Posts Tagged 'Harry Potter'

The Importance of an Interesting Character

Picture by Ben Gagnon Photography

I consider myself an artistic person.  If something has words or pictures, I can create it.  I’m not blessed with the gift of agility and balance, or with a lovely voice, so dancing and singing is pretty much out of the question.  Everything else, however, is free game.  Writing anything, sketching, painting, scrapbooking and other various crafty things… love ’em.  Writing (obviously) is very close to my heart, but so is one other thing – the theatre.

I made my first stage appearance as Clara in a production of the Nutcracker Suite.  Granted, it was fourth grade, and I hit some guy in the audience with my slipper instead of the Rat King… but we don’t need to go there.  Ever since, I have been theatrically inclined.  When I learned that I fail at projection (and singing.  and dancing) I moved to the world of improv theatre, and it came to me naturally.

In theatre, the creation of character is essential.  In larger productions, someone has already created the character for you and all you need to do is apply it and expand it within certain limitations.  Improv is much different.  You step on to that stage a blank slate, and you have about thirty seconds (if you’re lucky) to create a fully rounded character.  You can’t go on stage and say “hi!  I’m like, Mary Sue, and I like,  like, stuff!”  No.  That is fail!improv.  You have to create insta-backstory, motive, fears, likes and dislikes, consistent personality traits, allegiances… everything.  And if you don’t do it well, you lose your chance to charm the audience.

Writing isn’t a whole lot different.

I’m not going to under-appreciate essential points like plot, theme, setting, style, spelling and grammar… but characters are incredibly important in the creation of a good story.  I have kept reading books that I disliked because I liked the characters in them.  I know there are other readers out there like that, too.  I want to feel, breathe, and embrace every major character (and some minor characters) I come across.  I want to feel like, as I read the story, I can step into that character’s shoes and actually be in her world.  Don’t you?

Obviously, we shouldn’t make them too complicated, because then the audience won’t relate at all, and we’ll get those metaphorical tomatoes thrown at us.  But it’s the little things that arouse sympathy and empathy that are important.  I have an acquaintance who loathes the Potter books, but loves Harry because they share a birthday.  We don’t call Marion a traitor in Scarlet because we know that she loves Bran (even though she hasn’t said) and what she’s doing, she is doing for him.  All the bits and pieces.  I can say honestly that I am upset with J.K. Rowling because I feel like Draco Malfoy showed definite signs of redemption, and she denied him that opportunity.  Who knows?  Even a well-placed character may turn your audience against you (but they’ll keep gobbling up your books).  But Kristin Nelson reminds us that appealing a character to the reader is important.

So.  My questions for you are:

1.)  Who are your favorite characters in fiction of all time, and why?
2.)  Have you ever put down a book because you didn’t like the characters?
2b.)  Have you ever kept reading an uninteresting book because you loved the characters?

Pink is the New Evil

I Am Kitty.  Fear Me.

Nathan Bransford posted a question in his blog:  who is the evillest villain ever?  I couldn’t decide for myself, as characteristically, I have a soft spot for villains (Draco? Smeagol? Vader?  They’ve all got their reasons for being evil).  So, I decided to peek through the answers and see if I agreed with any of the ones there.

Vincent Kale gave this response, and I wanted to share it, because it made me smile:

“Greatest Villain in Fiction goes to:
Dolores Umbridge, HP:Order of the Phoenix

No one character ever got under my skin more than she did. Sure Voldemort is trying to kill everyone and take over the world, blah, blah, blah.

But Umbridge’s sadism, sense of propriety and the insufferable decor of her office (so much pink!) just made me squirm.

Stephen King agrees, as he “noted the success of any novel is due to a great villain, with Umbridge as the “greatest make-believe villain to come along since Hannibal Lecter…”.”

So, even though I remain undecided (Vogons? de Glanville?  The Man in Black?)  I dare open up the question to you:  who is the most terrifying literary villain of all time?  Since I am undecided, this is a wonderful opportunity for you to convince me that your favourite villain is the only villain for the job.

Greatest Villain in Fiction goes to:
Dolores Umbridge, HP:Order of the Phoenix

No one character ever got under my skin more than she did. Sure Voldemort is trying to kill everyone and take over the world, blah, blah, blah.

But Umbridge’s sadism, sense of propriety and the insufferable decor of her office (so much pink!) just made me squirm.

Stephen King agrees, as he “noted the success of any novel is due to a great villain, with Umbridge as the “greatest make-believe villain to come along since Hannibal Lecter…”.

Your Grammar is Riddikulus!

The Terrific Trio

I grew up in a great school district, one that always challenged me, and I am grateful for it.  I was able to be in an advanced reading program and math program while I was there, and it was awesome (okay, the math not so much…).  One thing I never truly learned in school (elementary, middle school, high school, even college) was grammar.

