The Discussing Hufflepuff: Being Clumsy is Not Cute

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One of my blogging goals this year was to post a Discussing Hufflepuff every month, but since I failed to post one during February, March, April and May, I decided to post another one this month! Besides, this was bothering me a lot lately.

I’m sure we’ve all come across The Cute Clumsy Girl trope at least once. Being clumsy is usually the girl’s only flaw (except that she’s usually ‘too naive’ as well) and everyone thinks it’s ‘so adorable’ and they fall head over heels for her. Because such a clumsy girl has to be protected! !

Okay, I do need to be protected from my own clumsiness. But everyone around me needs to be protected from my clumsiness. The amount of times I accidentally hurt someone is not funny (especially my Mom, she’s my biggest victim. Mom if you’re reading this: I’m sorry). Is being clumsy a flaw? Yes (though it really shouldn’t be the only flaw a character has). I hurt myself, I hurt others. I break things, spill things, basically I make one big mess. So that’s definitely a flaw. But that’s not how being clumsy is often portrayed in fiction, especially when it comes to the ‘cute clumsy girls’.

Can my clumsiness be funny or even hilarious? Oh yes. My clumsiness has been the protagonist of a good, funny story at many family gatherings and I often crack myself up by thinking about my antics. But I also internally cry when I remember that I almost burned the house down (okay I make it sound way more dramatic than it actually was) when I tried to bake some bread or the time I threw my new jumper on a BURNING candle. And did I mention that I’ve hurt other people a lot? I’ve accidentally hit my mom many times. Or head butted her a few times too. And there are of course the times I fell down the stairs, slipped on pavement (okay that one was hilarious. But it did hurt), jumped into a pond (I know that sounds like it was on purpose, but it wasn’t. My friend and I were dancing on a bridge, jumping up and down and I just jumped backward more and more until BAM. Foot in pond. Okay that one was also hilarious. But also sucked, because wet sneaker), ruined books, broke precious stuff, somehow got sauce on the ceiling and boy could I go on. Point is, while it can be funny, it can also be disastrous.

And honestly, if you spend a lot of time with me, while you’ll find my antics hilarious, they will also annoy you at some point. A lot. My mom usually laughs when I do something clumsy, but that doesn’t mean she never gets angry. Because sometimes it’s exasperating, and I agree. I hate breaking and ruining things and accidentally hurt people (duh). So when I read or watch one of those ‘cute clumsy girls’ who never portray clumsiness realistic, it bothers meA lot. Especially when everyone falls in love with her because she’s ‘so cute!!’.

How do you feel about The Cute Clumsy Girl trope? Are you clumsy as well? Does any of this sound familiar to you? Let me know in the comments!

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The Discussing Hufflepuff: Stop Romanticising Abusive Relationships

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No your eyes are not deceiving you, this is an actual Discussing Hufflepuff! One of my blogging goals this year was to post one every month. Of course I failed badly because the previous one was posted in January. 

Today’s topic is something I’ve wanted to write about for a while now, because it’s something that is very important to me. I’ve noticed for a while now that abusive relationships are often not described as abusive, by both the characters and the fans. Worse, they’re being romanticised.

I’m all for abusive relationships being portrayed in fiction. Hell, I encourage it. Because if one thing the romanticisation of abusive relationship does, it’s showing that a lot of people don’t recognise the signs, and fiction can help with that. But instead, fiction often romanticises abusive relationships, and this is very troubling. If we don’t realise that a ship in a book or tv show is abusive, how will we realise that our own relationship might be abusive? How will we realise that these abusive relationships are not something to strive for, but something we need to run away from as fast as we can? 

Writers need to stop romanticising abusive relationships, but maybe they don’t realise that the relationship they’re writing is abusive, because just like fans, they don’t recognise the signs either. So how can we stop the romanticisation of abusive relationships? By calling the writers out (gently, because like I said they might not realise it either) and helping them realise that as writers they have the tool to help their viewers and readers realise they themselves are in an abusive relationship or that someone close to them is, so they can get the hell out. That as writers they can help people in abusive relationship find the courage to break it off, to seek help. And most importantly, that if people continue to see abusive relationships portrayed as normal or even ‘romantic’ in fiction, they will believe that it is normal and romantic.

