Many years ago, the website for the newspaper comic For Better or for Worse contained monthly letters from the characters of the comic, which provided supplemental material not shown in the comics themselves. In 2007, that section of the website was ended.Enter a group of Caustic Critics, who took it upon themselves to continue the letters, thinking them necessary especially as the comic approached the endgame.The result was The New Retcons, an interactive story that took on a life of its own as various authors assumed the personas of the characters of For Better or for Worse, and made them more than just plot devices, hinderances, and caricatures. They made them people, with as many flaws as normal people have.What originally started as a supplement to the comic took on a life of its own after the comic ended, in varying directions, ultimately resulting in the murder mystery arc informally known as Who Silenced Elly Patterson?, where Elly Patterson is found dead and the plot explores the family's reactions to it and the police's investigation into it.A table of contents for The New Retcons can be found here, while Who Silenced Elly Patterson can be found here.
The New Retcons contains examples of:
Accidental Misnaming: It's mentioned early on that John's fellow dentist Everett had to take out a full page ad in the local paper to tell him that cause John kept calling him 'Elliot'.
Accidental Murder: Connie claims Elly's death was this, as a result of Elly tripping. She lied.
Elizabeth and Clarice theorized that Hanneke's murder by Gavin was this. He was more the type to wait until she cheated so he could stiff her on alimony and child support, not murder
All of the Other Reindeer: Elly justifies taking away Robin's hearing aid as a desire to avoid this trope. Mira thinks it's just so Elly has something to complain about.
Ambiguous Disorder: Not Robin, who's eventually diagnosed as autistic, or even Elly, who was eventually diagnosed with being under a fugue state, but Anthony. Word of God is that he has undiagnosed Aspberger's-undiagnosed because his obsession with numbers suited Gavin's needs just fine.
April Fools' Plot: April accused Brad of trying to pull this on her when he told her Elly was dead. When he affirmed it was true, she fainted.
Artistic License - Biology: Liz tried this to explain how she and Anthony had a dark haired baby. Unfortunately for her, Anthony paid attention in biology and figured out the baby wasn't his.
Awful Truth: Elly had a daughter when she was a teenager and gave her up for adoption. Note that while April and Elizabeth were rather accepting of this, Michael and John did not take it well.
Michael's got an additional one: John isn't his biological father.
Anthony has one too. His father murdered his mother.
Beleaguered Bureaucrat: As much as they'd like to commit Elly without John's consent, unless Elly becomes a danger to herself or others, the law's hands are tied; they can't. This changes when she kidnaps a boy, thinking he's Lawrence.
Bi the Way: Michael, who had been suppressing that for years to marry Deanna. Word of God is that he had a fling with Weed. After they divorce, he eventually finds himself a boyfriend and they plan to marry.
Bittersweet Ending: Michael and Deanna eventually find happiness. It's just not with each other.
Bridezilla: A variation in that the mother-of-the-bride is the one that's overbearing and over the top about it. Though once an actual date is set, Liz steps up to the plate, to the point of delegating one of her letters to a bridesmaid.
Broken Pedestal: Anthony comes to realize that John's not an ideal father figure after all.
Brutal Honesty: One of Anthony's bad points, such as when he told Frank Day and Francoise and James that Elly was dead.
Convenient Miscarriage: Deanna, twice. Bonus points because the first baby was conceived despite Dee being on a birth control shot. It might have happened because being born in Millborough had an adverse effect on her ability to carry children.
Deliberate Values Dissonance: Jim acknowledges he screwed up in sending Elly away to give birth and put the baby up for adoption but said that was the norm at the time, a view Iris backed up.
Disproportionate Retribution: Gavin opposed investigating whether Millborough being built over a former nuclear site had an effect on its citizens. And why? To get back at Anthony through Tracey and Gordon, first for going to work for them instead of him, then for opposing his expansion plans because they were outdated.
Kortney blamed Elly and Moira for getting fired, never mind that she was busted stealing. So she got involved with and engaged to John to get back at the now deceased Elly. Then when John died, leaving her and their two sons the bulk of his wealth, she bought out Lilliput's and fired Moira, then bought out much of Millborough itself to absorb it into Greater Scarborough.
