TPG Week 27: Border Time!

| July 1, 2011 | 13 Comments

Hello! Welcome back to The Proving Grounds!

This week’s Brave One is Jon Parrish, who is no stranger to the Red Font of Doom! Let’s see how he does as he brings us…

Three Sins and a Book Deal: The Road Trip of Doom

[Page 1][5 Panels]

Panel 1: An establishing shot of a blue house at sunset. It should be a modest size with a nice lawn and a stereotypical white picket fence in front.

CAP: The James Residence.

VOICE (op): Hello?

Panel 2: A shot of Marc James, in a suit and trench coat with a briefcase, standing in the doorway looking around in confusion. (Well, here’s what we have: we have a guy in a suit, standing in a doorway. First, the guy could be magically delicious. Depending on the camera angle in the previous panel, he could or could not be shown. Now, with that out of the way, the next question is this: is he facing INTO the house, or OUT OF the house?See how that could be important, especially when he’s talking to someone whom I’m guessing is inside?)

MARC: Barb?

BARB (op): Welcome home, honey. (Jon, I’mtelling you, right now: I’m loving you and your proper use of comma’s. That is all.)

Panel 3: A bust shot of Marc in the kitchen looking at the reader in confusion. We should be able to see a patio door in the background.

CAP: Marc James, loving husband.

MARC: Where are you?

BARB (op): In the backyard.

Panel 4: A shot of Marc walking towards the door. (Where’s the camera? I’d prefer to continue to see the confused look on his face. Here’s something I want everyone to keep in mind: NEVER have your lead characters turn their backs to the camera unless it can be helped or it is for a specific reason/effect. They paid good money to see drama, to see faces, to see you put your characters through their paces. Make sure to give them their money’s worth.)

MARC: What the hell are you doing outsi—

Panel 5: A medium shot of Marc standing in the patio door. (What does his expression say?)

MARC: Shit.

[Page 2][4 Panels]

Panel 1: A group shot of Barb James, Duke James, and a crowd of a dozen people standing behind a table with a large white cake with many candles on it. (I want you to place the people better—or tell the artist that you don’t care. It’s okay to talk to the artist in scripts. You can say things like this: Graeme, I don’t care how the characters are placed. Just make sure that Barb and Duke are prominent. See? Easy peasy.)

CROWD: Surprise!

Panel 2: A shot of Marc with an annoyed look on his face. (Finally! A facial expression! Keep that up, Jon. The artist will need to know.)

CROWD (op): Happy Birthday to you (Are they singing?)

Panel 3: A shot of Barb kissing Marc on the cheek. (Where’s the camera? I need to see what you see. See that dialogue below? That’s telling me things. Where’s the camera? What do you see?)

CAP: Barbara James, the wife.

BARB: Happy Birthday, Marc.

MARC: Damn it, Barb. You know I hate parties.

BARB: Tough. (No sound effect of the kiss? If she’s kissing him, you need that sound effect, or it will just look pretty strange.)

Panel 4: A from behind shot of Barb leading Marc to the party. Duke is walking toward them. (Can we see the other guests?)

BARB: Just try and have fun for once.

MARC: Hrrrrmmmm.

DUKE: Hey big bro (See, just when I give you praise, you go and blow it. You just failed. Why did you fail, Jon, and where is it supposed to go?)

[Page 3][5 Panels]

Panel 1: A shot of Duke putting Marc in a headlock. (If I’m irritated, EVERYONE will know it, and NO ONE would put me in a headlock. Even if everyone didn’t know it, those very close to me would. What I’m saying is that this doesn’t seem plausible.)

CAP: Duke James. (Why is there no relationship status for Duke? Besides, there are only one duke that matters: Duke Ellington.)

DUKE: Happy 38th, old man.

MARC: Thanks, Duke.

Panel 2: A shot of Duke whispering into Marc’s ear. (Going to be just a little awkward. Just pointing that out.)

Duke: We need to talk later. It is important. (Contractions are your friend. Almost everyone uses them. When you do not, then things sound formal and awkward. Like the second sentence.)

