TPG Week 60: Going Backwards Is Not Forward Progress

| February 17, 2012 | 26 Comments


Welcome back to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a first. Brave One Talisha Harrison returns with an update to her script: Tzedek–Time To Save A Life. Let’s see if she applied any lessons from her last time through, shall we?

Page 1


Panel 1 (Yes! This reads a lot better. More space to breathe! Format is one of the simplest things to get but it’s also one of the most useful for getting your point across to your artist.)


It’s a rainy late Friday afternoon in downtown Orlando, Florida. Tzedek (She wears a brown ladies’ trench coat tied over a black spandex costume with the symbol of a scale in a white circle on her chest, with black combat boots and a black gloves.A black domino mask covers her face and her black curly hair with bluish-white streaks(which flows down to her neck)is covered by a brown fedora hat) sits on a bench at the downtown Lynx bus station scanning the many passengers walking to and fro as buses pull in and out taking their passengers to their various destinations. She’s looking for someone. (Oh, Talisha! And you were off to such a good start! First of all, you put in the character description again even though you were told to keep that for a separate document. Next, you didn’t specify any camera angle for this panel. Since it’s an establishing shot, I’m thinking wide angle – but I shouldn’t have to assume. Finally, I think you’d better provide a reference picture for your artist, especially since you’re setting this in a real-world location. Actually, to go a little further, this is no good. This could be considered a moving panel. How is the reader supposed to know she’s searching for someone? If people are walking to and fro, do they carry umbrellas against the rain?)


TZEDEK THOUGHT CAPTION: (The proper way to format this is CAPTION (TZEDEK) .)


You can break Shabbat in order to save a life

Panel 2

Tzedek has spotted someone in the crowd and begins to get up from the bench. (What’s the camera angle? And you can’t show her spotting someone . This can’t be drawn in a single panel and certainly not in what I’ll assume to be a medium shot. What you’d need to do is to get fancy with inset panels – small panels inside larger panels that show simultaneous actions. In this case, we’d have a panel showing what Tzedek sees with an inset panel of a close-up of her narrowed eyes. Since you have only four panels on this page, you can afford some space for a trick like that.)

CAP: ( CAP alone denotes an omniscient narrator or an indication for time or place ( Meanwhile, back at the ranch ). Since this is still Tzedek’s internal monologue, you need to repeat CAPTION (TZEDEK) here and for every other instance of her narration. The only time you don’t is if there isn’t any other narrator in the story, or if there are very few instances of an omniscient narrator, such as when giving time or place settings.)

That’s what I intend to do.

Panel 3

A moment later, (This tells me you’re still not thinking visually. There’s no passage of time in comics, it’s all just images one next to the other. We can show time passing with tricks like captions, clocks that show different times from one panel to the next, and so on. But you can’t tell your artist that a panel is a moment later . You need to ask him to draw something that SHOWS that time has passed. Anyway, this is all a moot point considering that no significant moment has really passed between the second and the third panel. Your moment later is nothing more than the usual time elapsed in the gutter jump (that is, between panels). Also you don’t have any camera angle.) Tzedek has walked towards a dark blue bus that has a sign above to the left of the opened front door which says Route 102 Fern Park . A few feet in front of her is a white man with shoulder length blonde hair in a business suit carrying a black briefcase who’s entering the empty bus. (Reading ahead, I see that the white man in question is Aaron Hart. Why not come out and say it here? Don’t hide things from your artist. There’s no point in trying to preserve suspense for him; he’s on your team! Oh and I still don’t have any camera angle.)

CAP: (OK I know you were told to put a line between each element, but this is pushing it. You can do dialogue lines in one paragraph.)

But first I need information and I know just where to get it.

Panel 4

Moments after the man enters the bus Tzedek has made her way over passing the bus driver who notifies her when they’ll depart. Tzedek nods her head. (There are so many kinds of wrong here. For this job, I’ll need the cleansing power of Lisa-Marie Wilson, improved formula! Scrub it away, Lisa!)






Perfect timing. (Is there a point to this panel except to establish that Tzedek and Aaron have to the bus to themselves for ten minutes? Why not just let the reader wonder if she can extract her information in time before the driver comes back?)

(Page 1 is being turned and we still don’t know what the main character’s name is.)

Okay, we’re at the end of P1, and this is still an unmitigated mess. It looks like most of the notes given didn’t stick at all.

Here’s what we have that’s going on, Talisha: screw the missing camera angles. You’re missing the most important things when it comes to scripting: the fact that each panel is a single moment in time. This is NOT a movie. This is NOT a prose story. This is NOT a description of actions that are happening right now. This is a comic script, and as such, you need to understand the following:

Each panel, in and of itself, is an action that is a frozen moment in time. Think of it as an action that has JUST HAPPENED. Take a picture. Now, describe that picture AS YOU SEE IT. If the person is waving, they’re not really waving, they have their hand up in an action of a wave. An artist can draw that, because they know what that looks like. An artist cannot draw a wave. That is a movement, and you can’t have movement in a still picture.

Now, how inconspicuous is it for someone to wear a costume, complete with domino mask, and to try to cover that with a fedora and a trench coat? Might as well have Ronald McDonald go out on patrol and try to be inconspicuous. You’re going to get the same thing. This makes no sense. There is no logic here. It’s just like when you had her trailing the gopher in the previous attempt. It made no sense. To be blunt, this is stupid.

Add more panels here. You have more than enough information within these four panels to have six or seven panels. That runs us smack dab into the next problem:

This isn’t interesting. Not at all. I know you’re going for interesting—why tell a story if you’re not being interesting—but you’re not there. What about this page is there to get someone to turn the page? Get the reader interested and invested, and you’ll have come far. You have to do that within the first page. Right now, this isn’t even close.


Page 2 (Page break. That was a given, Talisha! You were told about this last time!)

