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Stinty
06-17-2014, 10:19 PM
Hey all,

Could I possibly get some quick advice in relation to panel descriptions? I'm not sure I'm using enough to convey what I need, but at the same time, I don't want to overburden the artist with unnecessary description.

Below is the first page of issue one of my current WIP. Any advice would be appreciated. The story is a first draft with some work to do.

PAGE ONE (five panels)

Panel 1. A large establishing shot of a world gone to ruin. Dirty, ragged scavengers pick through the bones of a broken city. They are pitiful, bedraggled, and frightened.

CAP:
The world had failed.

Panel 2. A portal rips open the sky, spewing forth demons, devils and unimaginable horrors.

CAP:
Armegeddon had finally arrived and the time of Judgement was at hand.

Panel 3. Demons rend humans limb from limb. Carnage on a biblical scale.

CAP:
Most were found wanting.

Panel 4. An angelic human descends from the clouds in a column of light. Humans gather around in supplication. They think their savior has arrived.

CAP:
God sent his savior to once again put the Earth into balance.

Panel 5. The angelic hero’s face contorts with rage. He swings a mighty spear, destroying everything within range.

CAP:
Unfortunately for us, humans had been judged as … unnecessary.

Alyssa
06-17-2014, 11:52 PM
Heya! I'm no expert, but here's my 2 cents...

I'm thinking that your descriptions are a bit too sparse. They're giving an overview of the scene, but not exactly describing what's in your panel. There's a difference between giving your artist enough room to breathe, and making them worried they won't draw your scene correctly.

If you were to describe this picture, what would you say?
http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/736x/e2/83/ef/e283efa3b8742d7ad1c15159b45dfa5c.jpg

Using your current scripting style, I'd write:
Post-apocalyptic city that is overgrown. The buildings are in disrepair. There are some men with guns surveying the scene.

Problem is, that description could also apply to this pic:
http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/86/fa/d7/86fad763b7a99d25df13e7b944799e9c.jpg

Two very different pictures.

So yes, it's important not to handcuff your artist, but you also need to give some solid instruction. Referring to the picture above, it would be important to describe the weather/time of day, whether the overgrown vegetation is dead or lush, how many men are in the panel, where they're roughly placed, what they're doing, roughly where the camera is (is it close, far, low, high?).


Panel 1. A large establishing shot of a world gone to ruin. Dirty, ragged scavengers pick through the bones of a broken city. They are pitiful, bedraggled, and frightened.

I know that as a writer, it's super tempting to get all prose-like in our descriptions, but you need to try to pare things back to the bones. "A large establishing shot of a world gone to ruin". The rest of what you've described is not actually a "world" gone to ruin, but a "city". So that leads me to believe the first description is just prose-y fluff. The problem with this kind of writing is that it isn't clear.

"Dirty, ragged scavengers pick through the bones of a broken city."
The word "scavengers" can refer to scavenging animals. Make sure you're clear. We also don't know how many (I assume you meant) people there are. Just a handful? A massive crowd? Are they mostly men? Or women and children too? When you say they ARE pitiful, you should say what makes them LOOK pitiful (although I think bedraggled, ragged, dirty and scavenging covers it). You say they ARE frightened, you should say what makes them LOOK frightened.
When you refer to the "world gone to ruin" and the "bones of a broken city", you need to explain what this looks like. Are the buildings merely skeletons of rebar and crumbled concrete? Or do they simply look abandoned and in disrepair? Is nature taking over, or is the place a wasteland? Has water flooded the subways and sewer lines (highly likely in post-apocalyptic New York), causing ground level to be flooded with murky, stagnating water?

It's not enough to explain how things ARE. You need to explain how things LOOK.

It can help to read the scripts of successful comics. Just be aware that sometimes the pros break the rules, and that you can't get away with that as a new kid. :D http://www.comicbookscriptarchive.com/archive/the-scripts/

Also, I recommend reading Steven's Bolts and Nuts column: http://www.comixtribe.com/columns/bolts-nuts/pouch-of-nuts/
He knows his stuff.
Follow that up with reading through The Proving Grounds archives: http://www.comixtribe.com/category/the-proving-grounds/
You can learn A LOT from other people's mistakes, and the advice given.