Ditzy Genius: As revealed in the endgame, just think of Robin as a nicer Sheldon and you're on the right track.
Domestic Abuse: A friend of Michael's suffered it at the hands of his wife, and that experience made Michael realize that John's negligence at seeking help for Elly was just the same thing.
Drama Queen: Elly, more than anyone. If there's not something to confront or fight over, she is NOT happy.
Family Versus Career: This is a bit of an odd example. Elizabeth wants to break out of this trope, yet at the same time believes she's expected to follow this trope. She's actually surprised when Anthony makes suggestions to put James and Francoise in day-care and get a job if she didn't want to be just defined as 'Anthony's wife, James and Francie's mother'.
For Science!: One of the plot points that was established was that back in the 1960s, the Canadian government decided to simulate what would happen in a nuclear war by seeding the ground of various out of the way places with a radiation source to see what effect low-level fallout would have on wildlife. One of those places was a small farming community near Toronto called "Milborough". The revelation that a corrupt member of Parliament and local businessmen colluded to let the place get built on despite the risks is a bit of off-putting background to the domestic failures of the Patterson family.
Freudian Excuse: Elly's hatred of motorcycles stemmed from being rejected by a man that rode one. That man was Frank Day, Elly's one time fling and the biological father of Claire. She also became a Neat Freak to cope with her own feelings of dirtiness after her grandmother called her unclean for having a child out of wedlock, a feeling made worse after her first marriage ended.
Seeing how his parents treated Elly after she got pregnant with Claire caused Phil to decide he would never have kids.
Generation Xerox: Elizabeth and Michael ultimately manage to avert this, though only with considerable time, effort and soul-searching.
Gold Digger: What Frank and Stan both believed Elly to be, with some of The Baby Trap thrown in for good measure for Stan
Kortney started out as this, dating and then getting engaged to John for his money. She realizes she fell in love with him when he defended her from Connie at Elly's funeral
Good with Numbers: Taken to its logical extreme with Anthony, who sees all of his life as a sort of account system, with seed capital and debts in the people.
Go Out with a Smile: Claire's mother. She was found dead with a smile on her face while waiting to go Christmas shopping with Claire.
Happily Adopted: Claire. One of her regrets is she never got to tell her mother how much she meant to her before she died. Elly even ruefully admitted that Claire turned out the best of her children because of this trope.
Heel Realization: A couple of months after Elly is committed John realizes what he's done and who he is. Because of this he tends to stay away from everyone as he knows he would just make things worse.
While not quite being a Heel by any means Anthony gets something like this when he realizes all the crap he's done to Elizabeth.
I Reject Your Reality: Elly's descent into madness started with her denying April was her daughter and claiming that her two children were little kids and that Eddy was his father Farley. It got worse from there.
I Take Offense to That Last One: Elizabeth said John had a mean temper and blatantly accused him of murdering Elly and he takes offense at her calling his favorite food 'greaseburgers'.
Innocent Innuendo: A nonsexual variant with Elly and Meridith. Elly, thinking Meredith is Elizabeth, threatens to send Meredith to the farm. Since Meredith was told when Elly "sent the dog to the farm" meant the dog was put down, Meredith thinks that Elly wants to kill her.
It's All About Me: Elly. Elizabeth starts to act like this when she gets pregnant. Mike has it worse, particularly in the beginning, when he can only see things in the context of himself and his book. He viewed watching his children as research for pete's sake! Not that John's much better: he wouldn't get help for Elly cause it'd make him look bad, and his eulogy at Elly's funeral was about how he'd miss her cooking. And then there's Connie...
Keeping Secrets Sucks: In his defense, Anthony didn't know Claire being Elly's daughter was supposed to be a secret.
Kick the Dog: Gavin's opposition to the investigation on the effects nuclear fallout had on the citizens of Millborough. Roger's flip-flopping on the matter isn't much better, he's saying what he needs to to buy property dirt cheap.
Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Deanna does this when she muses that the strangeness that permeated Millborough in September 2008 felt like someone took two years out of their lives because it was no longer in print and tried to sell the rest of it. Of course, then she makes references to how life would have turned out had the comic gone a different direction like it actually happened (ex: Elizabeth marrying Richard Nichols).
