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Thread: TPG: Week 16- Calvin Camp

  1. StevenForbes Guest

    TPG: Week 16- Calvin Camp

    Hello, everyone! Welcome back to the Proving Grounds.

    This week, we have Calvin Camp. Calvin is an artist who is trying his hand at writing. Let's see how he does in writing for others.


    Tales of Aengor
    The Streets of BenardVane

    GENERAL NOTES:
    The architecture, clothing styles, scenery, etc, within the Streets of BenardVane series should be reminiscent of the 1930s or 1940s, with a veneer of Tolkienesque fantasy styling. Kind of Art Deco meets Medieval Revival. Film Noir hardboiled crime movies meets Lord of the Rings.

    The art is to be black & white, gray-shaded. Dramatic chiaroscuro lighting and crazy, tilted, film noir camera angles are welcome.

    Concept drawings of all major characters, as well as additional background information on the world/setting, will be provided.

    In some cases I may specify camera angles or viewpoints. In some I may not. Where I do, it's just a matter of what I saw in my head when putting the story together. Nothing is set in stone. I am still open to suggestions if the artist thinks something else will work better. In cases where I don't, it means I don't have a preference and the artist should just use whatever viewpoint they think best. The same holds true for panel layouts. (Nice. Letting the artist know what's coming and why some things are the way they are. If you haven't noticed, this seems to be happening more often in TPG, and I keep liking it. This doesn't have to be done with every script you do. This should be done when you don't know with whom you're working, so they know where you're coming from. Just wanted to clear that up, if anyone was confused.)


    Issue #0
    All in a Night's Work
    8 pages


    Page 1(I get this is a personal preference, but you may want to think about putting the page numbers on the left, not centered across the page.)
    Five panels. Panel 1 as a large panel, set tall on the upper right, with panels 2 & 3 stacked beside it, and panels 4&5 across the bottom. (Um, no. In the English speaking world, we read left to right, top to bottom. Hereís what I want you to do. I want you to raise your right hand. Thatís where youíre asking for your first panel to be. Thatís not going to work. Everything should be as youíre looking at it, not as itís looking at you. If you meant upper left, which I assume you were, then you need to be more careful in what youíre asking for.)

    PANEL 1
    It's night in the City. Pole-mounted lights bathe the street in pools of dim light, and the roiling orb of the gas-giant (of which this world is a moon) looms large in the sky beyond the buildings.

    The gargoyles roosting on the rooftops are, like most of the rest of the city, asleep. These are live gargoyles. There should be some perched in odd locations, where they wouldn't normally appear as part of the building. They should be shaded to contrast with their immediate surroundings, to make it as clear as possible that they aren't built-in. (The gargoyles were originally imported as pets, but have become a damned nuisance. They're common as pigeons now, so feel free to stick a gargoyle or two wherever you like as the comic progresses) (Nice. Youíre giving too much information, but this line in parenthesis is nice. Great direction for the artist. Thatís the type of needed information artists like.)

    Talia is standing at the corner of a building, just inside a narrow alley. Her back is against the wall and she's peering out at the street. She is dressed in her black uniform, with her hair tied back in a ponytail (and not one of those silly top-knot ponytails, but a business-like gathering of her hair at the base of her skull) (Again, good info.). A few strands fall loose in front of her pointed ears (she's an Elf)(This should have been gone over with the artist before they put pencil to paper.). A long-barreled revolver is holstered on her right hip (does not need to be visible in this panel, but keep the placement in mind - this is not a modern gun, reference will be provided) (youíre giving too much info here. If she always wears the weapon, no one cares to read it in the panel description Thatís like mentioning that Spider-Man has web shooters when heís already in costume.).

    The viewpoint is that of someone standing to one side of her, a few steps further into the alley. Talia should be to the left side of the panel, looking toward the street scene to the right of the frame - leading the eye to the next set of panels (Of course, it WOULD have led the readerís eyes to the next set of panels, IF this panel were on the left instead of the right... Again, too much info. How about trusting the artist to do their job, too?)

    Across the street is a row of buildings with retail shops, etc. One is a jewelry store - the large sign over the door tells us so. A hunched, misshapen, humanoid figure in ragged clothes shambles along the empty street toward the jewelry store. It seems listless, slouched, arms hanging loosely at its sides, just shuffling along (it's a zombie, but that shouldn't be too obvious yet).

    Perched on the jewelry store sign, head leaned up against the side of the building or an outcropping bit of stonework, obviously fast asleep, is a gargoyle. He's kind of a cute little guy. (WHEW! All of that is the FIRST PANEL! I started falling asleep while reading it, to be honest. I lost track a few times, and had to take a No-Doze in order to keep alert through all of that. Not the best way to start out. This is a comic script. Keep it moving along, not bogged down in things that aren't going to make it to the panel or descriptions that aren't necessary. Like I said before, trust the artist to do their job, too.)

    Caption:
    The City of BenardVane. It's the dead of the night and even the gargoyles are asleep. But not me. (We canít tell itís the dead of night through all the darkness? We canít see the sleeping gargoyle? I get that it sets up your next line, but still, as an opening, this is bad.)

    Caption:
    No rest for the wicked, they say. So no rest for me, either. (Comma.)

    PANEL 2
    Same scene, but with the viewpoint moved much closer to the jewelry store. Talia is now off panel. We're still watching the misshapen figure. It has stopped in front of the jewelry store and is looking up at the sign.

    Caption:
    The diviners said this store would be hit tonight. (are the diviners a class of people? If so, it needs to be capitalized.)

    PANEL 3
    Similar viewpoint to panel 2. The misshapen figure rips the door and part of its frame completely off the building, splinters and pieces of doorframe flying. Jolted rudely awake, the gargoyle is taking to panicked flight. (Moving panel. You know exactly where it happens, too. Iíd like you to tell me.)

    Caption:
    Guess they were right for a change.

    Gargoyle (small balloon & lettering):
    Awwwk!

    SFX:
    KARRRIIIP

    PANEL 4
    Similar viewpoint to panels 2 & 3. Now we see the misshapen figure lurching out of the doorway of the jewelry store with a crate in its arms. The broken door lies on the sidewalk to one side, where it was tossed. We can see sparkly necklaces dangling over the sides of the box - pins, broaches, cash, etc, piled higher than the top of the box. Some bits are falling out onto the sidewalk.

    Caption:
    Pretty brazen way to pull a burglary. I guess subtlety is a lost art.

    PANEL 5
    Our viewpoint is back in the mouth of the alley with Talia, much like in panel 1. She is pressing back into the shadows, half-hiding as the zombie shambles along the sidewalk past the alley. It's just looking straight ahead, with a vacant expression. By now we can clearly see that this is indeed a zombie. Apparently a rather ripe one. Talia is holding the back of her hand in front of her nose and mouth, her nose wrinkled in disgust at the stench as she watches the zombie shuffle past. (This isnít a horrible page-turn. Not great by any means, but not horrible.)

    Caption:
    Too bad necromancy isn't. (This is a bad line to end on. Doesnít make me want to turn the page at all. This is a weak first page overall.)


    Page 2
    Five panels. Panels 1 & 2 across the top, panel 3 full-width across the middle, and Panels 4 & 5 across the bottom. (Iím not comfortable with the page layouts, but continue to be consistent. And I know you covered yourself in the introduction, but still.)

    PANEL 1
    Switch to a view from down the street, looking back toward the jewelry store with it's broken door and the alley where Talia was hiding. The zombie is in the foreground, shambling along toward us, carrying its crate. We can see Talia standing out on the sidewalk behind the zombie. She is speaking to a pair of men in city constable's uniforms (concept drawings to be provided) who are coming out of the alley behind her. (Theyíre magically delicious! They appeared out of nowhere.)

    Caption:
    My name is Talia a'TehnJien.* I'm a cop.

    Caption:
    But not a city constable, like these two. (This line needs work.)

