TPG Week 247: Another Waste O’ Time

| September 18, 2015


Welcome back, one and all, to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we have another entry from Solomon Steen. We also have Liam Hayes in blue, Ryan Kroboth rocking the pencils, and I’m the idiot in red in the corner. Let’s see what Solomon has with


Just an aside: this came in at an 11 font size. You’re all welcome.

James Delgado A diminutive physics PhD candidate in his early 20’s. His large, inquisitive eyes and messy, wavy brown hair make him seem far younger. He wears a dark suit that’s a bit large in the shoulders; his canary shirt complements his brown skin.

August Nykos Though he has long enjoyed the C-suite life, the hirsuite gentleman’s well-groomed salt-and-pepper hair and clean silhouette suggest that rather than indulge his appetites, he’s refined his tastes. His sharp eyes and nose give a vulpine impression.

(Yeah. Most of this doesn’t matter because it can’t be drawn and it won’t translate to the reader. Why not talk about his long, thin fingers that are supple and lithe, perfect for playing the piano or handling a hidden dagger [that will never appear in the story]? See how that doesn’t translate to a drawing? Great for prose, though.)

Page 1

Panel 1 James, completely soaked, sits exhausted on a bench to the left of a heavy wooden door (to Nykos’ office) in a poshly decorated bank – marble flooring, hardwood furniture, flourishing office plants in gilded planters. His broken umbrella sits stuffed in a tasteful garbage can next to him (opposite side, left of the bench.) He is wearing a messenger bag. He’s looking down at the floor as water drips down from his hair. (While this can be drawn, I don’t like how you’ve described it, starting with character, pulling out to location, and then going back to character. Go in one direction. Preferably Scene > Character for least confusion.)


Panel 2 James, wearing a hopeful expression, has half-lifted himself from his seat to chase Nykos, who has just exited his office and is putting on his golf hat. The office door behind Nykos has yet to swing completely shut. Nykos is wearing his trench coat; he carries a large umbrella on his right arm and a pint-sized carton wrapped in brown paper in the same hand.

James Mr. Nykos?

Panel 3 James is now blocking the briskly moving gentleman’s path and has extended his hand. He is wearing an overly upbeat expression. (Nykos isn’t described.)

James Mr. Nykos, (I’d have gone with a question mark, myself. A comma is too soft a pause.) James Delgado. I arranged an appointment with your secretary for today.

Panel 4 Nykos, his tongue in his cheek, (Huh?) checks his luxury watch on his left wrist. (Guy puts his tongue in his cheek, pushing the cheek out some. I get it. I don’t understand why it’s there, but I can visualize it.)

Title Usury (What? No dialogue?)

Panel 5 James’s POV: Nykos, eyes lidded, stares down at the young man.

Nykos Kid, you’ve got 5 minutes.

Boring. And there’s a good reason why. No stakes have been established. Why does it matter that he gets this meeting? What happens if he doesn’t get it? These are questions to think about in your next draft. The answers needn’t be specific, just vague hints at how important this is, and why this is worth of our time as a story. Get rid of those silent panels for the space.

And watch yourself. You’re closely veering on the edge of prose in your descriptions.

P1 is down!

To be honest, I’m with Liam: I’m bored, and I really don’t care what’s going on. There’s nothing going on here to excite me or intrigue me or even slightly interest me in turning the page.

What’s the main point of this page? To get the reader interested in the meeting that’s supposed to take place. What’s the best way to do this?

Rin, Schuyler, and Morganza (if you’re around), here is your mission, if you choose to accept it: I want you to replot this page. I don’t want you to rewrite it, I just want you to replot it. No more than what a single page can handle. I want to get a sense of why this meeting is important. No reading ahead, and no going off on extremely wild tangents. (The extremely wild tangents are for me, and I guard them jealously.) Build the mystery, or make it funny, or build tension, or something that will get the reader to turn the page.

In essence, I want yous guys ta jazz this up! Make it a foist page woy-thee of da name!

Lessee what ya got!

(Page breaks.)

Page 2 (No page breaks? No Flawless Victory. Pretty simple.)

