Webcomic Week Day 2: Story Planning

After graduating from college, I lingered in the academic world for a few months, holding desperately onto my receptionist job in my school's Art Department for as long as I could muster. When there were lulls, in between buying posters of The Royal Tenenbaums or checking out a Lord of the Rings blog (told from the perspective of all the guys competing with Legolas's prettiness) I explored the wonderful, wide world of webcomics. Each of the ones I regularly checked in on left me with a Format Idea, in one way or another:

I kept pulling little influences from the various things I was reading, trying to piece them all together into a story that I wanted to write. Not just write - but read. And convince myself this was a worthy thing to do. (Note to future webcomickers - never let yourself worry about what's already out there or everyone who's better than you is already doing it - just keep going and dig yourself a little niche of your own!)

Apart from webcomics, I was also heavily influenced by Terry Moore's Strangers In Paradise, which taught me that a world featuring an angry, beautiful, tiny yet vicious female protagonist was possible.


Things I knew I wanted to include in the story (overall):

  • Strong female protagonist
  • Meddling gods
  • A snapshot of life as an outcast at college
  • Discovering who you are at the same time you're expected to map out your life plan
  • Comparing the similarities between modern life and greek mythology


So once I had my Format Influences, and my Themes to include, I had to think about Structure. I tried a couple of different angles to approach my story:

  1. Start off with a teaser scene - something powerful and random, that could slowly be revealed over the rest of the story.
  2. Start after a major incident had happened, then over the course of the story, refer back to it.
I worked both of them, and ran into the same problems. The story seemed over-dramatic for no reason. Why would you care about big things happening to characters you didn't know? Why would you cut out something interesting that happened, and work backwards from there if you didn't even know where you're going?
Once I'd moved on from my Art Department receptionist job, I had started working at a gallery. But not just any gallery - a water sculptures one. The trickling sound was so soothing (so relentlessly tempting to customers who practically lined up to ask me if it made me have to pee), that I soon realized I had to bring books - several books - to avoid dozing off. Before I'd realized this necessity, I noticed the gallery owner's son had left his copy of Harry Potter lying out. I had COMPLETELY scoffed at the whole Harry Potter craze right from the start, but since I was desperate to stay alert, I put my cynical 21-year-old self away. Shoo shoo. And just reading the beginnings of Harry exploring Hogwarts made me realize a third angle I could try to approach my story:
  • Start right at the beginning - introduce the main character as she's being introduced to a new school year and living situation.

After a lot of wasted paper and ink and notes (since I had so foolishly plunged headlong into #1 and #2), I started my 3rd attempt at story telling. I didn't bother worrying too much about planning out all the details, I just wrote. This was the first inkling I had as to what motivates me, personally, as a writer. If I'm dragging my feet on the story, or the dialogue, or the scene, then I'd better change it. There's no slogging through a part just to get to the cool ones - if you're slogging, your readers are giving up on you.

And again - this week is mainly about my process as a writer/comicker, and how I navigated through the process of creating my first webcomic. By no means is this a how-to for budding comickers! ... More like a cautionary tale. :)

Altogether, I had my format (utilize the vertical infinite canvas, add color, try to structure the panels as neatly as I could), my themes, and my structure. Next step - character development!