TPG Week 47: Punctuation Is Key For Clarity

| November 18, 2011 | 20 Comments

Hello, and welcome back to The Proving Grounds! This week brings us a new Brave One in the form of Christian Hinrichsen. Let’s see what he brings us!

AD-7: Pre-OPS Issue #0



Location: USS COMFORT, Arabian Sea, 75 miles from Karachi Coast (Okay. Right off the bat, we’re having some problems. I don’t care that this is starting on P4. That’s just telling me this is an excerpt. What I care about is that this heading of Location doesn’t really tell me anything. It’s screen writing, not comic scripting. Is this supposed to appear on the page, Christian? If som then it needs to show that this is a caption. Otherwise, how is the reader supposed to know where they are? If this isn’t supposed to be a caption, why am I caring about the information here? Make up your mind as to what this is supposed to be.)

A lone hospital ship class vessel drifts along Arabian Sea. Several frigates patrol its perimeters. Above the frigates a Sikorsky Sea-Hawk Helicopter begins its descent on a helicopter platform on the hospital ship. (Where is the camera supposed to be? If it is suppsed to be head-on, then you’re going to lose the other ships. If it is supposed to be top-down, then you’re going to have to pull back in order to show everything you want, which means you’re going to lose some detail. Make up your mind as to what you want to be seen in-panel. And is this supposed to be an establishing shot? There’s at least one crucial W that’s missing. Anyone. It’s easy and up for grabs. No, not Connor or Yannick. Give someone else a chance.)



The helicopter begins its landing as flight crew members on the helicopter platform direct its incoming landing on the hospital ship. Three shadows overlook landing above deck. Two are male and one female. (You’re thinking cinematically. I have no problem with that, except that you’re wasting space. Two panels for this? Really? No. One panel showing the helicopter coming in, and then the next panel showing it on the ground. Cut a panel, save yourself some headache and learn some pacing. That’s first. Second, where is the camera? Because those shadows you mention? I have NO idea where they’re supposed to be. That’s because you didn’t do a good job in describing the ship and the location of things. These shadows could be anywhere.)





AREA IS GREEN. REPEAT AREA IS GREEN. (This entire panel is a waste of space. If the only thing happening is the landing, then this can be cut. Yes, I just said that. However, you also have dialogue here that isn’t doing anything, either. You could cut this entire panel, going directly to the second, and not lose anyone at all. That means this is padding, and there are few sins that are greater than padding.)


Standing overlooking the helicopter landing is two Caucasian Males and a Caucasian Female. The one male (Father Monroe) appears to be in his late fifties he has gray brown hair and has blue eyes behind his eyeglasses. He wears a typical navy Chaplain’s casual dress and jeans. On his right stands a younger male (Mack McCauley) who has a marine black cropped haircut and charcoal blue eyes. He wears a navy blue polo shirt and wears khaki cargo BDU pants. (Nobody cares. Character descriptions do not belong in the script. Don’t de-scribe main characters. I want you to de-script them. Put it in a separate document for the artist.)


Two their left stands a Caucasian female about the same age as the younger man who is sleek and slender (Dr. Samantha Fox) (I think you want my head to explode. The old me is dying right now. The newish me is keeping his cool. Okay. I can understand the misuse of to and too. Kinda. Generally, I’ll chalk that up to a typo. Sometimes you just forget to strike that second o. However, I cannot wrap my head around two . That just isn’t good. Generally, I don’t harp on typos in panel descriptions anymore, because if I did, these things would be longer than they already are. However, when a typo could be unclear, then I have to say something. Using two here is not only blatantly wrong, it could lead to things being unclear. If you have an artist who doesn’t speak English well, then you could have a problem on your hands. Okay, back to our character de-scripting.). She has strawberry auburn blond hair in a ponytail and wears a navy blue baseball cap. Her emerald green eyes sparkle at the sight of the arriving helicopter. She wears desert brown tee-shirt and khaki brown cargo BDU shorts. Her slender figure appears to have distinct features of a swimming champion. (Nowhere in any of this is a single description of what is important: their facial expressions and postures/stances/arm movements.)


So ‘Reverend, who is this Admiral arriving on the Sea-hawk Helicopter? (You know how your mother tells you that if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all? That doesn’t apply to editing. Why is there an apostrophe before reverend ? It has no business being there at all. It doesn’t serve any purpose, because it isn’t part of a contraction, nor is there a second one at the end of the word to close it off, which would mean that the speaker knows the person isn’t who they say they are. Then, there’s the Captain Obvious moment. While everyone may not know what type of helicopter it is, everyone knows that it is a helicopter, so why is this guy saying that it’s a helicopter when both of his companions know what it is? Then, it’s leading to exposition that is simply for the sake of the audience. I find it extremely hard to believe that this guy doesn’t know who’s coming, especially if he’s waiting with the others. This is a conversation that would have been held way before the helicopter arrived. This is nothing more than bad dialogue, all the way around.)


Its my old friend Rear Admiral Reginald Amberst, he is retired MI-6 and now works as a specialty consultant with the Comacchio Group out of Scotland. (Okay, so we’ve just been Butler and Maided, and badly at that. But, since they’re both guys, one of which may be in the military and one of which is a priest, who’s wearing the skirt? It may be the priest, if he were wearing a cassock. But, anyway, how about some correct punctuation? You want a period in place of the comma. You want a hard stop, not a soft pause.)