    Talia:
    Secure the store and contact the owner.

    Caption (small, in lower right corner):
    *pronounced ah-ten-yen.

    PANEL 2
    Semi-close-up on Talia's determined expression as she looks down the street after the zombie. She's holding her revolver up, near her face, where we can see it.

    Talia:
    I'll deal with the dead guy. (I just rolled my eyes. Why is this in its own panel? What is this doing to push the story forward?)

    PANEL 3
    Street level view outside a cemetery which is edged by a stone wall. There's a stone arch over the entrance with a wrought-iron gate standing open. The name "South Street Memorial Park" is carved into the stone arch. It's still the dark of night, and there are few streetlights in this area (none within the cemetery), but the glow of the gas-giant still provides an eerie half-light. The zombie is shambling in through the open gate, with its crate of goodies. Talia is still tailing it discretely (she could be hiding behind a tree growing along the sidewalk, concealed by an angle of stone wall, whatever you like).

    Caption:
    I'm a lieutenant in TirTilo's infamous Dweomer Corps, assigned to the even more infamous department that some still call the Inquisition. (Whoís she talking to? This is the thing I hate about character voiceovers. Whoís she talking to? If you say internal monologue, then why is she telling herself things she already knows? If itís not an internal monologue, and she gets into ďtroubleĒ near the end of thisótrouble like she may almost dieóthen youíve just killed any type of suspense youíve tried to build, because youíre telling us that she survives. This is the one of the reasons I really dislike first person narratives. I donít know who the characterís talking to, and you canít really get too much suspense out of the fate of the character because you need them to tell the story. And I'll bet you dollars to donuts that you stop halfway through, and pick it back up near the end.)

    PANEL 4
    Creeping between gravestones and statuary, Talia pursues the zombie farther into the cemetery. (How dangerous is the zombie that she needs to trail it discretely?)

    Caption:
    This is my job. (Pithy. And yes, that was sarcasm.)

    PANEL 5
    Deep into the cemetery now, the zombie is entering a mausoleum. Light is spilling out of the doorway. Talia is crouched behind a grave marker, watching.

    Caption:
    Hey, someone has to do it. (These lines are leaden and lifeless.)



    Page 3
    Four panels. Panels 1 & 2 stacked on the upper left with panel 3 double-height on the right. Panel 4 to be full-width across the bottom.

    PANEL 1
    Zoom in closer on the mausoleum. Talia is peeking around the corner of the still open doorway. Through the doorway, we can see the zombie, still carrying the crate of loot, stepping into an open sarcophagus set into the floor at the center of the small room - which the light is coming from.

    Necromancer (out of view from below the sarcophagus):
    Ah! You've returned. (This is the first decent line Iíve read so far. What does that tell you about the dialogue?)

    PANEL 2
    Same viewpoint as panel 1. Talia is slipping through the door as the zombie descends into the sarcophagus (there are steps in it leading to a subterranean area). But the zombie has miss-stepped and is falling forward down the stairs, the crate of loot flying out of its hands. (Nope. I donít think you can get all off that in the same panel. Youíre going to be hard pressed to show Talia and the descending zombie either missing a step or falling. This is also a moving panel.)

    Necromancer (out of view from below the sarcophagus):
    Look out! No!

    PANEL 3
    Talia is now at the sarcophagus, revolver in hand and aimed down into the opening. We're looking down into it from just behind Talia (slightly to the side). It'll need to be a somewhat high angle view so we can see down into the tomb concealed below the open sarcophagus. The zombie is face first on the floor at the bottom of a steep set of steps, the crate broken and loot scattered everywhere. Niches to the sides of the chamber, at the bottom of the steps, hold dusty, skeletal corpses (the corpses don't have to be particularly noticeable right now, just remember they're there)(Good, because depending on how big the chamber is, itís not going to be seen.). Torches in wall sconces provide light in the chamber.

    A wild-looking guy, tall and scrawny, with long, greasy hair and a straggly beard, dressed in ragged robes, is staring up at Talia in astonishment. He looks like a homeless bum trying to pass himself off as a medieval wizard. He's startled, cringing back. This is the necromancer.

    Talia:
    Stand down! (Really? No, really? How about something more original, like Freeze or Don't move? That works SO much better than this.)

    Talia:
    You're under arrest! (This doesn't need to be in a separate balloon. The first one is fine. This will save your letterer a lot of work.)

    Necromancer:
    Gaah!

    PANEL 4
    The viewpoint shifts down into the chamber. Talia is partway down the steps, still holding her revolver on the necromancer. The zombie at the bottom is lying motionless, his neck broken. The necromancer is raising his arms, hands dripping with glowing energy. The same energy glows in his eyes as he throws his head back, shouting maniacally. The corpses closest to him are beginning to crawl out of their niches, bits of rag and crumbling flesh all that's left sticking to their dry bones. There is a rough stone corridor leading out of the rear of the chamber, also lit with torches (the corridor does not have to be visible in this shot - it's just noted for future reference).

    Necromancer:
    You won't take me, Inquisitor!

    Necromancer:
    Arise, my children! (Leaden and lifeless, and more clichť than a little bit.)

    Caption:
    Children? Eew! (Lead.)


    Page 4
    Three panels. Two across the top, with panel three as a mini-splash across the bottom.

    PANEL 1
    Talia is at the bottom of the steps now, her feet placed carefully to avoid standing on the broken zombie. She's pointing her revolver at the Necromancer but there are zombies blocking her shot. The zombies, now fully out of their niches, are advancing on Talia. The necromancer is fleeing toward the rear corridor.

    Talia:
    Call off your zombies! Now! (Okay, most of this dialogue needs to be ripped out and replaced.)

    PANEL 2
    Talia shoots a couple of zombies in the head, but the remaining mob of undead is almost upon her.

    Talia:
    Don't make this harder than it has to be! (This? This line right here? Really? Picture me saying something totally truthful yet obscenely mean about this line.)

    SFX:
    BLAM BLAM

    PANEL 3
    The zombies swarm over Talia, burying her under a virtual avalanche of clawing, punching, desiccated corpses. (This is the first semi-decent place to turn the page. Pretty obvious, but better than the previous efforts.)

    Caption:
    Oh crap.


    Page 5
    Five panels. Panel one full-width across the top. The rest in two rows of two.

    PANEL 1
    The necromancer runs into a fairly large room off the end of the corridor. This is the necromancer's lair.

    The room is made of laid-up stone, with an arched ceiling and flagstone floors. It was probably a fairly nice tomb, once upon a time. Torches in wall brackets light the place. There should be shelves of crumbling books, and scrolls, and jars of who-knows-what, workbenches with beakers and burners, vials and tubes, and skulls and bones. An old mattress with a wad of blankets is in one corner. There should be a battered old upholstered chair, a table or two. The place should look like it was assembled from dump pickings. It's dirty, dusty, musty, covered with cobwebs. Squalor. Basically your typical mad wizard's lair, if the wizard was a homeless degenerate who lived in an underground tomb in the local cemetery.

    On a large, cleared area of floor in the middle of the room is a magic circle - this is the only well maintained part of the space. There are partially burnt candles set on human skulls arranged around the circle. Arcane runes painted with what might be blood adorn the inside and outside edge of the circle. The circle itself is made of mounded-up grave dirt, with bits of crystal and human bones set into the dirt. The circle is large enough to easily accommodate a person standing or kneeling in the center.

    Necromancer:
    That should stop her. But just in case...

    PANEL 2
    We're back in the room below the sarcophagus, where Talia is nearly buried in zombies. Her eyes are blazing with white crackling energy. A nimbus of crackling white surrounds each of her hands, and she's blasting away at the zombies with the energy. A couple of zombies are in mid air, being thrown up and back by a crackling blast. (Iím not seeing this. If sheís nearly buried, then we really shouldnít be able to see her. It would work better if she were totally buried.)

