TPG Week 58: Reader Investiture Is Important

| February 3, 2012 | 8 Comments

Hello, and welcome back to the Proving Grounds! This week sees a returning Brave One in Liam Hayes. We’re still trying something a little different here, so let’s see what goes on with Liam’s

Last of the Sunmakers

PAGE 1 (Six Panels)



PAGE 1, Panel 1

We open to a shot of snowy ground somewhere in the frozen wasteland at daytime. We’re zoomed extremely close. The caption has been written into the snow. (This is going to be very hard to show: letters carved out of snow – white on white broadly-stroked letters.)

CAPTION: “WHAT A STRANGE ILLUSION IT IS TO SUPPOSE THAT BEAUTY IS GOODNESS.” – LEO TOLSTOY(Well it’s not really a caption if it’s actually something appearing in the comic world, is it? Which brings up another issue…)

PAGE 1, Panel 2

Same shot. The sun-etched child steps on camera, her foot right on top of the caption, occluding it, and scattering the snow. (Here it is. You’re committing somewhat of a lettering no-no here. When your lettering leads the reader to believe that it’s a thing that exists in the characters’ world, it’s called objectifying . There’s no hard rule against it per se but – in your case here – it does lead to some interesting questions. Who wrote it in the snow (not to mention the obvious joke of *how*)? How would the person who wrote it know of Tolstoy? Does Tolstoy even exist in this world? Why write something in the snow in the first place, especially in the middle of nowhere? In a world where snow is constantly falling, how did something traced in the snow last long enough for the Sun-etched Child (SEC) to stumble upon it? Was it written only a couple minutes before the opening scene? Mind you, none of the answers to these questions are really important, but they do yank you out of the story right from the beginning. Now the panel itself: it’s a moving one and you’re calling for things that can’t be drawn. It’s a close-up shot ( Same shot ) so you won’t see anything else but the SEC’s right foot and that foot’s going to be thrust through the formerly mentioned writing.)


PAGE 1, Panel 3

Pull out so we have a shot of the Sun-etched Child walking towards the camera in the frozen wasteland. A violent blizzard is raging, obscuring our view of anything other than the child. Snow cakes her face and clothes. Her expression of sadness as she fights through the blizzard. Her hands are shackled together with wrist irons carved from bone. The caption is has now been obscured by a foot print left by the Sun-etched child. (No. If the caption is obscured by anything, it’s by the blizzard, since it’s obscuring our view of anything other than the child . And even without the blizzard, I think we’d be too far off to see anything but a trail of displaced snow behind the character.)


PAGE 1, Panel 4

Angle the camera so that we have the Sun-etched Child in the foreground. She falls to her knees with an expression of pain. (Moving panel. But you can show her already on her knees.) Leave a space in the background of the panel. (I like what you did here, helping the artist to reuse the shot in the next panel by reserving some space. Now you just need to tell him what the space will be for so he knows how much to put aside.)


PAGE 1, Panel 5

Same shot. The sun-etched child attempt to climbs to her feet. Her expression of pain. The silhouette of a Suneater appears behind her, holding a bone Katana. His features are obscured by the blizzard. (The Suneater appears in silhouette so of course his features are going to be obscured. What I’m most curious about however is if his face is even in the shot since the angle you seem to suggest is rather low to show the SEC on her knees.)


PAGE 1, Panel 6

From behind the Sun-etched Child. She is now stood and looking back at the camera with shock. (Another way of saying this more elegantly would have been: Suneater POV shot of a shocked, standing Sun-etched Child looking back up at him. Always try to go for the simplest yet most complete formulation for your panel descriptions.)


Okay, I have some problems with this page. First and foremost is the caption. It just doesn’t work. It actively distracts from the page, and the way it is, it will actively take away from the story. That is something you don’t want. If you try to answer any of the questions, you automatically lose the point of the caption, because it then becomes about who wrote it and if it can be seen than being about the caption itself.

The next problem is knowing what can and cannot be drawn. While you can have the caption in the snow, it isn’t going to show up well. Since that’s the case, why do it at all?

Next, you barely pulled out of this being a silent page. And by barely, I mean the skin of your teeth. I’d rather get some more dialogue here, even if it’s just huffing and puffing and possibly the crunching of snow. You have a LOT of real estate here, and you’re not using it wisely. Remember this is a comic book, and there are words that need to be read. Put words in. You’re giving away a great opportunity for worldbuilding.

