[THE COMPETITION] Outlines w. Hickman Feedback, PART 1
Okay, so first off, thanks for the effort everyone put into these. Most of them did a good job of covering what I think are the basics of an outline:
1. Tell the story.
2. Do it with a bit of style.
3. And always have a solid dismount or hook.
A few of these did not have a title, which while we didn’t didn’t penalize anyone for not having one, you always - ALWAYS - want to include that. You don’t ever want to pass on doing that, because it’s just too good of an opportunity to gain the interest of the reader.
A couple of these also have slight ‘continuity’ errors that an editor would key in on, but I’m going to drive by those because that will only matter for the eventual winner and I want to focus on broader concerns/notes/etc.
With that, here are the notes:
by Reed Beebe
A blood-covered Nur Moto screams defiantly as the King’s Pugno charges forward; the royal audience packing the Arena Grandioza cheers – the muralist Aleela paints this image on her studio’s wall, the artwork foreshadowing the narrative’s forthcoming philosophical conflict. [p.1]
Aleela’s work is interrupted by a visit from Sanan Yago, the Fayrii King’s art curator. Pleasantries are exchanged; Aleela flatters Yago by remembering his brief vogue as a portraitist before accepting the office of Curator. The discourse reveals that Aleela’s murals are acclaimed throughout the Solsistemo (even the artistically disinterested elites of The Institute acknowledge her craft); Yago is visiting Heir to assess Aleela’s plans regarding her commissioned mural for the Arena Grandioza. [approx. p. 1-3]
Yago confesses that in preparation for this assessment, his thorough review of Aleela’s work has identified some troubling imagery that he wants to discuss. Aleela invites him to an adjoining gallery; the room showcases reproductions of Aleela’s various art pieces, allowing Yago to point out his concerns. [approx. p. 4-5]
This is a very strong first five pages. The subject, the setting, the backgrounds of the characters all lend themselves to a murderous sense of class when imagining the dialogue between the two.
In one piece, a dignified Fayrii nobleman stands in his well-stocked library; Yago observes that the first Semka logographs of the various book titles on a particular shelf together spell out the name of an assassinated Heir artist whose political graffiti offended many Syndicate leaders. A nearby abstract art piece depicts an Akvan priest administering the fengro de dioj to a young adherent; Yago discerns the obscured musical notes of a reviled Sekvincii religious hymn hidden in the artwork. Other works are discussed. [approx. p. 6-10]
Aleela admits that all her pieces contain secret, subversive codes or images that rebuke the status quo. Standing before her Cubist-style painting of the Akvan coral murals, Aleela recalls how the murals inspired her as a child. She points to a piece featuring a teenage girl painting graffiti while kids play in the street; Aleela shares that making art provided emotional and financial comfort after she spent the last of her murdered father’s pirate hoard buying passage to Heir. She feels that her art should stealthily comment on society’s unjust ugliness while celebrating the beautiful and the strong. [approx. p. 11-15]
So, traditionally - if this was just a comic-y comic - you’d get a note here about ‘show, don’t tell’ and it being too talky and all the arguments that people make when driving down that road.
And they’re fair arguments.
You’ve also set yourself up for failure here by making your subject ‘art’ while blind. You don’t know who the artist is that you’re asking to depict, what I imagine, are a series of visually stunning panels that spiritually ‘show’ what it is you’re ‘telling.’
So you’re not gambling once, but twice. The old double-down. But if you’re going to die, might as well go down in flames, right? I kind of dig that.
Yago expresses admiration, but declares that he must share his findings with the Fayrii court. Aleela makes a practical argument: the truth would undermine the status quo more than her hidden subversive art ever could. She reminds Yago that her pieces are prized and expensive possessions; many corporations and Syndicate clans use the artwork’s stable monetary value as both collateral and a hedge. They walk past an image of two fighting mercenaries who are surreally evaporating into blue bubbles; Aleela explains that Yago’s report would result in her art’s prohibition or destruction by the embarrassed and scandalized, causing financial losses that would make many dangerous investors unhappy with him. [approx. p. 16-18]
Returning to the studio, Aleela remarks that even in victory the Nur Moto loses – to prove a King wrong is a great insult. Looking at Aleela’s mural, Yago perceives that Aleela has painted the Nur Moto to resemble him; he acknowledges the wisdom of Aleela’s argument, and excuses himself. Aleela returns to her work, painting herself – a talented commoner – into the mural as an observer in the exclusively royal crowd; she puts a smile on her face. [p. 19-20]
This is a good reversal and solid dismount. I can’t stop thinking about who would be perfect to draw this (which is a good thing), and what flavor the dialogue would be.