The Comacchio Group isn’t that the equivalent with Dev-group in the UK? (Rant-time. And I’m not even off the first page. But it’s been a while, so I’m due. Over the years, I’ve come to a theory about writers. There are writers, those who use the written word in order to tell stories or sway opinion or whatever, and then there are storytellers, who use words in order to tell a story. The difference is that a writer will do their best to make sure that the words flow correctly, and that the rules of spelling, grammar, and punctuation are followed. Storytellers don’t know the rules, and aren’t all that concerned about them. They just want to tell the story. The problem is that when you’re writing a story, you cannot just be concerned with the story, because you’re using written words to convey your idea. This means someone has to read them, and if you don’t know or don’t care about the rules, then your readers aren’t going to see anything besides your mistakes. As comic writers, we can afford some mistakes in the panel descriptions, but not in dialogue. It will do nothing besides throw your readers right out of the story. Rant over. You’re missing some punctuation in your exposition. I’d go with a period to follow the badly named Group. I’m seeing this as a badly written 80s movie, with a youngish Michael Madsen.)


Your military history is wise Lt. Commander. (Comma-fail.)


Mack looks at Samantha with his charcoal blue eyes. Father Monroe looks at the young couple. (I don’t care that his eyes are charcoal blue. What does his facial expression say? That’s what’s important. What does any of their facial expressions say?)


You, need to be well rehearsed with military history tactics in my field, Dr. Fox. (Why is there a comma right after the first word? That is a different type of comma-fail)


So I, have been told Lt. Commander. (This? This is a double comma-fail.)





PAGE FIVE (Page break.)


Mack, Sam and Father Monroe walk down the deck stairs to approach the helicopter.

Three shadows step off the helicopter and approach the metal stair case. (That crucial W would play a very significant role right here. Second, you’re going to have to pull out to show both of these things happening. If the camera is not placed well, this is a difficult shot. Third, and in reality, this panel needs to be cut. It isn’t doing anything to establish character or reveal plot.)




OVER. (I went over this in Yannick’s recent script, but I knew there was a reason for it. This, there is no reason for. Why is this character saying over? This is when you’re on the radio. This is a Public Announcement, hence the PA part of PA. He’s not using a radio. This is just nonsensical and bad.)


Three shadows continue their approach two appear to be male the third appears to be female.

Father Monroe walks over and greets the male shadow in the center. (How is it that one character is in shadow and another fully revealed, on a ship deck? I would REALLY love for someone to explain that to me. And how does he greet them? Handshake? Man-hug? )


Welcome Aboard the USS COMFORT, Admiral. We have been expecting you.


I just bet old friend. (Comma-fail.)


Father Monroe shakes hands with a Caucasian man with a bald head and a salty red-gray sailor beard. The Admiral’s green eyes widen at the shaking of hands with Father Monroe. The Admiral wears a British Naval Officer BDU and has an ivory corncob pipe in his right pocket. Standing on the right side of the Admiral is a Eurasian Man with a dark eye-patch over his left eye (Sapper). He has a gray-black marine cropped haircut and appears to be a few years older than Mack and Samantha. He wears a finely pressed black-plum suit and (Everything in blue? Unnecessary.) carries a silver briefcase with him. (The briefcase is magically delicious. It just popped up out of nowhere. I’m betting the artist wished this information were a panel or two earlier.)


Standing to the Admiral’s left side is an Israeli female (Maria Moyer) with flowing raven black hair. She wears a dark business suit and her caramel brown eyes sparkle at the sight of

Mack McCauley (This? The unhighlighted part? That is impossible. That cannot be drawn.). She carries a black plum laptop computer briefcase on her one side as well.


Its good to see you again my Irish friend and allow me to introduce my intelligence officers. (Whoa! See how he dropped in the fact that the padre is Irish? It almost seemed organic, didn’t it? Too bad it has a comma-fail as well as bad dialogue to go with it. Intelligence officers? Why not just call them associates, and keep it moving.)




The Admiral directs his hands to his two companions. Mack and Samantha stand on the one side of Father Monroe. (What is everyone doing? Just standing around?)


This young lad is Major Alec Sapper Delavoux of French Secret Service and this lovely lass is Agent Maria Opal Moyer of Israeli MOSSAD. (Wow. Okay. In just saying that out loud, I can hear the quotation marks. That isn’t good. Why use code-names like this in introductions? It makes no sense. At least SAY it is their code name. This is Major Alec Delavoux of French Secret Service [you need to do more research, because it has a name], code-named Sapper. See how that works? See how much better that reads? And if they were really secret, then he would have just given the code-names and left it at that. Especially with strangers around.)


Welcome, and may I, introduce Lt. Commander Mack McCauley and Dr. Samantha Trauma Fox. (More audible quotation marks. And really, the setup is wrong. You just introduced four people for the first time. At least two of them should have had their own small panel, with dialogue of who they were coming from off-panel. That would have been a much more effective use of space.) You’ve got four panels on here. Well, three, not including the first panel of padding. You have more than enough space to showcase the newcomers correctly.)

PAGE SIX (Page break.)


The Admiral directs his companions up the staircase as the helicopter lifts off behind him. (This is padding.)


Pleasure to meet you Lt. Commander, and how is your family Dr. Fox? (Comma-fail.)




