Michaeline: David Bowie and Motif (also: Artistic Licenses)

Persian carpet with various repeating motifs, such as horses and stars in square forms. It's tattered on the edges, and very, very old. Reminds me of the line from the Bowie/Queen song, Under Pressure. Keep coming up with love but it's so slashed and torn.

Motifs add interest and rhythm to a work of art, and subtly point out what the important themes are. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

David Bowie knew a lot about motif. It’s one of the things that made him a great musician, and it also made him an excellent comedian. He knew the power of the call-back, the reminder of what went before.

I’ve found two clips of him with US late night show host Conan O’Brien. (“David Bowie – Late Night with Conan O’Brien 18 June 2002” [anecdote starts about 3:10]) We start out with a very charming story of how his baby daughter discovered the moon for the first time. He repeats the word “moon,” and he says it in different voices as the context changes. And then he starts talking about something else, but Conan brings it back to the moon, and David catches the ball and joins in, like a sort of harmony. At one point, they are both pointing at the stage ceiling, howling, “Moon! Moon!”

Many people claimed that David Bowie didn’t repeat himself, but he did. He was just smart enough to change the dynamics. It didn’t get boring because Continue reading

Michaeline: Writing Advice

Gilded Age woman writing with a quill.

Writing advice is like horoscopes. If something grabs your notice, you better pay attention. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

This week, I’ve found a lot of great writing advice. So, I’m going to step back today and let the masters tell you how it’s done.

First up, we have Shirley Jackson tell us all about motif and symbolism in this New Yorker article. Shirley Jackson wrote the horrifying short story, “The Lottery,” but “Garlic in Fiction” is a lot easier to digest.

She says, “Before entering upon a role, the actor, having of course familiarized himself with the character he is to portray, constructs for himself a set of images, or mental pictures, of small, unimportant things he feels belong around the character.” This is garlic, meant to be used sparingly and in just the right places to give a story a flavor that lingers in the reader’s mind. She follows up with examples. Continue reading