"Falling Into College" Interview
with Richard Lobinske
1. How much, if any, of FIC is inspired by your own college experiences? How do you come up with the plotlines that are not? How autobiographical are some of your stories?
The overall feel came from my undergrad experience. After the drudgery of high school, I found college to be a welcome experience that I immensely enjoyed (well, except finals weeks). Some of the details have been used. Such as the hygiene habits of Michael's freshman roommate, which was based on one of my sophomore year roommates. The theater trash activity in Boston Baked Band came from my college theater experience. Like Daria, I also chose to attend summer semesters without a break. But, I really didn't directly convert any of my experiences into plotlines. Some of my wife's experiences also provided inspiration (for example, the relationship with her freshman dorm roommate led to the development of Karen).
Daria and Michael's relationship is heavily influenced mine with my wife, but not that close. If I'd done a direct parallel, they would've been married in six months.
To develop stories, I'll start with one basic idea and try to think out the logical development to reach that idea, or that would result from that idea. This basic idea can be a theme, event, scene or even a single line or joke. This applies both within stories and across stories. I keep an index file of the stories I've written and the ones I have planned, along with a quick statement about them. This helps to plan out plot arcs that cross several stories. I also do have my own story bible to keep track of what I've developed for background. DJW and I have often bounced ideas off each other in chat, and these have made it into stories.
2. Where do you think your FIC characters diverge the most from those portrayed in the "Daria" show?
For several of the characters, I tried to develop them beyond what was presented in the series, but hopefully expanding on traits shown or hinted at by canon. Importantly, I've tried to show the characters growing beyond their high school personalities. Many years refereeing RPG's and developing adventures for them probably helped with character and plot development.
The greatest divergence would be extending Upchuck's behavior from comic to criminal.
3. Give examples of bits that you cut from the stories, directions the stories did not go, and tell why you decided to change direction.
I have a habit of brutally deleting old file versions as I work to help avoid confusion and errors from working in the wrong file, so the 'outtakes' are long gone.
A few directions or such that I didn't follow that I remember:
For a long while, I mentally kept both avenues open for where the series would go after May Day (Michael stays or he goes to Rome). The story was inspired by listening to BOC's In Thee and Michael was initially created to ultimately be in that story, hence details like his being from Detroit. As I developed the relationship between the characters, and seeing the overall positive response, I chose to have him stay.
The timing of when Daria realized that she loved Michael and told him changed several times during the course of events.
In A Part That's Gained, one version had Stan dying while Jane administered CPR and another had him die later. I was never happy with the way either of these plotlines developed, so Stan lived to see another story.
There was a scene between Daria and CC that was omitted from A Few Important Details that may appear in an unspecified later story.
In The Parents Are At Rest, I went through many different versions of the scene between Daria and Sandi. Some included her reading the letter and others not. I mostly had a difficult time in finding a way to handle the scene that followed Daria's ethical standards and still allowed her to help Sandi break away from Linda's influence.
4. One of the hardest parts of writing a post-canon series is creating good new characters. How do you create characters interesting enough to hold their own next to the canon characters while still keeping them secondary?
I wrote backgrounds for them to help me understand how they would react and what some of their motivations would be. I've included some elements of my personality or interests into each of them, such as Karen's southern background (and habit of cussing at computers). For the occasional or one-time characters, I try to remember that they are supposed to represent people and not just a plot device.
I found the key to keeping my new characters secondary is to maintain the focus on Daria.
5. How did you come up with the idea of a 'happy' Daria; how do you keep it balanced so she's happy, and yet still the Daria we know?
To some extent, it was and continues to be a bit of balance against the Angst crew out there. Smile Mostly though, it goes back to my overall college experience. I was changed a lot because of the good experiences there and I think that helped to make my life happier in the long run.
She is still the same person, and views things around her honestly. Happiness would not remove her tendency toward sarcasm, or her ability to banter with her friends. To use Glenn's comment in the Kara's most recent question set to him, she still knows that life isn't fair. But she is learning that sometimes, she can still win.
6. What additions to the Dariaverse were you proudest of (e.g., the true story of "Mad Dog" Morgendorffer)? What is the FiC story you're most proud of and why?
The development of Karen. As far as I knew when I started the series, nobody had written a well-developed, likable college roommate character.
Secondly would be developing the Morgendorffer and Barksdale family backgrounds, including how Nathan became 'Mad Dog' or how describing some of the important events of Jake and Helen's life prior to the series.
Chosin Fate is probably the single story I'm most proud of, because I was able to develop Nathan as somebody that Ruth would have wanted to marry and have children with, but would become the person that Jake remembered. Plus, I was able to find a way to have Jake find a small way to connect with his father.
7. When do you find the time to write, and on average (in terms of hours), how long does it take you to write each story?
I've long had the habit of getting up an hour early in the morning, to slowly drink my morning coffee and eat breakfast, and to do something enjoyable. This is one of my common writing times (okay, that may explain some of the typos in my stories when I first post them). Also, I will often sit down and write after work as a method to detach from the day. In my last job, I was able to take my laptop to work and write during breaks, but my current job doesn't give me time for that. I usually find time on the weekends to write, though that is extremely variable.
Estimating time is complicated because I will often I will have an idea and write a scene for a story that's planned for the future. Plus, my attention can wander and I'll scan the web or get into a chat while writing. Overall, I seem to be finishing about one story per week, so I'd guess 20± hours. Hm, now that I add it up, I do seem to spend a lot of time writing.
8. What aspect of story writing would you most like to improve upon?
I'd like to eventually stop my infamous synonym transpositions (your/you're). I'm still not entirely happy with getting dialog to fit with characters and to keep it from sounding too formal.
9. Of all the characters you've created (Michael, Fran, Karen), which do you like best or relate to the most?
Maybe because she was the first new character I developed, but I still like Karen the best.
If I step outside of FIC, my favorite characters would be Daria's daughters from Mother's Love, Autumnblossom, Eveningsky and Truemind.