Even if it’s huffing and puffing, there’s still what the reader gets out of it, and that is emotional investment. Remember, they’re not reading the script. They’re looking at pictures. Want the emotion to come through clearer? Put some dialogue on the page.

The sooner you get readers invested, the more likely they are to stay around. Right now, there’s not much to get them to turn the page.

PAGE 2 (Four Panels)

PAGE 2, Panel 1

Big Panel. A shot of the Suneater striking the Sun-etched Child in the face with his fist. Blood sprays from her nose as she falls backwards to the ground in pain. ( A shot of the Suneater – what kind of shot? Medium? Wide? Tight? Who’s facing us? The Suneater or the SEC? How is it angled? Ground up? From above? Is the SEC falling towards us? Away from us?)


(I’m thinking a SFX for the blow would have been nice here. Maybe a reaction from the SEC too? Something like Uhn! )

PAGE 2, Panel 2

The Sun-etched Child is now on the ground looking up at Suneater with a pain-filled expression. Tears leak from her eyes and blood from her nose. Angle the camera so that we’re looking down over the Suneater’s shoulder as he stands over her. (You need to work on your terminology, Liam. A better and clearer way to say this is Behind the Suneater’s shoulder shot of the Sun-etched Child on the ground. Also try to start you panel descriptions by stating the kind of shot you want instead of waiting for the end to do it.)



PAGE 2, Panel 3

Big Panel. On the Suneater from over the Sun-etched Child’s shoulder, so we’re angled up at him. (You keep complicating things for your artist by stating your shot in such a convoluted way. Behind the Sun-etched Child’s shoulder shot of the Suneater. We know that the SEC is on the ground so you don’t need to say the shot is angled up if it’s a behind-the-shoulder shot.) The Suneater is holding his Katana up, ready to strike down on her.


PAGE 2, Panel 4

Side shot. Big Panel. (You might want to leave a bit of leeway to your artist. He’ll determine if a beat requires a big panel or not. Also there’s no camera distance here.) The sun-etched child is shooting a stream of ice at the Suneater from her mouth. Her expression of strain. The Suneater recoils. (And what’s HIS expression? It’ll play a big part in knowing HOW he recoils.)


(That stream of ice makes no sound at all?)

It’s P2, and you’re close to committing a sin. The sin of not naming a character where a reader can see it. Remember, this is the beginning, and you want to give information as soon as possible. When you name characters, then the readers have that much more information to get them invested. Investiture is the name of the game, Liam. Right now, there’s not much to get people invested. That’s not good.

The good parts are that you have dialogue on this page, and it seems interesting. The bad part is that the blizzard that was hiding him is no longer effectively doing its job. That means that the blizzard is not going to be as deep as it was before, which is going to cause some storytelling confusion.

Things need to be thought through, folks. Just because it seems cool now, does not mean it will necessarily help you down the road. Snow is a great idea. I love snow. I have a story set in the stuff. Don’t follow the thought that if snow is good, a blizzard is better! Or, if rain is good, a torrential downpour is better! More is not always better. Think through what more gets you. In this case, more will get you things that won’t be seen well when you stop to think about it.

PAGE 3 (Five Panels)

PAGE 3, Panel 1

The Suneater falls backwards. His body now frozen solid in his recoiling posture. The Sun-etched Child is no longer shooting ice from her mouth. (Is she even in the panel? You’re not telling me what’s she’s doing anyway, only what she’ NOT doing.) Zoom out slightly. (This is not a movie, Liam! Once again you’re giving your camera instructions at the end of your panel description and you’re being vague about it too! You can’t give the artist relative instructions like zoom out slightly if you didn’t give him any definite starting point in a previous panel.)


PAGE 3, Panel 2

On the Suneater as he lands on the icy ground and shatters into lumps of bloody ice.


PAGE 3, Panel 3

Close on the Sun-etched child as she remains on the ground. Her head tilted up as she looking in the direction of the dead Suneater. (Unless this was taking place on a slope and the Suneater’s remains are on higher ground, she can’t look up to something that’s on the ground.) Her expression blank. Blood still leaking from her nose.


PAGE 3, Panel 4

Zoom out. We’re looking down onto the sun-etched child. She now lays flat, with her head on the ground looking up at us. (So it’s a bird’s eye view of the SEC? Why not come out and say this?) Her expression denoting that she’s about to fade into unconsciousness. (How should the artist show this? Try to avoid describing expressions in such an abstract way. Instead try to describe specific physical aspects. In this case, the SEC would have her mouth hang agape and her eyes rolling back under lowered lids, showing their whites.)


