Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Drinking, drinking and more drinking

It seemed today like the cast of April's Real Blog spent most of its time drinking, or explaining about the events that occurred when they were drinking. Little did I know that when Howard described his drinking antics with Winnie and Melville Kelpfroth, his aunt and uncle, that it would be the theme for the day. There was even a little glue-sniffing and smoking thrown in for good measure. It's hard to believe we are emulating For Better or For Worse, that nice family strip, except for the rape and adultery stuff, of course.

One of my interests in emulating the Foobiverse is to not have the characters stray too far from what is presented in the strip itself. This seems a preposterous thought given that I have changed Howard into a gay, opera-loving, thug who was hired as a part of a conspiracy to get Liz together with Anthony. I have discussed at length in prior posts to this blog why the strip itself made that explanation more plausible than the one LJ intended. I should mention that I am waiting for an opportunity to explain the Howard thought balloons that appeared in that strip sequence, to make the transformation complete. So, despite evidence to the contrary, it is actually one of my intents. Believe it or don't.

The novel creative experience for me today was to wend my way through the posts of Duncan, Anthony, Becky, and Gerald to piece together a sequence of events involving Duncan's and Gerald's visit to the gentlemen's club "The Gig"from the perspective of Kortney, the dancer there, whom I have recently established as being interested in Howard romantically. Not only did I want the explanation to include elements from each character's story, but I wanted to grant the possibility that Gerald and Duncan were still the somewhat innocent 14-year-olds that appear in the strip. The posters for Gerald and Duncan were disturbingly good at maintaining a sense of continuity between their stories, so Kortney only had to address the few spots where they disagreed and some of their more obvious lies. It was not as difficult as I anticipated, but when I got to the end of it, it appeared a very dull and humorless exercise to me. I was surprised when people posted they liked it. I can never tell what people are going to find funny.

Years ago I was in a production of "The Sound of Music" playing Uncle Max. In the show, Max comes into the House Von Trapp, and is required to make a quick change into a tuxedo from his traveling clothes. When he steps back onto the stage in his tuxedo, he says in a loud voice, "Presto Chango." I never found this to be particularly funny, and yet in every show the audience would howl with laughter. It was pleasing and yet disconcerting. Sometimes reactions to posts are like that.

Join us tomorrow for Howard, Prison or Freedom?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Doctors an' Thugs

On the April's Real Blog today, I was determined to parody Dr. John Patterson, the often-ignored father character not only in the For Better or For Worse comic strip, but also in April's Blog. I had set up in the previous day's postings that Howard Kelpfroth had gotten into some kind of fight and some damage had been done to his mouth as a result of that fight, in order to get Howard into the good doctor's office. While I was doing this post, I realized why it was that John and his office appear rarely. The other April's Bloggers have no real connection to the story. Nothing at John's office affects the things going on in the lives of the children. John's relation to the family is based almost solely on his reactions to the things going on with Elly.

The last main sequence in the strip with John at the office had him feeling old compared to his associate, Dr. Everett ? (the morsel). In some of the commentaries on FBOFW, they describe him as Dr. Everett Morsel, but I could not find the actual last name. All I know is he is enthusiastic, appealing to 14-year-old girls, has a goatee, and likes to finish phrases with "man." Anyway, that sequence led to John wanting to buy a new car as a sign of youth, which led right back to Elly and her reactions to that desire. After that, John receded into the background, and it became an "Elly buys a car" story.

The same thing happened in April's Real Blog, when I posted the "Howard goes to John's office" story. The story left nothing to which the other April's Bloggers could react or parody. The John parodies in April's Blog usually have to do with his penchant for model trains, which he does at home, and hence the relation. For some reason, LJ does not write family interraction with John in the office place. There are no stories of April stopping by the office and meeting Dr. Everett ? There are no stories of John doing his own children's dental work, or his children's friends' or his wife's friends' dental work (at least not that I know of).

Come the September letters, if Howard is not imprisoned and forced to use prison dentists, he will get a followup checkup in which I hope to explore some of those relationships that Lynn, for whatever reason, chooses not to explore.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Return of the Thug

Today, I felt the need to reestablish the thuggish part of Howard Kelpfroth. I realized as I was going through this, that although Howard had his skirmish with Elizabeth and Anthony, he had been taking a licking (pun intended) from almost everybody else. I also portrayed him as being super-nice in the "Garage Opera." There needed to be something to give a hint that Howard is actually a dangerous person. In the event that Howard is incarcerated in the For Better or For Worse comic strip, I want there to be a sense that he has, at some point in his life, done something to actually deserve it.

Today, Howard went into a berserker fury to defend April's old nemesis Kortney Krelbutz from 2 guys that are bigger than he is, and ironically wins the love of the person April likes least in the Foobiverse, while lifting dialogue liberally from the Elizabeth / Anthony / Howard fight scene. This was not the direction I was headed when I started writing this. I had planned Kortney as being a gift from Gordo the gangster to influence Howard. But I goofed when I wrote Gordo's pseudonym Shakleford as a real character and "April" caught me in a continuity error, my second of the day. So, I sacrificed the "Kortney as gift" plot device to the continuity goddess (I think of "April's" poster as being a dainty female, but who knows?) and returned Shakleford back to his pseudonym status.

