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Thread: Silence Is Golden: a workshop

  1. ChrisLewis Guest

    Wow, thanks for the detailed response. I'm not sure exactly how you want us to respond, but I think I remember you saying that we should paste everything that we want to talk about in the new message. Sorry in advance if this looks messy:

    Panel 1. In a living room we see a man sitting on a couch with his back to one of the armrests and his legs stretched out (also on the couch). He has a TV remote control in one hand and is pointing past his son, who is sitting on the couch at the man’s feet. The boy is looking at the TV just past the end of the couch. The TV is turned off. There is a small coffee table within reach of the man.
    First, you really need to work on your left-to-right panel writing, because your PG1/P1 description is very back and forth, not as clear as you think it is. Check out the Comics Panel Time-Master columns.
    It's the coffee table, right? That was a late addition to the panel, written in after I decided that I wanted him to put the remote down on the next page. The problem I had with that was because the father, his feet, and the remote control are all pointing towards the boy, and the next thing to the right of the boy is the TV. They are all in a straight line and I wanted to get that straight first. The coffee table is more in the foreground, but where would be the best place to get that description in if it comes somewhere at the level of the father's legs? Would it be best to describe it before saying that his feet are on the couch? What I was trying to avoid was saying that the father was "sitting" on the couch (leading the artist to possibly think his feet were on the floor), then writing that the coffee table was in the foreground, and only THEN getting to the fact that the father's feet are on the couch. See what I mean? I guess it's just matter of rewriting until you find the clearest way of describing the panel.

    Panel 2. The boy, now facing towards the couch, is in the process of trying to get down off the couch. His face is screwed up in concentration as he is on one knee, the other leg dangling off the couch. To the right the father is now on his knees looking under one of the cushions for the missing battery. We might be able to see his lower leg or foot here.
    PG2/P2: Classic minutiae panel. So much detailed description about the boy's and dad's position, and why? For no good reason, except that this is how you see it. The artist is either going to ignore it, or struggle to find just the right angle to be able to show everything you've described, and will this particular shot make the storytelling better or worse? Probably worse. Had you kept this simpler, the artist would've been freer to find the right angle for the storytelling. Which is more important? I think it's the storytelling, rather than the exact position of the kid's and dad's feet.
    Isn't the dad's position important as a bridge between him standing in a previous panel and looking under the couch in a following panel? Or am I just underestimating the intelligence of the reader by showing that middle step? I think I know the answer here.

    Panel 4. CU of the boy’s finger just as it depresses the power button on the TV.

    Panel 5. The boy, triumphant, stands looking back toward the couch and his father. The TV is of course on.

    Panel 6. CU of the father’s face with a “why didn’t I think of that” look.
    PG2/P5: But this next missing element isn't minutiae; we don't know where the dad is looking. He could still be looking under the couch, right? He could be just turned to look at his son.

    Now I want to come back to the idea of left-to-right writing inside the panel.

    How well this most important panel is going to work depends on whether the TV is on the left- or right-hand side of the panel.

    Presuming it's the outside, if it's on the left, we see that it's on first, then the proud boy, then dad (in whatever position he's in, looking at the boy, presumably). If this, then the next panel could be redundant, because we could show his reaction here.

    If the TV is on the right, then we see dad, the proud boy, the TV. In this case, we, like the dad, don't know the TV is on yet (because we haven't yet scanned to the right to see this).

    This is why left-to-right writing is important, because it reveals information to us in a very specific order that affects how we perceive the story.
    This one confuses me a bit. Are you saying that by reversing panels 5 and 6, that the dramatic effect would be greater?