Panel 1

Now on the bus, Tzedek sits in the drivers seat watching the driver walking towards the Lynx building in through the window panes on the door. (I can sort of deduce the angle here but I shouldn’t be scratching my head about it. Why not just say: Medium shot of TZEDEK as seen through the driver’s side window. She’s looking through the door windows at the driver walking away. )


Panel 2

With the driver gone, Tzedek locks the bus’s doors as she watches the businessman through the rear view mirror. (Missing camera angle again. This should be a great opportunity to shake things up a bit by doing a close-up of her hand throwing a lever with a big LOCK sticker over it. Come to think of it, this could also be a moving panel unless you pull back far enough to show Tzedek locking the door and her eyes in the rearview mirror looking at Aaron.)


I have questions and Aaron Hart has the answers. (Comma-fail.)

Panel 3

Tzedek has gotten up from the seat and heads towards the back of the bus where Aaron is seated. (You’re going the long way around. There’s a better way to do this. Yannick, you’re up!)


Aaron’s a smalltime (hyphen) drug dealer. He sells all sorts of patches.


Cocaine, marijuana, methyou name it, he’s got it. (When a character suddenly interrupts a train of thought, use a double dash followed by a single space, thus: Cocaine, marijuana, meth– you name it, he’s got it. )

Panel 4

Now at the back of the bus, Tzedek sits across from Aaron and stares at him. (Sitting down is one beat. Staring at him is another. I’m calling moving panel here as well as missing camera angle. I can already predict this will be a recurring theme.) Aaron is immersed in his music from his iPod and hasn’t yet noticed her.


He’s also an informant and for the right price, he’ll sell his info to the highest buyer. (Urm isn’t that EXACTLY what an informants does? That’s like saying: He’s also a taxi driver and for the right price, he’ll drive his fare to anywhere he wants. Cut out the redundant bit I put in blue.)

Panel 5

Tzedek kicks Aaron in the knee to get his attention. (Camera angle? And how is she kicking him? Is it a gentle nudge, a sharp blow or a round-house kick?)


Right now, he’s gonna give me what he knows or he’ll paying the price. (Oh, I see you were setting up the witty one-liner with that previous line. It might work better if you underlined the second he . By stressing that word, it’s easier to get the meaning of the line.)

Panel 6

Aaron takes of his headphones surprised at Tzedek who’s staring at him. (Camera angle? I think I see what the problem is. Once again, you’re describing ACTIONS instead of IMAGES. As long as you do this, you won’t be able to think visually and you won’t be able to write scripts that an artist can actually use. Here’s a cool exercise to help you grasp the difference. Put in a movie and start watching it. At some point, start saying out loud what the character on screen is DOING. That’s what you’re doing in this script. Now hit the pause button and describe what you SEE. No, don’t tell us what he’s doing again – he’s not moving anymore! Describe the camera angle, say how close or far out the camera is, describe what the character’s action are at that exact point, what’s his posture, his mood, how is the light hitting him. Is he facing us or back to us? What’s in the background? What’s his position relative to other characters? Getting used to answering these questions will help develop the same mechanisms that will come in useful when you’re writing scripts.)


HELLO AARON. (Comma-fail.)


WELL, WELL. LOOK WHO’S RIDING THE BUS! (Yes, we’re all wondering that ourselves at this point.)

TZEDEK (SHARPLY): (And no again. Why? Because this isn’t a screenplay, it’s a comic script. You don’t need to give actors directions. You need to give the ARTIST directions. In the panel description, tell him that Aaron looks surprised and that Tzedek looks angry. The indications in parentheses before lines of dialogue are instructions for the letterer. They’re for instructions like burst , electric or whisper that tell the letterer what type of font to use and what kind of word balloon to draw. You can also say things like coldly or sarcastically , which will tell the letterer to do something special with the word or the balloon, or both.)


(And page 2 just ended without the reader having learned the main character’s name.

I’m still bored. I think you’ve gone out of your way to bore people. You’ve also set up something that I don’t think many people have caught onto. Most people aren’t bus takers, nowadays.

Back in my days of taking the bus, I was very rarely alone on it. Maybe ass-early in the morning, but never in the middle of the day. Especially if the bus itself is going to be leaving in 10 minutes.

I also don’t recall the bus driver EVER leaving the bus while there were people on it. They would get off and close and lock the door behind them if they were leaving, but they wouldn’t let people on to wait if they weren’t on it. This could be my NY experiences. I don’t think this is the case, though. I think you’re forcing the story to be what you want it to be, instead of researching what would actually happen. Yes, I could be wrong, but no, I don’t think so.

Now, why am I bored? Because you’re padding this to death. You could have cut this into a single page. Your terribly-named character could have been established on the bench on P1, panel 1. Panel 2 (with inset) sees her watching her quarry get on the bus. Panel 4 (panel 3 was the inset in panel 2) shows her getting on the bus, and the bus driver leaving (establish he’s an ally/in her employ). Panel 5 shows her closing/locking the door. Panel 6 shows her walking toward her oblivious quarry. Panel 7 shows her grabbing him up, getting his attention.

Know what that does? That cuts down on all the unnecessary crap you have here. I just saved you a page. You have to learn what the important panels to show in a script. (Scripting is hard. Never let anyone tell you differently.) You haven’t learned that yet, but it’s coming. I’d rather you learned this before you learned how to describe things. Descriptioning can be taught, but knowing what to describe is much more difficult.

Page 3 (Page break)

Panel 1

Aaron he grins slyly at Tzedek who continues staring at him with a serious look on her face. (Camera angle once more )




I’m not paying. You’re gonna tell me what you know, now. (If you want to stress the now , you have two options and a comma isn’t one of them: you can either underline the word so the letterer makes it bold in the comic or you can make the comma into a period. Making it its own sentence adds stress without stressing the word itself.)

(I’m getting confused now. Sometimes the lines are all in caps, sometimes not. This makes for a very arduous read. Either put all your dialogue in caps – and captions count as dialogue too – or don’t do it at all. Don’t mix the two!)

Panel 2

Aaron leans forward closer to Tzedek as he laughs at her. (OK this is the last time I’m saying this: what’s the camera angle? I’m telling you though: if you leave so little instruction to your artist, don’t be surprised if what comes back isn’t what you had envisioned. From now on, instead of saying Where’s the camera, it’s gonna be WTC .)

AARON (LAUGHING): (Well yes, he’s obviously laughing as we can read on the next line. This is superfluous.)

