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Old 03-25-2016, 08:04 PM   #1
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TPG Week 274: Learning In A Resubmission


Welcome back, one and all, to another installment of The ProvingGrounds! This week, we have something of a treat: a resubmission! It doesn't happen around here that often, so I'm always happy when a writer resubmits something. It lets us all see what they've learned and how they've grown. This week, our resubmission comes from Anh Diep, and you can find his first submission here. We also have Steve Colle back in blue, Ryan Kroboth with the pencil assistance, and I'm the crotchety guy in red. Let's all take a gander and see what Anh has learned with his resubmission of

Captain Nightform



Page 1 (3 Panels)

Panel 1:

Establishing shot. It is dusk. The planetary rings are visible in the purple cloud-streaked sky. Captain Sylen Benevolen is standing on a cliff edge with Ion, his winged black panther. Helmet in hand, he is gazing across a mist filled abyss at the Dark Temple of Mymosule. There is a green moth on his shoulder and the ground around him is blanketed by green moths. (It’s pretty clear, based on the components in this panel, that the camera isn’t in front of him, but it definitely helps to establish in your description where you see the camera being, whether beside him in profile or behind him. It also wouldn’t hurt to guide the artist on your character’s position/posture/stance to help show his state of mind. Is he standing in a power pose or “I am great and will save the day” pose? Does his posture reflect concern? Tell the artist.)

Green moth (telepathically): We have counted 107 invidividual individual acolytes so far inside the whole temple, Sylen. (I suggest you separate the following dialogue into another balloon.) They have guns and daggers. We cannot defeat them all.

Sylen (telepathically): I cannot let them harm a single hair on her head. Those acolytes are evil people. They were founded before the Breaking Of The World and their rituals are horrific. (I’m experiencing an information dump. Evil people? Horrific rituals? Founded before the Breaking of the World? It just seems like you’re forcing this instead of letting it come naturally.)(That searing pain you all felt in your brain? That was the shoehorn as Anh tried to cram information into the panel for your benefit. That slightly nauseas feeling you have is because it didn't go down quite right. However, he's on the right track! Previously, the first page had no information at all. This is a good change. It just needs refinement.)

Click here to read more.
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Old 03-26-2016, 12:57 PM   #2
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Thanks for the edits!

Thanks Steven and Steve for the edits and thank you in advance Ryan for the art .

OK, so a load more good lessons for me here, although (correct me if I'm wrong) the two most crucial ones are:

1. Back Story
2. Dialogue

The actual back story here is that Sylen is in love with Umia. They both live in a forest city (Suborea). Sylen, bit of a lone-wolf, is a captain of the guard. Umia is one of the nobility. She has been kidnapped by an evil cult. Sylen has gone out of his way to be first on the scene. All straight forward stuff until after the rescue when we find out that Umia is engaged to another guy and goes off to marry him. Sylen then goes off in a huff and thus begins a voyage of inner transformation. Pretty basic stuff but for my first attempt I wanted to keep things simple.

So I've a few queries on Back Story. I think this time around I mistook back story to mean "the actual events in the story" rather than "the why's and wherefore's of the story". I tried to reveal more of what was happening using dialogue and ended up having Sylen describe the upcoming events rather than revealing why he was swooping in to rescue Umia.

OK now dialogue. I think I've got some explaining to do regarding the dialogue . My idea was to have the characters speak in an almost medieval style as opposed to a contemporary style. The story is set on another world so I thought an outlandish dialogue would reinforce that. Either the idea here is bad or my execution of the idea is bad - please clarify Steven and Steve (or anyone reading this for that matter).
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Old 03-26-2016, 03:12 PM   #3
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Execution.

I'd say more, but I'm still cleaning house. (Literally.)
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Old 03-27-2016, 11:58 AM   #4
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Thanks for the edits Steve and Steven. It's great to see someone learning from TPG.

Good dialogue often involves not saying exactly what needs be said. Here's an example. A child has not done their chores.

Bad dialogue:

Father: "You have not done your chores! I will punish you."

Better dialogue:

Father: "Have the bins learned to put themselves out? And did you ever want X-Box privileges again?"

The Father's meaning is implied, not explicit. We all tend to talk like this.

Whether its modern or mediaeval, this holds true:

Bad: "You have not done the chores, my daughter. You shall be punished!"