It doesn’t matter if the characters love each other. If they hurt the other (or each other), physically or mentally, it’s abusive. It’s not romantic when someone is overbearingly ‘protective’ to the point that they decide for you who you can and can’t see, that they decide your every move for you. It’s not romantic when someone keeps pursuing you, even though they say no. No means no. If they truly loved them, they would keep away. At this point it’s just unhealthy. If they make you feel like shit about yourself, even if ‘they don’t mean it’, get the hell out.

This topic is very important to me, because know the signs, but many people out there don’t. And how can they? No one teaches them, the media shows them that these type of relationships are ‘normal’ and ‘true love’. Please help me put a stop to the romanticisation of abusive relationships. It literally makes a difference between life or death.

Usually I have a question to ask you guys, but this time I can’t think of anything, so let me know what you think of this topic in the comments!

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The Discussing Hufflepuff: Do You Cast Your Characters?

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Hey guys! Today I have a question for the writers among us: do you cast your characters?

When I start a new story, one of the first things I do is think up the main characters, but one thing I really suck at is describing their physical appearance. I have the same problem when I’m reading; I can picture the colour of their hair, eyes, skin and usually their clothes if they’re described, but their faces? What faces? Unless I can picture them as an actor or as a piece of fan art of the character, they have no faces. They are Slenderman. No, just kidding. Thankfully I don’t imagine them all as Slenderman, but the face is kind of blurry and not very detailed, so imagine describing that when writing a character. I find it so much easier to already have a detailed image in my mind and describe them. Plus, casting characters is really fun and I love the feeling I get when I find someone and think ‘It’s [insert character’s name]!’.

So this week I got a new novel idea and one of the first things I did when I started planning this (more on this in tomorrow’s wrap up) was casting them.

lovetrianglenovellol

Meet Yong Sun An (Ok Taecyeon), Andrew ‘Drew’ Lewis (Daniel Sharman), Reyna Vélez (Cierra Ramirez) and Hye Su Seung (Arden Cho), the main four of my new wip. GUYS. IT’S A CONTEMPORARY. NO MAGIC. NO DEMONS. NO ONE GETTING KILLED (probably). This is a first for me (not counting short stories).

Anyway, as I started writing it (someone kick me if at the end of the year I actually finished this but not The Army of Quermo) it was so easy for me to picture the characters doing things and describing them, as I could picture these actors perfectly well. It’s the same when I’m working on The Chosen Ones and my very vague, much mysterious project (I’m just going to refer to it like that from now on).

So my question is, do you cast your characters? Do you find it useful? Or just fun? (because I certainly do). Let me know in the comments!

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The Discussing Hufflepuff #5: ‘ANOTHER book set in that world?’

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HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVE! Can you believe it’s Christmas already tomorrow? I’ve got a Christmas post coming up tomorrow, but today it’s time for another Discussing Hufflepuff. Today I want to talk about something that has been annoying me for a while now.

Next year Lady Midnight is coming out, another book in the Shadowhunter Chronicles. Chain of Gold, also a Shadowhunters book, will hopefully be released in 2017. The Hidden Oracle, the first book in Rick Riordan’s new series The Trials of Apollo, will also be released in 2016. Now you may think: Michelle, where are you going with this? What do these books have in common?

All these books get comments, mainly on Goodreads, along these lines: ‘ANOTHER Shadowhunter book?’ ‘ANOTHER mythology book?’ ‘Can’t they write something else?’ and the infamous ‘they’re doing it for the money!’.

This really annoys me. You don’t have to read these, you know. A lot of us, including me, are very excited about these new series. Why does it bother you so much? The authors, and the fans, are not ready to let go of these worlds yet. They still have many stories they want to tell, they find them fun to write, and most of us find them fun to read, so what’s the big deal? Yes, they can write something else. And they have. Rick Riordan has written non-mythology books. Cassandra Clare is writing The Magisterium series with Holly Black. But if they hadn’t, what does it matter? They’re doing what they love, I say let them. As someone who loves to write, I’m sure not going to criticise them.

