Michaeline: Fun Structures for Writing: Epistolary

A beautiful Persian woman writing a letter, while another woman is waiting outside her window. Consulting? The Messenger?

Letter-writing allows a story to be both intimate and public at the same time. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

As a reader, one of my favorite structures is epistolary writing – the friendly chat of a series of letters (or emails or texts) brings a certain coziness to a story, while preserving a definite curation of information. The writer is writing to a good friend (usually), but at the same time, WRITING (not talking – talking would be more spontaneous), and choosing details and trying to entertain.

Done well, it can be a great romp with a lot of meta. There are built-in layers, and the reader is invited to take part in discovering the bits that are left out because of the conceit that this is just between friends who share a history. (In practice, the good author or authors make sure the reader has the information to figure out just what is going on – the secrets require some work, but the burden upon the reader isn’t too onerous. Just enough pleasant exercise to make the sweetness of the unfolding story taste great.)

In addition, there’s a sense of Continue reading

Michaeline: Evita’s Structure and Conflict

Official portrait of the Perons in evening dress looking very happy.

Eva Peron doesn’t look like an action hero with agency, but oh, how she hustled. She moved half a continent by the time she died. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

This week, I’ve been plowing through snowstorms in the car while listening to the soundtrack of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, Evita. It’s perfect music for when you are crawling along at 35 km per hour (what is that in miles? I’m not sure, but I’m afraid it’ll sound even more dreadfully slow). There’s a warm Latin beat, and the white-hot chronic anger of the heroine fueling various project. It makes me feel cozy in my little rolling deathtrap.

I don’t think anyone would deny that Evita works. According to the Internet Broadway Database, it’s been performed 1,567 times, and according to Wikipedia, it took award after award in 1978 and 1980. And I love it. But the heroine’s goal is a little fuzzy, and there isn’t a single overarching conflict lock that unites the story.

Evita is the story of a young Argentinian girl who goes to the capital at the age of fifteen, then proceeds to get modelling jobs, movie jobs, radio serials and finally the heart of a military man and through him, the reins to control the country. And then she dies, because . . . Continue reading

Michaeline: Passive-Aggressive

The term "passive-aggressive" dates back to 1946, and has its roots in military psychology.

The term “passive-aggressive” dates back to 1946, and has its roots in military psychology.

For some reason, my Girls in the Basement have been circling around Passive Aggression lately. We’ve been gently prodding the idea with a stick, and so far the tiger hasn’t come bursting out of its cage, but a quote from Lifehacker definitely made *something* in the Basement sit up and notice.

When you finally make the commitment to attack your side hustle for real, you will suddenly find yourself deeply compelled to attend to all sorts of random things instead of your side hustle. This is the result of several factors: fear at failing if you begin, passive-aggressive resentment of all the work ahead of you, procrastinating because you’re not sure where to start. – Brazen Careerist.

“Passive-aggressive resentment of all the work ahead of you.” Well, that explains some of my procrastination habits. But the quote also got me to thinking about the uses of passive-aggressive conflict in story. Continue reading