Better: "My daughter, do the cows milk themselves? And have you lost interest in hearing a new tale of Prince Steven of the Tribe?"
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Old 03-27-2016, 11:07 PM   #5
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Quote:
Lady Umia in the cage is in the foreground, holding out the back of her hand and the green moth has landed upon it. A slight smile plays on her lips.

In the background, Kopath at the far end of the table with the dagger above his head in one hand is pointing towards Umia with the other.

The two burly acolytes are opening her cage. (Mr. Kroboth? This, sirrah, is thine own. Thankee.)
This one was way harder than I had imagined it to be! Here is the panel I came up with.



The tricky thing with this panel, Anh, is that you have three separate ideas, each one in it's own paragraph. While individually they each make sense for what's happening, when you have them all together it runs the risk of being confusing. What is the focus of the panel or the main idea which you are trying to sell?

I tried to offset this by focusing most on the composition and staging. To me, I feel the most important thing is Umia and the moth. Since she is already in the foreground, and therefor the largest object, she should read easily as the focus. The acolytes opening the cage are of lesser importance, so I tried to show that they would be cast in shadow to create a darker value. Hopefully this helps frame Umia and the moth and guide the viewer's eye to her.

The hardest part is Kopath. I did a few quick sketches, but no matter what he will be lost among the rest of the page. To fit what you are looking for, I had to push him further into the background. Should he be that far away from the cage? I'm not sure (my guess would be no), but to show the guard acolytes opening the cage and him, I don't see much of an option.

If you did a thumbnail sketch for this panel, I'd love if you posted it up! If you're not making thumbnails for the more complicated panels, I definitely recommend it. It helps catch little things that slip by like Kopath fitting in with everyone else.

My personal recommendation would be a front shot of Umia and the moth in one panel, which would have a clear focus, followed by a pulled back shot of the guards in front of the cage in another panel. You would have a lot of versatility in the camera placement with a shot like that, so you could make it more dynamic and still read clearly.

I think you get the idea there! I'd also like to talk a little bit about the pacing.

I know that you are using the three panel layout to work towards optimal viewing on mobile technology. It's a great challenge, and would be interesting to see pulled off well. However, I'm not entirely convinced this is the story to do it with. At least yet. You have much world and character building to get across. I believe that you feel the same way, at least in your gut, because there are a few panels that have multiple beats or ideas combined into one panel. So my question is; why limit yourself when you don't have to?

My suggestion for you to consider is taking your three tier layout and expanding it to pace the story out while still keeping it within your guidelines. I made a small example of what I mean.



You could keep the horizontal tiers standard throughout the story, and adjust the pacing with how many panels are on a tier.

There are two reasons I'm suggesting this for consideration. First, like I've already mentioned, is that I do believe you know the story needs some more breathing room to let the moth vapor dust enter our lungs. And second, layouts are fun. While that may be a personal opinion, they do mean something. Panel shape and size are a storytelling device. If every panel is the exact same, then no story beat is more important. But if each is representative of it's importance to the story the layout will reflect that. The most important beat will be larger, draw our eye, and have dominance on the page.

There could also be a third reason, which would be having more panels per page would allow you to change up how you lead the eye around the page. I'm sure there would only be so many different compositions that would work with a three tier/panel layout, and you risk recycling them over every few pages.

Those are just a few thoughts for you to meditate on. Think of the story and what you believe would work best for it and what would bring you the most enjoyment drawing it.

Great work, though, Anh. I'm pleased to see some growth in your writing. Keep using the feedback you're getting to refine the story you want to tell. The work you're putting in now is going to payoff later.

And dialog is HARD.
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Old 03-28-2016, 10:24 AM   #6
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I'm going to have to disagree that dialogue is hard. I think dialogue is only tricky when you don't have a fleshed out character or you are trying really hard to get a specific point across.

Dialogue is the most flexible part of any story. People say different things based on small things. If you want someone to say something different, you can always change one small thing and it is entirely possible.

For example, there is a scene in the Dark Knight when the Joker has pinned Batman down and the Joker asks "Do you want to know how I got these scars?" and Batman then replies with "No, but I know how you got these" as he launches his spikes at Joker's face. If the writers wanted Batman to say something different they could have changed what Joker originally said, how the Joker has Batman pinned, how Batman would get out of it, or several other things.


