Are you nuts? That’s not how it works! The way it works is that you think the stuff up and then you write the stuff down. Nothing more complicated than that, up and down. The preceding has always been my inevitable reaction to hearing authors extol rhapsodically about how their characters are the ones who take them by the hand and show them how their stories are going to unfold. That the authors have no idea where the work is taking them until the characters they’ve created reveal their hidden secrets. Now, I’m not calling anyone a fibber (isn’t calling someone who makes up things for a living a fibber somehow redundant anyway?), but I’ve always regarded these authorial protestations as a rather curious need to guild the lily, and as something that always set off my blarney meter. And then.
I’ve covered Lisa’s origin story in various other forums, the most recent being the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean, Volume 5. I’ve recounted how she emerged from being a simple drawing in a sketchbook to becoming a cipher of a girlfriend to eventually evolving into a great deal more. And how that evolution seemed to push me from prolific punster to calling for more thoughtful and more honest work from me as I told her stories. However, there was one curious incident that happened around then that I resolved never to reveal. It was that curious. Just a little too Twilight Zoney if you get my drift, so I promised myself that I would forever keep this spooky deal my own little secret. Yet, here I am about to reveal it, in a book no less. I know . . . what a hipatwit. But I swear with my hand on a complete run of the Silver Age Flash that it really happened.
For a long time it was my habit to go running at the end of a workday around a large field near my house. It was always a nice way to unwind and let the thoughts of the day sift out. On one particular afternoon near the end of the run, I suddenly saw the future of Funky Winkerbean start to unfold on the big screen inside my head. Not in ideas, not in words, but experienced as something totally different—a landscape. Exactly, do-doo-do-doo, do-doo-do-doo. But there it was, just this rolling terrain a lot like the field around which I was running—except that every rise, every nuance in the landscape represented a beat in the overall Funky Winkerbean big picture going forward. It was like hitching a ride on the arrow of time and being allowed to see everything over the horizon. Much of it involved Lisa, but everything else was there as well. Everything. It would take the better part of a decade before I would finally work my way through all of it. And here’s the kicker: that was the one and only time it ever happened. I suppose you could chalk it up not being properly hydrated or whatever, but, nevertheless, from that point forward, I knew Lisa’s story. I knew where it was going and also what it was going to cost to tell it.
So there you have it. I saw Lisa’s story way down the road so to speak, but I still had to get there, and the first part of that journey is the book you hold in your hands. If Lisa’s Story was where the storm front broke, this is where the first drops of rain appear on the windshield. Don’t think of it as a prequel to Lisa’s story, but as the beginning of her story. It marks the moment when the masks started to come off.
Available on the Books page on this site.