Stephanie M.

Stephanie M.

I'm a content writer and novelist who loves books, writing, theater, and my cat. I have published two novels and traveled to London and Paris.

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    Latest Articles


    Latest Topics


    Sorting Quizzes: Why Do We Like Them So Much?

    Potterheads enjoy asking each other which Houses they’re from, and once you become a Potterhead, one of the first things you want to do (at least in personal experience) is get formally Sorted via a well thought-out quiz or app. It’s not uncommon to go on social media and find people sorting their favorite media characters into Houses, putting HP Next Generation characters into Houses through fanon, and debating the traits of certain Houses and how they are or are not represented. (I myself am a proud supporter of Slytherin House redemption).

    But, why all the fuss over this little bit of HP canon? Why do people get sorted over and over again, identify with more than one House, and so on? Several reasons worth exploring exist. For one, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff are just sort of "there," while Gryffindor and Slytherin get all the attention. House Sortings are the closest we’re probably going to get to a "real" Hogwarts if we can’t afford trips to Orlando. Sortings help us craft new, fantasy-based identities that may help us handle some real-world problems to a degree. We might be looking for a "perfect" Sorting experience that hasn’t been achieved yet.

    Is it all of this? None? Are there facets not yet considered? Discuss.

    • I feel like it stems from a desire to understand yourself at a deeper level. The premise of the series is that the Hogwarts house you belong to is supposed to tell you something about yourself, even if it isn't always immediately obvious what, as well as surround you with a community of (more or less) like-minded individuals. People like this idea, and so they try to find ways to make it work for them. – Debs 1 year ago
    • I believe that people are eager to sort themselves into houses, because they want to belong to something. Millions of people are in love with the Harry Potter universe, because they prefer it to their own reality. Classifying oneself as Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, or Hufflepuff allows people to identify with something that is greater than themselves. It acts a method of justification for their personalities, and people want to feel that it separates them from others. – nicolemadison 1 year ago
    • To add on, I personally felt really validated and felt like I could finally accept my personality better while growing up. For example, before I became a Potterhead, I was almost embarrassed to be a smooth talker and that I could switch around my words well enough to sound really manipulative, even though it was not in my intention to be like that. However, after being sorted into Slytherin, I began to feel proud and truly understand that it wasn't a bad thing after all. I really owe it to the Sorting Hat for that one. – Dorothy 1 year ago
    • Robert Caialdini author of Pre- suasion talk about how people need to have questions answered and will give there attention to topics which propose one in order to find out the burning question of why, this sounds like good topic to explore – Gkcopy161 1 year ago

    The Explosion of WWII Women's Fiction

    My most recent Artifice article was about the feminine spirit in Holocaust-centered YA literature, and I enjoyed every minute of prepping and writing it. I also enjoy Holocaust-based fiction (in small doses) because it so often focuses on heroism and brutality in real, thought-provoking ways. The stakes are already built in and a lot of times, couldn’t be better.

    But then I had a thought. Lilac Girls, The Guernsey Potato Peel and Literary Society, Lost Roses, The Girl in the Blue Coat, Flight Girls…there is a LOT of WWII women’s fiction around these days, not all Holocaust-based. And I wonder, what is it about this sub-category that is or has become so compelling? Are other women in other time periods as compelling, and what could authors explore to give them their due? Have writers overused this category or are there more stories to be explored?

    • Wonder Woman 2017 is one other, though not the same time period but definitely a precursor in that regard. (And I suppose, Linda Hamilton in the hypothetical.) – L:Freire 1 year ago
    • I think it's because women became more independent during this time. They took over men's jobs in the factories, joined the army as pilots, and even acted as spies or saboteurs. There is a wealth of possible stories just from this period. I don't think it's overused yet. It's close, but not quite. However, World War I women could also be explored, particularly those in the Red Cross, as well as the 1920s. (These periods particularly interest me.) – OkaNaimo0819 1 year ago

    Can Jeopardy Survive Without Alex Trebek?

    Alex Trebek’s announcement of pancreatic cancer shook Jeopardy fans and resulted in an outpouring of love and good wishes on social media. Fans rejoiced when earlier this year, Trebek rallied and achieved borderline remission. But recently, he has hinted he may step down from Jeopardy in the wake of his cancer and treatments. If this were to happen, could Jeopardy survive? Discuss the changes the show might undergo, whether some might be overdue, and how much Trebek’s presence has made the show what it is today.