Father is well and Mum asks about you once in a while Admiral. (Comma-fail.)


I, am sure she does, shall we get going my friends. (Comma-fail, the remix. Writers, you MUST learn simple punctuation usage. It isn’t difficult. If you handed this to an editor in the effort of looking for a job, they wouldn’t laugh in your face because that would be impolite, but the very first comma-fail, and the script goes in the garbage. All over something YOU can control.)



Mack takes the lead up the stairs followed by Admiral Amberst who is joined by Father Monroe. Samantha, Sapper and Maria take up the rear. (Padding.)


I reserved a briefing room for us Admiral, if you please follow me. (I’m not going to call this comma-fail. I’m going to say that this is poorly worded as you try to get your point across.)


Excellent Lad. (Comma-fail. And I thought only the priest was Irish. This gives me the impression that the admiral is, also.)


Location: Romania Port City of Constanta (It doesn’t matter that you label this here. It doesn’t matter. It could be inside the moon. It means nothing if the readers cannot infer where this is taking place.)

A stormy evening as several figures stand in stormy weather for this time of year. Several

cobalt blue vans park on the gang side of a large freighter. Standing about the dock are several guards dressed in tee shirts and jeans. Each is armed with Soviet assault rifles. (This is the diametric opposite of good. If this is supposed to be a panel description, then describe what’s going on, left to right, with the most important things going first. How is the artist supposed to know that this is taking place on a dock? It’s the third sentence in, and mentioned only in passing at that. If it’s a stormy evening, why are several people standing in it in nothing but t-shirts and jeans? What’s protecting them from the wind and rain? How many does several make up, for both the vans and the people? So, not only is it badly worded, it is also too vague to be of any real use, and nonsensical.)


(Wait. Not even an elsewhere ? No dialogue? Nothing at all to tie this to the scene that I’m guessing has just finished? What is this panel doing here? At least you gave a timeframe. That’s something.)


In a dark alleyway several werewolf shadows stand before a Somalian Man with reptilian human skin. The Somalian man (Cutler) wears a dark trench-coat and displays a tactical vest under his trench-coat as a machete swings on the vest. A Slavic female stands next to the man wearing a similar trench-coat and she wears a red Cossack dress uniform under her coat. She has black-brown hair and wears a Russian fur hat over her head. Her dark eyes


stare at the shadows. The lights highlight half her right side being burnt but attractive in nature from an explosion of some sort. (Another one? Another disconnected panel? Okay, let’s start with the werewolf shadows. How is a reader supposed to know this is a werewolf shadow? And is it a shadow this time, or is it a werwolf in shadow, like the admiral was a couple of pages ago? Ah, you didn’t think about that, did you? Next, how is a reader supposed to tell that the guy you’re describing is Somalian? If he’s a recurring, important character, then his description needs to be de-scripted because it doesn’t belong. The woman may not need to be described, also. And again, instead of describing the action in the panel, you’re only describing the people. Everyone’s just standing around. I could have them performing any action I choose, because you failed to describe what they were doing. Next time, I will.)


< The cargo you carry Captain Cutler and Lt. Saver will be the weapons our friends in Luxor are awaiting for.> Belo-Russian (My head just ‘sploded. Yannick. Please tell everyone why. Thank you.)


< I understand Sgt. Wolfe but where is our employer. He was suppose to be here with us. (Okay, let’s take it from the top. First, comma-fail. Second, why is there a period when Cutler is obviously asking a question? Third, where is the closing bracket? Fourth, and brain-stabbingly largest, why is this guy saying suppose ? The word you used is correct, but the tense isn’t. And this, boys and girls, is the cleaned-up version of my notes.)


< Unfortunately Master Drake had prior engagements Captain.> (Comma-fail.)

PAGE SEVEN (Page break.)


Cutler looks at the Wolfe examining closer the mysterious werewolf commando in Cobalt Blue BDUS. The Slavic female known as Lt. Saver scrutinizes the werewolf. (Okay, first, NO ONE CARES about the color of the cammies. That’s the first thing that I was able to understand about this panel description. Someone is wearing cammies, and they’re blue, and I don’t care. But that’s the only thing I understood. That first sentence? It took me four tries to understand what you were getting at. Know why? The lack of punctuation is first, and second, because you were extremely original in naming the werewolf Wolfe. So, it looks like Wolf is examining another werewolf, who’s wearing cammies whose color escapes me. Instead, it is Cutler who’s examining Wolfe, and Wolfe is wearing cammies whose color only you care about. Is there another werewolf in the shot? I couldn’t tell you. I don’t even know where the camera is, so I don’t know who the woman is looking at. To say that this is unclear is to say that I’m long-winded: obvious.)


< This Drake is quite a mystery and prior engagements always show up.> (This dialogue is not good at all. Besides the comma-fail, it sounds like one of those direct-to-dvd movies. I have a LOT of movies like that, so I know what I’m talking about.)


< In addition I expect my payment in full and we will leave in the hour.> (Comma-fail. I sound like a broken record.)


< Are we eventually going to me this mysterious Drake character Sergeant?> (Comma-fail.)


Wolfe eyes the Slavic female and her tone in her voice. (He can eye a tone in someone’s voice? That’s a super-power right there. Forget turning into a wolf. What does his facial expression say? What is he doing?)


