TPG Week 248: A Problem Of Pacing

| September 26, 2015


Welcome back, one and all, to another instalment of The Proving Grounds! This week, our Brave One is Sean Mills. We have Liam Hayes in blue, we have Ryan Kroboth with the pencil assists, and I’m the guy rocking back and forth in red, talking to the shadows in a shadowless room. Let’s all see if we can life Sean’s spirits as he presents

Forever Blue, Issue #1

(Yes, this was sent in a font size of 11. Yes, I’ve saved you a trip to the eye doctor. Yes, you’re all welcome.)

Page 1 (five panels)

Panel 1: Rectangle. (What? This shape of panel is a given. Leave that up to the artist, anyway.) Establishing shot looking at the colorful planet Rhyl. It’s a largely sandy-colored planet, with some green swirled in for looks. There could be a moon floating nearby, and stars in the background.

Caption: The planet Rhyl (No period here. I’m not even the slightest bit upset…yet. This is an omnipresent narrator caption, just giving a label, so the lack of a period is a stylistic choice (I’m hoping). Right now, I’m good with it. (See, Sean? This is me giving you the benefit of the doubt.))

Panel 2: Rectangle. Bird’s eye view of a patch of barren wasteland. The ground is a dusty brown, with some scattered vegetation and rocks here and there. The Nevermore is on the left side of the panel, while a second, different ship is on the right side. In between are several figures, too small to make out yet. There’s three standing on the side (On the side, how? Like literally? On its side? Horizontally?) of the Nevermore, and four standing on the side of the other ship, with one out in front. The two groups are facing one another.

Lettering: Dolgar’s speech bubble will come from the lead character in the group of four on the right.

Caption: The Kylee Basin

Dolgar: I’m just supposed to take your word that everything is here?

Panel 3: New Row. (Again, leave this to the artist. They are better than you at page layouts.) Large square panel taking up the bulk of the page. We’re facing Dackard, Mel and Mungo, standing and facing forward. Dackard is in front. In the foreground, at their feet, is a shipping crate. In the background, behind them, is the Nevermore with the gang plank open revealing the cargo bay inside. The sun is high in the sky behind them. (So they weren’t on the side of the ship, but to the side? That makes more sense. Maybe is was just being stupid. It’s happened before.)

Dackard has her hands on her hips, smirking, her posture is casual, but she’s not slouching. Her long coat is billowing gently. The handle of her blue ax should be protruding up over her right shoulder. Mel’s face is hidden by her helmet, but her body language looks ready for a fight. One of her hands should be visibly resting on the butt of her dagger in her hip holster. Mungo looks tough and dangerous, a large, futuristic-looking shotgun resting on his shoulder. (Resting on his shoulder? So he has it aimed, right?) (I don’t think so. I think it’s at a position where the finger is in the trigger area, but the barrel is over the shoulder, the butt facing the group across from them. However, I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am. And knives don’t have butts and holsters. Gus have butts and holsters. Knives have hilts and sheaths. Also, if these are the main characters and they have recurring weapons, then some of this description isn’t necessary.)

Dackard: My word has been good enough before, Dolgar.

Dackard: What’s the problem?

Mel: He seems a little antsy to me, Captain.

Panel 4: Bottom Row. Rectangle. Dolgar from the chest up, with three henchmen/goon-types behind him. He’s an older human with a thick, gray mustache and a battle scar or two. He’s smiling a dangerous smile. The henchmen look equally tough and rugged, and at least one of them should be focused heavily on Dackard. (Surely they’d all be?) (Again, some of this description more than likely isn’t necessary.)

Dolgar: That was before I became the most wanted man in this system. (Talk of systems always reminds me of Star Wars. Do you have any idea of how intelligent you have to be in order to actually understand Star Wars? I’m not talking about the story, I mean the science. The stuff that you take for granted when watching that movie is amazing.)

Dackard, off-panel: Sounds like your problem, not mine. (I’m not a fan of bolding to do a stress on a word. I like underlining. It’s harder to miss.)

Dackard, off-panel: We going to do this or what?

Panel 5: Rectangle. Pan down to Dolgar’s waist, where he’s got his own hand resting on the butt of a gun at his hip. His fingers seem fidgety.

Dolgar: I’m just wondering if you’d heard about the reward, Dackard…

Dolgar: And if you’d come to collect!

Nice opener. I am interested. You’ve set up a small mystery about the cargo, and some tension as to the characters motives. Your scene description could use some work, as you’re being confusing at times.

P1 is down!

What do we have here? Well..a little bit of micro-managing.

