This Saturday I went to the Hobbycrafts show at the NEC in Birmingham. I spent far too much money on baking equipment, and after spending a couple of hour watching people drawing and creating large, beautiful canvases, I also walked away with a bag full of art supplies. I had notions of myself as an artist, with acrylics and paintbrushes and fixing spray- you know the look- the ethereal beauty with a blue apron, hair in a messy bun and paint splatters.
Later that night, I presented my purchases to my boyfriend and had the horrible realisation that maybe I’ve been focusing too much on the art side of creating a webcomic, and neglecting the real point of this exercise- the story.
Yesterday, I decide to knuckle down and figure out a plot.
I’ve had a vague sense of what I want to write about but figuring out specifics has eluded me. There’s a spate of tv shows and movies about the troubles of people who have just left university and are trying to figure out how to conduct themselves in an adult world. Considering that every year, the number or people graduating from university is increasing, there is inevitably a large audience for this kind of entertainment- people can finally see themselves on the screen, rather than see expectations of a life they think they should be having, but is no longer viable in this economic climate.
However, I have a problem with all of them. Girls for example, is continually held up as a wonderful example of women in their 20s. Frankly, I think this is rubbish. Hannah, the main character, is initally a struggling writer, but within a matter of months she has a book deal. That’s not a real thing- even J.K.Rowling struggled unpublished for over a decade. Lena Dunham may have got lucky herself, but very few people get that chance. She’s also incredibly lucky to have the financial support of her parents (although the first episode starts with them cutting her off- she has already had 2 years of support by this point) which allows her to practice what she loves and still live in New York. Very few people get this kinds of support. The other characters are similarly unreliable- Shosana is still in education so doesn’t fit the graduate story, Jessa is a “free-spirit” which essentially means that she doesn’t work but still manages to have money to live in New York, feed and clothe herself and still buy drugs. How exactly can a real person manage that? And Marnie- again she has complete financial support from her parents. I understand that TV shows usually use exaggerated characters and show you the interesting bits. We’re not supposed to ask where they get there money from or when they eat, but that’s the whole selling point of Girls has been it’s “realism”.
There was recently a show on Channel 4 called Drifters. It was meant to be a sort of female Inbetweeners. In some respects, this captured post-graduate life well- the struggle to get a job and jobs that don’t pay you. But it still felt a little off- the main character doesn’t want to live with her parents so she moves in with an ex-boyfriend because he is still in love with her and therefore she lives rent-free. Not an everyday occurrence.
I want my webcomic to be more realistic- I had been thinking that I want to write about a girl who has to move back in with her parents after graduation. I want to explore the problems of finding a job in the current difficult job market, and feeling like a child when you are technically an adult. However, I have realised that I don’t have much connection to this and cannot relate to the situation. After graduation, my boyfriend and I moved in together. We spent the summer doing odd jobs- I worked as an english language tutor and at festivals. This was followed by a winter as chalet hosts in the alps. Upon out return we both got “proper” jobs and rented a two bedroom terrace house in a small village. Currently, we are engaged and live in a three bedroom semi-detached house in a family suburb of Peterborough. This comes with it’s own set of problems. Friends from university have all moved back home and live with their parents so it’s hard for me to visit and stay with them, but equally they can’t afford to come stay with me. People I work with are older and have their own families, and people my own age are single and want to go out drinking. It feels very isolating. So this is the aspect I have decided to focus on- the fact that in your early 20s life is difficult for everyone, it’s hard to maintain friends or spend your days doing something you care about.
To this end, I am going to try and build a variety of characters in a variety of situations, rather than focusing on one central character and their “journey”. I still want to retain some humour amongst the realism, but I am definitely going for a sitcom feel rather than a laugh a day.