Writing

Why Names Rarely Have Purposes in My Writing

Many authors choose names for their characters based on their personalities. The names often have meanings for each character based on their behaviors and backstories.

I, however, am not normally like that. I usually choose names for my characters simply by how much they appeal to me. Of course, I take into consideration the characters’ races, religions, ethnicities, and generations when I name them.

While I never name characters based on their personalities, there are a few times my characters’ names had purposes.

For example, in book 1 of my “Magical Missions” series, the main antagonist is Beau Duchamp. I chose Beau so that kids could pronounce his name more easily for a French man.

Another example is Errol, the villain in book 2 of my series. He was inspired by the Grim Reaper. He was also originally named Peril and was eviler in early drafts of the story. However, editors have said that he wasn’t wicked enough to be called “Peril.” So, I changed his name to something that rhymed with his original name.

In my third installment, the main villain has a made-up name: Boo-Champ Corey. The name represents a combination of two other bad guys from my series world.

The final character is a wizard mentor called Mr. Reuber. He was inspired by Hagrid from “Harry Potter”, so his last name sounds similar to Hagrid’s first name, Rubeus. Of course, he isn’t a representation of J.K. Rowling’s creation and he does differ from Hagrid, as well.

However, since book 3 hasn’t been published yet, I don’t know if those characters will make it to the final draft. Hopefully, they will.

Other than these examples, my characters’ names were chosen purely based on what I liked.

fiction

7 is a Magic Number in “Harry Potter” and I Have 7 Unique Questions About it

I am not making up the fact that the number 7 plays an important part in the “Harry Potter” series. People have said it many times. There are 7 books in the main series, 7 Weasley siblings, 7 years at Hogwarts, 7 players per Quidditch team, and 7 horcruxes.

Anyway, here are 7 unique questions I have about the franchise.

1: Do Ilvermorny Students learn French and Spanish?

It was great to learn that there is an American wizard school. Everyone even got to learn about it in the 2016 film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them.” However, it serves not only wizard children in the US, but also all of North America. That means Canada, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

I did research on this school on a Wikia site and saw that they learn the same subjects British and Irish children learn at Hogwarts, like transfiguration, potions, and so forth. But if it’s all of North America, where some people speak Spanish or French, how do students and staff communicate with everybody?

2: Why aren’t national anthems sung before Quidditch games?

In real life, the country’s national anthem is always sung at sporting events before the games start. But in “Harry Potter”, no national anthem has been sung before Quidditch games. Obviously, muggle-borns know their country’s national anthems, but do kids who grew up in the wizarding world know them? Could the International Statue of Secrecy have gotten in the way?

3: Does Dumbledore know Harry’s handwriting?

When Harry’s name comes out of the goblet of fire in the fourth installment, everyone accuses him of cheating. But he didn’t enter. Someone else entered for him.

Although Dumbledore has a ton of responsibilities, and can’t keep track of every student’s information (such as their dates of birth), he seems to think Harry put his name in the goblet of fire right after it comes out.

I don’t remember if Harry’s handwriting was described. But does it really mimic or resemble similarities to the actual person who entered Harry into the Triwizard Tournament? At the very least, Harry would have recognized his own handwriting and may have convinced Dumbledore and everybody else that he didn’t recognize the handwriting on the parchment if it differed from the person who entered him.

4: Could Harry have forged Uncle Vernon’s handwriting for his Hogsmeade Permission Slip?

In “Prisoner of Azkaban”, Harry has his third year at Hogwarts. Third year students can visit the local village, Hogsmeade, as long as they have a parent or guardian’s permission. Harry convinces Uncle Vernon to sign his permission form, but he refuses unless Harry behaves. But Harry gets angry at Uncle Vernon’s sister, Marge, and he unintentionally causes her to blow up like a balloon and fly away. So, there went his chance of getting his form signed.

However, what if Harry forged Uncle Vernon’s signature? Yes, it’s dishonest. Maybe magic has a way of detecting forgery, but I could be wrong. While the trace detects underage wizardry, I can’t imagine that it or any other magic that monitors wizards tracks every action a magician takes.

5: Why is the age of consent 17 in the wizarding world?

