecessary, especially if you’re spelling the words out, but I don’t mind this, as long as hes’ consistent.)

The camera is in a hallway parallel to the wall across from it. (Confusing, but I get the gist of this. Any way you can make this simpler?) The wall is decorated with seashells, coral, and other underwater items. Among those items are pearls that give off a blue bioluminescence, which light the scene.

KELSEA is in mid skip down the hallway within the first third of the panel. She is playing her Pan Flute with a carefree happiness. At the very end of the hallway, near the panel frame, is an opening. (See, now I’m completely confused. I thought we were in the hallway, but looking at one of the length-wise walls? How can we see the end of the hallway if this is the case?) It is an entry to the observation dome with no door, but rather the outer surface of a bubble. (You should have set this up when you were establishing the scene. Jumping back from scene to character to scene to character needlessly complicate panel descriptions.) ARUNE is silhouetted in the distance (Where, exactly? Beyond the bubble?) surrounded by swirls of blue and green colors.

(I think the angle you were going for is a bit explicit. Loosen it up a bit.)

SFX (trailing from off left of panel and ending at the flute): music

Editorial Caption: Aquarious, the water planet. (Nit picky, I know, but the captions should be first or last in lettering order.) (Not necessarily. Everything should be in reading order. I see this as the notes coming first, the caption somewhere in the middle, and then the sniffing. That can work. That’s in reading order, and that is the prerogative of the writer.)

Arune: <sniff> <sniff>

Page 1, Panel 2

Same shot, but now KELSEA is right at the edge of the entry to the next room. She looks forward with a puzzled expression while holding the Pan Flute down in front of her chest with both hands. (Kind of boring to start with two same panels. Especially when you can cut straight into the action. Why start with someone approaching something? Get right up in there from the outset. I also don’t know if we’re going to be able to see her expression. Since we were looking towards the end of the room, and she’s now looking into the doorway at the end of the room, it will surely be off-panel.)

SFX (trailing from off left of panel and ending abruptly in the middle): music

Arune: <sniff>

Kelsea: Huh?

Page 1, Panel 3

Close up from inside the observation room looking out toward KELSEA, who is peering around the entry to the room with a look of worry, her right hand grasping the end of the wall through the bubble. The inside wall is identical to the hallway with the exception there is a switch on the wall near the door with some kind of symbol. (The room isn’t described very well. What’s it look like? How big is it? Shape?)

Kelsea: Arune?

Kelsea: Is that you?

Page 1, Panel 4

An over the shoulder shot, favoring the left side, from the front of ARUNE, whose face is partially obscured by her left hand which is wiping a tear from her eye. In the background KELSEA is standing in the entryway inside the room, concerned. She holds the pan flute down by her waist. Keep the camera tight on the characters.

Arune: <sniff>

Arune: Oh, hey, Kelsea. I didn’t even hear you coming.

Kelsea: You’re crying? Are you ‘kay?

Page 1, Panel 5

Large panel. The camera is low to the ground, a few feet back from ARUNE and KELSEA, who face each other. Arune is looking down at the ground and slightly out toward the reader with sorrow. Kelsea is looking up toward her sister with a sympathetic expression. The floor has a grate in the center, and behind them there is no wall, rather the other edge of the bubble that looks out into the blue and green colored ocean. (Is that what the swirls were?) Schools of fish swim all over, and several other homes can be seen as indicated by lit circular observation domes such as the one the characters are standing in. (You should outline all of this beforehand. Alongside your character descriptions. You’ll make your panel descriptions less bulky and confusing that way, and you can focus on the actual storytelling.)

Arune: Yea, I’m fine. Just scared.

Kelsea: Of the Sea Monster? It scares me, too.

Arune: No, not of the Sea Monster. (Good page turner, that.)

Page 1, Panel 6

Close up of ARUNE deep in thought.

Arune: Something else. (This is unnecessary. The fact that she isn’t scared of the sea monster implies that she’s scared of something else. You also lose a lot of the power you had with the previous panel if this is the actual page turner.)

The first two panels are extraneous and can be cut without loss. Going straight into panel three will get us in quicker. Remember to start each scene as late as possible. Cutting that last panel will leave you with a decent turner. At which point, you’ve only three panels on this page, which you’ll need to bump up a bit. Not much, though, as I think the observation deck warrants a larger panel to itself.

We have P1 on the books!

What do we have here? There are several problems.

