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Thread: TPG: Week 53 - Alex Sampson

  1. CalvinCamp Guest

    TPG: Week 53 - Alex Sampson

    This week's script is brought to us by Alex Sampson. I believe this is his first time here, so let's make him feel at home by slaughtering his script. (Hey, he specifically asked me to, so I gotta try )

    PAGE ONE (Three panels)
    Panel 1

    First off, the description for this panel is one seriously daunting wall of text. If you want to put all that in there, at least break it into paragraphs so it's a little easier to read. I'm going to break it up, just so I can address it.

    View of the protagonist, ROMAN, from the front, holding a semiautomatic pistol pointed forward. There are a couple things that I think are essential and must be put in.

    Noting the things that are essential, and that you want put in, is kind of the purpose of a panel description, isn't it? Why would you note things that aren't important and you don't care if they appear or not?

    The first is about Romanís appearance. In terms of his physical appearance in this picture he is a poor, urban sixteen year old kid with a baby face. He represents innocence not yet corrupted. More importantly I want to portray a very specific and hard to describe emotion, especially in his face. I want him to appear a mixture of guilty and confused and scared and angry all at once. When I was thinking how to describe this in words, I thought about the reaction robots have in some fiction when they are faced with an impossible paradox and their heads explode or they short circuit. When I see this panel in my mind, I see a human, who has an emotional paradox in front of him, and short of blowing his head up he becomes all of the previously described emotions at once.

    That's a lot of description for something that probably can't be drawn anyway. Complex single emotions (like guilty) are tough to portray in still images at the best of times. Even simple emotions like confused or angry aren't going to work when you're trying to show four of them at once. If you really want to portray all of these emotions, I suggest using a series of panels, showing him processing the emotions individually. Or pick an emotion that can be drawn and stick with that.

    The second is that around him is a room in a Five Star hotel suite. The one you enter to get into the suite. But in this panel it is just the aftermath. I see it like a hurricane blew through the room, then a tornado in its wake and to cap it off five or six polar bears with lasers shooting out of their eyes came in and left.

    So the room is wet, with claw marks on the floor, it has no roof, and is on fire? Okay, gotcha.

    More seriously, stuff like that is fun, but I think it should be more clearly a joking add-on to your description, not the description itself Ė unless you want it taken literally. But that might be just a personal preference.

    Finally, I want a man without an eye in his right socket lying on his back hanging over the top of a couch. Iíd assume thereíd be blood in it, but itís up to you whether we need it. By the way, if included, that manís name is MILES and he will be featured later as a supporting character. Now that I introduced him, I might as well describe him. In terms of physical appearance, he looks like heís in his early thirties and he looks like a shady government type (black suit and tie and sunglasses). Also I see him with a goatee, but thatís just me.

    That may be just you, but you are writing this story. Do you want him to have a goatee or not. Do you want blood in his eye socket or not (and if his eye was just ripped out, why isn't he bleeding all over the place)? Make up your mind and tell your artist what you want.

    And how are we going to see that Miles has a missing eye if he's wearing sunglasses?

    As for the light source, all the lamps and lighting have been destroyed and the only light source comes from a little in front of him.

    A light source in mid-air? Or from off-panel?

    You ramble a lot, and there's no good reason for it. You're not doing it (for the most part) for dramatic reasons, you're doing it to add additional detail, and you're not getting paid by the word, so just get to the point. If you don't put in a lot of rambling, wishy-washy stuff, you'll save time, paper (or pixels), and eyestrain for the person who has to read it. Your writing could be a lot more concise, and say the same exact things.

    You want to know how short this could have been, while still being more clear than it was? Here's an example:

    Roman (a poor, urban, baby-faced, sixteen year old kid) looks confused and scared as he stands in a trashed 5-star hotel room (no, I mean REALLY trashed), holding a semiautomatic pistol and staring at the body of a man (Miles) who is sprawled on his back, hanging over a couch. Miles is in his early thirties, has a goatee, and looks like a shady government type in a black suit & tie, with a pair of broken sunglasses hanging off one ear. One eye socket is a bloody mess, the eye missing. All the lamps and light fixtures in the room are destroyed, but there's a single light-source coming from somewhere off-panel in front of Miles.