    SFX:
    KRAKOOM

    PANEL 3
    We're now back inside the necromancer's lair. He is scrambling around lighting the candles in his circle. He looks nervous, and is glancing back at the entrance to his lair. We can see some white glow reflecting off the stonework in the corridor, coming from down where Talia is fighting. (This is a moving panel. You know it, I know it, so why put it in?)

    Necromancer:
    Just a little more time.

    PANEL 4
    Back in the room below the sarcophagus. Zoom in on Talia, struggling to free herself from the pile as she uses the energy from one hand to burn away the head of a zombie that's trying to bite her. The other hand is blasting away at another one. Her eyes are still crackling white, and she looks pissed. Her hair is all over, loose from the ponytail. Her clothes are torn and dirty. She's covered with scratches and filth. And she's still struggling against overwhelming numbers of the walking dead.

    SFX:
    KZTAK KTHOOM

    PANEL 5
    Back in the necromancer's lair. He now has his candles all lit. He's grabbing a wand (crafted from bone of course) and a leather-bound book (better not to ask) off a workbench. (See this? This is a classic example of not setting thing up properly. You mentioned everything else in the previous panel descriptions but the wand and the book. Know whatís important, Calvin, and put it in accordingly. Everything else is crap next to the important objects that need to be in the panel. Otherwise, theyíre magically delicious, just like the beat cops earlier. Now, with that being said, whatís interesting about this panel to warrant me turning the page right now? Itís P5, and nothing of real merit has happened yet.)

    Necromancer:
    Nothing can stop me now! (Untrue. Youíre stopping yourself with tired lines like these.)


    Page 6
    Full page splash

    We are in the necromancer's lair. The view is from behind the wizard. We are looking over his shoulder at the doorway. He has his wand raised, glowing. Swirls of energy are rising up from the circle he is standing in. He's looking toward the entrance.

    Talia is standing just inside the doorway. She looks like she's been through hell and is about to raise some. He hair is flying wild, her uniform is ripped and torn, one sleeve ripped completely off - exposing the fact that for all her slender build, Talia is surprisingly muscular. She's got lots of minor cuts and scratches. Her head is tilted down slightly, hair hanging in her face. Her eyes are angry slits, crackling with white energy. Her shoulders are squared and her feet braced a bit apart. She's retrieved her revolver, but it's holstered now. Her arms are held to her sides, her hands reaching forward, her fingers clawed. A blazing ball of white energy crackles in each hand, tendrils of energy arcing up and around her forearms. (Padding. There is no way this warrants a splash page. Thereís no dramatic moment here that warrants the splash. No drama, no moment of heightened action.)

    Talia:
    You have no idea how many counts of resisting arrest you just racked up.


    Page 7
    Three panels. Panel 1 to be full-width across the top, with the other two panels in a row below.

    PANEL 1
    Move the viewpoint to the side. We can see Talia stalking toward the necromancer, energy still ready at hand, looking like she really means business. Her hands, still crackling with blue-white energy, are clenched in fists. (Iíd like to see how sheís stalking toward anything.)

    The necromancer is standing inside his magic circle. Glowing energy swirls up from the circle, wrapping around him - might be cool to have the energy seem like it's starting from the candles, the flame blending into the glow. He still has his wand at the ready, and his book is tucked under one arm. He's standing arrogantly now that his spell is complete, head thrown back as if laughing at Talia. (If he has his head thrown back, laughing, how is his wand at the ready?)

    Necromancer:
    You are defeated, Inquisitor! (Comma.)

    Necromancer:
    With my protective circle complete, all your power is for naught. And I have all the time I need to cast a spell for escape. (I think my head just exploded with exposition.)

    Necromancer:
    HaHaHA!

    PANEL 2
    Similar to panel 1, but zoomed in. The viewpoint should be from slightly on the necromancer's side, so we can see Talia's face well. Talia is standing right at the edge of the necromancer's protective circle. Her eyes are no longer glowing. She has dropped her hands to her sides. There is no trace now of the power she was earlier commanding. She's looking up at the necromancer, head cocked to one side. She looks ever so slightly amused.

    Talia:
    You really aren't too bright, are you? (Comma.)

    Necromancer:
    I... wha... What do you mean?

    PANEL 3
    Same viewpoint as panel 2. The necromancer looks worried. Talia is obviously smiling now, rather smugly. (Finally! Seven pages to get to a proper page turn! And remember what I said about the internal monologue? I'd win that bet.)

    Necromancer:
    No matter how great your power, it cannot penetrate this circle!

    Talia:
    True enough.

    Talia:
    But...


    Page 8
    Four panels. Panel 1 to be full width across the top, with panel 2 full width below it, and the other panels in a row at the bottom.

    PANEL 1
    View from behind the necromancer as he falls back toward us. Talia has stepped across the necromancer's circle, popping it like a soap bubble (either show the energy gone, or with only fading wisps remaining), and rocked the man back with a strong roundhouse blow to the face. (this is a bad angle. Itís better to show it from the side, not from behind the necromancer. This way, you get everything in the panel as needed, showing it to best dramatic effect.)

    Talia:
    A magic circle only blocks magic. (She's an elf. Doesn't she have innate magic, or somesuch? Or magic doesn't work that way in your universe? Just asking, because people will be thrown off, their basic assumption being that elves are magical creatures.)

    Talia:
    Moron.

    SFX:
    THOK

    PANEL 2
    Worms eye view, with the necromancer in the foreground. Talia has him on the floor, his face is turned to one side and shoved into the grave dirt that made up his circle. The components of the circle are scattered from their very brief scuffle. She has a knee in his back, holding him down as she cuffs him with his arms behind his back. The cuffs are etched with arcane runes which glow with light. The man's eyes are wide with disbelief. (Nope. Wormís eye view is on the ground, looking up. Youíre not going to be able to see everything youíre asking for here.)

    Talia:
    You are bound in the name of the Crown, for felony violation of the Dweomer Prohibition and burglary.

    Talia:
    I wouldn't try any more magic, either. These cuffs will blow your hands clear off if you overload their spellsink.

    PANEL 3
    (wider of the two panels in this row) Street level viewpoint, the cemetery & its entry arch are to our left with the vacant street and a backdrop of the city spreading out to the right side of the panel. Talia and the necromancer are out in front of the cemetery now, standing on the sidewalk in front of the stone arch. It's still dark out, but the glow of dawn brightens the edge of the gas-giant with a beautiful crescent sunrise, as the sun begins to peek out from behind the planet. The dark spire of the GaleWard, towering over the city, is silhouetted against the growing light. The street is deserted. Talia is looking up the street with a disgusted expression. The necromancer just looks miserable.

    Talia:
    I ought to be able to charge you with making me walk too damn much, too.

    Caption:
    This might seem like an odd case for some cops. (Oh, now you want to start up the internal monologue again? We're near the end, right?)

    PANEL 4
    Talia gives the necromancer a rough shove, sending him staggering forward. (How are you going to show the rough shove? You canít. You can show her ďhittingĒ him and him bent over, staggering forward, but you canít show him being shoved roughly. Watch your descriptions. Your description is what makes this a moving panel. A few of your moving panels are because of how you described it, and not the action actually taking place.)

    Caption:
    But it's all in a night's work for the Special Investigations Unit. (Period.)

    Talia:
    Get moving.

    Okay, Calvin. We have some problems here. Weíre going to go from bad to worst.

    You have too much description in your panel descriptions. Most of it is useless, and will be ignored by the artist. And of course, the instances where you have things just appear out of thin air, such as the cops and the book of shadows and wand. These things need to be set up properly. Letís take another look at Spider-Man. You could have him hurting, holding his shoulder, in an alley somewhere. Then heís walking out of the alley, wearing an overcoat, in the midst of a snowstorm. Now, I havenít previously mentioned either the overcoat being somewhere in the alley (and I can get away with that with a single line of dialogue), but I also didnít mention the snowstorm. That snowstorm is harder to explain without prior setup, isnít it? Same thing with your panel descriptions. Put in what needs to be there. If you suddenly think of something five panels later, then by all means, go back to the first panel where it could have been mentioned and add it in.