The first is the panel description of P1. If we’re looking at a wall that’s perpendicular to us, and then a character enters, that character has to enter from the left (in American comics). There will now be visualization problems because if we’re perpendicular to the wall in front of us, we’re not going to be able to see the door to the right of the panel. It’s going to be cut off from view because of the angle. In order to see that door and get a sense of that hallway, we’re going to have to pull way back, making the characters smaller, so that we can get the scope. Do we have that kind of space here? I don’t know. I’m not getting that sense of scope with what’s been described. I could definitely be wrong.

The next thing is the pacing. I’m partially with Liam in that there could be some cuts here. I’d cut off the first panel, but I’d leave the last. For the last panel, I’d add an ellipsis, either in the middle of the sentence or at the very end. It will draw the reader in more, one way or the other, and give them reason to turn the page. I think Liam is cutting it too early.

I can’t say that I’m interested yet, but I’m willing to turn the page.

(Ryan promised me he’d include page breaks. He has delivered.)

Page 2 (Six Panels)

Page 2, Panel 1

ARUNE faces away from the reader, looking out to the ocean with her left hand placed on the glass. (Ah, so Arune was next to the glass of the observation deck. This wasn’t made clear.) In the partially obscured reflection of the glass we can see her sad face. KELSEA, confused, faces towards the camera in a mid shot while scratching the top of her head with her right hand. The left hand continues to hold the pan flute.

Kelsea: What’s scarier than the Sea Monster?

Arune: I’m scared of the temple.

Kelsea: The temple?!

Page 2, Panel 2

Medium shot of KELSEA shrugging her shoulders with a slight smile. (This doesn’t seem to go very well with the dialogue. There are two kinds of shoulder shrugs. Well, there are many, but I think the one you’re looking for says, What the hell are you talking about? The one you have here seems more sheepish.)

Kelsea: But I picked shells there. It’s not scary!

Page 2, Panel 3

A grief stricken ARUNE, body in profile from her right and left hand still on the glass, faces towards KELSEA, whom the camera is behind showing her body language of shock. Zoom out to add more background to this panel to help isolate the characters.

Arune: You don’t believe me, either. (This line seems out of place to me. This is something you say when you’ve said something to someone and get a reaction from them. It’s like saying you don’t believe me first (which you did here), and then stating you were abducted by alien gnomes dressed as Ronald McDonald, but zombified. Watch the order of your dialogue.)

Arune: I hear voices. Whispers that call me to the temple.

Page 2, Panel 4

Close up of KELSEA, her eyes widened with fear.

Arune (OP): I’ve tried to tell Mom and Dad. They always change the subject. (I don’t understand why this line would cause the reaction given.)

Page 2, Panel 5

ARUNE and KELSEA are in a full shot embracing each other in a hug. Arune looks down with a saddened relief, touching the top of her sister’s head with her left hand. (Touching how? Poking? With the palm?)

Kelsea: I believe you!

Page 2, Panel 6

Arune’s POV looking down on KELSEA, who looks up with worry.

Arune (OP): Thanks. You have no idea how much that means to me right now. (I’d have put this line in the previous panel. Simple because off-panel dialogue from someone’s pov can be awkward.)

Kelsea: What are you gonna do now? (Repeat of now .)

Not much to say about this page except that the pacing could be a bit tighter. I like the use of question to end the page. There’s a reason question marks are shaped like hooks.

P2, and while we get some voices and such, there isn’t much going on here.

Relationships are established in the panel descriptions that aren’t stated in the dialogue. Does it need to be stated in the dialogue? I’d say yes , because that’s the only way the readers are going to know it. The only inkling that they’re related is the I’ve told mom and dad line. If they weren’t direct blood relations, she more than likely would have said my parents. But this could be more forcefully stated. You’re my sister! Of course I believe you! That works much better, methinks.

There just isn’t much here on P2. I’m starting to get bored.

Page 3 (Six Panels)

Page 3, Panel 1

Full shot of ARUNE who has knelt down in front of KELSEA, on the verge of tears, to lovingly put her hands on her arms below her shoulders. Arune is now smiling. (Hmm… This is confusing. Who’s hands on who’s arms?)

Arune: I have no choice, I must go. Tradition can’t be broken. (This comes out of nowhere.)

Girl: (Who’s this? Hangover from an earlier draft?) I don’t want you to go! Stay!

Arune: It’s only for the day. I’ll tell you what. I’ll bring you some of those sea shells you love. The pretty blue ones.

