Technically I could have done this next week with In-Jokes but it’s a subject that’s burning my mind at the moment so no time like the present I suppose. If I were a lazy person then I could probably stretch this out into two posts, but I love you guys so much that I’m not going to do that! In order to illustrate my point, I’m going to tell you a story.
Roughly six years ago I started my own webcomic (which I won’t name or link to because, well you’ll see) while at school and updated it daily. It was a parody of my own life and so self-referential that it hurts. While my commitment to the thing still impresses me to this day, and the entire thing turned out to be kinda funny, it became frustrating. I began including parodies of people I knew in the comic: and surprise surprise, people love being mentioned in things. More people began requesting it and I went with the flow because, y’know, social introverts like to try new things. Sometimes. I knew the comic was becoming of little interest to people outside of my friendship group but it was a fun way to pass the time.
I’m not the greatest artist in the world: the art was pretty terrible. However, I loved writing the comic – it was different to my normal writing because you had to account for visual themes (obviously). Eventually I came up with a great concept for a webcomic and began writing it, then posted a few strips.
Not one person said they liked it and most of them said “go back to drawing comics about me”.
So I quit entirely.
I learned a harsh lesson that day: if people love your work, make sure it’s because of the work and not because of the smidgeon of self-reference they see in it. When you write and feel the need to hint at something you and your friends do in real life? Don’t. It might make for interesting character development, but hide it. Work it into their individual character biography. I’m not saying it’s wrong for people to create characters based on people they know in reality – far from it actually, as that’s how we as people create our own characters, by taking the traits of people we know. What I’m saying is that nobody cares that you and your friends saw a giant pigeon unless they were there too.