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Thread: TPG: Week 21- Roddy Williams

  1. StevenForbes Guest

    TPG: Week 21- Roddy Williams

    Hello, everyone. Welcome back to The Proving Grounds. Today brings us Roddy Williams. Let's give him a round of applause, and see what he's done!


    Issue #1
    Page 1: 5 panels.

    Panel #1:

    Two state of the art helicopters (concept, high tech stuff) heading towards an island. Sun setting behind island. (How big is the island?)

    CAPTION: Somewhere in the Carribean. (4)
    CAPTION: La Isla Neuvo Nacimiento doesn’t appear on any maps. No sea lanes come within 100 miles of it, no airline routes pass over it. It is completely unknown to all but a select few. My employer Marcus Billings insists on as much anonymity as he can afford. As the richest man in the world twenty times over he can afford quite a bit. (63/67. Really? REALLY? On the first page? REALLY? In the second caption? This isn't going to go well, is it?)

    Panel #2:

    Charles BOOTHE in the helicopter passenger seat looking out at the island. Can see pilot just barely in shot as well. BOOTHE has a far away look in his eye.

    CAPTION: Marcus had even managed to wipe out every record of himself and his wealth about five years ago when he came up with his...plan. He’s spent every moment of these past years preparing for it. Now we’re in the final stages, I’m bringing back quite the “cargo” for him. This will be a short turnaround though. Land, unload, secure, shower, eat, and be gone again to pick up the rest of what’s needed. (73/140. Question for the class: does anyone feel me going crazy over here? Adam?)

    Issue #1
    Page #1: 5 Panels

    Panel #3:

    BOOTHE looking out the window. Can do a close up of BOOTHE in intense concentration. Also should see conflict in his face.

    CAPTION: Just as well that I’m leaving again. I don’t want to be here for the science that Dr. GUNTER performs on the cargo. I don’t want to know what he does to those poor devils. If I allowed myself to think about it too much, I might not be able to do my job as effectively. I tell myself BILLINGS’ goals are worthy, even if his means to achieve them are bordering on the surreal. Ends and means my son, ends and means. (83/223)

    Panel #4:

    BOOTHE looking out his window towards the other helicopter, can see the pilot and Mr. PHILLIPS leaning forward looking back at BOOTHE.

    BOOTHEELECTRIC) “Mr. PHILLIPS, status report on the damaged cargo?”(8/231)

    PHILLIPS: (ELECTRIC)“Sir, medics have him in the life support module, critical, but stable for now.” (14/245)

    BOOTHE: (ELECTRIC) “10-4. GUNTER’s team will be waiting for us when we land., Let his team take control of the patient, your team will take the others straight to the lab. I’ll brief Mr. BILLINGS and meet up with you and the team in the mess hall in one hour. You will be in command on the pad, quick and easy Mr. PHILLIPS. We’re not done yet.” (64/309)

    PHILLIPS: (ELECTRIC)“Copy that, sir.”(3/312)

    Page #1 (Contd.)
    Panel 5:
    Almost to the island, setting sun casts a glow over the area. BOOTHE’s POV.
    Copters nearing arrival, silhouettes and sinking sun.

    (Wow. Five panels, over three hundred words. You average a little over 60 words per panel, and most of those are either single balloons or captions. WAY too many words. You’re not going to have any space for art. This is almost as bad as a script I edited once, where on a single splash page, the writer put over 500 words. Yeah. That’s deep, as is this. What’s worse? Not only is it way too wordy, you’re also boring. There isn’t much of interest here to have someone want to turn the page. Remember, Roddy: boring is death. Yes, I do sound and feel like a broken record. The only thing that kept me awake was counting the absurd number of words here.)

    Issue #1 (page break)
    Page 2 and 3 (Double splash)

    Page layout: Double page spread on an island in the middle of the ocean. See BOOTHE and the helicopters coming in for landing. Dr. GUNTER and a med team on the side of the heli- pad waiting. See the compounds. See the labs. See the dense jungle punctuated with the dormant volcano. James Bond, Incredibles, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, even Fantasy Island islands come to mind. Artist can go nuts designing the island in the evening setting sun. Birds flying, waves breaking, etc. (This is padding. What’s so special about this that it needs a double-page splash? I’ll tell you: nothing. A single large panel of three, maybe, but that’s about it. Splash page is out, and a double-splash is criminal padding. Call it a reverse of your first page. The only thing good about this double-splash is that it was properly done.)

