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.

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.

fiction

The Ball: A Flash Fiction Piece

“Let’s have some fun in a cartoon world,” said Dylan, my nine-year-old brother.

            “Are you crazy?” I asked.

            “I found a special ball that claims it can take you into your favorite cartoon.” Dylan held the glass ball in his hand.

            I made a facepalm.

            “Come on, Elise, please?” Dylan made a sad puppy face.

            “No!” I said.

            Dylan groaned and walked away.

            I was fifteen, and had no time for that nonsense. Plus, Dylan should have known better than to claim that an object could transport him into a cartoon.

            I didn’t know how he’d come up with it, or if he had read it somewhere. If the latter, then that person needed to be penalized.

            I went up to my room and sat on my bed. Perhaps, chatting with friends could take that ridiculous statement off my mind.

            I picked up my phone—only for Dylan to scream.

            “Dylan!” I bolted up and rushed out of my room. “Dylan?! Are you all right?!” I opened his bedroom door. He wasn’t there. My parents were out of town this weekend, so they couldn’t help.

            Inhaling and exhaling, I hurried down the stairs and checked every room. I finalized with the family room—only to find steam arising from Dylan’s ball. I gasped and knelt. “Oh, no,” I moaned.

            My knee pressed on something, which happened to be the remote. The TV turned on, but it played a commercial. The cartoon, “Tyndale and Tina”, about two talking-dogs, came on. The episode started as always—yet a familiar voice sounded, shouting, “Help, help, somebody help me!” A cartoon boy burst into the room with Tyndale and Tina. The kid had pale-blonde hair, and wore the same clothes Dylan wore. Either this was a new episode or…Dylan had ended up in the cartoon.

            “Who are you and what are you doing here?” asked Tyndale.

            “I got sucked into this world!” exclaimed the kid.

            I inhaled. “Dylan!” I knocked on the monitor. “Dylan!”

            None of the characters responded.

            “Dylan, can you hear me?!” I asked. “It’s me, Elise, your sister!”

            Still nothing.

            “Oh, shoot.” I stood and my breathing quickened. If my mom and dad found out about this, they’d ground me, especially since they’d left me in charge.

            My eyes drifted to Dylan’s ball. I stared at it. It could be the only way for me to save my brother. But how would I—or we—get out? There had to be something.

            I crept to the object and picked it up. It had a couple buttons. I would not press any of them, though. One was green and the other was red.

            I carried the sphere and thought about where the instructions could be. Maybe in Dylan’s room?

            I walked upstairs and entered his bedroom. Toys, clothes, and games covered the floor. I picked up each item, but found nothing that could be a manual.

            Then I searched under Dylan’s bed. Still no sign of paper. I returned downstairs and looked everywhere in the family room. Nothing.

            What am I going to do? I asked myself. There’s got to be something.

            I stared into the ball’s buttons and gulped. Perhaps, I should take my chances and press one. Hands trembling, I aimed for the red button. I breathed and touched it. Then I pushed it. Nothing happened.

            I sighed and sat on a couch. But the thing lit from the inside and projected a ray. The noise of Dylan yelping occurred. His colors came out and formed his figure. He landed on the carpet and the beam reversed back into the sphere.

            “Dylan!” I stood and crouched by him. “Are you okay?”

            “I’m fine.” He lifted himself.

            “I’m sorry I didn’t believe you,” I said.

            “I shouldn’t have used that stupid ball,” said Dylan. “We’ve got to get rid of it.”

            “We will,” I said.

            “Can you not tell mom and dad about this, either?” asked Dylan.

            “I won’t tell them.” I hugged him. “I’m glad to have you back.”

Writing

When Should You Describe Voices in Your Writing?

Image from Pixabay

Every character should have a unique voice. And by that, I don’t just mean speech patterns, words, attitudes, and so on, I also mean physical voices. For instance, are they high, low, nasal, etc.?

I used to describe what my characters’ voices sounded like in my earlier writing days. And in my book, “The Frights of Fiji,” I do say what a few characters’ voices sound like. Two of them are described with deep voices and one is said to have a high voice. However, those were mainly done for comedic purposes. I originally published “The Frights of Fiji” in 2013 as “From Frights to Flaws.” I now refrain from explaining how my characters’ voices sound, unless it’s important to the stories.

Even my main character’s voice noise isn’t revealed. In the sequel, there is a scene where she sings a certain song. Although I state that she takes chorus at school, I don’t specify if she is an alto or soprano. That is because I want readers to use their envisions to what her voice sounds like.

Many people dislike when characters’ physical appearances are described unless they’re important, otherwise, the readers should get to picture them their ways. I happen to be the opposite with that. I am an advocate for authors to describe their characters with whatever traits they want, as long as it’s not too many (since that can bog down the narrative and be too much to remember), or offensive. I not only believe that writers deserve the right to physically describe their characters, but I also cannot picture characters clearly unless the narrators say what they look like.

That being said, it’s the reverse for voices. Since I first wrote Book 1 of my “Magical Missions” series, I learned more about the writing craft, and chose to give up with explaining how characters’ voices sound, except when it’s crucial. I would recommend that to all aspiring writers. A few voice sounds revealed here and there probably won’t matter. Just be sure not to overdo it, or else, it might overwhelm your readers.

Writing

Why I Can’t Write Without Planning

Image from Pixabay

Ten years ago, I returned to writing fiction after a while of not being interested. However, unlike now, I hadn’t studied the writing craft. I had only studied marketing and how to get published.

