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Obsession Ad Absurdum

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Average Everygirl #6: Special's Obsession | Panel 1: The narrator says, "Special Galpal loves to read. She's always in the middle of a book," and Special, smiling, says, "Guilty as charged, your Honor." | Panel 2: The narrator says, "She's obsessed with Shakespeare. Her bedroom walls are plastered with playbills and posters." Special, frowning askance, replies, "Um, no. Not so much." | Panel 3: The narrator, listening for once, says, "Oh. Who, then? Austen? Plath? The Russians? John Green? Harry Potter? Twilight?" Shrugging, Special says, "None of the above. I don't really do obsessions." | Panel 4: The narrator asks, "Then how do you decorate your room?" to which Special replies, "With books. Duh."

I’ll admit it. I went through obsessive periods of reading when I was a teenager. I had my Montgomery phase, my Christie phase, my Austen phase, my Heyer phase, etc. But they all overlapped one another, and any period where I focused primarily on one author only lasted a couple months at most. Long-term obsession was never my forte.

I also never decorated my room with literary paraphernalia. But then, I wasn’t much for decorating anyway.

(Aside: I did have an obsession with Jessica Rabbit when I was nine or ten. She was a redhead but not crazy, and she was beautiful and sultry and always in control, and she had a good heart. So I plastered my bedroom door with pictures of her that I either traced or drew, and my mom bit a knuckle and said under her breath, “My daughter’s gonna be a stripper when she grows up!” and my dad reassured her, “It’s just a phase. Leave her be and let it run its course.” And he was right. Six months later, the pictures came down and life returned to normal. /aside)

Obsession in moderation

I enjoy characters with mild obsessions or fixations. I think there’s something very human about them. When the fixation appears ad absurdum, though, my connection to the character frays and splits. There’s a difference between a character who likes to read and a character obsessed with reading, for example, Proust, or a character so obsessed with reading that they never appear in a scene without their nose in a book. Each of these character types can serve a narrative purpose, but the author should strike a balance between the strength or type of obsession and how or how much the reader is meant to connect to that character.

And, of course, the “obsession” shouldn’t be mentioned once as a character trait and then never come up again. In that case, it becomes a superfluous detail that might indicate shoddy character development, and nothing more.

This strip concludes the “Best Friend” set of comics. Special should make an appearance later, if I can manage it. Totally will show up again in a couple of weeks. Hooray!

(PS — Does my writing a comic strip make me a comic-stripper? My mother will be so proud!)