Authors usually have reasons behind details in their stories, especially J.K. Rowling. She chooses names and other elements carefully and with meanings. But it seems to be a mystery to why wizards are legally adults when they turn 17.

6: Who takes care of the students’ animals when they’re in classes?

For some odd reason, students are allowed to bring animals. They have owls for delivering mail. They can also bring a cat or a toad (and a rat in Ron’s case until something about that changes). But where do the animals go when students can’t be with them? How do they act? When do they get their food, relieving breaks, and so forth?

While Hagrid is the gamekeeper, he can’t possibly take care of every single animal, especially cats since they make him sneeze. Hmmm…

7: What happens if a wizard child moves to another country?

When a wizard kid is born, his or her name is added to the respected wizarding school list of their nation. Obviously, they have to grow up and be 11 by September 1st before they can attend. But schools, like Hogwarts, are only available to children in the UK and Ireland.

So, my guess is that if a magician kid moves to another country, his or her name is crossed off the old school’s list and added to the new one. For instance, if a child moves from England to France, maybe their name is removed from the Hogwarts’ list and added to the Beaubaxtons list.

That’s it for all the questions I have about “Harry Potter” that I can’t find elsewhere.

fiction

Harry Potter Mystery: Why Hasn’t Anyone Been Nice to Harry Before His 11th Birthday?

Poor Harry is forced to live with abusive relatives for his own safety from Voldemort and death-eaters. Like many, I have wondered why no one has reported the Dursleys to authorities and why Harry hasn’t been taken away from them. Some say that the way the Dursleys treat Harry, especially making him sleep in a dirty cupboard under the staircase, would get social services involved. Others say it wasn’t bad enough for that. After doing extensive research, I found out the sad truth, besides that Dumbledore would block any muggle from taking Harry away from his relatives.

I came across an article that discussed child protection laws in the 1980’s, when Harry grew up (he was born in 1980). There were few cases reported and they involved deaths. It wasn’t until the 90’s that child protections laws became stricter and added more unacceptable ways of treating children. But if “Harry Potter” were set today, in recent years, or even the early 2000’s, I am pretty sure the way the Dursleys treated Harry would have gotten him involved with authorities long before Harry turned 11.

I also find it odd that Dumbledore gets to have a say in where Harry lives. Yes, Harry is placed there because of his mother’s protection and it’ll only work if he is with a blood relative of his mom. It remains there until Harry comes of age as long as he calls that place home.

But honestly, no child would call an abusive household “home.” I also don’t think any kid would really be safe in a home where they’re mistreated the way the Dursleys mistreat Harry. Frankly, I don’t think Harry is safe either way. I’ve read that a child who is abused can be in danger both physically and psychologically. That type of treatment can impact brain development.

Not only do I think it’s inhumane to force a kid to live with harmful people, like the Dursleys, but I also find it hard to believe that nobody would have felt sorry for someone like Harry. People have said that they found it bizarre that Harry’s abuse signs were overlooked when he went to muggle school. Some have said they weren’t surprised.

Since Little Winging was (probably) not a small town in the middle of nowhere, there had to be a lot of non-residents or new residents, whether they moved to the area, visited people they knew, worked there, and so forth. I am pretty certain that somebody would have noticed how horribly Harry was treated and wanted to take action. At least one or more people (excluding Hagrid) would have been kind to him and would have tried to help him. Or they would have wanted to.

movie

A “Cinderella” Critique is a List Your Brain Makes…When You’re Evaluating the 1950 Film

Warning: contains spoilers***

I haven’t watched the whole version of this Disney classic in years. I’ve watched it regularly as a small child. But now that I’m an adult, I can understand and pick up on stories and their elements more easily.

We all know the story. A young maiden is a servant to her mean stepfamily, and then she gets an opportunity to go to the ball hosted by the royals.

Okay, onto the critique. First, the strengths:

1: Cinderella’s character

Although she’s abused, Cinderella remains gentle and likable. Her stepsisters scream for her to serve them and she remains calm. Although I found that a bit unbelievable, there were times she sounded a little annoyed, which made her more realistic.