Anyway, I wrote my first original novel without planning ahead and before creating it. I also dreamed of having it published, even though many people said it was not good enough. Little did I know that they were right all along. I published it, but received no positive feedback. Once I turned 18, I removed that story from the market and actually studied the writing craft. That was when I could no longer write without having a plan.

It is not just with writing where I need to plan far ahead. I need to plan ahead with pretty much anything, including parties, trips, and much more. Sometimes, especially when I was younger, I would over-plan a lot. Many times, last minute changes would occur and I didn’t want to give up my plans.  I was often described as being inflexible.

However, those times have passed. Yet, the part where I have to plan ideas in advance still remains with me. Regardless of that, I have learned to be more flexible than when I was a child. That even goes for my writing.

While I praise my writing and ideas, I am more willing to listen to feedback than in the past. Sometimes, when an editor suggests I remove something, I find a way to make that unnecessary element more important. One example was a certain character, who was a dog that just barked when the doorbell rang. Instead of removing the dog, I managed to find a way to make him crucial to the story.

Anyhow, I have also tried writing without a plan in recent years, but I’ve failed. So, I am meant to plan before I write.

fiction

The Difficult Decision: A Flash Fiction Piece

My energy arose as I thought about my friend, Kylie’s, birthday party happening in two days. Kylie and I had been friends since first grade. I had just completed my freshman year of college, so I looked forward to seeing Kylie after a year.

            But I received a text message from my college friend, Astrid. I read it.

            Lila, my mom just lost her battle with breast cancer. Her funeral is this Saturday.

            Pain shocked my body and my jaw lowered. I responded.

            Oh, no, I’m so sorry to hear.

            The door to the house opened. My mom entered, dragging her feet and lacking energy.

            “Mom, are you all right?” I asked.

            “Lila, did you hear what happened to Mrs. Jackson?”

            I paused for a few seconds. “Astrid’s mom?”

            “Yes.” My mother sat. “Her mom and my mom used to be roommates in college, too.”

            I hesitated and then said, “Why didn’t you ever tell me this?”

            “I…I lost touch with her until you met Astrid.”

            My phone sounded another text alert. I checked it. It came from…Kylie.

            So excited for Saturday. Can’t wait to see you.

            I stared at the communication, but did not respond. Kylie’s birthday party and Mrs. Jackson’s funeral fell on the same day.

            I had attended my grandpa’s funeral two years ago, and I’d had a tough time. I missed him, but I hadn’t cried over his death once…not even after hearing about his passing from my mother.

            While other people had wept at his funeral, I had just stood, bored for hours until the speeches had begun.

            I had hoped not to attend any more funerals since. I recall how the time at the funeral home had dragged and I’d been there for hours with my family.

            Aside from that, I had not seen Kylie since graduation from high school. Her party would start at three P.M. So, maybe I could attend the funeral and then leave for the birthday event. But wait—would that offend Astrid? I had a feeling that it might.

            “Lila, we should go to the funeral this Saturday,” my mom said.

            “How long will it last?”

            My mother gave me a sharp look.

            “Well, I’ve got Kylie’s birthday party at three.”

            “Lila, I think you should skip the party and stay at the funeral.”

            My mouth opened.

            “I get it—we’d all rather go to birthday parties than funerals. But frankly, you’re more friendly with Astrid than Kylie now. Plus, going to the funeral shows that you care and you’re willing to give your condolences. I think it would be more polite if you go to the funeral instead.”

            I sighed and texted Kylie.

            Hey, I can’t go to your party. I’ve got to go to a funeral.

            I sent it. A few seconds later, Kylie responded.

            Oh, ok. I understand. Sorry to hear.

            At least she comprehended me. But maybe my mother had a point. Summer break had just started. So, I’d probably hang out with Kylie another time.

fiction

I Dream of Time-Travel: A Flash Fiction Piece

Image from Pixabay

My name is Savannah and I am 26 years old. While I have a lot of amazing memories, so many moments from the past also hurt me to this day. Some I wish I could forget, and others I wish I could change.

            But there is one event from the past that I would consider one of my most painful memories—my seventh birthday. Yes, even when your little, certain things that happen to you can sting so much, you’re upset about them for life. That’s right, when I’m old, I’ll still be haunted by it.

            My second-grade teacher (I had a late birthday in September) forced me to experience something I hated. Then she threw me into a small space that was part of the classroom and had me go through that torture. Then I cried and lost my happiness for the rest of that day. My parents did nothing about it. No one did. You’d think the teacher would’ve been reported for that and would have had to face consequences. Nope. Everything resumed as if nothing had happened.

            Fast-forward 14 years and I attended a fashion college. One of the professors put me down for struggling with my assignments, and even demanded that I switch to another major. My mom freaked out over that. She had me speak to the dean about it, file a disciplinary action report, had me meet with a private instructor instead, and transfer to another college. Even then, she continued to yell at the previous university.

            Five times all those reactions should have taken place with my second-grade teacher. Not only should she have been reported for that awful treatment, but she also should’ve written an apology to me, gotten suspended for a few months, and been on probation for the rest of the school year. Everyone in the class should have apologized, too, along with the principal. She should have sent out a newsletter to everybody, revealing that an incident had occurred where I, the student, had been forced into an uncomfortable position. Adding a reminder that no one should’ve been pushed into those types of situations, mistreatment toward others wouldn’t have been tolerated, and to thank everyone for his or her cooperation, should’ve happened, as well.

            Even though 19 years had passed since, I wish I could go back in time, find my younger self (without revealing that I was her), hand her a note about what needed to happen with the teacher, and remind her to tell Mom. But that will always remain a fantasy.