This is the point when you give me the O.o look.  I seem to be able to form complete sentences.  I only you fragments and run-ons for choice moments.  Capitalization greets the beginning of each sentence, while punctuation kisses it farewell.  Semi-colons are used properly, and I seem to be able to tell the difference between “there,” “they’re,” and “their”.  What’s the big deal then?  What is this nonsense about not learning grammar?  See, I never said that I didn’t learn grammar.  I said that I never learned it in school.

Where did I acquire my understanding of the construction of the English language, then?  In sooth, I gained enough from constant reading to be able to grasp elementary mechanics.  But that level of grammatical understanding wouldn’t get me very far in the world.  I actually learned most of my grammar courtesy of FictionAlley.org.  Oh yes.  I said it.  I learned grammar by writing Harry Potter fanfiction.

FictionAlley is a specialised website, so if you want to submit something, you basically need to rock.  You need to have excellent grammar and perfect spelling, and you need to have a plot.  Believe it or not, they actually want you to be able to write… otherwise they kindly refer you over to FanFiction.net (the horror!).  But I am stubborn, and so I kept revising and revising until it was right.  So, in my freshman year of high school, I went from writing like this:

“Kris? Oh! There you are.” Kris’s new friend, Alyssa LeBonjou, a famous horse breeder and trainer from France, stepped into the stable and rolled her eyes “I should’ve looked here in the first place.”

“Hi Alyssa.” Kris stopped grooming her favorite horse, Sandrilene’s Wishing Star, more commonly known as Wish, to acknowledge the newcomer’s presence.

To writing a little more like this:

“That was an awesome story!” Peter squealed once they were out of the professor’s hearing range.

“You should write fiction,” agreed James.

“You should read my homework essays,” Sirius responded, grinning ear to ear.

Remus scowled. He had read Sirius’ essays many times, and most of them ended up with the subject being burnt to death or sold into Muggle slavery. “You should be worried about your grades at this point in life,” he pointed out.

Since then, I daresay, I have improved further, but both these pieces were written within 2 years of eachother:  the former in early 2003, and the latter in autumn of 2003.  I was always proud of my achievement, fueled by obsessive fan girl writing, even though I had to learn to edit harder to get rid of things like word overuse.  However, in trying to stay true to the canon, I became a character writer (because you have to know the characters inside and out or you get ripped apart in reviews).  Learning grammar in Potterverse, however, is the reason why much of my English is British-English.  I try to catch myself, but words like “colour” or “specialised” may be spelled incorrectly by American standards.  I don’t mind so much, actually, because it’s still correctly spelled somewhere.

In other writing news: I have posted a new section on this blog which you should see in the upper right-hand corner, called “Scribbles“.  I’m planning to post bits and pieces of writing there; writing that isn’t a flash fic.  At the moment, there is only fanfiction (in honour of this entry, to be sure), but I imagine that other things will pop up.

In other Harry Potter news: I just discovered Evanna Lynch, Bonnie Wright, and Emma Watson on Twitter.  … Oh yeah, and Daniel Radcliffe, too, but I’m not as big of a fan.  Sorry, mate. (yeah, I know, how can you be a Potter fanatic and not be in love with Dan Radcliffe?  So shoot me.  Err.  Only don’t really.)

So.  What about you folks?  Have you learned any important life lessons in nontraditional ways?  Miss something in school that you had to teach yourself?  Have you ever dared to tread the embarrassing paths of fanfiction?  Share your stories!

Twi-hards and Pott-heads.

Luna Lovegood:  Half-Blood Prince Poster

With the movie of Eclipse fresh out of the oven, the time again comes when any level-headed, perfectly rational, life-treasuring human being pulls the covers over their eyes and hides from the rabid fans.  Or perhaps I’m a bit unfair.   You see, there are three kinds of Twilight fans.  Type One: Rabid, insane people who stalk Robert Pattinson and ask him to bite their children. These are the ones that call themselves “Twi-hard”.  Type Two: Those who argue for hours and hours over who’s better:  Jacob or Edward.  They will occasionally stop talking to their friends over the issue, but only for a few days, and not forever (for those who hate those of the opposite team forever and always, see “Type One”.)  Type Three: Those who read the books, appreciate them, go to the midnight premieres most of the time, and keep up with the news.  Certain types are, naturally, a little easier to abide by.  For me, I know only Twos and Threes.  I get to read about Ones in the newspaper and online, though.

What makes these young adult book series’ such a phenomenon?  Is it just because they are what they are:  book series’ for young adults whose hormones aren’t stable and therefore it’s not about the books- it’s about the hotness-scale of the characters?  Is it because the writing is the most brilliant thing this side of Mars?  Or is it all about telling a good story?  I think it’s a mixture of all three (of course, many Twilight fans will tell you it’s all about Edward).

