TPG Week 49: Graphic Novels & Raising Your Game

| December 2, 2011 | 18 Comments

Hello, and welcome one again to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have Brave One Liam Hayes returning for another go-round. Let’s hope that he doesn’t put us to sleep with the beginning of a graphic novel called


PAGE 1 (Five Panels)

Page 1, Panel 1

We open to a shot of Annabell, and Drowe already inside the Hauknaut (Okay, right off the bat, let me say that Liam also has character and place descriptions WITHIN this script, but on a SEPARATE PAGE. This, friends, is perfectly acceptable. Doing it that way doesn’t get in the way of the panel descriptions, which means you don’t have to slow down to describe the characters. You can get right to the point. Okay, let’s continue.). We’re inside a massive flesh cavern below the surface of the earth. Look almost like a concert hall, with one side being a wide open space, and the other an elevated section, almost like a stage. At the back of the stage is the Hauknaut’s massive heart. Two arteries are attached directly to it’s top, and feed into the roof of the cavern. Drowe and Annabell are tied to two flesh pillars, by thin fleshy rope. They’re on the stage and positioned so that they face the heart. Master stands in front of them, the heart behind him, with his arms up. In the more open area, opposing the stage, is a massive grouping of flesh fanatics. They cheer and roar, whilst facing the stage. (Okay. Three things. The first is that I’m seeing Matrix: Revolutions in my head. You know the scene I’m talking about. Right before the dance/orgy. Second, from a content point of view, Liam doesn’t seem to stretch much. His last script had elements of the same opening. I also edit Liam privately, and I have seen some of his worlds. I’d love to see him strike a different note. Third, where is the light source? That’s the only thing I’m not getting.)


MASTER: WE STAND BETWEEN AGES! THE DIVINE YAWN WILL SOON BREAK!! (I’m NOT going to assume you meant dawn instead of yawn. This, Liam, I’m really going to need you to clarify. And where is the cheering and roaring? I’m not hearing any cheering and roaring going on.)

Page 1, Panel 2

On Master. His arms still up. His expression of joy. (Okay, Liam. You’ve been doing this long enough. I’m happy that you’re thinking of expressions, because the artist is going to need that info. What I want you to work on now is making complete sentences out of the expression pieces. Blend them with other sentences. You could have easily made this into one sentence, two at the most.)


MASTER: FOR WHEN THE HAUKNAUT WAKES, THE WORLD WILL BE TORN AND SPLIT. (Again, from a content perspective, this is a very familiar note.)

Page 1, Panel 3

Angle the camera so that we’re looking over the heads of the front members of the crowd. Master is now pointing forwards. His expression of a large grin.

The crowd cheer. (I didn’t easily understand the panel description. I got it, but it could be cleaner. Who’d like to take a crack at it?)

SPEAKER: AND PARADISE WILL SPEW FORTH FROM THE DIVINE YAWN!! (Now I see that you didn’t make a mistake between dawn and yawn. What I’m going to hit you on, though, is the complete dialogue sentence in the panel before this. You don’t want a hard stop of a period there. You either want an ellipsis or an em-dash, because you’re continuing what was said there in this panel.)

Page 1, Panel 4

On Drowe and Annabell. Drowe turns to her. His expression of worry. Annabell looks at him with shock. (Moving panel. That was an easy catch, though.)


DROWE: WHEN THEY PUT US IN DIFFERENT ROOMS I THOUGHT.. (Okay! This is another gimme, and it’s up for grabs. What’s wrong with this balloon right here, and why should it be corrected? Know what? No. This isn’t up for grabs. Eli Ivory. You around? Let’s fix this, if you are.)



Page 1, Panel 5

On Master. His expression of anger. He points past the camera at Drowe and Annabell.

MASTER: SILENCE, UNCLEAN! (Hey! I didn’t know Daredevil was in this comic! Nice to see you could make it, Mr. Murdock. Why do I say this? Because there is supposed to be roaring and cheering going on. How does the Master hear them through all of that?)

PAGE 2 (Five Panels)

Page 2, Panel 1

Angle the camera so that we’re between Annabell and Drowe, looking at Master. He takes his bone dagger from his belt. (Moving panel. Either he has it or he doesn’t. If he has it, what is he doing with it? If he doesn’t, does that mean he’s grabbing it? Make up your artist’s mind.)


Page 2, Panel 2

On Master. He holds up the dagger. A maddened look on his face.

