Three-Chapter Reviews #1 (Superhero Prose)

Welcome to my first THREE-CHAPTER REVIEW, where I hope to answer that eternal question: “Should I keep reading this or not?” For an explanation of why I’m doing reviews of only three-chapters, refer to my previous post here.

This maiden voyage will have me comparing the first three chapters of the novel Soon, I Will Be Invincible to the first three chapters of the short-story Keely: A Steampunk Story (KaS). Both of these are in the SF/F: Superhero subgenre of prose fiction. And both had a lot to recommend them. It’s important to remember that, as prose stories based on the comic book medium, they are, by definition, pastiches. So while it is important to judge these on their own merits as prose works, I am also looking at whether or not they have anything new to say about the underlying comic tropes.

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One and Two-Star Book Reviews are a Paradox (If you’re Reading For Pleasure)

See, here. So, a thing occurred to me…I mean, a truly new thing. Seriously. I think I’ve invented it. And it will save me time and energy. And, best of all, it makes sense. Sort of.

The thing I realized about novels was—just like with a relationship—when you finish with one, you can never say that the time spent inside of it was wasted. Not truly. Not if you’re being honest with yourself.

I mean, you might have regrets, sure. But (and I have this on good authority from my therapist), fact is, you stayed with it, for however long you did, because it was providing something for you. Something you needed at that time. Girlfriend. Marriage. Living with your birth family as an adult. Taking care of elderly parents…you name it. The situation might not be ideal. It might even be dysfunctional. But, you stayed in it for a reason, even if only maybe to try and grow and escape it.

Switching back the analogy: So, you kept reading the friggin’ novel that you didn’t like. You even finished it. Maybe you hoped it would get better and it didn’t. But, even then, you learned something about yourself in the process. Or you worked your brain. Or, whatever. I don’t know why you did it. My point is: you had your reasons. Right?

This leads me to the paradox. So—follow me, now—that being the case, you should never really give a novel less than a 3-star review (that being average). Boom. There, I said it.

Here’s my reasoning. Let’s say that roughly 50% of the books you start are so bad you don’t finish them. And then you finish a book that is the worst, I mean WORST book you’ve ever finished. Well, that book is still median quality of all the books you’ve started.

Hence: Three stars.

Continue reading “One and Two-Star Book Reviews are a Paradox (If you’re Reading For Pleasure)”

What’s Old is New Again – Part One (The Scripts)

Programming Pointers

OUTLINE

Our protagonist lives in a dystopian, late 21st century world where people spend most of their time plugged into virtual-reality (“vreal”) dreamscapes. At the beginning of the story he comments as to how he eventually “leads the rebellion”. While unplugged, he becomes aware that he has inherited an aunt’s estate, which includes a ham radio and a personal computer. He also discovers she was part of a social justice resistance that was about to extract a “bible” from a secure government facility. He takes on his aunt’s role in the mission and successfully recovers it—which turns out to be the key to how he will lead the rebellion: it’s a beginner’s text on programming, using unix/linux (“The Unix/Linux Bible”).

PAGE 1

~~~

PANEL 1: Extreme close-up of protagonist’s face (realistically portrayed, see notes in Beat Sheet), looking back, over his shoulder (upward, towards the reader’s left), with a scared/excited expression.

CAP 1: Leading the revolution didn’t start the way you’d think…

PANEL 2: A splash panel that extends throughout the entire page (w/ exceptions noted in other panel descriptions), perhaps to the full bleed line—on the top, bottom, and left—to enhance its realism. Protag is in an action pose, swinging a blade, being chased by amorphous vampire/bat-like creatures with human faces. Realistic, detailed, brightly-colored background of some kind, during the daylight. But his face in this panel is identical to his face in Panel one.

Creatures/SFX 2: (invisible lettering) SCREEECH!

PANEL 3: The panel cuts into Panel 2 on the bottom right of the page. Protag is about to be overwhelmed, he’s flinching and turning his head from the attackers, crossing his arms to ward them off as they close in. I was thinking this panel could dissolve/pixellate into the gutter that’s been left there on the right for this purpose.

CAP 3: (Spilling over into Panel two, burst-style, with distinctive, robotic lettering) Time for your mandatory walk. Please disconnect now. This is your third warning. Drone deployed.

PAGE 2

~~~

~~CAPTION along top of page, somewhere~~
DARKLING’S LEGACY presents Programming Pointers, with credits~~~

PANEL 1: Horizontal panel. Entire top-third (at least) tier of page. Medium Shot, everything is drawn in more traditional comic/cartoon style. Protag is pulling off the vreal helmet/visor from his head. He is sitting sideways on his bed, in a darkened room. He is lit (blue-ish) from below by the suggestion of glowing grid-lines, at about chair-height on the walls on the near-side of him. He has a bit of stereotypical nerdy, gamer look: perhaps a tad dumpy and/or doughy. Along the horizontal grid-lines, due to perspective, you can see the nearest small labels for each section of line. They say things like “Food”, “Call for Medical” “Vreal Milking” “Meme o’ the Day”:

PRE CAP 1: So I unplugged, like my fob said. It was ok. Unlike most, I didn’t mind the walks.

PANEL 2: Overlapping/inset, on bottom-left of Panel 1. An extreme close-up of his right hand touching the laser beam that is labelled “Open Exit for Walk”.

PANEL 3-5: Exterior shot of his motel-style apartment. View from above (in the sky). Either dusk or dawn. These three panels are at a sharp-perspective showing the street in front of his place. The panels are a panorama shot. First panel: We see him exiting from his front door (he’s put on an overcoat); Second panel: He is walking away, down the sidewalk; Third panel: He is farther away, down the street.

POST CAP 2: Attention! Important local message from the _Champaign Court of Proceedings_. Your _aunt_, _Ruth Ann Longtin_ was euthanized this morning…

PANEL 6: Entire bottom third tier. Close up shot, from next to the protag. He is visibly shocked. We get a good look at our protag for the first time– he is a late teen/early twenty-something male with long hair. This panel could be slightly tilted for effect, if the page hasn’t gotten too busy.

PRE CAP 3: Please arrive at the Courthouse within _24_ hours…

CAP 4: I couldn’t believe it. Aunt Ruthie— dead? I stared off, past the message being projected onto my cornea. It was a long time before I did anything…

POST CAP 5: …What did it even mean: sign for her belongings?

PAGE 3

~~~

This page is a stack of five (or, maybe four, with an inset panel, see below) horizontal panels.

PANEL 1: We’re at character’s eye-level. Medium shot. He’s at the end of the street, at the steps to the Courthouse’s arched front doors. The stores behind him are boarded up. Multiple Posters are hung thereupon, saying “LOOK, BUT DON’T TOUCH”, “THE VIRUS NEVER STOPS” “DO NOT ENTER—STRUCTURALLY UNSOUND” “REMEMBER, YOU ARE NOBODY”. There are a few strings of blue lasers that run along the front of the walls. Circular blue lasers around the lamppost (which gives off minimal light).

CAP 1: I couldn’t help but think of my parents— taken by the Mindful-authority. I was young. I never got any of their stuff. But, I had a few memories.

PANEL 2: Largest panel of the page. Now inside, still eye-level, front view of Protag. Reader can recognize the front door’s distinctive arch from the inside, way back in the background. He’s walking right past the metal detector, left side of panel. This is while both guards are sitting over, on the other side of the metal detector, off to the right, smiling, lost in their own vreal sessions. The each have a telescoping arm that extends from their respective helmets and are fastened on to a device strapped over their crotches (this is the vreal “milking” referenced earlier).

PRE CAP 2: Dad was actually old enough to remember from before the plagues. Back when you actually touched stuff, you didn’t just trip lasers.

CAP 3: I used to wonder, what it was like to hug someone—skin to skin? Not to mention what Dad called hookups. Were vreal milkings really the same?

POST CAP 4 (bottom right, below the guards): They look old enough—Maybe I should’ve asked the guards.

PANEL 3: Medium shot. Front view from behind him, as he is standing at a desk. A smartly-dressed and cute lady has one of her hands on top of a box that is sitting on the desk in front of him. And her other hand is holding a clipboard.

CAP 5: I had to go into several different offices before I found someone who wasn’t connected. It was weird in person. Kind of nice. She said her name was Sally. We had a good talk. Until she told me what “signing” meant.

PANEL 4: (Maybe inset on Panel 5) We see a close up of her hand holding out a pen, and him reaching for it.

PRE CAP 6: I hesitated a long time. It had always been ingrained: NO TOUCHING. But, she insisted it was okay. Even disinfected it, right in front of me. I signed.

POST CAP 7: At one point, I asked why my Aunt had been euthanized. She looked it up. It said: Excessive Disconnection.

PANEL 5: We see him exiting down the courthouse steps.

CAP 8: Before I left, I asked Sally for a hookup. She didn’t know what I meant. Since I really didn’t either, I just said goodbye. But I took a picture of her. Uploaded it to my vreal database.

POST CAP 9: For later.

PAGE 4