    Easy fix.

    Iím surprised at the moving panels. There were a few of them. Iím honestly surprised you put them in there, seeing as how hard of a time you give me with them in other people's scripts. Thatís enough about that.

    Now, I also understand that youíre an artist. As such, Iím also surprised at the couple of panels that really canít be drawn, or whose composition would be better served from a different angle. Itís not something I would have suspected, unless your artwork is stronger than your scripting, which is always possible.

    The dialogue was terrible. Extremely clunky and unserviceable, but that may be because of the story that was told. Weíll come to that in a moment. Dialogue is supposed to be crisp and service the story, not make people run the other way in an effort to escape. Okay, it wasnít as bad as all that (and trust me, Iíve seen as bad as all that), but on the whole, the dialogue is totally unserviceable. I suggest you go back and re-read the Dialogue week of B&N and follow those exercises. They can only help.

    The worst thing, besides the dialogue, is the actual story itself. I know its only eight pages, but within them, there was no reason for this story being told. None whatsoever. Your story is about nothing. A series of actions, sure, but no plot. That is the biggest sin of this entire piece. Even bad horror movies of the 80s had plots. Whatís the plot here? I challenge you to tell me, unless itís so subtle that it went over my head or under my radar.

    This story is terrible because thereís no story here. I want you to think of the movie Die Hard. Take out the first fifteen minutes and the last ten, and call that the entire movie. Whatís it about? Whatís the story? Why would people pay money to go see it?

    Same thing here. Thereís no plot to this ďstory.Ē Without the plot, there is no reason for being for this story. Even though there is a complete set of actions, the story never starts, and thus, never ends. Thatís a crime that no writer should commit. Too bad you did.

    If this sample is par for the course for all of your writing, then you need help from the ground up. You need to learn what constitutes a story, and then learn how to implement it. Thatís for any storytelling medium. After you learn storytelling, you need to apply it to comic scripts. Not only that, but you also need to clean up the mechanics of your storytelling within your chosen medium.

    Thatís all. You have a lot of work ahead of you.


    Next week, we have Tommy Brownell and then Jeff Beahn.

    Let's discuss this.



  2. harryd Guest

    Ah, I remember this one from D.W. and the big debate over whether police would let zombies commit a crime in order to follow them Anyhow, thanks for sticking your neck out for some critiquing.

    - Harry Durnan



  3. AdamH Guest

    Another good edit, Steven.

    Harry, I thought the script looked familar, that's where it was from.



  4. CalvinCamp Guest

    Whew. Could have been worse.

    First off... Thanks, Steven!
    There's a lot of helpful input there.

    And then... I've got some questions, some comments, a couple disagreements. Please don't take this as argumentative (except for the couple places where we're going to get into moving panels again), because it's not intended that way. I just like to explain my reasoning and thoughts, in the hopes that further feedback from you or others might help. Plus responding helps me to focus my thoughts on your comments.

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenForbes View Post
    Um, no. In the English speaking world, we read left to right, top to bottom.
    Gahh! That panel is supposed to be on the left. Talk about embarrassing.

    (This should have been gone over with the artist before they put pencil to paper.)
    It would normally have been covered by the "concept drawings of major characters to be provided". I only added the note about her being an Elf to this draft because the concept drawings are not available here.

    (you’re giving too much info here. If she always wears the weapon, no one cares to read it in the panel description That’s like mentioning that Spider-Man has web shooters when he’s already in costume.)
    Hmmm. She does always wear the gun when in uniform, but I didn't want it to be missed. Especially since this would, unlike with Spiderman, be the artist's first experience with the character. And calling out something obvious is better than not calling it out and having it get missed, right?

    Again, too much info. How about trusting the artist to do their job, too?)
    I probably am just having trouble letting go of artistic control, but, in this instance, with the tall first panel trying to lead the eye downward, it seemed important to have a visual cue for the reader, to lead their eyes back up and to the right, to make sure they don't skip down to the panels below. Basically it was a dodgy layout to begin with, and I've already changed it in a later draft to solve the problem.

    (WHEW! All of that is the FIRST PANEL! I started falling asleep while reading it, to be honest. I lost track a few times, and had to take a No-Doze in order to keep alert through all of that. Not the best way to start out. This is a comic script. Keep it moving along, not bogged down in things that aren't going to make it to the panel or descriptions that aren't necessary. Like I said before, trust the artist to do their job, too.)
    What isn't going to make it to the panel? I've already sketched it up, and I don't think I missed anything. And I don't think there's much noted that isn't fairly important.

    (We can’t tell it’s the dead of night through all the darkness? We can’t see the sleeping gargoyle? I get that it sets up your next line, but still, as an opening, this is bad.)
    You can tell it's not broad daylight, but do you really know how late it is? Can you tell the gargoyle is sleeping, and not just a decoration? Of course I guess the first isn't that important, and the last is clarified when the gargoyle takes flight. I don't know. It seemed important at the time, but maybe it's really not.

    (are the diviners a class of people? If so, it needs to be capitalized.)
    Good question. And I don't know the answer. The D/diviners are a specialized position within the SIU. Would "crime scene technician" be capitalized? Probably. I'll look into it.

    Moving panel. You know exactly where it happens, too. I’d like you to tell me.)
    And here we go again. It's not a moving panel just because there are multiple events taking place within the panel. There are three things happening here.
    1)The zombie is tearing the door off.
    2) Splinters of door frame are flying.
    3) The rudely awakened gargoyle is taking flight.
    All of them are taking place at the same time, and can be shown in one panel.

    (This isn’t a horrible page-turn. Not great by any means, but not horrible.)

    (This is a bad line to end on. Doesn’t make me want to turn the page at all. This is a weak first page overall.)
    Is it not a horrible page-turn? Or is it a bad line to end on and you don't want to turn the page? The two kind of go together, don't they? Without the line, why do I need the panel? And I wanted the line about necromancy to get across the idea that there's a human agent involved behind the zombie's actions. Otherwise the cops would just stop the burglary and head out for donuts, right?

    And I don't understand...why is it that weak of a page? I establish the scene and the main character, provide hints that it's taking place in a completely different world, show a zombie doing something out of character for the walking dead, include some gratuitous property damage, and end with a half-assed joke about zombies smelling bad. That seemed, to me, like quite a bit for a single page. Is it just that those things aren't remotely interesting?

    They’re magically delicious! They appeared out of nowhere.)
    The zombie might think they're delicious, but they appeared from the alley behind Talia, just like I described. They weren't noted in the first panel because they weren't supposed to be visible in the first panel. Based on the viewpoint setup, they'd be behind the camera. So I didn't mention them. I guess I could have noted that they were present, but off-panel - just didn't think it was important.

    Who’s she talking to? This is the thing I hate about character voiceovers. Who’s she talking to? If you say internal monologue, then why is she telling herself things she already knows? If it’s not an internal monologue, and she gets into “trouble” near the end of this—trouble like she may almost die—then you’ve just killed any type of suspense you’ve tried to build, because you’re telling us that she survives. This is the one of the reasons I really dislike first person narratives. I don’t know who the character’s talking to, and you can’t really get too much suspense out of the fate of the character because you need them to tell the story. And I'll bet you dollars to donuts that you stop halfway through, and pick it back up near the end.)
    She's talking to the reader. That's how voiceovers usually work isn't it - the character is telling the story? If it was just her internal thoughts, I'd have used thought balloons. But she wouldn't be thinking those things to herself, it wouldn't make any sense.

    I agree with the potential to ruin suspense. In this case, it's not a concern for me as this is intended (and would be presented) as an intro to a larger story. So it's already a given that the character survives.

