The Challenge of Nancy Duncan

One of the challenges of writing Sunnyville Stories lies in one of the characters and that is Nancy Duncan, Rusty’s mother.  I have talked about her before but there’s more to Nancy.

Nancy seems to have a love-or-hate reaction with readers.  I’ve had a few people tell me they like Nancy and at least one reader claimed to have the hots for her!  Others though don’t like her because of her bad temper and how she bullies her son.

Nancy is a challenge for me when writing the script.  It’s not unlike one of my influences Charles Schulz when writing for Lucy Van Pelt of Peanuts – he openly admitted he enjoyed writing the character but grew to hate her.

Sunnyville Stories #8, Page 5

When I made the character, I wanted someone who was distinctly unique (hence the pointy design) but with a distinct personality.  Nancy is a character who wants to be in control and she’s feared that losing that control makes her less of a person (er, cat).  This is a source of conflict with her son who not only contrasts with her in terms of personality but also the fact that he wants to go his own way.  This is the source of many stories (especially with Sunnyville #8 and #11) and will continue for some time.  She also tends to be quite aggressive as she has nearly hit Rusty but has been stopped usually thanks to Rusty’s father intervening.

Sunnyville Stories #11, page 21

So what is my challenge with this well-defined character?  It is very easy to make her too aggressive or just plain unsympathetic.  I’ve had actual parts in my scripts that had to be re-written where she flings very nasty insults at Rusty.

Another challenge I’ve had is using force on Rusty.  A few times, I wrote passages where Nancy slaps or even punches Rusty!  One of my original endings to a story involved an angry Nancy taking a club and chasing her son off into the distance with the intent of hurting him.  This was a nod to some of the Italian Donald Duck comics I read where an angry Scrooge McDuck was shown chasing after Donald at the end of a story, usually with a club or mace intended to hurt him – sometimes, Donald deserved this but most of the time he didn’t.

You’re probably wondering by now why these scenes have never made it into the final product.  It’s for two reasons.  The first one is that I don’t want to turn Nancy into an unsympathetic character that everyone will hate.  Showing her using physical force against her son, especially if it’s for no reason, is going to make people hate the character and I don’t want that.  The second reason is because of a present double standard in popular media where it’s considered acceptable or funny for a female to physically strike a male.  I am NOT a fan of that double standard and have largely avoided that in Sunnyville; I want it to be MY work and not some cliched material already out there like just about every other comic book, blockbuster mega-hit film, live action sitcom and so on.

Sunnyville Stories #8, Page 30 Top Panel

Lucky for me, I keep a rule that I stick with when writing.  Nancy Duncan, in spite of all her flaws, loves her son a lot first and foremost.  No matter what, Nancy would never trade Rusty (or her husband Al) for anyone in the world.

That’s it for today.  Meanwhile, sign up for the Sunnyville Stories mailing list if you haven’t yet.  Stop over to DriveThru Comics for digital copies of Sunnyville Stories.  Copies ofSunnyville Stories Volume 1 are still for sale on Amazon, both in print and Kindle formats!  While you’re there, be sure to pick up Sunnyville Stories Volume 2 and (if you love Gothic horror) Von Herling, Vampire Hunter!  And now available is the latest installment of the saga, Sunnyville Stories Volume 3.  Get them today!

Copies of all the above titles are available to the library trade via Brodart Company and to retailers from Ingram and Baker & Taylor (via BCH Distribution).  Copies are also available direct from the publisher.  For ordering information, contact maxwestart(at)gmail(dot)com or write to:

Different Mousetrap Press LLC, 1100 19th Avenue N, #108, Unit J, Fargo ND 58102-2269 USA 

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About Max West

I am a freelance artist and the creator of Sunnyville Stories, an independent slice-of-life comics series.
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