    You had 377 words. I used 116 and said more. That means that well over two thirds of your description said, essentially, nothing. And even using more than three times the space, your message was still unclear. That's something to think about.

    But you want to know the really bad part? You wrote that whole long, rambling description, and still never told me what Roman is looking at with that elaborate expression, or where he is in relation to Miles. You never set up the characters in the scene, so I I had to make guesses in my example and your artist would have to make guesses in drawing the comic.

    If I was the artist I might assume that Roman just shot Miles in the eye, and is staring at the body, horrified at what he's done. I might even show a curl of smoke from the gun, just to make it look cool. Or Roman might be staring at the light source, and he never fired the gun at all. I just don't know. You left out the most basic and important elements of the panel, because you got caught up in all the fluff.

    Iíve been reliving the same night over and over. The night I met that monster.

    Panel 2
    Switch to an over-the-shoulder shot of Roman. We see LUCE, one of the major characters sitting cross-legged on a pile of four or five blood-soaked dead guys wearing suits like Milesís. Luce is an anthropomorphic representation of temptation. I want him to show it. He has to contrast with Romanís ragged innocence with light, spectacle and charisma. We see him with a broad and eerie smile, whilst holding the severed head of a middle aged mob/crime boss type. The outside of his white robe that he loosely wears over his shoulders and its hood are actually emitting light like how an angel in a movie would. Because the light comes from his robe, his face is covered in shadow, making his white smile more menacing.

    You're still rambling and now you're getting cryptic. You want Luce to look like "an anthropomorphic representation of temptation?" How am I supposed to know what you mean by that? All I've got to work with is a charismatic-looking guy (whose face I can't see, so there goes the charisma) in glowing white robes, with a menacing smile, waving a head around (doesn't sound tempting to me, but whatever) Ė if that's what you want, great, but if it's not (or you want something more) then you have to tell me what you want.

    On top of all that, you're talking all about Luce, but you called for an over-the-shoulder shot OF Roman. That means the camera is looking at Roman, and we're looking over Luce's shoulder. (Which means we can't see Luce's face, or that he's sitting on a pile of bodies, or probably even that he's holding a severed head) So I think what you actually wanted is a shot of Luce, from over Roman's shoulder.

    For two years Iíve been reliving this dream. Reliving the most frightening moment of my life. And all it took was a few words.

    Sorry to disappoint you, (comma) kid.

    Panel 3
    A closer shot on Luceís head. He holds the severed head by the hair to his left, with his left hand making a gun shape pointed at the head.

    If you want Luce holding the head in his right hand, you need to specify that in the last panel. And the pose you're describing, reaching all the way across his body to hold the head on his left side with his right hand, while twisting his left hand around to point at the head (so his hand won't be hidden behind the head) seems very awkward to me. Try putting yourself in the pose you described, and see if it still makes sense to you.

    But I beat you to the draw. Boom.

    PAGE TWO (Seven Panels)
    Panel 1
    Roman lies on a couch in the dark. He lies on his back looking pensive at the ceiling. Large boxes are everywhere, he just moved in. He is in the living room of a one bedroom one bath apartment. Iím no architect or structural engineer, but I see this apartment as having a living room on the left and a kitchen on the right as you enter. Going through the living room past the kitchen is a dining room on the left and a short hallway leading to the bathroom on the right and finally the bedroom on the right. There is a large window in the living room wall opposite the kitchen and the corresponding wall in the bedroom, both blinded. Honestly, I based this on my vague memories of an apartment I lived in a couple years ago because itís familiar, but if you have a better design or idea, Iím willing to modify the layout.

    Note to others: Alex also provided a sketch of the apartment. I'm not going to bother to attach it, because I'm not critiquing sketches, but I'd like to say I don't think it's a bad idea IF something is important enough to warrant it.

    But, with that, I've got a question for you, Alex... Is the apartment layout really that important, or would any one-bedroom apartment serve the same purpose? I can't answer that, because it may become vital to your story later on, for all I know (and if that's the case, then it probably is a good idea). It's just something to think about.

    It was nearly two years before I saw him again.

    Panel 2
    Roman walks past some boxes into the hall way.