    I'm not convinced, myself, that I like the first-person narrative. But there's some information I figured I needed to provide, and (short of making the script longer) it seemed like the least obnoxious way to provide it. It's also kind of in-genre for the pulp style I'm trying to go for. If I can think of a better way around it, it may disappear.

    How dangerous is the zombie that she needs to trail it discretely?)
    It's not a matter of how dangerous it is. It's a matter of whether it will still lead her directly to its creator if she's so blatant as to be spotted by it. There's also the chance that someone is watching for the zombie, so it's not the only one she's hiding from. Either way, the more cover she uses, the less likely she'll be spotted.

    (Nope. I don’t think you can get all off that in the same panel. You’re going to be hard pressed to show Talia and the descending zombie either missing a step or falling. This is also a moving panel.)
    Yes, it may be a challenge to show all of that in one panel. It'll take some creative angles to pull off, and it might need to be split. I wanted to try and get it in one though.

    But it's not a moving panel. Talia is slipping though the door behind the zombie, which is falling as it tries to descend into the sarcophagus. Two actions taking place at the same moment. Providing an explanation of why the zombie is falling, in the hopes of getting a more accurate depiction, does not make it a moving panel.

    Good, because depending on how big the chamber is, it’s not going to be seen.)
    .Right, I knew that. That's why I said it. But if the niches were there and I hadn't mentioned them in this panel, you know you'd have been raising hell when zombies came crawling out of the non-existent niches the artist didn't show. Right?

    (I’m not seeing this. If she’s nearly buried, then we really shouldn’t be able to see her. It would work better if she were totally buried.)
    I don't see why she can't be "nearly buried" with parts of her still visible, especially since she's just blasted two of her attackers away from her. It'd seem a little weird to me to see two zombies in mid-air and no gap in the pile.

    I will grant you that just a crackling glow from within a pile of zombies could look kind of cool though.

    (This is a moving panel. You know it, I know it, so why put it in?)
    Yep. That's a moving panel. The panel I envisioned isn't moving, of course, but that description is right up there with a left hand panel called out on the right. The "scrambling around" bit was supposed to get across his state of aggitation and urgency, not be actual movement. That'll definitely get fixed.

    (See this? This is a classic example of not setting thing up properly. You mentioned everything else in the previous panel descriptions but the wand and the book.
    Yep. Classic example.

    Now, with that being said, what’s interesting about this panel to warrant me turning the page right now? It’s P5, and nothing of real merit has happened yet.)
    Nothing of real merit... The hero is literally up to her neck in zombies and the villian has just declared victory. And that's not something to turn the page for? Really?

    (Padding. There is no way this warrants a splash page. There’s no dramatic moment here that warrants the splash. No drama, no moment of heightened action.)
    The battered but triumphant hero, having overcome the villian's lackies, now confronts the villian for the final battle... That seemed like a fairly dramatic moment to me.

    Also, with what I need to show (the necromancer within his circle, Talia at the doorway, and some distance between them) and the details I want to get across, I'm not sure I'd want to attempt this on much less than a half page. So it might be a little padded, but I'm not sure it's by that much.

    (I’d like to see how she’s stalking toward anything.)
    What do you mean here? I have no idea what you're saying.

    (If he has his head thrown back, laughing, how is his wand at the ready?)
    And I don't know what you're talking about here either. He was holding his wand at the ready and threw his head back to laugh, without moving the wand. What's the problem?

    (Finally! Seven pages to get to a proper page turn!
    Huh. You shrug at Talia buried under a zombie horde and get excited over a smug smile. Ah well, I'm glad in a way, because this one should really be the biggest build-up and I suspected it was a little lame and over-played.

    And remember what I said about the internal monologue? I'd win that bet.)
    Yeah. I'd have never bet against you on the odds that the voiceover was a good idea.

    (this is a bad angle. It’s better to show it from the side, not from behind the necromancer. This way, you get everything in the panel as needed, showing it to best dramatic effect.)
    Maybe. I felt that I'd been using a lot of side-views in earlier panels and should change it up. And I'm not sure I agree the angle is bad. I'd want to thumbnail it before I said definitively, but I think what I called for is better than a side view. Maybe a 3/4 from slightly behind...

    This is my problem with always calling out the point of view. As an artist, I'd as soon just see a description of the action. Then I can always thumbnail a few different viewpoints to see what works the best. So trying to lock it in ahead is really counter-intuitive.

    (She's an elf. Doesn't she have innate magic, or somesuch? Or magic doesn't work that way in your universe? Just asking, because people will be thrown off, their basic assumption being that elves are magical creatures.)
    She's a high fantasy, D&D style elf, not a fairy. I don't think I've ever read a fantasy story of that type (where elves aren't something unnatural and other-worldly) where an elf was blocked by a magic circle. Something to keep in mind though, if it throws one person it could throw others.

    I'm also on the fence about including fantasy races in the setting at all. I may just keep it simple and make everyone human. It'll throw a monkey wrench into a future story I've had planned, but I can probably work it out.

    (Nope. Worm’s eye view is on the ground, looking up. You’re not going to be able to see everything you’re asking for here.)
    I wanted the view from roughly ground level, in front of, or beside, the necromancer - as if we're right down there in the dirt with him. Worm's eye might be the wrong term, but I want a very low shot. As low as possible to still show what I've called for. I'd have to do some thumbnails, but I think I can get it pretty low.

    (How are you going to show the rough shove? You can’t. You can show her “hitting” him and him bent over, staggering forward, but you can’t show him being shoved roughly. Watch your descriptions. Your description is what makes this a moving panel. A few of your moving panels are because of how you described it, and not the action actually taking place.)
    Sure I can show it. I can simply show him bent over and staggering forward with her hand still in contact with him. Not described as well as it should be, I'll go along with that. But it's not a moving panel.

    You have too much description in your panel descriptions. Most of it is useless, and will be ignored by the artist.
    Then I'd find another artist. Useless or not, (unless I've specified that I'm providing general "color" the artist can pick from for various panels, as in the necromancer's lair) if I call for it, it's because I want it shown. I didn't put that stuff in the script to pad the page count. If the artist wants to talk to me about making changes, leaving stuff out, whatever... I'm fine with that. But unless we've discussed it, I feel the artist should be drawing the things I asked him to draw.

    And it goes both ways, of course - I feel that's what I owe, as an artist, to any of my clients. If I ran into something where I simply could not fit in everything that was described, I'd be discussing that with the client, not winging it and leaving out whatever I pleased.

    And of course, the instances where you have things just appear out of thin air, such as the cops and the book of shadows and wand.
    'Nuff said. In the case of the book and wand, it's one of those things I know, and can only chalk up to temporary mental lapse. Err... it's a rough draft. Yeah, that's it.

    I’m surprised at the moving panels. There were a few of them. I’m honestly surprised you put them in there, seeing as how hard of a time you give me with them in other people's scripts. That’s enough about that.
    There are a few less than you think there are. Which is exactly what I've given you a hard time about before, so it really didn't surprise me at all.

    Now, I also understand that you’re an artist. As such, I’m also surprised at the couple of panels that really can’t be drawn, or whose composition would be better served from a different angle. It’s not something I would have suspected, unless your artwork is stronger than your scripting, which is always possible.
    I don't think there's anything that really can't be drawn. There's one that'll be a challenge, and might end up getting changed. Other than that one, I really don't see any that should be a major problem.

    As for the different angles... that's why I really don't like always calling them out. I honestly think thumbnailing a few options is almost always the way to go. Without that step, you're just guessing IMO. I could do the thumbnails while scripting, of course, but it seems like the artist's job, not the writer's.

    Part of it may also be that my artistic background is not in sequential art, so I'm trying to study that aspect along with writing. And I never said I was a particularly good artist.

    The dialogue was terrible.
    Now that's never good to hear.