HEH, HEH, HEH, (Comma-fail. You don’t want commas here. You do want it in the next sentence, though.)TRYING TO BE A TOUGH GIRL HUH? I DON’T THINK YOU UNDERSTAND- (Double dash not single.)

Panel 3

Tzedek grabs Aaron by the throat (WTC. And, I don’t know, maybe some facial expressions?)


NO, I DON’T THINK YOU UNDERSTAND, (Let’s stress that you and change the comma for a period. You need a hard stop here, not a soft pause.) I’M IN A HURRY AND I GOT NO TIME TO WASTE. YOU’RE GONNA TELL ME WHAT I WANT TO KNOW OTHERWISE



Panel 4

Tzedek slams Aaron to the floor of the bus. (See, this is where writing complete panel descriptions comes in handy. I have no idea how she’s supposed to accomplish this here. In the last panel, she had reached across the aisle and grabbed the guy by the throat. Did she get up for this? No idea. Now she’s slamming him to the floor. By the throat? By grabbing his shoulders? With a judo trick? Once again: no idea. How does the guy meet the floor? Face first? On his side? Everybody now: NO IDEA.)


GET THE PICTURE?! (This line with the one in the following panel is redundant. If I had to keep only one, I’d keep the one in panel 5. However, a nice fat SFX as Aaron hits the floor would be just right.)

Panel 5

Moments later (Gaaah!) Tzedek hovers over in front of a bloody and bruised Aaron (He only got thrown to the floor. How brutal was it if he’s bloody and bruised? See how once again not giving your artist sufficient information is coming back to haunt you?) who is trying to recover from the body slam. (How?) His briefcase is a few feet away on the floor now opened revealing the drug patches. (How did it get knocked over? It’s not mentioned in the previous panel. Also WTC.)




YEAH, YEAH I GET IT! MAN, YOU RUINED MY SUIT. (Was the floor that dirty? Or is he bleeding that much?)


I COULD OF ( have , not of ) RUINED SOMETHING ELSE, AND IF YOU DON’T START TALKING I MIGHT. (I have to come out and say this: Tzedek’s wit is something right out of a cheap 90s action flick, the kind that went straight to video. On one hand, your character seems to be the strong mysterious type, some kind of urban vigilante that operates using intimidation and a fearsome reputation. On the other hand, she tries so hard to sound threatening that she keeps spouting these clever wince-inducing replies, like she just HAS to go for witty repartee. It’s no wonder Aaron doesn’t take her seriously until she throttles him.)

Panel 6

Aaron has pulled out a handkerchief as he looks at Tzedek in fright. (WTC, and unless this is a moving panel, the hanky is magically delicious. One way or another, this is wrong.)







Okay, we have moving panels and terrible dialogue all over this.

Remember, scripting is hard. However, I think you’re making it more difficult than it needs to be. I did some research on you, Talisha. I understand that you’re used to writing prose, but comic scripting is a much different animal. More study is needed. I highly suggest you read the first twelve B&N columns. That will help you with your scripting. And I want you to read them all, because you have to understand some things that are unique to comics.

As for the dialogue, really, its terrible. I can’t see anyone saying any of this, and I can’t see anyone willingly going past two pages of this highly terrible dialogue except to see how bad it can get. This dialogue need to be ripped out wholesale and replaced. You’re coming at it straight on, instead of at an angle. Implications and inference.

Let’s take the slam. First, your pacing is off. She can’t slam him AND ask him if he’s gotten the picture in the same panel. When the art comes in and it gets read, the reader is going to be thrown right out of the story. In order to get it across as a different unit of time while being in the same panel, the word balloon is going to have to be near the bottom right of the panel. Now, that’s going to read as strangely as having the balloon placed near the action. So it needs a rewrite. That rewrite? Cutting it totally. He asked a question, and the implication is that getting slammed is the answer. See how that is more powerful than her answering with words that are doing essentially the same thing?

Characters have to act. If they don’t show, they’re telling. She doesn’t need to show AND tell, which is what you have her doing in that panel. Have her do one or the other. Showing is more powerful than telling. Implication and inference.

After three pages, I have no choice but to assume that all of the dialogue is going to be terrible. Remember that dialogue is the most subjective part of scripting. If I were editing this, all of the dialogue would be considered placeholders until we found a voice for your character. Right now, she sounds like she’s trying too hard. If she’s sounding that way, that means that you as the writer are trying too hard.

As for the moving panels, remember that you can only have a single action per panel. Static images. Learn to describe what you’re seeing instead of what’s happening, and you’ll have learned a lot. But first, learn what the important images are.

Page 4 (Page break)

Panel 1

Tzedek stares intensely at Aaron who’s sheepishly grinning as he finishes wiping the blood from his face. (WTC)


WE BOTH KNOW THAT’S A FAKE ADDRESS, TELL ME WHAT YOU REALLYKNOW. (Missing space. Also replace that comma with a period. You need a hard stop there, not a soft pause.)

Panel 2

Aaron’s grin has turned to an evil smile as he begins to reach for the gun in his pocket. (WTC)


YOU’RE RIGHT TZEDEK AND TO KNOW THE REST YOU’LL HAVE TO PAY DEARLY! (Finally! A name! Page 4 is way too late however. The way this has been going on, the book was back on the shelf at page 3. Oh and comma-fail while we’re here.)

Panel 2

Seconds later Aaron has his gun aimed directly at Tzedek who’s glaring at him. (Whoa, whoa, hold on. Seconds later ? It takes no more than a second or two to pull out a gun when you really need to do it fast (as Aaron should). Are you telling me he took his time? Good thing it’s a moot point since time in comics is measured by panels, not by seconds. Also where exactly does he point the gun? Her head? Her chest? Her pinky? How far apart are they? How is he holding the gun? What’s his stance? Oh and WTC.)


NOW WHO’S MISUNDASTOOD BITCH? (Ow. Apart from the comma-fail, this is big-time wince-worthy dialogue. The big bad ‘hood accent makes it even worse.)

