TPG Week 268: It’s A Race!

| February 12, 2016

TPG Forbes-Kroboth

Welcome back, one and all, to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week’s Brave One is Greg Thayer, back for more. We also have Ryan Kroboth with the pencil assists, and I, of course, am the one in red. Now, lettuce (get it?!) see what Greg has learned with

Just Another Story

(A quick note: Greg started this off with a cast of characters and their descriptions. I love it. Also, I cut it. It’s about saving a bit of space. That’s all.)

PAGE ONE (seven panels)

Panel 1. Daytime in a large city (think New York). Katelyn, carrying her notebook, is walking down the crowded street toward the camera, looking around. The crowd is parted around Katelyn, as if everyone is trying to keep their distance. Some of the passers-by are giving Katelyn confused looks.

CAP(Katelyn’s notebook): (I want someone who isn’t Greg, Rin, Schuyler, or Ryan to tell me why the notation of Katelyn’s notebook is important.)

Day 7.

CAP(Katelyn’s notebook):

Went to a city.

Panel 2. Looking out from a side street. Katelyn is looking down the side street at Villain. Villain, an evil grin on his face, has taken a step away from a complicated-looking bomb (like this, but a little bigger) that has been left next to a building. He is looking back at the bomb and is wringing his hands maniacally.

CAP(Katelyn’s notebook):

A man dropped his things. (Kinda terse for a journal entry.)


Muahahaha. (Personally, I’d have gone with an exclamation mark instead of a period. Would someone like to tell me why they think I’d go that route?)

Panel 3. The superheroes, angry, are running towards the camera towards Katelyn. Katelyn, facing the superheroes, has just walked out from the side street, carrying the bomb. Around them, people look surprised. (See this? Assumptions have to be made. Ryan? You’re up, explanations and all.)

LETTERER NOTE – Hero 1 can be whichever one you want. The same goes for the rest of the heroes. Don’t worry, they all get lines.

CAP(Katelyn’s notebook):

As I was trying to return them, I was assaulted by a group of thugs. (I get it, but it doesn’t make any sense. We’ll get to it in a bit.)


You! Stop right there!

Panel 4. The superheroes are running towards Villain (I am now totally confused. I shouldn’t be. Scripts are supposed to make sense so that a story is told. I’m not getting the story yet because I can no longer picture what’s going on here.). Villain is facing the heroes with confidence, ready to fight. Katelyn is running away from the heroes, glancing over her shoulder. She has just passed by Villain. The people in the background are running away in a panic. (Is she still carrying the bomb? Did everyone just feel that? That was my brain clenching, trying to make sense of this.)

CAP(Katelyn’s notebook):

They chased me for a while…


You won’t get away!


We’ll see about that!

Panel 5. Camera on Katelyn. The superheroes are panicking, looking down at a broken robot version of Villain. Katelyn, her back against a building, is peeking out from the corner of the building at the heroes, clutching the bomb to her chest. (So, the answer is yes, she still has the bomb. Now the question becomes what happened to Villain that he’s all broken up. Not one punch was thrown, or power unleashed. I’m tempted to set the Line of Demarcation right here in order to just lettuce all rest.)

CAP(Katelyn’s notebook):

…but I managed to get away.


It’s just a robot!


Where’s the real one?!


You have until midnight to meet my demands.

Panel 6. Katelyn is handing Villain the bomb. Villain, looking down at his wrist device, is accepting the bomb with his free hand. (No. Line of Demarcation. This is crap. People are just popping up without any explanation of where they are or where they came from. And it’s P1.)

LETTERER NOTE – All of the word balloons are also coming from the off-panel robot.

CAP(Katelyn’s notebook):

Luckily, the man happened to be nearby…


Refuse, and–


You dropped this.


Yeahyeah, thanks.

CAP(Katelyn’s notebook):

…and I successfully returned his things.

Panel 7. Over Katelyn’s shoulder. Villain, a panicked expression on his face, is 1. looking down at the bomb and 2. off to the left. Katelyn is walking towards the camera.

LETTER NOTE – Villain’s lines are also coming from the off-panel robot.

HERO 2(op, low):

What did it just say?


Refuse, and–


What the–?!

HERO 4(op):

His must be close by! Split up and search! (His? Really?)



CAP(Katelyn’s notebook):

The weather was nice.

P1 is down. That’s nice.

The Line of Demarcation was set, so that’s nice as well. We understand that this is crap. We can all relax into it.

No, I don’t like setting the Line that early. Really, I don’t. However, I have no real choice when things are obviously wrong and no real effort is shown to be put forth.

I have a client that’s interested in doing short writing pieces. Basically, writing challenges that I occasionally post at Digital Webbing. Those challenges are basically elements that I throw together that could be fun, and a time limit is given as to when the challenge is to be completed. I can understand if those are somewhat slapdash and not completely thought out. They’re short and meant to be written fast. That’s totally different from what gets done here.

