TPG Week 36: Pulling Back The Curtain (Updated!)

| September 2, 2011 | 4 Comments

Hello, one and all!

Some technical problems this week, but that’s not going to stop me from bringing you another installment of The Proving Grounds! This weeks Brave One is John Vinson. We pull back the curtain some to see actual editing notes (that should be in RED! GRRR) of a script submitted to me. Let’s see what he brings us, shall we?

(UPDATED! Things that are in blue are the things that were deleted. Thanks for your patience, everyone!)


The Nobodies Issue #1 Script
By: John Vinson

Page 1 (Okay, right off the bat, John, I added page breaks, and have removed all of the dashes in front of the word Page. Also, work in 12 pitch, or at least save it that way. Saving space is not a priority. I need to see what I’m looking at, not squint to make it out. Thanks.)


Panel 1: A point of view shot, of Kamel looking up at a warehouse ceiling. The shot should be presented out of focus,   as if just waking up.


CAPTION: UGH, WHAT THE HELL? (I’m going to treat all of the dialogue as placeholders for now. Right now, this isn’t good, and we’ve just started. I’ll talk more about the dialogue at the very end,)




Panel 2: Same point of view shot, coming a bit further into focus. In the forefront of the shot is the back of Kamel’s hand. (Is the hand in focus? Is it reaching, or is it protecting? The artist is going to need to know. Is it just the hand, or can the forearm be seen, too?)


CAPTION: MUSIC,. I KNOW I HEARD MUSIC. (Period, not a comma.)


Panel 3: Again, same point of view shot coming completely into focus. The ceiling will have large dust spots. Kamel will be looking at his forearms and front of his hands, revealing IVs running down his arms. (This is why I asked about the forearms before. Now, as to the dust It won’t show up well. Not well at all. It will actually look like something else. I’d just leave that out totally.)


CAPTION: WELL, LOOKS LIKE I’M IN A HOSPITAL… (Oh, WOW. The dialogue is extremely blunt, and doesn’t sound realistic at all. We’ll work on that in the next pass.)




Page 2


Panel 1: A long shot of Kamel sitting up in a hospital bed in the middle of an old abandoned warehouse. Kamel is a black man, in his early 40’s. He has a bit of grey hair, and a few wrinkles (Generally speaking, this is not necessary. The artist is going to do character designs well before starting the interior pages. Keep all important/recurring characters in a separate document, or at least outside of the panel descriptions. So, with that said, I’m not going to say anything about how he looks.).   He’s looking out into the dark warehouse. A single window facing him shows that it’s daylight out (You can’t show a window facing him. This should be the first time we see his face, which means that he’s facing us. If the window is facing him, no matter which way he’s turned, the window has to be behind the camera, because we can see his face. Now, since we’ve established that we cannot see the window but we can see his face, what does his expression say?). Dust is everywhere.  (It isn’t a sterile environment, but having it be dusty won’t look good when drawn. Know the limits of your medium.)There is medical equipment, a single light stand, all the wires connected to a stand alone generator. Kamel is wearing a hospital robe.


KAMEL (THOUGHT BUBBLE): OR MAYBE NOT. (No. You cannot switch from captions to thought balloons. Choose one or the other, but not both. Especially for a character that is in the scene. If he weren’t in the scene, then I’d say you can have the caption, but those first few are going to be thought balloons for a person who is off panel.)


Panel 2: A medium shot of Kamel sitting up in his bed, he’s pulling one of the IV’s out of his arm. (Did you see 28 Days Later? Have you read The Walking Dead? Both of them start out this way. Have you thought about a different opening?)


KAMEL (THOUGHT BUBBLE): DAMNIT, I DON’T REMEMBER ANYTHING. (Cut this. I don’t know what to replace it with yet. It’ll come to me, though.)


