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Old 10-10-2014, 06:04 PM   #1
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TPG Week 198: How To Bore In Five Pages


Welcome back, one and all, to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have another entry from Chelsea Smith! We also have Liam Hayes in blue, and I'm looking rather svelte in red, and we'll see what Chelsea does with

Koshka

PAGE ONE (six panels)

Panel one: Daytime. Animal shelter. A miserable, lonely, three-legged cat sits in her enclosure, staring forward through the glass. She has the standard fare. A blanket, a food bowl, a water bowl, toy, and a litter box. Nothing special. Out of shot, a pair of women talk. (I'm not a know-it-all, I swear. However, my cat only has two paws. His two hind paws are gone. So, the question to ask is, which leg is missing?)

TALBOT (OP): You say she’s friendly?

VOLUNTEER (OP): Oh yes, she’s just the sweetest thing. It’s a real shame about her leg. (Comma-fail.)

Panel two: Wider shot of the shelter. (Do we see other enclosures?) More people walk by (This is first we've heard of people walking by.), not looking down at her enclosure. The cat places one paw on the window.

TALBOT (OP): Did she get in a fight?

VOLUNTEER (OP): No. Hit by a car. She can move just fine and all, but (That comma should be here.) so far, nobody’s wanted the tripod.

Panel three: The cat continues to stare through the glass, but the focus is no longer on her. Behind her, visible through the bars in the back of her enclosure (Hmm. These bars have just jumped in. I pictured the back of the enclosure being a brick wall. Why does the enclosure have a window in the front and bars in the back? That seems odd.), a stiff-backed black woman named DR. TALBOT, dressed in casual but nice clothes (perhaps a bit too nice to wear to an animal shelter) speaks with one of the shelter volunteers. (These characters have just popped into the scene. We should've seen them in panel one and two if the back of the enclosure is merely bars.)

(This panel has just thrown me completely out of the story.)

Click here to read more.
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Old 10-11-2014, 06:27 AM   #2
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"VOLUNTEER (OP): Oh yes, she’s just the sweetest thing. It’s a real shame about her leg. (Comma-fail.)"

What is the comma-fail? I don't see it.

"VOLUNTEER (OP): No. Hit by a car. She can move just fine and all, but (That comma should be here.) so far, nobody’s wanted the tripod."


I'm not at all sure that comma should be there. Commas aren't quite like other bits of punctuation, in that sometimes their application is a matter of taste, not a matter of right or wrong. Like the Oxford comma. Amirite?

"Talbot and the cat now sit in a comfortable office, all warm tones and gentle light. (More importantly, what’s the time of day?) The walls are lined with books. It is a therapist’s office, designed for comfort. Talbot herself sits in a tall, cozy armchair, a clipboard in her lap, still dressed in her nice business casual clothes. The cat sits in the carrier on the floor next to her, bored and despondent. This is not how she pictured getting out of the shelter. (That last line is prose.) (This will have some trouble being drawn. Who’s brave enough to tell me why?)"

My thought was that if you want to show the cat's emotions, you need the camera to be close to the cat, at worm's eye height. However, you also need to show the room, and you also need to show the clipboard in the lap. Which you can't see from that angle.

"PANEL FOUR: Talbot reaches down to open the latch on the cat’s door. (Okay. Someone want to tell me what’s wrong with this panel?)"

Hmmz. There's a whiff of moving panel, but I can imagine what it would look like drawn as a static panel. I don't like the lack of camera angle. Not sure.

Overall, I think the story would be interesting if told from the cat's perspective, possibly with a Raymond Chandler gumshoe monologue. But maybe I need to get out more.

The script definitely suffers from prose writing, from decompressed storytelling and from not enough feline film noir.
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Old 10-11-2014, 08:22 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SamRoads View Post
"VOLUNTEER (OP): Oh yes, she’s just the sweetest thing. It’s a real shame about her leg. (Comma-fail.)"

What is the comma-fail? I don't see it.
Look a bit harder. It's there. (Or it could be a matter of taste. )

Quote:
Originally Posted by SamRoads View Post

"VOLUNTEER (OP): No. Hit by a car. She can move just fine and all, but (That comma should be here.) so far, nobody’s wanted the tripod."