I’m not expecting perfection. I expect pieces that are less than perfect. It’s the name of the game. However, I’m also expecting effort to be put forth. It doesn’t need to be extraordinary effort. I’m not expecting writers to read every entry here in order to up their game by avoiding the mistakes of creators that have come before them. However, I do expect effort.

I don’t see any effort here aside from typing and the format. I’ll say it over and over again: format is the easiest thing about scripting. Messing up on format means you don’t care about much and probably should be publicly flogged. Effort becomes apparent in what you do within the format.

I got completely lost as to what was going on in the first page. The first page. Characters teleported onto the scene but weren’t placed. Things happened between the borders, in Gutter Time (the time that passes between the borders) that make no sense, meaning the pacing is off. The dialogue juxtaposed with the actions tells me its supposed to be a comedy, and I have no complaints against that. Someone may find it humorous. I don’t, but that’s just me. Just understand that I’m also easily amused. (However, I did recently go to open mic night at a comedy club, and out of 30+ comics, only about 4 of them were humorous, and only 2 of them funny.)

I don’t want much. I want effort put forth beyond the typing, the format, and the submitting. I don’t give points for showing up.

Let’s see what P2 does.

PAGE TWO (five panels)

Note – We are now in a rocky wasteland (something along the lines of Mordor without the volcano). A dark haze hangs in the air. The ground is covered with burn marks, and any vegetation is either dead or burnt.

Panel 1. Close-up of Katelyn’s open notebook.


The weather was nice.

KATELYN: (If this is a close-up of her notebook, then her dialogue is off-panel.)


Panel 2. Close-up of Katelyn looking down towards the camera. She is holding her pen against her cheek.


That’s a little vague. (This is so very meta…)

Panel 3. Side shot of Katelyn walking to the right, writing in her notebook. Give us a nice taste of the scenery here. (Walking and writing. Not to say it can’t be done, but how many people do you know who actually do it? We stop and write for a reason.)

CAP(Katelyn’s notebook):

The weather was sunny, with temperatures in the mid-seventies. (Does anyone else want to punch themselves in the head with a crowbar, or is that just me? I mean, I understand that this is supposed to be funny, but do we really need the weather report? (I just moved to Milwaukee, WI, by the way, and I would dearly love for it to reach the mid-seventies. And by just moved, I mean that I’ve been here since Tuesday.))

Panel 4. Katelyn is maneuvering between the outer wall of the castle and a large rock, still writing in her notebook.

CAP(Katelyn’s notebook):

Sixty-two percent humidity. Twelve mile per hour winds.

CAP(Katelyn’s notebook):

The perfect weather to go out and see the sites.

Panel 5. Looking up at the castle. The camera is low enough that the castle looks intimidating, but high enough that Katelyn can’t be seen. (This doesn’t make any sense, either. It flies in the face of sense. Ryan? I don’t want you to draw this, but I want you to tell me if you can visualize this, especially since the previous panel seems to make this particular panel problematic for me.)


Perfect might be too strong a word

P2, and I’m bored and almost actively turned off by the lack of anything of any import happening.

So, I’m going to talk about the house I’m going to buy instead.

This house is beautiful. When my girlfriend and I decided to move (well, she decided, and I didn’t have anything keeping me in Tucson), we had a list of houses that we wanted to see. There was what we call the Ridiculous House—6 bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms, 4400 square feet, a carriage house That’s right. A carriage house. The house is historic, being built in 1902. I had been drooling over this house for weeks, and when I finally got the chance to see it…I was underwhelmed. It’s a beautiful house, don’t get me wrong. It just needs a lot of work put into it. It’s actually too much house. I would have a hard time in filling it. And it didn’t beat the house we had come to call the TARDIS.

Why do we call it that? Because this house kept showing me things. It’s also historic, being built in 1921, but the pictures we saw online only told a third of the story. Literally. The pictures only showed the outside and the first floor. It didn’t show the fact that this house has a finished basement. It also didn’t show that this house is a duplex. There are no tenants upstairs, and upstairs it also has two large areas that are unfinished that can be turned into anything we want. I absolutely love this house. It only needs a little bit of TLC.

I didn’t know this was going to be my house, so I didn’t take any pictures for myself. I’m going to be fixing that in a little while. We have the house inspection today, so I get to go back inside, take pictures, and see what else it has to show me. My girlfriend and I have also started thinking about furnishing it, as well as what we’re going to do for my office. (My office is going to be epic.)

Isn’t that more interesting than this boring page? What does this page do to push the story forward? Not much at all.

PAGE THREE (five panels)

Panel 1. Looking out from the castle’s entrance. Katelyn is walking past the front of the entrance to the right, still focused on her notebook. She has her pen against her cheek.


