Saturday, May 7, 2011

Favorite Potter Character (#1)

I know I usually do a post about what book I'm reading each week on Thursday, but the book I'm reading now I'm actually doing to review for Fiction Flurry. So I don't want to spoil the fun and say anything here yet. So instead today you get another random Potter post!


Just like everyone else in the world, I have my favorite characters in everything I read.

Lord of the Rings? Aragorn. The Wicked series by Gregory Maguire? Elphaba. Hunger Games? It's a pretty distinct tie between Cinna and Finnick, but I actually really like Katniss too. Will Grayson, Will Grayson? The first Will Grayson, but Tiny has a special place in my heart too. Prophecy of the Sisters? Lia.

Thinking about it, most of my favorite characters are also the protagonists of said books. Maybe that makes me predictable, but it also makes sense...why read a book if you can't root for the main character?

And while I definitely root for Harry, he's actually never been my favorite character in the Harry Potter books. Actually, two of the three characters I count as my favorites aren't really even in the "starring" cast. They're definitely important, but there are large gaps between when we see them around.

But I'll get to them later.

There's one character in Harry Potter that I've adored since the very beginning.

Hermione Granger.

Honestly, I think the reason I was so drawn to her so early on was because it was like reading about myself on the page. She's kind of nerdy, definitely a know-it-all, a bit of a teacher's pet. She loves school and reading and books. She's very logical. When I was in eighth grade, that pretty much summed me up. I was definitely a nerdy, know-it-all, teacher's pet who loved school and books. That changed a little as I grew older, but for the most part those facets of my personality still remain. Poor Hermione starts off the series as something of an outcast, and just a couple years before I started reading the books, I was an outcast too. The concept of friends I could truly rely on was a relatively new one to me when I started reading Harry Potter.

I even had the out-of-control, dirty blonde hair.

There were times I was compared to Hermione among my group of friends. I've dressed up as Hermione more times than I can remember. She's always been my absolute favorite. I was beyond thrilled when I came to find out that she can be kind of a bad ass when she needs to (giving Malfoy a good slap in Prisoner of Azkaban, anyone?). When I'm reading a book, I can't really deal with the poor-little-me, weak, damsel in distress. Most girls aren't like that in the real world, why should they be like that in stories? I hate it when the female lead feels like her life is incomplete without the guy. It's fine if the girl is a little weak, but she has to have some strength in her somewhere, even if she doesn't realize it at the beginning. These are the characters I like to write, and the characters I like to read.

I think Hermione is one of the most real female leads I've ever read. She has her weaknesses and her insecurities, but she can take care of herself. She gets crushes on boys, but it doesn't run her life. She sometimes needs help, but she's also perfectly capable of taking control of a situation. She can be annoying, but what person isn't like that sometimes? She gives Harry and Ron reality checks all the time, but she gets reality checks right back. She's by no means perfect, which makes her that much more real. Hermione is awkward, uncomfortable with her appearance sometimes, but it's not the central concern in her life. In my opinion, she's about as real as a female character can get, which is probably one of the biggest reasons I've always liked her so much.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Let the Pottermania Begin

I wouldn't do it. I refused. For a month and a half during the beginning of eighth grade, I tried to ignore my friends' insistence that I should. I tuned out their intense conversations in between classes about these people they loved that didn't actually exist. They debated theories and storylines, and I rolled my eyes.

Not long into this, I came to find out two of my aunts were just as involved as my friends were. And my aunts liked recommending books to me. It's how I got so immersed in the Dear America series. For several Thanksgivings, I came home with books my aunts thought I'd like. So between my friends and my aunts, I just kind of figured I'd have to do it eventually.

Sometime in October 2000, I gave up. I went to my friend Amanda for help.

"Fine. Tell me which one is first. I'll read it, but I won't like it. Then you guys have to drop it."

We went to the library and she helped me find what I was looking for. I didn't know which one was first. The only thing I knew about it was what my friends had told me. I was going in completely blind and completely convinced I wouldn't like it. I didn't like fantasy or wizards or magic.

