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Old 05-09-2014, 12:18 PM   #1
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TPG Week 176: A Hat-Trick of Bad


Welcome back, one and all, to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a new Brave One in Michael Mullane. We have Yannick Morin in the vile green, I'm in the damned red, and let's see what Michael does when he has the

High Ground

(Iím going to try something different this week: instead of using in-line comments as the noble TPG tradition has required from time immemorial, Iím going to use panel description footnotes. Yes, I have so much to say this week that I had to come up with a new method of giving notes. Strap inÖ)

Page 1

Panel 1: Establishing shot; exterior of a car(1) outside Kilburn station (see reference). (2) Trains rumble overhead, shaking the ground underneath.(3)

Caption(4): This is Dave,(5)(6) Iím out being better than youÖ(7)leave your message!

SFX: (8)
Boop

(1) This isnít really an establishing shot as you're not telling the artist anything of much use. Thereís the location and there's a car; thatís it. An establishing shot would first tell us what time of day it is Ė day or night? It would also give us a more precise idea of the cameraís location Ė is it and elevated shot or is this at eye-level?

(2)Nice touch!

(3) This simply cannot be drawn. How do you expect your artist to convey rumbling? The obvious answer is through sound effect, but you donít include any for the trains. How do you expect your artist to convey a shaking of the ground? Shake lines around the whole panel? The point of it is that youíve just described a FEELING rather than an IMAGE. Thatís novel writing. When you write a novel, you're trying to communicate to your reader the full experience of a scene by using words only. Thatís not what you do when you write a comic script. First of all, you're not writing for the reader, you're writing for the rest of the creative team; the script is a set of instructions that they will use to produce the comic itself. Think of it this way: you're a composer and you're writing the sheet music for the symphony, not playing all of the instruments yourself on the evening of the premiere. Realizing who the real target of your script is and keeping it in mind at all times should solve roughly half of the issues Iíve picked up in this script.
(Today's coloring techniques can show shaking. The real question is this: is it necessary? Does it add anything to the story at all?)

Click here to read more.
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Old 05-10-2014, 10:19 AM   #2
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Excellent article. Thanks Yannick and Steven.

Yannick's criticism works for me as a mini refresher in how to Do Comics Right, whereas Steven's reference to the most electrifying move in sports entertainment had me grinning. The both of you turned a bad script into an enjoyable lesson.

Yannick, you refer to a reader as 'he'. 'They' seems to be becoming a useful gender-neutral pronoun. I recognise that on average comics readers are more likely to be male, but changing that requires us to find ways to include everyone.
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Old 05-10-2014, 11:38 AM   #3
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As a first time reader, I found this article structure to be very confusing. There are four people listed in the header pic, but then you have "I'm in the damned red" listed in the introduction. So who is that? Steve? One of the others? I assume it's Steve, considering it's his DW post. But that should have been made clear regardless. Listing the commentator's initials next to the colour coding will also help to avoid any confusion.

With the concluding comments in grey, I had no idea who was speaking. Again, was it Steve? This article needs better clarity.
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Old 05-10-2014, 11:58 AM   #4
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I honestly am not familiar with how you guys conduct these articles, but, again, as a first time reader, I was rather disappointed and surprised by the thugish style of constructive critiques offered to the person submitting his or her script for feedback. Or was this simply a ritual sacrifice?

There are better ways to convey your messages. Mullane's concluding comments on "how to improve the next version of the script" are harsh, at best. You're telling the submitter to basically learn how to write comic books. If the dude has no experience, that's fine. But you're not offering any advice. You're just being a bully for no constructive reason. If you wanted to be helpful, you could have at least offered links to a variety of comic book writing books that COULD help him or her where you did not. Telling someone he or she does not know the fundamentals of comic book writing ain't gonna help anyone. That's reckless and lazy.

