Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Character Driven

There's an interesting and wide-ranging interview with Terry Moore, creator of Strangers in Paradise, in The Comics Journal #276. (A small portion of the interview is available online, here.)

Moore sensitively discusses his growth as an artist and writer throughout the interview, and describes a personal "road to Damascus" moment he had while conceptualizing the series.
Dirk Deppey: I noticed that in your last Journal interview, you mentioned that you thought the original four-issue miniseries was sexist, and I'm not sure I got why that was. Do you still think that's the case, and if so, why?

Terry Moore: I think maybe it just felt more sexist to me, because I was writing about women doing things I wanted them to do. When I was plotting the regular series, I knew I wasn't going to write like that anymore. I was going to write about what my characters wanted to do, not what I wanted them to do.
That's a subtle, but important, distinction to make. Here's how Moore completes the thought:
Moore: The entire miniseries was based off of one idea, this scene of a woman taking off her clothes in the park; which I thought was just a charming moment I'd love to see in a movie, you know? But it was for me. To write the rest of the miniseries I just did a detective routine from there — "OK, what would make a regular woman do that, because that's unthinkable, and how did she get to that point?" It was kind of like a writer's challenge, you know, catch a moving train and then figure out how everybody got there and where they're going. That's what I did with the story I just kind of wrote forward and backwards from the park scene.
Later in the interview, Moore nicely clarifies his relationship to his characters.
Deppey: I hear a lot of cartoonists refer to their characters as though they were real people, and I guess that has something to do with the fact that you've just been sitting there and living them for the past 10 years, and working out their motivations.

Moore: I really don't think you can write a story worth reading without thinking of your characters as real people. It was a turning point in my life when I realized that. Before that, I never made anything worth reading when I was just trying to make up characters. When I stopped thinking about it like that, and just started writing about people, that's when my whole life changed. That's when I came up with SiP. So I've kept that approach ever since.

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