    • Sad news for Jeopardy fans. But the show will live on, and even though Alex Trebek may not be the host, the core values will remain the same. – Lava0083 1 year ago

    Translation of Book to Film

    Every time a movie is adapted from a book, people complain about it. This is understandable; I’ve seen my favorite books butchered in film and it’s never pleasant. However, I recently read the comment on a BuzzFeed article about this that a certain book’s story didn’t "translate" to film. Are there certain books that translate better than others to film, and if so, what are some? Does a book need certain elements to translate well to film, or are filmmakers simply stuck doing the best they can because, print and film being different mediums, certain things are bound to get lost in translation? Discuss.

    • As you have stated before, texts are analyzed ad infinitum. Yet in terms of this topic, I think you could argue slightly different, for a change of pace. All writing goes through drafting phases and all authors go through periods of productivity and delay or self-doubt. That said, how can we destroy an adaptation that is merely going through a rough phase, on its merry way to the final version? Doesn't sound fair to the artist, but then again, is life ever fair? As far as translation goes, an author that is true to his craft and steadfast to the theme will inevitably produce the elusive masterpiece. Another incumbent will fumble the narrative by second-guessing the motive and the medium, failing to strike a vital chord with the audience in the process. Nonetheless, you managed to rehash a contentious issue among art lovers. – L:Freire 1 year ago
    • The two conversing sides of the argument perhaps both have a touch of truth. Most of the books that have failed after being adapted to films have departed so far from the themes and messages of the books that fans have been almost experiencing a different story altogether (e.g. Eragon). This departure from the known characters is such a removal for the audience that it is almost being incorrectly introduced to someone you already know. On the other hand, writing a narrative in hundreds of pages cannot practically incorporate the waves of thoughts, senses, and minor details within a two hour film. While most including myself would gladly take a 12 hour Harry Potter film, to appeal to wider audiences, films cannot be realistically expected to cover all aspects of a book. Certainly, some films have handled the transition better than others and remained true to the heart of the book, but unfortunately the realities of the economically driven film industry prevent the full transition that fans so ardently desire. Maybe the solution is in tv adaptation rather than film to allow for longer screen time, or maybe the magic of perspective and thought disclosure in books can never be truly replicated. – Huntforpurpose 1 year ago
    • I'd be interested in hearing about living writers and their part in the production of the films. Should they be given authority over everything? Do they write the screenplay? if not, does the screenwriter get the say over the writer etc. – sophiatarin 1 year ago
    • It's a valid concern. There is a documentary on The Virgin Suicides that makes the case for inclusion of the writer within the film-making process. Of course, Sofia Coppola has the ultimate say over the characterization of the narrative. But the author of that novel, Jeffrey Eugenides, was a vital component behind the dialogue, the mood, and the setting. Also, I failed to mention earlier that the reverse can be surprisingly successful. For instance, the Star Trek episode "All the Yesterdays" made a seamless foray into a series of acclaimed novel tie-ins by A.C. Crispin. The onscreen romance between Spock and Zarabeth translated into two compelling novels of time travel and a supposed offspring between the pair. – L:Freire 1 year ago
    • A compelling factor in this debate is circumstances. The ancient Greeks wrote dramatic recollections of events that moved audiences of the time and to this day in practically every discipline that has emerged since then. But, there were no motion pictures to reclaim those texts. Then, Shakespeare entered the picture with an equal fervor for casting light on the matters of his day. Presently, we submit to the same appetite for literary escape with authors such as J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins, probably as eagerly as the Greeks and the British did in the early days of the art. In those times as it continues to be today, the stage was the medium for the written script. I venture to guess that audiences had their preferences for certain actors and theatres when reading the written play was not a viable option nor a preference. Perhaps, it may be that reading the plot in the comfort of a familiar setting with pleasant music or refreshment is the reason why some people opt for this method of entertainment. Indeed, the pace of a book or the flash of color and splash of sound in a film is what draws fans to each particular venue. So, an author's style or an actor's appeal may be the reasons why people turn to different sources of entertainment, including the online variety. I suppose radio producers had the same challenges in their respective field that could be incorporated into this topic. – L:Freire 1 year ago
    • Adaptation theory says that a film can do anything a book can do - it just does it in different ways. For example, first-person narration in a book might be translated in film via sound editing to an internal monologue. I don't really understand this as a valid concern because books, despite what people commonly think, are also a visual medium (consider font, illustrations, formatting, inflection, quotes, etc.) – KateBowen 1 year ago

    The Best Short Stories and Short Story Conventions

    Short stories form the backbone of almost any literature and creative writing class, either because students read or write them. Either way, they are analyzed–sometimes to the point of death, but we hope today’s literature students and teachers are moving past such tendencies.

    Of the myriad of short stories that exist, classic and contemporary, what are some that should belong in any canon? In particular, discuss contemporary stories or collections not getting attention right now, that should be. To go along with this, what are some universal themes, character traits, or tropes that make a short story "work" better than it would if it were written in longer form? Do some topics or themes lend themselves better to short form, and why?