I'm not at all sure that comma should be there. Commas aren't quite like other bits of punctuation, in that sometimes their application is a matter of taste, not a matter of right or wrong. Like the Oxford comma. Amirite?
I wouldn't have placed the comma there. I would have left it right where it is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SamRoads View Post

"Talbot and the cat now sit in a comfortable office, all warm tones and gentle light. (More importantly, what’s the time of day?) The walls are lined with books. It is a therapist’s office, designed for comfort. Talbot herself sits in a tall, cozy armchair, a clipboard in her lap, still dressed in her nice business casual clothes. The cat sits in the carrier on the floor next to her, bored and despondent. This is not how she pictured getting out of the shelter. (That last line is prose.) (This will have some trouble being drawn. Who’s brave enough to tell me why?)"

My thought was that if you want to show the cat's emotions, you need the camera to be close to the cat, at worm's eye height. However, you also need to show the room, and you also need to show the clipboard in the lap. Which you can't see from that angle.
Exactly right, Felix.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SamRoads View Post

"PANEL FOUR: Talbot reaches down to open the latch on the cat’s door. (Okay. Someone want to tell me what’s wrong with this panel?)"

Hmmz. There's a whiff of moving panel, but I can imagine what it would look like drawn as a static panel. I don't like the lack of camera angle. Not sure.
Being a literalist, the only thing the artist can draw is the person reaching down. Doing what? Dunno. Where's the camera? Dunno. It is actually a moving panel, but I can see it as a still image, too, but I don't know where the image is supposed to be stopped. I know where I'd stop it, but that isn't said here. Basically, this panel cannot be drawn.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SamRoads View Post

Overall, I think the story would be interesting if told from the cat's perspective, possibly with a Raymond Chandler gumshoe monologue. But maybe I need to get out more.

The script definitely suffers from prose writing, from decompressed storytelling and from not enough feline film noir.
Feline film noir! I like that!
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Old 10-12-2014, 01:07 PM   #4
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The last few submissions all have common issues, according to the reviewing editors. The main problem is that they’ve been labeled boring. Why? Pacing? Not getting to the point fast enough? Not making the point clear? Not instilling enough interest? The latter is a bit subjective, but tell me if this makes sense: Act 1 should establish setting and tone, identify the main character, present the objective story problem and introduce the antagonist. In a 22-page short story for comics, shouldn’t all that should happen within the first 5 pages or less? This is your set-up. Otherwise, you run the risk of not to having adequate room to tell your story. Take a look at these articles as a guide for page counts and pacing as they pertain to comics:

http://www.comixtribe.com/2011/03/01/bn-week-9-pacing/
http://www.comixtribe.com/2013/01/08...ory-mechanics/
http://www.comixtribe.com/2013/01/29...ng-your-story/

If this is a series, what then? Should the entire first issue be the defacto ending to act 1, with the final hook or cliffhanger being the catalyst that launches us into act 2? I suppose it could be stretched between two issues, but you run the risk of losing or boring the reader. You probably aren’t getting to the point fast enough.

Quite a few moving panels have been identified in this particular submission. For a number of reasons, I think some of us have remnants of film swimming around in our heads. Even when we are thinking visually, we’ve got moving pictures in mind while the muse has us typing furiously away. We have to write for the medium and comics is the stuff of still imagery. Technically, this is a matter of semantics or how you write the panel descriptions. For example, you have:

“A door opens into the room and in walks a brown-haired man with a blank expression dressed all in black. His shoulders are stiff. His neck is tense. He’s ready for a fight.”

Any artist worth their salt has enough information here to obviously draw this panel with a guy stepping thru an open door. This door should have been included in the establishing shot of panel 1, so we are oriented when this panel happens. I saw it as a high angle shot with much of the office represented, to include the door, the woman and the cat/carrier. Seven panels on the same page would have made this panel very small and the effect would have suffered. It’s also a slow scene, so why so many panels?. However, body language and depicting someone ready for a fight is where it gets murky. Remember, the goal for the artist is to be visually clear about what’s happening. Consider describing something like clenched fists as he steps forward, with furrowed brows or a sneer. A forward lean also denotes aggressive intent. How did he receive word of the woman’s malfeasance? Bureaucracies are fond paperwork. A folder or memo clenched aggressively, waved or pointed to from time to time would be a good prop.