    This is a borderline moving panel. You can't have someone walk past some boxes and then into the hallway. You can have him walking past some boxes as he enters the hallway, or past some boxes toward the hallway, but it has to be a single moment. I get what you meant, but the wording is awkward. Not a big deal, in this case, just something to watch for.

    Two years having the same nightmare about the demon who I feel both hatred and gratitude for. The man who stole my revenge, yet also saved my life in one fell swoop.

    Panel 3
    View behind, as Roman stands in front of the bedroom door that is slightly open.

    View behind what? Do you mean, "View from behind Roman?"

    If the door is slightly open, what do we see beyond it?

    I wonder now that I have become so involved in his plans, why do I associate with an entity so obviously corrupting and engaging?

    Panel 4
    We see Romanís point of view through the gap. A woman sleeps in the middle of an entirely empty floor in just a thin white sheet. She lies on her side facing the door. Her name is SARAH and she is also a major character. As a side note, there are two windows on the wall opposite the door but they are covered with blinds.

    Sarah is a major character and you don't want to describe her at all?

    If I had to guessÖsheís the only reason.

    Panel 5
    Switch views so we see part of Romanís face peeking inside the room.

    Good night, Sarah.

    Panel 6
    Close on Sarahís face as her eyes open alert.

    Moving panel. We can't see her AS her eyes open. We can see them already open, or we can see them still shut. We can't see them opening. Your artist will probably assume you want her wide-eyed & slightly confused by being startled awake. But your artist shouldn't have to assume things like that.


    Panel 7
    The same view as panel 5, but where Romanís face was is the fist that just punched Roman off panel.

    Where is this fist? Out in the hall? In the room with Sarah? Why didn't we see anyone while the camera was jumping back and forth? Where was he hiding? And is Roman still visible, getting hit, or has he vanished?

    Honestly, I think that whole execution was pretty badly done. Sudden reversals of camera angle are awkward at the best of times, and you're using them to hide action. Why hide the action? What was the point of all that? Why not give some foreshadowing that someone is sneaking up on Roman, to build a moment of suspense? Or at least show Roman getting punched?

    PAGE THREE (Three Panels)
    Panel 1
    MARTIN RIVIERA stands in the wide-open doorway and Roman lies unconscious at his feet. Martin is a short, suave guy. The type that wears expensive oxford shirts with the top couple buttons undone. Heís completely relaxed.

    Who is this, Sarah? Youíre making me jealous.

    Panel 2
    Martinís legs steps over Roman.

    He doesnít look like much.

    Panel 3
    View from the side as Sarahís left whiffs on a lightning fast uppercuts near the tip of Martinís up pointed chin. The sheet is wrapped around her body like a toga.


    I almost forgot how quick you were. Did I hit a nerve?

    Yeah... this whole scene is just poorly set up. You're hiding action. People are appearing from nowhere. People are getting up, tying their sheet into a toga, crossing a room and swinging at someone between one panel and the next. Sarah could have teleported from a prone position on the floor to the middle of a fight for all anyone can tell, because it's all hidden. This isn't working. Even if Sarah is superhumanly fast, you need more than this for the actions to flow right. And you've got the room to do it, because these three lonely panels are not worth a whole page.

    PAGE FOUR (Four Panels)
    Panel 1
    Martin grabs her wrist.

    What's she doing while he does that?

    You know, Iíve been dreaming of this moment for a long time.

    Panel 2
    Martinís puts a finger against her lips nonverbally shushing her.

    What's she doing while he does that?

    Shh. We need to savor every moment.

    Panel 3
    Martin has a smile on his face reminiscent of a psychopath. His head is above her left shoulder.

    What's she doing now?

    She wakes up from a sound sleep, then gets up, ties her sheet into a toga, crosses the room, and takes a swing in nothing flat... but hangs around like a mannequin for the next three panels? What's up with that?

    MARTIN (Whisper)
    Tonight is the night I take your life.

    Panel 4
    View from behind Martin. Sarah lands an especially devastating right knee to his side.

    And now we have a viewpoint? Why now? What makes this view more important than any of the other panels on this page, where you didn't call one out?

    I'd also like to know if he's still hanging onto her wrist, all this time.

    Sorry to disappoint, but I donít give it up that easy.