Panel 1 Nykos’ POV: Inside Nykos’ office: Nykos is looking over James’s repayment proposal papers (with a plastic cover) at his desk, as the young man, seated on a wide circular ottoman, animatedly pleads his case. The carton sits at the corner of the clean, hardwood desk. The wall behind James (the south wall) is composed of floor to ceiling bookcases.

James (Ellipsis.) the upshot of which is an additional net 5% on the principal for you ––

Panel 2 Nykos, wearing a weary expression, has set down the papers to regard James. The men are in front of a large window (comprising the entire west wall) overlooking a rainy contemporary metropolis. Nykos’ high-backed leather chair exacerbates the height difference. (Why wasn’t any of this described in panel one? Get all of the scene description out of the way as fast as possible. Then you can just focus on storytelling and character.) (This couldn’t be seen in panel 1. We were looking out, and the window was behind the camera. Now the camera has swung around.)

Nykos Son, this isn’t your fault. (What isn’t his fault?) Your generation was sold two big lies.

Panel 3 James’ POV: Nykos dispassionately states the facts, gesturing with his hands, palms up, as if he were physically presenting each of the lies. Behind Nykos (the north wall) is a floor-to-ceiling aquarium filled with exotic – likely illegal – fish. (Two things: first, if you want it to come across as he’s physically presenting the lies, then you have to do something else. Frank Martin! You around? What does he have to do, and why does he have to do it? Second, the fish. How is the reader going to know that the fish are likely illegal? How can that be drawn?)

Nykos The world is fair & (And.) Life is easy. (Ampersands do not belong in dialogue. I don’t even know why I really have to say this… What I want is a drink. What I have is a script. I’ll be plodding on…)

Panel 4 James’ POV: Nykos waves his hand as if swatting an insect (ghost images). (Waste of a panel in my opinion.)

Nykos Unlearn those ideas. You’ll waste less time spinning your wheels. (Unlearn? Pontification! Maybe even a bit pretentious. This may be in keeping with the character, though, so it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.)

Panel 5 Nykos rubs his right temple with one hand (motion lines), waving the other over the proposal papers on his desk (ghost images).

Nykos You may have done the math with this proposal, but you can’t get a PhD in a hard science if you start a third job. (What does this have to do with anything?)

Panel 6 Nykos points two fingers at James to further punctuate his statement.

Nykos Take a year or two off, pay down your principal, and move from there.

You’re wasting a lot of space here. Panels 5 and 6 could be combined, so could 4 and 3. That leaves you with just three panels. No wonder this page seems bare and boring.

P2, I’m lost, and I don’t care.

Things have been skipped over. Six panels, and while we have some pontification going on, we don’t have an inkling as to what any of this means. And that’s pretty sad. There are more than enough panels here to say what’s actually going in, but the opportunity is wasted.

The question is simple.


Here’s what I don’t believe: I don’t believe that Solomon doesn’t know how to tell a story. He may struggle with telling a story within this medium, but I don’t believe he doesn’t know how to tell a story. With that belief, I have to ask why I feel lost, like things have been glossed over. I have to ask why this story feels light in terms of happenings, and like there’s a resolution that’s going to happen that won’t satisfy because there’s something missing.

Growing up, I liked Three’s Company. It wouldn’t fly on television today: a straight guy acting like he’s a homosexual because he’s living with two women and the landlord wouldn’t accept that due to scandal. Anyway, this show was very, very good at doing misinterpretation due to missing information comedy. It’s simple: someone would invariably walk in and overhear a conversation that wasn’t necessarily meant for them. However, it was only part of a conversation, and the part that they missed was the linchpin for everything else. Armed with only partial information, they’d make the wrong assumption about what they heard, possibly even spreading their assumption around, to hilarious results, only for things to be resolved in the end. (And no, they never learned.)

I’m getting that feeling here: that we have only part of the information, and assumptions are being made without being fully clued in. I feel like one of the characters in the show, instead of part of the audience that’s in the know.

Philip Marlowe. No, let’s go more modern. (You young whippersnappers! Get off my lawn!) Harry Dresden. Mysteries work because there’s generally always someone there who’s got more information than the audience. There is always information that’s held back, but at the same time, there’s a character who says they have the information, or an inkling of it, and they bring it out at the denouement. And that’s when everything falls into place.