    Caption: The ex-Cold Warrior in me still loves the whole “James Bond” feel to the place., all we’re missing are the cardboard satellites and the nukes. On second thought I don’t miss them at all. Quite enough trouble around here without them. Ah, Oliver, my old friend, if you could see us now. (Boring. And like most others, you enjoy butting two thoughts together with a comma instead of a period.)

    Issue #1 (page break)
    Page 4: 5 Panels

    Panel 1:
    The two helicopters landing, the med team rushing to PHILLIPS copter. BOOTHE disembarking from his. BOOTHE seen holding files. PHILLIPS already out of his copter, directing everyone on the pad. Have a various men dressed like PHILLIPS seeming to be unloading the copters. We don’t see what they’re doing yet. (I don’t think anyone knows what you’re doing yet, and this is P4. You’ve already lost credibility on the first page, and then what little you had evaporated with the un-earned double-splash that we just finished with.)

    CAPTION: PHILLIPS has this well in hand, . things should be fine. (Period. It’s called punctuation, people. Simple grammar. How can you call yourself a writer and NOT know some of the most basic rules? Its and it’s I can get behind. I have trouble with that myself at times. But the difference between when to use a comma and a period? There’s no excuse for that.)

    Panel 2:
    Med team seen unloading the life support module from the cargo bay of the helicopter. Other body shaped cylinders being unloaded by his men. Dr. GUNTER directing the med personnel and PHILLIPS men towards the lab. BILLINGS personal assistant Mr. STRAUSS on helipad greeting BOOTHE. STRAUSS looks out of place on his three piece dark suit, looking like a cross between a lawyer and a butler.

    (Over orders being yelled by PHILLIPS and GUNTER)
    STRAUSS: “Charles, good to see you.”
    BOOTHE: “Eugene.”
    STRAUSS: “ I trust aside from the mishap in New York that everything is well?”
    BOOTHE: “Yes...(Pauses)... everything is fine. Where can I find Marcus?”
    STRAUSS: “Mr. BILLINGS is on the veranda waiting for you to join him in a drink. This way Charles.”
    BOOTHE: “Thank you.”
    BOOTHE: “PHILLIPS!” (No. Wait. Not JUST no. There is WAY too much back and forth going on in this panel. It’s not going to fit. You’re not going to have any art showing. You’ve run headlong into craptacular. Congrats.)

    Issue #1
    Page 4CONTD.) 5 panels
    Panel 3:
    PHILLIPS turned towards BOOTHE, hand over earpiece of radio as if blocking chatter to listen to BOOTHE. BOOTHE lighting a cigar. Still holding files.
    PHILLIPS: “Yes, sir?”
    BOOTHE: “ One hour Mr. PHILLIPS, in the mess. Carry on.”
    PHILLIPS: “Sir, Yes sir!”

    Panel 4:
    GUNTER approaching BOOTHE. BOOTHE handing some files to GUNTER, retains a few. GUNTER seen taking them.

    BOOTHE: “Dr. GUNTER, the files for the eight we have. We had to return here prematurely to ensure survival of one of the subjects. Three remain outstanding., we’ll be leaving in two hours to collect them.” (Period, not a comma. And what’s with the quotation marks around the dialogue? And there are 35 words here.)

    GUNTER: “I fully understand Mr. BOOTHE, with the incident in New York. If I may, you and your team handled that with spectacular professionalism and expediency, a bit of a hard target was he? Well then, I should go, we’ll have a long night ahead of us, as does Mr. BIRK. Saving him is our highest priority.” (No. 56 words.)

    BOOTHE: “BECK. The man’s name is BECK.”

    GUNTER: “Hmm? Of course it is, yes. I must be off. Mr. BOOTHE.”

    BOOTHE: “Dr. GUNTER.” (Again, too much back and forth.)

    Issue #1
    Page 4: 5 panels (CONTD.)

    Panel 5:
    GUNTER leaving with the module, we can see an outline of a male hooked into a lot of tubes in the module. STRAUSS and BOOTHE watch the module pass them. BOOTHE with a sullen look on his face.