ACQUISTIONS (previously ‘GRAVERUNNER’)
by Steven Douglas
We open with KRYOS, a specialist in acquiring so-called "magical artifacts," breaking into a compound on Fayrii. As they continue their break-in, narration asks if they've come to Fayrii for "business or pleasure?" Kryos grins as the vent they’re crawling through fills with gas. "Both."
We then flashback to an underground magic show on Heir. Kryos meets with ARIELLA, a minor noble from Fayrii. Ariella explains her family recently lost a secret auction for an Academy relic to their business rival, HALIFAX TOMAR. Kryos asks if Ariella really believes in magic, and she’s surprised given both Kryos' “profession” and the show they’re watching. Kryos dismisses the show as “cheap illusion” and states they don’t care if magic is real or not; the only thing they believe in “is khoin.” On cue, Ariella presents Kryos with a number and the two shake hands.
Well, this is a very 3W3M start to a story.
We return to the heist. Kryos activates a helmet on their suit to continue navigating the vents. They make their way through several more traps (laser tripwires, biometric locks, etc.) before reaching their final challenge: the Nightingale Room, a hallway covered in “alarm plates” on its walls, floor, and ceiling. Kryos very carefully removes one of the plates to hack a sensor underneath it, but doing so risks triggering a back-up alarm. Kryos disables the room just before the secondary alarm can go off, and they enter the next area: Halifax Tomar’s bedchamber.
Kryos spots Tomar asleep in bed and the relic (an all-gold, glowing flower) on a podium next to him. Kryos sneaks across the room and retrieves the flower … but accidentally hits the podium and wakes Tomar. We get a silent panel of the two staring at each other before Kryos whacks Tomar on the head and escapes.
So this has the almost exact opposite effect of the previous outline. So. Much. Doing. And all of it works except:
Here’s this person who has just done all these amazing feats to get to the flower and then the added drama comes from a clumsy moment from Kyron, who you’ve just spent pages proving is definitely not clumsy.
So I’d suggest tweaking that. A trap within a trap or something.
Later, while eating aboard a passenger shuttle returning to Heir, Kryos meets with Ariella again to deliver the flower. Ariella thanks Kryos by pulling a gun on them. Ariella reveals she was never a noble from Fayrii; she’s a member of the Institute. The real purpose of the job was to provide evidence of Tomar breaking sanctions … and to confirm Kryos' reputation—
—Kryos throws a bowl of soup in Ariella’s face and books it.
I feel like soup in space is the canary in the coal mine of extraterrestrial bad meals.
Kryos tries to find a place to hide but Ariella catches them. The two struggle and Kryos gets shunted out an airlock, their helmet cracked but the flower still in their possession. Kryos panics, believing this is the end … when their oxygen levels start rising.
Kryos looks down and sees the flower has bloomed, releasing a field of glowing pollen that repairs their helmet and surrounds their body like a bubble of stars. Narration repeats Kryos’ earlier remarks on the existence of magic, and we end with them drifting through space, watching the pollen with eyes full of wonder.
Okay, so this was right over the plate. It just feels like a 3W3M story. I might argue that you should condense and escalate the last section of the story, but that really falls into preference (which matters, but isn’t the larger point here).
by Ramsey Ess
An Opening Montage. Institute Highmaster Phillippi Rouen looks bored as he lives the high life. He gets into a vehicle in fancy clothes with a similarly fancy woman. He drinks wine. In the morning, he enters an ornate office where he says important things like “Athena, let’s execute that security project” and sits back with a wry smile.