And for the last bit of this article? Well, I don't know who wrote it. I'm gonna assume Steve did. Not sure, honestly. But that bit is equally as bullish as the aforementioned comments. "This piece fell apart somewhere around P1, panel 1." That doesn't do anyone any good. If being a dick is apart of your style (you call it 'blunt'), that's fine. Consistency is key. But this series of articles... it's designed to help people, right? It comes off more like you're helping yourself. However, to your credit, you do offer the writer ways to help improve, but after a couple of unnecessary kicks to the balls.
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Old 05-10-2014, 01:29 PM   #5
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Sam,

Thanks for pointing out that bit about the pronouns. Iíll keep it in mind for my next set of notes.

Lovecraft13,

Sorry you found the article difficult to follow. I might be to blame in part as I tried a new way to write in my notes that involved some kind of footnotes and it might have backfired on me. Iíll revert back to inline notes for my next contribution in two weeks. I think there was also an issue with the text editor that made everything bolded. That might not have helped as well.

As for your other comments, Iím the one writing the notes in green so Iíll own up to what I wrote. When I read your post, I did what I always do whenever I receive criticism: I reviewed what I did in light of your feedback and evaluated where I could use it to get better. Although I do admit I flirt with harshness in some spots, I donít agree with qualifying this as ďlazyĒ or that Iím ďnot offering any advice.Ē There are over 3,000 words of editing notes in green, the great majority of that criticism coupled with suggestions, alternatives, explanations of comic script conventions and theoretical breakdowns of storytelling best practices. Those concluding comments you take issue with are a *summary* of all the notes Iíve given throughout the script. Condensing all of my notes into final bullet points was actually an attempt at making it easier for the writer to understand how to focus his energies. So no, I donít feel like Iíve left the writer hanging. What I will do however is look into how I can make the ďpositiveĒ segment of my notes stand out more so itís better welcomed by the writer and readers alike.

And Michael, if youíre reading this, here are a couple of reading suggestions that I think you might find useful:

DENNIS OíNEIL - The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics
ANDY SCHMIDT - The Insiderís Guide to Creating Comics and Graphic Novels
PETER DAVID - Writing for Comics and Graphic Novels
SCOTT MCCLOUD - Understanding Comics
SCOTT MCCLOUD - Making Comics
WILL EISNER - Comics and Sequential Art
WILL EISNER - Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative

On the web, I would strongly suggest following the blogs of Chuck Wendig (http://terribleminds.com/ramble/blog/) and Alexandra Sokoloff (http://www.screenwritingtricks.com/) for stellar advice on storytelling in general. You could also read Steven Forbesí BOLTS & NUTS column on ComixTribe.com which goes into very deep detail about creating comics, especially the first dozen articles or so. And of course, thereís THE PROVING GROUNDS where you can continue learning from other writersí scripts and editing notes.

Thank you for having taken the time to reach out with your feedback, Lovecraft13, and I hope you keep on reading AND commenting!
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Old 05-10-2014, 01:31 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lovecraft13 View Post
As a first time reader, I found this article structure to be very confusing. There are four people listed in the header pic, but then you have "I'm in the damned red" listed in the introduction. So who is that? Steve? One of the others? I assume it's Steve, considering it's his DW post. But that should have been made clear regardless. Listing the commentator's initials next to the colour coding will also help to avoid any confusion.

With the concluding comments in grey, I had no idea who was speaking. Again, was it Steve? This article needs better clarity.
Thanks, Josh.

The heading used to say The Proving Grounds with Steve Forbes, and then it listed everyone else. I'm always in red and I always do the wrap up, but as a first-time reader, I can see how that could be a bit confusing. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I appreciate it.
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Old 05-10-2014, 02:04 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lovecraft13 View Post
I honestly am not familiar with how you guys conduct these articles, but, again, as a first time reader, I was rather disappointed and surprised by the thugish style of constructive critiques offered to the person submitting his or her script for feedback. Or was this simply a ritual sacrifice?

There are better ways to convey your messages. Mullane's concluding comments on "how to improve the next version of the script" are harsh, at best. You're telling the submitter to basically learn how to write comic books. If the dude has no experience, that's fine. But you're not offering any advice. You're just being a bully for no constructive reason. If you wanted to be helpful, you could have at least offered links to a variety of comic book writing books that COULD help him or her where you did not. Telling someone he or she does not know the fundamentals of comic book writing ain't gonna help anyone. That's reckless and lazy.