As it always turns out in such circumstances, I got a better plot device in return. Howard goes on a date with Kortney, where she gets to show a vulnerable side that she was not allowed to have in the For Better or For Worse strip. Plus it allowed me to put Howard in a position, where he can snark on the good Doctor Patterson, who is desperately in need of some snarking. Join us tomorrow in the continuing story of Doctors and Thugs.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Garage Opera

One of the most interesting parts about doing April's Real Blog, is the challenge to keep the internal logic consistent. Everything you write has to match not only what is in the For Better or For Worse strip, but also the other posts by the other April's Real Bloggers. This turned out to be a real challenge in putting together my magnum opus post, the Garage Opera.

When qnjones as Becky proposed the idea of doing opera in her garage, my initial thought was that it would be a Becky / Howard moment monitored by Becky's mother. I was going through my thoughts on the matter on Saturday night (8-27), when qnjones's Mary Worth saga popped on my screen saying that Becky couldn't make it. So then my planned humiliation of Howard at the hands of Becky's mom and the consoling of embarrassed Becky with opera, turned into just a humiliation of Howard. Fortunately, I may have gotten a running gag out of it. Howard will be tongued by every single adult female in Milborough, if I have my way.

No biggy, there's always tomorrow night. Sunday rolled around, and suddenly I find postings that increase the attendance at the "Garage Opera." Marjee and Maynard are posted in as protection for Becky, and April posts that she wants in also. Each post is a rewrite and the text describing the events just gets duller and duller. No offense to Marjee, Maynard, Becky, and April; but they are difficult parody material on this Blog, largely due to the fact that their Blog writers write them so well. So I went to the old fallback, Elly Patterson jokes. I am so ashamed at my lack of originality.

The plus side, is that I got to give a little Howard perspective to the Marjee and Maynard characters and their relationship. The big plus is that Howard finally meets April. When Howard met Becky, it changed the whole tenor of his posts. Something about 14-year-old Becky turned the thug Howard into the kind, overprotective Howard. I am anxious to see what changes will occur with Howard, now that April is in the mix.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

It's Getting Dark in Here

In order to take our hero / villain Howard Kelpforth in a new direction, I decided to let him suffer a few degradations. He gets fired from both of his jobs, one at Lakeshore Landscaping and the other at the Milborough Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Light Opera Company. He also loses his boyfriend Ross as a part of the bargain. Some person posted as Dennis (Elizabeth's gay dance partner at Anthony's wedding) the other day using some titillating language, which I presume was a lead-in to a potential Howard / Dennis relationship. Unfortunately for that person, I am not really interested in a happy ending for Howard. Dennis is way too clean cut and way too good for Howard. Law student. Ballroom dancer. Yuck. Howard is a thug. An opera-loving thug, but a thug nevertheless. I wanted the entire GLBTG community to turn against him and I took advantage of the fact that Dennis had posted (reminding me he existed) to demonstrate that even the most stalwart of Howard's potential supporters will be swayed by Lawrence and Nick to defend Elizabeth. Dennis does the stereotypical pounding of the villain in support of the helpless female. It sort of rankled me to play such a stereotype, but it served the purpose of showing that Howard is cut off from his support system. If the person posting for Dennis is reading this, sorry for abusing your character. After Howard is in prison, maybe they can have conjugal visits.

The downside of these degradations was that it made the Howard posts unremittedly dark, which takes away from I view as the main purpose of April's Real Blog, which is to snark about the abysmal writing in the For Better or For Worse strip and to do our small part in helping to correct the writing errors. My next objective was to get back to the humorous postings.

Q.N. Jones (Quincy?) doing Becky practically gift-wrapped an answer to my / Howard's problem, by creating an uncle Ralph character, who is motivated to like Howard, by Becky's endorsement and to hate Lawrence, by virtue of having a past romantic relationship with Lawrence's life partner Nick. Uncle Ralph is an electrician, which means I can place Howard working as an apprentice with him in virtually any place in Milborough I want, just long enough to snark about the characters. It was the perfect setup to allow Howard to return to the more light-hearted humorous observations I had been doing, and fits the tone of the blog better. Q.N. Jones, I bow my unworthy self at your no doubt dainty and princess-like feet (I keep imagining you're a girl, thanks to Becky. My apologies if you're not.)

