Match to Flame 147

May 18, 2021

Susan Smith had started out as the high school’s shyest girl who blossomed in a story arc that involved Les and Lisa’s engagement. Having put Susan through the wringer in the previous story, I brought her back and put her through the wringer again. There’s an ancient aphorism in regard to playwriting that goes like this: Act One—get your hero/character up a tree; Act Two—throw stones/rocks at your hero; and Act Three—get your hero down. That’s something I can work with, so I had a more confident but still vulnerable Susan attract the attention of a popular school jock who, over time, turns abusive toward her. The piece let me go a little deeper into Susan’s psyche and, when she seeks help from Les and Lisa, to play with time in a new way—as I went back into the strip’s own history to when Lisa was pregnant in high school because she hinted at a similar situation in her own life at that time. Having my own internal history to play with was another offshoot that grew from moving the strip forward in time. I could now revisit various events in the Funkyverse and add different tones and colors to create richer backstories for my characters—once again opening up whole new avenues of exploration. The story also allowed me to address the issue of dating abuse, which was just being brought to public awareness at that time. I approached it with the same mind-set that I did when I dealt with the subject of teen pregnancy: if I wanted to be honest in writing about high school, I should write about everything that’s encompassed there.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 9

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