    STRAUSS: “Come, Charles, let me get you a drink., Marcus is waiting.” (Period, not a comma. Someone may need remedial English. No, that’s not a slam. That’s a statement of opinion.)

    BOOTHE: “Gin and tonic. A small one, more work to do. I can see myself to the veranda.”

    CAPTION: Means and Ends. No matter who the means may destroy.

    Issue #1: (page break)
    Page 5: 3 Panels.
    Panel 1:
    Marcus BILLINGS sipping brandy out on his balcony, setting sun on his face. POV: Reader looking at BILLINGS face on, over his shoulder we see Charles BOOTHE walking towards him down a long half glass-half open air hallway.

    Caption (BILLINGS): My name is Marcus BILLINGS. I would be the richest man in the world several times over if the world knew I was alive. I have paid my way out of recorded existence and have exiled myself from the rest of humanity, with a few notable exceptions of course. The details of the specifics are irrelevant. (No. 56. And this is information that was given on the first page. Repetition is not your friend.)

    Panel 2: Same POV. BILLINGS lowering the brandy, BOOTHE still walking down the hallway towards him, files in hand.

    Caption (BILLINGS): I inherited almost immeasurable wealth from my father Oliver BILLINGS. My father was a great man, an important man, a man who gave of himself for the benefit of mankind. He raised my brother Gabriel and I to be honorable men and use our station in life to make this world a better place. We made promises to him to further what he has done. As a boy I watched my father dedicate his time, fortune, blood, sweat, tears, and in the end, his LIFE to try and help a world that refused to help itself. (96 words. Yes, I’m shaking my head. What does any of this have to do with anything? How is this verbosity moving the story forward? You have the space for the words, because its only three panels, but in one chunk? No. Break these up.)

    Panel 3: Same POV, BILLINGS having another sip of brandy, BOOTHE progressing up the hallway. (Still?! He’s STILL walking up? What is it, a moving sidewalk that’s working against him? It’s been three panels, and he’s still not there.)

    Caption (BILLINGS): What have his sacrifices brought? A never ending parade of war, terrorism, racism, drugs, murder, genocide, the list goes on. Humankind’s atrocities against itself march ever onward in a vile procession. Oliver BILLINGS accomplished nothing in the end. I made a vow to that great man, to make the world better. Unlike my brother, I know it can’t be done through philanthropy, donations to one cause or another, or funding a thousand self-help programs. I have a more...proactive approach in mind. (81. I’m not even going to bother to add it up. You’ve got somewhat interesting, but it’s already too late. You’ve lost the reader. Great job!)

    I’m going to stop there.

    This is crap.

    Let’s break it down.

    Your panel descriptions are a little sparse, but you’re getting the information in there that’s needed. There is no establishing shot ever given, so there’s no real sense of where we’re at. I don’t get the white void, which is always a good thing, but I don’t get a clear sense of where I’m at, either. This means you didn’t do your job.

    The dialogue. There is WAY too much of it. So much of it that it boggles my mind. No, really. I’m boggled.

    I’m not going to assume you’ve read my Bolts & Nuts articles. You've already told me you've been reading it, so I don't understand this at all. You've read comic books before. I’d love you to show me a comic that consistently has 60+ words in a single balloon. I’d love to see it.

    Now, seeing that you HAVE read my B&N articles, and then you sent this over to me anyway without doing any kind of self-editing, you fail automatically. We’ll just call it #scriptfail and call it a day.

    For the record, most balloons shouldn’t have more than 25 words in them. Captions can go a little bigger, but that’s because captions take up less negative space. If you try to cram 60 words in a single balloon, it’s going to be huge and cover more artwork than you think. And you do this time and again. It’s horrible.

    For captions, I wouldn’t go more than 30 words, usually. Like I said, they don’t take up as much negative space, so you can add a few more words. You still need to be conscious of the number of words you’re using.

    The art of dialogue is to give the illusion of having complete conversations. Isn’t that right, Tyler? Please, tell the lovely people what I made you do, and say whether or not it helped you. Thanks.

    Now, for the back and forth, generally, no more than three in a panel. Logan, Scott, Logan. Just like that. Not Logan, Scott, Logan, Scott, Logan, Scott, Scott, Logan. Logan, Scott, Logan. That’s your goal. Until you get a handle on it, anything else is unacceptable. And if you think I’m crazy, go read a few comics, and see how many people speak per panel in a speak-response basis. The number you’ll get most of the time is three.