After we found the book, I sat down at a table in the library and read the opening of this story so many people loved, but I was sure I would hate. The opening that I would later be able to quote verbatim, because I'd read it so much.

"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense."

It was pretty much a downward slope for me after that.

For over a decade, Harry Potter has been at some central point in my life. I first started reading the books after Goblet of Fire was released. In fact, I finished reading the fourth book while I was with the aforementioned aunts that Thanksgiving. Many of my fondest memories are from shared Potter experiences I had with friends. These books essentially defined my teenage years and the stories continue to play a part in my life as an adult.

I tend to re-read the whole series straight through at least once a year. Usually twice. I have yet to do it three times in one year, but I imagine it'll happen someday.

This July marks the end of an era. The final Harry Potter movie comes out on July 15. There will be no more movies, no more books, no more releases of any kind to use as an excuse to dress up as a favorite character and party with fellow geeks. I was sad when the final book came out a few years ago, but I knew there were more movies to look forward to. Now those will be over too. It's bittersweet.

But because of this, I've been rather reflective lately regarding the last ten years of Pottermania in my life. Over the next months, I'll be reflecting these points on here. At first, it's probably going to be a little random, but starting at the end of May or beginning of June, I'll start to re-read the series again to get ready for the last movie. At which point, I'll be reflecting on certain moments, certain theories or debates, certain bits of the story, etc. Book by book. Because each book holds special meaning to me. For the last three, I went to the midnight releases. There are specific thoughts I remember having regarding the books or theories around them. There are certain things that happened in my life that relate either directly or indirectly to reading Harry Potter at that time. And, of course, there are certain friends I have that I wouldn't have known otherwise, certain experiences I've had that I wouldn't have gotten to have.

I feel like, because Harry Potter has held such a spot in my life for so long, it's long overdue to reflect on all of this. I hope you join me for this ride.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Writing Pains

"This is the magic/curse of writing: That in crafting your fiction, you leave yourself open to sudden moments of unguarded truth, and you have to be willing to tolerate that again and again. You have to keep raising your sword and charging, even knowing you could retreat scorched and missing a limb. You have to keep doing it even when you don’t want to. Especially when you don’t want to."

This brilliant quote is from Libba Bray's most recent blog post. And it's just so true and spoke to me so much that I felt I needed to add my own thoughts.

I'm not going to lie. There are sometimes when I wonder why I keep at this writing thing. There are times when I feel like my characters are all the same and my stories are all the same and it's just one giant circle. When I'm smack in the middle of a first draft, there are times when I can barely get up the will power to pick up the pencil (or keyboard...I don't tend to write longhand unless I have to). It's times like this when I really have to hunker down and just do it, because otherwise it's never going to get done.

There are also times when it's emotionally difficult for me to write a scene. A novel I wrote about a year and a half ago, there was a scene that I was absolutely dreading writing. Even now I can't pinpoint exactly what it was, but they were emotions I didn't want to face. More recently, I had to kill off a character I'm pretty partial to. I drew out the scenes leading up to that as much as I could. I dawdled. It took me a week to get to the actual death and then I was depressed for days.

And then there are times that I'm anxious for no reason, but I can tell it has to do with a story on my mind. I had a knot in my stomach all afternoon yesterday and off and on today. There's a story I keep thinking of and it's one that I feel like I should tell--but at the same time, I feel like I shouldn't. It's incredibly draining.

Writing is a painful and wonderful art. It makes us face emotions that we don't want to face, but we have to anyway. We have to think about the tough stuff and we have to understand how to get through it. We get to learn right along with our characters. And I feel like all this, as confusing and painful as it can be, is more a blessing than a curse.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Love of the Week: Skyway Flyer

I've gotten really into these indie YouTube musicians. I posted a couple weeks ago about Ministry of Magic, a wizard rock band. This week I'm posting about Skyway Flyer (aka Jason Munday). He is actually one of the members of MoM, but his solo stuff is absolutely amazing too!

I particularly enjoy this acoustic version of a song from his album (which you can buy on iTunes). Definitely check him out!