MASTER: BEFORE WE BATHE IN PARADISAL LIPID, YOU MUST BE JUDGED BY THE DIVINE THUMP!! (I’m going to say something that’s going to shock many of you. However, you can always help me to fix my shortcoming. Christmas IS around the corner. I’ve never read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I said it was shocking! Anyway, for partial redemption, I did manage to see the movie. Note, I said it was partial. Anyway, when John Malkovitch was giving the sermon, I couldn’t help but laugh because it was both funny and satirical. I’m getting some of that here. I’m having a difficult time taking this seriously right now because the dialogue is partially overblown, and you have someone talking about bathing in fat and being judged by a thump, let alone talk of a yawn. If you’re meaning for this to be satirical, then you’re failing because it isn’t funny. If you’re meaning for this to be serious, I can’t, because what’s being said is ridiculous. Basically, I’ve just gone the long way around to say a conversation would be needed to talk about the intent of this piece, so that a proper rewrite can be done.)

Page 2, Panel 3

Big Panel. Angle the camera, so that we’re at the back of the large flesh cavern, behind the crowd. We’re looking over their heads at the stage. Master is just stood their, dagger in hand, between the tied Drowe and Annabell. (Okay, Liam. You want to be a writer? You have to watch your spelling, and know the correct usage of certain words. There and their are not hard to learn.)


Page 2, Panel 4

On Master. His hand on his ear as if trying to listen to something. Angle the camera so that we’re looking over his shoulder at Annabell and Drowe. Both stare at Master with shocked expressions.


Page 2, Panel 5

On Master. He directs his dagger at the camera. A large grin on his face.


Okay. I’m bored. The bad part is that this has gone by pretty quickly. Fast reads are not your friend. I’m not intrigued, I’m not amused, and I’m not interested. This does not bode well as a start.

On the flip side of that, this IS supposed to be a graphic novel, which means you can afford to go a little slower. This isn’t dragging. This is the opposite. It just isn’t interesting me. I’m hoping this can be reversed in the next few pages.

PAGE 3 (Five Panels)

Page 3, Panel 1

Cut back to an earlier part of the story. Early morning. We have an establishing shot of the top of an old wooden building. It’s the town hall of a medieval settlement, so quite large. We’re focused on the roof, so the ground and the sides of the building are off-panel. Hunter sits up on the roof, on a crooked out wooden chair, smoking a pipe. He’s at the edge of the building, facing out with an expression of boredom. There’s a trapdoor in the centre of the roof. Drowe is visible climbing out of it. (Okay, we’ve got a Where, we’ve got a When, we’ve got a Who, we’ve got a What. I’m mostly satisfied with this. I just don’t know where the camera is. We get that, and I’ll be satisfied.)


Page 3, Panel 2

Angle the camera so that we have Hunter in the foreground and Drowe walking towards him in the background. Drowe looks towards Hunter with a tired expression, leaving the trapdoor behind him open. Hunter takes the pipe out of his mouth. A bored expression remaining.




Page 3, Panel 3

A shot of Hunter getting up from the stool. He takes the pipe with him. Drowe, now stood to his side, shoots him an apathetic smile.

DROWE: YUP. (See this? I’m not liking this. Why? Because it doesn’t seem to fit within what has already been established. Find and maintain the voice of your world.)


Page 3, Panel 4

A shot of Drowe sitting down on the stool. Hunter is shown walking away towards the open trapdoor.





PAGE 3, Panel 5

Close on Drowe, sat on the stool. His expression of contempt as he looks down in front of himself, at what’s over the edge of the building, on the ground.


PAGE 4 (Five Panels)

PAGE 4, Panel 1

Whole page panel. Angle the camera so that we’re on the ground a few metres away from the town hall, looking up at Drowe. We face the town halls’ front. Two massive doors make up the entrance. They’ve been chained shut from the inside. The windows have been bordered up with furniture (Wooden tables, chairs ect.). An old wooden sign, hanging half off, has the words å…¸own Hallcarved into it. We see a massive group of Flesh Fanatics surroundings the building. Some banging mindlessly against its side and the entrance. Most wearing their robes, albeit now torn and dirtied, and some naked. Drowe is seen still sat, now yawning. Make it look as if we’re stood amongst the Flesh Fanatics.


Okay, a couple of things. First, you’re asking for five panels at the top, but you only have one panel here. Consistency. Second, you’re putting in things that have absolutely no bearing on what can be seen. Those items are in blue. I mean, really, how is the artist supposed to draw that? Third, if all of this is going on, where’s the sound? I’m not even going to ask much about why these people are there in the first place. I suppose you’ll get there eventually. Not before we get to the end, though.