    I'd move that line up, as a response to Martin in the last panel, and keep this one for the action. I think it would flow better.


    MARTIN (Small)

    PAGE FIVE (Six panels)
    Panel 1
    I see this page as two large panels, with a montage of individual connecting blows as inset panels. Panel 1 and 2 are large; the other panels will be insets. I might even say let the two panels bleed. Iím not sure if it will work because panel reading might be confusing, but 1) I donít want to use another page on this fight scene and 2) I donít think confusing the panel order would be too detrimental, because the temporal steps are clear. This panel consists of Martin, having braced himself for impact, bursting through the wall with bricks and materials falling off. Heís scrapped and cut up everywhere. Itís sunny outside. I mentioned the blinds a couple pages ago, does that make me a pro level writer or what? Yeah, I didnít think so later.

    No, I'm afraid it doesn't, because you didn't mention the bright sunlight filtering through, and it was dark when Roman was hanging out on the couch - So I was seeing it as night all this time. But you get points for trying. Just try harder next time.

    I'm not going to give you a hard time over being wishy-washy on your panel layout, though. If you have something you need to work out with the artist, then sometimes that's the best thing you can do. (Just as a matter of preference, I'd probably put the panel layout notes under the page heading, outside the panel description itself, but that's getting nitpicky) Your layout itself, on the other hand... I'll get to that shortly.

    Right now I want to know where we are for this panel. What's the viewpoint? Are we inside, looking out? Or are we outside looking in?

    SARAH (OP)
    I feel horrible that Iíve been putting you on, butó

    I'm assuming that's supposed to be an off-panel balloon, since you didn't call for Sarah to be in that panel.

    Also... you've given SFX for punches and even the whoosh of a near miss, yet you've got a guy being knocked through a freaking brick wall with no SFX? *Shakes head* Just doesn't seem right, somehow.

    Panel 2
    This is an inverse of panel 1 but a second or fraction of a second later. Sarah is in the follow-through and nearly all of Martinís body has gone through the wall.

    How can you call for an inverse of panel 1, when you never gave a viewpoint for panel 1 in the first place?

    --But Iím just not that into you.

    Panel 3
    Sarah lands a right kick on Martinís jaw. His hand no longer grasps her wrist.

    Panel 4
    She slugs him with a left hook.

    Panel 5
    She elbows his bent over back from above.

    Panel 6
    She picks up Martin by his shirt, getting ready to throw him into the wall.

    Alright, now that panel layout... Toss it in the circular file. It's not going to work. The insets absolutely do need to be "read" in the order you've written them, and they also need to be read before your first two panels (because panel 6 is the set-up for panels 1 & 2). So your current layout is a complete mess.

    I'd say you have three reasonable options (that I can see off the top of my head - there are probably others).

    1) Use standard panels, without insets. Put 3, 4, 5, & 6 at the top, with 1 & 2 below.

    2) Combine panels 1 & 2 into a single splash image (there's really no reason for it to be two panels Ė one panel of them crashing through together will get the point across), with 3, 4, 5, & 6 as insets across the top.

    3) (My personal favorite) Stretch things out by putting panels 3, 4, 5, & 6 on page 5 all by themselves. Then push panels 1 & 2 (I'd combine them for a single panel, full page splash) onto page 6. That way you'll be able to open the action up, making it big and impressive, rather than cramping it into a 6 panel page.


    Overall, it's not terrible. You start off with a strong visual and you're keeping things moving. You've caught my interest and I'm interested enough to read more. So you've done that part pretty well. But it does need some work. You need to clarify your descriptions. In some places you need more detail. In others you need less rambling. In both cases you need more clarity.

    Now the dialogue & captions... There's something kind of strange happening. Your dialogue is tolerable. It's a little awkward in places and needs some polishing (and I'd break some into multiple balloons for better flow), but it's not awful. Your narrative captions, on the other hand, are pretty horrible. They're maudlin, clunky, and overblown. It's like someone else wrote them. And I don't think you even need them Ė they aren't telling me all that much, and what they're telling me isn't what's getting me interested in the story. I think you can afford to develop the details of the relationship between Roman and Luce (and Sarah) over time, because you've shown, without the captions, that there is a relationship. So I'd be inclined to just skip the narration.