I went through all that material before I sat down to write my first script (Where The Monsters Are... you can see it get torn up in TPG). :har: I botched up a bunch of things, but I think I started off a lot better than most because of taking the time to research. I hope it helps you too! :cool:

Basically you just gotta go in there and have more DESCRIPTIONS in your descriptions. Don't just say what's happening, say what you see. I hope that helps!

Stinty
06-18-2014, 12:28 AM
Thank-you, that helps a lot. I had a feeling the descriptions were insufficient with the details I was trying to convey.

I think what I need to remember is that others can't see the whole picture/vision I can see, so I, as the writer, need to make sure I provide the details to fill in the voids, so to speak.

I'm reading through Steve's Bolts and Nuts stuff - I think the tips there are going to help immensely!

Travis

Steven Forbes
06-18-2014, 12:58 AM
Hey, Travis.

I think Alyssa said it well.

Whenever new writers start reading scripts from the pro's, I cringe a little inside.

There are three admittedly great comic book writers out there, and I want you to avoid reading their scripts for a while, if at all possible.

Alan Moore
Neil Gaiman
Warren Ellis

These are very advance comic book writers, and I don't want new writers to fall into the trap that these guys can set.

Alan Moore is extremely thorough. His scripts are famous for being overly abundant with information that the artist doesn't necessarily need in order to tell the story. He's a wordy bastard--but his scripts are eminently drawable, because he's an artist himself.

Warren Ellis is the other extreme. His scripts are extremely sparse. If it's a 22-page story he's going to tell, then his script will usually only take up 22 pages unless there are dialogue-heavy passages, or some effect he wants to get across. In those instances, he might go to 27 pages to tell the story. Very economical with words, but he's backed up with artists who know what the hell they're doing, so he can get away with it.

Neil Gaiman is between these two extremes. However, he's still a very advanced storyteller.

As a writer, I'd suggest keeping away from reading their scripts for about a year (as long as you're diligently working on your own stuff). Get a feel for the medium and how to tell a story in it. Then you can start branching out into more advanced methods.

But again, Alyssa said it very nicely. Your panel descriptions don't give enough information, because your verbiage isn't clear.

Hope that helps!

Bulletboy-Redux
06-19-2014, 10:44 AM
Unless youre working with a very experienced artist who can fill in the gaps themselves its always better to explain specifically what you want to see. Pretend youre describing a scene to a blind person, because thats what the artist is. They cant see into your brain.

Charles
06-19-2014, 03:21 PM
PAGE ONE (five panels)

Panel 1. A large establishing shot of a world gone to ruin. Dirty, ragged scavengers pick through the bones of a broken city. They are pitiful, bedraggled, and frightened.

CAP:
The world had failed.


Panel 4. An angelic human descends from the clouds in a column of light. Humans gather around in supplication. They think their savior has arrived.

CAP:
God sent his savior to once again put the Earth into balance.

In Panel 1, you describe "a world" gone to ruin, which is a generic term. In Panel 4, the caption text refers to "the Earth," which is specific about which world it is that is at issue.

Because both appear on the same page, and because the page in question is page one, the artist can simply read all of the text for the entire page, and know that it is the Earth that is the world in question, prior to starting to draw the world in question.

It will work, in this instance, but as a matter of developing your overall habit, where writing descriptions for panels is concerned, you might want to consider utilizing the more specific terms, namely the ones that govern the setting or the situation, upfront, rather than working them in down the road a bit.

The panel description, itself, won't appear in the comic book, but the caption text will. So, the caption text always governs. It is a controlling factor.

If you isolate out the panel descriptions from one another, and look at them individually alone and apart from one another, the description that you provided for panel one could have ended up with all kinds of different settings on all sorts of worlds very different from Earth. It is three panels later that the artist learns that the world in question is Earth.

As a matter of developing and refining your craft of writing for comic books, precision in your writing habit will, I think, serve you well. The more that you gravitate toward precision, the more headaches that you will save yourself, as you proceed on any given future comic book project.

Comic books are an exercise in economy. How well can you describe with fewer words? That may sound odd, coming from me, since I frequently resort to describing things at greater length, here in the forum, when I am commenting on artwork.