    This is great practice and I hope to be reading your column for some time to come. I just finished Mamet's book and really, really enjoyed it. Like you said, it's really a game changer. Before when I was writing scripts I really focussed on the dialogue first, and only after tried to find the right image to match to it. I found, and was told by others, that some images had no importance at all to furthering the story. "But the story progresses through the words!" I proclaimed, not realizing that comics aren't the place for this kind of thinking. After Mamet (that could be a new timeline huh? A.M.) I can see that each image has to further the story ALONG with the dialogue. Good to know...
    Last edited by ChrisLewis; Thursday, April 01, 2010 at 10:20 AM. Reason: Quotes didn't appear



  2. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisLewis View Post
    Wow, thanks for the detailed response. I'm not sure exactly how you want us to respond, but I think I remember you saying that we should paste everything that we want to talk about in the new message. Sorry in advance if this looks messy:
    I think I was asking folks to re-post their entire revisions, not just the corrections, but I'm happy to answer a couple more questions.

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisLewis View Post
    It's the coffee table, right? That was a late addition to the panel, written in after I decided that I wanted him to put the remote down on the next page. The problem I had with that was because the father, his feet, and the remote control are all pointing towards the boy, and the next thing to the right of the boy is the TV. They are all in a straight line and I wanted to get that straight first. The coffee table is more in the foreground, but where would be the best place to get that description in if it comes somewhere at the level of the father's legs? Would it be best to describe it before saying that his feet are on the couch? What I was trying to avoid was saying that the father was "sitting" on the couch (leading the artist to possibly think his feet were on the floor), then writing that the coffee table was in the foreground, and only THEN getting to the fact that the father's feet are on the couch. See what I mean? I guess it's just matter of rewriting until you find the clearest way of describing the panel.
    Nope, it's not just the coffee table. It's going back and forth from image to image.

    If you go back and review those columns I referenced, plus all the work we did to clarify the point, then you'll see that the idea is you should write a panel from left to right (the way we see it).

    Here's your panel description: Panel 1. In a living room we see a man sitting on a couch with his back to one of the armrests and his legs stretched out (also on the couch). He has a TV remote control in one hand and is pointing past his son, who is sitting on the couch at the man’s feet. The boy is looking at the TV just past the end of the couch. The TV is turned off. There is a small coffee table within reach of the man.

    Here's YOUR left to right on this panel. Living room. Man on couch. Legs stretched. Whoops, back to the hand for the TV remote. A son. TV. Coffee table.

    Not exactly left-to-right.

    Here's a revision: In a typically decorated middle-class living room, a man aims a TV remote, while reclining on a couch with a son at his feet. They both are looking at the TV, which isn't on.

    The couch isn't important to your sequence, but if you want to describe it, you could write: They both look beyond the coffee table, which is in front of the couch, at the TV, which isn't on.

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisLewis View Post
    Isn't the dad's position important as a bridge between him standing in a previous panel and looking under the couch in a following panel? Or am I just underestimating the intelligence of the reader by showing that middle step? I think I know the answer here.
    My criticism of Dad's in-between position was that you were trying to do two things at once with actions, and it won't be a good drawing by anybody.

    My suggestion eliminated that. Dad could be standing fully straight here, too. There are lots of possibilities...but complicating the point of his action should be avoided.

    Creating bridges is fine...but they have to work. Did you need this particular bridge? Not as written. The readers will get it.

    By the way, this is one of the many reasons I've suggested creators start small before expanding, because you're trying to do an awful lot in these two pages. Simple would've been better...so we could concentrate on the lesson at hand.


    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisLewis View Post
    This one confuses me a bit. Are you saying that by reversing panels 5 and 6, that the dramatic effect would be greater?
    Nope, the main problem is that you didn't describe what dad was doing in this panel, still looking under the couch, which he'd BEEN doing, or looking at his son, who's turned on the TV.

    Then I noted that, depending on how this panel is really staged, you might or might not need the next panel.

    By staging, I mean whether the TV is on the left or the right. If it's on the right, your next panel is fine.

    If it's on the left, then we the reader see the TV is on...then the proud son...then Dad's expression here COULD be the same as you intend for the next panel, thus eliminating the need for it.

    With the TV on the left, readers would know the TV is on, so Dad should be reacting to that in this panel. Surprised wouldn't be the best expression.

    But with the TV on the right, showing dad on the left, surprised, makes sense, because we haven't yet scanned over to the TV to see what he's surprised about. In this case, the next reaction, the one you wrote, makes sense.