Panel 3: A long shot, showing Kamel sitting on the edge of his bed. There’s a wheelchair sitting next to the bed. Kamel has a hand cupped next to his mouth; shouting. (The wheelchair is magically delicious. It should have been in the long shot in panel 1. And, really, it’s awfully convenient.)






Panel 4: Same long shot as the previous panel, with Kamel standing in front of the bed. His legs look wobbly. (No. He’s not standing in front of the bed. He’s standing beside the bed, and he’s holding onto something to steady himself.)


KAMEL (THOUGHT BUBBLE): AH, CRAP. (Comma. Cut this.)


Panel 5: A worm’s eye view of Kamel on the floor propped up by his hands and knees. He’s looking up at the wheelchair.




Page 3


Panel 1: A medium shot of Kamel is in his newly obtained wheelchair, wheeling away from his bed and towards the exit. (The exit is magically delicious. I have no idea where it is.)


KAMEL (THOUGHT BUBBLE): ALRIGHT, FIRST I’M GETTING OUT OF THIS WAREHOUSE. FIND SOME HELP, THEN CHECK INTO A HOSPITAL AND MAKE SURE ALL MY ORGANS ARE STILL INTACT. (Nope. He went from thinking he was in a hospital to saying he’s in a warehouse without any mention of the switch. Mention the switch, and you can keep a version of this. I do like the attempt at levity, though.)


Panel 2: Another medium shot, showing Kamel having made progress through the warehouse. The door leading into the warehouse is open, with light pouring in from it. (Magically delicious. All of a sudden the door is open? Mention important things as soon as possible, John.)


KAMEL (THOUGHT BUBBLE): THEY LEFT THE DOOR OPEN FOR ME, TOO.(Comma. This will need to be changed/added to.)


Panel 3: An establishing shot, showing a commercial area. Kamel is sitting out in front of the warehouse. The streets look abandoned, litter is all over place. Cars are crashed into one another. Looks very apocalyptic! (Hmm. No, not really. This should be a largish panel. I’m thinking there should only be about three panels on this page, four at the most. This panel should be the last one on the page. Now, with that being said, when’s the last time you saw a warehouse that was immediately accessible from the street? Where’s the parking lot? Where’s the fence? See what I mean? If you did a search for the outside of a warehouse, then you’d get a better sense of what you’re asking for.)





Panel 4: An over the shoulder shot, looking out at street level. Kamel has his hand leaned against his hand. The streets are abandoned, with cars crashed into one another.


KAMEL (THOUGHT BUBBLE ): HOW CAN THERE BE NO ONE? (Cut this. It’s too fast.)

KAMEL (THOUGHT BUBBLE): KEEP IT TOGETHER, KAMEL. SOMEONE HAS TO BE AROUND HERE.; CAN EXPLAIN WHAT’S GOING ON. (Okay. First, you need a comma. Second, no semicolon. Third, the second half of that sentence should be moved to the next panel. Fourth, I like the way you worked his name in. Very organic. Good work. Fifth, I absolutely HATE the name. Let’s think about changing it. I keep saying Camel, which is what most of your readers are going to say, instead of Kah-MEL, which is what I think you’re going for. If it’s Kah-MEL, then let’s change it. Make it easier on the readership. If it’s Camel, let’s change it, in order to keep the reader’s interest. Either way, let’s change it. I’m liking Hannibal. )


Panel 5: A medium shot of Kamel wheeling down the street. Cars continue to be crashed into one another.


Page 4


Panel 1: Same shot as the last panel from page 3. However, have the coloring change to signify the sun lower in the sky for time progression. Also, show different scenery around to signify his movement through the city. (City? What city? When did we get into a city? Establish the surroundings first, then you can ask for whatever you wish.)