I think that the dialogue suffers here because the characters aren't fleshed out. They are saying bland and obvious things because they are bland and obvious characters. If these characters were given unique traits then that would help spice up their dialogue.
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Old 03-28-2016, 11:26 AM   #7
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@Steven Forbes: Execution - OK thanks Steven - hope your house cleaning is doing well mate .

@SamRoads: Thanks for the examples Sam. Definitely something for me to meditate upon there.

@DarkHalf05: Fantastic stuff here Ryan, thanks! I love your rendition of Umia - she's spot on .

I definitely see what you mean about having too many things going on in this panel. To be honest I hadn't done a thumbnail of this panel (or any of my panels yet) so I missed this problem. Thumbnails will be my next task I think.

Quote:
My personal recommendation would be a front shot of Umia and the moth in one panel, which would have a clear focus, followed by a pulled back shot of the guards in front of the cage in another panel. You would have a lot of versatility in the camera placement with a shot like that, so you could make it more dynamic and still read clearly.
If I understand this correctly - would the pulled back shot of the guards be a reverse shot of the one you've drawn? Almost as if it were shot from Kopath's point of view?

Now onto the pacing - I love your suggestion on the three tier panel layouts. I believe these will maintain readability on digital devices as well as allow more flexibility with the pacing. I definitely see what you mean about the multiple beats that I've been shoe-horning into a single panel - your suggestion would address this problem very well I reckon - brilliant - thanks!

@Michael Ford: Thanks for dropping by Michael! Good point about fleshing out characters - I came across a good way of doing this a while back: imagine that you're interviewing your characters - ask them questions and have them answer them in a way that suits their personality. I think I will try this before I re-write my dialogue.
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Old 03-28-2016, 05:25 PM   #8
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Don't just interview your characters. Also consider how they respond to emotions - the kind of situations that are far more intense than an interview.

In Alien, when Lambert is threatened by the alien, she freezes, catatonic. In Aliens, when Hudson is in similar peril, he harangues the aliens with machismo.
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Old 03-29-2016, 07:40 AM   #9
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Quote:
Don't just interview your characters. Also consider how they respond to emotions - the kind of situations that are far more intense than an interview.

In Alien, when Lambert is threatened by the alien, she freezes, catatonic. In Aliens, when Hudson is in similar peril, he harangues the aliens with machismo.
Good point Sam, I'll try them out in a some really quick Micro Fiction type stories. Throw away stuff that helps to develop them in my head.
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Old 03-31-2016, 06:05 AM   #10
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Quote:
Fantastic stuff here Ryan, thanks! I love your rendition of Umia - she's spot on .

I definitely see what you mean about having too many things going on in this panel. To be honest I hadn't done a thumbnail of this panel (or any of my panels yet) so I missed this problem. Thumbnails will be my next task I think.
Glad you liked it, Anh!

Once you have your script done, you can use a quick set of thumbnails to double check it as part of the self-edit. Real basic bones stuff. You will catch things easily that way, and as a bonus you have a reference to go back to once you're ready to tackle the real thumbs.

Quote:
If I understand this correctly - would the pulled back shot of the guards be a reverse shot of the one you've drawn? Almost as if it were shot from Kopath's point of view?
Yup! Although, once you start doing thumbs and layouts you may have an idea pop in your head that can work better. Eventually your personal style of storytelling will begin to show through.

Quote:
Now onto the pacing - I love your suggestion on the three tier panel layouts. I believe these will maintain readability on digital devices as well as allow more flexibility with the pacing. I definitely see what you mean about the multiple beats that I've been shoe-horning into a single panel - your suggestion would address this problem very well I reckon - brilliant - thanks!
You're welcome! I'm hoping it makes everything easier on your end, and therefor more fun. Now your next submission to TPG will be a whole other beast, eh?
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Old 03-31-2016, 04:53 PM   #11
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You're welcome! I'm hoping it makes everything easier on your end, and therefor more fun. Now your next submission to TPG will be a whole other beast, eh?
I'm having loads of fun already and now armed with a load more to meditate upon as you say Ryan, my next submission to TPG will be a whole other beast .

Thanks to everyone who's helped me so far - I wish you all every success in your own projects .
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