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 Continue reading

Michaeline: Part 3: Weddings Interruptus

I think that I have never read
A story as thrilling as a Reddit thread

Or in the words of the old cliché, truth is stranger than fiction. Over the past two weeks, I’ve talked about how a wedding can drive the action in a story for better or worse. Love, money, the desire to have one’s own way (a form of power) – and sometimes even elephants are included in the wedding, so it’s a ripe ground for conflict and trouble.

A young lady from the mid-1800s embraces a judge in a courthouse; at the foot of his bench, two lovers embrace, and there's a guitar on the floor, bedecked with ribbons.

Nothing like a courthouse wedding! Now with added flamenco guitar. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

So, let’s say that you are ready to write your own story. Of course, personal experience is the best source for good, truthful fiction. But sometimes you don’t have those sources. My husband and I were married in a town hall in early June to get my visa set up properly, then we had three different ceremonies/receptions in August. I don’t remember any particular drama, although I may have been oblivious at the time, and skillful at blocking the bad stuff out later. My sister’s wedding also went well. The only thing I remember is controlling my portions of delicious, delicious American food in order to fit into the dress she’d ordered for me. Otherwise, it was lovely colors, lovely flowers, and a very lovely bride. Great for a real-life wedding! But not very good fiction fodder.

However, the internet is full of wedding stories. I don’t think it’s coincidence that the term “Bridezilla” rose in popularity at the same time the Internet was growing quickly. First-person, third-person, tight and omniscient, all sorts of true-life stories were put on the internet to blow off some stress and gain a little cyber fame. Reddit, the site devoted to citizen journalism in all its amateur glory, is a gold mine.

So, here are a few ways from Reddit that weddings could be disrupted fictionally. (I take no responsibility for the truth or accuracy of Reddit’s reporting, or my reporting here. The point is to fictionalize for entertainment purposes.)

One fun way to distract during a wedding is through sounds. Have an ice cream truck drive by at the height of the ceremony. Maybe the bride (or groom) realizes they’d Continue reading

Michaeline: When They Don’t Deserve the Happy Ending, Part II

A young handsome man in a turban.

Jazzin’ for Blue Jean? Jose Rodrigues, self-portrait at age 19. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Today, I’m taking a good look at David Bowie’s 20-minute music video, Jazzin’ for Blue Jean. Spoil yourself, spend the time on David Bowie’s official YouTube channel here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXvAaNcXNzI and enjoy!

Or allow me to spoil you. I knew the ending before I watched it, and the short film was still full of lovely little surprises and layers. David Bowie plays two parts: an ambitious billboard installer who falls in love (hard) with a girl on the street, and a neurotic but fabulous rock star. Boy meets girl, boy hustles for the girl who barely acknowledges his existence, girl flits off with different boy who either 1) didn’t have to do nuffin’ to pull this bird, or 2) spent 20 years becoming a rock legend so he could whisk girls away with a simple “Come home”. Depends on your perspective, really.

Vic, our everyman, is really quite energetic. He spins a web of BS to the girl, the bouncers, the scalpers – anyone who might be of use, really – and manages to get what he thinks he needs to “win” – tickets to the Screamin’ Lord Byron concert, and even an aftershow interview with the guy. But the ending, where the girl chooses Lord Byron, comes as no great disappointment. Vic doesn’t deserve this happy ending, on a lot of levels. One, Continue reading

Michaeline: When They Don’t Deserve the Happy Ending, Part I

Was Dr. Horrible always destined to be horrible? He seemed like such a redeemable young lad. (Mark Twain in Nikola Tesla's lab, via Wikimedia Commons)

Was Dr. Horrible always destined to be horrible? He seemed like such a redeemable young lad. (Mark Twain in Nikola Tesla’s lab, via Wikimedia Commons)

I love a good romance, and for me, at least, part of what defines “good” is that there’s a certain sense of justice to the proceedings. Our happy pair battle true obstacles with courage and valor in order to reach a place where love can flourish. And at the end, they get what they deserve: a happy ending. Or at least, we think they’ve got a good chance of being happy with each other, no matter what the rest of the miserable world is doing.

There are many stories that contain romantic elements, but fail at being romances because the obstacles overcome our lovers. As romance writers, we can watch how the couples fail in order to figure out how to make our own couples succeed. Or . . . as plain old writers, we can figure out how to fail beautifully, if that’s where the story needs to take us.

BTW, since I’m talking about endings, if you haven’t seen Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog or Jazzin’ for Blue Jean, either watch them, or prepare to be “spoiled” this month. Honestly, both works are brilliant in the details, so knowing the plot won’t spoil them. (And I’m pretty sure the controversy over Dr. Horrible when it came out means that the Neil Patrick Harris vehicle comes pre-spoiled for a vast segment of the viewing public.)

Let’s tackle Dr. Horrible this week. Continue reading