I’m not going to come down too hard on Sean for this. Yes, it is true that the artist will generally have a better visual process than the writer. However, some writers have a very clear idea as to what they want the pages to look like. I know a writer who used to go so far as to make a layout of the page and give it to the artist to use as a guide. Just understand that doing things like this can turn the artist into an art-monkey, and they don’t like that feeling. (Few would.)

Other than that, we have panel descriptions that could be just a touch confusing. I get that. That’s pretty easy to fix.

The real meat here, though, is the fact that there’s something actually going on here. Something that makes you want to turn the page. Space cowboys, wanted men, rewards. I’m reminded of Farscape, as well as Firefly.

I’m interested! How often do I say that? Let’s see what P2 brings!

(*GASP* A page break! I love you! What is happening? Am I being tested? Is this a test, Steven?) (Nope. We have a writer who either cares about his team, or has listened to us complain about it enough, or both.)

Page 2 (seven panels)

Panel 1: Rectangle. Focus on Dackard and her crew. Dackard still looks calm, though now Mel is looking at her. (In what manner?)

Dackard: If I was, you’d know by now.

Mel: Actually, I wouldn’t mind hearing more about a reward.

Dackard: Drop it, Mel.

Panel 2: Rectangle. Dackard crosses her arms under her chest, looking ahead at Dolgar as if she’s expecting him to hurry up and get this over with. (Moving panel, but just barely.)

Dackard: I come to you in good faith, with solid cargo, as was the deal.

Dackard: I don’t give two ghits ( Was that intentional? I’m thinking no.) what sort of trouble you managed to get wrapped around your neck.

Dackard: A deal is a deal, Dolgar.

Panel 3: New Row. Rectangle. Focus on Dolgar and his crew. His itchy trigger finger is still near his weapon, and all of his goons are now focused on our heroes, weapons raised. He looks like he’s thinking it over, fingers scratching his chin.

(Waste of a panel this. Why no dialogue?)

Panel 4: Rectangle. Same shot. Everyone calms down as Dolgar shrugs, raising both hands.

Dolgar: A deal is a deal, you’ve got me there.

(I see what you tried to do here, but it isn’t working. Combine these two panels.)

Panel 5: Bottom Row. Square. Close up of Dolgar’s hand. He’s tossing a small digital device, the galaxy’s computery currency. It looks like a thicker version of a thumb drive, with motherboard wiring down the side.

Dolgar: I trust you take digits.

Panel 6: Square. Dackard’s hands reach out to catch the device.

Dackard: As long as you’re not paying in space chickens.

Panel 7: Square. Zoom way out. Dackard and her crew have turned to leave, while Dolgar’s goon squad are shown picking up the package. (Wait, what? Where did this package come from? No, that needs to be established much earlier.) (It was. P1, panel 3. The box.) Dolgar remains standing on his side, hands in pockets. As the goon squad is lifting the package, one of them is looking at Dackard with curiosity, with lines of acknowledgement around his face. (We won’t be able to see his expression from the view. We’re too zoomed out.)

Goon: Hrm?

The tension has dissipated somewhat, but this is page two. Page two doesn’t have much to do but set-up.

P2, and there isn’t any increasing interest. There was a bit of rising tension, but then it goes away. It’s intentionally released. I’m not a fan of that. Tension is supposed to ramp up in the first few pages, not come up and go immediately down.

I’m also starting to feel like the lede was buried here. It’s the crate. It makes an appearance once, and then it isn’t really mentioned again until it’s picked up. I think it should make more of a statement by being in more panels. Then methinks Liam wouldn’t have forgotten about it. It’s easy to forget.

This page needs more work. Actually, it needs to be reworked. More tension. Schuyler! What would you change about this page to build the tension without performing a material change to what’s here?

Rin: Why do I do these call-outs?

Oh, and finally: Dackard and Dolgar. If they’re not family, they should be. And if they shouldn’t be, one of them needs a name change. I kinda like the name Dackard, so for me, Dolgar would have to go. His new name is Swine. (Just like I changed Sam’s name to Felix.)

Page 3 (five panels)

Panel 1: Tall rectangle. We’re looking at Dackard’s back, as both she and her teammates have turned to head back into her ship. The blue ax is on full display, strapped to her back for easy access. The angle is also very flattering of her butt. (Of course.) Dackard’s head is turned so that she’s looking back over her shoulder at the goon’s comment.

Goon, off-panel: Nice ax. (The goon should be on-panel for this. Otherwise, it’s unclear who is speaking. It could still be Dolgar.)