In comic books, you basically have narrative boxes and dialogue balloons/thought bubbles, to convey the story outside of the artwork, itself. The biggest space tends to go to the art, not the text.

What you presented here is pretty good, as far as not being too verbose in your descriptions. But, utilizing short descriptions is not the exact, same thing as being precise in what you say.

The more precise that you are, the more changes or do-overs that you can potentially avoid. The more precision that you acquire in your craft of writing comic book scripts, the more real estate (space) on the pages of the comic that become freed up to you. The ability to free up a panel here or there has a cumulative effect across the span of a single comic book, and it can become the equivalent of a force multiplier for you across a multi-issue story arc.

Longer comic books tend to be more expensive to publish in print/hard copy format. So, when you publish a finished product that was crafted with precision, less panels can translate into less pages, which translates into less dollars to publish.

But, the main reason to gravitate toward precision is to become more effective in your craft and in your trade. Precision will also facilitate the flow of your story, from panel to panel.

Because every comic book is different, and because every writer and every artist are different, it's hard (if not impossible) for there to be a firm, unchanging rule on word count in descriptions for comic book script. Part of the challenge that exists in publishing a first rate comic book is for the writer and the artist to learn how to communicate effectively - not just with the reader, but between themselves. In a nutshell, precision facilitates communicating effectively.

That said, I don't usually comment on comic book scripts. So, take what I say with a hefty dose of salt. Comic book script writing is an art form unto itself.

Schuyler
06-20-2014, 07:08 PM
That said, I don't usually comment on comic book scripts. So, take what I say with a hefty dose of salt. Comic book script writing is an art form unto itself.

I sometimes go over to the artists section and I've seen your posts, Charles. I can only speak for myself but I wouldn't mind having you come talk to us writers sometimes.

-Schuyler

Charles
06-21-2014, 11:53 AM
I sometimes go over to the artists section and I've seen your posts, Charles. I can only speak for myself but I wouldn't mind having you come talk to us writers sometimes.

-Schuyler

Me??? Well, I appreciate the sentiment, but what would we talk about? How to write comic books? I chimed in on this thread, in an attempt to single out a single example for a single individual.

On a humorous note, there's likely more than one artist who might wish that I would leave the artists' section and stick to the writers' section. Browsing the art tends to be very relaxing, though. Sure, I pause. I linger. With some pieces, I spend more time taking in what I see than I do with others. But, it invariably relaxes me.

The writers' section tends to be sparsely populated, for some reason. I do browse it from time to time, though. Here, I tread more lightly. I tip toe through the place. As Elmer Fudd might say, I try to be vewy, vewy quiet.

There are probably reasons for that, don't you think?

It's because all writing is not created equal. When I write my opinion about art that gets posted in the Digital Webbing forum, whether I compliment or whether I criticize what I am looking at, it tends to be an exercise in writing off the cuff.

Writing a comic book script, for comparison's sake, is quite a different undertaking than writing impromptu commentary.

If I were to write a comic book script and post it in the writers' section, Steven Forbes would have a field day. I kid you not! It would be the biggest catastrophe since the Hindenburg. My script would go up in proverbial flames.

If I were to comment at length on an entire comic book script, I would stumble and stutter. It wouldn't be pretty. Plus, it might turn into some ungodly long tome of indecipherable God only knows what.

Beyond that, advice that I might give to someone trying to become better at writing comic book scripts would probably end up seeming both unorthodox, time-consuming, and take the writers in question away from the craft that they are laboring to perfect.

Comic book scripts are a combination of letters and words. Oh, sure, there's also punctuation and grammar - and flow and style and dialogue and narrative boxes. I mean, how hard could it be, right?

Writing a comic book script is an exercise akin to kissing a girl. If I told you to go and find a girl and kiss her, some might find that to be a bit daunting - especially if they didn't know the girl. But, what if I told you to go forth and kiss a thousand different girls. At the end of the day (or week, or month, or year, or however long that it took you to accomplish such a dubious undertaking), would it make you a better writer? Or would it end up being a distraction?

What would you learn, though?

