Thought-Provoking Fan Art

canadian hagrid on a moose carrying harry potter with a rainbow hockeystick courtesy of weregeek

I still hear the movie Hagrid’s voice in my head though. I’m going to have to ask a Canadian person to say it to me.

At first, this fan art from weregeek was just funny – oh, I see what you did there! Then, I started thinking about how the Harry Potter books would change if the main characters were from a different country. It’s an interesting thought (and good mental exercise).

Try picturing your favorite fantasy books with a different cultural base (for example, instead of a British-based LOTR, what about using cultures from Japan or Brazil?). The plot would be the same on a macro scale but different on a micro scale. A lot about the characters would be the same. All in all, it would be a very different book.

Actually, that could be a writing prompt: pick a book and a new cultural base, and write the new story. For example, take The Curse of Chalion and change the culture to the Roman Empire. Different book, right?


Why Critique Why People Read? What’s Wrong with Escapism?

Why we read is a big part of determining what we read. If you read to escape your everyday life, then you probably don’t want to read something that reminds you of that life. You want to read something different. If your life is dull, you want excitement. If it’s frightening and stressful, you want fun and light-hearted. You want to imagine having what you don’t have and being what you’re not.

Like magic.

Since “fantasy” means 1. a fanciful mental image that someone thinks of repeatedly or 2. an idea with no basis in reality, it makes sense that the fantasy genre and escapism often go hand in hand.

I can’t think of a person I know who likes the Harry Potter series who wouldn’t love to get a letter from Hogwarts, pick out a wand, and fly on a broom. Even after the series got darker, the appeal of having that power was still strong. Having magic, showing courage, finding riches, being the “chosen one” who can save the world: these are fantasies that we get to enjoy as we read.

Yet people disdain escapism. For years, authors have faced literary critics who nitpick at the escapist nature of the books – with famous results.

“I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which ‘Escape’ is now so often used… Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?”
— J.R.R. Tolkien

That seems pretty hard to argue with, yet literary critics continue to try. This baffles me since most popular fiction tends to be escapist – it’s read for pleasure, not to experience some high literary standard.

Maybe, that’s the real issue, and this attitude is mere literary pretension hiding behind higher ideals. It makes me wonder what critics read… and why.


Personality Tests: An Exercise in Characterization

Want to test how well you know your character?

Russ’s comment on Deathwalker 3.6 made me think of a great characterization exercise: Take a personality test from your character’s perspective. Answer the questions the way your character would and see whether the results agree with how you think of your character (or at least, if they agree as much as you think your own results reflect your personality).

When Russ asked if Seph was an ENTP (a personality of the Myers-Briggs Personality Test), I didn’t know the answer, but since it sounded like a great way to explore the character, I decided to try it out online. I didn’t find the Myers-Briggs Test free online, but I found some variations based off of it.

I do not foresee Seph dancing around with flowers and butterflies. Yet part of my brain is trying to think of how to tie that in...

I do not foresee Seph dancing around with flowers and butterflies. Yet part of my brain is trying to think of how to tie that in…

The first one I took from Sephtis’ perspective was from 16 Personalities. According to them, Seph is INFP-T, an idealist guided by principles who is highly intuitive and diplomatic.

That may or may not be true – the book is in the early stages. Taking the test, however, definitely pointed out some areas of characterization I hadn’t fleshed out yet. For example, who Seph’s friends are (if he has any), how they interact, and what he likes to do with his free time. It also brought up different situations, forcing me to judge how Seph would respond, which I think is a pretty good exercise for writing in a character’s perspective.

The second test I found is labeled as a Jung Typology Test, and it says that Seph is ESFJ (Extravert Sensing Feeling Judging…hmmm). Since the Sensing was 1%, it also mentioned that he could be more intuitive (ENFJ). Even most of the characteristics on the first test were fairly close to the center, and though the questions on this test were similar, the different wordings and situations clearly brought about slightly different responses. I’m most curious about the ones that the tests say are the same, how greatly the percentages vary, and how the results now compare to the results after the book is completed (I have a theory that they will vary less, but I won’t know until then.).

The third test results (at Truity) are my personal favorite because Seph tested dead center – so much so that the results say that he could be __ or__ for each characteristic. Then, they listed his possible personality types. Which was all of them. I’m almost 100% sure that’s because the questions are mostly laid out as personal judgments about the character rather than how the person would react from situation to situation.

On a whim, I also decided to try a Buzzfeed quiz. What better one to start with than finding out which Harry Potter character Seph would be? Can you guess? Seph is… (drumroll, please) Neville Longbottom! (Go, Seph!)

Ok, so the results may not be too helpful characterization-wise. On the other hand, actually going through the quizzes was very interesting and forced me to think about the character (and how he would respond to the different questions), and that is always useful.


Banter Bonus: 6 Memorable Conversations

No matter what you’re writing, banter in dialogue can be a fun, lighthearted and endearing parts of the piece. It’s what we remember and quote from movies. It’s the moments of books that we reread over and over again. It’s the scenes in plays that have the audience rolling in the aisles.

If you’re not familiar with the term, banter is a playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks. It can be a mutual exchange between a group or even one person replying cleverly to someone who is being serious. Here are some famous examples to give you an idea of what banter can sound like – although you’re probably already familiar with many of these. After all, the more banter there is, the more good quotes get passed around.

1. The Princess Bride

An oldie but a goodie, The Princess Bride shows light-hearted banter between enemies Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and the Man in Black (Cary Elwes) as they swordfight across a rocky cliffside.


2. Ocean’s Eleven

From the 2001 film, Ocean’s Eleven, there were so many options it was hard to pick. Here’s one scene between Rusty (Brad Pitt) and Danny (George Clooney). The casual, offhanded delivery of humorous lines is a major part of this movie.


3. Firefly

Joss Whedon’s Firefly is chock full of witty conversation. This particular moment involves Captain Malcom Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and Zoe Washburne (Gina Torres) as they continue a dangerous (yet potentially personally fulfilling) mission.


4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, the banter between the characters (especially Harry, Ron, and Hermione) helps to show the reader their friendly relationship.


5. The Hobbit

To show one-sided banter, here is a conversation from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien between Gandalf and Thorin.


6. Much Ado About Nothing

Last but not least, William Shakespeare’s plays would be five-second commercials if all the clever banter were removed (even the tragedies would be significantly lighter). Even in serious moments, the characters play with double meaning or make jokes. This short conversation from Much Ado About Nothing is a good example. No wonder that play is renown for its wit!


I could add examples forever (Pride and PrejudiceIndependence DayThe King’s Speech, Disney movies, and so on), but I think this gives you a good idea. If anyone has a particular good conversation (from a book, play, movie, etc), please share!