Your artist can make sparse information work, but if panel descriptions are left too nebulous your vision and theirs may be too different things. This leads to multiple corrective e-mails, redrawn thumbnails, lost time and loot. Being clear from the beginning is a huge time saver. Take a look at this post on undrawable panel descriptions:

http://www.comixtribe.com/2013/04/09...-descriptions/

This script type is almost like the Plot First method, but with some dialogue. Because you aren’t giving much shot direction, the artist would be interpreting their own layout and visuals. Full Script is where you are giving us camera angle, distance and direction. The latter is also the preferred method of at least one of the editors. Therefore, your feedback will be with those aspects weighing heavily on what is considered and said.
A review of these posts may shed some light on where this is coming from:

http://www.comixtribe.com/2011/02/08...pting-methods/
http://www.comixtribe.com/2011/01/31...lishing-shots/
http://www.comixtribe.com/2011/02/22...camera-angles/

Keep in mind, a wide, high angle shot of a room can be considered a type of establishing shot. Its job is to orient us. However, exterior shots often do a better job at placing us in the setting and then transition to the wide shot of the room.

There were a few times when Chelsea attempted silent panels. I’ve seen this successfully done elsewhere in comics. A picture is worth a thousand words and all that. However, you cannot deny that the combination of words and pictures unique to comics is a powerful tool to convey very clear ideas of what is happening within a panel. This doesn’t have to be a soliloquy, pushing the 25-word safety zone. For example, a curious expression with dialogue saying, “Hmmm.” Speaks volumes and makes it unmistakably clear that there is curiosity or questioning going on with the speaking character.

Steve writes: “Format: Flawless Victory. And, really, that’s the only good thing about this.”

Hmmmm, I didn’t see a single page break being mentioned. Was this a test to see if we were paying attention, or a fail on my part?

Thanks for sharing this, Chelsea.
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Old 10-12-2014, 05:25 PM   #5
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Quote:
The last few submissions all have common issues, according to the reviewing editors. The main problem is that they’ve been labeled boring. Why? Pacing? Not getting to the point fast enough? Not making the point clear? Not instilling enough interest?
I can't speak for Steven, but for me it's a lack of conflict, or even the suggestion of it. In the script I noted some panels that would work as hooks. That's because these panels had the suggestion of conflict. The cat looking scared as Talbot notes that "she is the one." This has a number of implications which could point to something happening to the cat that the cat wouldn't want. Conflict. Deeper than that, the reader wouldn't want anything to happen to a poor defenceless animal. More conflict.

Quote:
There were a few times when Chelsea attempted silent panels. I’ve seen this successfully done elsewhere in comics. A picture is worth a thousand words and all that. However, you cannot deny that the combination of words and pictures unique to comics is a powerful tool to convey very clear ideas of what is happening within a panel. This doesn’t have to be a soliloquy, pushing the 25-word safety zone. For example, a curious expression with dialogue saying, “Hmmm.” Speaks volumes and makes it unmistakably clear that there is curiosity or questioning going on with the speaking character.
The problem with this script is that the silent panels went on for pages. Silent panels are a great tool if used effectively and sparingly. However, as this is a new story, there's a lot of work to be done in order to hook readers and bring them up to speed. There's no time for silent panels, let alone pages.

Quote:
Steve writes: “Format: Flawless Victory. And, really, that’s the only good thing about this.”

Hmmmm, I didn’t see a single page break being mentioned. Was this a test to see if we were paying attention, or a fail on my part?
This script had page breaks. You get no awards for perfect format. That's the least amount one should expect from a comic script. It's like lettering in the sense that people only notice when it's done badly.

Cheers
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Old 10-13-2014, 10:19 AM   #6
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Quote:
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This script had page breaks. You get no awards for perfect format. That's the least amount one should expect from a comic script. It's like lettering in the sense that people only notice when it's done badly.
I see. What is a page break then? Is it the actual mention of, "Page Break" on the bottom of a script page or does something like, "Page 1 (6 panels)" suffice?
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Old 10-13-2014, 03:30 PM   #7
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This is a pet peeve of mine.