< The Master will appear when it is proper Lieutenant.> (Comma-fail.)




< Very well but I do not trust him at this time.> (Comma-fail. And I’m waiting for this conversation to actually lead somewhere.)


< You were hired as mercenaries and not as a shrink, Lieutenant.> (See what this tells me, Christian? This tells me you know how to place commas. That in turn tells me you’re lazy. That is something a writer cannot be. Especially if you’re handing something in for scrutiny. You could have no respect for me, for the process of creating comics, or for anything else. However, at least respect yourself enough to make the best impression you can. If you’re going to be a writer, being lazy is not an option. Now, what does her being a shrink or not have to do with anything she just said?)


Cutler intervenes between his two colleagues. (How? This is screenwriting, not comic scripting. How does he intervene?)


< Cassie return to the ship and prepare final preparations.> (Comma-fail. Or should I say lazybones?)


< As you wish Captain.> (Comma-bones? Lazy-fail? And is she even in this panel? You don’t say. All you say is that he intervenes. You don’t say how, and you don’t say if there’s anyone else in the panel. If she’s there, say so, and give an expression. If she isn’t, then her dialogue should be coming from off-panel.)


Saver storms away from the two men as the storm continues to fall on them. (No. Connor, why am I saying this?)

PAGE EIGHT (Page break.)


Cutler looks at Wolfe as several guards dressed in Cossack uniforms step in the direction freighter. (I have little idea of what this means, and less idea of how this can be drawn. The object of the script, Christian, is to make sure that the artist has enough information to draw what’s being stated in the panel descriptions. When that is unclear—like this one is—then they’re stuck having to ask you questions that the script should have answered already.)


< I must apologize for the Lieutenant, Sgt. Wolfe she tends to have the Slavic suspicious attitude in her blood.> (Punctuation. No one likes a run-on sentence. Second, you really have a thing about naming someone’s race/nationality. Is it important? Does it enhance the story any? I’m going to say no.)


< She should curb her voice about Master Drake.> (Hm. This is an awkward place to stop the dialogue in this panel. No dramatic tension. Actually, he sounds petulant. Maybe HE should be wearing the cossack, eh?)


Cutler acknowledges Wolfe looking over his shoulder. (It’s like you’re not even trying anymore. I can’t even parse this. I have no idea as to what this means. Know what that means? It cannot be drawn.)


< I will talk to her about that Sergeant. Are your men and you joining this journey Sergeant?> (Besides comma-fail, mum would be the word, but I can’t. This is not good. Someone. Anyone. Please.)


< The master wants me to monitor the security arrangements with you. So in short I will be traveling with your brigand.> (Comma-fail. And I’m hoping the use of brigand in the singular is a typo. I’m thinking it isn’t, though, and that isn’t good. )


Cutler shakes hands with Wolfe before departing.


< I look forward to you joining me at the Captain’s table than Sergeant.> (Lord and Lady! Okay. Alright. I’ve cleaned this up a lot. Here is a really simple way to use then and than. You use than when you want to compare something, and you use then when you’re talking about time. How do you keep it straight? Well, there’s an a in compare, so use than , which also has an a. There is an e in time, so use then , which has an e . Simple, down and dirty. And comma-fail.)


< Agreed. Captain.> (A period instead of a comma? Yeah, that’s comma-fail, too.)


The two men depart in their separate directions. (This is screen writing. What’s being drawn here? Where’s the camera? Why is this panel even necessary? It isn’t. It’s padding.)

And that is where I’m going to stop. There’s a few pages more, but I don’t have the fortitude.

Let’s run it down.


Format: Almost perfect! The only thing missing are page breaks. Formatting should be nearly flawless, though, because it is simple. The only question I have about it are the Locations that you threw in.

Panel Descriptions: Terrible.

First, you’re describing characters in the script, when they should be in a separate document. Next your panel descriptions go from vague to unclear to undrawable. Not good at all. Not when the reason for panel descriptions in the first place is so that your artist knows what to draw. Next, instead of describing actions in some panels, you’re too busy describing what the characters look like, which leaves them standing around doing nothing. Your panel descriptions need a lot of work.

Pacing: Terrible.

You start the excerpt at P4, and between P4 and P9, nothing happens. Nothing at all. You have characters appearing and talking, but nothing they say is interesting. That means it will be going back on the shelf, if readers could get to it at all. Then, with no warning whatsoever, you switch locations not once, but twice! Or at least that is how it seems. And even in that scene, nothing of interest happens, and nothing of interest is said.

You also have padding in there. Padding is never your friend. You have entire panels within scenes that could be cut without disrupting what was happening. Not good.

Dialogue: Terrible.

At least once, you made my head ‘splode with dialogue. Not only was there nothing of importance said, but the conversations were just simply inane. And the exposition was handled exceedingly badly. Information should flow organically, so that readers are given information without seeming like you’re trying to force feed it to them. Instead, it was ham-fisted, awkward, and not the least bit enjoyable. And dialogue is what actually gets read.

Content: Uninspired. As a reader, if this were to come to market the way it is, I’d be extremely hard-pressed to find anything at all that was nice about the book. Maybe the art, but that would be it. I’ve done two full scenes, and I have no idea what the story is about. Not only that, but I’m also not inclined to want to find out. That is your fault, as the writer. Two scenes, and nothing of interest happens? You’re doing a disservice to your readership.