I am biased:  I picked up Twilight once when I was a senior in high school and didn’t like the writing style, so I put it back down.  There are a lot of people who have done the same as me, but there are also those who can (and will) argue that Stephanie Meyer’s writing style is easy to read and superior to any other they know.  Hey, awesome.  I’m glad that it works for y’all.

I choose not to talk about my opinions of the characters, or Meyer’s plot (which seems entirely dependent on Bella procrastinating on picking either Edward or Jacob).  I’m not suicidal, see, so I will leave the story itself alone.  From what I have heard, however, the screenplay is fantastically close to the actual books (the Harry Potter directors could stand to learn something) and that is a nice relief to the fans.  However, the film cast and crew probably doesn’t want to be killed by rabid fans by being incompetent.

Is it worth our time and effort to throw ourselves into these fictional worlds?  I’m not just talking about the world of Twilight– goodness knows I’ve been waiting for my letter to Hogwarts for ten years, and there are many out there that would die for a chance to see Hobbiton or have tried to build their own lightsaber.  The real question isn’t whether it’s worth our time and effort, the real question is:  why do we do it?  No series outside of fantasy has as big of a following, as many obsessive fans.

Fantasy has always been escapism.  It is true that young adults seem to pick it up more whole-heartedly (and no wonder- adults obsessing over fictional characters are judged much more heavily than teenagers), but there are people who come home after work and sink into an armchair with that tattered copy of Prisoner of Azkaban that they just finished last night, and they open it up to page one again…  “Harry Potter was a highly unusual boy in many ways…”  It certainly isn’t just the “geek” community who dives into the fandom.  It’s amazing that as everyone is wishing they could fly a tie-fighter instead of punching in data, we are escaping into our fantasy worlds and binding ourselves together as a community.

Oh yes.  I said it.  Twi-hards, you are equal to those wanna-be Jedi.  Pott-heads, you are equal to those who do not simply walk into Mordor.  So even though I do not like Twilight personally, I respect Stephanie Meyer just as much as I respect J.K. Rowling.  They are both gods, in their own right- weaving worlds of wonder for all of us to enjoy.  Whether it is Narnia, or Middle Earth, Tatooine, Forks, Hogwarts, Discworld, the Calla… I can go on.  We all exist in them in our imaginations to escape our world.  Fanfiction is the inner reaches of our souls trying to control those worlds we love.  Roleplaying gives us a chance to live in those worlds, even if only for a moment.

That said, I have a few confessions to make:

  • I dressed up as Obi-Wan Kenobi for Halloween when I was a senior in high school.
  • I own a time turner.
  • I have every single Harry Potter book, including Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Quiddich Through the Ages, and Tales of Beedle the Bard.
  • I own half of the New Jedi Order series.
  • I have read Attack of the Clones by R.A. Salvatore 5 times.
  • I own the special extended versions of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
  • I am dressing up as Luna Lovegood (see image above) this Halloween.
  • I have read the Harry Potter series all the way through twice, and I have read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at least 10 times (I stopped counting).
  • I have music from A Very Potter Musical on my Zen.
  • I own the Lord of the Rings trivia game… and rock at it.
  • I learned proper English grammar by writing Harry Potter fanfiction.
  • I online-roleplayed in the Potterverse for two years (until there were no more decent forums).
  • I once spent a whole week pouring through my Harry Potter books to prove that Draco and Hermione were a more feasible couple than Draco and Harry, even though I don’t ship Draco/Hermione.
  • I own soundtracks to Lord of the Rings:  Return of the King, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and a collectors edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
  • I’ve taken the online Harry Potter Sorting Tests enough to know that I don’t fit in one house, I’m split between two (Ravenclaw and Slytherin) but if I was actually at Hogwarts, I’d be sorted into Ravenclaw.
  • I have a toy lightsaber… and nobody else can touch it. *shifty eyes*
  • I own the videogames: Knights of the Old Republic, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, The Force Unleashed, Lord of the Rings:  The Two Towers, Lord of the Rings:  Return of the King, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
  • I dominate at Harry Potter Scene It.
  • I go to every single Harry Potter premiere I can get to.
  • I went to 2am showings of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
  • I spend the entire time watching the Harry Potter movies pointing out all the discrepancies from the books.  Somehow, this amuses my friends.

That is all I can think of at the moment.  What about y’all – do you have a list of “guilty secrets” that ties you to your favourite fictional worlds?  A cardboard cut-out of Edward Cullen, perhaps?  Arwen’s pendant?  How many times have you walked into your closet, hoping you’d come out in Narnia?  I’d love to know about it!

Makeovers are Fun!

Midsummer Prep.

