Saturday, September 22, 2018

BEHIND THE SCENES: Breakdown of a Script

Hello there!

It's been a while since I've done an actual blog post that is more tutorial than announcement, but here we go.

I'm going back to one of my earlier scripts that I almost self-published but ultimately didn't for numerous reasons. Today, I wanted to look at the mistakes I made (and learned from) and analyze what could've been a worthwhile short comic. With every failed attempt is a learning experience, and here's hoping I'm evolving into a better writer.

DINER MAN - A server waits on the patrons of a small diner until he sees a shady man ready to abduct a young woman. 

It's a simple story, four pages. A major criticism I received when I posted this story on a message board (to get notes) is...not much happens. Well, I still disagree with that sentiment because it's slice of life. A small gesture can have big consequences.

An aside, I hired an artist for this but he never finished it. Even though I have posted his pages here for educational purposes, I'm withholding his name out of respect, I don't want to tarnish is reputation. I didn't take it personally since he was honest with me about why he flaked. But hey, that's indie comics for you.

Now dissecting Page 1. I put a summary at the top which is really a writer's note to the artist. It paints the overall picture/tone. This could've been in an email as added info alongside the script. Or better yet, weaved throughout the subsequent panels. The backstory of Diner Man (ex firefighter who lost his leg) was inspired by an actual guy that waited on me a few times at my local diner. In my mind, he's the quiet hero, holistic, who worked the night shift to pay the bills.

Page 1 Panel 1, sets up the world, customers sitting and eating, we see bits of their dialogue, just a peak into their lives (because everyone from all walks of life need to eat).

Page 1 Panel 2-4, the introduction to the interest, the young woman in the hoodie. With limited real estate, I couldn't devote too much time to developing her so in this case she is the short lived object of affection. (Yeah I know, women shouldn't be seen as objects, it's a figure of speech!)

P2p1 (short hand for Page 2 panel 1) Diner Man's the nice guy in this, not trying to flirt but likes her right away.

P2p4 - the inciting incident. It's subtle I know, but the creeper just honed in on an un-assuming girl. And our hero sees that. Also I don't know remember why I called the creeper Left Man, because he doesn't stay on the left side of the panel for too long...ugh.

P3p2 - As you noticed, there's 6 panels listed in the script but 9 panels on the comic page. This harks back to when I was still unsure about pacing and action. An artist can only take snap shots of a nuanced scene like this and for this page specifically, the artist rightly added more panels to contrast the seemingly normal night of a busy diner with the looming danger of our central story.

P3p6- this was pushed to the next page, as an insert panel.

P4p2 - Our hero watches and rather than waiting to see what happens, he intervenes. He senses malice and the potential threat in Left Man. And the fact that we now know that creeper/Left Man has a name, that means he's a regular there. Perhaps Diner Man knows Frank is an ex-con. Again, everyone has to eat.

P4p5 - Not only is this not a wide angle, but it's panel 7 on the comic page. In any case, I love this last shot. It's the superhero shot. Diner Man is a protector who doesn't say a lot (adding to his mystique), has overcome obstacles (lost his leg), who's humble and human.

Overall, given the last time I even looked at this script back in 2013 I'd like to say my writing has improved (especially the layout of the script). And yes the pacing definitely needs improvement. Four pages is not a lot, so there's not a lot of time to waste. The inciting incident could've happened earlier.

The good news is, I still love the premise. It's rooted in reality, the everyday, where there are people who may harm us, but some may help us.