Gadshill, a skilled escape artist, performs for an audience of well dressed muckety-mucks, emerging from an elaborate, submerged death trap. In the crowd, Phillipi whispers to Athena, his assistant, who moves backstage and presents Gadshill with an invitation to a private meeting.
Gadshill arrives at the office, handcuffed, escaping them to shake Phillipi’s hand. Rouen proposes the challenge: Gadshill takes over every aspect of his life and then escapes it all. When he does, he’ll receive a retirement-level of Khoin-- the faster he leaves, the more he gets. Gadshill accepts.
This is a very, very good opening.
It’s a little three-act opening, ensuring that we start with a certain amount of velocity and direction. I don’t want you guys thinking that structure is the only thing that matters and Robert Mckee is Moses or something, but we should gracefully acknowledge a holy act when it happens.
Day 1: Gadshill, now in a wig and minor prosthetics, observes the lay of the land. The Institute work seems easy, and when it’s not, Athena knows what comes next. At home, any fears he had about Phillipi’s wife of 35 years discovering him disappear when he sees how rarely they interact. What little contact there is happens from opposite ends of an imposing dining table where neither eats.
Day 6: Phillippi, using the codename “PR,” speaks with Gadshill on a secure line. Gadshill recounts his initial, thwarted escape attempts. PR laughs and gloats. He is dressed casually and has gotten some color as he drinks an exotic cocktail in a gorgeous hotel.
Day 9: A massive gala. The room is silenced by a pair of loud ZAKKKs! Everyone cowers as Gadshill is flanked, pulled up to his feet and moved out of the room (he immediately acquiesces). They navigate the labyrinth of halls with ease, for Gadshill is guiding them out, using their names. They are fellow Eskapi. Outside, the “kidnappers” load him into a transport. They’re almost out of there when they each take a shot to the head and Gadshill is “rescued” by an Institute security team.
Day 25: A conference table of Institute employees are hard at work. Gadshill enters, nude, yelling nonsense phrases. This is viewed as “refreshing” and inspires talk of adopting an annual “amnesty day” to the calendar. On a secure line, PR finds this vaguely amusing, but is impatient-- “finish this.”
Day 49: Gadshill is stuck. Athena runs down his packed schedule before leaving his office. He jots off a note, slides open a window, stands on the ledge and jumps. Across panels, he falls. Cut to black. Then-- the hospital ceiling. His wife sleeps at his bedside clutching his note. He reaches out and takes her hand. He is nursed back to health, receiving the unparalleled treatment reserved for Highmasters. His reconstructed body is in better shape than ever before.
Day 73: At home, Gadshill ties a cravat and is informed he has a call. It’s a desperate Rouen. He’s tried everything. He’s downstairs and proposes they just switch back and explain the whole situation. Gadshill apologizes-- he and his wife are just about to step out but he will be in touch tomorrow.
So, you’ve chunked the story up in an interesting way. It definitely works for this story.
In execution - limited in your page count - you’ll need to be careful not to emphasize the wrong bits and then have to sacrifice in areas where you can’t afford to.
You should always do more than one draft, but here your process would probably best served by writing the open and close, and then each section, and then kill all them darlings.
The Montage. We return to the opening montage, but with more of the picture. That’s not a bored Rouen-- it’s a pensive Gadshill. As Gadshill enters the vehicle, his security restrains a screaming Rouen. Inside, his wife looks on lovingly and at the party, she’s laughing. And when Gadshill gives the command, “Athena, let’s execute that security project” and smiles, it’s clear he’s taking care of business of another kind.
Just really well done.
by Jarod Rhys Pratt
We establish quickly that Damoja and her partner, Orzio, are polar opposites. She’s new, eager about the Kuratori and the sacred vow, while he’s 3rd generation Majestic, and just about over the whole thing. And he’s definitely not happy to have a partner. We play him up as a crooked cop, evidenced by the way he is shaking down some drunk and rowdy migrationists – people who treat the Vojogonto as a cruise ship. Drunk migrationists are normally the extent of crime on a Vojogonto, the threat of being added to a no-fly list” for the only interstellar transit around enough to make most people act right…
Just an aside here. I should have guessed it, but I am fascinated by how many people dig space whales.
