TPG Week 256: Same Problems, Different Script

| November 21, 2015


Welcome back, one and all, to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a new Brave One in Jay VanVeen. We also have Liam Hayes in red, Ryan Kroboth with the great pencil, and I’m the guy wondering about my lot in life in red. Together, we’re all going to see what happens to

Fin and Bones

Page One

Five Panels

    1. (biggest panel of the page) (Missing capitalization goes a long way in making your script look amateurish.) We look straight on at Fin and Bones as they are sitting shoulder to shoulder at The Bar. They are hunched over drinks and looking weary. A beer sits in front of Bones and a whiskey sits in front of Fin. Cigarettes dangle loosely from both of their lips. (I don’t know where this is? Modern bar? Old timey bar? Space bar? Chocolate bar?) (I don’t know where this is. Most places in the United States have banned smoking in public places. Private, members-only places are and exception. Is this like that, if we’re in the US?)

No dialogue? The silence makes this dull. They are just sitting there. Even a bit of trash dialogue would spice this up.

    1. Pulled back shot from a reverse perspective. (What what?) We see their backs, and a bit more of the atmosphere in the bar. Smoke clouds the joint. Rough looking locals populate the panel, smoking drinking, looking too happy or too miserable. It’s a working class bar with lower class clientele. It’s not skid row, but it’s a long way from the Ritz . (This description should be at the top of the page or in panel one. Set the scene first, describe it, then go into characters and actions. (Exactly. This is the panel you should have started out with.)

SFX: Briiiiiiinnnggg! (phone rings off panel)

    1. Back to head on view. Slight differences in positioning over drinks and cigarettes. (For whom? If it’s the extras, you needn’t describe this. If it’s the characters, be more specific.) Fin glances over in Horace’s direction (Which direction? Does it matter?) (Horace is off panel). Bones is uninterested.

HORACE (op): Yeah. They here. (Yeah. Okay. I’m surprised Liam let this one go. Unlike prose, there aren’t any quotation marks in dialogue unlessssss…when, Schuyler?)

HORACE (op): ‘Hey, Fin. S’fer you.

    1. Fin is on the phone. Bones tilts his head back and exhales a plume of smoke, like a train getting ready to leave the station. (This is prose. Keep it comic script.) You can show a little of the atmosphere’s character in the background or you can keep it tight on the boys. Up to you. (This is a moving panel. Greg Thayer! Please make this a static panel.)

FIN: Yeah. Yeah? Alright.

    1. Fin stands up, putting his hat on. Bones crooks his head up to pay attention.

FIN: We got work.

This is a dull opener, and completely unnecessary. This is the admin before the interesting bit. Can’t we cut straight to them on the job ?

P1 is down!

This is an okay opening. I can get with it. I’d want a little more punch, but I can get behind this.

There is a minor mystery on the page to get you to turn it, to get the reader further in. It’s a little weak, but it’s there. And I’m grateful for that.

I wouldn’t call this unnecessary, but it could have moved a little faster.

(No page breaks.)

Page Two (No page break, no Flawless Victory.)

Splash page

Fin and Bones walk out of a brick building that’s sandwiched between two other beat up buildings on a run down city block. It’s mid-day. The wind is blowing. (shown by subtle movement of their clothes and/or debris running through the air) The town they live in is dangerous and dirty. A few shady characters litter the block and our heroes fit right in.


Credits: Jay VanVeen, etc..

Waste of space. Absolute waste of space.

Oh, this is padding of the worst sort. It’s P2, and already it feels like you’re trying to make a page count (when this page is taken in conjunction with P1). Not good.

What does this page do to either reveal character or move the plot? Nothing. What’s on this page that’s cause for great drama or moment? Nothing. What happens if you cut this page? Nothing. Nothing happens here, so this page could be cut in its entirety without the reader losing anything. Cutting the page has no effect whatsoever.


Page Three

Six Panels

    1. Fin and Bones are deep into a deciduous forest. It’s night time, or close to it. They are digging a hole (How deep? Describe more.) and have their jackets off and their shirtsleeves rolled up to their elbows. Both have cigarettes in their mouths.

BONES: No no the one with the tits.

FIN: Hn. The red head?

    1. Fin digs while Bones takes a pull from a flask.

BONES: No, man. Brunette. Had a tattoo on her neck.

