Friday, July 23, 2010


I started adding chapter titles in my own adventure comic strip, Slipped, when I arrived at chapter 100 this past April. I was inspired by the titles I saw above the daily strips in an out-of-print copy of Arf: The Life and Hard Times of Little Orphan Annie 1935-1945 that I’d recently tracked down.

Chapter 114 is titled “Recollection or Confabulation?” In one panel the protagonist, Tyler Wilson, aka adventurer and thief the Scarlet Sparrow, says she writes for a football (soccer) newspaper in Paris. (It seemed, to me, like a good occupation for her.)

The problem is I tried to draw her eyes looking up and to her left, as they do when you’re trying to remember something. (She’s been time-traveling, so she needs to think for a moment to separate what’s occurred from what’s to come.)

But I saw in fact I’d drawn them going to her right — which is what happens when you’re lying.

I erased them and redrew, with her eyes now looking to the left. But the picture just didn’t look quite … right. And it occurred to me: For whatever reason, she’s lying.

So I did her eyes yet again, as you see them, up and to her right. She is intentionally misleading her listeners — and you and me. She isn’t a football writer, apparently. Or maybe she doesn’t remember what she did for a living before becoming the Scarlet Sparrow, so she’s improvising. As the psychology term indicates, Tyler’s confabulating.

This was not the first time my characters have dictated what happens in the strip.

Award-winning short-story writer David Means (author of the just-released The Spot, among other collections), in an interview I conducted with him a couple weeks ago for a freelance story I wrote for the Kalamazoo Gazette newspaper, admitted his characters often surprise him.

“They do things you don’t expect,” he agreed. But they don’t take over storylines, as some writers (me included — see this earlier post) have suggested. “It’s not magic. It’s controlled magic.”

Hmmm. Maybe. Let me just check with my Slipped characters to find what they have to say about this ….

No comments:

Post a Comment