    The dialogue was supposed to be kind of campy. Especially the necromancer, who was supposed to be a pulp-typical, pompous, over-the-top villian. And an idiot. The exposition to himself, I felt, was in character for a crazy guy who lives in tomb and keeps company with corpses. I imagine him talking to himself all the time. Who else would he talk to?

    But if that didn't get across, then that's a problem.

    The worst thing, besides the dialogue, is the actual story itself. I know its only eight pages, but within them, there was no reason for this story being told. None whatsoever. Your story is about nothing. A series of actions, sure, but no plot. That is the biggest sin of this entire piece. Even bad horror movies of the 80s had plots. What’s the plot here? I challenge you to tell me, unless it’s so subtle that it went over my head or under my radar.

    This story is terrible because there’s no story here. I want you to think of the movie Die Hard. Take out the first fifteen minutes and the last ten, and call that the entire movie. What’s it about? What’s the story? Why would people pay money to go see it?

    Same thing here. There’s no plot to this “story.” Without the plot, there is no reason for being for this story. Even though there is a complete set of actions, the story never starts, and thus, never ends. That’s a crime that no writer should commit. Too bad you did.
    I thought we cleared this up when you brought it up over on Digital Webbing.

    This isn't "the entire movie". It isn't a story. It's an intro. A teaser. The story hasn't started yet, because the story actually hasn't started yet.

    The sole purpose of this piece was to introduce the character, give some hints about her world, explain her job, show a little bit about how magic works (and doesn't work), and have a little fun along the way. And it may well fail even as that. But that's different from failing as a complete story, which it isn't supposed to be.

    If this sample is par for the course for all of your writing, then you need help from the ground up. You need to learn what constitutes a story, and then learn how to implement it. That’s for any storytelling medium. After you learn storytelling, you need to apply it to comic scripts. Not only that, but you also need to clean up the mechanics of your storytelling within your chosen medium.

    That’s all. You have a lot of work ahead of you.
    I wouldn't say this is representative of my work in general. This was something I did as an excercise in forcing myself to write something to a pre-set length. I gave myself eight pages and told myself to start writing. Also, as I said, I was never going for a full story, only a vignette. Something that would lead into the actual story, without being essential to it. The dialogue issues concern me much more than the lack of story.

    I've been told I'm a good story-teller (and not just by friends and family), but whether I really am... who knows? One problem I do have, however, is telling stories that are short. And that might have hurt this script. If I was better at writing short, maybe I could have done an eight page piece that really was a story. Which probably would have been better.

    As for having a lot of work ahead of me, that's a given. Considering this is the second thing I've ever written in comic script format (and that I haven't done a whole lot of writing in any format), I'm fairly happy with the levels of blood spilled.
    Last edited by CalvinCamp; Saturday, May 09, 2009 at 07:16 AM.



  5. CalvinCamp Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by harryd View Post
    Ah, I remember this one from D.W. and the big debate over whether police would let zombies commit a crime in order to follow them
    Heh. Yeah, that was fun.
    And the script got nicer comments there too. But I expected that.

    Anyhow, thanks for sticking your neck out for some critiquing.
    Don't thank me, thank Steven. I figure I'm lucky he's still speaking to me after all the go-arounds we've had here and at DW.

    The man's a saint. A particularly brutal saint, perhaps, but still a saint.



  6. StevenForbes Guest

    Címon. I cannot be that bad.

    (Brutal saintÖ Of all da noiveÖ)

    Okay, letís see what weíve got here.

    Iím not going to run through all of the comments. Thatís a lot, and as you said, it helps you to focus. There are some things I want to get across to you, though. I will, however, go in order of the things that need to be addressed.

    Artistic control- yup, youíre going to have to give some of that up. Itís really pretty simple, because thereís no other way to do it unless you draw it yourself. You have too much useless information in places that bog down your script. You have nearly an entire page of description for your first panel. Thatís too much, because most of it isnít important. Honestly. Let the artist do their job, while you concentrate on yours. Right now, unless you draw it yourself, your job is writing. Either let some control go, or be interesting when you write page-long panel descriptions.

    Now, the biggest thing about the script, besides the lack of story and the flat dialogue, are the moving panels. When I say you have a moving panel, despite what you may think, itís because you do. Itís the way youíre describing the actions. You have a lot of descriptors to your actions that make them moving, rather than portraying a single, frozen moment. As a scriptwriter, this may be one of your biggest challenges, because youíre seeing the panels in your head as an artist, but are not communicating them effectively as a writer. The two arenít meeting well. You can insist until youíre blue in the faceóyour panel descriptions speak for themselves. If you watch HOW you say what you say, you can nip that in the bud.

    Your page turns are weak, because youíre going through a set of actions that donít have any real punch to them. There are few mini-cliffhangers that push the reader into turning the page in order to find out what happens next. They donít have to all be mini cliffhangers, but they help. Youíre supposed to be telling a story, and every page, every panel, needs to do something to either push the story forward or reveal character. Youíve failed to do that here. So, no, your first page isnít that interesting, because you didnít make it so. There was nothing done nor said to make this an interesting read. Want to see an interesting read? Go back and read the script John Lees sent in. Something of a rocky start, but he finds his feet quickly and gets the story moving.

    As for things being magically delicious, itís not just about mentioning them somewhere in the panel descriptions. Sometimes, they need to be mentioned in a place a reader can see them, as well. Setting up the artist is one thing, setting up the reader is something else. Iím referring to the constables, specifically. If Talia mentions them earlier, they wonít be magically delicious.

    Your splash page- like I said, itís padding. What youíre seeing as drama Iím seeing as flat. Despite what youíre saying, thereís nothing in this splash page that is of high action or a high, emotional moment. Picture this on a t-shirt or a cover. It doesnít work. You havenít earned it. If Talia had really been through the wringer, this would warrant a bigger panel, but not a splash page. Pick and choose your panels more carefully.

    Like I said, the dialogue is horrible. Flat, clichťd, and overall, unserviceable. This didnít come off as campy, it came off as stupid, because the characters are polar opposites. Talia is serious, but she is NOT being a straight man to the bluster of your wizard. Your wizard IS a moron and over the top, and you did that well. He annoyed me. However, in contrast to Talia, it makes him an even bigger idiot, and they arenít playing well off each other. Again, see John Leesí script. His dialogue was killing me also, until I realized it was supposed to be campy. Then I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. Everything was camp in particular scenes, not just a single character. Your wizard sticks out obscenely. Taliaís dialogue isnít much better, either.

    Again, say what you will, this is not a story. If this is a lead in to something bigger, it goes nowhere. If this were the first 8 pages of a book I picked up, Iíd wonder when the story would start. It never does, and 8 pages is a LONG TIME to go nowhere. Every scene needs to tell a story, Calvin. Every scene needs to do something to push the story forward. This is nothing. Neither we nor the character learns anything at all in these eight pages. Picture a cop pulling over someone for speeding, then the person pulls off and starts a high speed chase. The cop eventually gets the fleeing speedster by ramming them into the pole. The end. Despite all the questions you may have, that's all the information you get. Thatís not a story, and neither is this. My point? This should have been a story. Thatís why we write. We have something we want to communicate to the world.

    Donít get me wrong, and donít misunderstand me. These 8 pages could have easily been a story with the addition of a few lines of dialogue. Easily. Again, this is a failure on your part. Itís not my job to write your story for you, or to tell you what your story is supposed to be about. My job is to edit what you give me, and tell you what you did wrong and what you did right. For the purposes of this column, what you did wrong. The biggest, most egregious problem with these pages is that thereís no story. Even the worst of the other scripts that I took apart here at least told a story or had a point. This is the only one that spins its wheels, which is a shame, because it could have been a lot more with the addition of a few lines.

    But, youíre right about one thing. This could have been a LOT worse.



  7. CalvinCamp Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenForbes View Post
    Címon. I cannot be that bad.

    (Brutal saintÖ Of all da noiveÖ)
    You're not bad. If you were bad, I wouldn't keep coming back.