Until now. A man falls from the sky and lands in front of them, clutching a distinctive looking case with dead hands. Damoja and Orzio look up and lock eyes with an assassin staring down from a hotel balcony. Orzio rushes after him, while Damoja pulls out her comm device to call it in. A second assassin shoots it our her hand with an arrow. Damoja, being a bad ass, is able to turn the table on her would-be killer and force answers out of him. Whatever is in that case is something of immense value that was stolen from The Institute and is being sought after by just about every major player in the system, all of whom have sent their own assassins and spies to retrieve it. Like the one creeping up behind an unaware Damoja…
Okay, so we’re clearly in a action-y chase story here. Which is a super solid choice for a comic as it provides for constantly changing scenery (a tour of the ‘world’) and threats, while implying that you’re running out of time/real estate.
The trap, of course, is that it has to be constantly escalating. But so what? That’s the fun of doing a story like this.
…an assassin who is promptly squashed by another falling body, this one the assassin Orzio chased after inside the hotel. Damoja looks up and sees her partner, a few knives stuck in him, bleeding. Tough old bastard. He points into the distance and we see a gaggle of assassins fighting amongst themselves as they all try to get to her and the case.
The assassin free for all. Focus in on one in particular. The Institute Man. Quick Tarantino-esque flashback. Institute Men are assigned their roles as killers at birth as killers and honed by the Institute to be their perfect, unstoppable assassins. Orzio yells for her to follow procedure. She darts down a dark alley and hides in a sewer while the assassins run down the alley above her.
Love it when we get a narrative inside a narrative. It’s wonderful way to both cheat and juice the ‘chase’ structure.
In the sewer. Damoja creeps along as the whole of the Kuratori Majestic descend on the assassins up top. Clearly, this was never going to end well for them. Whatever is in that case must be extremely valuable for them to even risk going against the Kuratori. Then…
Music, drifting down the sewer tunnel. Another assassin, Arcyla, playing a hypnotic song on a strange instrument. Damoja shakes it off. A fight ensues. Damoja emerges victorious, barely. She trudges off back down the sewer until she runs into Orzio at their designated meeting spot, per procedure…
…and he stabs her deep. The expected heel turn. Orzio is an inside man for one of the Syndicates. They hadn’t been outside the hotel by accident when everything occurred. He got distracted harassing the migrationists and missed it when the first assassin slipped in and killed the original owner of the case via accidental balcony drop. Orzio’s motivation is simple…he is sick of life on the whale, but the Kuratori vow isn’t easily broken. The gifts and trinkets from the worlds and moons the syndicate showers him with helps him feel a little less trapped. Orzio makes his move to off Damoja and take the case when The Institute Man emerges from the shadows.
The Institute Man quickly incapacitates Orzio, then turns to Damoja.
She gladly hands him the case. Orzio isn’t the only turncoat, it seems. Damoja was hopeful she would have time to enjoy what she thought would be a quiet life as Kuratori Majestic before being called in as a sleeper agent for The Institute, but alas…when something like a fragment made of an unknown metal rumored to be from the Outer Worlds beyond the asteroid field is stolen from The Lab, you do what you have to do.
Okay, my big concern here is real estate. This feels like 30-40 pages if it was drawn by a widescreen artist (which, why wouldn’t you want that?), but someone a bit more asymmetrical could make this work in less pages.
And, if I’m being fair, maybe I shouldn’t bring that to the table, but it’s hard to turn off that part of my brain.
But this is exciting and fun, and it definitely ‘works.’
Right before the The Institute Man kills them both to tie up all the loose ends, Damoja and Orzio, in their turncoat-ery, share a brief moment.
Maybe they weren’t so different, after all.