    The most horrible part of the dialogue is that it’s boring. There’s not much of an exciting thing that happens in these five pages. The final page-turn is a little intriguing, but 99.9% of this is drivel. Want to turn off a reader instantly? Give them a big chunk of text to read that isn’t interesting.

    You took too long to be interesting. You have a maximum of three pages to be interesting, to grab the reader and make sure that you don’t let go until the end. What do you do instead? You waste two pages on a double-splash. Nice, right? You have ample opportunity to get actual story into the first five pages, but instead opt for a double-splash that doesn’t do anything to push the story forward.

    Let's talk a little bit about punctuation. I don't get what seems to be the "new trend" of putting a comma in a place where a period should reign. "Lucy, go get me another soda, it's going to rain outside." I've been seeing this in a LOT of scripts lately, and I don't understand the reason for it.

    Why are you putting quotation marks around the spoken dialogue? Go look at the scripts posted here, go read B&N, go read some comic books. You're not going to see quotation marks around spoken dialogue unless the dialogue is actually a quote, or unless someone is speaking off panel right as you are about to do a scene change. You're also going to cause your letterer to hate you.

    Here's what you're going to do: you think you're perfectly fine (because you sent this to me the way it is, not even thinking about editing down the dialogue, because really, what am I going to say to a genius, right?), and because you think that, you're NOT going to get an editor. This means that you're going to send this script to a creative team as is.

    Your artist is going to ask you a decent amount of questions because you don't give a lot of information. Like I said, your panel descriptions are sparse. The colorist may also have some questions for you. But the letterer? The letterer is going to HATE you.

    You're going to force them to do one of three things: edit down your words, which is NOT their job. They're not going to be able to fit your words into the single balloons, and so, they're going to cut words here and there, and possibly add their own in order for it to make sense. This will get you pissed at them, but really, the only person you can blame is yourself, especially since they're trying to do YOU a favor.

    Second, if they're unseasoned or are trying to teach you a lesson, they'll leave the balloons unedited and just chunk it up, throwing huge balloons over the art, covering it up, and in the process, if it were to somehow get published, make themselves look like an idiot.

    Third, they'll quit instead of doing the first or the second.

    All of this because you didn't get an editor.

    Congratulations. #scriptfail is a success.

    You have a ton of work ahead of you, Roddy. At least you got the format right.

    And that's it for this week. Next week brings us Barri Lang, and then Dayv Gerberding.

    Let’s discuss this.

  2. AdamH Guest

    (73/140. Question for the class: does anyone feel me going crazy over here? Adam?)
    Transmitting loud and clear.

    After writing 2 bad movie scripts, and reading countless other, considerably better movie scripts, the dialogue & captions read more like they belong in a movie script rather than a comic book script.

    - Adam

  3. StevenForbes Guest

    Actually, even movie scripts move a little faster than this thing.

    But that's not the thing I wanted you to comment on, Adam. I wanted you to comment on the number of words per panel here. What are your feelings on it?

    Oh, and another thing, Roddy: all of your dialogue is in the same "voice." I can't distinguish one from the other. Not good.

  4. MartinBrandt Guest

    60+ words in a balloon. Dear gods, the pain. It is as if a million artists all cried out at once.

    I think I need to write a script for you to tear apart Forbes. I haven't been abused in a while.

  5. drgerb Guest

    I'll chime in here just to agree.. Not only the whole 'this many words in a balloon really hinders the art' thing, but just the whole reading thing. We read comic books so we don't have to read entire pages crammed with words.. Atleast that's why I do. Cuss me out now.

    But when I look at anything, 'An online journal post, a comic book page, a definition,' I'll look at the first paragraph, the first couple of paragraphs, and the first line. If the first line is short and takes me in, I'll think about reading the rest. If all I see is big paragraph after big paragraph that sounds lame and inane, boom, clicking the little X is what I'll be doing.