    The point is that it's surprisingly rare to find someone as brutally frank in their opinions as you are, who will also tolerate someone questioning and challenging those opinions. Between here and our discussions on DW, I've given you a fair portion of crap, and you've taken it like a gentleman and stepped up for more. That's a quality I respect quite a bit. I've known too many people who would have refused to do something like post my script on their column (much less respond to my comments), simply because I've questioned and challenged and disagreed with them.

    I run into it a lot, because I've got a screwy learning system. It even goes back to my school days. I can't accept and memorize unless it's something that just makes instant sense when I hear it. I've never learned a thing without experimenting, questioning, challenging, and forcing people to prove things that didn't make sense to me. That didn't go over well with most of my teachers, but it got me awards from a couple. Guess which ones I learned the most from.

    So, yeah. When I run across someone who has something they can teach me, and they can handle my thick skull and obstinance without getting ticked off... that's like striking gold.

    Artistic control- yup, youíre going to have to give some of that up. Itís really pretty simple, because thereís no other way to do it unless you draw it yourself. You have too much useless information in places that bog down your script. You have nearly an entire page of description for your first panel. Thatís too much, because most of it isnít important. Honestly. Let the artist do their job, while you concentrate on yours. Right now, unless you draw it yourself, your job is writing. Either let some control go, or be interesting when you write page-long panel descriptions.
    Okay, I'm with you up to a point. There's some panel layout stuff that I agree should go. There's some other stuff that's more "wordy" than it needs to be. But, particularly in that first panel, there's also a lot I'm trying to get across, visually, to the reader. I'm not sure how much information about those actual visual elements I could leave out and still get the points across that I want to. And I certainly can't trust the artist to get those points across if I haven't told them what they are.

    I think I'd have to see some actual examples of what you feel should go, before I could decide whether I agree or disagree. At this point, I just don't know.

    Now, the biggest thing about the script, besides the lack of story and the flat dialogue, are the moving panels. When I say you have a moving panel, despite what you may think, itís because you do. Itís the way youíre describing the actions. You have a lot of descriptors to your actions that make them moving, rather than portraying a single, frozen moment. As a scriptwriter, this may be one of your biggest challenges, because youíre seeing the panels in your head as an artist, but are not communicating them effectively as a writer. The two arenít meeting well. You can insist until youíre blue in the faceóyour panel descriptions speak for themselves. If you watch HOW you say what you say, you can nip that in the bud.
    I know it's not just blindness to my own writing, because I see you do the same thing with everybody's writing. But I do think we've reached a point where I've figured out what elements of the descriptions are leading you to make the moving panel claims. And I think I could probably re-write the descriptions in a way that would prevent you from reading an extra action into them. But I still think "reading into them" is what you're doing.

    Unless the panel description includes current actions which cannot be drawn within a single panel, then I don't believe it's a moving panel. Mentioning that a zombie "has miss-stepped on the stairs" to get an accurate portrayal of the current action that the zombie "is falling" (rather than getting a drawing back that just shows it toppling over the top edge like someone tripped it), does not constitute a moving panel IMO. But the point really is that I think I could now rewrite the description so that you didn't think so, either. And that's some progress.

    Your page turns are weak, because youíre going through a set of actions that donít have any real punch to them. There are few mini-cliffhangers that push the reader into turning the page in order to find out what happens next. They donít have to all be mini cliffhangers, but they help. Youíre supposed to be telling a story, and every page, every panel, needs to do something to either push the story forward or reveal character. Youíve failed to do that here. So, no, your first page isnít that interesting, because you didnít make it so. There was nothing done nor said to make this an interesting read. Want to see an interesting read? Go back and read the script John Lees sent in. Something of a rocky start, but he finds his feet quickly and gets the story moving.
    I'll go look at John's script. But at the moment I still don't know what you're looking for here.

    Assuming for the moment that the dialogue hasn't made you toss the comic back on the shelf with disgust (which I understand is assuming a bit much)... if introducing a "cops in a non-modern fantasy setting" theme, showing a zombie pulling off a smash and grab instead of merely trying to find some brains to munch on, and sending a cop off to (apparently) arrest the living dead... seeing the cop grossly outnumbered by rising zombies... seeing the cop literally being buried under an attacking undead horde... seeing the villian suddenly declare final victory when his zombie attack hadn't even instilled him with a measure of confidence... if none of those interest you enough to turn a page, then I can only wonder if we may not be interested in the same things.

    The page turns are at some of the most compelling moments in the script, at least to my mind (and "most compelling" being used in a relative sense). I'd be willing to just assume that means nothing is sufficiently compelling at all, except that farther along, you claim this script could have been a lot more with nothing but some extra dialogue. So I have to think it's not really the events you have a problem with. Yet, a comic is really nothing but the combination of events that end up getting drawn on the page and dialogue. So is it really only the dialogue (or lack thereof) that's the problem? Would better dialogue make you turn the page?

    As for things being magically delicious, itís not just about mentioning them somewhere in the panel descriptions. Sometimes, they need to be mentioned in a place a reader can see them, as well. Setting up the artist is one thing, setting up the reader is something else. Iím referring to the constables, specifically. If Talia mentions them earlier, they wonít be magically delicious.
    Ah... now this, at least, makes sense now. You weren't complaining because I didn't mention them to the artist earlier. You were complaining because I didn't mention (or show) them to the reader earlier. I had thought it was enough to provide a plausible location for them to emerge from (the alley), but perhaps not.

    Your splash page- like I said, itís padding. What youíre seeing as drama Iím seeing as flat. Despite what youíre saying, thereís nothing in this splash page that is of high action or a high, emotional moment. Picture this on a t-shirt or a cover. It doesnít work. You havenít earned it. If Talia had really been through the wringer, this would warrant a bigger panel, but not a splash page. Pick and choose your panels more carefully.
    I actually think that would make a half-way decent cover, myself. I will grant you that something on the scale of this probably doesn't rate a full page splash in the first place. And I'll grant you that the panel (splash or otherwise) probably isn't all that special. I'm really okay with you calling it out as padding.

    Like I said, the dialogue is horrible. Flat, clichťd, and overall, unserviceable. This didnít come off as campy, it came off as stupid, because the characters are polar opposites. Talia is serious, but she is NOT being a straight man to the bluster of your wizard. Your wizard IS a moron and over the top, and you did that well. He annoyed me. However, in contrast to Talia, it makes him an even bigger idiot, and they arenít playing well off each other. Again, see John Leesí script. His dialogue was killing me also, until I realized it was supposed to be campy. Then I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. Everything was camp in particular scenes, not just a single character. Your wizard sticks out obscenely. Taliaís dialogue isnít much better, either.
    Again, I think I see what you're saying on this one. It's good to know the necromancer's dialogue was working somewhat as intended. The characters should be polar opposites, but I think I can work with the idea of Talia playing off him more. I noticed I seemed to get your attention as soon as she started mocking him on page 7, so maybe I'll try bringing in some of that snark a little earlier. I was thinking of Talia's personality as rather taciturn, but maybe a caustic smartass would work better.

    Again, say what you will, this is not a story. If this is a lead in to something bigger, it goes nowhere. If this were the first 8 pages of a book I picked up, Iíd wonder when the story would start. It never does, and 8 pages is a LONG TIME to go nowhere. Every scene needs to tell a story, Calvin. Every scene needs to do something to push the story forward. This is nothing.
    It's not about saying what I will. I never insisted it was a story, so I fully accept that it is not. And I'll even agree with you that it should have been.

    However this....
    Neither we nor the character learns anything at all in these eight pages.
    ...is pure hyperbole. If you literally learned nothing about Talia, about what she does for a living, about the world she lives in, and about the way magic works (and doesn't work) in that world, then I guess I really must have put you to sleep with that first panel description. If you want to tell me you learned nothing you cared to learn, then I can't argue with that. If you want to tell me the writing was so bad it blocked out the learning centers of your brain, then I'll have to accept that too. But there was stuff presented for the reader to learn. There was something to communicate. There was a point.