I don’t get that sense here. I don’t sense there’s a character who knows more than anyone else (yes, not even pontification-man). It just feels like there’s missing information, and I’m not happy about it.

Let’s see what P3 brings.

Page 3

Panel 1 James, still seated, shoulders rolled back, is trying to make himself as tall as possible. His hands are laced together in his lap. (Expression?)

James Respectfully, sir, I need to stay in school. Going backwards is not an option.

Panel 2 Nykos has risen and is on his way to the door. He speaks with his back to James. (This would work better with his hand on the doorknob, suggesting he’s about the open it.)

Nykos ‘Respectfully,’ boy, ‘wants’ are not ‘needs.’ I said 5 minutes. You’ve taken 6. (I’d have broken this into two balloons, putting the last two sentences in the second balloon.)

Panel 3 Nykos holds the door open and calmly gestures toward it with his free hand. The darkness of the office becomes apparent as the light from the hallway falls over James. (Well, the lighting wasn’t actually mentioned at all. So nope. You have to set these things up pre-emptively.)(Facepalm.)

Nykos Until you can offer them something, no one cares what you want or why you want it. No one cares about your future, if you have a sick grandmo ––

Panel 4 James stands ramrod straight, with no intention of leaving without a deal. (What’s Nykos doing? Is he on-panel? You seem to be only acting one character at a time.)

James Sir. I am going to school. You will get your money. Tell me how we make it happen.

Panel 5 Nykos stares impassive at a resolute James.


Panel 6 Nykos, smirking with his head tilted slightly back, the door swinging shut behind him.

Nykos Sit.

I have no idea what’s going on. One guy is in debt but is also trying to go to school and what…? Maybe it’s all the financial terms. All I know is that this is failing to grab me. This is just a business meeting. I care not for those. Give me some drama. Some humanity to cling to. I should know more about why, than what. Why this matters is more important than the actual technicalities of the deal. Else this is going to have a very niche audience; people who work in finance and read comics.


Liam said it all. I don’t have anything to add.

This isn’t crap (so far), so the Line of Demarcation shouldn’t be set, but I’m still waiting for something interesting to happen. Like a duck on fire. Like Dracula making a vegan stir-fry. Like a porn star going celibate.


Page 4

Panel 1 A contract sits on Nykos’ desk. Every word is redacted. Only the signature lines remain.


Panel 2 James, standing before the desk, holds the contract in his hands as he looks flabbergasted at Nykos. In the window, the storm clouds have begun to clear, revealing the sunset.

Nykos You’re smart. Book smart. You know your way forward.

Panel 3 Nykos offers him a pen. (Lazy.)

Nykos Be honest. You already made your decision. There is no need to read. Whatever it takes, whatever we ask, you are going to school.

Panel 4 James stares wide-eyed at the document.


Panel 5 Overhead: Outside the office door: Nykos, once again clad in his rain gear, hands James the carton. (Lazy. I don’t know where these characters are. Is the door even open? Who knows.)

Nykos An associate of mine’ll pick this up by week’s end. Be available.

I am still lost. Anyone else? Is this making sense to anyone? What we have here is a failure to communicate to the reader. This is just random actions as far as they’re concerned.

Okay. I tried. I honestly did, folks. You all saw me try, right? You saw me try and struggle and fight.

Line of Demarcation.

This is crap. Don’t we all feel better now? It’s official. It’s crap.

Know what happens when you sign a redacted contract? Nothing. So what’s the point? There is none. There’s no logic here.

I was wrong. I have no problem in admitting that. I was wrong. Solomon doesn’t yet know how to tell a story. Stories follow logic. Stories have things that happen. Stories generally aren’t crap. This is crap.

I think either Solomon or Liam will be stopping soon. Let’s try to gut this out.

Page 5

Page 1 James’ dorm room: James comes through the door (Approaching moving panel territory here.) (the west wall), cellphone pressed to his ear with his shoulder. The carton is tucked under his right arm; he is still holding his room keys in that same hand. He is toeing off his shoes. The floor inside the room has piles of textbooks, and a couple pairs of shoes sit on the floor by the entrance. (This is an ‘open plan’ room, so the only walled-off area is the bathroom. The kitchen/living room/bedroom just blend together.)