~~~

PANEL 1: We’re at character’s eye-level, but seeing him from behind. Close up. He’s standing in front of a closed, external door to a home.

CAP 1: The only things in the box were some clothes and Aunt Ruth’s fob…her implant. It was weird, holding a thing they surgically removed.

POST CAP 2: Anyway, it would get me access to her apartment. I had just been here, a week before. I wondered—Did she die here?

PANEL 2: Now we see him from the front. He’s still standing, silhouetted, in the doorway, with the door now open. Inside it is pitch black.

CAP 3: Always wondered why her place didn’t have the lasers? I felt around her house until I found her drawing room. That’s where she had one of those old-timey lamps.

PANEL 3: Close up on his head. He is looking away, squinting in pain, and the bright flash of light coming from off panel (the lampshade he’s just turned on).

CAP 4: She used to touch it, so I figured I could.

PANEL 4: We’ve panned out even though he’s still in, essentially, the same position. Long shot. Largest panel on the page. He’s still standing there, with his hand under the lampshade. That lamp is lighting the room. We see a nice den, with early 21st-century look to it.

CAP 5: The place still smelled like Ruthie. Lemon and old person. I decided to search the place. First, the bedroom. I’d only always seen glimpses though a cracked door.

PANEL 5: He is emerging through a door that he is opening up (pushing it open with elbow). His expression is one of surprise.

POST CAP 6: In the bedroom. That’s when I saw it for the first time. The key to everything.

PAGE 5

~~~

PANEL 1: Larger, vertical panel. Medium two-shot, only it’s the Protag and a dresser, inside an open closet, with an elaborate, black boom-box looking thing on it (a ham radio). A stool is in front of the dresser and headphones are on the seat of the stool. The headphones are connected to the black box. Also on the dresser, in front of the box, is the microphone, the kind that sits on a square base and a button on the back.

CAP 1: The front of it look liked like an old-timey boom box. Wait, what were those things on the surface of it called, again? But-tons? Yes, that was it. Like on a shirt.

PANEL 2: Similar sized panel to the one before it next to it, only we’re more zoomed in on him, as he’s crouched onto the stool and is holding the headphones on his head.

CAP 2: I hesitated. But, I had already touched the lamp. Either her place was clean from the virus, or it wasn’t.

CAP 3: I put on the old-timey headphones.

Maybe these next three panels are overlapping (stacked horizontally?).

PANEL 3: Close up of Protag’s hands, one is reaching up fiddling with the dial on the radio, while the other grabs the microphone.

PANEL 4: Side view of him on stool, holding the mic and talking into it, while his other arm is still reaching up to the ham radio dial.

PANEL 5: Same View. Only he’s no longer reaching, he’s resting his head on the mic-free hand, eyes closed.

CAP 4: The “on” but-ton was easy. But mostly I got static. Sometimes, when the channel was clear, I’d say stuff. But no one responded, for the longest time. So, I put it back to where it was when I found it.

POST CAP 5: That’s when I heard her…

PANEL 6: Bottom tier of page, maybe. Close up of his head in his hand, only now, eyes open.

W3LP/(Voice from Radio)SFX 6: Is this in use? CQ. Hello, CQ. Calling, CQ. Whiskey Three Lima Papa. CQ. CQ. Whiskey Three Lima Papa. CQ. CQ. Whiskey Three Lima Papa. …Ruthie, you there?”

PAGE 6

~~~

PANEL 1: Extreme close-up of the middle of the face, earphones, and the closely held microphone.

CAP 1: Of course, I had no idea what to say. My first three words came out as croaks. But, finally…

Idea: Thinking the conversation balloons can extent beyond the bottom of the panel down the opposite sides of the page, framing the next (open) panel on the sides, rib-cage style. This underlying art in this panel could be the first panel since the story’s opening to run to the full bleed lines/edge of page…subtextually indicating the character is just as invested in this, too.

Protag 2: H-Hello? Um, no. This isn’t Ruthie.

W3LP/(Voice from Radio)SFX 3: Who are you? Where’s Ruthie? What have you done to her—

Protag 4: Me?! N-Nothing, she’s dead! She’s…huh! She’s dead.

W3LP/(Voice from Radio)SFX 5: Who are you?

Protag 6: I’m her nephew—was. Was her nephew. Now, I’m nobody.

W3LP/(Voice from Radio)SFX 7: I’m sorry, nobody. Sorry about your Aunt. She will be missed…more than you can know. That’s a real shame. She was— well, she was the key. Look, I’ll leave you alone…

Protag 8: Wait! Wait, before you go—when can we talk again?

W3LP/(Voice from Radio)SFX 9: I don’t know…

W3LP/(Voice from Radio)SFX 10 (connected): …Contact me again at this time, in a week. Use frequency14.268.5. Whiskey Three Lima Papa, over.

PANEL 2: A long shot from the ceiling above/behind the Protag, as he’s on the stool, huddled over the mic, and talking on it.

PANELS 3-6: As described in the captions. I am picturing the second and being similar (with him wearing different clothes, to indicate different days): a medium close-up of the protag holding the microphone, with an intent, worried look on his face. Maybe the first and third panels being him walking towards the outside of the apartment. Goal: to show the passage of time. I’m deliberately doing a lot of words per panel to slow the pace down for the reader, to emulate the time frame in the story.

CAP 11 (along the edge of all three panels: That whole next week, all I could think of was her voice. Even vreal didn’t matter. Every day, I deliberately unplugged—no fob prompting—and again walked to Ruthie’s place and tuned in at the appropriate channel.

CAP 12: Again and again. No answer.

BURST-SFX/CAP 13 Attention, citizen. You have not met your vreal quotient. Please re-connect to avoid penalties—

CAP 14: After several days of this, my phone started to announce to me that I was being penalized demerits for not obeying curfew— or my daily orders.

BURST-SFX/CAP 15: Attention, citizen. Please re-connect to avoid penalties— police drones will be deployed in _28_ days.

CAP 16: I didn’t care. I let the warning messages count down…

CAP 17: …It wasn’t until about a week later that I realized that a slip of paper in her desk was actually a key for a code. It just said “MWF -13.75 // TThSaSu+11.75”.