2: The “Sweet Nightingale” Number and it’s humor

Of course, all the songs in “Cinderella” are good. But this one was kind of humorous. The stepsister, I think Drizzella, sounded not-so-great when singing this song (which seems kind of unimportant, but I could be wrong). Meanwhile, Cinderella’s voice was beautiful when she sang it, even though she was cleaning.

3: The fact that Cinderella has loyal companions

Yes, they’re all animals, with the exceptions of the fairy godmother and prince later on. But at least the mice, dog, chickens, and horse show sympathy and respect for Cinderella. Gus was funny when he tried to advocate for Cinderella loudly and Jacque had to quiet him.

After the stepsisters destroyed Cinderella’s dress and made her cry, it was so sweet how the fairy godmother came to comfort her and ensure she gets to the ball.

Speaking of which…

1: There are some deus ex machina moments

Unfortunately, that includes the fairy godmother moment. While it’s great that she was there to help Cinderella, her actions felt too convenient for the plot, especially when she turned her mice into horses, and the other animals into people. And they seemed to function perfectly.

All right, there probably wasn’t a lot of time to explain the magic laws and how turning animals into humans would be no problem. Still.

2: Cinderella’s lips changed tones

This was probably an animation error. I’m also likely one of the few to notice this inconsistency. Sometimes, Cinderella’s lips were muted magenta, and other times, they were light red.

3: Lucifer’s character

Obviously, every story needs conflict and an antagonist. But with Lucifer, I feel his scary appearance and actions went too far. Okay, okay, this was released in 1950 and likely produced in the late 1940’s. But for today, I thought Lucifer was too pure evil in not only his looks and actions, but also his name (the meaning and where it originated from).

While it was nice reuniting with this movie, I will admit it wasn’t super-engaging either. Because of that, I would rate it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

However, I don’t think it’s discouraging. There are a good number of strengths and nice moments, too, aside from what I mentioned.

cooking

I Had a Blast with These Blueberry Muffins!

When lockdown began, I stress-baked like crazy. I normally love the blueberry muffins from Dunkin’ Donuts (or now just Dunkin), and I still could have gotten them to go. Where I live, many restaurants still offer take-out, delivery, or curbside pickup.

Anyway, I tried making these muffins using a kopykat recipe from the Internet. It called for a special Dunkin creamer. But I didn’t have that.

So, I used either half and half, heavy cream, or both. Whatever I did, it made the muffins super-moist and delicious. I had learned that the more fat content a dairy product contains, the softer it makes the baked good.

I also used a mix of frozen wild blueberries as well as fresh blueberries. I even included some fresh raspberries and blackberries. Mixed berry muffins rule!

That was technically what they were. But there were more blueberries than raspberries and blackberries. So, I guess they could have still been called blueberry muffins.

I ate them like crazy. That’s right, they tasted that delicious. I probably will remake these muffins again, regardless of when restaurants in my area reopen their dining sections.

Since making these muffins, I’ve sometimes been swapping out water or whole milk with half and half and heavy cream with other recipes. You could try that, too.

TV show

Get into “Dexter’s Laboratory” and Check Out These Top 4 Memorable Moments

Ah, the early 2000’s Cartoon Network ruled. For me, those were the golden days. And one of those golden-era shows was “Dexter’s Laboratory”.

If you recall the premise, it focused on a young boy genius who had a secret lab with so many high-tech gadgets, machines, and more. But his annoying older sister, Deedee, enters and plays around with things. I love her famous line, “Ooh, what does this button do?” Bad Deedee!

Anyway, I am going to share the top moments that stand out to me from the show. Here it goes.

4: When Dexter is in Deedee’s body

When a woman asks “Deedee” how she’s doing, it turns out that Dexter’s in her body and is being annoying by going, “Deedee dumb, Deedee dumb.” Deedee, meanwhile, is stuck in her and Dexter’s mom’s body, and a dog is in Dexter’s body, panting. Lol.

3: Mandark’s unrealistic sobs

There is a dialogue-free short where Mandark, a mean kid Dexter dislikes, sounds his signature laugh. But eventually, he cries, and it sounds exactly like his evil laugh, except that the ha’s become wahs. It went “Wah-huh-huh, wah-huh-huh-huh-huh-huh!”

