Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Genres of Literature – School Story


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The school story generally centers on older pre-adolescent and adolescent school life in the first half of the twentieth century. Other narratives do exist in other countries, but the most common theme is English boy or girl boarding schools reflecting the single-sex education typical until the 1950s. The focus is on friendship, honor and loyalty between pupils with plots involving sports events, bullies, secrets, rivalry and bravery.

The popularity declined after the Second World War, but remained popular in other forms, changing the focus to state run coeducational schools, and more modern concerns such as racial issues, family life, sexuality and drugs. The genre’s revival was due to the success of the Harry Potter series, with its many plot motifs.

The first boarding school story was The Governess, or The Little Female Academy by Sarah Fielding, published in 1749. A moralistic tale relaying the lives of nine girls in the school established aspects of the boarding school story repeated in later works. Fielding’s approach was imitated and used by both her contemporaries and other writers into the 19th century.

Even though children were not generally targeted until well into the nineteenth century, due to the concern of moral effects of novels on young minds, and so published narratives tended to lean towards moral instruction. The genre’s peak period was between the 1880s and the end of the Second World War, later comics featuring school stories became popular in the 1930s.

School stories do remain popular, with their shifting focus on more contemporary issues such as sexuality, racism, drugs and family difficulties. As we all know the Harry Potter series has revived the genre significantly, despite it’s fantasy conventions.

Do you (or did you) read school story novels/comics?

Have you written one?

Creating Monsters to Delight and Scare…


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On Saturday, my daughter and I enjoyed the Harry Potter exhibition at a local venue. The props made for the movies are exquisitely detailed, in fact, a good deal of the hard work that went into producing them is totally missed when we view the movie. The costumes are elaborate and beautifully sewn, with textures and accessories unseen by audiences. Wands, books, jars and all manner of other props have been painstakingly created for visual effect but lost during the action of the characters. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed in the exhibition. However, this chess piece was displayed at the entry desk. An interactive ‘pulling up of a mandrake’ was a highlight of the exhibition. Hearing them squeal was fun. After exiting the exhibition it occurred to me that when we create characters and scenes in our narrative, we have to carefully balance the amount of detail we reveal. Too much or too  little can lose the reader’s attention.

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After the Harry Potter exhibit, we discovered another ‘bonus’ exhibition entitled ‘How to Make a Monster’. There were videos and partially formed figures detailing and showing, the process of creating a monster from drawing board to fully automated figure. The creators experimented with colors, textures and patterns to find the ‘right’ look for the creature they were building. This process is similar to our own character development. We pick their hair and eye color, their personality type and back story enabling us to write a complete character.

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Monsters come in all shapes and sizes, human and beast. It takes skill and an understanding of how they think and react to situations that make them compelling. My vengeful witch in, The Rython Kingdom, was convinced she had the right to destroy for the imprisonment she had suffered. My Lord of the manor in, The Twesome Loop, thought his position entitled him to abuse those serving under him. Both characters are mean minded, evil and despicable, that is their attraction for our readers, who want to see them conquered.

A ‘monster’ in any guise has to be believable in the context of the narrative as well as have some sort of redeeming feature, no matter how small. A raging dinosaur might be protecting it’s eggs, any cornered animal will fight to survive, a serial killer has a compulsion or belief that their actions are permissible or they are driven to them. Take the TV show Dexter, he is a serial killer in disguise but still calmly kills people! His motive is to rid the world of murderers.

What is your most ‘evil’ character? What traits did you use to portray them?

Making the Inconceivable Believable…


Inconceivable – definition: not conceivable; unimaginable; unthinkable

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Writers have the ability to make the unimaginable reality in their narratives. There are no barriers, no limits to what a writer can create. Distant worlds, alternative realities and curious creatures are brought to life for the reader.

It may seem rather ‘easy’ to create a whole new world, but in actual fact there are numerous hurdles you have to jump. Fantasy readers, in particular, are extremely meticulous in ensuring consistency in a fantasy work and the ‘laws’ of the land therein.

This Q&A page is a great way to find out if your creation will stand up to their scrutiny.

http://www.sfwa.org/2009/08/fantasy-worldbuilding-questions/

And a great link for tips on world building here:

http://www.malindalo.com/2012/10/five-foundations-of-world-building/

Of course world building is not restricted to fantasy. If you are setting your narrative in a particular time period you must ensure everything your characters use and interact with, are from that era. A 1940’s housewife will not have the luxury of a microwave oven, for example. However, when you have time travel within your story greater detail is required to ensure each era is true to its original. This not only gives the reader clues as to where and when your characters are but also gives your protagonist obstacles to overcome. Unless of course you have a time traveler visiting!

With attention to detail and solid back story, every narrative can be believable no matter how fantastical the characters, creatures or situations. Most of us ‘believe’ in Hobbits, Harry Potter and the like because the narratives are so strong in the basics of world building.

I have used reincarnation (The Twesome Loop), an alternative future (life in Slake Patch) and magical creatures (Ockleberries to the Rescue)  in some of my novels. If you can imagine the inconceivable – you can write it.

What fantastical worlds have you created?

How did you decide on the ‘laws’?

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Interview with Jason E. Maurer…


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Jason was kind enough to interview me for his blog and when I offered to reciprocate his reply came back so quickly I thought it best to get it on here PDQ! Thank you Jason for being so kind to me and as promised here is my interview with you. Find him at – Jason’s Writing Corner.

• Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
I’ve had so many over the years that were great- but unfortunately most of my older stuff is long gone.
Right now, my favorites are Phoenix and Milo, from a work-in-progress.

• Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?
It all depends what the story is about. I’ve tackled mystery, vampire, teen issues, a children’s book, as well as erotica. Unfortunately, most of the my older stuff has long since been lost. This is why I tell everyone the importance of backing up EVERYTHING (or at least having it in printed form).

• Have you got a favorite place to write?
I like to go into the mountains and sit by a stream somewhere, it’s relaxing and enables me to think clearly.

• What inspires your stories?
I have so many ideas running around my mind that it’s difficult to say precisely where any particular one came from. Family, friends, everyday events, people-watching, everywhere.

• Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one?
I belong to several author groups on facebook, but that isn’t exactly the same thing.

• What age did you start writing stories/poems?
I wrote my first story around age 12, something about kids being lost in the forest. I used to write poetry all the time through my teens, but all of that is gone now.

• Do you have a book published? If so what is it called & where can readers purchase it?
I have one novel, one novella, and several short stories for sale on amazon and smashwords.
http://www.amazon.com/Jason-E.-Maurer/e/B0080HHLPC/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/jasonmaurer

• If you could meet one favorite author who would it be and why?
Tough choice. My favorites have always been Dean Koontz and Anne Rice [and eventually J.K. Rowling when the Harry Potter series arrived]. I couldn’t choose just one.

• Where can readers find you and your blog?
If you check out the About Me / Links page on my blog, everything is all in one neat and tidy place.
http://jasonemaurer.blogspot.com

• Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?
A few of the best friends a guy could ever ask for- Amanda, Ang, Krysta, and Theresa. They’ve been my support group for the last few years, pushing me to write, and telling me my stories were good even when I didn’t think they were.