Panel 3: A shot of Duke and Barb leading Marc to the cake. (This is just all kinds of wrong. Wasn’t he just being led by his wife right before this? Why is he being led again? The way you have it, they both could have him by the hand. See how that looks? Not good. And what of the other revelers?)

DUKE: Barb twisted my arm, I swear! (Yannick: why is the dialogue in this panel wrong?)

BARB: Guilty as charged.

Panel 4: A two shot of Marc and Barb standing over the cake. Marc looks a bit embarrassed. Barb has her arm around his waist and is rolling her eyes.

MARC: Did you actually have to put 38 candles on this? Jesus.

BARB: Just make a wish smart ass. (Another instance of failure. I thought you liked me, Jon?!)

Panel 5: A shot of Marc blowing out the candles.

(For a party, most of the merry-makers are pretty quiet. What happened to them? I think they saw Marc’s disposition and then jumped over the back wall to their freedom. That’s what I think.)

[Page 4][7 Panels]

Panels 1: A shot of Marc’s backyard at night. The cake is gone and the only people around are Marc, Duke, and Barb. (I LIKE this. I like this attempt. See what Jon did here, folks? He used Border Time PLUS a page turn in order to get to the end of the night. VERY nice attempt. It wasn’t a huge gap in Border Time from one panel to another on the same page. He made a demarcation in Time, and then moved things along. Bravo! The only thing that is bad about it is the fact that the friends who showed up were only mentioned once, never to be heard from again. They might as well had not even been there. That means the Time that was moved doesn’t get to have as big a jump as you wanted because the people you needed to thin out weren’t there to begin with. Something you need to work on in the next draft, Jon. But like I said, I liked the attempt VERY much! Now, riddle me this: what are they doing?)

MARC: Let’s not do that again.

BARB: God, you are boring.

Panel 2: A shot of Barb looking over at Duke. (What are they doing?)

BARB: Was you’re brother always such a stick in the mud? (GAH! I think I just blew a gasket! Jamie, why is that?)

DUKE: Don’t let his whiny attitude fool you, I could tell you stories. (Period, not a comma. You want a hard stop, not a soft pause.)

SFX: Ring! (What is this sound effect supposed to be, and where is it supposed to be coming from?)

Panel 3: A shot of Barb struggling to get up. (Get up from what? I could say what’s on my mind, but I’ll keep it at least PG-13. You never said what they were doing, so I have no idea what she’s getting up from.)

BARB: They’ll have to wait.

Panel 4: A shot of Barb kissing Marc on the lips. (Where was Marc?)

BARB: Happy Birthday, honey.

MARC: Thanks, babe.

Panel 5: A shot of Barb walking away.

DUKE: I’m sure I’ve told you already, but you are one lucky man. (Le huh? Where did Duke come from? Was he in this view? And where is Barb headed? Just out of the panel? C’mon, Jon! You’re better than that!)

MARC: Cut the crap, Duke. (The same thing goes for Marc.)

Panel 6: A two shot of Marc looking over at Duke skeptically.

MARC: Something tells me that my family life isn’t what you wanted to talk about.

DUKE: and you’re right. (Capitalization. And don’t think I haven’t noticed the use of contractions.)

Panel 7: A close-up of Duke. (That’s nice. What does his expression say?)

DUKE: We have a problem.

(You’re on P4, Jon. You’ve taken some time and hinted at conflict, and it may just be enough to get readers to wait. If you make them wait much longer, though, they’re not going to want to follow you. The good part is that your pacing is generally good. The bad part is that I will call you on it if nothing significant happens on the next page.)

[Page 5][6 Panels]

Panel 1: A downward two shot of them walking toward a bookshelf. (I no longer have any idea where I’m at. At first I thought we were still outside, but now, I’d say that we’re in the kitchen. Now I’m just looking for the dagger… Jon! Where is this supposed to be?)

DUKE: This is original.

MARC: Shut up.