2: When Deedee wants to be a pony

In some episode (I don’t remember the name), Deedee and her friends are fantasizing about being ponies. Deedee breaks down into tears and runs home, wanting to become a pony. Dexter turns her into one, however, he tries to ride her when she wants to be free. She even rejects the saddle Dexter almost puts on her.

1: The events in the episode, “Don’t Be a Baby”

In order to see a mature movie, Dexter and Deedee go into a machine to make themselves older. However, thanks to Deedee tripping over a wire, the machine turns everybody in the world into babies, including Dexter’s monkey and computer. Deedee and Dexter end up taking care of their parents, who have become infants.

This episode cracked me up. Even though I haven’t seen it in years, I still recall it very well. I loved when the computer made baby babbles. Could you imagine your computer doing that? It would be quite impractical.

And the part when Deedee sings for her baby parents a lullaby was hilarious. It went, “Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep, Mommy and Daddy.” It followed the tune of “Lullaby and Goodnight”. Ha ha ha, although this wouldn’t be funny in real life.

So, there you have it.

movie, TV show

Have You Noticed These Differences Between the “Jimmy Neutron” Movie and TV Series?

It all began in 2001 when a young boy genius was introduced to us and the famous line he often says will never leave our minds:

“3… 2… 1… Gotta Blast!”

That’s right, I’m talking about the one and only…Jimmy Neutron. The theatrical release started it all. Then came the TV show, “The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius”.

All right, I guess that’s enough introduction. This post is meant to point out the differences between the movie and television series.

So, without further ado, let’s get started.

1: Jimmy’s voice is slightly higher in the film

This is something I noticed when I watched the movie recently after seeing many episodes of the TV show. Could this be an inconsistency, or did Jimmy start puberty in between and his voice is changing? Not sure about the latter, but maybe the voice actress (yup, Jimmy is voiced by a woman) chose to or was instructed to sound more masculine.

2: Jimmy and his friends’ outfits change in the TV series

Once the show premiered on Nickelodeon, Jimmy had long pants instead of shorts, Carl had no straps on his pants, Cindy had a ponytail instead of pigtails, khaki pants, and a halter top (which, by the way, would be forbidden at school in real life). Sheen and Libby’s clothes remain the same until after the Egyptian episode for Libby. Not only does she wear her hair in several braids, but she also has a shirt and jeans instead of a dress. Who knows why the characters’ outfits changed?

3: Jimmy’s brain blast is out loud in the TV show while the opposite in the film

If you’ve seen the movie, do you notice how when Jimmy tries to get a brain blast, his mouth doesn’t move? That’s probably because it’s his internal thought.

However, in the series, he starts saying his brain blasts out loud. Another mystery to why the creators made that update for the TV show.

4: There are a bunch of extras in the film that don’t make it to the series

One detail I noticed about the show is that they always show the same extras and there are likely only up to twenty or so, excluding the main and major characters. And Retroville is a suburb and city, not a small town.

When I viewed the movie, I noticed a lot more extras, many which never appeared again. They could have all moved away. Or the TV show had a lower budget. The second one is possible, especially since the series only had three seasons, regardless of its popularity.

Do you notice any details about “Jimmy Neutron” that I didn’t?

Writing

Developing Protagonists and How I Did it

Every writer develops his or her protagonist his or her own way. Some are inspired by real people, which is how I think Lewis Carroll developed the character, Alice, for “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. According to a magazine, His heroine shared the same name with a real girl, also called Alice.

While many of us know that J.K. Rowling came up with the basic idea of “Harry Potter” on a delayed train, she used some of her own life experiences to build Harry.

As for my protagonist, Alyssa McCarthy, the development of her goes back further than anyone could imagine. In fact, the inspiration for the character dates back to when I was in 2nd grade, and it came from a source that nobody would have expected: An early reader book.

That was “Morris Goes to School”. After reading it, I got inspired to do my own version of that story, but with an upright polar bear named Spike. I evolved Spike into a child polar bear who went to school with human children. One of those extras was a girl with long blonde hair, who got her own spinoff in my mind, where she lived in a house in a jungle and had animal friends. The girl could talk to those creatures, too. I envisioned that creation from maybe third grade and all through fourth grade, but abandoned the idea in fifth grade. Like my MC today, her name was also Alyssa.