Panel 3

Tzedek continues to stare down Aaron who continues to point the gun at her as his body shakes in fear. (What’s wrong with this panel, Conner? Apart from WTC of course – that would be too easy.)


Panel 4

The showdown continues as Aaron shakes more violently. (Conner’s answer should cover this too. WTC)


Panel 5

Aaron has lowered the gun to the floor as he looks down, as Tzedek starts to kneel down in front of him. (First, why? Why is she kneeling in front of a guy who was pointing a gun at her a second ago? And next, either she kneels or she doesn’t. She can’t start to kneel . The act of kneeling isn’t so time-consuming that it can’t be resolved between panels. By asking your artist to draw Tzedek as she starts her movement, it’s just going to make her look awkward. WTC)


First, this is six panels, not five. You counted panel 2 twice. And while I like the thought behind the beat, you took six panels to do nothing.

Next, as a script, so far, this is practically undrawable. Camera angles aside, you’re not giving your artist enough information from which they can draw. You’re thinking in moving images instead of static panels (yes, the horse is dead, but I have to beat it, because I have to make sure it takes). Don’t confuse the action with telling the artist what it is they’re supposed to be drawing, which is what you’re doing.

Why the harping of camera angles? Because the artist needs to know what you’re seeing, and how you’re seeing it. Not every panel description needs it—the artist will want to have their own input as to what they would like to do with framing of the panel—but when you leave them out wholesale like this, then they have little reference to draw from.

And I’m really surprised at the comma-fails. If you’re writing short stories, then you should know the proper use of punctuation. You’re not showing that knowledge here. While comic scripting has its own unique rules, the basic rules of grammar still apply.

Page 5 (Page break)

Panel 1

Aaron now looks up in terror as Tzedek menacingly looks at him. (How can he look up to someone who’s kneeling in front of him? UNLESS he was already kneeling himself and that’s why she knelt in the previous panel. That’s another example of why you should always be precise when describing panels. A crucial piece of info just got lost and it made things confusing for nothing. WTC)


I’M DONE PLAYING GAMES, I’M IN A HURRY BUT I CAN MAKE TIME TO SNAP YOUR NECK.—(Either she has enough time to finish her sentence and it ends with a period or she doesn’t and it ends with a double dash – but not both. Also replace that comma with a period. You need a hard stop there, not a soft pause.)

AARON (WHIMPERING): (No, because this is prose. The letterer won’t be able to represent this with a visual.)


TZEDEK (SARCASTICLY): (And no, because there’s no way of actually drawing sarcasm. Smiling, yes. Sarcasm, no.)


Panel 2

Tzedek and Aaron are now face to face. (WTC)


WHERE DID THEY TOOK THE GIRLS? ( Take , not took . Even Microsoft Word knew it was wrong because it put a green squiggly line under the word. Have you checked up on those squiggly lines before you sent the script in?)

AARON (WHIMPERING): (No and you know why.)


Panel 3

Tzedek rises to leave, as the shaken up, bloodstained Aaron looks on in fright. (WTC)


(OK, I’m curious: what just happened here? Does Tzedek have the power to pound men’s minds ? Or is she just THAT badass and can literally stare down an armed assailant? Is Aaron really bashful with a gun in his hand? None of this is made clear and as such we have no way of understanding the character’s abilities as a spandexed avenger. If you’re doing romance comics, you have to tell us for whom the girl is pining. If you’re doing a crime comic, you have to tell us who got killed. In a superhero comic, you have to at least make it clear what powers the hero has. More and better details in the panel descriptions would go a long way towards that goal. As it is, it’s all in your head, Talisha, and your artist has no way to get in there.)

Panel 4

Tzedek now by the driver’s seat gives Aaron a threatening cold look as she unlocks the bus doors and prepares to leave. (WTC)


I’M GONNA GO EASY ON YOU AARON, BUT THE NEXT TIME I SEE YOU WITH THOSE PATCHES, YOU’RE GOING TO WISH THAT I DID SNAP YOUR NECK. (Comma-fail. Also I find it kind of odd that in the same sentence she uses the contraction gonna once and then reverts to the full form going to . Might want to revise that. While you’re at it, you might want to have a look at ALL of Tzedek’s lines and make sure that the she always uses the same level and patterns of speech. Consistency is key to good characterization.)

Panel 5

With Tzedek now gone, Aaron moans as he faints. (He moans but there’s no line for dialogue? Oh and WTC too.)

Panel 6

Now outside the bus, Tzedek begins running towards another bus with determination on her face. (Is it me or is the thought of a super hero heroically taking a bus just throw quite a lighter shade on everything? Especially a super hero taking the bus with determination on her face ? Really you should have finished this page at the last panel with Tzedek disappearing in the crowd, her unknown mode of locomotion part of her vigilante mystique. Otherwise we’re just going to picture her, fedora, domino mask and all, paying her fare and sitting between an old lady with groceries and a crying brat.)


Time to save a few lives. (Talisha, if you go back to your first submission for The Proving Grounds (week 42), you’ll see the advice you got for internal monologues: either you do them constantly or you don’t do them at all. In this scene, you started doing them, then you suddenly stopped and now you’re starting again. Reading ahead, I can see you’re just as inconsistent. Make up your mind, please.

P5, and you’ve got padding all over the place.

Okay, I told you last time that you cannot have a moan and a faint in the same panel. It will not come across well. And to be honest, that panel is a prime example of padding. It isn’t doing anything at all to further the plot, and it isn’t revealing character that isn’t already known. It can be cut, and the narrative will not be hurt in any way, shape, or form. If it were cut, then the reader wouldn’t even know it was missing. That means you didn’t do your job as a writer, because you didn’t trim the fat.

Now, you have dropsies here with the internal monologue. Not good. You have more than enough work to do in establishing story and character for you to have dropsies. The captions give us direct access into her thoughts. Does she stop thinking when she interacts with the people she assaults? That’s the way it seems. Not good.

If you did your job correctly, readers would be deep inside her head, they would know something of what’s going on with the story, and they would be wanting to read more. Instead, this never made it out the store.

