Michaeline: Wise Old Characters

Elderly African American Couple from 1899 or 1900 on their front porch. She's strong and has her arm on his shoulder.

Is there a dearth of wise old characters in fiction? What are we doing to fix that? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Whoo-hoo! Three-day weekend here in Japan courtesy of “Respect for the Aged Day” on Monday. It got me to thinking about the old, wise characters in fiction. Currently, my favorite senior citizen is Nana Strong from Jeanne Oates Estridge’s new book, The Demon Always Wins.

Nana is feisty without being senile, is frail of body but strong in her beliefs, and offers a very real sort of “best friend” – not an all-knowing one, but one who knows a lot, and gives it to Dara Strong straight.

Other than that, though? Who are my favorite old folks in literature? It took me a little bit of thinking.

Werewolves? Nah, not a long-lived race, the werewolves. Vampires? Not what you’d call role-models, particularly. I am fond of MaryJanice Davidson’s young Betsy, Queen of the Vampires, but she’s not old.

So, I did what any 21st century philosopher would do, Continue reading

Michaeline: The Lazarus Tool, or Bringing the Dead Back to Life

Resurrecting Lazarus, or any dead character, is tricky, but it can be done. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Resurrecting Lazarus, or any dead character, is tricky, but it can be done. Image via Wikimedia Commons

There’s this old joke (old in internet years, anyway) that goes like this: Josh Whedon, George R.R. Martin and Steven Moffat walk into a bar . . . . And everyone you ever loved dies. See the meme cartoon here:

Killing beloved characters has always been a thing. Everyone except 20th century Americans seem to love this stuff. I suppose, as a writer, there’s a lot to love. Almost everyone has had a loved one die at some point in their lives, so there’s a common human experience that the writer can tap into. Dying is intrinsically interesting – people rubberneck around accidents or hover over a deathbed. There’s something about death that makes us sad, interested, and want to help. And also, the threat of death causes characters to act in interesting ways. Day-to-day, they are just trying to get by. But when faced with death, they are trying to preserve their legacy, protect their families, or simply trying to not die. The actions that result from that can be amazing and heroic.

And of course, if the writer really goes nuts, the writer can bring the dead back from life. Continue reading

Michaeline: The Beginning is the Ending of Something

A small lizard curled into a circle against a clear sky, held by a human.

Ouroborus cataphractus, by Handré Basson, via Wikimedia Commons.

We talk about starting a story with an inciting incident, and it should be an exciting time. Something changes; something is new. As someone says (many attribute it to John Gardner), there are basically two story beginnings in the world: someone takes a trip, or someone new comes to town.

It’s an opening up of possibilities. It’s also a slamming of doors. Options are cut out of the picture by whatever happens in the beginning. One of my favorite examples of this Continue reading

Michaeline: Double Duty


Black and White photo of magician Harry Houdini with ghostly image of Abraham Lincoln. They both seem to be looking at a book. Trick photography.

Houdini and Lincoln have a little chat through the magic of photography. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

I like efficiency.

Who doesn’t? Well, I must admit, my passion for efficiency has gotten me in trouble. I’ve spent so much time plotting the best way to do a project that I wind up with no time to start it. Or I’ve tried to make one trip with my bags of grocery, and found that by the time I finished picking up the dropped items from split bags, I could have made three trips. Striving for efficiency isn’t always the most efficient way to do things.

But still, the little German stereotype in my heart loves something that does two or three jobs at the same time. And a piece of writing that does two or three things is really a piece of beauty.

Take, for example, the opening line of MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead and Unwed. “The day I died started out bad and got worse in a hurry.” Continue reading