Editorially, this is crap. That’s the nicest thing I can say about this. I have more in notes than you have in script, which is never a good thing. From what I see here, the story needs to be gutted, and then rebuilt from the ground up, with an editor holding your hand through the process. I’ve done this before with writers who wanted to tell a story I felt was sub-par. We burned the draft, and came up with something that had more thought put into it, and that readers would be able to find interesting. That is what needs to happen here.

As a writer, words are your tools, and language is your playground. However, just like any playground, there are rules, some of which can be broken. You can only break them, though, after you’ve learned them, and after you know the reason why you’re breaking them. Some, though, are inviolate. Punctuation is one of those rules. It can be bent, but never broken. Why? Punctuation gives you clarity of expression. You need it to help communicate your ideas. Without it, it is extremely easy to become lost.

If this were sent to me cold, with you looking for a job, I’d have thrown it away. No, you wouldn’t have gotten a response, either. Why? Because I’m far too busy shepherding other writers whom I don’t have to teach basic English to. Punctuation is basic English. You don’t get out of fourth grade without knowing how to use a comma, period, and a question mark. As a writer, this is something you should be mastering, because this is your chosen profession. If you’re going to send me a script riddled with simple punctuation errors, what about spelling and grammar? Why would I, as an editor, spend the time teaching you basic English (and not getting paid for it) when I could simply pick the next person in the pile who knows how to use the language but needs help in structuring their story better?

And when you send things like this in cold, this is what you’re doing, folks. You’re advertising that the editor would need to spend an inordinate amount of time working with you in order to make sure that your script is both drawable and salable. They are seeing their schedules shot to hell, because you don’t know the basic rules of English. This means you’re unattractive to them. You know that chick in the bar? The one that won’t look good, even with beer goggles? Yeah. That’s you, if you send something like this in cold. Don’t blame me. I’m just telling the truth.

And that’s almost it. Looking at the calendar, I’m still pretty low on scripts. Basically, two more weeks. This column lives and dies by your participation, folks. Let’s see some more scripts come in. Let’s make it to the new year!

That’s all I have. See you next 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 (20)

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  1. “No, not Connor or Yannick. Give someone else a chance.”

    Awww man.

    I call dibs after the weekend has passed! 😛

  2. The missing W is simply “When.” Is the helicopter landing at night? Noon? Sunset? Might seem like an inconsequential detail, but its not, especially since the script calls for some shots with shadows, which will look different depending on time of day.

  3. John Lees says:

    Page 4, Panel 1: the W in question is WHEN, I think. We don’t know if this is occurring at day or night.

  4. Evan Windsor says:

    It’s a relatively minor nitpick in a script that needs to be rewritten, but I have to say it:

    USS COMFORT sounds like a porn ship.

  5. Conner MacDonald says:

    Saver storms away from the two men as the storm continues to fall on them. (No. Connor, why am I saying this?)

    Few reasons I think. Storms away makes it appear as if Saver is in some why upset, and I see no reason why. And there is no camera placement, and no indication of which way Savor is storming.
    Also describing Saver as storming away, during a storm could be confusing, considering there is a million ways you could describe that in one sentence without using the word twice. But most importantly you do not need to remind the artist that its still raining out, if he’s paying attention he knows that the scene has not changed, and unless you specify, its going to keep raining.

    Now to last weeks Proving Ground!

    • Nope.

      Close, though. You touched on it.

      If you look, Christian doesn’t set the scene well. Not at all. He goes from the ship to a dock, a transition that isn’t handled well. Then, the next panel doesn’t give any indication at all that the alley this meeting is supposed to be happening in is on the dock. There’s nothing there to give that impression until (life)Saver walks off. Then the storm is mentioned, and the pieces click.

      So two things need to happen: the location needs to be established a LOT better after the transition, and the characters have to be tied to that location.

      Fun, right?


    Belo-Russian (My head just ‘sploded. Yannick. Please tell everyone why. Thank you.)”

    There are a lot of things here that don’t click so I’m not even sure what Steven is specifically looking for.

    First, there’s the business of not naming your characters consistently and hiding important information from the artist. First you state you have several “werewolf shadows”. I won’t go into the muddleness of such a statement because Steven already went through it. However, I’m going to point out that this is a typical way of keeping info from your artist. It becomes even more apparent when suddenly one of those shadows is defined as the “lead” one. Is it the “lead” because it’s the only one talking? Or because it’s the leader? And then you decide its name is “Wolfe” (don’t get me started – I think “Master Drake” is a vampire – did I get it?). If I’d been your artist, I’d have flaked out just for this.

    When you’re writing a script, you’re not doing it to tell the readers a story. What you’re doing is giving the artist a set of instruction for him to draw the story. If the character in the shadows is Sgt. Wolfe, than say it’s Sgt. Wolfe the first time you mention him. That way your artist can manage things like character details,volume, relative height and so on consistently. For example, if Sgt. Wolfe was wearing a cape or a trenchcoat, his shadow would appear a lot different than if he’s wearing a wetsuit.

    There’s no sense in keeping up the suspense for your artist. He’s not your target readership, he’s your creative partner! Partners don’t hide things from each other. That would be like a chef not giving his cooks any of the recipes because it’s “more dramatic for them”.

    Also, here’s the line again with proper punctuation: “The cargo you carry, Captain Cutler and Lt. Saver, will be the weapons our friends in Luxor are awaiting for.”