Condense. Condensing will give you more action and be more interesting. Condense. Decompression is boring, and boring is death

Page 6 (Page break)

Panel 1

Thirty minutes later: 250 Autumn Breeze Way, Winter Park. (Is this supposed to be a caption? If so, then it should appear as a dialogue line.)

Tzedek’s hastily walks through the apartment complex headed for building 1840. She passes by a couple who gossiping with the maintenance man. (Here’s what I see in this panel: Tzedek walking past three people talking. There’s absolutely nothing to tell us WHERE or WHEN this is taking place (unless that other paragraph was a caption) and WHO these people are. In other words: this is where you needed to do an establishing shot and failed to do it. For all we know, Tzedek just crossed the street from the bus station and into the apartment complex. Also here’s a question that cropped up last time and that’s still applicable today: is she still wearing her trenchcoat and hat? Finally, guess what? WTC)

Panel 2

Moments later, Tzedek passes by buildings 1838 and 1839. Two men who are working on a car as reggaeton music plays from the stereo and the base is thumping loudly. (Liam, you’re up! Tell my why my mind has just been blown.)

Panel 3

Tzedek passes by them on her way to building 1840 which is a few feet away. (WTC so much that we have no idea if building 1840 is part of the panel or if this is just extraneous prose.)

Panel 4 (Inner panel) (We call this an inset panel – and it’s completely unjustified here. You use inset panels to decompose a wide complex scene in multiple simultaneous moments. Here, it’s not as much simultaneous as it’s sequential. You could very well make this a separate regular panel.)

One of the men gives Tzedek the evil eye as she passes him. (You mean the actual gypsy curse? Or just glaring? And WTC.)

Panel 5

A moment later (Ploink!), Tzedek arrives at building 1840. In the background the men continue to work on the car the base still blasting. (I’m hoping Liam covers part of the problem with this panel with his answer above. The other part of the problem is – you guessed it – WTC.)

Panel 6

As the men begin to pack up to leave, Tzedek opens the door and heads inside. (You’re down to describing panels in one sentence now. Were you losing steam?)

(Was there any point to this whole page? Apart from establishing the scene – which you didn’t do properly? This is a criminal waste of space, Talisha, especially with all the space you’ve already taken with the bus interrogation scene. You could reduce this whole page to a single panel for an establishing shot and be done with it instead of using six panels to walk up to where the action really starts.)

This is crap.

This entire page did nothing besides waste space and time.

Okay, I lied. It showed something else. It shows that you have no concept of what is and is not important to a script, either in writing panel descriptions nor in what should be included to be drawn. One panel, maaaaaaaybe two. Two on the outside. One to establish, and one to show her on the scene.

But here’s the thing that is getting me.

Spider-Man is not a ninja, but he is good at hiding. Daredevil is a ninja. So is Batman. All of these characters could have found a way to get to the building and get inside without being seen.

So, she’s seen. Now, is she still wearing that horrible, laughably bad disguise of her costume, or did she ditch it? If she didn’t ditch it, then she’s bold and stupid. If she ditched it, then she’s bold, because no one saw fit to accost her. You don’t say, and the artist is going to ask.

From last iteration to this, your character didn’t get any smarter. That’s a shame.

Also, when is she going to show some sort of power display, assuming she has at least one? Because this is P6, going into P7, and not once has there been anything showing any kind of display. This is a superhero book! Readers are coming for scantily clad women and fights using powers. You may have one, depending on the design of the character, but you’re definitely missing the other. At least the other script had super-jumping. This has super-nothing.

And more dropsies. More missed opportunities to tell the story or get more characterization. More padding.

This page is crap.

Page 7 (Page break)

Panel 1

Inside the building, there are a set of and a door on each side of the stairs. (What? I have no idea what you mean.) One door is labeled A while the other is B. Tzedek heads to the door labeled B. (WTC. Are you tired of reading this? You have no idea how tired I am of writing it. But that’s nothing: wait till your artist starts calling you about these panel descriptions.)

Panel 2

As she nears the door, Tzedek hears voices-one female the other male-coming from inside. (WTC. But most importantly: WHO are these voices? Tzedek doesn’t know, the reader doesn’t know but your creative team SHOULD know. Reading ahead, I see these are villains trying to pass off as victims to lure Tzedek into a trap. Clever! However, comic scripts are not the place for cleverness, suspense and big reveals. The reader won’t get to read this so you won’t spoil any surprises by telling it straight. In fact, by not telling the whole truth, you’re hindering the rest of the team.)


FEMALE (WHIMPERING) (But not this.): OKAY! DON’T HURT ME PLEASE! (Comma-fail.)

MALE (YELLING) (And this too is OK. Why? Because yelling is actually something that will influence how the letterer will do his job, namely by using a burst balloon for these lines. Whimpering however won’t change anything.): YOU’RE USELESS YOU KNOW THAT?! (And comma-fail again. Also since these two characters aren’t appearing in the panel, these lines should be marked as OP, off panel .)

Panel 3

A smack is heard and then the woman’s scream. (Now you’re just describing the dialogue. You should be telling us WTC instead.) Tzedek prepares to kick in the door. (How? Is this really an action you can prepare ? Is she doing the crane stance that Mr. Myagi taught her?)

SFX: SMACK! (SFX do not require punctuation.)


Panel 4

Tzedek hurriedly kicks in the door. ( Hurriedly can’t be drawn, but you know what can be drawn? WTC)

(I see Tzedek put on her silenced boots as there’s no SFX.)

Panel 5

With the door pieces now laying on the carpet, Tzedek looks ready & determined to stop the attacker. (Now if only we knew WTC.)

Insert panel
Shows a man’s hands in the act of clapping.
(Don, this is an easy one. A classic. All yours.)

Panel 6

Tzedek looks stunned as the man (a black guy dressed in a white polo shirt and black baggy jeans with white sneakers) and the woman (skinny Asian American woman dressed in a pink Chinese shirt with black pants and white heels. Her hair is up in a bun with chopsticks pinning the bun)stand in front of her defiantly smiling. (Here’s what we learn from your panel description: Tzedek look stunned and there’s a man and a woman smiling in the room. The rest is all character description info that should probably go in a separate document, depending on if these are recurring characters or not. Apart from WTC, you know what crucial info is missing here? You’re still referring to these people as Man and Woman . Your team will need to know who they are – at least before the reader does!)