    • I tend to favor the practicality of the short story for inducement to entertain, either personally or formally. Two titles in particular exemplify this viewpoint: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. As you mention, the commentary on social norms that they bring to the fore have been exhaustively analysed. But, I think that they serve the greater purpose of shedding light on the quirks of society that are overlooked or simply ignored in the haste of the day. Furthermore, they can provide a conducive outlet for what would otherwise manifest in cold or violent indifference. At the very least, the short story can be an entry point into much lengthier and broader literature or a welcome reprieve from it. – L:Freire 1 year ago
    • The short story, the ancient art that we knew, is still written and written abundantly, but the lack of follow-up may make us think it is an art of extinction, and no longer exists only in the form of simple flashes here and there. In fact, I have been able to read in the past few months a large number of story collections, with different qualities and atmospheres. Enough on the things the writer wants to point out, and let the reader complete in his mind what he thinks the writer may have wanted to write. – rosejone 1 year ago
    • I personally never got too into short stories. I've always devoured novels, and all my book/article ideas seem to come in "long form." Seriously, I was telling people at age ten that my 50-page "masterpieces" were "novels." That said, there are a few short stories that have stuck with me for years, and if they can win me over, they can win anyone over. :) I wanted to know other people's opinions so I could try some more short stories. – Stephanie M. 1 year ago

    Our Favorite Banned Books

    Banned Books Week is coming up next month. If you went to public or private school, you probably ran into at least one book whose author endured censorship. If you were homeschooled, certain books may have been banned in your home. If not, your teachers and parents probably discussed literary censorship once or twice, minimum.

    This writer has read her share of banned or questioned books, and she wants to know, what are some favorites in our community? The author should discuss some popular challenged books, especially favorites. Why are/were they challenged? If the challenge has died down, why–or why not? What particular literary value do these books have? Most importantly, what do we miss out on when we ban a particular book or author from our curricular or personal canon (s)?

    -Judy Blume (Margaret, Blubber, Deenie, really almost any book)
    -J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter; witchcraft controversy not as hot but still present)
    -Any book, especially children’s, featuring LGBT characters/situations
    -Anne Frank (yes, it was once banned for being a "downer" and because of Anne’s discussions of marital relations/sex)
    -Shel Silverstein (any book)
    -John Green’s Looking for Alaska

    • I actually read two on this list during middle school: Judy Blume and Anne Frank. I also read another book about a Jewish prisoner in Argentina and the sheer torture that he endured by his captors. But, this was during college and by that point I was mature enough to be exposed to it and to walk away from it a better person as a result. I feel that the Blume variety of distaste was mild in comparison. Further still, how is Anne Frank any different from 1984 by George Orwell in terms of social oppression and sexual deviance, looking back at it? Although I have never read any of Rowling's work, I have watch her televised speeches and interviews and feel that prose as vital and distinct must not be banned, it would be a disservice to art in general and literature in particular. – L:Freire 1 year ago
    • I went to a Catholic K-8 school and many of these were banned. I actually learned how to read by following the release of the Harry Potter books as I grew up, so they were naturally my favorites. But a few other banned books not mentioned here were: Northern Lights/The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, all of Scott Westerfeld's books, and The Picture of Dorian Gray (lol!). There were probably many more, but those were the ones I went out of my way to read. Thank you, public libraries! – Eden 1 year ago
    • A long time ago I took a look at Frank's book and was absolutely shocked and devastated after watching the documentaries. This book shouldn't be banned whatsoever. IMHO. – tscosj 1 year ago
    • No. No, it shouldn’t. In my opinion, Holocaust studies should be required starting in sixth grade up—full courses with supplements like trips to museums and resource centers. – Stephanie M. 1 year ago

    Recreating Hamilton's Success with Other Figures and Periods

    Hamilton hit Broadway in 2015 and subsequently became a smash hit. Teachers are now using some of the (clean) songs to supplement lessons on American history, there are tributes and parodies all over YouTube, and people unashamedly admit to listening to the soundtrack on repeat (with 46 songs, most of them over three minutes, this is nothing to sneeze at).

    The popularity of Hamilton brings to mind other long-forgotten historical figures and historical periods. Could other historically-based musicals be as successful? Who or what would you like to see get the Broadway/Lin-Manuel Miranda treatment (or attention from another composer)? Are there certain musical genres that would work best for some time periods (Hamilton leans heavily on hip-hop but, for instance, would WWII be more a rock opera type of story? Would a Civil War figure be more suited to say, bluegrass or rockabilly)? Who or what deserves a shot at Hamilton’s level of success, and how would you pull it off? Discuss.