And for the last bit of this article? Well, I don't know who wrote it. I'm gonna assume Steve did. Not sure, honestly. But that bit is equally as bullish as the aforementioned comments. "This piece fell apart somewhere around P1, panel 1." That doesn't do anyone any good. If being a dick is apart of your style (you call it 'blunt'), that's fine. Consistency is key. But this series of articles... it's designed to help people, right? It comes off more like you're helping yourself. However, to your credit, you do offer the writer ways to help improve, but after a couple of unnecessary kicks to the balls.
Thuggish style of critique? It'm in red, and yes, I admit to being harsh at times. However, I've always been harsh. That isn't going to change. However, I've always been helpful, too.

There's help all through there. There's help all through each installment of TPG. Some writers need more direction than others. Some need to put in more work.

I don't hold back. I never have.

This script is nowhere near the worst that has come through. If you want to see real "thuggish" style comments, let me know, and I'll point you in the right direction.
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Old 05-10-2014, 02:46 PM   #8
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I understand the intent. I read a few others in your series. Yes, people certainly need help, some more than others, but as long as submitters receive constructive crits, then it's all helpful. People do need help in the beginning. Some need a shot in the arm, others need more subtlety. As an editor, I'm sure you're well versed with that. One can be harsh, but not vicious. And that's just a generalization not directed towards anyone.

And while it's cool that you do this service for others, the aforementioned critique came off... I don't know, aggressive, more then it should have been, hence "thuggish." Yet, that's just an opinion. I'm dealing with a lot of writing workshops, and I'm experiencing both critiques and personal attacks, and I now know this series is certainly the former.
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Old 05-10-2014, 09:13 PM   #9
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Sorry Lovecraft, I'm in opposition to virtually all your points, though I do understand where you're coming from.

Making money from art (whether it's writing or otherwise) is a ruthless business. The public will tear your work to shreds, even if it's successful (probably moreso if it's successful). Writers have to develop a tough skin, lose the ego. The sooner that education takes place, the better, in my opinion.

I also stand against sugarcoating. There's been a culture lately (perhaps it's to do with political correctness, or maybe just not wanting to "make waves") that if you pick out the things a person has done wrong in their work, you have to balance it with something positive, with things the person has done right. But what if the person hasn't done anything right? What if the work needs a complete do-over? You either blow smoke up the person's ass and fib, or you pick out the lesser of the evils from the work and pretend that it's better than what it was.

I don't think sugarcoating helps anyone. If you read previous TPG entries, you'll see that Steven (and the others) only pick apart the things that are actually wrong with a work. And if the two editors have differing opinions, they say so (e.g. Sam says, "this is wrong, it should be this way", and Steven says, "not necessarily"). And if the writer has done things right, they say so. But one of the downsides to accepting unsolicited scripts is that most of the entries will be slush. So a lot of the time, there won't be anything right.

Also, writers submit to The Proving Grounds knowing full well what the critiquing style is. If they don't, then they didn't bother doing even rudimentary research, they simply got as far as, "Woo! I can get a free edit job!" Therefore, they deserve whatever's coming to them.
If they're familiar with TPG, yet they still get butt-hurt when the critiques roll in, then they need to toughen their skin a bit, as I mentioned earlier.

If writers wanting to submit to TPG read through all the previous entries (which they should, it's a gold mine), they'll see that the same issues pop up again and again in scripts. Things like not putting in Page Breaks. Or not using correct lettering labels (caption/off-panel/etc). Again and again the editors point out these mistakes, but the writers either didn't read through The Proving Grounds archives, or they've forgotten the things they've read (in which case having the editors jump up and down on them for it is precisely what they need).

From a purely selfish standpoint though, The Proving Grounds' "brutal" style is one of the reasons I keep reading. It's entertaining. Not because I like seeing others get trampled, but because it's bloody funny seeing all the different ways the editors lose their cool over extremely common mistakes. Another highly popular blog that was much like TPG was Miss Snark's: http://misssnark.blogspot.com.au
One of the reasons she discontinued the blog was because she ran out of new things to say. I hope that doesn't happen to TPG any time soon.