Great weather? Excellent weather? Exceptional weather?

Panel 2. Same angle as the previous panel. Katelyn is barely visible on the right side of the entrance.


Favorable sounds pretty good…

Panel 3. Same angle. Katelyn is no longer in the panel.

DRAGON(op from the entrance, burst):


Panel 4. Same angle.


Panel 5. Same angle. Katelyn is leaning back from the right side of the entrance, looking towards the camera.


P3, and I’m still not amused.

I don’t have anything against this page at all. It’s nicely paced, it can be drawn, nothing is out of place

I’m just bored. There are other, better things I could be doing. I could be looking up the ingredients for lotion. I could be checking the migration patterns of lemmings. I could be researching how to turn snow into gold without peeing on it. Fun things.

And everything I just said right now? Much more humorous than what’s going on in this script. I mean, it’s almost like trying to be hilarious while standing next to a dead person. It isn’t difficult. That’s how not-entertaining this story is to me.

Is the end coming soon? Let’s see what gives out first: my sanity, my patience, or this script. It’s a race!

PAGE FOUR (six panels)

Panel 1. In the castle courtyard. The ground matches the terrain of the surrounding area. Audric is hiding behind a large rock, his back pressed up against it. Gasping for breath, he is peeking around the left side of the rock. He is holding his sword with both hands.

NO COPY (How can there be no copy if he’s gasping for breath? That tremble everyone felt? That was a patience-quake.)

Panel 2. Close-up of Audric looking surprised.


Panel 3. The dragon’s tail has smashed the rock that Audric was hiding behind. Audric desperately stumbles away from the rock towards another rock. (Why are we here? What does this have to do with anything? Yes, that was another patience-quake.)

SFX(rock being smashed):


Panel 4. Audric is bracing himself against the other rock, looking back over his shoulder at the camera, a determined look on his face.


Panel 5. From behind Audric. Audric has pushed off of the rock and is running towards the dragon. The dragon, standing sideways, is roaring at Audric. (Um If he’s pushed off the rock and is running toward the dragon…that means the dragon was in front of him. He didn’t have his back to the dragon, with the rock interposed between them. In order to do what you just said, he’d have to swing around after he pushed off. It isn’t impossible at all, but the visual you’re giving isn’t completely accurate.)



Panel 6. Over Katelyn’s shoulder. Katelyn is standing in the doorway looking out into the courtyard. Audric is charging towards the dragon. The dragon has turned to face Audric head-on.


P4, and whatever there was supposed to be of a story has gone down the Left Hand Path.

Where’s the story? What’s the point?

Know what just gave out? My patience.

The race is over. I have no idea who/what won or lost. Let’s just run this down.

Format: Flawless Victory, blah blah blah.

Panel Descriptions: These need work. They are vague most of the time, and that vagueness is part of the reason why things are magically delicious. The setting isn’t very clear (yes, I know I cut the part with the setting—even so, things aren’t placed well within that setting), and with things coming in and out, it is extremely easy to get lost. Not my idea of a good time. Beef up the panel descriptions and you won’t have that problem. And by beef up , I mean I want you to place characters within the setting. This should take care of most of your issues.

Pacing: Horrible. Things are happening in gutter time that should be happening within border time. Again, gutter time is the time that passes between the borders of each panel. Spider-Man punches the Goblin in one panel, and in the next, he’s flown across the room into the wall. The second panel shows him striking the wall, but most of the flying across the room happens in the gutter between the panels. This is where your pacing is falling down. Actions aren’t happening in the panel. Border time is what happens within the confines of the border: Spider-Man punching the Goblin; the Goblin crashing into the wall. Learn the power of these two concepts, along with dialogue and when to place a page turn, and you’ll have a lot of power on your hands.

Dialogue: I’m not a fan. I won’t say it’s horrible, but it’s nowhere near good. If the dialogue is supposed to be funny, then be funny. None of the dialogue here was particularly funny. It wasn’t even really humorous. Again, I’m easily amused. This wasn’t amusing to me in the least.

Learn how to be funny on paper. It’s challenging. There are books. Humor is about subject matter, absurdity, maybe some pain/anger, and timing. Again, there are books.

Content: I’ve already said this is crap. This is something that was written for TPG, so we don’t have to worry about it trying to make it to the shelves. That’s a relief.

Editorially, in order to make this better, Greg and I would have a conversation. It would be me asking a lot of questions: what is it you want to achieve with this piece; what are the characters supposed to do; how do you want the reader to be affected by the end; what do you think is the best way to achieve that effect; and so on. Then we’ll come together to see what can be done to get the piece to where it needs to be. A re-think before the rewrite.

And that’s it for this week! Check the calendar to see who’s next!

Like what you see? I am available for your editing needs. You can email me directly from my info 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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