PAGE 5 (Five Panels)

PAGE 5, Panel 1

Cut to inside the town hall. We’re in what would have been the main meeting room, so it’s fairly big. Two wooden doors at the back serve as an entrance. It’s now full of women, men and children, all townsfolk, either lying on blankets or holding each other in fear. The room darkened slightly by the occluded windows, but lit by wax candles. At the front of the room is Mayor Gabriel. He stands on a small wooden stage with the people facing him. Gerald and Morris are visible in the crowd somewhere. Doesn’t really matter where. Gabriel’s arm are up as if attempt to call attention to himself.

GABRIEL: PEOPLE, PEOPLE! I IMPORE YOU TO LISTEN. (Spelling. This is going to be important. If you’re going to write your dialogue in all caps, then make sure you turn your spellcheck to be able to do it for all caps.)

GABRIEL: AS YOU KNOW, THE HAUKNAUT, THE BEING THAT LIVES BENEATH THE SURFACE OF THE WORLD IS WAKING. THIS ISN’T THE TIME FOR PANIC– (Gah! We’ve been butler/maided, in the most clumsy and obvious way. That’s terrible, Liam. I thought better of you. Then, there’s the comma-fail.)

PAGE 5, Panel 2

On Gerald. His expression of contempt.

GERALD: THAT’S BULLSHIT, GABRIEL! AND YOU KNOW IT!! (You don’t want that first exclamation mark there. What you really want is a comma.)


PAGE 5, Panel 3

On Gabriel. His expression of annoyance.

GABRIEL: THE CREATURES ARE OBVIOUSLY SOME KIND OF DEFENCE MECHANISM, SIMILAR TO WHEN YOUR BODY FIGHTS ILLNESS. (This is obviously some kind of exposition. The terrible part is that it’s obvious. If it weren’t obvious, it wouldn’t be terrible. That’s the only obvious thing here. You don’t show them having a high level of technological sophistication, so I’m not sure this kind of leap can be made by your characters. Next thing you know, they’re going to start talking about anti-bodies and white blood cells.)

PAGE 5, Panel 4

Back on Gerald. His expression of contempt, he points past the camera at Gabriel.

GERALD: AND YOUR SAYING WE’RE AN ILLNESS?! (Okay. Besides there and their , you also have to learn the difference between your and you’re. These things are important.)

PAGE 5, Panel 5

On Gabriel. He shrugs. Angle the camera over his head, on the people.



And really, that’s where I’m going to stop. Let’s run it down.

Format: Flawless victory!

Panel Descriptions: Pretty good! There were a couple that were a little confusing, but overall, they were pretty good. I want you to start working raising your storytelling level, though. Fewer sentences, and not just tacking on the expressions in a single sentence all by themselves. Combine.

Pacing: Because of the minimal dialogue, this is going to be a fast read. If you want to slow it down, add more words. However, they have to be pertinent to the story. If they aren’t, they’re just fluff. Fluff will always be a bad thing.

Now, couple the minimal dialogue with the minimal action, and you have a fast, boring opening. Not good. As a graphic novel, you have some room to generate interest in the story. You’re squandering it. Slow it down, and add pertinent dialogue.

Dialogue: Disappointing. I wasn’t expecting something this bad coming from you, Liam. If I were editing this, I’d consider the dialogue to be placeholders only, until we can get something with a lot more punch and a lot less expository in there. What you have here is bad, and I find that disappointing because you’re a better writer than that.

Content: Totally boring. You didn’t get even slightly interesting until the splash page on P4. That reminded me of the Dawn of the Dead remake, to be honest. So, I was reminded of two different movies here. That’s neither good nor bad. What’s bad is that even that splash wasn’t interesting. As a reader, because I couldn’t take the dialogue seriously, I found it extremely hard to connect with the story. I almost expected more faux-satire to come out. I’m glad we didn’t get any, but you see where I’m going with this.

Editorially, this needs a lot of work. I’d need to know where you wanted this to go, what the objectives are, so that I can make sure you stay on the right road with the story. Right now, because I can’t see it, I don’t know if you’re hitting where you want to be. I don’t think you are, though. Not with the dialogue you have here.

Also, you’re in a position now where you need to start learning to help yourself. That means upping your game by creating more complex sentence structures instead of the simple sentences you’ve been using, and working harder to make sure your talk of character expressions are more organically integrated with the rest of the panel descriptions, instead of just sticking out there like a sore thumb.