Your confidence when it comes to kissing would grow. Your repertoire of kisses would inflate dramatically. You might even get the big head about becoming a great kisser somewhere along the way.

The way that I see it is this - who you're kissing can make all of the difference in the world. The act of kissing, itself, is secondary to the object of one's affection. If you're in love with the girl that you are kissing, then just like that script that you are writing, the passion will show (assuming that there is any, to begin with).

If you lack passion for your own script, then how can you expect anyone else to love it?

I utilize analogy, because I find it to be a useful tool for instructing. But, that doesn't make me an instructor.

A comic book is a collective work. It contains many different facets. It has many different moving parts, so to speak.

On the writing end of things, there are three basic things: the dialogue, the narrative, and the story. This is all my opinion, mind you, nothing more.

You can be great at one, and suck at the other two. You can be fantastic at two, and simultaneously, be horrible at the third.

Confidence tends to come from familiarity, and familiarity tends to emanate from experience. Steven Forbes tends to be confident in ripping people's scripts to shreds. But, he has acquired a lot of experience over time, which lends itself well to him doing what he does. I use him as an off-the-cuff example of someone that you might be familiar with (since he posts in the forum, here), but I think that you will find this to be common across the industry. There are reasons that he speaks authoritatively on the subject of scripts. After all, he's seen a lot of scripts in his day. But, more importantly, he's invested a lot of himself in those very same scripts - his time, his effort, his analysis. They bear fruit.

And myself? I've read a lot of comic books over the years (more in my younger days than in my latter years), but writing comic book scripts is a very distinct thing, compared to reading comic books.

As would likely be the case with most anyone else, my writing has certain strengths and weaknesses. Crafting comic book scripts can hardly be said to be my forte'. For me, just reading them tends to be a laboriously tedious exercise. So, for the most part, I tend to avoid them like the plague.

Lovecraft13
06-21-2014, 12:42 PM
Make an effort to be thorough, and write until you have enough. Keep going until you no longer have questions.

Begin small, and then expand. Soldiers storm a building? That's a start. Four Special Air Servicemen siege the front doors of a suburban McDonald's in a diamond formation. ______ takes point. That'd be better. But what time of day? You want the action at ground level? Outside? Inside? How are the SAS soldiers armed? Do you want to send references to the artist?

Supply artists with ammunition. They will be the gun.

Schuyler
06-21-2014, 12:50 PM
what would we talk about? How to write comic books?

Yes.

If I were to write a comic book script and post it in the writers' section, Steven Forbes would have a field day. I kid you not! It would be the biggest catastrophe since the Hindenburg. My script would go up in proverbial flames.

Not sure about this. Steven tends to let us other writers comment first. If you were to send it to TPG, then he might have a field day.

Would your first script be awesome? Probably not. That is what this forum is here for, after all.

And myself? I've read a lot of comic books over the years (more in my younger days than in my latter years), but writing comic book scripts is a very distinct thing, compared to reading comic books.

As would likely be the case with most anyone else, my writing has certain strengths and weaknesses. Crafting comic book scripts can hardly be said to be my forte'. For me, just reading them tends to be a laboriously tedious exercise. So, for the most part, I tend to avoid them like the plague.

Yes. Reading scripts is boring. looking through a photo album can be boring. Now, imagine all you had was a description of the photos contained within the album. I don't blame you for not wanting to read scripts.

Thanks for your response, Charles.

Steven Forbes
06-21-2014, 01:16 PM
If I were to write a comic book script and post it in the writers' section, Steven Forbes would have a field day. I kid you not! It would be the biggest catastrophe since the Hindenburg. My script would go up in proverbial flames.

What kind of monster do you take me for, Charles? ;)

I look for three distinct things when I critique a script:

Command of language. This includes the obvious things such as spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Command of format. Format is a very broad term, and is fluid in comics. As long as the format is consistent within the script, I have no problems.

Understanding what can and cannot be drawn. This is the tough one. This is where those who have the first two down tend to stumble. This takes practice.

Everything else can be learned. Learning to tell a story within the confines of the medium is a learned trait, because there is so much to keep in mind. (Panel count, words per panel, page turns, pacing of a scene, character arc, story arc, and more.) It isn't difficult, just time consuming. Once you understand the first three things (language, format, what can be drawn), the rest can come in stages.