SURPRISE! (Extra space at the beginning of this line.)

That’s enough. I think everyone’s ready for me to run this down.

Format: Except for the lack of page breaks and some extra spaces between elements, the format is fine. Like I’ve said time and again, format is the easiest thing to master. It’s what you do with it that counts.

Panel Descriptions: Terrible. In fact, I think you went backwards. As a whole, this entire story cannot be drawn. You’ve got magically delicious stuff going on here, you’ve got absolutely no camera angles, you’ve got nothing that the artist can hook into and start working from. Terrible.

Pacing: Horrible. The pacing here is the only thing that is worse than the panel descriptions. You did in seven pages what could have been done in three, if not four. You have a page that, if cut, would do little to impact the story. Because the pacing is horrible and drawn out, you lost any readers who stuck around. If they braved it to P5, you lost them on P6.

Dialogue: Most of it is crap. The stuff spewing from your character’s mouth is on the wrong side of the tracks. Her captions are only a little better, but the problem with those is that there aren’t enough of them. Your captions drop in and out, instead of being a running patter of what’s going through her head. You’ve left extremely vast swatches of opportunities behind you wherein you could tell what’s going on in the story. Instead of doing that, you opted to try to build mystery (or something), hoping that would interest readers into sticking around. You took the wrong option.

Again, dialogue is the most subjective part of a script. I get that. However, most of everything that came out of her mouth needs to be rewritten. Inference and implication. Come at it from an angle, instead of head-on. And stop trying to have her be witty. She isn’t good at it. Let her talk with her fists, because that’s where her strength lies.

To be honest, it sounds like she needs a sidekick. She needs an Arthur to her Tick. (I love that cartoon series.) If this were a comedy, this would be much easier to accept.

Content: As a reader, after reading this, I’d avoid any comic I’d see with your name on it.

That sounds harsh, and maybe it is. However, it is also true. And here’s the reason why: this is terrible. Your character is either stupid or brain damaged and badly named. If this were the 90s and if she’s voluptuously built, then maybe you’d get some readers due to the bad girl craze, but that’s about it. (Anyone remember Alley Cat? I think I have three copies of the first issue. That was terrible, too.) This is badly written, terribly paced, uninteresting, and drags.  

From a storytelling perspective, it’s nonsensical. NOTHING makes sense. This means you didn’t do your job as a writer. You either turned the reader off, or you left them behind. Neither is good. She talks about saving a life, and then goes about gathering information, with nothing said about the life she’s looking to save. That running commentary from her internal monologue? That information would have been perfect there. Great place to get her world view. And you squandered it, very much like you squandered P6.

You have a superhero that doesn’t do any superheroing. No power displays, some intimidation, and it’s all dragged out for no discernible reason. How interesting is that?

If this were the first comic of yours I’d read, I wouldn’t read any more of yours. Don’t be too hard on yourself: I stopped following Deadpool after Frank Tieri took him over, and stopped buying until he left. The same with The Darkness. And it started with Wolverine. I avoid Frank’s work, because I don’t think he’s a talented writer. However, he gets work. (Isn’t he taking over a New 52 book?) Maybe you’d be in the same boat.

Editorially, I’d have to teach you how to write for comics. It really looks like you didn’t apply any lessons from the first time through, so I’d have to hold your hand through the process of comic scripting. After teaching you how to write, we’d then sit down and talk about exactly what your character is supposed to be, what she’s supposed to do, and come up with a plan to showcase that. We’d plot it out together, and then we’d script it together. This will get you moving forward, because it is quite obvious you went backwards from your previous effort.

And that’s all there is this week. Check the calendar to see who’s next!

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Category: The Proving Grounds

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at for rate inquiries.

Comments (26)

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  1. Conner MacDonald says:

    (Back in my days of taking the bus, I was very rarely alone on it. Maybe ass-early in the morning, but never in the middle of the day. Especially if the bus itself is going to be leaving in 10 minutes.
    I also don’t recall the bus driver EVER leaving the bus while there were people on it. They would get off and close and lock the door behind them if they were leaving, but they wouldn’t let people on to wait if they weren’t on it. This could be my NY experiences. I don’t think this is the case, though. I think you’re forcing the story to be what you want it to be, instead of researching what would actually happen. Yes, I could be wrong, but no, I don’t think so.)

    I ride the bus all the time, and I can say that the behaviour is normal. The driver will pull in, let whoever is by the door on, then lock the door and take off for a little while.

    Panel 3
    Tzedek continues to stare down Aaron who continues to point the gun at her as his body shakes in fear. (What’s wrong with this panel, Conner? Apart from WTC of course – that would be too easy.)
    (NO COPY)
    Panel 4
    The showdown continues as Aaron shakes more violently. (Conner’s answer should cover this too. WTC)

    Shaking is kind of awkward to show in comics, since we’re dealing with static images. But I don’t think it’s impossible. The artist can use motion lines to show the shaking, but it’s up to you tell him how you want it done. The only way I can think of doing it is in a very cartoony way, which if you’re going for a serious story you may want to skip.

    Here’s how I’d do it.

    Panel 3. Wide shot. Tzedek, kneels across from Aaron. She’s staring Aaron down, rage in her eyes. Aaron looking weak on his backside, his gun raised, pointed square at Tzedek’s forehead, his face is full of fear.

    With nothing but a look, his hand jitters and skips, I think a puddle is forming in his pants.
    Panel 4. Medium close up of the two. Tzedek’s, eyes have the same intense rage, but we now see the folds of the smile in her mask. Aaron’s hand has gone limp wristed, the gun hangs loosely in his hand pointing to the ground. Aaron’s eyes averted away, defeat is his expression.



    No hero would fall for this. This isn’t what an abusive relationship sounds like. It’s a terrible, simplistic, stereotypical way to present one. This is how me and my girlfriend joke about being abusive, not how the actual abusive relationships I’ve seen have been at all.