You also need to learn the difference between certain words. You’re a writer, and words are the writer’s province. Learning these differences will only help you in the long run.

And that’s everything I have to say about the script.

I’m still low on scripts, folks. I’d LOVE to have a buffer of about two months, if at all possible. That would be awesome. I said it before, and I’ll say it again: I literally cannot do this without you. Send in the scripts, and we can all learn. Come on you lurkers! You know you want to throw your hat in the ring! It’s exhilirating! And it also accelerates your learning!

And that’s all I have. 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 (18)

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  1. Liam Hayes says:

    Cheers for the edit, Steve.

    “If you’re meaning for this to be satirical, then you’re failing because it isn’t funny. If you’re meaning for this to be serious, I can’t, because what’s being said is ridiculous.”

    I was going for outright Absurdity. The flesh fanatics live inside a giant underground creature, and so their religion is based around bodily functions.

    “(Okay, Liam. You want to be a writer? You have to watch your spelling, and know the correct usage of certain words. There and their are not hard to learn.)”

    *Slaps self in head* School-boy error. No idea how I missed that.

    Time for some re-writing.

  2. Lisa Wilson says:

    Liam: In terms of absurdity you should maybe find a way to show a contrast between this and something ‘normal’ (if possible, I sadly am offering advice without a clear constructive solution).
    The reader won’t know to think it’s absurd if it’s all that there is to know. It could be assumed that this is the fictional world you’re constructing and that this is the norm. If you give a contrasting POV from a character that sees this all as absurd it might help convey the message clearer. But throwing in a character just for that, or changing up the situation might feel too forced (again, probably not helping).

    And I hadn’t even thought of putting character descriptions and location layouts separate from the panels (It was getting a little chunky and confusing). So that little note has helped very much. Good work and keep chugging.

    Steven: Oh no! I’ve been found *Lurks* I guess I should stop lurking and try to contribute if I can.
    I am in the process of finding some balls to send a script in. After editing it every time you post another proving grounds to try and remove my ridiculous mistakes, it’s been delayed, delayed and delayed some more. I’m terrible at accepting criticism and need to learn before I break down when someone tells me I’ve used the wrong ‘their’ and having a fluff party (that is not supposed to sound as terrible as it does)

    It will be soon! Hoping for a pre-christmas send in. And I always appreciate seeing the proving grounds and hope more people step up. Until then, I shall lurk.


    • Liam Hayes says:

      Hi Lisa,

      Thanks for the advice. Think I’ll start the story on the surface, like you said, to show the ‘normal’ aspects of the world first before delving into the absurd.

      “And I hadn’t even thought of putting character descriptions and location layouts separate from the panels (It was getting a little chunky and confusing). So that little note has helped very much. Good work and keep chugging.”

      It definitively helps, especially with first drafts, as you can directly reference items without bogging down the panels descriptions and distracting the artist from camera angles and character expressions ect.

      “I am in the process of finding some balls to send a script in. After editing it every time you post another proving grounds to try and remove my ridiculous mistakes, it’s been delayed, delayed and delayed some more. I’m terrible at accepting criticism and need to learn before I break down when someone tells me I’ve used the wrong ‘their’ and having a fluff party (that is not supposed to sound as terrible as it does)”

      Think of criticism as and opportunity to improve and learn something.
      With this mindset, criticism becomes less daunting. I can honestly say I’ve learned more from Steven’s edits than anything else. (Just don’t look him in the eyes, unless you have back-up emergency Scotch at hand to sedate the bugger).


      • And I’m still waiting for my Scotch… I don’t want anything less than 16 years, single malt, either! 🙂

      • Lisa Wilson says:

        I’m going to try my best to be open to the criticism. Despite not liking it I need the help, and there’s no point in trying to create anything if I can’t take the advice of those keeping me from either 1)making a fool of myself or b)making a fool of myself.

        Learning is key, and the next step, though hard right now, won’t be in time and is very important.

        Haha, I’ll keep the scotch in hand, uncorked and ready.

    • Hello Lisa!

      Glad to finally meet one of the lurkers! As you probably noticed while scurrying in the shadows, we’re a merry bunch of comic devotees here, always eager to lend each other a helping hand/pen/broadsword.

      “I am in the process of finding some balls to send a script in. After editing it every time you post another proving grounds to try and remove my ridiculous mistakes, it’s been delayed, delayed and delayed some more.”