CAP 18: So, when she said 14.267.5—since it was to take place on a Sunday— she really meant 14.279.25…

CAP 19: Using that code, three weeks later…

PAGE 7

~~~

PANEL 1: Now, he’s still holding the mic, but both arms are raised in victory, while he looks up and smiles, triumphantly.

CAP 1: …We made contact!

PANEL 2: Largest panel on page. He is back in his virtual vampire battle scenario. Only now the vampires all are wearing clown makeup and they seem to be engaged in battle with a gang of werewolves; he is just sitting cross-legged on the ground, huddled under a blanket, ignoring all of the action. The more exciting and blood-thirsty you can make the action, the better the juxtaposition will be.

CAP 2: I wanted to talk about so much. But they coached me to do as my fob had been saying. Reconnect. So, they wouldn’t get suspicious. Or deploy drones.

CAP 3: I tried to play along. But, I didn’t care. I requested an action-waiver in my vreal session— to do it view-only. Like an old-timey movie.

PANEL 3: Close-up of his face.

CAP 4: I was just marking time.

PANEL 4: Him back on his bed, disconnecting again.

CAP 5: Until I could return to Ruthie’s apartment. And really connect.

PANEL 5: He’s leaving his original apartment again, out onto the street.

CAP 6: Connect with her.

PAGE 8

~~~

PANEL 1: Vertical Shot, the length of the page. A side-shot, looking up from below slightly, as he stands in front of the desk, holding the microphone in one hand and gesticulating with the other.

PRE CAP 1: Eventually, I decided to move her transmitter over to the desk. That way I could stretch and even walk a bit, while W3LP and I talked. And I learned.

PANEL 2: This is showing a small, montage of the various scenes, described. It can spill over into panels 1 and 3, I would think.

CAP 2: I learned so much from her. I learned about the times from before the New Economy—before the Constitution had been suspended. A time when people moved about freely. Before implants…

PANEL 3: This is a picture of a black woman, who looks like Ruth, carrying cleaning supplies into a the dock/rear entrance of a building with a sign that says Mindful-Authority Cyber-Defense Department.

CAP 3: …The time before the Social Credit system and UBI determined how much you got paid. Back when nearly everyone had jobs, not just the essentials. I started forgetting to go home again.

BURST-SFX 4: Attention, citizen. Please re-connect to avoid penalties— drones will be deployed in _13_ days.

PANEL 4: Extreme-close up of his eyes, rolled back in his head.

CAP 5: One day I even asked about ‘hookups’ and she talked me through one.

POST CAP 6: And then, she said, the in-person ones were even better.

PAGE 9

~~~

PANEL 1: Medium shot. Silhouette of him on the radio, again.

CAP 1: Eventually, she comes right out and asks me to help their mission.

PANEL 2: Similar shot, he is gesticulating.

CAP 2: Wouldn’t that be dangerous? I have to log back in one of these days. They’ll upload wherever I’ve been once I do, won’t they?!

CAP 3: Disgusted, she just signs off.

PANEL 3: Now, he is lit by lamplight, as he bangs the microphone base against the desk, knocking down some wall hangings.

SFX 4: PLAMP!

CAP 5: I immediately regret my anger. I shouldn’t risk the equipment that way. Damn, the wall hanging fell…

PANEL 4: His hands, holding an old-time, tin wall-hanging advertisement for “Schroeder’s Honey-Tip Whiskey”. But in black, permanent marker Ruthie had written THE CURSE OF HAM across the front of it.

CAP 6: “The Curse of Ham”?? Rather than log into my fob, I take out my Fone to do an old-timey search.

PANEL 6: Medium shot. He has taken out his phone and is talking to it.

CAP 7: Search for “The Curse of Ham”

Phone (Burst-style) 8: No such phrase exists. You have lost ten demerits for your recreant inquiry.

PANEL 7: He is in shadow again, still holding his phone in one hand and the wall-hanging in the other. Idea: only the advert is in color.

CAP 9: That isn’t right. I know it exists…that isn’t right, I thought. Not right to keep me in the dark.

CAP 10: That’s when I decided to help W3LP and the others.

PAGE 10

~~~

PRE CAP 1 (along the top of all three panels): Now, all I needed was information and tools. Apparently, Ruth was a maintenance supervisor at Cyber-Security Headquarters for the Mindful-Authority. Her fob would get me access. After that, it would probably be like the Courthouse.

PANEL 1: Medium shot. He is holding a small object wrapped in a towel in one hand, while pulling a dark coat from an open box on the desk in front of him.

CAP 2: They sent me a coat that contained maps of the building. They even managed to send me the special weapon that I asked for.

PANEL 2: He’s on his knees, pulling up what looks like a computer monitor, from down inside some open floorboards in her apartment.

CAP 3: And Aunt Ruthie was even smiling on me. I found another secret weapon, stashed under a secret place in the apartment. It was a computer! Mom and Dad had told me about these.

PANEL 3: He’s talking with his mic and headphones, again.

BURST-SFX 4 (smaller): You have missed _60_ consecutive vreal sessions. Drones are being deployed.

CAP 5: I told her that I was out of time. It had to be that day. I told her I was scared. She said she would see me in person, if I succeeded. She said she loved me.

CAP 6: I grabbed my gear and went.

PANEL 4: SILENT PANEL. Horizontal panel. He’s at the dock, behind a building, wearing his new, darker coat. He’s just standing there.

PANEL 5: He is walking past various guards, who are connected to vreal and ignoring him.

CAP 7: It was just as I thought. No resistance. The repository was downstairs. The basement.

PANEL 6: He is approaching a door to a stairwell. It says push for entry.

CAP 8: Then I saw the door. I had to…touch it.

PANEL 7-8: First Panel: Hand reaching for door bar. Second panel: He’s just staring, nervously.

Guards (form off-panel) 9: Hey, You There! Stop!

PAGE 11

~~~

PANEL 1: Medium shot. The door has been flung open, and all you can see is the protag’s foot and the tail of his overcoat trailing through the threshold. The guards have stopped, apparently gobsmacked.

PRE CAP 1: It really wasn’t that long before I decided.

PANEL 2: A dramatic shot from below, of him jumping down the middle of the stairwell.

CAP 2: After facing that risk, the rest came much more easily. Jumping saved time. I landed hard, even as I heard the door close behind me. But, they were coming through, too, any second!

PANELS 3-5 (another panoramic set of panels) : Interior view, from the ceiling, of an open floor, with many cubicles— each containing computers and servers— and glass walls. First Panel: He is bursting through another door in the background, which was marked with a poster that said “stairwell”. The exit sign above the door is askew, unlit, and hanging by a corner; Second Panel: He is opening another door, into a room (which we can see through the glass wall) as a small library; Third Panel: He is standing amongst the bookshelves, looking for the right book.

CAP 3: I had to find it fast. I knew what it looked like—this “repository”. They said it was just like the tiny bookshelf in my Aunt’s bedroom, only much larger.

CAP 4: The hard part was finding the right book. All I knew was that is was a “bible”. What did a “bible” look like?

PANEL 6: A close up of his hand grabbing a particular book off the shelf. The only word on the spine that is visible is “BIBLE” but there are other smaller words, too.

CAP 5: Luckily, it was labelled. But this had taken too long…they should be down here, already?!

PANEL 7: He is looking over his shoulder at a far wall, with a pair of elevator doors, that are about to open.

PRE SFX 6: DING!

CAP 7: Of course! They were too scared to touch the door. They used the elevator!

PAGE 12

~~~

PANEL 1: The panel is mostly black, it is a recreation of the Page 4, Panel 2: the dark interior shot of Ruth’s apartment. He is again in the doorway, a little better lit this time, shoving the door open. The outside left of the black panel, is shaped like a staircase, and a dark silhouette of him is also running up that, as a sort of negative-image “panel 0”.

PRE CAP 1 (above the first silhouette, top-left, outside the panel): I sprinted back up the stairs as fast as I could. No one was there. I escaped the building, unnoticed. It was several blocks before I could breathe again.

CAP 2: Back inside the apartment, my apartment. At least for the moment. Soon, they would piece it together and come after me.