    This is why knowing how a panel is being read is important.

    And if we don't let artists know how and why the elements line up inside a panel, then we're probably going to be doing fixes on ideas that could have worked.

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisLewis View Post
    This is great practice and I hope to be reading your column for some time to come. I just finished Mamet's book and really, really enjoyed it. Like you said, it's really a game changer. Before when I was writing scripts I really focused on the dialogue first, and only after tried to find the right image to match to it. I found, and was told by others, that some images had no importance at all to furthering the story. "But the story progresses through the words!" I proclaimed, not realizing that comics aren't the place for this kind of thinking. After Mamet (that could be a new time line huh? A.M.) I can see that each image has to further the story ALONG with the dialogue. Good to know...
    I think A.D.M. probably worked better, so it doesn't get confused with morning...but yep, BDM and ADM make sense to me.

    Glad you read the book, and that it helped look at comics differently.

    Keep on writing.

    --Lee



  3. RonaldMontgomery Guest

    Trim: Comic Book

    Page 1
    Panel 1: It's dark in the bedroom when Lee Nordling wakes in bed, his wife snoring next to him.
    Panel 2: A home office. We have a side view of Lee sitting in front of a MAC computer, hair mussed, sleepy, still in his pajamas. A note on the side of the monitor reads: OPEN.
    (Note: We'll hold this side view for all panels with Lee at his computer. Also, Lee never changes from his pajamas or combs his hair.)
    Panel 3: Lee drinks a big coffee and stares at his monitor.
    Panel 4: Lee's computer, but he's gone. A note on the monitor reads: BACK IN 5.
    Panel 5: Lee's back, staring tiredly again at his monitor.
    Panel 6: Lee's wide-eyed, entranced and delighted by what's on his monitor. The monitor note reads: RNC NIGHTCLUB PICS

    Page 2
    Panel 1: Lee types away, a big taco sitting on a plate on the desk. The monitor note says LUNCH!
    Panel 2: Lee types away. The plate is empty, the big taco eaten.
    Panel 3: The plate has been cleared away. Lee's asleep at his computer, his head back. The monitor note reads: INTROSPECTION.
    Panel 4: Lee drinks another big coffee as he works.
    Panel 5: Lee's computer, but he's gone. The monitor note reads: CLOSED.
    Panel 6: It's dark in the bedroom when Lee Nordling falls asleep in bed, his wife snoring next to him.
    Last edited by RonaldMontgomery; Thursday, April 01, 2010 at 03:00 PM.



  4. LeeNordling Guest

    PASS.

    Yep, that's my day, and the RNC photos really did cheer me up...and that really is one of my better introspection moments.

    --Lee



  5. danialworks Guest

    Well, Lee, if it were easy, everybody could do it, not just a handful bothering to come to the chalkboard.

    Last time, I simply made the changes Lee wanted, putting ego and conceit aside.

    And the one panel with the hand brushing the door was just plain bad.

    This time, the editor thinks the piece itself is nice, but again, one panel is bad. I don't write like a penciller, but I've been accused of writing like a director since somewhere around the age of five, and I'm going to call my POV shot a slip in focus in a comics sense.

    But what Lee said got me thinking. Comics AREN'T FILM. I didn't picture that panel like I would a screenplay POV. I just didn't pull it off.

    My following change to p1 p7 would look downright silly in live action, and in animation, well, if you tried it in animation, I think it better have one heck of a joke going on at the other end of the POV.



    Comic trim

    PAGE ONE

    Panel 1.

    A flat Artic setting. A polar bear in the distance, but coming our way.

    Panel 2.

    Our polar bear has come closer to us by half that distance. There are a few snowflakes in the air.

    Panel 3.

    The bear is ambling past our POV, one shoulder just far enough away from us not to be right in our face-- mostly because we want to show our readers how BIG the snowflakes are getting.

    Panel 4.

    We want a few really big snowflakes prettily in the reader's face, and increasing snowfall in the middle distance, where our bear is no longer walking at us, but trundling straight at a steep incline.

