Michaeline: The World of Your Story


A large young woman holding a saucer of tea. On the table is a samovar, watermelon, fruitcake, apples and grapes. Next to her, a cute kitty rubs her shoulder. Affluent and full of sunshine.

Boris Kustodiev’s A Merchant’s Wife’s Teatime from 1918 shows the kind of sunny August afternoon I wouldn’t mind living in forever. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

I’m always a bit in awe of people who write intricate, dark, depressing stories like The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. They do such a good job, but . . . they have to live inside that world in their heads for however long it takes to write the book.

I guess that’s why I prefer to write things with ultimately happy endings. I have a good real life, and I’m content, but in a story, I can stir up just a little trouble, just a little drama, and then resolve it all with cake and a brighter future ahead.

I wonder how many people set their stories in the Now. When I write these days, I studiously avoid plagues, invasions of insects, racism, floods, global warming and riots. They may creep in, but they are not what I set out to write.

But even before these wild days came upon us, I rarely wrote in the Now. I mostly wrote in the near future and far future, and a little bit in the distant past (80 years or more before Actual Writing Time). I am not sure why . . . maybe because I’m still processing the Now, and am not sure what to write about it. The distant past just needs a bit of research, and the future can be fudged. I don’t trust my perception of things enough to write about the Now.

But that’s me. I think people may want to read things about Now in the near future; they’ll have a basic set of reference, and can compare their experience with the author. They’ll have processed things. They might take joy in what the author got right, and they might have a sneaky bit of schadenfreude for what the author got wrong.

What is your Now like right now?

I saw a fun game on Twitter by Amber Sparks, who asked people what painting they would like to be magicked into right now. It’s a great thread, and probably very psychologically revealing about a person’s state of mind and their desires right now.

Amber Sparks: If you had to be magicked into a painting for the rest of your life, but you got to choose - which painting would you live in?

Via Twitter, July 18, 2020


I really loved the picture of Weimar women drawn by Jeanne Mammen. Fun, sexy women playing with gender and having a good time between disasters.


I replied with the 1918 painting, A Merchant’s Wife’s Teatime by Boris Kustodiev. Good food, a nice kitty, lovely little luxuries on a beautiful day in what I’d guess is August, and a nice little town to explore when tea is over.

As a matter of fact, I was inspired to start a story from this picture about a space-merchant’s wife who was an ex-mercenary, now turned respectable. She’s taking the kids to see Papa on a distant planet, maybe to turn them over to him so she can get some trading of her own done. I think this was on one of Elizabeth’s Friday writing sprints. It’s a world I wouldn’t mind escaping into again.

How about you? What kind of world are you escaping into?

9 thoughts on “Michaeline: The World of Your Story

  1. Speaking of what’s in the Now, that painting by Kustodiev is telling. In 1918, Russia was in the middle of its Revolution. The monarchy had been abolished, the czar abdicated, the provisional government ruled, but hung on by a thread, sharing power with the soviets who eventually took it all. It would have been a fascinating period to observe—all upheaval and immense social and political change—but I’m not sure it would have been fun to live through, especially if you were a monarchist. This painting shows none of that. Is it one of optimism? Hope? Or nostalgia? Is it a warning? Or a farewell? You wonder what the artist was thinking. I love the image. It’s delightful. But not at all reflective of its times.

    Right now, somewhat to my regret, I’m working on a police procedural. Talk about feeling anachronistic! Usually I write fluff. And I’ll be going back to that as soon as I ever can.

    • As I chose that picture, I knew I really didn’t want to go to Russia (language barrier, first and foremost). But I love the feeling of that picture. It IS an almost willful ignorance of the trouble and strife going on in society. Maybe I long for a little bit of that, too. LOL, I certainly didn’t make the link between the painting and the Revolution.

      Oof, I feel you on the police procedural. I don’t think we’re going to get rid of the police, but things are definitely going to be different. Did your police force have surplus tanks and assault rifles? I used to listen to NPR quite regularly, and I remember them talking about the silliness of police forces having these war surplus goods. But if I had written a police procedural, I would have politely ignored all that, and probably created a 1940s police force operating in 2021 — alternate timeline with no COVID-19. Now . . .the police forces are not what I imagined them to be. I’d really have to rethink things. Good luck with it!

      We need fluff.

  2. My Now feels much like it did when I was five years old and wasn’t permitted to leave the yard. The difference is, this time the proscription is my own, rather than my mother’s.

    Some of my grandkids came over yesterday afternoon. My teenaged granddaughter griped about her mother. My soon-to-be teenaged grandson helped me work on a jigsaw puzzle. And the four-year-old played with the toys from my toybox and occasionally came over to press a piece firmly into the puzzle.

    It was wonderful. The only thing that could have made it better was not having to worry that I was committing suicide by having them.

    • Oh, gosh, Jeanne, it’s such a roulette! You have to live your life, but there are more chances of hitting the bad numbers these days. I don’t like the uncertainty.

      I worry a lot about my mom, who is on her own — my uncle does live about 30 miles away and they see each other regularly.

      Here’s to a decent vaccine, produced soon and available for all.

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