PAGE 3, Panel 5

Zoom out further. (Higher bird’s eye view.) We see the sun-etched child laying unconscious amongst a vast blizzard. The frozen bloody lumps of Suneater just below her. (How zoomed out are we here? Can we see her closed eyes at this distance? How about the Suneater lumps? This isn’t film: there are some details that are lost when drawing smaller versions of some things.)


For all intents and purposes, this is a silent page. The good part is that this isn’t the first page. The bad part is that it’s a silent page. A set of captions here could really help drive home what’s going on here.

Investiture. I’m not feeling invested, Liam. What I’m feeling is boredom, which is sad, because we just had a smattering of action.

Here’s what I don’t get, though. Anyone remember Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends? Remember when Iceman would ice up? He’d form a block of ice, starting at his feet, and go up just over his head, and then break out of it. I always loved that, and thought Iceman should be a lot stronger than he is, but I digress. I sincerely believe that the same thing should have happened here. This should have been an Iceman thing, with ice forming over and around the guy, instead of a T2 thing, with the guy freezing from being immersed in liquid nitrogen (or whatever it was).

Next, if this is a blizzard and there was treking through snow, I could have sworn that snow was something of a cushion. Why the break-y, crumbly going on when he hits? It makes no sense because you didn’t think it through. Thinking it through is important.

So, you have a freezing that I don’t believe is depicted well, and a shattering that is unlikely to happen, given the circumstances.

Think it through.

PAGE 4 (Five Panels)

PAGE 4, Panel 1

Same shot. Cut forward to night. (There’s no need to cut forward . Once again – everybody now! – this isn’t a movie. Just say It’s night and be done with it.) The Sun-etched Child is still unconscious but the blizzard has ceased.


(This is shaping up to be a VERY fast read. I’m already on page 4 and I’ve read a grand total of 34 words – and I’m counting the SFX. I’ve read many comics that put 34 words inside a single panel.)

PAGE 4, Panel 2

Angle the camera so that we have the Sun-etched Child in the foreground. In the background, we see two approaching Suneaters. (Convoluted. This is a medium shot of the SEC with two people approaching from the background.) They run. The one on the left is called Suneater 1, the other Suneater 2. Both have bone Katanas in hand.


SUNEATER 1: THERE! I SEE THE CHILD! (Yet it’s nighttimes and no one’s carrying torches. And how big a wasteland are we talking about? Because they found a child laying in the snow – not to mention very probably covered in a layer of the stuff because of the blizzard – at night with no light source and the tracks covered in freshly fallen snow. Talk about luck!)


PAGE 4, Panel 3

On Suneater 1 and 2 as they stand over her. (Camera angle and distance? Where’s everyone placed?) Suneater 2 looks at the lumps of dead Suneater a few feet away from the Sun-etched Child. Suneater 1 looks down at the Child.


PAGE 4, Panel 4

On Suneater 2 as he lifts up his Katana to strike down at the off-panel Sun-etched Child. (You’re starting to make me hate the word on . Camera angle and distance? We don’t even know if he’s facing us, back to us, a side shot? What about his expression?) Suneater 1 is off-panel.

SUNEATER 2: PAYMENT WITH BLOOD!! (One exclamation mark is more than enough.)

PAGE 4, Panel 5

Side shot. (This is far from being enough for the action you’re asking your artist to depict. You know what’s missing; I’ve been harping on about it from the start.) Suneater 1 catches Suneater 2’s arm to stop him from striking down.

SUNEATER 1: NO! THAT WILL DISPLEASE THE SUNTOUCHED. (Page 4 and the first character to be named is one that’s not even on the page.)


Let’s take this in order, and show how this is forced and doesn’t make any sense at all.

You’ve got the child and her would-be killer in a blizzard. She kills her assailant, and then passes out. I’m good with all of that. Now, you have to think through your consequences.

The blizzard is going to leave the child with a layer of snow over top of her. That snow will provide some concealment, so the other two jerkholes looking for her probably won’t find her. Since the snow will cover her, it will also cover the first jerkhole that was trying to kill her.

