For a while now I have been contemplating Clarissa’s story, and where it will lead. My preference would be that it not even continue.

The trouble is that Clarissa wasn’t supposed to have a story to begin with. She was the star of a tasteless, one-off joke that couldn’t possibly be topped. And then Stuffed Friend unearthed a vein of gold hidden inside the premise, and then the goddamn Internet got a hold of Clarissa and started making its demands, and then she got her own page on TvTropes and, well… now I’m stuck with her.

If that sounds disrespectful, believe me: Clarissa wishes she was rid of me as well. But here we are: a critical mass of people want to find out how Clarissa’s story ends, heedless of the fact that it could well end in a far worse place than poor Clarissa already finds herself.

And so, as they say, “once more unto the breech.” But if I am going to toss Clarissa into the grief blender yet again, the least she is owed is the promise that I will set the damn thing on purée and let it run.

I’ve had new characters, scenes and moments bouncing around in my head for years now, but no coherent thoughts on what they all add up to. It will only be as I sit to write the story that they will, hopefully, fall into their natural slots. The interesting thing I’ve found about writing is that if the story is good, you do not so much write it as un-write it; slowing the tornado of your mind and letting the parts settle where they will, like bricks building a house on their own, with me there only to trowel on the mortar.

Part of what has delayed my progress on continuing the story is trying to figure out what to do with the rest of Clarissa’s family– her mother and two brothers, who are as much he victims of Clarissa’s father as she is. There characters came to life in vivid detail for me in Family Portrait, and I have been intimidated at the possibly of having to write the long, time-consuming arcs that their own stories might demand. I would not want to begin exploring their own characters and not finish the job, as I have a tendency to underestimate the burden of the stories I begin. (see Weapon Brown.)

I think I will solve this problem, at least for the interim, by stepping away from Clarissa’s well-established nightmare home life to explore Clarissa’s inner life. You might be surprised to find out that after all these years, I still do not have a clear idea of what Clarissa makes of all that is happening to her. I probably haven’t examined this aspect of her story simply because Clarissa’s circumstances being what they are, I don’t know yet how to give her agency.

As I explore this new territory, I have also been contemplating the terrifying prospect of giving Clarissa… a friend.

This subject is more fraught then you might imagine. The potential for undercutting my own tone and causing the story to take a turn for the cutsey (to say nothing of the “wootsy”) is very real.

Even as I write this, different notions of where such a development could lead are swirling like debris in my tornado brain. But in all that clutter, one idea is still entirely absent, that being probably the most critical thing needed to bring Clarissa’s story to its conclusion: I have absolutely no idea how things will finally play out between Clarissa and her father, especially since having him to freeze to death in a hedge maze (my original idea) was apparently already done in some movie.

All this emotional freight, and I still have to make Clarissa’s story–the topic of which makes a visit to the dentist seem like a weekend at Disney World in comparison–somehow funny. Can you blame me for dragging my feet?

Well, even dragging feet will make progress if they drag long enough. In October, Clarissa’s next chapter begins whether or not either of us wants it to. Hopefully someone does.