POST CAP 3: Before I did anything else, I threw up.

PANEL 2: He seems to be sitting. This shot is a medium, close-up of his hand in front of his face, holding the cloth that his weapon is in,

CAP 4: Then I sat down and took stock. It turns out I never used my weapon. Didn’t really know how to use it, anyway— except it sure seemed to work in those movies. The ones I pirated as a kid…

PANEL 3: A close-up of his face looking sober, as the cloth is hanging loose and the weapon is revealed to be a silver cross.

CAP 5: …The ones they punished my parents for. By taking them away from me. It wasn’t right. No one should keep people from seeing good stories.

PANEL 4: Zooming out a bit, we see the cross on the table in front of him, while he still sits on the couch. He’s about to produce the book he just stole from his bag.

CAP 6: Well, now I have a chance to make things right. This, this is the real weapon. This is what we need.

PANEL 5: This is a close up, from his perspective, of looking down at his hands holding the book. The title is clearly visible as: The Unix and Linux Beginner’s BIBLE, fourth ed.

CAP 7: For my parents. For my friends. Thanks to my brothers, my next apartment is already networked. I go there now. With my Aunt’s pc. This was how I started leading the rebellion. My brothers were eager to learn.

PANEL 6: Another close-up of his face, fully lit, fully colored. Smiling.

CAP 8: First, though, I thought I would reprogram the search engines. I aimed to do many recreant searches.

END CAP: THE END

THE PRECEPT—DREAM VACATION

Full disclosure: this vignette is beyond dense. <sheepish grin> You name it: Narration. Thought balloons (of three different types of thoughts, his own, those from his illnesses*, and those from other beings). Effects. So, I Thank You in advance! Good news is: probably a lot less work for you, overall.

You’ll see I have tried to provide plenty of background (separate file attached—might want to read that first, in fact) on the characters and also to adjust the story, accordingly. I’m hoping the chance to define this odd leading character with poses and subtle facial expressions will be a fun challenge for you.

*-You’ll see the voices from his illness come in bunches, 3-5 at a time. I numbered them, but

visually, they are essentially one graphic element (with joined balloons, I would think).

PAGE 1

Probably horizontal panels on 1-3

META-CAP 1: The Precept and The Ward in: DREAM VACATION

PANEL 1.

A skinny twenty-something man with long, curly hair, wearing stylish sunglasses atop his head (ML), is about to enter a convenience store with a sign in the foreground window that reads GROCERY ~ SMOKE SHOP ~ LIVE BAIT. Beyond that, visually, in the shop window there is also faded, white lettering that reads NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE OCCULT AND GIFT SHOP.

CAP 2: While the bell rings: I know all. I see all. But for you, not so much. So, I should start with some introductions. This is Marshall. Marshall Lastpost. He is my friend.

ML 3: So. Let it be. Done. So, let it be. Done…

PANEL 2.
Interior shot of store. A shopkeep is asleep at the counter. A black cat (wearing a bright red/bright yellow collar…see page 7, panel 2) lays nearby, head turned towards the door, having just been startled awake from a curled up position that he’s still in. Foodstuffs are on the wall shelves, with central racks of household goods, especially lots of fans. You can see a bit of Marshall, outside, through the window.

CAP 4: He is also, technically, insane. For the past twenty years, he’s been a diagnosed with schizophrenia. Very-early onset.

CAP 5: His symptoms started as a small child.

PANEL 3.
Same shot of store, only the cat is standing and the shopkeep is awake. ML enters, with an emotionless expression.

CAP: 5 Positive symptoms include hallucinations—auditory, mostly. He experiences objects around him and demons, telling him…bad things.

SFX 6: DING Ding!

Shopkeep 7: <startled awake> Huh?! Ermf— Hello there…

POST-CAP 8: Here, I’ll let you hear what Marshall’s hearing…

PAGE 2 (left)

PANEL 1.
Larger Panel, but zoomed in on ML. The store in the background is now presented slightly differently: certain small details are off, like a melting clock in a Salvador Dali painting (don’t have to use that, just saying as an example). But, that is all very understated and in the background. Overall, the store is now all shadowy and colored very differently, perhaps like a sepia tone picture. ML is still near the door, but ML isn’t looking in that direction—he is looking off, obliquely, as if listening. The idea here is, just this once, we’re seeing things as he sees them a bit. This is not an effect we can use often as his mind is essentially a black box to the reader. But, showing the background imagery of reality to be…flexible…will be good foreshadowing for the big reveal panel after the big fight on the bottom of page 5.

Shopkeep 1: …Say, can I help you?

ML, VOICE/thought 2-5:

Help! I need somebody. Not just any homebody.

You need help, psychopath.

They have fans.

It”s your fan club, Precept…

POST-CAP 6: Because they’re supposed to be on vacation, he told his wife, Kinta, he was going inside a second to get her candy bars. That’s what’s on the note. But, Marshall has other responsibilities…

PANEL 2.

Medium shot, both men are visible. Zoomed back out a bit, but probably from behind shopkeeper’s shoulder. Back to a normal background. ML is placing his shades over his eyes. With his free hand, he is waving a piece of paper at an oblique direction, as though warding away someone (the technical term is “flapping”).

ML, VOICE/thought 7-10:

…The first rule of fan club is it’s precept, Precept.

Precept, Percept. Stick Purr!

Bad Kitty—Stab him!

He’s going to call the cops—You’re up a tree!

ML 11: Shh, Let it be…

ML 12: …No, sir, you cannot. My vacation starts any minute. I want no delays. Done.

PANEL 3.

View from behind ML as he walks away, towards the back of the store, through the internal doorway to the “museum” part of the convenience store. There’s a sign that says CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS hanging over the doorway. Behind him, closer to the reader, the cat is jumping down off the counter to follow him.

Shopkeep 13: Hey! No one is allowed back there!

ML 14: So let it…be.

Shopkeep 15: Why you keep sayin’ that, pal? You a Beatle fan?

POST-CAP 16: Ha! Now, you know, it’s funny he should say that!

PAGE 3

PANEL 1.
ML is standing in that back room, before a display with small beetle statues filling several shelves. It has a placard that refers to it as the “WORLD’S LARGEST COLLECTION OF SCARABS”. There is a stanchion with a velvet rope attached to cordon off viewers from the display case. [NOTE: This basic panel is recreated on many subsequent pages.]

ML 1: The dreamers always lead me right to them.

ML, VOICE/thought 2-5:

He thinks you’re weird!

This must be the place. ‘Offbeat Roadside Attraction’.

You’re gonna get beat!

Beat ’till you’re beetle juice!

PANEL 2.

The shopkeep enters the back room. The cat is walking next to him, on the floor. The dark silhouette of ML is in the foreground.

Shopkeep 6: Hey, Mister! This room is closed. For renovations. Can’t you read?

PANEL 3.

The shopkeep is now standing right behind ML pulling on one of his shoulders, while ML is still intent on the display, and reaching down for the stanchion.

ML 7: How much for the scarabs?

Shopkeep 8: What’s your problem? This is a museum. A closed one! They’re not for sale. Now, beat it!

PANEL 4.

ML awkwardly faces the other man, brandishing the stanchion.

ML 9: I am sorry. But I have been sent by the government. I have to take these with me.

Shopkeep 10: What?!

PANEL 5.

ML shoves the shopkeep away and lifts the stanchion, as though about to throw it at the display.

ML 11: You will be compensated. Now, excuse me…

POST-CAP 12: Marshall means well. On the dark-web, in occult circles, he is just known as The Precept.

POST-CAP 13: The Precept hunts down and captures rogue clerics— and the various inter- dimensional beings that they use for their magic.

PANEL 6.

The shopkeep dramatically, from one knee, lifts his hands, which flare with an unexplained bright light, their energy suffusing the entire room, even as the stanchion is being flung by ML.