For the next several years, I lost interest in creative writing since everything I thought of sounded no good after. However, that changed in early eleventh grade.

While in the shower, the same idea of what I daydreamed about in fourth grade of a girl called Alyssa with long blonde hair who had a supernatural ability hit my mind. After that, I brainstormed ideas and wrote a story similar to my childhood imagination. Sadly, no one else liked it.

Fast forward to my freshman year of college and I scrapped the original idea and turned it into something more appealing. It took a while to create another tale of a girl named Alyssa with long blonde tresses, but with better ideas from me.

While she does have a few similarities to me, such as her sense of style and some food tastes, Alyssa, my current protagonist, is also quite different from me. I developed her personality with a combination of some of the Disney princesses. I also got a ton of inspiration from the “Harry Potter” series for Alyssa’s life and the events that happened to her as well as what goes on in the stories. In fact, readers have constantly compared my “Magical Missions” series to the “Harry Potter” franchise since they share a lot of similarities, but not enough to be exact.

That is the true history of how I developed my main character.

Writing

Don’t be Shy and Give it a Try: Research by Asking Real People

With research, you look for more than just the craft rules. Those include the setting your story takes place, the laws of that society, and much more.

While I have researched common things like how detention works in schools, one thing I needed to learn more about involved a minor backstory error in both the first and second installments of my novels.

However, I am resolving it by adding a twist to that mistake in the third book. It will reveal how that incorrect statement had been false the whole time.

If you can’t find anything relevant to the research needed for your project, sometimes it is best to ask someone who is an expertise in that specific field. Just give him or her enough information about your project as well as your question. I did that for the little error I made in my books due to not performing careful research on it.

You can also join writing forums for help, as well. The one I participate in when I have questions has a research section. That is where I asked about things I had to know, and would be harder to seek through Google.

That is also where I found out how detention works in schools, since in my series’ second installment, my main character lands in it. However, I never got detention in school, which is obviously a good thing. But I still received useful answers.

Another topic I needed to learn more about was how much stress it would take for somebody to end up in shock. Unlike the detention subject, though, this element did not make it into my first book, where it was intended to go.

While the Internet may be there 24/7 (for the most part), you can always ask real people for research questions whether it’s one person or on a forum.

art

Why Reference Images Make a Difference for Art

What is a reference image, you may ask? It is an image an artist uses to help him or her create something by making it similar, but not exact. For example, if you use a house photo as a reference image, you may draw some things the same, but maybe change the shape of a window, remove a decorative touch, or use a different color for the roof.

For me, when I want to draw a person whom I have a specific envision for, I refer to different pictures to create the subject. I may use one picture for the face shape, another for the eyes, nose, mouth, and so forth. And guess what? Referring to photos makes a big difference for the aesthetic of the drawing I make.

Below is a drawing I did of my book’s main character with hardly any reference material used.

I find this sketch to be very unattractive. Not because of the photo lighting quality or the pencil marks, but because the face doesn’t look appealing. Proportions are kind of off.

So, here is a revised sketch I did of this same character. That’s another tip: revise your drawings if you feel it’s necessary.

It’s a little better than the previous drawing. However, the eyes are too big, and when I tried to adjust them in Photoshop, it just made the girl uglier. And she’d supposed to be more beautiful to me.

So, here is the third revision for the image:

She is starting too look more attractive, but the forehead is a bit too big. Also, this looks like it was cut and pasted on a solid-colored background. Honestly, I think it appears amateurish.

Now onto the final and best portrayal of my protagonist.

This is where I got serious into using as much reference material as possible. Hardly any of the features drawn were from my imagination. Of course, I didn’t copy anyone or make the girl resemble any real person. But thanks to the different approach, this is the best drawing out of all four. It kind of reminds me of a “Charlie the Unicorn” style. You know—the YouTube series about a cranky unicorn who gets taunted by two hyper ones. All right, that may be beside the point.

Anyway, for those of you who draw, you may want to consider the advice of reference material and revising your drawings. Hope this helped.