Also, how many people complained about Blood of Olympus? When I finished it, I figured there was going to be another series. I mean, spoiler: Apollo went missing for crying out loud. Uncle Rick couldn’t just leave it at that. I’m not remembering this wrong am I? I didn’t make this up myself, right? There were things left unresolved, and many more things we complained about that I won’t specify here to avoid spoilers, but if you’ve read Blood of Olympus and you’re part of the fandom, you probably know what I’m talking about. It sounds like all our complaints will be resolved in this new series, so why are we complaining? (when I say we, I’m obviously not including myself. I’m not complaining. I’M HELLA EXCITED. Remind me to never use ‘hella’ again please)

But what even irks me more, is that when authors don’t write another series set in the same world, people also complain (okay I’m guilty of this one). We whine and whine that there’s no book series about the Marauders. If J.K. Rowling announced that series today, would anyone say ‘another Harry Potter book’? And if afterwards she announced a series about the Founders, would anyone say it then? No, forget I asked that. Probably someone will. My point is, we often want more series set in these worlds. We’re often not ready to let go. And again, if you are ready, you don’t have to read this new series! No one will point a gun to your head and force you to (I hope).

And ‘they’re doing it for the money’? UM. IT’S THEIR JOB. WE LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE WE NEED MONEY TO SURVIVE. THEY NEED TO PAY THEIR BILLS AND BUY FOOD. HOW ARE THEY GOING TO WRITE WHEN THEY’RE DEAD BECAUSE OF THE LACK OF FOOD. Guys, I would KILL (okay, maybe not kill) to be able to write for a living. I know a lot of us are. They’re writing something they love, and they’re being paid that way. If a chef makes another pasta, will you go ‘NOT ANOTHER PASTA. CAN’T YOU COOK SOMETHING ELSE FOR A CHANGE?’ Please stop criticising authors for writing several books/series set in the same world. Unless there’s a really good reason to do so! If there is, please let me know.

So what do you think? If you disagree with me, let me know! I’m really curious to find out more about the other side of this ‘debate’. AND WHO’S ALSO EXCITED ABOUT THE HIDDEN ORACLE, LADY MIDNIGHT AND CHAIN OF GOLD?

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The Discussing Hufflepuff #4: Is a 5-star Rating Equal to a Favourite?

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What is this? A Discussing Hufflepuff? Yes indeed, your eyes are not deceiving you! I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do one this month either, but as I was trying to organise my Goodreads shelves (with the emphasis on trying) I suddenly got an idea for a Discussing Hufflepuff post.

See, when I rate a book 5 stars, that doesn’t automatically mean I consider it a favourite. Hell, some of my 4-star books are among my favourites as well. So in my case, a 5-star rating isn’t equal to a favourite.

And I was wondering… Am I the only one?

When I look at my 5-ratings on Goodreads, there are actually quite a few books on there that are not on my favourites shelve (not counting manga. There are so many volumes that I never put manga on any other shelves beside ‘manga’. Maybe I could put volume 1 on my favourite shelve…). There are also quite a few 4-star books on my favourite shelves. So now you might be wondering, how do I decide when a book is a favourite of mine?

It’s quite simple (in my mind) when it comes to 5-star books: it could be an amazing book, without any flaws, and thus worthy of 5-stars, but if it doesn’t give me a certain feeling (I can’t really describe this feeling, but it’s a feeling I get when thinking of my favourite books), it doesn’t really blow me away, the characters don’t stick with me nor does the story, it’s not a favourite. Basically, it’s all based on feeling.

But how about 4-star ratings? Can a flawed book be a favourite? 

Maybe other bookworms only consider 5-star books favourites, but I certainly don’t! I accept that a book isn’t always perfectly written, that it has plot holes and what not, but if the story and the characters make me fall in love with them… Well, it’s a favourite.

To make all of this a little less vague (like siriusly I can’t blame you if you’re not following me here), here are some examples of 5-star books that are not favourites and 4-star books that are.

The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan – ★★★★★

I love Uncle Rick and his books and will defend his writing at all times, but The Kane Chronicles just didn’t blow me away. While I liked Carter and Sadie (especially Sadie), they’re not in my heart. The plot felt the same in every book (I guess you could say that the plot in a lot of his books are similar, but it was just too similar and it felt like I was reading the same book every time) and it just didn’t blow me away. Still, I couldn’t see a reason why to give it less than 5 stars! My complains were small (to me).

The first four books of The Mortal Instruments series – ★★★★

You may or may not know that this is one of my favourite series, but until the fifth book I didn’t give away five stars! City of Glass is the book that made me fall in love with the series though, so at that point I started considering the series a favourite, even though I gave the books 4 stars. See, the main reason I gave the first three books four stars is because they were a bit too predictable and not much happened in the fourth one (though I still loved it. Mango), but that didn’t mean I didn’t love the story, the characters and the world!