Panel 2: A close-up of Marc’s hand pulling on the Grapes of Wrath.

DUKE: You’ve got to be joking. (Someone. Anyone. It’s a gimme.)

Panel 3: A side shot of them climbing down a ladder. (Ladder? What ladder? What ladder where? The ladder is magically delicious.)

DUKE: You know, instead of building this secret lair, you could have built a pool.

MARC: Please stop talking.

Panel 4: A shot of Marc and Duke standing in the doorway of a room with dark gray stone walls and a black tile floor. There are a couple of costumes on the wall and a framed picture. (Remember when I praised you for the cut in Border Time you took? Now, I’m gonna call you on taking too big of a cut in Border Time in a couple of panels on this page. Like this cut right here, and the panel before that. That’s before I even begin to ask where the camera is.)

DUKE: Wow. I must say I am impressed.

Panel 5: A shot of the costume and the framed picture. It is a news magazine cover that reads The Sinful Seven Strike Again .

DUKE (op): I just hid my costume under my bed.

Panel 6: A close-up of the picture. It is a side shot of a younger Marc in costume punching a through a tank. (How is the reader supposed to know this is a younger Marc? Does he wear a mask in costume? Is this a Clark Kent/Superman thing?)

MARC (op): What did you want to show me?

Okay, it’s P5, and you finally started to spark some interest, but I’m calling it quits here. Let’s run it down.

Format: Nearly flawless. A couple of gaffes, but nothing that can’t be overcome. Good work.

Panel Descriptions: Not good. I’m thinking this is an older work, because I know you’re better than what you’ve shown here. I will hardly ever hit you on a lack of a description for your main characters, but I will hit you every time when you fail to give a facial expression (if needed), and an action for the panel. And then to be jumping all around the way you did, without even setting anything up… Just not good, Jon. I’ve seen you be much better than what you’ve shown here.

Pacing: Great and Terrible! I absolutely LOVED the large cut you took at the end of a page, moving the story forward at the beginning of the next. I loved it. It could have used a Later, but I’ll chalk that up to a case of the dropsies, because you started giving captions at the beginning of the story, and then just stopped abruptly. You could have easily picked it up again, or kept it going, but you didn’t.

Again, I loved the attempt. It was perfectly placed.

Folks, if you want to do something like this in your own scripts, it is better to do it odd-even. Odds are your right hand pages, and evens are your left. This means you do it on a page turn. You’re using the natural flow of the story, the natural break, in order to jump time forward, just like Jon did here. You don’t want to go even-odd if you can help it, because then you’re just moving your eyes across to the next page. Try to use the natural break whenever you can. Let the constraints of the format help you to tell the story!

And when you do that, do NOT follow Jon’s example of continually taking large cuts at Border Time. It will make for a jerky, uneven read. (A good artist will help that pace by smoothing it out with a panel here or there, or combining panels if necessary. That is, if no one else caught it first.)

Dialogue: Pretty good, except for the punctuation issue and one bit of awkwardness. I would have little to work on. Maybe bringing out the annoyance some more, but that could be done with the artwork. It doesn’t need to be battered in the dialogue, too.

Content: Editorially, this doesn’t need much. A tug here and there to get you on the right path, and a few reminders not to take such large cuts. As a reader, you tried to lose my attention by taking your time in getting to something interesting. I understand the need for the contrast, and thus, the slower setup, and you did pepper it a bit, so that can be forgiven. But if you hadn’t gotten interesting by P5, then back on the shelf it goes.

Luckily, we didn’t have to do that. But, it was close.

In all, this script definitely needs some work, but not a complete overhaul. Good work!

And that’s all I have for this week. Check the calendar to see who’s next!


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Category: 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.

Comments (13)

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  1. Jon Parrish says:

    I wrote a response at work, but the stupid office computers won’t let me post comments here. It will let me post on DW, but whatever.