ML 14: Ungh! [Note: there’s no SFX, so this can be lettered much bigger in the panel, for effect]

PAGE 4 (left)

PANEL 1.

VISUALS: ML is frozen in place, as is the stanchion frozen in mid-air. The shopkeep is now standing, arms still outstretched.

SILENT PANEL

PANEL 2.

Close-up shot. Shopkeep has moved to right next to ML. Marshall and the stanchion are still frozen.

Shopkeep 1: I don’t know who you think you are…but thanks for telling me the government’s found me.

Shopkeep 2: I guess I need to move again. Damn. I was comfortable here.

ML, VOICE/thought 3-4:

I told you! You’re in for it, now.

What a tourist trap!

PANEL 3.

Same basic shot. Now the shopkeep has walked over and grabbed the stanchion.

Shopkeep 5: Oh well. I’ve lived countless lifetimes, all across the globe. Maybe I’ll head back to Egypt.

ML, VOICE/thought 6-7:

Trap, trap, von Trapp. Claptrap! Eighty percent of everything is crap.

Aw, snap!

POST-CAP 8: I should explain. There are three clerical disciplines: moving things between timelines, choosing futures, and this one, speeding up or slowing down time.

POST-CAP 9: Marshall is an expert cleric. He knows them all. And that’s how he handles the rogue clerics he hunts down and captures…

PANEL 4.
The shopkeep knocks ML down with the stanchion, who falls to the ground (in essentially the same position). The cat is very close to where ML has fallen, looking excited/ready to run (from the noise), but not afraid.

PRE-CAP 10: …um, ideally.

SFX 11: THUD!

PANEL 5.

Shopkeep is putting the stanchion back, re-attaching the velvet rope; but, otherwise, indifferent to what is happening behind him with ML and the cat.

Shopkeep 12: In the meantime, we could use one more for our collection. SZhelbe?

PANEL 6.

The cat is climbing atop ML’s prone form.

PRE-CAP 13: Remember those inter-dimensional beings I mentioned? Good. Those are The Regnant. SZhelbe is one of them.

CAP 14: He’s been doing this for some time..stealing souls, absorbing their life-forces, the chi, of the victims.

POST-CAP 15: That energy is what the shopkeep uses to keep himself alive…how he casts his spells.

PANEL 7.

Same view. ML’s expression hasn’t changed, but his face is flush. sweating. The cat is now in the shape of a (roughly dragon-shaped, open to interpretation) winged demon-figure, who now crouches above ML, and dwarfing him a bit. It’s eyes are glowing and smoking. The eyes are only part of it that is distinct. The rest of it is shadowing and ill-defined, partially ethereal.

PRE-CAP 16: …The Precept hears them, too.

SZhelbe 17:
YOU NEVER SHOULD HAVE COME HERE, CHAMPION. IF, INDEED, YOU ARE EVEN WORTHY SUCH A TITLE?WHAT SHALL I DO WITH YOU?

PAGE 5

PANEL 1.

Large horizontal panel along top. SZhelbe unleashes bolts of energy from his eyes that incinerate ML’s form in a blinding flash of energy. This entire page, we can re-introduce small bits of weirdness on the background images again. Very subtly…

SFX 1: SH-THOOOOM!

PANEL 2.

The demon now stands off to one side, crouching (which still puts him at well over 6 feet tall); and there is only a smoldering pile of ash where ML had been. You can see the shopkeep’s feet walking in from off panel.

SILENT PANEL.

PANEL 3.

The shopkeep is kneeling down next to the pile of ash and plunging his arm into it.

Shopkeep 2: Thank you, SZhelbe.

PANEL 4.

And the shopkeep stands up, brandishing the wriggling beetle that he has extracted from the ash, which he is admiring. The Regnant is behind him in this shot, in the background, still partially ethereal, misty, and ill-defined.

Shopkeep 3: Ah, this one looks to be a powerful one.

POST-CAP 4: The thing is: Marshall has spent his whole life mastering voices. His own. The Regnant’s…

PANEL 5.

Another large horizontal panel along the bottom. Same shot as the last, except: i) now, there are no shadows or mists—and the Regnant ‘s form is obviously now a halloween costume; and ii) the shopkeep has a haunted expression as he looks askew towards the voice that emanates from the ‘Regnant’.

PRE-CAP 5: …so, yes. He merits the title.

from SZhelbe: Well, I like to think I have my moments.

PAGE 6 (left)

PANEL 1.

The Regnant now appears to be Marshall in a Barney/Godzilla-type (somewhere between the two, not entirely comic, nor entirely scary) dinosaur suit (the suit has largely fallen to the floor, Marshall has one fit still in it, as he is stepping out of it). He has pulled off his dinosaur mask and is holding it in one hand. Marshall’s shades are atop his head. He is still expressionless. In the crook of his other arm, is SZhelbe, in cat form, sitting comfortably. The shopkeep has turned around to face ML, so his back is mostly to the viewer, but hopefully we can get his expression of shock. The edges of this nearly full-page panel, should dissolve in some kind of dreamy way at the border of this and the other panel.

ML 1: Here, in the astral plane, SZhelbe’s song has no power. In fact, I banished him here before I even entered your store.

ML 2: As you know, he was one of the rogue Regnant who refused to come here when I sent the rest of his kind to exist here, asleep, in perpetuity.

ML 3: Now, his form will remain here. His corporeal form can continue, sleepwalking, in our world. He seems to prefer cat-form, for now. Do you not, kit-ten?

SZhelbe SFX 4: trillll?

ML 5: So, let it be done.

Shopkeep 6: So—what? Am I…

ML 7: Asleep…?

PANEL 2.

We are, once again, looking at the internal shot of the front of the store (P. 1, Panel2). Both the shopkeep and the cat are still asleep.

ML, as META-CAP (across the border of panel) 8: “…Yes.”

PAGE 7

PANEL 1.

ML is standing before the scarab case again, this time wearing a white burnoose, hood up.

ML, as META-CAP (across the border of panel) 1: “…It is always interesting. As often happens, your dreams showed me the way.

ML, as META-CAP (across the border of panel) 2: “Even with my eldritch visor, I would not have noticed this scarab case as being anything but a cheesy display.”

Horizontal 2-in-1 panel, split evenly in two with the same gutter effect we used before to shift from the dream to the reality where the shopkeep had been sleeping. We are indicating they’re happening simultaneously.

PANEL 2. ML raises his hands and holds them open, as they glow with a bubbly energy, as do the scarabs in the display.

ML, VOICE/thought 3-7 :

It’s not easy being cheesy!

Und how long haf you had zees bad drrrreams viss ze voices, ya?

Your cape is stupid.

There’s a security camera! We have to run, the police will be here any second!

WELL, CHAMPION. YOU HAVE WON. DO YOU REQUIRE MY ASSISTANCE?

ML 8: That is appreciated, Regnant. But, no.

PANEL 3.

A close-up, the shopkeep wakes up (this time for real), with a panicked look on his face. The cat is gone.

SILENT PANEL

Another Horizontal 2-in-1 panel, split evenly in two with the same gutter effect we used before to shift from the dream to the reality where the shopkeep had been sleeping. We are indicating they’re happening simultaneously.

PANEL 4.

ML is clenching his fists and the scarabs in the display case are glowing so bright you cannot even see them. Their glow is the same as the one around his hands.

SFX 9: SHZZIZZLE!

PANEL 5.

RIGHT SIDE OF PANEL) The shopkeep is lunging over the counter towards the back room.

Shopkeep 10: NOOOO!

Another Horizontal 2-in-1 panel, split evenly in two with the same gutter effect we used before to shift from the dream to the reality where the shopkeep had been sleeping. We are indicating they’re happening simultaneously.

PANEL 6.