    That's what I've got. Anyone else have any thoughts?

  2. StevenForbes Guest

    Nicely done, Calvin. Nicely done.

    I liked how you cut the first panel description down to 116 words. You probably could have gone under 70, if you wanted to. Roman's design isn't a necessary part of the script. That should be worked out between the artist and writer before the artist even starts a page.

    I also think that the emotions you suggested aren't the ones needed. They're still hard to draw. It's easier to show "guilt" AFTER an action has been taken. It comes across a lot better. Right here, I think "shock" would be better. It gives both a sense of "what the hell?" while also possibly allowing an edge of "I didn't mean it!", depending on the reader.

    Lots of good catches in here.

    The dialogue. TOO "on the nose," but tolerable, like you said. (And you should be happy. I read some dialogue yesterday that had my brains leaking from my ears, nose, AND eyes.) It's at least giving a frame to work with later. That's always good.

    Overall, I think you hit the highlights of this pretty well. Good catches, good questions being asked. You've come a long way, and should be proud.

  3. CalvinCamp Guest

    Thanks, Steven. That means a lot.

  4. AlexSampson Guest

    Thanks, Calvin, this has been an incredible experience.

    From what I gather, the main theme of your critique was that I need to be more concise and clear when describing what I want the panels to look like. I tend to have vivid pictures of my panels in my head and above all else, I need to work on articulating what I want. I also need to cut out all the filler that doesn't add anything to my panel descriptions.

    I didn't notice my narrative captions were so bad, but in hindsight they really don't add anything but scattered and cryptic exposition. I also agree that I can develop the relationships over time, and in fact the subplot of the entire script is all about illuminating that relationship.

    I really don't have an argument against most of the things you said because I see what I did wrong in most of the cases. I liked the hurricane polar bear joke, but I can see how it could be confusing. I already had my doubts about my panel layout in page five and the flow of the entire Martin vs Sarah fight. Some of the mistakes (like the missing sound effect and Sarah's description) I made could have been avoided if I waited a day to submit the script.

    Having my script critiqued by you has opened my eyes to the major problems in my writing. I think I might submit a different script (of possibly a different story with a different tone) to see how much I improved in regards to these problems.

  5. jamesfairlie Guest

    So far this is looking like it could get interesting. On the whole the main problem with it is that everything is a bit loose, and could use some tightening up. I think this applies to both the script itself, and what it going on in the story.

    Setting up where the characters are would help a lot with this I think. The first panel, for example, could be a really strong visual to open with, but without more direction from you it is in danger of falling apart. In order to show any expression which is more that basic, we're going to have to be looking directly at Roman. That would place anything he is looking at between him and the camera. If Calvin's assumptions are correct, then Roman is looking at the body on the couch. This would mean a lowish view of Roman, largely obscured by a couch, which we're seeing the back or side of, and which is mostly hiding the body which is lying on it. You probably have a considerably more interesting panel in your head, but without a tighter panel description that's what you could end up with.

    Quote Originally Posted by CalvinCamp View Post
    A closer shot on Luceís head. He holds the severed head by the hair to his left, with his left hand making a gun shape pointed at the head.
    As Calvin pointed out, that pose would be bonkers.
    On the plus side, if you can come up with a more sensible pose, you have an interesting page turn.
    I don't know as much as you about the character, but from what's here, I would suggest something like a close up profile shot of Luce holding the head very close to his face, as if about to kiss it, while holding his finger-gun under the head's chin. (I would also have him liking the head, but that's probably just me)

    Your pacing is a bit odd. You go from 7 panels on page 2, to 3 panels on page 3, when 5 or 6 would have made the scene play out a lot smother. I know that you might want to have less panels on pages of action, to make it read faster, but I don't think this is the place to do it. I don't claim to be any good a pacing myself, but you could try gradually decreasing the number of panels as the action builds up, so use 5 or 6 panels on page 3 (which I think would make it play better anyway), 4 on page 4 (as it is), and then split up page 5 the way Calvin suggested:
    Quote Originally Posted by CalvinCamp View Post

    3) (My personal favorite) Stretch things out by putting panels 3, 4, 5, & 6 on page 5 all by themselves. Then push panels 1 & 2 (I'd combine them for a single panel, full page splash) onto page 6. That way you'll be able to open the action up, making it big and impressive, rather than cramping it into a 6 panel page.
    That's pretty much all I have to add. Tighten it up a bit and I think you could have something interesting.