Some writers can be verbose. Just looking at your posts, methinks you would be a verbose scripter, at least for the panel descriptions. More Alan Moore than Warren Ellis. ;)



Confidence tends to come from familiarity, and familiarity tends to emanate from experience. Steven Forbes tends to be confident in ripping people's scripts to shreds. But, he has acquired a lot of experience over time, which lends itself well to him doing what he does. I use him as an off-the-cuff example of someone that you might be familiar with (since he posts in the forum, here), but I think that you will find this to be common across the industry. There are reasons that he speaks authoritatively on the subject of scripts. After all, he's seen a lot of scripts in his day. But, more importantly, he's invested a lot of himself in those very same scripts - his time, his effort, his analysis. They bear fruit.

And I also happen to be the moderator of this section... ;0

As for finding people like me (who come across blunty when it comes to scripts), I'd say no. I'm something of an anomaly. Most aren't as blunt as I am. Some are just genuinely nicer. Some have more patience. I'm not nice, and I have little patience for someone who doesn't respect their craft enough or my time and effort enough to not at least learn spelling, punctuation, and format.

I've recently had to do something I never thought I'd have to do. I rejected a script from TPG.

The writer called it a comic script in their email and in their document name. But as soon as you open it up, it says that it is a "Hollywood screenplay", and it is obvious that the writer didn't do anything to adapt the screenplay to a comic book format.

I then told the writer that they had a choice, they could adapt it, or they could leave it. If they adapted it, then I would schedule them when I received the new document. If they didn't, I'd have no choice but to reject it, because it wouldn't go over well at all as a comic book script.

I then got back an email saying that the writer didn't care, and that all editors were idiot monkeys anyway, and the writer had proof, because Hollywood hadn't produced anything that wasn't crap for the past 70 years, and the writer wasn't going to adapt the script, because they weren't going to listen to anything the editor said anyway.

Yes. Bizzare.

But that's what I'm talking about. Granted, it's an extreme case, but gone are the days when you had the excuse that you didn't know any better. There are too many books and articles and places around the web where you can learn the craft of comic book writing. Sitting down to bang out a script for the first time and thinking it's going to sell--those days are gone.



And myself? I've read a lot of comic books over the years (more in my younger days than in my latter years), but writing comic book scripts is a very distinct thing, compared to reading comic books.

Someone who actually gets it!


As would likely be the case with most anyone else, my writing has certain strengths and weaknesses. Crafting comic book scripts can hardly be said to be my forte'. For me, just reading them tends to be a laboriously tedious exercise. So, for the most part, I tend to avoid them like the plague.

To be honest, I hate reading them, too. Sometimes, it's a strain on my sanity. Others, a strain on my self-control. And still others, a strain on both. Sometimes, though, I'll come across a writer whose work I thoroughly enjoy. And that makes it all worthwhile.

Charles
06-21-2014, 03:32 PM
What kind of monster do you take me for, Charles? ;)

I don't take you for any kind of monster, Steve. I take you for the professional that you are.

Critical analysis requires criticism. In fact, it's wholly dependent upon a willingness to resort to it. You deliver it with efficiency.


Some writers can be verbose. Just looking at your posts, methinks you would be a verbose scripter, at least for the panel descriptions. More Alan Moore than Warren Ellis. ;)

Perhaps. Perhaps not. It's impossible to gauge a script that doesn't exist, prior to its actual creation. Speculation about a hypothetical.

If I were going to try my hand at writing a comic book script, I think that I would probably gravitate more toward being colorful, than being verbose. But, who knows? You could be right, Steven.

As for finding people like me (who come across blunty when it comes to scripts), I'd say no. I'm something of an anomaly. Most aren't as blunt as I am. Some are just genuinely nicer. Some have more patience. I'm not nice, and I have little patience for someone who doesn't respect their craft enough or my time and effort enough to not at least learn spelling, punctuation, and format.

I think that a lot of people mistake criticism for not liking something, as in equating criticism of art or a script to not liking it, or even worse, hating it. When, in fact, the exact opposite is often the case.