Since we don’t know how long the blizzard had been going on, I can have the readers assume that this took place in the middle of it, which means everything should be covered in a pretty deep layer of it. Blizzard conditions, started in the day, ending sometime after the sun sets…let’s be on the generous (for you) side and say three inches fell. Unless she wakes up on her own, she won’t be found out until the spring thaw. But let’s continue.

I have no idea what the capabilities of the jerkholes are. Are they the best trackers in the universe? Forget that. Are they they best trackers in twelve systems? How about just this system? Because unless they have either a high level of technology (they don’t) or special powers (physical or mental), there is no way they can find the girl, under three (more than likely more) inches of snow, in the wilderness, at night.

This is what happens when you don’t think things through. You try to force the story to be what you want it to be, instead of following the dictates of logic and letting logic guide the story to where it needs to go.

Next, we have dialogue that finally tells us something about someone in relation to the story. It only took four pages (and thirty seconds) to get there. Possibly not even thirty seconds. That’s me, giving you the benefit of the doubt once more. The lack of dialogue is making this an extremely fast read, which is a problem. You don’t have time to be mysterious. Don’t let who’s this and what are they doing be questions that you rely on to keep the audience turning pages. Get them interested and invested in the story so that they have no choice but to turn the page. Right now, the only way they’re turning pages is to close the book. It’s P4, and no one is named, and you haven’t captured the attention of anyone. This is going back on the shelf.

PAGE 5 (Five Panels)

PAGE 5, Panel 1

Big Panel. Establishing shot of the Sun city. Early morning. (You described the city in details in an accompanying document so it’s all good. Still a caption telling us where we are would be nice.)


PAGE 5, Panel 2

Cut to the inside of the city. A small open area bordered by buildings. A bone stage is visible in the centre. Upon it, is Tibhan, wearing nothing but a ragged pair of trousers. He looks to be in pain and his body is covered with whip lashes, cuts and bruises. He stands. His hands are in manacles. Beside him stands two Suneaters. One holding up a scroll of parchment and staring at it. The other just stands by holding a large bone machete. In front of the stage is a large crowd of people of the sun. They are all holding ice chunks ready to pelt at Tibhan. (You’re asking for a lot of things to be shown here. This is going to be a wide shot so I don’t think we’ll be able to see what members of the audience are holding from that distance.) The Suneater with the parchment is called Speaker. (Or you could have just said The Speaker is holding a parchment scroll up there and be done with it.)


SPEAKER: WE, CONSERVATORS OF BEAUTY, KEEPERS OF THE SUNSHARD, FIND THIS WARMBLOOD GUILTY OF HAVING EXISTED. (The problem when you’re doing dialogue this exaggeratingly solemn is that you run the risk of making it sound funny. Right now I’m not sure what the tone of the story is anymore: is it a parody of Edgar Rice Burroughs or should it be taken at face value?)

PAGE 5, Panel 3

Close on speaker. (what’s the guy doing and what’s his expression?)

SPEAKER: HIS ATTEMPT TO GAIN ENTRANCE TO THE CITY, AND REPEATED ATTEMPTS AT ESCAPING CUSTODY, ONLY VALIDATES THE HERESY THAT PULSES IN HIS VEINS! (So the right thing for him to do would have been to endure his captivity and peacefully await his execution? That’s oblivious in a very silly way and it does nothing to dispel whether this is serious or not – quite to the contrary.)

PAGE 5, Panel 4

On the crowd. Their expressions of anger as they hold up the ice shards ready to pelt at Tibhan. (NOW’s the time to mention the ice shards.)

ONE MEMBER OF THE CROWD: FUCKING WARMBLOOD FUCK! (Whoa! And your graphic novel just changed sections in the Diamond catalogue! Careful about using those sensitive words! Not to mention that it’s horribly jarring compared to the tone of the rest of the dialogue.)

PAGE 5, Panel 5

Close on Speaker. He points off-panel towards Tibhan. (Which way is that?)




Pacing. That’s the entire problem here. You’ve given information to the reader, but not the information they’re looking for.


The problem with fantasy lands is that you have SO much worldbuilding to do, and have SO much work to accomplish in order to make sure the reader is up to speed that you don’t have much time for anything else. Here’s what a reader knows:


-there are ice people who hate warmth, and there are sun people.

-some guy is gonna get killed by the ice people for being warm.


Here’s what the reader doesn’t know:


-no one described as a sun eater in this script has been called that where a reader can see it.

-the sun etched child is unexplained.