    Also, I must say that’s one of the clunkiest way of introducing character names I’ve seen in a long time. I can almost hear the story’s gears grinding all that exposition between their teeth. “Captain Cutler and Lt. Saver” is quite a mouthful to say in the middle of a sentence.

    Also: why is “Lt.” and “Sgt.” abbreviated but not “Captain”? And “Lieutenant” is written in full a few lines later! Consistency!

    If you need to introduce characters, here are several ways to do it that don’t look too bad:

    1. Captions/Labels: The easiest most laziest way to do it but it seems to have caught on recently. Just have a caption appear near the character with his name and a short blurb. It’s not very organic but it’s got the merit of being clear and unobtrusive.

    2. Dossiers/HUDs: You have a sort of military context: use it. Take some panel space to show excerpts from military files. Another way is to show the scene through the eyes of one of the characters’ electronic heads-up display, showing the names and characteristics of the others. Scott Snyder’s BATMAN #1 made brilliant use of this technique.

    3. In-character introductions: I don’t mean that long hand-shaking scene you wrote in your opening pages where everyone’s eyes sparkle at the sight of everyone else and people get called “lads” a lot. If you use introductions, use them to set up conflict or establish your characters’ personalities. For example, if a character is suspicious, have him ask who “that other guy” is. If he’s boastful, have another doubt of his abilities so he can introduce himself properly.

    4. Moderate name-dropping: When all else fails, drop a name here and there. The operative words here are “here and there”, not ” all at once” like you just did. Once about every two or three panels should do til everyone is properly introduced. If you mix this up with the otehr techniques I’ve just mentioned, it should be easily swallowed by your reader.

    Now, about that use of foreign language. I’m pretty sure that’s what Steven wanted me to talk about since I used it in both of the scripts he edited for TPG. We’ll first get a quibble out of the way. In fact, not much a quibble as a major Arch-Devil in the details: the name of the language is Belarusian, not “Belo-Russian”. It’s been historically called “Byelorussian”, “White Russian”, “White Ruthenian”, “Great Lithuanian”, and “Kryvian/Krivian” but never “Belo-Russian”. Look it up: if you’re going to use real-world settings and concepts – no matter how much fantasy you inject into it – you need to do your research. It took all of five minutes to get it right and I’m not the author here – there’s no excuse for not doing it.

    As for the mechanics of using foreign languages in comic scripts, you ALMOST have it right. First, there are no spaces between the “lesser than” or “greater than” brackets (although I suspect the space might have been added by Steven to prevent the website software from interpreting it as an HTML tag).

    Second, when a character uses a language other than English, immediately follow the closing bracket with an asterisk. Then add another dialogue line – a caption this time – starting with an asterisk and telling the reader what language this is in. The way you wrote it, it’s like the character ended his line by speaking the words “Belo-Russian”.

    For example (I’ll be using straight brackets to fool the software):

    SERGEANT WOLFE: [The cargo you carry will be the weapons our friends in Luxor are awaiting for.]*

    CAPTION: *Translated from Belarusian

    There are two exceptions to this. First, if the first time you use the foreign language occurs at a very dramatically charged moment, you might want to delay the language reference caption and place it in the next panel the language is used. Second, if more than one foreign language is used, you need to tell the letterer to vary the lettering for each language used so the reader will have a clue since the brackets themselves won’t be enough.

    But most of all, if you’re putting English translations of foreign languages into brackets, don’t make it sound “foreign” in English. You’ve already told the reader that the characters were speaking Belarusian, you don’t have to give them an accent as well. When you give characters a foreign accent, it’s because they’re actually trying to speak in English rather than their native language.

    Use brackets and captions or use an accent – never both at once.

    My final comments have to do with the structure of the sentence itself. It’s incredibly clunky.

    “The cargo you carry will be the weapons our friends in Luxor are awaiting for.” (I took out the name-dropping becuase it just compounds the problem.)

    Time concordance is out of whack. Present tense for “you carry”, “future tense for “will be” and progressive for “are awaiting”. Let’s take some verbs out and smooth out the verb tenses. While we’re at it, you “await something” but you “wait FOR something”. That gives us:

    “You cargo is the weapons our friends in Luxor are waiting for.”

    Meh, still not satisfied. I guess I’ll have to gut the line and rebuild it Six-Million-Dollar-Man style:

    “Our friends in Luxox are anxiously waiting for your cargo.”

    There. We’ll leave the ominous tone of the conversation convey the sinister nature of that cargo.

    Now that I’ve done my duty, let me add something that will sting but please believe me when I say I’m writing this to help you…

    This is the 46th TPG I read (well 44 if you count out the ones where I was the Brave One), and once again I see that there’s a pervasive tendancy in writing comic scripts that many of us have associated with movie scripting. But today, I think I’ve finally understood: it’s not movie scripting: it’s straight-from-your-head storytelling. The problem is that you’re so eager to tell a story that you completely blow over any consideration for the medium you’re using to tell your story. It’s like you can already see the comic in your mind and you’ve just read it, and now you’re just telling one of your friends about it.

    Once again, comic scripting is not about telling a story, it’s about helping your creative team tell it. You’re not telling a story, you’re producing a tool for storytelling.