So here’s my question to you fellow bookworms: is a 5-star rating equal to a favourite?

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The Discussing Hufflepuff #3: Rereading Childhood Favourites

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Last month I decided to reread the first book in one of my favourite childhood series: De Macht van het Zwaard (The Power of the Sword). I had wanted to reread this series for a while now, as it meant a lot to me back when I was a kid. I reread it over and over again, introduced me to high fantasy, the characters were my friends and I wanted to live in their world and go on adventures with them. I couldn’t understand why this series is not more popular and I’ve been shouting (mentally) from rooftops that it should be translated.

I’m not so sure about that anymore. In fact, I’m not sure at all.

The writing is meh. It’s not bad, but not mind-blowing either. The descriptions aren’t as vivid and beautiful as I once thought. Two of my favourite characters from my childhood turn out to be sexist, which I didn’t see back then because I was a kid. The romance I once admired is creepy and I don’t ship it at all. You see, when the protagonist met the love interest, she was ten, almost eleven. He was 18. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a kid having an innocent crush on an older guy, but it is wrong when said man shares those feelings. THIS IS NOT OKAY AT ALL GUYS. It’s creepy and disturbing and it kind of ruins my childhood, since I shipped them so hard when I was a kid (though I didn’t know what shipping was, of course). Nothing happens between them when she’s still a kid, but he still fell in love with her when she was a kid. Surely I’m not the only one who’s a bit freaked out about this?

I did enjoy rereading it, though. I was transported back into a world I once practically lived in. The other characters are still loveable (though not very three-dimensional, but it’s only the first book) and their relationships are fun to read. So are their adventures and the places they go. Rereading it warmed my heart and it was fun, just not good as I remembered.

If this had been the first time I read this, I would’ve given it three stars, but I gave it four for nostalgia. I will always consider this series one of my favourites, because it meant so much  to me for so long, but I will not praise it like I used to.

Of course I had different tastes and expectations as a kid. I hadn’t read as much and didn’t have a lot to compare it with, but I’m still disappointed it’s not as magical, exciting, mind-blowing, funny and well-written as I thought it was.

It made me wonder, how many other of my childhood favourites are actually not that good? And why? Is it because they’re aimed at kids? (because I’m not so sure about De Macht van het Zwaard. The protagonist is 16 and there’s quite the violence and death). Is it because we have low expectations and not much to compare it with when we’re young? Is it because we don’t really understand three-dimensional characters and character development? Or is it because we don’t notice how creepy and disturbing and sexist books can be, because we have no knowledge of these things?

So therefore I ask YOU. Why do you think some childhood favourites turn out to be not as good as you remembered? 

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The Discussing Hufflepuff #2: How Do You Dress Your Characters?

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Our characters need clothes. Duh. But how do you visualise what they wear? Do they have their own wardrobes in your mind palace? Do you have a Pinterest board for each character where you pin clothes you think they’d wear? Do you use Polyvore? (See my post on this useful and also slightly addictive website here) Do you just think it up yourself? Or do you not know at all?

It took me a while to really know what my characters would and wouldn’t wear. Honestly, I still don’t really have the style of my male characters figured out, but I’m pretty proud of myself of thinking ‘This is something Rose would wear’ or ‘This is perfect for Sophie’.

I use both Pinterest and Polyvore, though I haven’t used the latter in a while. Polyvore is great because you can put outfits together yourself. Pinterest is great because you don’t have to do anything yourself, just pin it.

After several hours on Pinterest, I made these collages of my three female characters’ clothing style:

Rose

Ashelle

Sophie

So now I know what kind of clothes my characters would wear, I feel it’s easier to describe them. Of course I won’t describe their clothes every time, I doubt any reader would be interested in that, but when writing a dance scene I had trouble coming up with what they’d wear. Not to mention I feel like I know them better now, which is very important, ’cause if I don’t really know my characters that well, how can my readers now them? Cloths might seem unimportant, but through clothing we express themselves, so do our characters.

So now I have a question to YOU, my fellow writers. How do you dress your characters? Do you vividly see it in your mind? Or do you not know at all? Do you find it important to know how they dress? Do you use Pinterest or Polyvore? Let me know in the comments!

Now I’m off to figure out the clothing style of my male characters!

– The Writing Hufflepuff