    When I look at comic books, I think the art has to take you in, and the dialogue has to keep you in. If there's too much dialogue to even see the art, it won't work. If there's so much dialogue that you *can* see the art, but the sizes of the bubbles scare away potential readers, it also won't work. That said, my vision for the best "grabber" page available, or the best way to kick off the story is to think of the best possible scene, the best shot / panel, go with that, and include only one or two short lines of dialogue, the best to add to that one image. Once you've got that, you've got your reader. Once you've got your reader, all you gotta do is hold on to him or her.

    And holding onto your reader is a whole he*l of a lot easier than trying to grab them while you're busy telling a boring story.

  6. tylerjames Guest

    My penance for wordiness...

  7. StevenForbes Guest

    Thanks, Tyler. (I'm surprised you kept that!)

    A little disclosure:

    Tyler hired me (yes, folks, he PAID for it!) to edit a script for him. Similar to Roddy, the script was very wordy. So wordy that he wouldn't be able to get across the art for the amount of words on the page.

    So, I told him to write a nine-panel grid with 270 words on it. He did it, he made it fit, but look at what he had to do in ORDER to make it fit. No full panels of art, some just a head that's low in the corner, and so forth. It took having a physical representation of what he was asking for to drive home the point that he had to cut down on the amount of words he used. Unlike Roddy's, where I stopped after five pages (and believe me, of the 22 pages he sent, I also only peeked to see if he continued it through the entire script--he did), because I was paid to do a job, I read and edited all he gave me. No, it wasn't fun.

    As an editor, I HATE redoing dialogue. The main reason why I hate doing it is because the words that the audience will read are the only thing they're really going to know about the writer. This is the writer's only way of connecting to the audience. Generally, words are how a writer tells the story in comics. If I rewrite the dialogue, then I feel that the writer is no longer telling their story, but that I'm telling their story for them. That's not how I work.

    Instead, I tell them that it's too many words, and tell them to cut it down in the second draft. Once they've cut down the number of words themselves, if it's still too much, I then go in and start rewriting, showing what I mean. I then give this script back to the writer, and they usually get it then.

    I've used this method a lot, and it seems to work. I haven't had any complaints yet. I think I'd get complaints if I went in and started rewriting the dialogue without first giving the writer a chance to fix their mistakes.

    Thanks again for showing this, Tyler. Did doing this help you realize what you were doing when you wrote?

  8. AdamH Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenForbes View Post
    Actually, even movie scripts move a little faster than this thing.

    But that's not the thing I wanted you to comment on, Adam. I wanted you to comment on the number of words per panel here. What are your feelings on it?

    Oh, and another thing, Roddy: all of your dialogue is in the same "voice." I can't distinguish one from the other. Not good.
    You and Tyler summed it up pretty well.

    A good rule of thumb in no more than 35 words to a panel (it looks like I just tacked this part on) on a six panel page. Obviously with less panels you can put more text on (to a reasonable extent aka "fudge room") and vice versa.

    Let's fudge (since he has five panels) and add 10 more words on to each panel (almost certainly too many). Now we have 45 words per page (Tyler's 6th panel in his comic has 40 words) and all you have is maybe part of a head or a mouth and a wall of text for the rest of the panel.

    In total we're at 260 (210 + 50) words on a page with fudging, still 51 words away from the 312 Roddy has here, and our comic is bunch of heads or mouths shoehorned into a giant speech bubble that's become your panel.

    In summation, like Steven said, we have too many words per page. Be precise, real estate is at premium when you're writing them funny books.

    Is that what you were looking for Steven?

  9. BarriLang Guest

    My God! I don't think I know that many words!

    Tough love or not that's a shocking amount of space wasted on words.

    Nothing I can add on word count but so far as the "voice "used, I hope I can share something. What I've started doing is looking at films and listening to radio for accents and then trying to turn an accent into words. Some people drop their Hs', or dont add a g to certain words. Nuffin, Nothin, Nothing 3 variations of the same word that when you read it give a sense of 3 "accents".

    I'm feeling guilty because I send Steve my "pipeline" scripts (once I will be working on. My fave I've not sent in because I know it'll get slammed... and it's my baby. You wanna stick with the script I have in Steve or do you wanna tear my pride and joy to shreds?
    Last edited by BarriLang; Saturday, June 13, 2009 at 01:58 AM.

  10. Roddy Guest

    Looks like I have a lot to work on. Thanks for taking a look!
    - Roddy

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