      Sounds exactly like my story before I finally said “to hell with it!” and sent in what I got. I’d strongly advise you to do the same. Worst thing that can happen? You’ll learn something from your mistakes – in fact, we’ll all learn from those mistakes, the same way you’ve been learning off ours in the last TPGs you’ve read.

      (Just make sure you don’t have any padding. Steven gets really angry when there’s padding and then he can’t appreciate anything he sees at the library anymore.)

      You can also join us on the ComixTrine forums ( where some of us have taken to exchanging ideas on our ongoing projects. That way, you might feel like you’re slowly entering the waters instead of dive-bombing in.

      Anyway, welcome to the light and I hope to see you around thse parts again!

    • Lisa! Welcome from out of the shadows. I don’t think I’m going to let you lurk anymore. Look for a question next week. Yes, I’m somewhat evil, but you’ll be fine. I’ll take it easy on you at first. Don’t worry, they’ll get progressively harder, don’t they, Yannick?

      Also, criticism is how you learn. However, you also have to decide if the criticism is valid. That can be challenging, because you have to step outside of yourself and look at the work objectively. Not everyone can do that.

      However, like Yannick, I urge you to stick around. Interact. We don’t bite. Get things wrong. Learning is getting it wrong, not in getting it right.

      Also, don’t be afraid to give Yannick a hard time. He’s got thick skin. He can take it. Sometimes he even asks for it. 🙂

      • ” Don’t worry, they’ll get progressively harder, don’t they, Yannick?”

        I’m still waiting for real toughies like: “Yannick, according to you, how does Will Eisner’s notion of comics as language stand up to the poly-semiotic grammar of post-mordern sequential auteurs?”

        “Also, don’t be afraid to give Yannick a hard time. He’s got thick skin. He can take it. Sometimes he even asks for it.”

        Like I just did.

        • Lisa Wilson says:

          Stephen: Damn! Foiled again! But I do look forward to it. I can use all the education you can give, though I think I might have slipped into an inescapable rabbit hole gentlemen. Should I be scared? I’m trying for optimism first.

          Yannick: And then you say that… I think I’ll take the easy ones for you Yannick if you don’t mind!

  3. Evan Windsor says:

    “I’ve never read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”


  4. I’m getting an Omega Man vibe from this, but with an absurdist medieval fantasy overlay. Interesting premise…

    Since Steven didn’t call on me for once, I’ll pick my own subject this time: exposition.

    “Gah! We’ve been butler/maided, in the most clumsy and obvious way.”

    Apart from the fact that being “butler/maided” sounds like something discrete gentlemen pay for in exclusive underground clubs, I completely agree with Steven. In what appears to be a simple interaction between the mayor and his charges, we’re suddenly burdened with this huge chunk of exposition. Not only does it break the pacing of the dialogue, but it also pulls us right out of the story.

    Now a good trick to inserting exposition in dialogue is to find characters for whom it’s plausible that the information is both unknown and required. That means these people will have to ask the questions we might have as readers and it won’t seem as jarring as the info-dump you have here.

    For example, let’s imagine the town wants to send out a scouting party to assess the situation with the flesh-fetish folks (FFFs). The scouting party consists of two people: an experienced scout and a rookie on his first outing. Of course, it’s in the best interest of the old guy to tell the new one everything he needs to know to survive out there. The rookie might even be scared out of his wits, prompting the other to alleviate his fear by giving him some reassuring details.

    Remember: there’s always an in-story function for dialogue and a structural function. The in-story function provides plausibility and internal consistence to your world: people interact in a logical way, relevant to their situation, personality and immediate emotions. The structural function provides you as the author a way to advance plot, build characterization and construct the setting. The trick to good dialogue is making sure both functions are adequately fulfilled at the same time. Dialogue with only in-story function and no or weak structural function are entertaining but appear as fluff and padding to the discerning editor. Dialogue with only the structural function and no or feeble in-story function seem lazily constructed, rushed and thrown out there just so the writer can check something off his to-do list. Something like info-dumps. *nudge-nudge*

    Finally, never EVER start a line with “as you know” if you’re going to do exposition. You’re just screaming “INFO-DUMP!” at the top of your lungs when you do that. (

    Apart from that, Liam, good work! You got me interested!

    • See, Lisa (and you other lurkers)! You don’t need me to call on you to have an opinion on something you see. Jump on in! The water’s fine!

      Thanks, Yannick. As always, it’s enlightening.

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