To be honest, I hate reading them, too. Sometimes, it's a strain on my sanity. Others, a strain on my self-control. And still others, a strain on both. Sometimes, though, I'll come across a writer whose work I thoroughly enjoy. And that makes it all worthwhile.

Finding reading scripts to be laboriously tedious is not the same thing as saying that I necessarily hate reading them. Comparing viewing and analyzing a written or typed script to viewing and analyzing artwork is like comparing apples to oranges. I suspect that it is due to the two mediums (writing and art) being two very different mediums of expression. Each analysis process utilizes a different tool set, for lack of better word off-the-cuff.

Even within the medium of writing, depending upon what you are writing plays a big role in dictating how you write. In a lot of poetry, rhyme plays a dominant role - many times, the desire (or perceived necessity) to rhyme something can be controlling, in fact. In a Shakespearean sonnet, iambic pentameter is a consideration that it wouldn't be, say, if you were writing a haiku.

So, while writing comic book scripts is not something that I profess to having any particular degree of expertise with, I would caution script writers to embrace flexibility. On some pages, the need for narrative may be considerably greater than the need for dialogue, or vice versa. At times, you will want the art, itself, to be the primary (or even the only) "voice" for the handiwork that you are crafting,

Furthermore, a comic book script may look simple on its face, but its underlying structure can be quite complex. The end result is not the script, itself, in any event. The comic book should follow the script. It should embody it. But, the script is only one mechanism in what should, hopefully, be a functional whole.

Beginners (or those who are uncertain) tend to focus upon WHAT they need to say. Confidence has a tendency to act as a mitigator, and shifts the focus upon HOW to say (to express) what one wants to communicate or convey.

When I write, I tend to focus more upon the HOW than the WHAT. But, again, I'm no comic book script writer. It's an art form with its own nuance. The devil is in the details. The key is in the nuance and the delivery.

It's my son's birthday, today. My attention is required elsewhere, it seems.

Steven Forbes
06-21-2014, 03:48 PM
Happy birthday, Charles' son!

Ask for a book on comic book scripting for your birthday! And your own laptop to write on.

And a suit of Iron Man armor.

And a live dragon.

And a rodeo. No, not going to a rodeo. A rodeo.

And...

Morganza
06-23-2014, 04:53 PM
PAGE ONE (five panels)

Panel 1. A large establishing shot of a world gone to ruin. Dirty, ragged scavengers pick through the bones of a broken city. They are pitiful, bedraggled, and frightened.

CAP:
The world had failed.

Panel 2. A portal rips open the sky, spewing forth demons, devils and unimaginable horrors.

CAP:
Armegeddon had finally arrived and the time of Judgement was at hand.

Panel 3. Demons rend humans limb from limb. Carnage on a biblical scale.

CAP:
Most were found wanting.

Panel 4. An angelic human descends from the clouds in a column of light. Humans gather around in supplication. They think their savior has arrived.

CAP:
God sent his savior to once again put the Earth into balance.

Panel 5. The angelic hero’s face contorts with rage. He swings a mighty spear, destroying everything within range.

CAP:
Unfortunately for us, humans had been judged as … unnecessary.


If I were drawing this I would need more information.

Panel 1: Where on Earth are these people? How far into the future does this take place? Is this an Alternate Earth? What ruined the Earth? Are the people mutants or deformed? Can they be? What about the Aliens, we know they're out there:D

You may want to keep things secret to be revealed later, but not for the artist.

Panel 2: Is this portal over the city we just viewed? I would assume yes, but clarity is needed. Is this all reference to the bible, or can unimaginable horrors be anything I imagine?

Panel 3: I did not get a sense of scale in panel 1 of how many humans survived this catastrophe, biblical scale is a lot. Ripping body parts off is cool but what else is going on, are any humans fighting back? Were they expecting an attack?

Panel 4:This should be the beginning of page 2, in my mind it's a large scene, especially with a figure in the air with a group of people on the ground. Also the previous panels should bee large as well since they contain so much action and detail.

Panel 5: Is this a main character? Is he all nude? Does he have angels wings like in the movies?

These are just some questions I would ask as an artist, I haven't read every reply but I would assume the lack of descriptions was top on the list, I hope this observation helps you.

And good luck!