Panel 2: Tall rectangle. Zoom out to the side. Dackard is turning to face this guy. We’re looking at Dackard’s front as she’s turning. Her teammates are closer to the ship’s gangplank now, and are turning their heads (To which direction? Back?). The goon is standing there, smiling. Dackard looks annoyed.

Dackard: I know.

Goon: Mind if I have a look?

Goon: I’d love to get my hands on a beauty like that.

Panel 3: Bottom Row. Rectangle. Zoom back in on Dackard now facing the goon, their faces about a foot apart. She’s still looking pissed, he’s looking perplexed.

Dackard: Sorry dirtheap, no touchy. It’s for emergencies only.

Dackard: Besides

Panel 4: Small square insert. Overlapping between panels 3 and 5, This is an extreme closeup of Dackard’s pistol stuffed firmly into this guy’s crotch. She pulled it out while he wasn’t looking and has him dead to rights.

Dackard: …that’s not the weapon you should be worried about. (Strange emphasis on ‘weapon’. I’d have gone for ‘should’ myself.

Panel 5: Rectangle. Similar angle to Panel 3. Now Dackard is smirking, and the goon looks panicked.

Lettering: The SFX on this page are coming from down below. (Hmm… Off-panel SFX? They can work, but not here. She could be tapping her feet for all we know. Why can’t we see her gun?)

SFX: Tap. Tap.

Dackard: Now be a good little henchbitch and run along.

Dackard: Before my trigger slips.

Hmm… A wasted page for me. What did this accomplish? Random banter between the character and some goon is all we have here. I thought you were leading up a reveal, but no. My interest is waning. And page three is supposed to hook us forward.


This entire page feels like padding. What’s the point of it? This page doesn’t reveal character, since we already know Dackard is a badass, and it doesn’t push the story forward. It’s just a page that’s hanging out, and it feels like it could be cut without any real consequence.

And what’s up with showing her ass? Okay, fine, it’s a male thing. I get that. We like to look at asses. But to call it out in the script seems to be especially sexist. Let a feminist get ahold of this, and you won’t have a leg to stand on. You’d have earned the wrath you sought, and no one could help you.

Padding. That’s what this page is. And it shouldn’t be. You just started the story. Padding shouldn’t come so soon. Not in the first scene.

Page 4 (five panels)

Panel 1: Long rectangle. Zoom out to show the gang plank of the Nevermore on one side, and the goon running back to his people on the other side. Dolgar is standing there, hands raised in innocence. Dackard is snarling at him, jabbing a finger in his direction. Her other hand is holding her gun at her side.

Dackard: Teach your new goon squad some better manners, Dolgar.

Dackard: Or maybe I’ll come back for that reward.

Dolgar: Always a pleasure, Dackard.

Panel 2: New Row. Rectangle. Dackard turns and starts heading for the empty gangplank. We’re looking at her back again, but the view is not as prominent. She’s just a figure walking towards the wide, gaping mouth of the gangplank. Her one hand is slipping her gun back into her holster. (Wait, when did she remove it from the holster?)

Dackard, quiet: (‘Dackard (Small):’ is what you want.) For you, maybe.

Panel 3: Rectangle. Shot from inside the cargo bay of the Nevermore looking down as Dackard ascends the gang plank. Mel is waiting for her just inside. She’s removed her helmet, and is smirking, holding it under her arm. Dackard is also smiling as she looks up at Mel.

Mel: Enjoy that, captain?

Dackard: A little bit, yeah.

Mel: We should have shot Dolgar for that reward.

Dackard: First I’d heard about it.

Dackard: Maybe next time.

Panel 4: Bottom Row. Square. Dackard is fully in the cargo bay now as the gang plank begins to close behind her. She leans in and give Mel a quick peck on the lips as she hands over the digital currency. (More. What is Mel’s reaction? How is she handing her the currency?) (I wouldn’t call this a moving panel. However, I’d say that this is a panel that is too full with action to actually do what you want it to do. Each action should have its own panel: the kiss and the handing over of the money. A full panel that isn’t moving doesn’t happen that often, folks. I’d say to be more cognizant of the number of actions a panel can reasonably hold. Ryan, could you show us what this looks like the way it’s described, and the way it probably should look like? Thanks.)

Dackard: Put this somewhere special.

Mel: Aye, aye, Captain.

Panel 5: Rectangle. Zoom out to take in a bit more of the metallic room. (You haven’t really described this room well at all.) Dackard moves on from Mel, and Mungo is standing there in front of her, holding out his shotgun from earlier. He looks a bit perturbed to have to even hold it. Dackard is still smiling, reaching out for the weapon. In the background, Mel moves off to deal with the money.

Mungo: Can I give this thing back now, Captain?

