Michaeline: When Words Fail

The Oblique Strategy of the Day was “State the problem in words as simply as possible”.

A girl gagged in a laboratory, watching a gooey liquid man experiment with test tubes

When words fail, sometimes you have to use other tools to define the problem. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

And you’d think this would be an easy-peasy strategy for the writer, since what we do is words. But there are two sides of every argument, and there are two sides to every brain, and sometimes, just sometimes, the problem isn’t from the verbal half of the brain, but that mysterious, artsy-fartsy, swirly-whirly half of the brain that sends us dreams of hairbrushes and neglects to make clear exactly what that means.

So, when you don’t even have clear images to base your words on, it’s time to dig in the toolbox and look for other techniques to make the problem more clear – because half of solving any problem is knowing exactly what the problem is. Continue reading

Michaeline: Cyber Attacks: Bad News and Good News for Writers

I woke up this morning to news of ransomware attacks on computers in more than 70 countries (The Telegraph (UK) reports 99 countries as of this writing), and my first thought was: BACK UP MY COMPUTER!

Woman from the 1950s with a giant old computer

Update your security and back-up your data. Jean F. Hall would tell you how quick and easy it is today! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve been thinking about a major back-up of my data for a few months now, but I’ve always come up with an excuse: I don’t want to spend three or four hours babysitting my computer. There must be an easy fix to keep my computer awake, but I didn’t want to spend five minutes looking that up, either. (UPDATE: Yeah, it took less than five minutes to find out how to do that. No excuses now! Your system may be different, so let me just encourage you to find out if you don’t already know.)

But now, thousands of computers across the world have been invaded by this virus that puts all the files into gobbledy-gook, then threatens to delete everything unless the owner pays up. The Guardian (UK) says the ransom is $300 (233 pounds/34,000 yen). I’m worried. This relatively low ransom, and the scattershot targeting of victims suggests Continue reading

Michaeline: Weird Intersections of Creativity

A young man with curly beard and long curly hair, holding a hoe and surrounded by small people and horses.

“St. Isidore the Laborer” — who knows what he’ll dig up? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

More than anything, this is a post to encourage you to pay attention to the care and feeding of the Girls and Boys in your Basement – the busy little muses who send up your ideas.

I find initial ideas to be easy. I think it’s because I consume so much information – I’m on the internet for at least two hours a day, and I spend a lot of time listening to music. I used to follow a few podcasts (writing, news, pop culture), and I used to read at least two to four books a week. The podcasts got replaced by music (my commute is usually 30 minutes each way, and that’s my main listening time), and the books got replaced by news articles, cultural pieces and YouTube clips of late night news shows. I do miss the books, but my information input is much faster, more timely and I’m able to squeeze odd bits of information-intake into little bits of time I never used before. I’d never pull out a novel while I was waiting in a long check-out line; I knew better. I knew I’d get to a good part, and then be interrupted by Real Life. But with my phone, a short article about forsythia pruning is enough to while away the minutes.

So my Girls in the Basement are fat and happy; absolutely replete with trivia and deep thoughts and societal systems. They send up five or six ideas, and I sort through them, and watch where they bump together. That’s what I mean about weird intersections of creativity – who else would care about why my forsythia bushes are only blooming at the bottom? And the closet of old Agatha Christie books I’ve got stored way in the back of my forebrain is the same stockpile any number of mystery fans have in theirs. But when those two ideas bump together, I get a Continue reading

Michaeline: Love Narratives in Six Minutes or Less

Whirl around as love makes you dizzy! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I fell off the “No YouTube” wagon hard this morning, but my shame is your game! I found two great videos that capture that thrilling, fizzy bit of fictional love, all condensed down into a short dose that you can watch while you have a nice cup of soothing beverage.

You may remember the anime clip of “Helpless” from Hamilton that I introduced last fall. (Sadly, the user has closed their YouTube account, and I can’t find it anymore.) However, I found a whole slew of other versions this morning. Artists *love* Hamilton, and a lot of them are doing animatics (which are either primitive animation or elaborate moving story boards, depending on your point of view and the clip in question) that allow people to draw and share their own visions of the popular musical. Here’s a new one from Szin on YouTube (4:09). Lots of blushing and twirling around as Alexander courts Eliza and wins her hand.

If you prefer your fictional romance with a little more live action, here’s a wonderful skit that Anne Hathaway and James Corden performed on The Late Late Show with James Corden (April 20, 2017; 5:28). If there’s any irony, you have to dig it out yourself. What they do here is distill the typical rom com film down to the key plot points, and they’ve chosen to sing little snippets of songs that perfectly reinforce each turn and twist. It’s all there: establishing shot of heroine alone, the cute meet, the big fall, the major problem, the dark night, the flight from love, and the chase that ends in reconciliation. Lots of lingering looks and more twirling around. (-: For me, it’s not a romance unless it puts my head into a whirl.