    1. Fin stands up straight. One hand supports his aching back, while his other hand whips the sweat from his brow with a handkerchief. Bone smiles and works a shovel.

FIN: Not my type.

BONES: Too wild for ya, eh old man?

FIN: I ain’t old. I gotta take a piss. (They are two separate statements. Separate them.)

BONES: Prostate actin’ up?

    1. Shoot in angled above them into the hole they are digging (although we don’t see what they are doing). (How? Surely we would from this angle?) Fin climbs out of the hole in the forefront. We see Bones behind him, down in the hole still. He has a shit-eating grin on his face. (Ryan? Oh, Mister Ryan! Miiiisterrrr Rrrryaaaaannnnnn! Methinks you be up, sirrah. No, no reading ahead. Please work from everything you know up to this panel. Now, if you can’t, please ask the questions that the panel description should have already answered.)

FIN: Kiss my ass.

    1. Bones is digging and whistling.

    1. Bones looks up. Startled by a noise.


P3 is down, and nothing has really moved. They’re digging a hole. So what? Is this the job? It’s night, right? What’s the light source? I know that I dig holes in dark deciduous forests all the time. It’s a hobby of mine. However, I usually bring something to light my way. I find it more satisfying.

More satisfying than this page.

Looks like you have a problem with pacing. Instead of being interesting throughout the entire page, you’re only interesting at the last panel, trying to shove the reader on to the next page in order to carry them through. You’re not consistent with your peaks and troughs, basically because you don’t have any peaks except at the end of the page.

The first panels are flat. They don’t dip, they’re just flat. The last panel is a peak, and then it goes back to being flat. That’s P1 and P3. I’m going to do you a favor and throw out P2 in its entirety for this one moment.

Moment’s over.

This is boring. We’re three pages in, and what do we know? These fellows have a job to do, and then they’re in the woods digging a hole in the dark. They’re talking about a woman as they do so, but the conversation has no context. It also doesn’t have any real content. We don’t know much of anything about these as-yet unnamed men.

I’m bored. I hate being bored.

While I was at NYCC ’15, John Lees bought me the first volume of East of West. The first few pages were very quiet, and I was imagining the script. Then when the characters started talking, and I understood that I was missing information—but I was drawn in. I knew that the information was coming. I also knew that the conversations were interesting.

Interesting conversations that draw the reader in are something that each writer should work on. Being interesting is a challenge.

It doesn’t feel like you met the challenge. It feels like you’re just marking time as you try to get to other things. What would have happened if you cut the first two pages and just came straight here? The digging of the hole is interesting. What you need to do is to make the conversation interesting, as well.

Let’s see if P4 is any better.

Page Four

Six Panels

    1. Tight on Bones’ face as looks up out of the hole. He is shocked by something we don’t see yet. His cigarette falls out of his mouth.

    1. We reveal what shocked Bones. A girl standing alone in the woods. (Ghost Zoe: see descriptions) (But you go on to describe her…) She has long black hair that’s moved by a slight wind. She’s wearing a white dress. Blood is pouring out of her breast (This needs more. From what? A wound? Literally out of her breasts?) down to her stomach, making a splatter on the front of her dress.

    1. Tight on Bones. (Maybe even a close up partial shot of his face. Nose to forehead. Something like that) He stands stupefied. His eyes wide. He’s scared and totally flummoxed (Scared: afraid. Flummoxed: bewildered. Ryan, can this be drawn? No need to draw it if you don’t want, unless you want to…ahem…illustrate…why this would be a problem. I crack me up sometimes! It’s better for me to crack myself up than for me to rage-quit over that lack of a period, know what I mean?)

    1. The girl starts to fade slightly. She holds her hand out to Bones, indicating she wants him to take it. Her mouth is open and blood spills out.

GIRL (illegible): //////// (Huh? Forward slashes?)

    1. Bones looks confused and concerned. He is in a state of extreme emotion. (He’s confused, mixed with concern, but he’s also scared, but yet he’s determined not to feel trapped in the hole, and at the same time, he’s happy to be alive and you want all of that to be shown in his eyes. Rin, why did I go through all of that just now? And what can be done to fix this panel description? What advice would you give?)

BONES: W-What?

    1. Shot from over the shoulder of a shadowy figure that has walked up behind bones. We look over the figures shoulder and down at Bones in the hole. (If anyone could see me know, they’d see me shaking my head. I want anyone who is not Ryan to ask questions that you think Ryan should ask in order to render this properly.)