In truth Elly's madness was this as well; it's a reference to the 'new-runs' Lynn Johnston attempted to do, combining strips from the eighties with new strips. Various memory problems (particularly with Deanna) are also attributed to the new-runs. And Elly's life flashing before her eyes signaled the return to straight reprints. And Claire came across someone in her travels eerily reminiscent of Lynn Johnston herself.
Becky said that her on and off feud with April felt like a sixty-year-old woman writing a story kept forgetting that they made up.
April got a chill down her back when she found out her dorm room was located in Johnston Hall.
John ran into the man he was based on, Rod Johnston. Neither Rod or his receptionist were amused.
Mandatory Motherhood: In the sole letter from Carleen, she mentions how she's always asked when she and Weed are going to have kids and is constantly given the 'you'll change your mind' spiel. Particularly from Weed's dad, with some Heir Club for Men overtones.
Also overlapping with Heir Club for Men, Therese's father stops speaking to her after she gets a tubal ligation since she can't/won't provide him with a grandson.
Elly resented Phil and Georgia because they didn't want kids; she didn't want them either but she thought she had to have them.
Maternally Challenged: Therese acknowledges that she is this, and while she does love Francoise and will take care of her, she just can't handle being the primary caregiver and thinks Francoise better off with Anthony and Elizabeth.
May-December Romance: John and Kortney. His fellow dentists point out how unusual it is that he can say his fiancee is the same age as his daughters.
Meat Versus Veggies: April becomes a vegan, and Elly is in denial about it, constantly trying to get April to eat a burger or tuna casserole. Not to mention she has to try recipes at Mike and Dee's because she gets snide comments from her parents every time she tries at her house.
Whereas with Dee, at least there was a reason she was skeptical of April's diet, she was concerned because a friend tried a vegan diet and her hair fell out, but was assured by April's research into the matter.
The debate was revived later between April, her aunt Bev, and her uncle (Bev's brother) Bill. Bill's also a vegan due to environmental factors, and April is baffled that Bev can't see the contradiction in being a vet to animals that will be slaughtered for food.
And then when Who Silenced Elly Patterson began April told Brad that Elly 'forgot' that she was vegan again, and that she threw out the vegan margarine tarts April made cause 'real butter tarts have butter in them'. All this when she was trying to make amends with April! And because she couldn't admit that she ate them all.
Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Investigating into Elly's murder ended up opening the cold case on Hanneke Caine's disappearance, when Gavin came under suspicion and a house search found Hanneke's body.
Mistaken Identity: John mistakes Claire for a lawyer hired by either Mira or the Mayeses to force John to give up his shares in Gordon's business. He takes it much worse when Anthony inadvertently reveals her true identity as Elly's illegitimate daughter and attacks Elly.
Murder by Mistake: Connie said that this happened in the case of Elly's death; the target was actually John. She lied.
My Girl Is Not a Slut: Anthony did not take it well when he found out Elizabeth wasn't a virgin, and the fight drove her out of the wedding suite and into the arms of Warren Blackwood, leading directly to James's conception.
My God, What Have I Done?: When Elly snaps out of her fugue state and is confronted by her doctors about what had happened, she is horrified, particularly when she looks at the letters she had written, and is equally horrified at just how much Connie enabled her.
Nature Versus Nurture: All three of Elly's daughters worry if they have inherited Elly's madness or if their different upbringings and paths in life will prevent that from happening. Worries increased further when a letter from their maternal aunt Phyllis gave hints that mental issues were genetic in grandmother Marian's family.
Neat Freak: Elly attempts to be one to purge her own feelings of dirtiness due to having Claire out of wedlock and being a divorced single mother. It didn't work.
Never My Fault: A favorite of the Patterson bunch, especially Elly, who is keen on blaming April for letting Farley and Sera loose when she and Connie never bothered to spay and neuter them, then when confronted over the gate accuses April of dredging up the past.
And this is probably one of the things Connie enabled her on, seeing as she was the same way: blame John for Elly getting better and trying to make amends (or as she sees it, turning Elly against her), Claire for seeking out Elly, and Liz for Lawrence's homosexuality, since she believes Cure Your Gays works.