This is the Internet age. Asking is not enough. I talk about them in Week 8, I believe. Maybe Week 6 of b&n. It's the one about scripting.
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Old 10-16-2014, 08:10 AM   #8
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Page breaks are when you hit Ctrl+Enter to create a "new" page within the document. It also ensures, no matter the system, your script will pretty much look the same for whoever else is reading it.
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Old 11-06-2014, 08:13 AM   #9
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Ya, I'm late to the party.

I recognised Chelsea and her Koshka story from a thread a while back, where I shared some thoughts.

One thing that stood out to me is that the panel descriptions aren't really panel descriptions. They're basically abbreviated prose. When writing a novel, you can write, "Jane smiled". We trust that the context and the reader's imagination will fill any gaps. And it's okay if each reader has their own mental image of what "Jane smiled" looked like.
Our job as comic writers is more involved. It's not enough to say that Jane smiled, because our job is to tell the artist what to draw. Unless you're working with an experienced pro artist (which is pretty unlikely for most of us) who is as much a storyteller as we are, you can't afford ambiguity.
Here's a smile.
Here's another.
She's smiling.
So's this girl.
How about a coy smile?
Is this chic playful-embarrassed?

All of these gals are smiling, but their expressions could be interpreted in different ways. Imagine writing, "Jane smiled", and you had this kinda picture in your head, but your artist drew something like this.

Also regarding panel descriptions, here's a quote from The Elements of Style:

Quote:
Omit needless words. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.
You can apply this to your scriptwriting. Every scene should exist for a specific purpose. Every panel within that scene should either drive the story forward, or reveal character (ideally, it should do both). Show us what's important. If there's a panel that has no dialogue in it, it should be silent for a very good reason; not simply because there's nothing going on. Check out Yannick's Points Of Impact article on the use of silent beats: http://www.comixtribe.com/2012/08/04...ek-19-beat-it/

Here's my process (roughly) on how I plan out and write a script:

1) Abbreviated plot. WHY did I choose that particular character to be my POV character? What's the PURPOSE of this story?

2) I break things down into rough scenes. Basically, I aim to get across the purpose of the story in as interesting a way as possible. If a scene can be cut, it's cut.

3) Work out about how many pages each scene should take. Plot out what happens on a page, and try to get some sort of cliffhanger (even a small one) on every page turn.

4) Now that I know what needs to happen on each page, I go into detail with the panel descriptions and dialogue.

Of course, I still get shit wrong, but I think things are "less wrong" than they could be by doing things this way. It kinda makes you stop and think about the story more. From there, it's all about practice.

With all that in mind, here's some of my advice for you, for what it's worth (I'm no pro):

> Every story needs a main character (or protagonist). I'm not sure who the protagonist is in your story. Once you figure out who the protagonist is, first make sure you've chosen the right character. Is their POV the most interesting? Do they have the most to lose, and the most to gain? Is their POV going to be the best way you can drive the story's purpose to your reader? Once you're sure of your character, make sure the protagonist's role in your story is clear.
The idea of anchoring the reader firmly with a protagonist is to give the reader someone to relate to for the duration of the story. If the reader is vague on who the main character is, or otherwise detached, they won't know who to root for when the going is good, or who to fear for when things are bad. This isn't good, because if a reader isn't invested in the main character, they've got no reason to be reading.

> Make sure you describe your panels fully. Hit the pause button on the movie playing in your brain, then describe what you see. Every time you write a panel, ask yourself if you've described a static image, or a moving action. Ask whether you've remembered to describe everything within a panel, and not just the main focus. Analyse the picture in your mind, and check that the frozen moment in time is the most powerful moment you could have chosen.

> Ambiguity could mean that the artist draws something you didn't intend. Does it matter? And if the accuracy of X detail doesn't matter, WHY doesn't it matter? It could be that you're not packing as much story into each panel as you should.

> Writing anything other than straight description is a waste. It just gives the writer more fodder to dig through to find his/her art instruction. Write what you see, not what you feel.

I hope this helps, Chelsea!
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