One last point from a personal standpoint. I first broke into illustration when I was around 14. I joined an online artist community, where girls were in short supply. Most folk totally avoided pointing out mistakes in my work. Others sugarcoated their comments, trying not to puncture any "delicate little girl feelings". Then came the resident bulldogs. The folk who didn't sugarcoat anything, ever. They tore my work to shreds. You know what? Purely because of their help (and critiques are helpful only if they're honest), within two years I'd learned enough that I was accepted into a premium international publication. I'd beaten nearly 10k applicants. I learned absolutely nothing from folk who tread lightly. I learned everything from the bulldogs. Because I knew if the bulldogs told me I did something right, it was actually right. Some ten years after that community closed, I'm still good friends with the bulldogs.

I think there's only two things that need to change with TPG:

1) People need to read all the previous entries before they read the new ones (or heaven forbid, submit).

2) Figure out why Wordpress butchers the fonts with every new post. Word and Wordpress don't like each other- if you're pasting from Word, you gotta strip out Word's messed up internal formatting.
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Old 05-10-2014, 09:19 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yannick Morin View Post
Sam,
I might be to blame in part as I tried a new way to write in my notes that involved some kind of footnotes and it might have backfired on me. Iíll revert back to inline notes for my next contribution in two weeks.
For what it's worth, I was able to follow your notes just fine, and I think you made the right choice in this case. When the critiques are so much longer than the actual content, it can be tricky to keep track of what the original writer actually wrote. I think in-line edits are better for shorter comments amongst a larger body of writing.
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Old 05-11-2014, 01:01 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alyssa View Post
For what it's worth, I was able to follow your notes just fine, and I think you made the right choice in this case. When the critiques are so much longer than the actual content, it can be tricky to keep track of what the original writer actually wrote. I think in-line edits are better for shorter comments amongst a larger body of writing.
Thanks! I've already started working on my next scheduled TPG - the other editor Sam and I alternate - and I've scrapped the numbers. However, I kept the comments below each panel so the script itself is read more easily. I'm just too much of a wordy bastard to use in-line comments!
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Old 05-11-2014, 02:56 PM   #12
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Lovecraft,

I have to say I am in 100% agreement with Alyssa. There is so much information to be gathered without even leaving The Proving Grounds. Each week we see the same common mistakes, most of which are easily avoidable (page breaks, pitch size).

I submitted to TPG last year. I waited the four months it took me to read the entire Comixtribe site before doing so. I knew exactly what I was getting when I submitted, and it was also exactly what I wanted.

If I wanted someone to sing my praises, I would have printed the script out for my mom to read!

I wanted a good, honest feedback on my story. It's a tough market out there. Steven frequently says, "You need to give your story it's best chance to survive." That's what the "thug-ish" feel may perhaps be. If the submitters really want to give their work that best chance, a critique like this is invaluable.

Was my critique easy going? Not at all. I loved every second of it. Because, after reflecting on it I realized EVERYTHING THEY SAID WAS TRUE. The best part (made me laugh out loud, literally) was when Steven told me my characters spoke like Saturday morning cartoons. I thought, holy crap they do! Now when I write I know some of my personal errors to watch out for.

I feel TPG is an amazing opportunity for writers, new and old alike. I wouldn't change a thing about it. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Thank you for everyone involved with bringing us The Proving Grounds every week. It's a constant inspiration and reminder.

Ryan
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Old 05-11-2014, 03:32 PM   #13
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To each their own. If it was the feedback you needed to get the job done, then that's cool. I guess, whatever it takes.
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Old 05-11-2014, 04:09 PM   #14
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Quote:
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To each their own. If it was the feedback you needed to get the job done, then that's cool. I guess, whatever it takes.
Not necessarily to get the job done, but to make the story better.
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Old 05-11-2014, 11:17 PM   #15
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For what it's worth, I was able to follow your notes just fine, and I think you made the right choice in this case. When the critiques are so much longer than the actual content, it can be tricky to keep track of what the original writer actually wrote. I think in-line edits are better for shorter comments amongst a larger body of writing.
I agree completely. In fact, I wish TPG would post a link to the original, unedited script.
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