Panel 2: A medium shot of Kamel, sitting in his wheel chair. He’s leaned over, with his hands on his knees, breathing hard. (You can’t show breathing hard. You can’t show breathing. Not in a single panel. So, what you should do it to have him huff and puff a bit. Ah! But then, he needs a reason to be huffing and puffing, doesn’t he? What would that reason be? No idea, because you haven’t really set the stage. Is this a flat city? Are there hills? I don’t know. You haven’t said. Where is the city? I know the character may not know, but I’m thinking he does, because he doesn’t say anything about not recognizing anything. So, I’m going to say he knows where he’s at. So, what city is it, and where is that city located?)




Panel 3: Same medium shot as the previous panel, only with Kamel taking a step forward out of his wheelchair. Bracing himself with the arm bars. (Nope. When did he put his feet down? When did he raise his butt out of the chair? Is there any strain on his face?)




Panel 4: Again, medium shot but with Kamel down on one knee, his hand resting on the knee that’s upright. (I can’t see this. Why is he kneeling?)




KAMEL (THOUGHT BUBBLE): LEGS FEEL LIKE THEY WEIGH A HUNDRED POUNDS. (This is going to need a restatement and a different placement. It’s coming too late. Why just his legs? What about the rest of his body?)


Panel 5: A full shot of Kamel. He’s standing up. He has his hands behind his head, and sweat is dripping off his face. He has a look of pride.




KAMEL (THOUGHT BUBBLE): FINDING SOME SHOES MIGHT BE A GOOD IDEA. (Maybe. It would also be a good idea for him to look down at his feet. But if his legs feel like they weigh so much, why is he going to try to walk on them?)


Panel 6: A worm’s eye view of Kamel. His left foot is out in front of his body, signifying his first step out of the wheelchair. (Cut this panel. It’s not doing anything to further the plot or to reveal character.)


Page 5


Panel 1: Establishing shot of a clothing store, with a rusted sign above the entrance which reads “Walter’s Sports Emporium”. Kamel is standing in front of the store, looking down at his new outfit. He’s wearing cargo shorts, a blue t-shirt, and tennis shoes. (There is a huge logic hole, right here. I’ll come to it at the end of the script if you don’t address it by then. But your story fails, and fails hard within the first few pages.)


KAMEL (THOUGHT BUBBLE): THAT’S ONE PROBLEM SOLVED. (It’s P5. He hasn’t yet said anything about the state of affairs with everything either looking rusted, windswept, or rundown, and he hasn’t said much about the lack of people. I find that to be unrealistic. And this is plodding along. Readers are going to put it back on the shelves for two reasons: they figure it’s a zombie book, and this opening has already been done twice. Twice, and with better effect. Not good. I sincerely want you to rethink this opening. Or at least give him some memories. That would make it a little different.)


Panel 2: An over-the-shoulder shot of Kamel walking down the street. In the distance is the setting sun. Far off ahead of Kamel is the outline of a person.






Panel 2: A full shot of Kamel, running towards the person. Yelling as he’s scooting. (He could barely walk, and now he’s running? I’m not seeing that.)




Panel 3: An over-the-shoulder shot of Kamel catching up to the person.The person is turned away from Kamel, standing in front of an abandoned car. The person is white, but tan, wearing a business suit, with black and grey peppered hair. Kamel is just a few feet behind the person.


KAMEL: HEY, I NEED SOME HELP.! YOU’RE THE FIRST PERSON I’VE SEEN ALL DAY. DO YOU KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON? (Exclamation point. Give it some life, instead of him sounding like he’s talking over a nice spot of tea.)


Panel 4: A medium shot of Kamel, inching closer to the mysterious figure. He has a hand reached out towards the man’s shoulder. (Where’s the camera?)




Normally, here’s where I run it down. Instead, I’m giving the notes I gave to John at the end of the script.

Okay, John. Here’s where we’re at.


This isn’t good. At all.