Pet the Dog: For all the bad choices and line crossing John did, he did make a good one in siding with Tracey and Gordon and saying that there was a need to investigate the nuclear fallout and its effects on Millborough's citizens.
Precision F-Strike: "Christ, what an asshole!!" Notable in that Anthony said it, and he's not one prone to swearing.
Promotion to Parent: In an odd sense. When Elly lost it, she insisted that April wasn't her daughter and April got thrown out of the house. Since she was still technically a minor, this could be applied to Michael since he let April stay at his house. Definitely more plausible when John gave up on convincing Elly that April was their daughter, effectively disowning her.
In an odder sense: Claire didn't even know she had siblings for years, yet she's becoming more of a parental figure to April than Elly ever was. Was made kind of awkward when April nearly said she was old enough to be her mother-they're 22 years apart.
Race Lift: Technically, James Allen Caine. In canon, based on the one image◊ we see of him, he got his looks from Anthony. Since he's a Chocolate Baby in The New Retcons, his hair and skin were darkened to resemble his biological father Warren.
Released to Elsewhere: Elly tried to pull the 'sent the pet to a farm' variant on April to explain what happened to an aging and ill Dixie. April was pissed. Not so much because of the lie, but because Elly decided to get rid of her because tending to Dixie was "too much work", even though April was the one tending to her and Dixie was getting better.
Later on as Elly fell deeper into her madness she said that she would flip a coin and that Edgar would go to a 'farm' if it came up heads. When Francoise asks what would happen if it landed tails she was told that Francoise would be the one going to the 'farm'.
Rescue Romance: Invoked by Elly to get Anthony and Elizabeth together.
John viewed his marriage to Elly as this. Same with Kortney.
Retcon: Obviously, given the title and that they picked and chose what parts of the Strip of Destiny made it into the story, but even minute things like Elizabeth and Anthony's hair colors were retconned. In the earliest color strips◊, Elizabeth was shown with dirty blonde hair and Anthony with what could only be called orange hair. By the end of the series◊, both their hair colors have lightened to where Anthony could be called blonde too. Yet the distinct reference to Anthony being a redhead indicates that the writers went with the older color scheme.
Sarcasm-Blind: One of Anthony's failings; he takes sarcasm at face-value.
Secretly Wealthy: The authors went back and forth on whether John was this or only pretending to be eventually settling on it being true, as Kortney and her twins inherited most of it.
Self-Serving Memory: A lot of people are guilty of this, but the most egregious example would be John choosing to believe that he got off easy for attacking Elly because the judge was sympathetic to his having a crazy wife, understanding of a man with no priors, and because John was a contributor to his campaign. In reality, John got off because he was not worth the effort to prosecute, the judge called him out for being a waste of space, and his 'contribution' was buying a five-dollar bumper sticker.
Serious Business: Of all things, whether Elizabeth using 'Mrs. Elizabeth Caine' was correct or incorrect. Started a minor Flame War when that happened.
Shipper on Deck: Michael (among others) was convinced April and Gerald would eventually marry. He was dead wrong.
When Mike and Dee pondered the 'what ifs' regarding who they married and Mira said that Dee would have the same life had she married Perry, just in Seattle, she compared it to Star Trek, and how despite Nero changing history the Enterprise crew still got together.
Elizabeth said that Elly was due for a verbal smackdown such as Near gave Light.
Significant Birth Date: April and Claire share the same birthdate, April 1st. This is another reason Elly tries to ignore April, her birthday just reminds Elly of Claire's.
Stranger in a Familiar Land: Therese muses that in ten years Millborough will be unrecognizable and just a part of Greater Toronto, a view Liz shares, seeing Elly as the last bastion of what was Millborough. She also chose to attend Elly's funeral to invoke this trope so she can make a clean break of her memories before emigrating to France. This is confirmed in Elizabeth's final letter when she and Anthony went to attend the closing of their alma mater. The only thing that didn't change is her neighborhood.