One think I really love about James Corden is that he’s not ashamed to be an old softie. He gladly embraces the happiness and the little pains, and encourages the rest of us to not be so hard and condescending.

I hope you enjoy the videos. May Day is around the corner, and in that certain temperate zone in the northern hemisphere, that means romance is in the air – the flowers are blooming, the bees are buzzing and the May Poles (at least symbolically) are popping up. Let your heart turn light with a little spring fancy this week. I certainly intend to!

Michaeline: David Bowie and the Borrowers

1974 David Bowie playing guitar with his hair in that fuzzy mullet.

A screwed-down hairdo, like some cat from Japan. (Image via Wikimedia Commons. 1974 AVRO’s TopPop. Licentie afbeeldingen Beeld en Geluid Wiki)

David Bowie has been part of the world-wide cultural conversation ever since the early 70s, and even though he’s been gone for more than 15 months, he’s certainly not forgotten.

He was a man who did a lot of things well. Music was his mainstay, but he also made his mark on fashion, art, video and how we think about people who are a little different. For me, his genius lay in how he would notice how various concepts – often originating from other people – bumped together, and then he would artificially reinforce the congruence, strengthen the bond until the music (or video or other new concept) held together and made something new and fresh. He was a packrat of ideas, he acknowledged his influences, and somehow he knew just how to retrieve the right bit at the right time. What a mental filing system the man must have had . . . .

He borrowed. And people borrowed from him. And so the circle goes round.

This April, two huge ripples in pop culture took place that reminded me of David Bowie.

Japanese guys in wigs with swords, duelling. Bowie is said to have been inspired by Japanese wigs like these for his early-70s hairdo.

Some cat from Japan. (Utagawa, via Wikimedia Commons)

First, there was the lipstick-smearing thing on the infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad that first aired on April 4, and was pulled on April 5 for being tone-deaf. I don’t know; someone certainly had their head stuck firmly up in the early 70s, and I wonder if the ad was simply Too Early. People are mad and unhappy in 2017, and still have a lot to say about the injustices happening.

I’m sure most of our Ladies remember when we all wanted to buy the world a Coke. (Dailymotion clip of the commerical) That peace-loving anthem came out in Continue reading

Michaeline: Multicasuality, My Word Of The Week

Nineteenth circus poster with a young lady taming several tigers and lions.

My heroine has more than one tiger to tame. I need to find out which one is the most important tiger of the bunch.

Stories aren’t always simple. In fact, although you sometimes meet a story that drives single-mindedly to its conclusion like a bowling ball dropped out of a fourth-story window, usually a story will have frills and complications. Much like our world today, many of the best stories, especially if they are long ones, have multiple causes that pile up and turn into a big, beautiful story.

When we were in class the first year, we spent a lot of time talking about main plots. There had to be one protagonist, one antagonist and one major conflict that drives the story. (-: More than once, I got the comment, “Pick a lane!” on my submissions.

We didn’t discuss sub-plots that much, and how they fit into the story, but sub-plots are mostly there to support and drive the main story even faster to its conclusion.

For example, in Pride and Prejudice we’re talking about Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth wants a partner she can love and respect. Darcy thinks he wants a partner he can respect – she must be pretty, witty, kind, cultured and above all, a book reader who has shaped her mind into intelligent channels. Initially, Elizabeth sees a proud man who has no real reason, and Darcy sees a country bumpkin.

The subplots promote these initial views. Mrs. Bennet’s actions when searching for husbands for her daughters reinforce Darcy’s ideas that the neighborhood is provincial and not up to his standards. Darcy’s snubs of Mr. Wickham reinforce Continue reading

Michaeline: Villainous Love

Carol Kane gazing with a speculative look into a surprised Gene Wilder's eyes

Why should heroes have all the fun? Try out the scary side of romance with your villains! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

The villain is the hero of his or her own story. It’s an interesting proposition, and I have to admit, the best villains have good reasons for doing what they do. A smart, strong villain makes Our Hero’s ultimate win a more worthy one.

So, if we have a strong, smart villain (with a fatal flaw, of course), why not expand the analogy out to his henchmen, or henchwomen, as it were? And if two characters happen to have a certain chemistry, a twisted but loving symmetry, why not give them a romance of their own?

I stumbled upon such a bad romance on YouTube this morning. I’ve never watched Rio 2 (or Rio 1, for that matter), but this song between Kristin Chenoweth and Jemaine Clement encapsulates a romance between two vibrant characters who happen to have big problems keeping them apart. Jemaine’s character Nigel is an evil cockatoo, and Kristin’s character Gabi is a poisonous tree frog. While Nigel is sleeping, Gabi sings of her impossible love for him in Continue reading