-why the warm guy tried to gain entrance to an ice city

-how he got caught

-what this has to do with anything at all

-why the hell they’re reading this far


How can you fix the pacing? By adding Dialogue. Remember, pacing is how fast or slow a reader moves through a story, and that is dependent upon the number of scenes in a book, the number of pages per scene, the number of panels per page, and the number of words per panel. YOU control all of that. If you give pertinent, interesting, crucial information, then the reader will continue to turn pages and you’ll continue to tell your story. Right now, you aren’t doing that.


You also need to give the reader a frame of reference. There isn’t one here, and its P5. This, Liam, is terrible.

PAGE 6 (Six Panels)



PAGE 6, Panel 1

Big Panel. Close on Tibhan. His expression of contempt.


TIBHAN: I AM THE LAST OF THE SUNMAKERS. (OK there’s one thing you have GOT to stop doing and that’s splitting all your dialogue up in different speech balloons. It’s not because someone utters a second sentence that it warrants its own balloon. You change balloons only when the speaker switches from one train of thought to another or to put some emphasis on a line. Since there have been no train-of-thought switching yet, almost ALL of your characters have been doing these Shatner-style dramatic hiccups nearly every time they speak. The end result is that this device is now powerless to add any effect to your dialogue since it’s diluted so much. This is something I’ve seen you do time and again in other pieces.)

PAGE 6, Panel 2

Over the top of Tibhan’s head, on the crowd. They face him with readied stones and angered expressions. (Do we even see Tibhan in this panel? I can’t really say because of the way you described the camera angle. If he’s not on panel, his dialogue lines have to be OP. If he is on panel, make it clear.)


TIBHAN: PLEASE… ELSE EVERYTHING IS LOST! (Where’s his contempt now? His attitude just did a 180 from one panel to the next.)

PAGE 6, Panel 3

On Speaker. He holds the parchment down by his side.


SPEAKER: CAST YOUR HATRED! (THIS is an example of a GOOD reason to split you dialogue. The first line is some kind of amen / so say we all invocation whereas the second one is an order given to the crowd.)

PAGE 6, Panel 4

ON SOME OF THE CROWD. (This is vague. Too vague to be of use, really.) THEY THROW THE ICE SHARDS AT TIBHAN (OFF-PANEL). (But where is he in relation to them? That would tell us which way they’re facing.)


We’re six pages in, and I feel like I’m still waiting for the story to start. People are talking, but it’s almost meaningless jibba-jabba. (Just channelled my inner Mr. T for a moment there.)

Remember that dialogue serves two purposes: to move the plot and to reveal character. You’re moving the plot some, but I’m not getting much character revelation. I’m not getting much of anything.

I once read a book called Cryptonomicon. VERY entertaining book, but VERY difficult to get through. I tried 3 times to get to the end of it, getting 300 pages (!) in, and then putting it down. It wasn’t that the book wasn’t entertaining (I recommend reading it to anyone—look it up!), its just that the story didn’t seem to MOVE. The timeline was broken between the past and the present, and neither story in either timeline seemed to move forward, for 300 pages! THAT is what I’m feeling here, except this isn’t as enjoyable as Cryptonomicon.

This needs a total and complete rewrite, because I’m not invested. I’m more invested in getting to the end so I can stop than I am in the story. Why? Because it’s P6, and there is no hint of a story yet to be seen.

That’s too long. You don’t have that kind of time.

PAGE 7 (Six Panels)



PAGE 7, Panel 1

On Tibhan as he’s hit in the face with one of the ice shards. His face erupts into bleeding. Some of the other ice shards miss. Tibhan’s expression of pain.


PAGE 7, Panel 2

On one member of the crowd. He launches an ice shard. His expression of anger.


PAGE 7, Panel 3

On Tibhan. The ice shard hits him in the top of the head and cuts his forehead. He falls backwards in pain.


PAGE 7, Panel 4

Close on Tibhan as he hits the floor of the stage. (From above? From the side? Does he fall on his back, On his side? If so, which side?) Blood pouring from the cuts on his face. He’s now unconscious.


PAGE 7, Panel 5

Static black panel.


Okay, you called for six panels up top, but only used five. Of those five panels, you only needed three. So, not only are you uninteresting, you’re padding, which means you’re drawing out the pain you’re putting your readers through.

What is the purpose of this scene? What’s SO important about this scene that it needs to be here, now, instead of placed someplace else? What is it about this scene that is telling the reader anything? What about this scene is moving the plot along?