ML’s stands, his arms dropped to his sides. Inside the display case are a potpourri of old figures and several tents…The sign now says WORLD’S LARGEST COLLECTION OF CIRCUS SETS (Yes, that is what you think. I’m putting a picture, below, inline. This is foreshadowing for future adventures that heavily feature a carnival milieu.)

PANEL 7.

Front view of the shopkeep, as he is dissolving away to nothingness (legs disappearing first) on the floor, in front of the counter. He is getting darker, aging/mummifying, he face is aghast and ghastly.

Shopkeep 11: Precept! No! This was my life!

PAGE 8 (left)

I was thinking another large vertical panel.

PANEL 1.

Large panel. ML is walking towards the viewer, from out of the back room museum. He is literally walking through the floating dust particles that used to be the shopkeep. Perhaps only the hands and one arm remains…like that.

ML 1: So let it be done.

PANEL 2.

View from above. ML is dropping some bills and change onto the counter.

SILENT PANEL.

PANEL 3.

Same view. ML is grabbing two candy bars.

SILENT PANEL

PANEL 4.

We returns to the same interior shot as we saw in the beginning. He is exiting.

SFX 2: DING Ding!

PANEL 5.

And now ML is walking back down the street, walking away from the store and the reader, per our very first panel. The cat is peeking out the door before it closes…

SILENT PANEL

PAGE 9

PANEL 1.

Same scene. Only the cat is now on the sidewalk, also facing away, watching ML diminish into the distance towards a car that is parked way back.

SILENT PANEL.

PANEL 2.

Same scene. ML is now next to the car. And the cat has (apparently) transformed into a blackbird, and is flying away, exiting off panel. The black bird has red and yellow stripes on its wings.

From the car (actually, it is Kinta) 1: Honey, my jacket glowed for a bit—and I just saw a Regnant fly off. You didn’t actually do a mission, did you?

PANEL 3.

We see the cab of a car, with a young native American girl (who is wearing an oversized black jacket, covered entirely with small yellow runes/designs) at the wheel, while ML’s form is re-entering his own body in a ghostly fashion. A translucent, version of him is already sitting down, also wearing the burnoose. [NOTE: when he separates his astral form, it’s a bit different from other ways this gets expressed with other comics…the “ghost” form is actually visible, looks normal, and can move around and interact with things (think: how Yoda’s force ghost ‘sits’ on a log or can pop Luke in the nose); but the original host-body becomes essentially invisible and stays in one place]. In one hand, his ghostly form holds the piece of paper (his grocery list) and the bars. She has an anxious expression.

ML 2: A small one. I was in no danger.

Kinta 3: And here I thought you were using your spirit form just to save time.

ML 4: That, too. But I heard the Regnant’s song from inside. It had to happen. I did not want to worry you.

PANEL 4.

He has fully re-entered his own body within the car. Now his form sitting form is fully visible. She is just sitting there, yelling at him with an angry face. He is looking at her, expressionless as always.

Kinta 5: Really. First of all, we’re supposed to be partners. And, second: You promised, Mink. This is supposed to be a vacation.

ML 6: I am sorry, honey.

Kinta 7: !

Kinta 8: Did you at least get the right kind of candy bars?

PANEL 5.

He produces the candy bars with a flourish, holding them in one had, and her list in the other. His meign is now a royal one, as befits the impression he is trying to do. Meanwhile, her expression is still quite annoyed.

ML 9: So, let it be written. So, let it be done!

PANEL 6.

Now the shot is a long shot, from above. As the (cat/Regnant) blackbird watches from above, in the sky, the car is pulling away. The convo balloons are all emanating from the car, which is small enough now that, hopefully, there’s plenty of space for them.

ML 10: That was Yul Bren—

Kinta 11: Brenner. Yes, I know. It was very good, dear.

ML 12: Are you still mad?

Kinta 13: …<munch munch> I’m starting to feel better…promise me, no more secret missions?

ML 14: I promise. So let it be done.

POST-CAP 15: And that is how this mission went, Lenny. Kinta convinces him to never again run off alone. And, meantime, The Precept wins again!

PAGE 10 (left)

PANEL 1.

We’re looking down from over a woman’s shoulder. On the back porch not too far from a house, she’s sitting down with a small child on her lap, who is looking up at her, open mouthed, while he holds a small bell. His expression is the wide-eyed happiness that only toddler’s can achieve.

Lenny 1: Yay!

Palla 2: And that is enough about The Precept for now…

Lenny 3: Aw! Okay. But what happened to the Regginit, Mommy?

PANEL 2.

And we pan backwards, and we can see that they are sitting under a grove of trees, which are filled (as in abnormally filled, to the brim) with various animals: squirrels, cats, birds of all kinds. Palla and Lenny have stood up and are walking back, towards the house.

Palla 4: Oh, from time to time, he will still try to escape from his dream-time in the Astral Plane. But whenever that happens, Marshall will send him back to me.

Palla 5: And then I will remind him why it’s important that he enjoy his dreams. Just as I do with all of your other friends.

Palla 6: Come, it’s bed time for you, too!

PANEL 3.

We pan back even further. The house is in the distance, with Palla and Lenny entering the house; the grove of trees, which was in the foreground before, is now also in the background (although still closer than the house). And, in the foreground, we see the red-winged blackbird descending into view.

Lenny 7: Mommy? Will they ever wake up?

Palla 8: Yes, they will. And then, I suppose, we’ll just have to be ready…

THE END

NOTES/OUTLINE

This microfiction story was published online and I thought it would contain enough interesting visuals to be a worthy addition to the anthology.
Best, :-{D] _Mark

Note to letterer: underscore indicates bold

PAGE 1

~~~

I am picturing 4 tiers, more or less. Panel 1 as the top tier, Panels 2-3 as the middle tier, and then, below, with the panels shaped in parallelograms and other odd shapes once the door bell rings, indicating something unnatural. The final panel being a very thin horizontal panel.

If you come up with something that works better, please feel free…

PANEL 1:

Larger, horizontal, establishing shot. Interior. Long shot of living room (sort of from behind the TV, I imagine…I don’t know if it’d be more effective to raise the angle so that you’re looking down from above?) in a modest house. Protag is sitting in her easy chair. She is an elderly woman, of sound mind. But depressed. The room is lit by the TV which lights her face from below, giving her a slightly menacing visage in later panels—once we’ve zoomed in. On her lap is a pile of wrappers. A large bowl in on the end-table next to her chair. The lamp on that table is unlit. It’s evening outside.

PRE CAP 1: Halloween. Trick-or-treat. Ugh. The waiting. I remember thinking: They should make a horror movie about it. They could call it ‘The Sitting’.

CAP 2: I don’t know. Why get worked up at all? No one ever comes…not any more.

CAP 3: Lordy, my stomach hurt. Why did I buy all that candy?

PANEL 2:

Zoomed in to Medium Shot. We see her wrinkled face; but, her eyes are clear. She is unwrapping a large candy bar.

CAP 4: Well, I knew why.

CAP 5: Truth be told, I always both dreaded and looked forward to visitors on Halloween. I’d been alone so long. No family left, they’d all passed.

CAP 6: My boys. My Harold.

PANEL 3:

Zoomed in to a close-up. She’s chewing. Her eyes locked on the TV.

CAP 7: I had read somewhere that the ancients thought that the dead returned to walk among the living on All Hallow’s Eve.

CAP 8: So, whenever that door bell rang, for just a split second, I could pretend it was one of them…

CAP 9: …how sad is that? Lordy, I was lonely.

PANEL 4:

Same close-up. Now, her eyes have gotten wider, if no less sad, and they are pointed sideways towards the noise of the doorbell.

SFX 10: DING DONG!

PANEL 5:

Protag is walking from the chair area, carrying the bowl.

CAP 11: So, I grabbed the half-empty bowl of candy and went to the door…

PANEL 6:

The view is from behind her as she approaches the door.

SILENT PANEL

PANEL 7:

She has stopped, and is leaning off to the side of the door to look at a mirror that is mounted on the wall, checking how she looks in the mirror, while simultaneously flicking on the light, before opening the door. This is the first well-lit panel. She is actually dressed quite smartly.

SILENT PANEL

PANEL 8:

A thin, horizontal panel, from above on the porch, look at her as she’s opened the door, her mouth is agape as she is shocked by what she’s seeing

Protag 12: Huh?!

PAGE 2 (left)

