It’s been the story of my life for quite some time, feeling like the person standing out in the rain looking through the window while people he knows are warm and dry inside having a great time. In high school, I was the outsider. I wasn’t cool enough to hang with the cool crowd, not geeky enough to hang with the geeks and not athletic enough to hang with the jocks. I travelled between cliques, bouncing around to acquaintances I had in each group. Some of the friends I made were through whatever girlfriend I had at the time and the circle she hovered in, the band, the chorus, but I still felt like the outsider, only there because of someone else.
Fast forward to today, the present…well, the past 5 or 6 years at least. I’ve been toying around with cartooning since the third grade, the last years of elementary school were the last years I really belonged to a crowd, and although my stuff was rough, I was making improvements both in writing and drawing, steadily. I tried my hand at breaking through the syndication side, but again, on the outside looking in. I could never break through. Brought it to the internet and picked up a few dozen fans here and there, but nothing huge like I saw others achieve…on the outside looking in.
I followed the guides, the how-to’s, joined the major social media networks, became interactive, joined a few collectives along the way and watched as whatever I did, as others did and achieved moderate success, major success, amounted to nothing earth shattering. I read the sad stories other creators had and sympathized with them, sharing their stories, their new endeavors, helping them boost their likes and watched as in one day, they gained 500 and the next 1000. I put out my own pages, asking for help in getting eyeballs on and sat, one day, 2 or 3 likes, the next, nothing, slow trickles until I reached, with Willow’s Grove 144 likes and with the novel I self published…forty-two…42. On the outside looking in. Hell, the amount of money I made on sales of Accidental Earthling last year was so small, the tax software I used just laughed at me after putting in the number and replaced it with a zero…a big fat goose egg. Not even enough to claim on taxes.
I’m not writing this for sympathy, just as an outlet to release it from my shoulders, or an attempt to as I, like many others, am struggling through the years, wondering just how long until I pop, until the money runs out completely, that day to day stress, the unknowing, the wondering why I’m always the one on the outside looking in. Sure, people I talk to say I’m good, I’m funny, I shouldn’t give up, that one day it’ll happen. I’ve been waiting for that one day to happen for nearly 30 years now, hitting the streets, the internet, peddling my wares, pressing the flesh, getting smiles and nods, but still, here I am outside that big, glass window, standing in the rain while others are inside and having a great time.
No more. You want me to like something, sure, like me back. You want me to promote your craft, absolutely, as long as you return the favor. You want me to feel sympathy to your plight and lend a shoulder to cry on, go right ahead, I have two, big, strong shoulders for you to rest your weary head upon and cry a river of tears, but just remember, I have troubles too and you had better take the time to listen to my troubles and offer your shoulders back. Otherwise, hey, sorry to hear, hope you do well, but *shrugs*, I’ve got a mountain of the same over here.
Howdy Grovers! As you can see, we’ve come to the end of another volume. This little post is to give you a peek into how this volume ended and what was originally written. Now I’m sure there’s a few of you out there in Groverland who were a bit disappointed at how this volume wrapped up all happy and such but I wanted to let you know there was a method to my madness. You see, back when I first brought Crystal into the picture, I had a definite beginning, middle and end to her saga, and the end wasn’t as pleasant as it ended up. In fact, Crystal was created to be someone who was going to play a big role in the end of Willow’s Grove, not just the end to a volume or chapter, but an actual end to the strip itself. She was going to appear, get in between Max and Mel, cause Mel to either die outright (the original concept story arc), play a big role in Mel’s disappearance (partially the outcome, although I ended up keeping it vague on purpose, with a bunch of MacGuffins thrown in for good measure) or get killed off once she was revealed to be the one pulling the strings. I had leaned towards the latter but ended up pulling my shot when I had the chance. Crystal, at one point, was scheduled to die when the Walrus revealed to Max her true intention and shot her when Crystal attacked him on the podship.
Every time I had it on paper to kill the character off, something held me back and I ended up putting it off and letting her live. Why? Well, although she was based on a few people that I had grown to dislike in real life, she was fun to write and so on each of her scheduled demises, I stayed the execution, just to keep her around. True, she may not be the best person in the universe, but there was a certain dynamic between the characters of Max and Crystal that I just couldn’t maintain on a believable level with Max and Melanie. I felt that even though Max and Mel were married and had children, a history and that Melanie had been around for quite a few years in the Willow’s Grove Universe, there wasn’t a degree of credibility to that relationship that struck me as yes, they are a married couple. Crystal was just juicier to write. Is this a flaw in my own writing style? You could probably say that, but for the most part, I was just plain bored writing for Melanie Swan. Crystal made it more of a soap opera, a villain created through no real fault of her own that needed a redemption.
Now, as I mentioned above, I had strongly considered ending the strip. Crystal was going to trick Mel into fleeing, Mel was going to get injured out in space, be made into a cyborg, regain her memory of who she was and who did this to her and come back to Earth and kill off most of the main characters and battling Crystal, be mortally wounded and dying herself after killing Crystal and seeing the carnage she created. I was growing tired of the strip and wanted it to end. Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with the comic again and decided it needed to go on and sat down plotting out what would be the best way to go about this. I wanted to get back to the comedic roots of the strip and the way the strip had been lately, with tons and tons of drama, battles and destruction was veering too far away from how I saw the strip at its very core. Again, some of you Grovers may not be happy with the way I tied up all the loose ends, and trust me, it wasn’t an easy decision for me to make, but I thought it made the most sense from a writing standpoint.
This isn’t to say that at some point I may have Crystal come to some end that she deserves for her past actions, but for now, she has had her moment of redemption. She’s a bad person, who has done some bad things, but through Quincy’s intervention, that person is no longer around. Sure, it was a cheap way to do it, but again, for the dynamic of the strip and the interactions of the characters, it made the most sense. A story always needs a character that’s unpredictable and always keeping the reader guessing and Crystal fits that bill. As a teaser, we may not have seen the last of Melanie, either. I just need to think of a way that would be the best to reintroduce her into the storyline without it seeming forced or unbelievable. There’s only a few ways in which that would work, but I’ll leave the how’s and why’s for another day.
Thank you all for your comments as the volume ran its course and I apologize for not being too active in replying, but I was afraid I would have given away too many details by doing so. It was fun seeing your reactions to the events as they unfolded and taking guesses as to what was going to happen and why people were acting as they were acting. You don’t know the smiles it brought to my face knowing how well you were being pulled into the story and I can never express my true gratitude for having readers like you that interact with me and my work.
So onward we go to Volume 13 (lucky 13!) and back to the roots of Willow’s Grove. I hope I can make you laugh and groan and every now and then, feel sad for the characters, cheer for the characters, grumble at the characters, relish in their comeuppance or maybe even cry at their pain or sorrow. As this will be a comedy for the most part, perhaps there won’t be so many tears, but as in real life, sometimes things happen along the way that isn’t funny.
Now you have a little insight to my madness and why things turned out the way they did and what could have been and why they didn’t happen. Thank you again to all you Grovers! You’re the best fans a creator could ever hope to have!