    Honestly, I think Steven has been very generous with you. In fact, I think he got so caught up in fixing your basic English issues that he didn’t have any steam left for the higher-level issues like “what is a comic script” and “how does the medium of comics work”

    My advice? Find yourself some professionally written comic scripts and read them. There are a bunch here: Now notice how none of it has any dramatic flair, no suspense, no intense passionate staring or paragraph-long character descriptions. It’s just a writer giving a fellow artist some friendly instructions.

    Next, read ALL of Steven’s Bolt & Nuts columns and ALL of the Proving Grounds columns. Learn from what others do. Read ALL of the comments underneath because you got some real gems in there by top-notch writers like Rich Douek and John Lees (these people got PUBLISHED!). Most of all, learn from others’ mistakes. Most of us who get told by Steven that we did something good did so because we saw Steven reaming someone else who did it wrong.

    Next, go to the library, take out books like Dennis O’Neil’s DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics or Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and Making Comics. Read those. Don’t try to memorize everything but at least come away from that reading with this: writing comics is a craft – NOT a gift – that can be learnt if you put the effort into it.

    Finally, get out your comic collection read it ALL – only this time read it as a writer, not as a comic fan. Notice how the story begins, how is the plot constructed, how are the characters introduced, how themes are established and reused, how different camera angles affect the mood. Try to be aware of certain techniques or devices like cold opens, recurring motifs, flashbacks and so on.

    Also, stick around here. Come back for Week 47 of the Proving Grounds. See what the next writer did right and what he did wrong – learn from both. Comment, ask questions, participate. Share your experience. Answer Steven’s questions when he calls for a contribution. Test yourself. Get it wrong again. Learn from yet another mistake. Ask for help, get some help and – one day – give some. This is what Comixtribe is all about: creators helping creators make better comics.

    Lick your wounds, nut up and sit around the circle with us. DO NOT slink away. DO NOT curse Steven for just doing his job (I believe you’re getting a far nicer response here than what you’d get from one of the Big 2). DO NOT throw your pens and notebooks away – your mistakes are the MOST VALUABLE part of leanring this craft. DO NOT find yourself a hack on deviantART to draw this script despite its flaws. DO NOT blame anyone but yourself for what you’ve written. DO NOT believe that crappy little soothing voice that says that “nobody understands you”.

    But most of all DO NOT lose faith in your ability to do this.

    Because that would make you a Damn Dirty Quitter and that’s the only way you can fail at writing comics. You’re not the first one to have come here and shed a lot of blood on the Proving Grounds. But trust me when I say that, no matter how much red you see on that page, you still haven’t failed. You’re learning something about comics, you’re learning something about yourself as a writer and that’s always a good measure for success.

    The DDQs, the ones who never come back, they’re the ones who fail.

    So now you got your comments from Steven back, you’re staring at all that red, gulping down all the critique he gave you, digesting the comments (may I suggest Maalox for mine?) and you sit there thinking. NOW is the moment where you decide if you fail or not. It’s happening NOW, not as Steven was tearing you a new one. NOW. So what’s it gonna be? Are you a comic writer or a quitter?

    For my part, Christian, I’ll be expecting you next Friday.

    • Thanks, Yannick.

      Once upon a time, I was a LOT rougher than this. I’ve told some stories of my rampant ego in some B&N. I was terrible with my assessments of the skills of my fellow creators. Some of it was even deserved.

      Right now, as far as I can tell, there is no other place like this on the ‘net. Not with a dedicated editor looking over scripts where the creators themselves and others to learn from. That makes this place unique and special. In a place like this, I cannot afford to be an asshole. That hurts the site, and I feel that what we do here is too valuable to let go easily.

      What the struggle is, for me, is that I have a biting way of presenting the truth as I see it. Few people want to be told that something they do or have done is crap. Otherwise, why do it? And when I read something that is as challenged as this, the bite I have is a pressure release. (And I think that some readers do a Howard Stern-like thing: they’re appalled at how I say something, but they come back or keep reading in order to see what I’m going to say next.)

      Was I being kind? Somewhat. I could have been a lot harder. I could have finished the excerpt, and I had every intention, but then it comes to a point of diminishing returns. There would have been no point, except to say outrageous things, and there would be no point to that except showmanship, and that isn’t the point of TPG.

      There are a decent amount of lurkers here. Hopefully, they’re learning something. Hopefully, they’re taking Yannick’s advice, which is the same advice I wanted to give to John Lees when he contacted me about submitting his first script to me. I didn’t give him any advice at all, telling him to do what he thought was best. John took the harder road of studying first, and now he’s been nominated for an award.

      What I’m getting around to saying is that Yannick is putting into practise things I’ve espoused in B&N. If you want to get better, you have to participate. Not just submit a script, wait your turn, comment on it and disappear. Stick around and learn from what people are doing wrong, and what people are doing right. Contrary to how it may seem, I also say when someone does something well.

      Some of you reading this may want to interject comments, and are reluctant to in fear of being ‘wrong.’ Let me say a few things about that.

      First, I’ve never beat anyone up over being wrong when they answer a question I’ve asked or made a comment on a script. Once I’ve gotten to know your personality, I may poke some fun at you, but I’ve never beat anyone up over it.

      Secondly, I call upon people for a few reasons: the biggest is that it forces you as a writer to think ‘what would I do in this situation?’ If you’re new to the format, I take it easy, until you show me you know what you’re doing. If you’re an advanced writer, I then ask more complicated questions of you. I do have a method to my madness.