James I can spot you the money for a sitter to watch him, it’s not a problem.

Panel 2 James, barefoot, is peeling off his still wet undershirt, having already tossed his dress shirt onto the floor. He is in the ‘living room’ (a collapsing couch) walking to ‘the bedroom’ (a bed and a futon pressed against the north wall). (Again, establish scene first. And where’s the carton at?)

James I’m not saying that. Suspension is a big deal – (So is suspension of disbelief. None of that is apparent here, though. Also, he’s still on the phone? How does the artist know this?)

Panel 3 James has flopped down on his futon. The carton rests beside him on the bedsheet. An unmade bed against the opposite wall suggests a roommate. (Scene.) A few empty bowls sit by the futon with a laptop and sundry clutter. (SCENE.)

James but it’s manageable. Tony means well, he just needs

SFX whf (What’s that?)

Panel 4 James’ POV: he is holding the carton away from his face. A damp spot at the corner has a thin stream of liquid seeping out. Whatever was inside the box has apparently broken. (What is the liquid like? Colour?)

James Ma? Ma, I gotta go.

Panel 5 There’s a large inky pool where the box had been laying. (And James is in a void of non-existence, right?)

James Love you, too.

Panel 6 Overhead: James is running towards the bathroom, box in hand, trailing a ribbon of liquid behind him.

James Fffffffff.


That’s all I have to say to this.

What was any of this? I didn’t really get an inkling of anything. There was a guy who was going to school, he was in debt I think, and a banker gave him a carton after he signed a document. Hmm… This needs a lot of work. You need know what the hook is. Is it the carton, by chance? Write this story out as a brief synopsis, and you may see the plot hooks. Rewrite with them in mind.

This is the same issue I had with your previous TPG entries. You don’t seem to be taking the reader into account when writing, and your work suffers for it. There’s a distinct lack of context to any of your stories. Focus on the reader. They are the most important aspect of your work, after all. Without them this has no reason to exist. Ease them in. Build the story for them. You may need to go overboard on the exposition, but that’s fine. You can always cut it back in later drafts.

Reading this, I should have set the LoD at P1. Right on the heading.

This was a waste of time.

Let’s run this down, so we can all run away. (Well, not Ryan, who had no work cut out for him this time around. Ryan, pick a panel if you wish. Otherwise, enjoy the day off.)

Format: No page breaks, no Flawless Victory. (Is there an echo in here?) (Full disclosure: Solomon sent over a couple of different versions of this script, one of which he said definitely had page breaks in it. However, it’s a link. Yeah… The rules can be read into, but then there are things the rules don’t talk about, too. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.)

Panel Descriptions: These need work. Establishing shots are always a good thing. They tell us what’s in the scene, what the space is, the light sources, and sets the tone for the rest of the scene. I love establishing shots that are used well. There wasn’t one used at all, and the story suffered for it. (But not as much as what’s coming next.)

Pacing: There is none. None at all. Something happens, but we don’t know why. Then someone wants something, and we don’t know why. Then one final thing happens, but it has no bearing at all on anything else that happens, and then the end is there. This isn’t a story. This is a waste of time. It’s a waste from P1.

Dialogue: There isn’t enough of it. Things are left out. Not even things. Reasons. Reasons are missing from the dialogue. It’s readable, it needs some technical tweaks, but the dialogue doesn’t lead anywhere. Adding more dialogue only works if the reasons for whatever is happening are revealed. Otherwise it’s just fluff, and there’s more than enough of that going around already. Earth, Wind, and Fire. Reasons.

Content: This is crap. As a reader, I’d probably do violence upon you if I ever caught you in a well-lit alley. (No dark alleys for me. I want you to see me coming.) After reading this, as a reader, I would actively avoid your name if I saw it on a credits page or cover.

Editorially, my time is better spent pondering the importance of the semicolon to Shakespeare. This is a waste of time. Learn how to tell a story. Learn how to tell that story within the confines of comics. Once you do that, editing will be much more helpful to you.

Once you learn how to tell a story, rewrite this. I’d be happy to see it. But learn how to tell a story. I don’t like wasting my time.

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.

Click here to make comments in the forum!

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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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