Know what? I have leeches around here, somewhere.

Okay, I’m going to stop here. There are two more pages, but the reader isn’t going to get that far. The scene switches, it might have been interesting, but really, it’s far too late for that now.

Let’s run it down.

Format: Flawless victory!

Panel Descriptions: You’ve been doing this long enough now, Liam, to start to up your game. You’re convoluted in some of your descriptions, and some of them are weaker than others. I like that you’re loose enough to give the artist enough room to call his own angle, but sometimes you’re too loose. Let the artist know what you’re seeing in your head.

Also, you need to know not only what can be drawn, but what should be drawn, as well. That caption in the first panel is severely out of place as an object within the panel itself. You tried to get fancy, but instead you entered a swamp and did a leech mating call, because you were just asking for a bloodletting.

This is what happens when you don’t think things through.

Pacing: Terrible. There is no other word for it. Absolutely terrible. You did nothing worthy of reading in seven pages. You failed to capture my attention, because you failed to keep me interested. This moved both way too fast and way too slowly, at the same time. Too fast because there are precious few words to read in the first three pages, and too slowly because nothing of interest happens in seven whole pages—the first seven pages. That’s terrible, and I’d be remiss if I called it anything but.

Dialogue: Somewhat overblown, what little there is of it. Not enough to capture attention, not enough to make a reader want to know more. Readable? Generally. I’m not clawing my eyes out and begging for the pain to stop. Is it doing its job? No. The dialogue is NOT doing its job. I don’t know much more from reading the dialogue than I could glean from looking at the pictures. That is where the real crime of this dialogue lies. It doesn’t add much to the story, and it should.

And dropping the f-bombs, I have no problem with. However, it might push you into a different section of the Diamond catalogue (if you were to be so lucky) or behind the counter/taped up with a Do Not Open In Store sign if it were to make it to market. Something you have to be cognizant of.

Content: As a reader, I’m not invested at all. As a matter of fact, you seemed to want to be actively wanting me to go the other way and NOT be invested in any of these characters.

I’m seeing a recurring thing with you, as well. You have a thing for fantasy landscapes, and that’s cool. There isn’t enough fantasy in comics. At the same time, though, you have to take the reader along with you. Comics aren’t novels. You have to do more work in a comic to make sure the reader is up to speed. You didn’t do that here. As a reader, I’m lost. I hate being lost, especially if I’m not being entertained. This, Liam, is not entertaining.

Editorially, this needs a complete rewrite. If I were editing this, I’d tell you to start again from scratch, telling me exactly what it was you wanted to accomplish, and we could then come up with a plan to get there. This, my friend, is rubbish. The only good thing about it is that you’ve gotten it out, so now the real work can begin.

And that’s all I have for this week. Check the calendar to see who’s up 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 (8)

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  1. Liam Hayes says:

    Thank you for the edit, Steven!

    I wasn’t expecting so many leeches.
    It’s a leech farm!

    Perhaps I started the story a bit too late?

    One more thing; how do I make use a profile picture for these comments?

    • will get you a profile pic.

      As for when you started the story, I can’t tell you if it is too late, too early, or just right. All I know is that you didn’t bring the readers along with you. You could have done that with a narrator. Then it might have been more interesting. Maybe. Possibly. But what you have now, isn’t.

  2. Yannick Morin says:

    Liam, I know you’re an avid gamer like me so you’ll understand if I use some games to illustrate my point.

    Last week, a friend of mine lent me Skyrim. I had hear a lot of good about it and I was eager to play. I was thirsty for playing through a good story and discovering enchanting vistas. I played for a whole day – that’s like I like to break in thoses suckers – and I didn’t touch it since then. I hated it. It’s been gathering dust on my coffee table, waiting for my friend to get back from his trip. Do you know why I hated it? Because it felt like a chore. I didn’t feel like I was playing a game as much as I was lost in a foreign country with no papers, luggage or even a basic grasp of the language. The game just drops you into an alien landscape with only the barest explanation about context. If you want to have any inkling about what’s going on, you need to sit back and let glass-eyed NPCs tell you stories while you nod off. After a day of traversing empty forests, listening to random vilagers dumping useless info all over the place and being ironicly assaulted by basic concepts no one cared to explain, I’d had my fill and turned it off.

    Now compare this with a game like Fallout 3. The setting is still alien yet strangely familiar. The situation is explained to you organically as you progress through the game. World-building is scattered around the world insted of force-fed to you. I’ve completed it, the basic game as well as all the expansions. I’d do it again too.