    Anyway, I can’t beleive how many commas I left out. When I saw your notes on the commas and the one glaring ‘you’re’ that should be a ‘your’, I wanted to punch myself in the face. This is an older work (three years going on four), but that is no excuse. I am surprised by all of the things I left out such as the descriptions of panels and so on. However, this was also a good reminder of how far I’ve come and what I have learned between then and now. As always, it was a pleasure to get the script ripped apart. I can’t wait until next time.


    • Yeah, I thought this was an older work. If this was newer, I’d probably have to hang up my editor hat…

      And it would have been your fault!

      And the comma thing! I’m extremely happy that you got over that. It saves my brain.

      Thanks again for submitting this. I appreciate it. (And it is a VERY good gauge of where you were and how far you’ve come.)

  2. “BARB: Was you’re brother always such a stick in the mud? (GAH! I think I just blew a gasket! Jamie, why is that?)”

    Because, I imagine, the sentence “Was you are brother always such a stick in the mud?” doesn’t make a lot of sense.

  3. Rich Douek says:

    Small note, but try not to do 7-panel pages, unless you like driving your artist nuts. 🙂

    • Thanks, Rich.

      I try to keep it down to however many panels the page itself needs to hold. Usually, that’s four or five. If the page can hold seven or twelve, then I say go for it. As long as the writer knows WHY they are asking for a higher number of panels on the page.

      This is where editing comes in. And visualization.

      • Rich Douek says:

        Not disagreeing with you, but I’ve heard from a few artists that 7 panels usually just leads to a visually awkward layout, and that it’s almost always better from a visual standpoint to go down to 6 or up to 8 (preferably down to 6). In any case, getting a 7-panel page to work is a bit more of a headache for them, and as you said, there should be a really good reason to ask them to go through the trouble.

        Not saying lots of panels can’t work – i mean, look at the panel structure in Dark Knight Returns, for example, or some of the spreads in Powers… but those are two examples where, its true, the writers had something very specific in mind (and really talented artists who could pull it off very well)

        In my own experience, when I find myself with 7 panels, I start looking for what I can condense and cut. For me, if I hit 7 panels its usually because I’m visualizing the story more like a film than a comic – showing things that wouldn’t be a big deal to show as part of a moving scene, but take up way too much page space in a comic narrative. That’s just what I’ve found. Obviously, YMMV.

  4. “Panel 2: A close-up of Marc’s hand pulling on the Grapes of Wrath.

    DUKE: You’ve got to be joking. (Someone. Anyone. It’s a gimme.)”

    Duke is nowhere in this panel since it’s a close-up of Marc’s hand.

    Even if the reply was marked as OP, the reader would have a hard time knowing who said that line because it hasn’t been specified that these characters have unique-looking hands which would let us identify them easily.

    A drive-by question: does the fact that the Grapes of Wrath is the “switch” have any significance later in the story?

  5. “DUKE: Barb twisted my arm, I swear! (Yannick: why is the dialogue in this panel wrong?)

    BARB: Guilty as charged.”

    Can I go with the classic You need a full stop here, not a soft pause ?

    Or maybe the Duke doth protest too much. After all, Marc only told Barb that he was unhappy with the party. Duke and Marc’s only exchange was a birthday wish and a not-so-discreet whisper about a talk that gotta have. So unless Marc looks REALLY p***ed off, I don’t see what Duke is apologizing about.

    Anyway, it seems a bit of a non sequitur and that’s about all I can see. How far am I from the mark? (Marc – get it?)

  6. Jon Parrish says:


    Sorry for the really, really late response to that question.

    Marc was a supervillain and his name was “Wrath”. I was just trying to be clever, but that might be one of those things that sounded better in my head than it actually was.

    • No problem at all, Jon. I was pretty late at the party myself!

      Actually, it makes a lot of sense. I like the way that readers will probably remember Duke’s remark later on and go “Oh now I get it!” That’s a nice rewarding delayed payoff. 🙂

      It’s just another one of those good ideas we can’t really appreciate here since we only see part of the script. Without that context, I couldn’t really grasp the meaning of the dialogue in that panel.

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