Let’s talk about format for a tiny bit. If you wrote it in Notepad, why transfer it over to Word before sending it? Why not just write it in Word? I want your format to look like it does here, after I’ve fixed it: no dashes before the word Page, and add a page break every time you go to a new Page. Learn your scripting terms better, because you’re a little weak on that. And don’t put <italics> or <bold> in your scripts. Just underline the word. I would have done it for you here, but because changes show up underlined, it wouldn’t have shown you what you needed to see. And that’s all for format. (I know you don’t see anything with the < > in these pages. It comes later.)


Your panel descriptions are weak and nonsensical at times. Go from left to right, describing everything you see in your head. If something is important, like a gun, and it shows up a few panels later, go back and add it to the panel where it could first be seen. Make sure they describe actions, and when necessary, gives a facial expression. The more info you give the artist, the better they’ll be able to do their job.


Your dialogue is terrible. It is extremely straightforward, you repeat yourself, and you’re wordy. None of those traits are good. Listen to people. They rarely say exactly what’s on their mind. They’re rarely blunt. They generally talk at an angle about a subject. Let subtext and implication do the talking for you. You can see how I helped with that with the smattering of corrections I did for you.


Kamel needs a name change. Again, I vote for Hannibal. It’s still strong, and people won’t have any problem at all in pronouncing it.


The story itself needs to be rewritten. It fails for the reason I stated previously (Don’t worry about that reason. It comes up again later in the script, and it is meant to be a reveal, but some of the things the character goes through don’t make for a very compelling reveal. If necessary, we can talk about it in the comments.). Hannibal should be seeing himself within two pages, and then wondering about what the hell happened for the rest of the issue. He should be damned near hysterical, or thinking it’s all a dream, or something else that allows for disbelief in his surroundings.


This issue is lacking in several areas. First, there is no hook. Why should readers plunk down their money to pick this up? What makes it unique? Second, there is absolutely NO tension. Never once did I feel like Hannibal was threatened. Not good. Third, it is lacking a cliffhanger. There’s no reason for anyone to pick up the next issue.


Your job has several areas:


First, you need to come up with a good ending for this issue. Without a good ending, there’s no use in writing anything else. You need to give readers a reason to come back for more.


After that, you need to plot this better. Here’s a sample of what I’m talking about:


-Hannibal wakes up in warehouse, gets out, sees himself, goes a little crazy. He should miss the note/notebook that’s been left for him, but readers should be able to see something of it and know it was important. 3pgs

-Meets first Nobody, and has a small flash of memory. It is dusk, and he is accosted by a group of Scavengers (what do they want? Why are they dangerous?) Is saved by Tom and group. Goes with them. He’s still disbelieving. 5 pgs

-They travel in the van. Tom is trying to figure out what’s wrong with Hannibal. There’s more Nobodies being seen. Hannibal has another flash of memory. It’s now dark, and the spike strip accident happens. 4 pgs

-They are accosted by a different group of Scavengers soon after the accident. They barely survive. 3 pages

-They walk to the town, and are picked up by sentries, who drive them the rest of the way. Talk of the doc. Hannibal is still disbelieving. 2 pages.

-The doc talks to Hannibal, and convinces him that this is real. He answers some questions, which causes more questions to be asked in the reader’s mind. We get some story on Hannibal, that places the flashes of memory into some context. The doc shows him something shocking. 4 pgs

-Torturous experiments are being conducted on the Nobodies in order to try to get a reaction from them, or something else just as horrible. Body parts, blood typing, using them as slaves for menial labor. Something. This is your ending splash page.


I think that if you were to follow this, it would make more sense to readers, and would give the book a heightened sense of drama. It would create some mystery, and draw readers in.


Now, there’s nothing saying you have to follow the plot I just wrote. If you want to go your own way with it, you can certainly do that. This is just a suggestion. But once we get the what happens hammered out, we can then work on the dialogue.


I think that’s about it. There’s a lot of work ahead of us. Let’s get to it.


(I took a sideways aim at Pacing, as you can see, by talking about the fact there is no drama and that nothing really happens, as well as an attempt to re-plot the story. There was no need for me to talk about it in a singular sense, because it goes hand in hand with the plotting I suggested.)