    Panel 5.

    A light snow is turning into a flurry. We're closer to our bear again, and he's reached the bottom of the incline.

    Panel 6.

    The snow continues. The bear looks up-- a big flake hits his nose.

    Panel 7.

    Our bear's POV-- he/we are looking past a snout with a light dusting of snow on the fur, and an icy look to the upturned nose. The snow is coming at "US," not falling downward, and under the snow blowing in OUR face, the nearly invisible ground planes up slightly, to suggest taking our POV up the incline, as well.

    PAGE TWO

    Panel 1.

    The bear starts up the incline as flurries have just become a snowstorm.

    Panel 2.

    Polar bear in a snowstorm. We're looking down the incline at our guy struggling upward in the middle distance.

    Panel 3.

    Much closer, and looking at our bear from the side again as he fights his way up the incline in the worsened snowstorm.

    Panel 4.

    Close up our bear's ice and snow drenched face. He looks pained, even sad, somehow.

    Panel 5.

    High above, the clouds start to part, and through the falling snow, we see the first warm glow of the sun.

    Panel 6.

    Another close up of our bear, pushing his face into a single sun beam even as the snow still falls around him.





    OK. If I had simply changed the panel in question to follow editorial, I would have gone with the behind the bear shot.

    As for Lee's typical workday, more applause for Ronald. But I wonder if Lee sometimes takes a break to remind himself of the brilliant writing in Mamet's "The Winslow Boy.'
    Last edited by danialworks; Thursday, April 01, 2010 at 07:52 PM.



  6. LeeNordling Guest

    Danial's grade:

    FAIL.

    Polar Bear in a snow storm. Funny and creative.

    You were doing GREAT...until PG1/P7: the reader can't possibly know this is the bear's POV.

    Once again, and I really find this amazing, that the tendency to use camera shots becomes the Achilles heel of this assignment.

    If I were ANYBODY reading this, I'd think, "Uh oh. What folks want isn't getting across. Maybe I'd better just focus on the visual storytelling."

    Had the description been, "An incline is pretty steep--and the snow is blowing downhill toward us," you'd have been fine. I don't think folks would've gotten a POV from that, but since you weren't calling for it, it would've simply been a cut of more snow.

    Interestingly, an incline would've been tough to convey, too. With the wind coming toward "us"/the pov, our view would be looking up, and it would have been VERY tough to suggest that the horizon was the top of a hill/whatever. To suggest an incline, a side view is better, and that would've included the bear.

    Thus, the better description for this image would've been: the polar bear struggles up the steep incline, against the force of a downward wind.

    Frankly, an artist ONLY could have successfully drawn this as a side view or a down shot (with some rises else where to show us that the bear is going up). This is the advantage of not calling for angles: you have a better chance of getting what you need, instead of what you think you want.

    Considering your next image, if your goal here is to establish the challenge, you could also have written this: From behind the polar bear, we see that an incline is pretty steep, and the snow is blowing downhill toward it. Other slopes or mountains in the background establish which way is up, so they'll understand the incline is pretty steep.

    Now, PG2/P2 is written perfectly, because the challenge for the artist is to establish the camera's position so the reader will know which was is down. That will probably require his/her to draw this from beyond the peak, just to establish the sides (and thus show which way is down).

    See how well "less is more" sets the artist's challenge, without binding his/her hands?

    Other than the one panel, this would've been an enthusiastic PASS, and it's a relatively easy fix.

    For others, please note how difficult it can be to write with intention.

    Where's the TYPICAL disconnect?

    Writing stuff with words that can't necessarily be conveyed by drawing to the reader.

    When reviewing your descriptions, look for what's important in them, make sure the goal is clear, and, more importantly, make sure everything you intend can be conveyed. In this case, it's the POV that can't be made clear, and once again the use of camera angles is the culprit.

    Thanks for this clever concept, Danial.

    --Lee
    Last edited by LeeNordling; Thursday, April 01, 2010 at 07:13 PM.