Stigmatic Pregnancy Euphemism: Elly (and Connie) was sent to a church-run academy after she got pregnant with Claire to put her up for adoption when she was born. According to Mira, the term they used for girls like her was 'wayward'.
Sure, Why Not?: In the October 2008 letter Elly wrote, there were many typos in the letter. When asked if that was a sign of Elly's madness manifesting, the author behind Elly's letters admitted that the letter was actually not proofread, but decided that the earlier suggestion worked.
There Are No Therapists: Inverted. There are therapists. John just refuses to seek them out for Elly until he's no longer given a choice in the matter.
The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: Someone from the coroner's office suspects this with regard to Elly's autopsy, since there are things that didn't make it into the official report such as the contents of Elly's stomach or additional lacerations and puncture wounds, and that the chief coroner took over from the man that put the concerns forward, and that said chief coroner might have connections with someone with enough power and influence to cover it up. It was John. The chief coroner was in the same model railroad club he was in. Uniquely for this trope though, he wasn't the murderer, just did it out of a misguided sense of protecting his children.
The Unfavorite: April, so damn much. She's at best ignored, and at worst effectively disowned, when John gave up on convincing Elly she was their daughter. Here's a good indicator of this status: only Michael and Phil attended her high school graduation. While two people had good excuses (Liz was in Vancouver dealing with her own family crisis and Jim was on his last legs), that does not excuse her parents (Elly still denied that April was her daughter, and John just couldn't be bothered).
Not that Francoise was much better at first.
You wouldn't think of it at first, but Lawrence is this for Connie. Connie was able to give her first son to relatives, and had been banking on that when she got pregnant with Lawrence and Paolo refused to marry her, but the relatives wouldn't take him in cause of his mixed race. So Connie resented being stuck with Lawrence. That he later came out of the closet didn't help matters.
Workaholic: Mike. Between that and his repressing his bisexual nature, it tore his marriage with Deanna apart.
Unreliable Narrator: All over the place. It was discussed in the comments for Liz's February 2009 letter, particularly in the context of if Liz was one concerning the going-after.
Liz: "Said "friend" was a forty year old (she'd just turned the big four-oh April the first) woman named Claire Thompson; when Anthony said she could be my sister, Frank said that was for a good reason: she was!!"
Michael: "On the way back, our house sitter called with the news that the Patels filed kidnapping charges on my mother."
Deanna: "Mike and I have tried to fight this out, cry it out, pray it out. Saturday, he moved out."
"Valley Voice Exclusive: Elly Patterson Found Dead"
Brad:"Seal it up. [The Caine house] is now a full on crime scene.
What Could Have Been: In the earlier letters, the authors dropped plenty of hints that it would be Elizabeth and Anthony that would divorce. They eventually have a Earn Your Happy Ending with them staying together. Instead, it was Michael and Deanna that divorced.
"Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Endgames and Epilogues, the last chapter of Who Silenced Elly Patterson, which covered Elly's death, and final letters from the characters in this story, ranging from six months later to fifteen years later.
Wicked Stepmother: Step-family, more like. Once Elizabeth got pregnant, it was like Francoise didn't exist to the Pattersons. Elly even called her 'someone else's castoff'. Only April showed her decency until Elizabeth got a wake-up call by seeing how unhinged Elly got. Then she started behaving more like a mother.
John becomes this to Michael when he reveals he's not Michael's biological father.
Woman Scorned: Connie killed Elly because she did not love her back.
Word of God: It's usually handy to read the comments of each entry to get tidbits that might not have been portrayed clearly enough, or supplemental material that was not written about, such as Weed and Michael having a fling in college or Connie and Elly meeting at the school for wayward girls or Anthony having Aspberger's.
Word Salad: Elly starts to talk like this as her mental state deteriorates.
Younger Than They Look: Elly expresses jealousy that Annie, who's Connie's age and three years older than Elly, looks ten years younger, despite that she didn't try to fight aging like Connie.
Your Cheating Heart: A major fear of Elly's. Her fears that Stan was doing it caused her to spring The Baby Trap. She constantly worried about John doing it. In her madness she thought April was a hygienist with aspirations on John. Funny enough, she never knew of the time he DID cheat on her with Kortney.