Talking with Margaret Shulock of APARTMENT 3-G
This week, The Supporting Case took a break from eyeing our favorite supporting characters to talk to Margaret Shulock, the writer of APARTMENT 3-G. Here’s what she has to say about inheriting the classic “soap opera” story strip, and what it’s like to write for Margo, Tommie, and Lu Ann.
Wow. I just did the math and it has been almost 7 years! Honestly, it doesn’t feel that long. The previous writer was very suddenly gone and it was desperate times. “Quick, get me a writer or someone who can fake it!” That’s what I hear my editor shouting in my colorful imagination. So I took over in Nov. 2005 and here I am still having fun in May 2012!
As you can imagine, I did as much research as I possibly could about the bare bones of each character’s personality.
From what I have gleaned from several older sources, the girls’ personalities began this way:
Margo-sophisticated glamour girl
Tommie-The funny one
Lu Ann – The young innocent
As for my take, I like to think they’re all as multi-dimensional as the rest of us flesh and blood folks. They get on each other’s nerves and, as with any threesome, alliances are formed and broken. But they’re all still together and I don’t see that changing…ever?
Honestly, when I started I had so much to learn I couldn’t even think about past histories. I knew just barely enough to write within safe parameters. Later I ran into difficult spots a few times.
The trickiest one was finding the correct way for LuAnn to receive a letter from the Air Force informing her that her husband’s MIA status was finally, after some years, “killed in action.”
There was a lot about the long-ago husband that I didn’t know. Finally, after exploring every option I got the documented poop from Karen Moy and her amazing encyclopedia of all things comic. That saved my skin!
I liked the job more than I could have hoped. It felt like fun and I wasn’t expecting that. As for the characters, I was learning who they were and who I wanted them to be. It was all easy-breezy and the hardest job I ever had!
Now they feel like a part of me or maybe I’m a part of them? Lu Ann has probably changed the most and I think for the better-less good-works, more emotion. I’ve discovered that Margo has great courage and strength aside from her egocentricity. And Tommie is caring and compassionate AND sings on Broadway?! They’re a well-rounded bunch.
It’s not that hard to write for three distinctly different women. I know them quite well by now and it’s easy to hear their voices. I take from my personal style and find the opposites and parallels in the girls. For instance, unlike I, Margo has an extremely short fuse. I grew up around some short fuse types so I enjoy letting Margo explode now and then. I know she’ll brush it off as if nothing happened leaving everyone else in 3-G walking on eggs. I love that woman!
SIX CHIX, for which I do the Tuesday cartoons, is a series of stand- alone gags; there are no recurring characters. That tends to make us a bit confusing for first-time readers. But as for writing, it’s only difficult in the sense that it’s wide open.
The continuity strip has a built in structure. APARTMENT 3-G has 3 girls and the Professor; one can move these players around and create new characters but the structure holds it together. For me, this makes for easier inspiration. I know the characters and I know the location. Now I only need to ask a question like what would Margo do on a hot day in the city? And I’m off in a daydream.
I’m afraid I have an inclination for drama, often of the tragic type. Believe me, I do my best to squelch it. I’ve already killed two potential boyfriends. [Well, maybe only one. Eric could still be somewhere in the Himalayas.] I vowed to myself no more death, lots more fun. I just need to find a nice little romance with no tragic ending. It could happen.
I now confess, after several years in trepidation, The Ruby Wright love child story was in my head from the beginning. I went back and forth like a third-rate Hamlet but finally it came to pass. And it was good.
My goal is to make the girls sound like real people. Since the whole story [except for a few caption boxes] is told in dialog it’s important that they speak like real people. I like to think the girls talk a bit more casually and Margo definitely lets it rip #$@!!-style once in a while.
As for the blurb about Lu Ann and “important causes”, that’s gone by the boards.
As Jay Kennedy said when I started the job,” think Sex And The City.”
And I do.