    • I like this topic. I can't see me writing on this (well, never say never) but I'd be interested in seeing how someone would take a character or period and develop how it could be approached as a musical and why it might be of interest the way "Hamilton" has been received. – Joseph Cernik 2 years ago
    • I love this topic. I think focusing on Lin's influences and how he achieved the incredible work he did in "Hamilton" is crucial in this discussion. – karenstahl 2 years ago

    Writing Trauma Sans the Drama

    Traumatic pasts are de rigeur across mediums, perhaps especially books. Many, if not all, of our favorite protagonists have traumatic pasts. They’ve been orphaned, bullied, imprisoned, raped, or had any number of other tragedies visited upon them (sometimes a combination of many). Trauma is often a good tool in the hands of the writer, as it incites sympathy for characters and explains some motivations.

    However, trauma in fiction is often handled poorly. When this happens, you tend to get one of two reactions. The first is what TV Tropes calls "Angst? What Angst," wherein a character seems to function entirely separately of trauma, never mentioning it or letting it influence his or her life. Sometimes, the character suppresses the trauma so much, he or she finally has a melodramatic breakdown, or two or three.

    But on the other side of that coin, you have characters defined by trauma. This can be extremely obvious, as in the character who acts like a victim and wallows in self-pity, or it can be a bit more subtle. See, for instance, the abused person who grows up to be an unrepentant abuser, or the military veteran who gives up on life and people after losing a limb or sense.

    The question becomes then, how can writers write trauma, and do it justice? What is the best way to write a victim who incites sympathy, yet also incites true likability? How much trauma is too much or too little, and in what situations can/should it play a part? Discuss.

    • I think part of the success of writers who write trauma well are those who have directly experienced it themselves, or have those in their lives who have, it is always a little obvious when something is being used to provide a "unique flavour" to a story rather than a legitimate portrayal of a genuine experience. – SaraiMW 2 years ago
    • When I read A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, I was struck by the impact of trauma on the protagonist and how difficult it was to read such a difficult subject. Perhaps there was too much as it was so traumatic to the reader - and yet, the novel opened up the discussion on childhood sexual abuse and the impact on the adult. I think it is a fine line to walk and one that needs careful consideration. – Sara 2 years ago
    • Atomic Design of Nashville, TN is an Internet marketing service provider that provides exceptional web design, SEO, and graphic design. Our digital agency has been providing search engine optimization and website development since 1996. – atomicdesignash 2 years ago

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    Latest Comments

    Stephanie M.

    True, especially concerning serpents. I actually did a whole project on serpent symbolism/serpents in culture during college. My favorite part was finding out that in Celtic culture, the serpent was originally a more benevolent creature (I’m Scots-Irish).

    Dragons: East versus West
    Stephanie M.

    This is *amazingly* thorough…and yet more evidence that anime kicks Western animation’s butt in terms of complexity and themes.

    The Character Development of Hikigaya Hachiman in OreGairu
    Stephanie M.

    This was really cool. I especially enjoyed the sections on Eastern dragons, and the mentions of dragons in the Bible and Torah (it’s not something evangelicals get a ton of exposure to, probably because of translation conventions, the image of the dragon as a fantasy creature, and so on). The discussion of the Chinese dragon’s many different parts actually reminded me of discussions of creatures in Daniel and Revelation. They aren’t dragons per se, but some of them either have dragon-like features or are compared to dragons. Other times, dragons are mentioned without a whole lot of detail (ex.: the dragon the woman of Babylon rides–what or who is it? What does it look like? Should the interpretation of it be more literal or figurative)?

    Dragons: East versus West
    Stephanie M.

    Glad the article made the lineup, and so happy to have helped in the revisions.

    The Secret History: A Novel with Staying Power
    Stephanie M.

    Indeed, those are all great writers. And may we never forget the fiasco that was the War of the Worlds radio broadcast in, was it 1937?

    Literature Versus Science? The Cautionary Tales of Scientific Malpractice
    Stephanie M.

    Yes! And she did a great job of expressing that in fiction.

    Literature Versus Science? The Cautionary Tales of Scientific Malpractice
    Stephanie M.

    As do I. Mary Shelley was a genius and that’s all there is to it. And that’s coming from a person who is not by any stretch of the imagination a horror reader. (I wasn’t allowed to read it as a kid, avoided it as a teen, and didn’t read any until Frankenstein was required in college Brit Lit. Glad I read that though, because it’s a great, cool book).

    Literature Versus Science? The Cautionary Tales of Scientific Malpractice
    Stephanie M.

    Yes! Feeling or being unloved is the worst feeling in the world. That, not monsters or vampires or things that go bump in the night, is the real horror. I think some horror and mystery writers still “get” that, but I also think we lost some sense of gravitas when people like Mary Shelley left this earth.

    Literature Versus Science? The Cautionary Tales of Scientific Malpractice