Page 3, Panel 2

Medium shot from behind (Behind whom?), KELSEA looks up with endearing eyes, the possibility of tears now gone, towards ARUNE, who has her hands on her back, pushing her with her fingertips to guide her towards the door in the background.

Arune: But, enough of that! It’s late. Off to bed you go!

Girl: Arune

Page 3, Panel 3

Medium shot of KELSEA, reaching her pan flute up towards Arune, who is off panel. She is wide-eyed with kindness. Possibly show a small bit of sleepiness starting to set in. (A small bit of sleepiness will be hard to show. It may not come across at all.)

Kelsea: I want you to take this with. So you won’t be scared.

Kelsea: But I want it back!

Page 3, Panel 4

ARUNE is looking down at the Pan Flute in her hands with suspicion and a small smile on her lips. KELSEA is in front of her sister with her arms stretched out above her head as she yawns.

Arune: But you know I can’t play this, let alone out in the water!

Kelsea: Just practice the notes. Then you can play me a song when you come home.

Kelsea: *yawn*

Page 3, Panel 5

ARUNE, in profile looking towards panel right, looks down at KELSEA, who stands in front of her, but is stretching her head back to look up at Arune.

Kelsea: Arune, will you sleep with me in my bed tonight?

Page 3, Panel 6

Close up of ARUNE, mostly silhouetted, along with the background which is fading to darkness. Only a hint of a smile can be seen.

Arune: Of course!

Arune: I promise to keep those dreams of the Sea Monster away!

Arune: And, Kelsea, always remember

The dialogue could use some work. It’s a bit stiff in some areas, and doesn’t flow as naturally as it should. Practice saying it out loud to see the issues. This page is better paced than the previous two, mostly because of the amount of dialogue, and how it warrants each panel. I’m a little interested in what’s going to happen, since you’ve set up the mystery of the voices. That affords you a little momentum.

P3, and we all know that Liam is much kinder than I am.

I’m bored. There isn’t anything that has hit me in between the eyes yet concerning the story. Honestly, I’m getting lost between who’s who and who’s doing what, and that’s never good. It’s only two characters!

What’s this story about? It’s P3, and here’s what we’ve got: one of the girls has to do something, and one of them hears voices. The one with the flute is younger and wants to give her sibling her flute as some sort of good luck charm as the elder goes off on whatever rite of passage she’s supposed to be doing.

When is this rite of passage supposed to be taking place? Who knows? It sounds like she’s just about to leave, but then it sounds like someone’s bedtime, and then one of them asks the other to sleep in their bed with them, and the sense that the elder was just about to leave vanishes.

This just is not well-told. There are some skips, like a scratched record. I’m trying to catch the melody, but the skips are preventing it. Not good.

Page 4 (Six Panels)

Page 4, Panel 1

An establishing shot of Kelsea’s bedroom. The floor of the room swirls like a snail shell, and where the swirls converge is a circular dish filled with water that serves as a bed. The walls are similar to the first scene, with the exception that a large coral dominates them. There is a single window that has a few jellyfish swimming by.

KELSEA is in the bed with her head resting on a floating sponge, the remainder of her submerged under water with some seaweed pulled across her like a blanket, with one eye half open in a sleepy daze. Somewhere in the bed should be another floating sponge.

Caption (Arune): you’re my Little Starfish.

Kelsea: A rune?

Page 4, Panel 2

Medium shot of KELSEA sitting up in her bed, now wide awake with an expression of fear in her eyes. Splashes of water come from behind her to indicate sudden movement. (Her sudden movement?)

Kelsea: Arune?!

Page 4, Panel 3

KELSEA is in a full shot, mid-sprint toward the camera, tears streaming down her face. Her body language shows desperation. (That’s going to be hard to show in a sprint. The sprint practically does it for you, though, so cut this.)

Kelsea (double): Arune!

Kelsea (small): No, no, no! She would never leave with out (without) saying goodbye.

Page 4, Panel 4

Behind KELSEA as she runs down the hall from the first scene. Her body language still shows desperation. (Again, unneeded.) Ahead of child is the doorway to the observation dome.

Kelsea: Mommy!

Kelsea: Daddy?!

Kelsea: Where is everybody?

Page 4, Panel 5

Close up profile shot of KELSEA looking toward the right in disbelief. (Why is she looking to the right? Surely that means she’s looking at the wall?) The tears have stopped.

