Skip to main content

Yet another direction for Teresa Creegan

Not long ago I posted about how I was hoping to finally get my ass in gear and write a story about Teresa Creegan, the recurring bad-luck character I've been messing around with for the last twenty years.  One of the big obstacles for me with getting a TC story out on paper is that I keep changing my mind about the finer details of her character, even though the core concept is always the same.

Last week was no different.

The TC stories in my head have always been a mixture of monomyth parody and modern fantasy.  An apathetic anti-hero, Teresa, is called into action by supernatural forces to become an archetypal Chosen One and save the planet.  Teresa refuses because she doesn't give much of a shit about being a hero, and is only talked into the journey by the promise of power and wealth.  When she eventually conquers all the nonsense fantasy challenges the supernatural forces set out for her - e.g., "Pluck the finest leaf from the tree at the top of that mountain" - she finds out that the only power she actually gets to keep for herself is "Love for Humanity," and nothing cool like super strength or speed or anything like that.

So, TC reluctantly goes on a series of misadventures that always leave her worse off than when she started, but along the way she saves the planet, anyway.  Not because she wants to, but because nobody else will.

That framework has always been there and has always been my goal.  The thing is, the actual character of Teresa Creegan has changed so many times it almost doesn't feel right to call her that name anymore.  Each incarnation has been dramatically altered beyond recognition.

Most recently - around the time I was all like, "Hey, world, get ready for this!" - I envisioned Teresa as an extreeeeeeeeme anti-hero.  She would have started out the story drugging a frat boy at Mardi Gras so she could steal his wallet and Adderall, and from there you would have found out she had an entire amateur criminal network at her disposal to blackmail, extort, and otherwise exploit students on her college campus.

My thinking was: what if Teresa wasn't just a reluctant hero, but also the worst possible choice for a hero?  What if the one who was destined to save the universe was one of the biggest jerks you'd ever met?  That could be funny... right?

But the more I tried building a story around her, the less interested I got.  Eventually I took a break, and then somewhere along the line I watched a few episodes of Girlboss.

Now, I have mixed feelings about Girlboss and I don't know if I want to go on record saying anything too negative about it.  Most of the show is pretty good, particularly among the supporting cast.  The one thing I noticed that I was persistently not a fan of was Sophia, the protagonist.

I understand that the show is loosely autobiographical and that the real life businesswoman whose autobiography Girlboss is based on was up to some rough shit in her teens and twenties.  So, I won't fault the show for creating such a miserable "character."  I understand that's supposed to be her personality, and who knows, maybe she gets better as the show goes on.

The fact remains: I really didn't enjoy seeing Sophia on camera very much.  The character bothered me so much that I'm worried I'll have residual spite for Britt Robertson, the actress who plays the lead.  She's egocentric, needlessly angry, lashes out constantly, and then tries to win you back over with moments of unexpected sincerity that just lead you to ask, "If you're capable of this level of self-awareness, why are you such a jerk all the time?"

And of course, that's exactly what I asked myself about Teresa Creegan.  If she's truly that much of an egotistical, greedy miscreant, why would I want to read a book about her rise to power?  She's a villain.  And not like a fun, misunderstood-genius-who-might-do-good kinda villain - an out-and-out kill-innocent-people-and-laugh kinda villain.  Turning a character like that into a hero might make for a good one-off dark comedy, but I don't think I could turn her into a more grandiose story without depressing myself.

So, I've decided to tone her down a bit.  Good thing, too - the second I did that, the rest of her story became so much clearer and logical.  It feels more genuine.  I feel like I'm getting closer to the story I always wanted to tell and not just a story I feel compelled to tell.

The recurring theme I've always wanted to drive at with these stories isn't cruelty or turning Teresa into the butt of a joke or anything like that.  I want to tell an epic story about the transformation of the apathetic capitalist that all Americans have inside of us to an active agent of good.  I want to tell the story of a true hero - somebody who has no powers, no networks, no resources, and who nevertheless refuses to give up.  Somebody who gets knocked down time and time again, who faces extraordinary odds and instead of just devolving into base cynicism and saying, "Fuck it, this'll never work," they summon all the drive they have within them to lift their head up high and save the day.  If I had a thesis statement, it would simply be: "Give a shit."  And I sure as hell can't do it with the mini-Kingpin I had in my notes earlier this year.