    Tzedek looks stunned as the man (a black guy dressed in a white polo shirt and black baggy jeans with white sneakers) and the woman (skinny Asian American woman dressed in a pink Chinese shirt with black pants and white heels. Her hair is up in a bun with chopsticks pinning the bun)stand in front of her defiantly smiling.

    Whats a Chinese shirt?

    • Hey Conner,

      I like how you changed the panel with the stare down and the shaking gun. I was also thinking though, that one of difficulties with how the panel was initially described, was that it would be hard to draw a scared person staring someone down while also shaking their gun in fear. What do you (or anyone else) think?

  2. Conner MacDonald says:

    Forgot to link this up. Strengthen our community, and your self by joining.

    Also, first time you spelled my name ER’ instead of OR’ Steven, strange.

  3. Also, I take the bus all the time and bus-drivers leaving momentarily happens fairly often. Usually it’s for a restroom break. Maybe different states may have different policies about bus-drivers leaving while passengers are on board.

  4. “Tzedek has gotten up from the seat and heads towards the back of the bus where Aaron is seated. (You’re going the long way around. There’s a better way to do this. Yannick, you’re up!)”

    I notice something you do a lot is describing actions in the past tense. For example:

    “Tzedek has spotted someone in the crowd”

    “Tzedek has walked towards a dark blue bus”

    “Tzedek has made her way over”

    And that’s just on the first page.

    It’s always better to describe what characters are doing as they appear in the panel rather than what they’ve just done. If you describe actions in the past, you’re not describing them RIGHT NOW and RIGHT NOW is what the artist has to draw. The way you do it, he has to infer the present state of the character.

    However, in the example that Steven called me for, you’re already saying she’s walking towards the back of the bus so it goes without saying that she’s gotten up. Then it’s not as much a matter of not giving out enough info as it is giving out extraneous one.

    Steven says you’re going the long way around and that’s because you’re actually reestablishing your shot in your description. We already know that Aaron is sitting on the bus. We can already somewhat infer that he’s sitting near the back since he still hasn’t reacted to Tzedek having climbed in (although if I was a criminal sitting alone on a bus and a lady with that getup got in and locked the door, I’d already be clawing at the rear windows).

    That being said, in my opinion, the best way to do this is to show Tzedek walking towards Aaron as if the reader was in the latter’s position. Here’s what I propose:

    “Aaron POV shot of Tzedek walking towards him with a grim smile.”

    (I’ve added an expression for a fuller picture.)

    This not only resolves the matter of the missing camera angle but it also make for a clearer, more efficient description. The trick is to always aim for the most information in the least possible words, thus giving your artist all the info he needs and none of the fluff to wade through.

    Hope that helps!

  5. Thanks your comments I thought they were really harsh but I’m not gonna give up. And I’ll keep on working on it.

    • Talisha, one of he best piece of advice you can heed is the one Conner gave you: join the ComixTribe forum.

      There are a bunch of aspiring writers just like you there who are contantly exchanging ideas and critiquing each other. If should help you readjust your shot in-between Proving Grounds appearances instead of waiting for a bigger hit every four months or so.

      And at the least, you won’t be alone in your work, as writers often find themselves.

      Keep up working on it and never stop writing!

      • Conner MacDonald says:

        Honestly, the forum needs all the creators it can get. We’re all at different levels of experience, but we all have something to teach. The bulk of the forum members are, to be honest, inactive. But there is no reason to be shy.

    • Hey, Talisha.

      Like I said before, you keep up that attitude, and you’ll go far.

      Let me say this, though. I’m not harsh. Truthful, but not harsh.

      Here’s what’s going on: I’m not here to coddle. I’m not here to pat you on the back and tell you how wonderful you are. That’s not my job. My job here is to help you become a better writer.

      I would be doing you a disservice if I were anything but truthful, and I’d be a dirty damned liar if I called your latest entry anything else than what I did. And while I may be many things, I’m not a liar.

      The problem (as I see it) is that you didn’t put in the work. There are many writers who come through here that are putting in the work and are getting better. Not counting your entries, there are 58 other entries here that you could learn from. People such as Yannick, Don and Noel have been coming every week, reading and honing, before submitting their stories. Liam Hayes has submitted multiple times, and you can actually watch his growth.

      Take the advice here: read the first 12 installments of B&N, and incorporate those into your learning. Read the scripts here and learn from them. Put in the work. Keep writing, keep submitting. But if you want to see less blue and red (or at least blue and red that focuses on different things), you have to put in the work.

      I hope to see you back here.

  6. DonU says:

    Insert panel

    Shows a man’s hands in the act of clapping. (Don, this is an easy one. A classic. All yours.)

    Clapping hands can be hard to convey in an illustration without the use of some sort of trick. Motion lines, ghosting, or using multiple panels to describe the action are ways of getting around this, but I think I’d go for some added sound effects. A simple clap, clap, clap might work.

    Without adding some sort of trick to this panel, there’s no way of telling that the hands are clapping. You have to help your artist tell your story, and for that to happen your artist will need more specific information.

  7. Talisha Harrison says:

    Thank you for comments and I’ll work harder and try to do better.

  8. Hi Guys! Apparently, as Yannick has informed me, I am late.

    Pinky-swear it won’t happen again. Now onto my ‘assignment’.

    Let’s take this in parts:
    Moments after the man enters the bus – ‘Moments’ cannot be drawn the way you’re describing them here. It’s more of a novelist style of writing to indicate time has passed but by the movement from P3 to P4 you have shown time has passed. How much time can be indicated by placement of people, objects and setting. But this is not possible in a single panel. If the passage of time is important here you need to show it in multiple panels.

    Tzedek has made her way over passing the bus driver – You have multiple actions in this panel. 1. Man enters bus – moments pass – T moves from where she is – T arrives near bus driver – – T nods her head. Each of those actions can be broken into a panel (though I don’t suggest you do this). You need to decide what is most important. The mention of the leaving time, the movement of the man, the movement of T, etc. Once you decide what is the most import cut the crap out. She doesn’t need to nod, her words after indicate that she understands what the bus driver has said.