Kelsea: They’re

Page 4, Panel 6

The camera is directly behind KELSEA, who is low in the frame in a medium shot directly in front of the doorway. In the background MOTHER, MAYOR, and FATHER are arranged in a triangle pattern over Kelsea as they float in the water and are looking toward the camera in shock. (You haven’t placed these characters at all. Where are they?)

Kelsea: outside?

This page started well, but your lack of character placement let you down. It’s unclear where Mother, Mayor, and Father are. From this I’ve lost the image of the scene in my mind’s eye.

P4, and I’m now lost.

I don’t wanna be lost. I want to read a story with a definable beginning, middle, and end, and have that story be well told and entertain me. I want to read a story and have an inkling as to where it’s going by P3, and if it turns out to surprise me by the end, so much the better.

I don’t have a real idea as to where this is going, and I’m not frustrated by it at all. I’m just bored, and I don’t want to be bored. I want to be excited. I want to be enchanted. I want to be where I can’t wait to turn the page. And no, I don’t believe I’m asking for a lot.

So the child wakes up in her pool of water, and finds three people floating about. Are they dead? Dunno. Who are they? Dunno. Why are they floating? Dunno. Is this occurrence enough to get me to turn the page? Meh. It depends on if they’re dead or not, and if the girl is dreaming or not. (Having this be a dream would be so disappointing.)

Still not interested.

Page 5 (Six Panels)

Page 5, Panel 1

Medium shot of KELSEA, looking down with a confused look on her face and her hands resting on her knees. Behind her is the doorway, where MOTHER is swimming toward the camera in the middle ground. In the background, the MAYOR has his back to the camera swimming away, and FATHER remains in the same position as the previous panel and has his hand up in a wave to the Mayor. (Where are these guys? In the observation deck? Wait, would that mean the deck is full of water? I’m confused.)

Kelsea (small): It doesn’t make sense. We can’t go out because of the Sea Monster.

Page 5, Panel 2

The camera is in the doorway looking out toward KELSEA, who is now curled up in a ball on the other side of the door, as one eye peers over her shoulder toward MOTHER, who has her back to the camera and her hand on the switch near the wall. (Where is Mother?)

SFX (switch): chk

Page 5, Panel 3

The camera is back in the hallway looking toward the observation room. KELSEA is still curled up, looking up at her MOTHER behind her, who is looking down at her with a faint smile. In the background, a bubble is being formed from the vent in the center of the floor, and FATHER is midway passing through it. (I have no idea what’s going on now. What vent?)

Kelsea: Mommy

Page 5, Panel 4

POV shot from Mother’s view, looking down at a confused KELSEA. (What’s Kelsea doing?)

Kelsea: who is that man?

Kelsea: Why is everybody outside?

Page 5, Panel 5

A pulled back full shot of KELSEA, twisted to face behind her so we can’t see her expression. MOTHER and FATHER are in the doorway beyond the threshold, standing with a lifeless look to their posture. With either silhouette or reflection off the bubble I want to obscure their faces.

Mother: That’s the mayor, Sweetie. We were just talking.

Kelsea: Mommy, I can’t find Arune anywhere. She wouldn’t leave without saying goodbye. I know it.

Mother: Kelsea, I need to tell you something.

Page 5, Panel 6

Close up of KELSEA, horrified.

Mother (OP): Arune won’t be coming home ever again.

This page needs work. Mostly in scene and character placement. Like I said, I’m unclear where these characters are or what’s going on. That’s not good in any sense. As for the story, I’m still interested, so there’s that.

P5, and I’m still not into this. Sure, it was a boring story to begin with, but as soon as the girl is lying on her side for no obvious reason…it got very close to being crap.

When I was new to writing, I told a lot of different stories. A lot of my stories were derivative crap. I remember being thirteen and working on a novel based on a book series by Brian Lumley. I remember being about sixteen and writing some torture porn. I remember being in the Marines and talking more about being a writer than actually doing any writing, so I got back into writing and bought a word processor. I remember being deep into my eight year career in the Marines and deciding to write comics.

I’ve written crap stories. I’ve written stories to explore how to write stories. I’ve written experiments. What I haven’t done is written something I thought was crap (an experiment) and tried to more with it. What I haven’t done is explored a story I thought was bad and tried to show it to people.