Let me clarify that title, though.  Makeovers are fun as long as there is no makeup involved.  Not a huge fan of painting my face.  Every once in a blue moon, I’ll use mascara and lip gloss (or occasionally, lip stick).  But that’s all.  Seriously.  And only for special occasions.  I won’t wear foundation. …  I even avoid it in theatre.  I think the only time I got stuck with foundation was for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the time when I played Cobweb.  And even then, it was only because the faeries were all white/light blue.  I’m pale, but I’m not that pale.  But that show is one that makes me grumpy.  It was incredibly poorly directed.  At this point, it’s just humourous, but while I was going through it, it was a nightmare.

But this entry isn’t about that show (thank gooseness).  This entry is my announcement that I’m officially done playing with my layout.  I love it, love it all.  It’s going to stay like this:  i.e., the makeover is over.

I’ve changed the theme somewhat subtley to a Harry Potter-esque feel.  This celebrates my geekdom, and it’s reminiscent for me.  I’ve had online-thought-processing since I was a freshman in high school, and consistently, I’ve had Harry Potter themes.  I designed my GreatestJournal layout myself.  GreatestJournal doesn’t exist anymore, so I can’t show it to you.  Point and fact?  This layout celebrates me as a person.

I will post later tonight about the course of the day, topics ranging from WiiFit to my Awards letter (ohmygooseI’maseniorincollege!!! EEK!).  Right now, I have a hot dog waiting on the grill for me to devour it.  I love summertime.

Sheep Get Friday Mornings Off… AT PIGFARTS!

Order of the Phoenix Ticket

I absolutely, positively cannot sleep.  I have been sitting here on my bed since about quarter past midnight, and it is now quarter to two.  In the morning.  My phone alarm is going to go off in three hours, and I’ve not had a wink of sleep yet.  I’ve even stooped so low as to contemplate counting sheep, but I’m pretty sure they’d be at the cafe and unavailable for counting, or some other silliness.

Since I came to the conclusion that sleep wasn’t coming (at least not yet) I have sat at my computer and haphazardly photoshopped a background for this blog.  For anyone interested in the least, all you can really see is a neck, shoulders, and a necktie.  The necktie is of the Hogwarts variety and is in mixed colours of blue and green.  This represents my username: slytherclawchica.  When Harry Potter first came out, there were a slew of “what house are you in?” Quizilla quizzes.  I took many of them, and when combined and averaged, they told me I shot be cut in half and split into two different houses:  Slytherin and Ravenclaw.  Slytherin is for the devious and determined (unfortunately, these often end up to be evil.  But not always) and Ravenclaw is for those who seek knowledge.  It makes me a dangerously driven person, always seeking greater understanding and not afraid to impose my view on the world.

I love Harry Potter.  Not the character, the series.  I think I’m going to sit here and be happy about my geekiness for a moment.  You know, I had the greatest conversation for about two-and-a-half minutes today about the Harry Potter world.  It made me happy.  Then it ended, because we jumped topics.  I could seriously talk about Harry Potter (the series, not the character) forever.  For. Ev. Er.  You can time me.

But I’m not going to.  I think I should go to bed, really, and count sheep.  Even if I have to row myself to Le Cafe du Soliel in Paris (I made that up) to find them.  Then I’ll buy them croissants.  And it will be marvellous.

I think I may talk about Harry Potter tomorrow.  Egats, so many options.  Although technically when I say tomorrow, I mean today, but I refuse to acknowledge that today is actually tomorrow until I’ve had a wink of sleeo between the two.

Oh yeah.  And the “pigfarts” thing in the title is a reference to “A Very Potter Musical”.  I am feeling much too silly to go look it up right now so I can post the links, but if you dare consider yourself a Potter fan, you will scurry off immediately and YouTube it.  Oh yes.  YouTube is a verb now.

The picture of my Order of the Phoenix Ticket makes me happy.  Caitlyn and I searched for a “premiere” of the movie, because we had gone to almost all of the others together.  So we found a midnight somewhere, and we went there and got in line at 9pm.  For a midnight movie.  It was awesome.  Not as awesome as the midnight premiere of Philosopher’s Stone, or the Attack of the Clones or Revenge of the Sith 2am premieres, but it was still cool.

Iamsuchageek.  I should go to bed now.

Goodnight, world!  Wherever you are, I hope the skies are filled with stars and your dreams are sweet.


tweet-a-twitter-twoo?

something to think about

"You know, I don't know if you'll understand this or not, but sometimes, even when I'm feeling very low, I'll see some little thing that will somehow renew my faith. Something like that leaf, for instance - clinging to its tree despite wind and storm. You know, that makes me think that courage and tenacity are about the greatest values a man can have. Suddenly my old confidence is back and I know things aren't half as bad as I make them out to be. Suddenly I know that with the strength of his convictions a man can move mountains, and I can proceed with full confidence in the basic goodness of my fellow man. I know that now. I know it." ~ End of Act I in the musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

competing for the house cup

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