      Third, just because I’ve called on someone doesn’t mean you can’t interject. Comments are always welcome! So are questions. So are criticisms of me (and only me, not each other). Come on out and interact. Does that mean I’ll call on you? More than likely. But you’ve got nothing to lose and absolutely everything to gain from the experience.

      And, it’s fun!

      Okay, this week’s Yannick question: that’s exactly it. That was why my head ‘sploded. And you took care of it, exactly the way I knew you would. thank you again.

      Where’s Evan? I know he has something to say!

      • Evan Windsor says:

        I did have something to say! It was “porn boat”.

        But since I’ve been called upon, here’s a bit more.

        I lurked for the first 35 or so TPGs, then an active participant in the last ten or so. Let me tell you, even though it was 1/3 of the time, I’ve learned much more in the active phase.

        I think Steve’s called on me three times, and never have I gotten the answer spot-on right. I’m frequently correct-tangential. There’s something incredibly educational about having to to analyse something not only to figure out if it’s good or bad, but WHY it’s good or bad. As you learn the rules well enough to explain them in other people’s work, you’ll learn well enough not to break them in your own (or to break them for a good reason).

        But the best learning opportunity for me was putting my own script up for critique. I was cocky, I felt my script was pretty much ready to go and…it got demolished. I thought my punctuation was bulletproof, but I got dinged for ellipsis not once, but twice. More importantly though, my characters were poorly written, and as it was an incredibly story-driven tale, that meant the plot was wrong too. I wanted to tell a sweet little romantic tale and everyone assumed my male protag was going to murder the female protag. So…not good.

        It stung. I was prepared for nitpicks. I wasn’t prepared for the core of my story to be called into question. It was an incredibly humbling experience. But Steve, Yannick, and everyone else were totally correct. And by embracing the red rather than fighting it, my rewrite on that will be so much better (once I get around to it, that is. Need evidence? I used two ellipsis in the last paragraph, and I’m pretty sure I used them both correctly.

        I have a script loaded in the barrel for a few weeks from now. That one will get a fair amount of red, and this time I’m ready for it, but I feel it will get if not fewer, certainly different critiques. I’ve grown! And so can you! (I’ll cut out the infomercial voice, sorry.)

        But back on point, this is a good example of how more active lurking can be beneficial. Had I just read the script, I probably would have glossed right over that the translations had been done wrong. And this is one instance where following the customs of the format is important, because by breaking them, we’ve created an absurd situation where the character, when they finish speaking, say what language they spoke. If taken literally, it’s pretty silly. English.

        But by studying and noticing not only that it’s wrong, but WHY it’s wrong, you learn, you laugh, and then you never make that mistake again. I assure you, if I ever have a script with foreign language speaking characters, I’ll do it right now.

        I’ll make different mistakes instead! What mistakes? You’ll have to find out on December 9th, along with me! But since comics is less about getting it right, and more about correcting and learning when you get it wrong, I can’t wait.

        On a side note, I’ve written a lot here, but not nearly as much as a Yannick comment. I have no idea how, with comments that long, he has any time to write comics.

        • “On a side note, I’ve written a lot here, but not nearly as much as a Yannick comment. I have no idea how, with comments that long, he has any time to write comics.”

          Because I never sleep.

          But seriously… because I’m a psychic who can predict Steven’s and your posts and write my replies in advance.

          But seriously… because I hired a ghost writer to write my comics while I reply to comments here.

          But seriously… because I’m nothing more than another pseudonym used by Steven so I write both the TPG column as well as all the comments except yours.

          But seriously… because I’m one of your split personalities that writes all of those comments every time you black out and that’s why you always think you don’t have enough time for writing comics.

          But seriously… because I find comments on other websites and just copy and paste those that seem to fit with the present context.

          But seriously… because I’m a Timelord and I write all these comments aboard my TARDIS.

          But seriously… because I suffer from a rare written form of Asperger’s syndrome that forces me to reply to anything online (I’m staying away from YouTube).

          But seriously… because I have a huge database of comments written in advance and I choose the most appropriate one to post everytime.

          But seriously… because I’ve stolen a bunch of manuscripts from Alan Moore’s office and I just submit those to TPG.

          But SERIOUSLY this time… I just have an easy time writing these things, poor impulse control and a screwed up priorities. 😛

          So, Evan, gonna join us for the weekly challenge on the forum soon? I hear you got a lot of time to write. 😉

  7. Lance Boone says:

    I’m still lurking around when I can find the time. Soaking in as much valuable information as possible.

    I try to creep the board as well. One thing I noticed, and maybe I’m as blind as a bat, but I don’t see any link to the forum on the comixtribe home page. This might make it difficult for new eyes to find it.


  8. Conner MacDonald says:

    “Looking at the calendar, I’m still pretty low on scripts. Basically, two more weeks. This column lives and dies by your participation, folks. Let’s see some more scripts come in. Let’s make it to the new year!”

    Maybe I should face the red with THE BRAIN DAMAGED DETECTIVE, instead of looking for a critigue on forum.

  9. Lance Boone says:

    I’ve got an 8 page Savage Dragon script that I did a few months back on a lark that I could throw in here.

    Steven could go all Silent Night, Deadly Night on me.

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