And that’s it! 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 (4)

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  1. Noel Burns says:

    I have to say it was a strange Proving Grounds without the blood red. I am sure it will be back soon.

    For my two cents, I agree with the name change. He was Camel in my mind from the start. His name also made it difficult to care about him. The name was actually distracting.

    Lastly, I have to say I am much more interested in the outline Steven posted then what I read here. He gets to a conflict much faster and makes me want to know what is going on. That being said, I fear I am getting nailed for this on my script in two weeks too.

    Thank you for putting your work out there John. It takes guts.

  2. Tyler James says:

    TPG has been updated, now with 1000% more RED!

  3. Evan Windsor says:

    First of all, I thought Zombies too when I read this, because, as Steve mentioned, it’s been done before twice (28 Days Later and the Walking Dead). But lets take a look at those two:

    28 Days Later starts off with some scientists experimenting on monkeys that carry the Rage Virus. One of the monkeys gets loose and bites a scientist. Then, 28 days later, of course, we see Cillian Murphy wake up in an abandoned hospital.

    The Walking Dead starts with Sheriff Rick Grimes attempting to apprehend a criminal fleeing down the road. A shootout ensues, and Rick gets shot, sending him into a coma. Then, he wakes up in an abandoned hospital.

    Both stories start off with an action beat to hook the viewers/readers, and I think your story could definitely benefit from it. As it sits, we have five pages of a character we know nothing about doing essentially nothing. It’s not the most compelling material. Readers have short attention spans, and you have to get to cool stuff almost immediately.

    Also, since after reading Steve’s proposed outline I see that this is clearly NOT a zombie book, the opening scene would give you a chance to show something to set the real tone of the book.

    Secondly, while its not a hard and fast rule that you can never use them, thought balloons are a major pet peeve of mine. As soon as I saw a page with that many thought balloons on it, i would have set the book down without giving it a chance. Why? Because thought balloons TELL not SHOW, and comics are a visual medium.

    Here’s how I would fix it. Delete every single one of them. Don’t change them to something else, don’t strike them out, delete them. Then, go through the script and re-read it. Most scenes will work without them. The ones that don’t, fix another way.

    Rather than have him think, “Shucks, I am scared!”, put in the panel description that he is to be drawn with a look of terror on his face. Rather than have him think, “Gee wilikers, this wheelchair sure is a pain to get out of!”, have him making a strained sound effect. “HURRRRGG!”? And, sparingly, if there is something that needs to be in a dialogue box, I would just change it to normal text. He’s alone, he can mutter things to himself without it being confusing. Again, though, sparingly. If you get a good artist to draw these creepy empty environments, that will take care of 90% of the work for these scenes; especially if you have an opening scene where the world is normal for contrast.

  4. Steven said it, Evan said it and even I can’t help but jumping in as well. You take way too much time for anything interesting to happen. The proof is that it doesn’t even happen by the time Steven cuts off your script for public Proving Ground consumption. And, like Evan pointed out, those first pages are almost point for point the way 28 days and Walking Dead begin – minus the action bit at the beginning.

    So really your five pages are used to give the reader the impression that it’s a story they’ve already read. Back on the shelf indeed.

    The solution? Reduce, reduce and reduce. If you’re really adamant about the wake-up-in-a-hospital-bed opening, drop it down to a single page and hit us with a reveal on page 2, something that shows right off the bat that your book is different from others.

    Like I told Lance two weeks ago, reduce until you’re left with the essence of your story and slap that onto a page. What Steven wrote as closing comments for you hinted at a great idea that’s sadly not apparent here in the first five pages. Reduce and you’ll get to it faster, hook your reader and sell your comic.

    As for the name, I vote for Hannibal too. In my head, it went from Kamel to Camel and it finally got to Kam-el, son of Jor-el.

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