~~~


PANEL 1:

Very large (half-page?) panel. Door is open and Protag is in foreground, partially exiting her doorway. We now see what she is seeing. It is an enormous sphinx. Its front paws are planted on the porch like two golden, fur-covered columns, each of which is thicker than the Protag’s torso. The sphinx’s has a massive lion’s body, head, and eyes, and the hint of a dragon’s tail in the shadows. Giant eagle wings scrape my eaves and blot out the festivities. The light sources on this panel are varied…some from the doorway, the top of the porch has lights, and street lamps are on in the distance; but what you can see of the street (the sphinx’s body blots out most of the scene behind) makes it clear that it is a night sky.

In the sphinx’s mouth is one of those plastic jack-o-lantern that kids carry for collecting candy, but let’s be clear, all artistic efforts should be made to indicate that this is not a costume…even if that means adding special effects like energy trails coming from it’s body, or crackling around its headdress, or what-not.

A nice touch might be to have the sphinx drawn in a completely different style, more photo-realistic, or whatever (maybe vice versa).

SILENT PANEL

PANEL 2:

A close-up front view of the Protag again, still looking up and in a bit of shock

CAP 1: It didn’t say anything.

PANEL 3:

Now a close-up of the sphinx, still with the bowl in its mouth.

CAP 2: It just kept staring at me, with it’s cat eyes.

PANEL 4:

Now an extreme close-up of the Protag’s face (mostly eyes).

SILENT PANEL

PANEL 5:

Now an extreme close of the the sphinx’s cat eyes.

SILENT PANEL

PANEL 6:

Same extreme close-up of Protag as Panel 4.

CAP 3: Finally, I made my decision.

One thought would be to make one side of this panel be in the shape of the sphinx’s head/shoulder/wing, implying it’s presence but not taking up any visual real estate in the reader’s mind. The focus should be all on the Protag.

PANEL 7:

Now a medium shot of the Protag, the view being from alongside the shoulder of the sphinx (which should be partially in the panel, see above note) so we’re not looking down at the Protag, but at eye-level with her.

Protag 4: Trick.

END CAP: THE END (?)

Limited Omnisicient

OUTLINE

Our story begins with Ignatius (Iggy) Silvano, a middle-aged quadriplegic, answering his doorbell. The person at the door is an very elderly man of Latin origin who—upon the door opening—immediately tries to stab Iggy with an exact-o knife. Iggy instantly rerealizes this is the deity Quetzalcoatl; and easily disarms the stranger, revealing him to be no real threat. Iggy invites him in for tea while the stranger tells his story: the stranger informs Iggy that he (Iggy) is the last living believer. He says that, once the Iggy dies, the minor deity can finally also end, which he very much desires. Iggy remembers how his dad, an atheist, used to say “Quetzalcoatl” instead of “God Bless You” as a joke whenever someone sneezed. So, when his dad died in the same car crash that paralyzed him, that was why he chose to pray to that god for his dad’s return. Of course, his prayers were never answered. The deity again begs the Iggy to go ahead and kill him, even while not realizing that Iggy already had. The tea was dosed with a lethal amount of pain-killers. The final reveal is a cut to: Quetzalcoatl, in his actual winged-serpent state, swimming on another plane of existence..and that it all was his own dream. End line (narration should be the same as the different lettering style for the old man): Once again the dream of death. Even God can have a bad night.

PAGE 1

~~~

I envision three-tiers.
PANEL 1:
Establishing Shot. Exterior, long shot of front porch to a regular-looking house. Notably, there is a ramp and not steps leading up to the porch. On the porch, we see the back of a small, slender, hunched-over, white-haired figure who is ringing the door bell. His other hand is in the pocket of a windbreaker. In the foreground is a mailbox that says “Ignatius Silvano”.

PRE CAP 1: He was very nearly already dead when he came to see me.

SFX 2: Ding! Dong!

PANELS 2-4: Horizontal set of panorama panels as second tier. Interior shot of hallway on the inside of the house, the other side of the door. Hallway is in sharp perspective away from the reader. First: Iggy is closest to us in this panel. We see Iggy him pulling himself up into his wheelchair. He is muscular, with close-cropped hair; Second: Iggy is wheeling himself towards the front door; Third: Iggy, in his chair, is peaking through the lower of two peep holes in the door.

CAP 3: My first glimpse of him was through my specially located peephole.

Captions in these panels straddle the two panels, or perhaps Panel 5 is inset in Panel 6.

PANEL 5: Panel is shaped oval, with warped perspective visual—like a peep hole. The person outside the door, looks like smiling, chicano George Burns (like in “Oh, God!”). Eyes in a permanent Mr. Magoo squint.

CAP 4: He was not at all what I had expected from the High Father: the Great Winged Serpent Who Rules All.

PANEL 6: We see Iggy’s hand reaching for the knob.

CAP 5: It had taken me several minutes to make it to the door. Despite that, his smile was warm. Patient.

CAP 6: So, you know, I was truly surprised by the murder attempt—

PAGE 2

~~~

Not a perfect grid.
PANEL 1:
Large panel. Door is open and elderly visitor is lunging towards Iggy (and reader) with an exact-o knife in one hand. Iggy is fending that hand off, while being toppled from the chair. Old man’s mouth is (nearly?) toothless.

PRE CAP 1: LIMITED OMNISCIENT (with credits)

Quetzalcoatl 2 (special lettering style, only slightly different. I am just italicizing for script purposes): Now, I can DIE!

PANEL 2: Iggy disarms the visitor.

SILENT PANEL

PANEL 3: Iggy punches the old man.

SILENT PANEL

PANEL 4: Both characters are on the floor. Chair is toppled. Our view is from behind Iggy’s shoulder. Opposite him we can see the old man, disheveled, crumpled against the other wall.

POST CAP 3: Being paraplegic doesn’t make me a weakling. Probably only professional weightlifters could’ve beaten me in an arm-wrestling match, you know?

PANEL 5: Now, opposite view, from behind the old man. Iggy is now sitting atop a bench, so now we’re looking slightly up at him.

CAP 4: Once on my bench, I regarded him for some time as he struggled toward me. His breath hissed, gurgled. Like my espresso machine.

CAP 5: Why are you doing this? I finally asked. He just glared at me, his cloudy eyes looking every bit the, what? four millennia old that they were.

CAP 6: I asked him a few more times, in various languages…until finally I found one that he responded to: English, strangely enough.

PANEL 6: Close up of old man, speaking. Obviously distraught. Eyes still squinting.

Quetzalcoatl 7: You’re the last. The last one who truly believes.

POST CAP 8: Then he stared off into space– well, really my living room’s cathedral ceiling– like the answers were up there.

CAP 9: I gave him back his damned knife and returned to my chair. I needed some tea.