FIN: Hey!

You’re veering close on moving panel territory, which tells me you aren’t thinking in static images. Do that. It will help you visualize panels and the page better. As for the story so far… meh. Without those first two pages things may have been different.

P4, and we have a ghost! Does that mean we have a ghost of a chance with this? Well, hope does spring eternal

I’m no longer bored, but I’m not caring that much, either. Six panels on this page, and you’ve wasted at least two panels showing the unnamed guy in the hole. Padding. You could have done more things with that space. You could have made the twice-described child more dramatic.

Pacing. You need to learn it.

Page Five

Six Panels

    1. Fin jumps down to in the hole. Bones is visibly shaken, he looks at Fin with wild eyes (don’t over do it here, just make him look baffled, not out of his mind) (Yeah. That was a close one. Ending punctuation, folks…)

FIN: Didn’t you hear me hollerin’? What’s wrong? (‘Splode! Someone tell us why! Look hard, if you don’t see it. Just imagine this stuff in red isn’t here.)

    1. Solo panel of Bones. He looks scared. He’s brushing his thick hair back through his fingers.

BONES: It’s I thought I .nothing, man. It’s nothing. Let’s finish this and get outta here.

(We don’t see the girl gone? That’s poor storytelling, visually at least.) (Hm. Ghosts are fast. At least, they are in horror movies. I dunno. I can get behind this one a bit.)

    1. The two stand in the hole close together. Bones (in front of Fin) lights a cigarette. Fin wears a concerned look on his face as he eyes his young partner.

FIN: Sure, kid. Sure.

    1. The night encroaches. (In a single panel? Wow.) (I thought it was nighttime already. You said so at the beginning of this part of the scene.) Fin and Bones walk back to the car with their jackets on and shovels slung over their shoulders.

(Car looks like this only a beat more beat up:

    1. Head on shot from outside of the car. Looking in on our heroes through the windshield. The night is dark outside the car. Bones looks sick. Fin looks grim. (Are they just sitting there? Are they driving? Why am I asking questions that should already be answered? Why aren’t these questions answered? You know that the artist is going to ask, right?)

    1. The boys are back in the city. What we can see of the neighborhood indicates it’s a poor neighborhood (trash, graffiti, run down apartment slums). Bones is out of the car, walking towards us. Behind him in the background is Fin, still in the car. Fin yells through the open passenger side window. (Whoa. That’s a jump. Too much of one, me thinks.)

FIN: You sure you’re alright?

BONES: I’m fine. I’ll see ya later.

I have no idea what’s happening, who these people are, what there job is, and I don’t have any interest in doing so. You need to get more story in here. Bring the reader along. And be more descriptive while you’re at it.

Liam has stopped, so I can, too. Let’s run ‘er down.

Format: Page breaks. The single most consistent thing I harp on here. C’est la vie. No, there’s no Flawless Victory here.

Panel Descriptions: Light, and not in a good way. There’s information missing that would really make life easier for the artist, so they wouldn’t have to call you up and discuss all the things you’ve left out. Think. Visualize. Make sure the pictures build together to tell a story. If they don’t, then you have more thinking to do. (I could say more, but I want those of whom I’ve asked questions to be able to answer them without me giving things away.)

Pacing: Not terrible. Not great by any means, but not terrible. I’ve seen worse. Cut the first two pages as padding, get to the hole-digging, and add real conversation. Then learn the economics of drama within comic book storytelling. Most of that has to do with pacing: what you’re showing and when you’re showing it, as well as how you’re showing it. That last little bit? Kind of a big jump in time. That could have been smoothed out.

Dialogue: In five pages, the only time real conversation was had was near the end of P4 and some of P5. Nothing else was even remotely real—not even the initial bar scene. Terrible, right? This would have been immensely better if there were real conversation that moved the plot and revealed character. Most of this felt like a placeholder until you could think of something better.

And ’nuff said about the quotation marks.

Content: In five pages, nothing happens to call this piece worth reading. Implied questions aren’t answered, and there isn’t enough information given to make me want to read more. As a reader, I’d call this immensely unsatisfying.

Editorially, I’d call for a complete rewrite. Get rid of the padding, have the characters say something real, and then have a story be told—or at least the beginning of one. A rewrite under supervision would make this much, much better.

And punctuation. I mean, should I really have to say that?

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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