(Note: this story will be narrated by passages from the Kuratori Majestic holy book)
It’s a really cool idea to have it narrated that way. I definitely love that.
by Jeff Telofski
On Ordo, STELLAN stands before an Institute Advisory Tribunal, describing the history of the SWORD that pierces the surface of the nomad asteroid orbiting between the moon and Therra. The hilt etchings read in an ancient language, “In the Garden, You Will Grow”. He believes the Institute is wrong to portray it as an archaic memorial and that there is something more to it. The Judges of the Tribunal remind Stellan of his past attempts to seek resources, failure to gain approval, and of his worrisome mindset regarding Religion and Science. A final warning is made, but on his way out the Tribunal asks Stellan to give their regards to his Papo.
A pot of dying flowers floats between Stellan and his PAPO, a man as joyless near death as he was in life. His Papo once was a great contributor to the Institute, and Stellan knows he can be the same and make his Papo proud. He lies to his Papo about his successful research. Papo does not react.
Starting off with a double rejection (professional and personal) is solid. I love that he lies about being successful in one to try and be successful in the other (effectively losing both).
That’s a great foundation.
Later that evening on his way home, Stellan is instead diverted to the Inter-moon Cargo Yards. Stellan arrives, and out of the shadows stands JUDGE BENTARA, one of the Tribunal that Stellan met with earlier. She delivers Stellan an opportunity to prove himself correct, holding out a SPACESUIT. Stellan accepts.
It’s especially good the way you flipped both in one scene (I know we don’t know it yet, but that it happens in retrospect is nicely done).
Stellan looks uncomfortable aboard the ship. He’s never been in space. To distract him, Bentara asks about Stellan’s thoughts on the relationship between Religion and Science. He talks of the differences, Evidence vs. Belief, but how they are two sides of the same coin. He looks out and sees the planets from space and talks of the majesty of both. The grandness that makes you feel small and humble. The cycles and dangers in both. Bentara and Stellan discuss that the Institute is afraid of the Sword. Imagine any of the religious sects believing in such a symbol and how it would affect the economy of Khor and the Solsistemo as a whole.
The ship arrives at the asteroid. Bentara looks comfortable walking on the surface in her space suit, Stellan looks awkward and clumsy. Together they crest the lip of a crater and see…the SWORD. All awkwardness and discomfort sheds off Stellan. He takes in the Sword, alien in feel but also crafted by sentient hands. He thinks out loud as he registers readings and soil samples from around the Sword. Stellan presses a button on a metal band around his forearm. He then pulls out his own BLADE and tells Bentara what he did not share with the Institute and his real theories on what the Sword is and can do. It’s a CATALYST, and like Religion and Science, both require SACRIFICE.
Stellan cuts off his hand, the band on his arm sealing the remainder of his suit from vacuum exposure. Stellan’s theory is that living organic material in contact with the Sword is the catalyst. Stellan grabs the hand and shoves it against the Sword, frozen drops of blood and skin crushing into the metal.
So all of this is difficult to do one-handed. Make sure you have the action described very clearly if you write something like this.
Something like this is easy to write, but a nightmare for an artist to make work.
Stellan waits for the catalyst to activate…and waits…and waits…
Nothing happens. Stellan pleads that he was right. Bentara turns around, disappointed, and heads to the ship. Before she departs, she tells Stellan that his Papo arranged this opportunity to see his child fail, the last request of a dying man who thought his son an idiot. Bentara takes off and leaves Stellan alone on the asteroid to die.
Super dark. Love it.
I think you need to make sure that Bentara is always skeptical throughout the story considering what she reveals here.
Stellan returns to the sword, defeated. He talks of the etchings. Death nurtures soil, and things grow again. The Sword glows. From the hand and blood, dark vegetation and strange stone grows. Stellan sees it and smiles. He reflects that Religion and Science both put you on a journey. Questions answered. Beliefs satiated. HE WAS RIGHT. You hear that, Papo?
The growth wraps around Stellan and pulls him down. As he and the sword descend into the ground, he speaks to his father. It is never hard to believe when a miracle stands right in front of you. We see his Papo’s hospital chamber, the bed now empty and a Nurse replacing the old flowers with new ones. “Don’t worry, Papo,” Stellan promises, “In the Garden, WE will grow.”
Really solid ending. Good job.
There’s a size limit on these posts, so the second half of these will drop later today.