This is bad. I’ve seen a lot of bad comics. This year, I’ve been writing comic reviews at, and I’m trying to stay away from mainstream comics because they get their share of coverage. I read comics on Comixology Submit, and I’ve got to tell you—there’s a lot of comics that just are not ready for prime time there. Finding something worth reviewing—something that I’d be willing to pay some money for that I’d also find interesting and yet is somewhat outside my usual reading—is challenging. I don’t like to reward failure, and that’s what a lot of these comics are. I reviewed a comic written by Kevin Grevioux (the guy who created Underworld, who’s also the black werewolf), and it was just terrible. So terrible that I actively shied away from the offering he has out now.

I say all of that to say this: this is terrible. It started out slow but a little decent, and then didn’t go anywhere and then is just steadily getting worse.

You can do better, Ryan.

Page 6 (Splash Page)

Page 6, Panel 1

ARUNE is near the center of the page, encased in an ice pillar. She is clutching the pan flute in front of her chest, sheer terror spread across her face. The SEA MONSTER is sleeping in front of the ice pillar, facing the left of the panel, its tail wrapped around the bottom of the column. All background elements are frozen pieces of snow and ice. (Is this in water or some sort of ice cave? You need to be clearer.)

Caption (Kelsea): No! You’re lying!

Caption (Mother): She has gone to live a happy life at the temple. She’s fine.

Caption (Kelsea): It’s not true! She was scared of that place! She told you!

Caption (Kelsea): Why would you let her go?!

Caption (Mother): She had to go, to save us from the Sea Monster. It was the only way.

Caption (Kelsea): It’s your job to protect us!

Caption (Mother): That’s just how life is, Sweetie. We have to do things for the greater go–

Caption (Kelsea): No! I hate you!

Caption (Kelsea): I hate you!

I like the exchange over this panel. Make for a nice story dynamic. Personally, I’d focus more on the mother telling Kelsea that she’s fine. Then you’d have a great contrast going.

You have me interested in the story. I want to know why Arune had to sacrifice herself. I want to know what Kelsea is going to do. Good work.

Your script could use work, though. It needs refinement in some areas and reworking in others. Some elements here work well, others not so much. Characters need to be placed better, and scenes need to be described in greater detail. Your pacing could also do with some refinement, especially at the beginning.

Let’s go over this page really quickly before we run this down.

Voice-over captions.

If two people are having a conversation, then just like in regular prose, you have to close the quotes you open so the next person can speak. You can’t leave the quotes open like that. This is pretty basic, folks. Comic book rules aren’t many, and they aren’t that difficult. They aren’t that different from prose. (I keep thinking I should make various cheat-sheets for writing comics, then thinking it’s a bad idea because they aren’t needed…then I think about making them again.)

Also, understand that you never stood the girl back up, which means this exchange takes place while she’s lying on the ground for no reason, curled into a ball. Stupid.

Anyway, let’s run this down.

Format: Flawless Victory! (Finally, right?)

That being said, I have to say that I’m not a fan of the double-spacing here. It isn’t wrong, it just isn’t something I’m fond of. This is a personal thing for me, and I’m not going to ding you for it.

Panel Descriptions: These need some work. No moving panels, but the descriptions were sometimes hard to follow. I know you’re an artist, but that doesn’t mean you’re given license to write what can’t be drawn. I think the first panel or two can’t be drawn as you’ve written them.

Don’t forget to place your characters in the panel. I know that we read from left to right so we should generally be writing that way, but that doesn’t mean you can be lazy about it. This got lazy. If you’re writing this for yourself so you can draw it, then that’s one thing—you’re basically just writing notes for yourself. If you’re writing this for someone else to draw, then you have to do better.

Pacing: Six pages to do what should have been done in about four. You need to be (more) interesting faster. This didn’t get interesting until P6. I didn’t care until then. And even then, I wasn’t that interested.

Pacing. In being interesting faster, you have to have something interesting happen early. Early means by P3.

Remember, you have to start as late as you can when you’re telling a story. You didn’t start late enough here.

Dialogue: Meh. Nothing stood out, except for the lack of closing quotes. It reads pretty blandly, to include the splash page. I don’t get a sense of anyone’s age in reading this, and I don’t get much of a sense of anyone’s personality. They all sound the same. This means you need to work on characterization and speech patterns. This can take a conscious effort if you don’t have a sense of how the character sounds in your head.

Content: As a reader, I’m bored. It doesn’t pull me in at all.

Editorially, this needs a complete rewrite. The story isn’t interesting enough, and it doesn’t get there fast enough. Interesting comes through actions and dialogue. The only way to achieve this is to do a rewrite. A different opening may be desirable.

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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