    Donít get me wrong, and donít misunderstand me. These 8 pages could have easily been a story with the addition of a few lines of dialogue. Easily.
    These eight pages? The same eight pages you've spent paragraph after paragraph, even bringing it up out of the blue on a different forum, insisting that it is not remotely a story? Now those same eight pages only need a few more lines of dialogue to be a complete story? I'm forced to assume that you were either exaggerating the problem, or downplaying the solution. I'd really like to know which.

    If this could be made something more and better without adding too much additional length, I'd be interested in attempting it. I'd be really interested in knowing if there's enough here to be worth the attempt, or if I'd be better off scrapping it and working on something completely different.

    Thanks again!



  8. StevenForbes Guest

    Okay. Let's talk about page turns for a bit, and what constitutes a good one and a bad one.

    A good page turn is where, for the previous panels, you cannot WAIT to get to see what happens next. You've built up some drama, some suspense (and this works for comedy, as well), and that very last panel, you've pulled the trigger. The bullet doesn't come out until you actually turn the page, you don't get to see the reaction of the characters, you don't get to the punchline of the joke, but you've set up a mini-cliffhanger that keeps the reader interested in turning the page.

    Let me say that again: you keep the reader interested in turning the page. And that's part of the problem with these eight pages. There's action happening, but there's nothing INTERESTING because you're not telling a story. It's nothing but a set of actions that go nowhere. If there was a story being told, then you'd probably have a better time with the page turns, because you're telling a story and are building up to them.

    The two places that were respectively decent and good places for page turns were where you built some things up on the page beforehand. You had some impetus, some interest, in having the reader turn the page. If you do THAT while actually telling a story, then these pages would have been stronger. You think your page turns are compelling, and I'm telling you they're not, partly because they're actions without story, and partly because I'm not feeling any tension in them when I read it.

    Now, I'm going to rewrite your panel 1, getting in all the information needed for the artist to do their job, and cutting out the crap. I'm going to do it in 100 words or less.

    Panel 1: The city, at night. The full moon can be seen. Talia is in an alley, her back to the wall, but she is peering out into the street. She's in uniform. There is a gargoyle or three scattered around, sleeping. Across the street from the alley is a row of shops, closed for the night. A zombie, hunched and misshapen, is making its way to a jewelry store. It should not be obvious this is a zombie yet. Please make sure there are light poles, powered by gas, to provide illumination on the street.

    I did that in 96 words, to include 'Panel 1.' I could have gotten it done in less, because a lot of it should already be known to the artist: what kind of world it is, what powers it, how things work--all of that is information the artist should already have, and thus, are not necessary for the script. The description of Talia and such...unnecessary crap that's clogging the very first panel description of your script. So, cut out the unnecessary details and get down to information that the artist actually needs.

    Now, as to being a storyteller...

    No, neither we nor the character learns anything in this script. You may think we do, and it's interesting to see what you think we've learned, but in actuality, we haven't learned anything.

    When I say we haven't learned anything, as readers, we have to learn in one of two ways: through the character, or learn something beyond the character. We haven't learned anything that Talia hasn't learned. We walk into the world with our eyes open, and are introduced to the world, but we don't learn anything because the character hasn't. We have to learn something about the story, not about the setting.

    I don't care what your character does for a living, and I don't care what the setting is (as long as it remains internally consistent). This isn't something we're learning as a reader, because Talia already knows these things. She tells us she's a cop (something we could have figured out for ourselves), and she tells the wizard something he should have known about magical circles, but we don't really learn anything in any of this, do we? This is all setting. It's furniture, and no one cares about it. It's supposed to be there, and is only noticeable when it's missing. The only thing missing here, as I continue to say, is story.

    Like I said before, this isn't a story because you didn't make it so. I was hoping you'd figure it out for yourself why this isn't a story, but it seems like I'm being forced to be acute, because you're being extremely obtuse.

    These 8 pages lack a reason for being. WHY is Talia out there in the dead of night? How can this lead into something of a mystery for something bigger than the doofus she takes down? You add a line of dialogue here and there, give her an actual mission besides being a cop, and presto-chango, you have a story!

    Yes, Calvin, these pages need reason. Being sent there by the Diviners isn't a reason. What makes the shop so special? What makes this set of crimes special enough to warrant an Inquisitor? If you give these things either as questions or as questions and answers within the context of the script, then you have a story, and not a set of actions.

    And no, I'm not saying for these to be implicit questions, either. If you say they were, I'm going to call you a liar to your face. You left no leeway for there to be any questions, implicit or explicit, to be asked within these eight pages. Just like Talia, we reach the end of the pages saying "Okay, my job's done for the night." If I'd bought this, I'd throw it down in disgust, wanting a refund of my money and time.

    If Talia had learned something in these pages, it would have been a story. If she had uncovered something, and we learned something beyond her understanding at that particular moment, then it would have been a story. Dropping us at the tail end of her stakeout, having her fight zombies and punch out a wizard just because he's the bad guy--that's not a story. We don't learn anything (we, in this case, includes the character), and Talia isn't changed in any way at the end of it.

    I was neither exaggerating the problem nor downplaying the solution. You still need to learn what constitutes a story and implement it. There still is no story here, because you failed to put it in. My solution can work for this piece, but then again, so does a rewrite. So does scrapping it. The problem isn't the solution. The problem is the problem (if that makes sense to you like it does to me). You wrote it and sent it in, thinking it was a story. Beginning, middle, end, and done. To me, that's a problem, indicative of a problem within a larger narrative. This is why I said that if all of your writing is like this, you need help from the ground up. You're not seeing anything beyond the actions, according to this script. You're seeing the actions and thinking that's story. You're showing setting, and thinking that's story.

    You've still got a lot of learning to do.



  9. StevenForbes Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by madelf View Post
    You're not bad. If you were bad, I wouldn't keep coming back.

    The point is that it's surprisingly rare to find someone as brutally frank in their opinions as you are, who will also tolerate someone questioning and challenging those opinions. Between here and our discussions on DW, I've given you a fair portion of crap, and you've taken it like a gentleman and stepped up for more. That's a quality I respect quite a bit. I've known too many people who would have refused to do something like post my script on their column (much less respond to my comments), simply because I've questioned and challenged and disagreed with them.

    I run into it a lot, because I've got a screwy learning system. It even goes back to my school days. I can't accept and memorize unless it's something that just makes instant sense when I hear it. I've never learned a thing without experimenting, questioning, challenging, and forcing people to prove things that didn't make sense to me. That didn't go over well with most of my teachers, but it got me awards from a couple. Guess which ones I learned the most from.

    So, yeah. When I run across someone who has something they can teach me, and they can handle my thick skull and obstinance without getting ticked off... that's like striking gold.
    I noticed that about you. You make things harder on yourself in an effort to understand things intimately, otherwise, you're frustrated and unable to move on, or not able to move on well because you're still puzzled by it.

    So you ask in an earnest attempt to understand. THAT is why I can do my best to answer your questions without getting ticked off. I understand that you're honestly trying to understand what's being communicated, and I cannot be upset with that. Questioning and probing is how we learn.

    I don't mind being questioned and challenged from someone who's truly trying to understand. If you were just an ass and just trying to stir the pot, believe me, you'd be ignored as not having much to offer to the conversation.

    Yes, I find you frustrating at times. Then I take a breath, and take a look at what I said, the context, and see how I can approach it differently.

    And to be honest, if I can't handle a little questioning, challenge, and frustration as an editor, then I need to hang it up, because I'm not doing anyone any good.



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    Father Murphy? Will you tell me a story? I want to hear about how Saint Forby drove the moving panels out of Ireland!

    "Living Robert Venditti's Plan B!"

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