PAGE 3

~~~

PANEL 1: Medium close-up. Iggy is in his chair, back in the hallway, with a tray of two cups of tea on his lap. He is puzzled.

CAP 1: But, when I returned with the tea, he had vanished—

PANEL 2: Close up of the old man, still on the floor, sticking his exact-o knife into a wall outlet. Iggy is visible (behind, to the left) in the background, facing sideways from where the old man now is, looking down upon the scene.

PRE CAP 2: No, wait. There he was.

PANEL 3: Medium shot, horizontal, open panel. Full figure. Iggy in his chair, old man on the floor.

Iggy 3: You’re pathetic.

Quetzalcoatl 4: Yet, you still believe in me…

Iggy 5: All right, I’ll play. What do you mean, I’m the last?

POST CAP 6: He stayed silent. I handed him his tea. No “thank you”; but, he did stop his suicide attempts long enough to sit on my sofa and drink the friggin’ tea. He looked at me during each sip.

PANEL 4: Largest panel on page. Shot form above at an angle (like the corner of the ceiling). We see the old man on a couch in Iggy’s living room, holding the tea. It is still sunny outside, daytime, visible through a sliding glass door and the window. Off to the other side, off to the right, the kitchenette is visible.

Quetzalcoatl 7: When did I first become your God? I- I can’t remember, Mr. Silvano.

PANEL 5: Medium “Three” shot, at eye height. Old man figure on couch faded out (or darkened?) while daylight through glass door outside and Iggy (we’re at his back) in the foreground are normally lit….Iggy’s face in profile is the border to this panel that faces (no pun intended) the next, open panel.

CAP 8: But I did…

PANEL 6: Open montage panel, showing scenes that are being narrated.

CAP 9: It had been Mom. After Dad left, she taught me to be strong. Think for myself. Even in matters of religion. Whenever I sneezed, she wouldn’t say God Bless You, she would say Quetzalcoatl.

CAP 10: It was a joke, but it was also to teach me the value of reason and of making up my own mind. I could worship whoever I wanted, she said, or no one at all.

CAP 11: So, when our car crashed and she died…

CAP 12: …when I decided to pray for her return—and, later, even for Dad’s—I chose the only god she ever believed in. I prayed to Quetzalcoatl.

PAGE 4

~~~

PANEL 1: Big Head shot of Iggy. Darkened except for his eyes.

PRE CAP 1: Of course, he never answered.

POST CAP 2: My phantom limb syndrome went away in a few months. But the pain from not having my Mom never leaves.

PANEL 2: Back to same viewpoint as Pg. 3, Panel 4. Iggy is wheeling away from the living room towards the sliding glass door. Old man still on the couch.

CAP 3: Tired of watching him breathe, I went outside to trim my roses.

PANEL 3: Same shot, except it is looking like dusk outside. Iggy isn’t visible. Old man is in same position on couch.

SILENT PANEL

PANEL 4: Same shot, except that it is dark outside, and Iggy is in Kitchen. Old man is still in same spot on couch.

PRE CAP 4: I was mixing the ingredients for more tea when he finally came right out and asked.

Quetzalcoatl 5: Will you kill me?

Quetzalcoatl 6: I could wait for you to die. Then, no longer having any followers, I would finally perish. But in this weakened state– if one of my followers did it, I think I really could die. Finally. Will you?

PANEL 5: Medium shot of both. Old man still on couch. Iggy has, once again, wheeled up with the tray of tea. He is looking unhappy…just as with previous page ….a face is in profile is the border to this panel. Only it is the old man’s face. And (eerily), for the first time, his eye in that profile is wide open.

Iggy 7: So, why are you so weak? I mean, how could I be the only left?

Quetzalcoatl 8: Every blade of grass or wisp of air. I was the ultimate artisan— it was all my design. But I grew weary; it was craft, not art. People believe in free will. There is none. All is predestined.

PANEL 6: Same as previous page, this is an open montage panel, with the various scenes shown, as described in narration.

Quetzalcoatl 9: Bored, I longed to end my life. Yet, I was immortal. A god lives while there is one believer. At first, I had my own subjects sacrifice themselves. Plagues. Wars.

Quetzalcoatl 10: By Manifest Destiny, my people’s numbers had dwindled such that my own powers waned. No longer all-seeing, all-knowing—a demigod only.

Quetzalcoatl 11: These were the happiest times. It was an adventure. For my people. For me.

Quetzalcoatl 12: But I had been too effective. They never recovered their vitality. They continued to dwindle; eventually, they lost their faith.

Quetzalcoatl 13: As they did, I became weaker. Soon I was trapped on this mortal plane.

PAGE 5

~~~

PANEL 1: Back in the living room, a medium two-shot of Iggy handing the old man his tea.

PRE CAP 1 (in Quetzalcoatl’s special font, and outside the panel, ideally…foreshadowing): Finally I was even forced to take human form. For nearly 200 years, I have wandered the Earth as the sick old man you see now. Soiling myself and counting the number of times I pee…

PANEL 2: Same shot. The old man sipping the tea. Now, Iggy is faded out (or in shadow).

SILENT PANEL

PANEL 3: Same shot: The old man, smiling again, asking politely.

Quetzalcoatl 2: So, I must ask you again. Will you kill me?

PANEL 4: Same shot. Except now it is Iggy that is drinking his tea, while the old man waits (in shadow).

SILENT PANEL

PANEL 5: Close up of Iggy, cup still being held to his mouth as he watches the old man.

PRE CAP 3: Of course, he had no way of knowing that I already had. I had clearly mashed half a bottle of pain killers into his second cup of tea.

PANEL 6: Zoomed in even closer, to an extreme close-up, only the cup is no longer being held up. It’s just his face, inscrutable.

CAP 4: What kind of a God doesn’t notice a thing like that? I mean, wouldn’t it taste different?…

PANEL 7: Largest panel of page. A winged and feathered serpent is flying, coiled, amidst what appears to be explosive rains of solar plasma.

PRE CAP 5: …Good riddance.

CAP 6: The mighty one roused from his slumber. In an instant, the mighty one saw through the eyes of everyone, and felt the currents of the waves and the wind.

CAP 7: He listened to the cosmic rays sing, as they ricocheted through the planet, dancing the dance of the plants of the earth.

CAP 8: But, deep in its bosom, Quetzalcoatl, the Earth spirit, could still feel the molten rock spinning its disagreement within its own magnetic fields.

POST CAP 9: (in Quetzalcoatl’s special font): Once again, the dream of death.

POST CAP 10: (in Quetzalcoatl’s special font) : Even God can have a bad night.

END CAP: THE END

Shout Out

A meeting of heroes? Marshall Lastpost and his ‘grandmother’, Marian Michaels (aka “The Butterfly”)

I want to help make more people aware of Kat Powell

She is a artist out of Texas who does wonderful work. She helped me by doing commissioned sketches for the various characters in my upcoming novel. (See, above, The Precept meeting The Butterfly. Spoilers: death is imminent.)

Check her out!

Davey, Tell Us A Stooooory

Okay. These past few years, I’ve set out to become a dedicated storyteller. In doing that, I’ve started to look at prose books, comics, and movies/tv shows in a new way. Part audience/Part practitioner.

Just as background: my tastes run towards what you would call classical story-telling. Good ‘n Evil, Character Arcs, Subtexts, good conflict, high-concept metaphors where I can find them, and resolution. Like that.

So, what happens? Well, these days, like some sort of fiction-sniffing hound, I find myself looking for what the shows aren’t doing as much as I am for what they are; this is especially true if they aren’t landing for me. It almost always comes down to a lack of storytelling. When that happens, I ask: What crutch are they using, rather than just telling the story?

Just to kick things off, here are a couple of my most despised Storytelling Avoidance Mechanisms (StAMs).

StAM One – Grimdark.
Look, I saw Chernobyl Diaries at a hotel. I was super-excited by the trailer. The opening premise was good. The characters were introduced nicely— aaaand then?

Well, then the characters were all methodically slaughtered, one-by-one. Except for one, who was captured by unknown figures, and then killed, for reasons that are never explained. Roll credits.

Continue reading “Davey, Tell Us A Stooooory”