  6. CalvinCamp Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by AlexSampson View Post
    Thanks, Calvin, this has been an incredible experience.
    I'm glad it was useful for you.

    From what I gather, the main theme of your critique was that I need to be more concise and clear when describing what I want the panels to look like. I tend to have vivid pictures of my panels in my head and above all else, I need to work on articulating what I want. I also need to cut out all the filler that doesn't add anything to my panel descriptions.
    Yes, it sounds like you're on the right track. Clear and concise is the ideal target.

    Now that doesn't mean you have to strip things down to a dull list of elements, it just means that what you're saying in the description (just like what you put in the story) should stay on point and move things along. Sometimes a little dramatic flavor, humor, etc. can help. You just have to watch out for those times where it's needlessly complicating things rather than helping. It's not necessarily easy, but it should come with practice.

    I didn't notice my narrative captions were so bad,
    Don't get me wrong. I've seen worse. I just think you could do better (especially since your dialogue is better than your narration).

    Unfortunately, when it comes to things like dialogue and narration problems, I'm still, to an extent, in an "I know it when I see it" stage where I sometimes have trouble explaining why a caption or line of dialogue reads "wrong" to me. So it can be tricky for me to do more than point it out, but I'll try and address it a little better.

    I think the problem with your narration mostly comes down to trying too hard. (I think that may be what Steven meant by "too on the nose," as well, though I could be mistaken) In the narration, you seem to be trying very hard to be dramatic and meaningful. Your trying so hard that it comes off as melodramatic and overwrought. With the dialogue, on the other hand, you seem more focused on getting a point across and moving the story forward - so it doesn't suffer from the same excess of effort. At least I suspect that's what's happening.

    Compounding the problem, I also think you're doing the same thing in the narrations that you're doing in the panel descriptions - rambling and not getting to the point. That you're not saying all that much with the captions, that you aren't already saying with the story, compounds it again.

    You could keep the narration, if you really want to, and just work on streamlining and polishing it. But then you'll have to keep using it, and using it consistently, or it'll be a different sort of problem. If you want to keep them, I'd recommend trying to make the narration a little more conversational. Think about someone saying those things, talking to someone. Try reading it out loud. If it sounds awkward when you hear it, then it will also seem awkward when other people read it (that approach might also help you polish the dialogue).

    I think I might submit a different script (of possibly a different story with a different tone) to see how much I improved in regards to these problems.
    Sure. You're welcome back anytime. I look forward to your next effort.
    Last edited by CalvinCamp; Friday, January 29, 2010 at 05:09 PM.

  7. BarriLang Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by CalvinCamp View Post
    Thanks, Steven. That means a lot.
    He says, polishing an apple and placing it on Steve's desk.

    Gotta say that was a damn fine edit Calvin. And the scipt itelf was a great 1st effort. Time to go back, take what Calvin and the rest of the guys have said and get it fixed.

    Not been around for a while (snow, broken laptop and other such disasters) but I'm glad to see that TPG is still going strong.

  8. JohnLees Guest

    Sorry I didn't get round to commenting on this. I'll try and take a look and offer some thoughts a little later.

    Calvin, I see there's nothing in the queue again for tomorrow's column. Just a suggestion - do you have any scripts of your own you're wanting to put forward? I'm not really an editor, I've not experience doing it really in any depth, but Jamie Fairlie suggested that he could help me do it, and between us we might be able to give you a rounded critique.

    If you're not interested, that's fine. Just thought that, though you've been doing a great job editing other people's scripts, before you were one of the most prolific script-submitters youself, and so you might have something cooked up you've been wanting us to look at.

  9. CalvinCamp Guest

    Hey, John.

    Thanks for the offer. It sounds like a fine idea to me. I'm afraid I've been doing more re-writing, tinkering, and setting development than actual writing lately, but I can probably scrape together something that's fit to show. I'll post it up tomorrow and you guys can have at it.

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