  7. drgerb Guest

    Page 1
    Panel 1: It's dark in the bedroom when Lee Nordling wakes in bed, his wife snoring next to him.
    Dude, seriously... WEAK! Like seriously.... Weak.

    That's a cheap shot.

    No, but for real.... WEAK.


    PS: Grats on Ronald for being able to do it.

    I play guitar, and one thing I notice is a great song doesn't mean a great guitarist... Nor does a great guitarist mean a great song. It's about who can think of what before whoever else does... (erm?)

    Who can make simple of what nobody else could.

    Or it's who else can come up with what nobody else has come up with before...

    And if Ronald hasn't taught us that yet, well then...

    Someone else? Go think it up. I'll give you props. In the mean time, I'm thinking on my own second attempt.. :/



  8. drgerb Guest

    Page 1. (5 panels, top 1/3 is 1 panel, middle 1/3 is 2 panels, bottom 1/3 is 2 panels.

    Panel 1. A wide out shot (sorry) of a young boy holding a dying girl in his arms. The girl's body is leaning backwards, the couple is face to face.

    Panel 2. The boy now loses grasp of her. Her head tilts backward.

    Panel 3. Close up of the boy's eyes. He stares while the background is a wide out shot of a seemingless grey area of town.

    Panel 4. The boy stands up and gently lets the girl fall.

    Panel 5. Close up shot of the boy with his eyes clenched closed.


    Page 2. (5 panels, top 1/3 is 2 panels, middle 1/3 is 1 panel, botttom 1/3 is 2 panels.

    Panel 1. The boy is pounding on the girl's chest.

    Panel 2. The boy is giving the girl mouth to mouth.

    Panel 3. Wide out shot from the sky of the boy, girl in lap, staring up at an empty sky. Boy is hopeless.

    Panel 4. Close up of her chest, motion lines around breasts.

    Panel 5. Close up of the girl's eyes, white as ever, focused on the reader with an angry / zombified expression on them. Sigh.



  9. RonaldMontgomery Guest

    Roberts,
    Manage your efforts to the goal of your practice and nothing more.

    My own artistic bent was ruined by studying economics. For me, life is a series of optimization problems. Know the problem you're optimizing efforts to overcome and know your constraints, or you'll just waste a lot of time.

    P.S. Optimizing multiple variables simultaneously is impossible, ie., don't quit smoking and go on a diet at the same time.

    Good luck!



  10. LeeNordling Guest

    Roberts's grade:

    FAIL.

    First, presuming this is a comics trim--you left that part out, Roberts--the following panel is impossible:

    Panel 3. Close up of the boy's eyes. He stares while the background is a wide out shot of a seemingly grey area of town.

    A panel showing us close on the eyes, presuming there's face around it, can't possibly show "a seemingly grey area of town." (I edited the "seemingless" word into something that is a word. I won't get into the "grey"/"gray" thing, but most American writers are better off sticking with "gray," unless they want to deal with the ire of a well-trained proofreader.)

    And we once again see somebody tripping because he insists on using camera angles he doesn't fully understand.

    Roberts, because you wrote "(sorry)" that means you understood you just had to ignore the advice, which, in your case, would have served you well.

    Next...

    Panel 4. The boy stands up and gently lets the girl fall.

    That's an action, pure film. Please go back and revisit the Comics Panel Time-Master series. 'nuff said about that.

    Next...

    Panel 5. Close up of the girl's eyes, white as ever, focused on the reader with an angry / zombified expression on them.

    "Zombified expression."

    Because this is close, we don't have an opportunity to see other zombie traits; we only have the eyes. Okay, the brows are lowered, so "angry" is doable. What's the artist supposed to draw that makes them "zombified," though?

    I don't know, and I don't think the reader will see this image and think "zombie"; I think the reader will think, "she's alive, and why is she pissed off?"

    Roberts, we're back to where we've been before.

    My best advice for you is to dump your predilection for camera angles, because you really don't have them down, meaning that what you ask for gets in your way.

    (Sorry.)

    --Lee



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