    Now to come back round to your script: it’s like Skyrim. It’s too much strangeness too fast with only the slightest tidbit of information you can somewhat extract from what little dialogue you have. The only difference is that you don’t have the same unwieldy and sleep-inducing info-dumps.

    The end result is that the reader spends so much energy just trying to make sense of the setting that he doesn’t have any left for caring about the plot or the characters. This is not a video game: there are no in-game books to collect. This is not a novel: you don’t have the space for launching into Tolkien-length prologues. This is not a role-playing game supplement: there are no side-bars to give out optional info.

    Be like Fallout 3: grab us right at the start and fling us into action. Explain things as we run beside you along your plot. Stick to the essential: who are these people, why are they trying to kill us and where the hell are we going? The same way we’d rather play a game than look at it unfold, in a comic we want to read a story instead of studying a new culture.

    You have an astounding knack for world-building and an imagination that knows few bounds. The merest of your tweets is an extravagant buffet of refined words and delicate wit. Thus I have the strongest certitude that you could write the next best-selling fantasy epic on the comic market if you’d just tell us a story first and show us your work second.

    Oh and I couldn’t play a Dwarf in Skyrim and that just wont do.

    • Liam Hayes says:

      Hey, Yannick.

      Thanks for the thoughts!

      My last round in the proving swamp, I got criticized on having too much back story and exposition. But I may have gone the other way with this script and put in too little. I’ll get there in the end!

      “Last week, a friend of mine lent me Skyrim. I had hear a lot of good about it and I was eager to play. I was thirsty for playing through a good story and discovering enchanting vistas. I played for a whole day – that’s like I like to break in thoses suckers – and I didn’t touch it since then. I hated it. It’s been gathering dust on my coffee table, waiting for my friend to get back from his trip. Do you know why I hated it? Because it felt like a chore. I didn’t feel like I was playing a game as much as I was lost in a foreign country with no papers, luggage or even a basic grasp of the language. The game just drops you into an alien landscape with only the barest explanation about context. If you want to have any inkling about what’s going on, you need to sit back and let glass-eyed NPCs tell you stories while you nod off. After a day of traversing empty forests, listening to random vilagers dumping useless info all over the place and being ironicly assaulted by basic concepts no one cared to explain, I’d had my fill and turned it off.”

      I can see where the alienation would be a problem. I’m a massive elder scrolls fanboy, so I felt right at home. Seriously, I’ve played every elder scrolls game and read nearly every book within them. Ask me anything about the lore and I bet I can answer it. Ich bin ein nerd!

      “Oh and I couldn’t play a Dwarf in Skyrim and that just wont do.”

      If you haven’t already played it, I recommend Dragon Age: Origins. You can be a dwarf!

      Thanks again!
      Onwards to the next draft!

      • Yannick Morin says:

        “My last round in the proving swamp, I got criticized on having too much back story and exposition. But I may have gone the other way with this script and put in too little. I’ll get there in the end!”

        I don’t think it’s as much a question of HOW MUCH exposition you put in as HOW you put it in. The best writers are able to cram volumes worth of info down our throats and we don’t feel a thing while more mediocre ones make us bristle at the mere mention of a character’s name.

        What you need is to find character-driven or plot-driven reasons to give exposition. With character-driven reasons, it seems natural for a character to be talkative about whatever you need to tell the reader. With plot-driven reasons, the situation calls for one character giving others some info. Without one or the other, you’re just info-dumping.

        For example take Brandon Seifert’s WitchDoctor. The main character is a medical practitioner with a sorcerous methodology. Since he’s a bit of a braggart and also needs to discuss cases with his assistant, you have both a character-driven and a plot-drive reason for him to do exposition.

        What Last of the Sunmakers needs is ignorant people needing the same info as the reader from your knowledgeable characters and/or events that prompt transmission of that knowledge. Right now, you don’t have any reason for people to be saying anything.

        Hope that helps!

  3. Conner MacDonald says:

    I hate exposition. I once named a character “Exposition” once. Guess what his role was in the story.

  4. Conner MacDonald says:

    Ha yeah. He literally laid out the entire plots back story for the characters, in the most in your face way possible. It’s the most frustrating aspect of story telling for me.
    Its very important to do it naturally, but if your story has way to much of it then it bogs it down. I had that problem with the Brain Damaged Detective.

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