    Overall you have a moving panel which equals an impossible panel to draw. There’s also something bothering me, which is why the bus driver knows to tell her when they’re leaving. I take the bus, bus drivers don’t normally offer information to anyone without being asked. Why did she not ask? You could insert the dialogue here if you need the characters to discuss how long it’ll be until they leave. Is she in a rush? If so nothing in this panel describes that. Is that man important? Perhaps create a shot of the bus, showing Man in foreground, walking towards reader, slightly out of focus. T standing beside bus driver who is leaning out of his seat to speak to her. If you want the man to stand out have him looking back, if you don’t need him get him the hell out of there.

    For so few words there’s so much going on that physically can’t in a single image that tells me nothing at all. Being concise (which I’m not always the best at) is important, but not when it sacrifices the context and understanding of the story.

    Remember it’s a learning process and I hope these comments can help you better understand what you’re missing and what you need to get this script to work. It’s not easy but it’s worth it.

    I need to drag myself back to the forum. I have been far too lax in posting there. But as the guys say it is worth it and a great place to learn.

  9. Liam Hayes says:

    “Moments later, Tzedek passes by buildings 1838 and 1839. Two men who are working on a car as reggaeton music plays from the stereo and the base is thumping loudly. (Liam, you’re up! Tell my why my mind has just been blown.)”

    Comics are silent. While music can be shown by the use of music notes, the genre and tonality cannot. You could implant a music score within a speech bubble, but you’d kill the letterer. Even putting *Reggaeton music* within a speech bubble is pushing the limits of absurdity.

    This script reeks of discovery draft. Plodding along and padding is fine if it gets you to the main story beats. But you need to go back, rewrite and like Steven said, trim the fat. Whip the script until it buckles to your whim (Hopefully while expressing a maddening grin and tyrannical laughter).

    The good thing about being a writer is, unlike a brain surgeon, you have as many times as you need to get it ‘right’. Revise and submit again. Then again. And again. Revel in the fiery purge of Steven’s wrath (Now I’m just rambling).

    Keep at it!

  10. Jules Rivera says:

    This script hit close to home for me because, well, Orlando was my home for many years. A couple of questions.

    1. Having lived on the west coast for a few years now, I haven’t run into too many people who even know what Reggaeton even is. This is a very specific, very regional thing. On one hand, it definitely shows the flavor of the city, which I think a lot of location comics screw up. On the other hand, you run the risk of alienating readers by throwing something at them they’ve never heard of.

    2. How would one even represent “reggaeton” visually? Reggaeton’s signature is the beats in the music, not so much the lyrics. I mean, I guess you can have your letterer put up floating lyrics of “Da me mas Gasolina” surrounded by music notes. That’s as close as I could come to capturing it. Personally, I’d skip it. Unless the music is a crucial plot point to the story, don’t bother with it in comics. It’s a soundless medium.

    3. How is your Tzedek girl running around in a trenchcoat in the Florida humidity? Florida is blazing hot ten months out of the year and anyone familiar with the region, as you’re counting on with the Reggaeton reference, will know that there’s no way a superhero can walk around in a trenchcoat without passing out from head exhaustion. I would say either specify the time of year is winter (the only time you could get away with wearing stifling trench coat in Florida), doing away with the trenchcoat altogether (it’s such a modern superhero cliche anyway), or change the location from Orlando to somewhere cooler. I don’t imagine you want to do the latter because it seems the story’s location is very personal to you and I don’t think you should have to compromise who you are to tell a good cape story.

    Just make some consideration for costuming depending on locale.

  11. Lauren S says:

    Just wanted to add TZEDEK = Hebrew for Justice. I like the name, but based on this script still have no idea what abililties, if any, she has.

    • Hey, Lauren.

      I had to look it up, myself. I still think that the name is terrible, basically because it’s difficult to look at and pronounce. But that’s just me.

      Maybe I should do a B&N on superhero naming conventions? Thoughts, anyone? Bueller?

  12. Talisha Harrison says:

    Thanks for the advice and the help. I’ll try to do better.

  13. Eli Ivory says:

    I agree that writing a script is tough. I’m trying to get my feet wet as well. I can only look at these scripts as an artist. Talisha, steven’s right. Don’t think of it like a movie as far as pacing it out for two pages. It would drive the artist crazy because it would just be nothing but characters sitting and then another establishing shot of scenery and more sitting and talking. Then when the action hits it’s only like two panels. You definitely want to challenge your artist with your imagination.
    That said, I read the first script you sent here and while it was a slow pace as well, you did some stunt that was like tzedek jumping onto trains and off of buildings.
    My two cents, start that story off with you informant guy hyped up on one of those patches. He looks nervous all the time looking around,sweating a lot. Your hero has just finished looking for this guy,and finds some bus transfers at his house or apt. As she walks out the window or flies out(depends on her powers)We see there’s three guys laid out on the floor. So your artist would have a change of scenery but also can express how badass the heroine is. She then spots the bus and does some crazy stunts to get to the bus. The bus stops, the guy looks nervously around but starts to come down from his high,so he’s more relaxed. Then…boom! She grabs him through a window or her hands come up from the floor and she’s got him. I’d also have the guy pull out the gun first, so that she could disarm him first, then get the information she wants.
    After that, the guy is so nervous, he puts on another patch.

    Of course, how you want to your story is up to you. But from a penciller’s point of view, there should at least be some sort of buildup to the action ,then the action. That would make a difference,and help with the pacing to.

  14. Talisha Harrison says:

    I tried signing up for the forum like 3 times and I’m not sure if I’ve been registered. I try again and see. Thanks for all the advice. I’ll try to get it right.

    • Hello, Talisha!

      There’s an issue right now with Forumer. Here’s the info I gave someone else a couple of weeks back: at the bottom of the forum’s home page, there’s a link About Forumer . Click it and then click the link Support Forums (left side menu).

      There, the info you need is in Forum Hosting > Forumer News > Announcements > *UPDATED* Info on Log me on automatically each visit fix and recent login issues

      Hope that helps!

    • I just checked and the last new member is Don. Maybe Steven should have a look at this…

  15. Talisha Harrison says:

    Yannick Thanks I’ll try that and see if it works.

  16. Talisha Harrison says:

    Yannick it’s still not working for me. 🙁

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