Dackard: Of course, Mungo. You did real good out there.

Mungo: I just wish you didn’t make me carry that thing.

Dackard: You and shotguns look properly intimidating. Now get back in that engine room and make sure takeoff goes well.

Mungo: Yes, Captain.

And here I thought something interesting was going to happen. All that tension you had at the beginning has diffused into nothing. I’m not saying it had to end in a massive gunfight, but the questions I had have unravelled along with your suspense. Maybe it was your space wasting that did it. Or the lack of suggestion about anything untoward regarding the deal.

P4, and absolutely nothing of consequence happens.

Two pages of padding.

Know what this means, don’t you? This means that your pacing is off. And it’s off something terrible.

What do these pages do? I mean, really? This is a real question: what were these pages supposed to do? I know what they did, which was nothing, but that wasn’t what you were going for. So, what do you believe these pages were supposed to do?

You have to think, folks. You don’t have a lot of time or real estate to hook a reader in to your story for you to waste precious time like this. You have to think about what each page is supposed to do. If you don’t, you end up with this: something you don’t really want to read because the pacing isn’t working, and there’s nothing really going on to get the reader deeper into the book.

I’m not going to set the Line of Demarcation (I don’t think), but really, this is just boring.

Page 5 (four panels)

Panel 1: Rectangle. Now Mungo is the one in the background. (Doing what exactly?) Dackard is standing against one of the walls, her finger pressing the button on an intercom. Her head is down slightly as she talks to the voice.

Dackard: Pryce, get us in the air. I want the Nevermore off planet as soon as possible.

Pryce, radio: ( Radio (Elec): ) Roger that, Captain. Also, you should get up here. We got a new job while you were out.

Dackard: So soon?

Pryce, radio: They requested us specifically.

Panel 2: Rectangle. Same scene, but now Dackard’s head is raised, and she’s looking rather curious.

Dackard: That’s unusual.

Pryce, radio: I think they heard about your kickass style and devil-may-care attitude.

Dackard: That’s encouraging. I’ll be up in a minute.

Pryce, radio: I wait with bated breath.

Panel 3: Long Rectangle. Zoom out to show more of the cargo hold, filled with boxes, shipping crates, and an ATV somewhere in the back. There are various stairs around to the upper levels. Dackard has her hand off the intercom and is generally just looking around.

Dackard: Let’s go see what all the fuss is about.

(This is also a waste of a panel.)

Panel 4: Long Rectangle. View from outside as the Nevermore’s engines kick on and she takes off from the wasteland planet. Dust kicks up beneath her, vegetations blows in the wind.


So that deal had nothing to do with anything? Really? Why was it there? Scenes should do one of two things, establish character and move the story forward. Preferably both. Even considering the morsel of character that was established in the first scene, it’s still a massive waste of space. It needs some more hooks, to propel your story forward. Things need to be hinted at. Conflict needs to be established. All my interest from the beginning was killed off by your time wasting.

Okay. Liam’s done, so I’m done.

Let’s run this down.

Format: Flawless Victory! It feels like it’s been a long time since we’ve seen this. It feels great! Thank you!

Panel Descriptions: They aren’t bad. I think they’re a bit on the micromanaging side, but it’s not too bad. They’re easy to ignore. I’d go with just a little bit more info such as facial expressions and body language, but these are pretty decent. I have no real complaints about the panel descriptions,

Pacing: This is where the entire thing falls flat on its face. After P1, nothing happens. P1 is supposed to be the start of the story. It isn’t. The story hasn’t started yet. There’s no inciting incident. There’s nothing here to get the reader deeper into the book. It really feels like the story started too early. Where’s the hook? It’s not even missing, it’s non-existent.

Pacing is 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 a panel, and what happens with each of those pieces. P1 seemed to be decently paced as a page, but the entire scene just isn’t good because nothing happens. The pacing is exactly where you fell down.

Everything after P1 feels like padding. Not a good thing. What happens if you cut P1? You still have a lot of padding. What happens if you cut P2-5? You have to have something to follow P1. See the problem?

Dialogue: The dialogue actually isn’t bad. I got a definite sense of personality for the characters from the dialogue, which is always good. The only thing the dialogue didn’t do was push the story forward, which is the second thing it should have done. But it was very readable. A small polish and a little fixing of format, and the dialogue is good to go. (Fixing of the format is basically tweaking things so they’re a little easier for the letterer.)

Content: As a reader, I’m not impressed. Still waiting for the story to start, and that’s never a good thing.

Editorially, this needs to be rewritten. Things need to happen in order for the story to move and to keep reader interest. The rewrite is necessary to achieve this.

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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