I then decided to add an element of mystery to the Howard situation, by posting as his arch nemesis Lawrence Poirier doing sort of a public service announcement against Howard. As I was writing it, I was shocked at how much good common sense Lawrence was spouting. He was seriously addressing the danger of the strip Howard and was appalled by the lack of common sense being displayed by Elizabeth and April in even talking to Howard. It was surreal for me. Literally the text was ripping off my fingers as if someone else was writing it. I know now what authors talk about when say "the characters wrote themselves." It was freaking me out, man. But I digress. The only thing that was not common sense was putting in the part where Lawrence would throw in an off-reference to how wonderful Anthony was, to give a hint of doubt about whether or not Lawrence is telling the truth. You see there is no corroborating evidence as to the truth of Howard's conspiracy claims, except for the extraordinary writing and drawing that was in the actual For Better or For Worse strip. Even when I was reading it, I could not believe that LJ actually had the villain being defeated by an ear-tweaking. I was in shock when I saw it. Was she afraid that after introducing the whole fairly repugnant idea of rape, that her audience would be offended by the villain getting smacked around? Then my jaw just dropped when Anthony started coming on to Liz just after she was attacked. If you think about it logically, there is no way Lawrence would betray his childhood friends and arrange for Liz to be attacked. But, the strip itself is the corroborating evidence for Howard's story. That plus the fact Blog Becky has confirmed Howard to be gay. It should be mentioned though, that Howard has never actually declared himself to be gay. I intentionally use the phrase "my orientation" to be ambiguous. In one of the posts today, Howard mentions he had an ex-girlfriend Bea. Hopefully, this will lend some ambiguity as whether or not Howard is telling the truth or lying about Elizabeth. Is he telling the truth, or lying? I honestly do not know. I am waiting for Howard to tell me.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The conspiracy is ended

With these evening's final post on the April's Real Blog, I took the Howard Kelpfroth character away from his connection with Lawrence and Nick and ended his association with the conspiracy I had adopted to explain the bizarre Elizabeth / Anthony story that played out in the For Better of For Worse strip a few weeks ago. I was getting tired of the conspiracy thing anyway.

Q.N. Jones, who has been doing an admirable job doing Becky and Gerald, suggested they we could do a "letter from the slammer" series, if LJ decides to incarcerate Howard in the September family letters. I think this is an excellent idea, although I am not sure how the logistics will work out, if I we both start posting as Becky reading Howard's letters. I also must admit that I get a little jealous of / vicarious thrill with Howard every time Becky calls him sweet. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to jail. Howard will no doubt meet some of Milborough's more nefarious characters and get their warped perspective on things.

But until that happens, Howard has an opportunity to move around the Foobiverse a little bit, and not be so tied town to observations linked solely through the conspiracy to assault Elizabeth. This will allow me to develop Howard a little bit before he gets locked away in September and maybe I will even get to write something someone finds funny.

Monday, August 22, 2005

I am enjoying doing the character of Howard Kelpfroth on the April's Real Blog. Howard is the man who attacked April's sister Elizabeth in the comic strip For Better or For Worse in the August, 2005 strips. Elizabeth is rescued by her childhood sweetheart, Anthony Caine, setting up what is expected to the denouement of the For Better of For Worse strip when it gets retired in 2007.

As I was reading the Howard strips, I was reminded of an interview with J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series of books, where she said something to the effect that she was disappointed that her readers so symphathized with 2 of the main villains of the series (Severus Snape and Draco Malfoy). As I read those books, I saw the flaw in her writing method. The villains regular receive come-uppances from the main characters of the book that mark the heroes as being cruel. With such cruelty, no matter how over-the-top evil she makes them, the readers still like the villains.

Years ago, I had seen the movie musical Oklahoma on TV, and found myself symphathizing with the villain of that piece, Judd. No matter how mean the character was in the musical, he could not match the cruelty of the rest of the entire cast to him. I got to perform this part on stage, and worked my darnedest to get symphathy for the character and got very nice reviews for my efforts. It is my belief, that when you have a 3-dimensional villain, then the villainy really works.

In contrast to these works, I compare Charles Dickens, who would have his heroes suffer degradation after degradation, and the villain would not get his come-uppance until the very end, usually with the hero trying to show some kindness to the villain. This is why you remember Scrooge, and Fagin more than 100 years later.

Howard, however, is by-the-numbers villainy in For Better or For Worse. He sees Elizabeth Patterson and immediately starts making suggestive language to her, stalking her at her home, and then exits immediatly after his job is done leading Elizabeth to her rescuer. I expect that his ultimate fate will be announced in the September letters from the main characters of For Better or For Worse fabricated on their website. I expect that his fate will be incarceration of some sort. At this point, Howard may disappear from the April's Blog as a character, as it would be impractical to continue it.

What I have been trying to do is to give Howard a little more dimension. He is representing himself as an pretentious performer in the Milborough Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Light Opera Company (which is a takeoff on an organization that actually exists in my town), who says he was employeed by Elizabeth's boss, Lawrence Poirier to set up Anthony to look good. Lawrence has already been outed by the strip's creator, so there is a connection in the sexual orientation. The other connections in the comic strip with Lawrence are his high school friends Gordon Mayes (who recently and mysteriously took Elizabeth to see Anthony at his home) and Elizabeth's brother Mike, who has already been forced to marry his childhood sweetheart by the strip's author. All of these things were done by the strip's author, presumable to gain the readers' sympathy with Anthony and his troubled marriage. However, the author has stacked the deck so high for the readers to like Anthony, he is now imminently unlikable. All of this deck-stacking fit to make a nice conspiracy theory.

The part I have not decided is if I am going to continue down this path of Howard as stupid and gullible enough to attack someone at the behest of someone, or if I am going to move the character to true villainy after the September letters reveal the details of his incarceration. Wait and see.