jillholstad

Contributing writer for The Artifice.

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Latest Topics

5

The Fluidity of Physical Descriptions in Book Characters

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine about the dissolution of the physical descriptions of characters in books if the narrative does not periodically draw attention to their descriptions, and particularly if the character’s physical description is not a crucial part to the story (e.g. Harry Potter’s tousled hair, scar, and "eyes like his mother’s," etc.). Instead, we posited, readers start to develop their own visions of the characters in their mind based on the people in their life with similar personalities. What are the psychological factors at play here and what are the ramifications of this? Is this valid?

Alternatively, how critical are physical descriptions in casting adaptations of novels? Are they more or less critical than establishing the same personalities/motivations of the character in the novel? Why?

  • This is super relevant topic especially considering race, a common statement made today when a PoC is casted in a book adaptation, for example "The Darkest Minds" people say that the main characters race was never specified so people could interpret her in anyway they like. Seeing how physical descriptions affects a readers perception on a characters would be a fascinating topic – tmtonji 2 years ago
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  • These are two interesting topics that may serve better as a two-part series than one combined piece, unless you could have one naturally flow into the other.That being said, the first component here is relevant to aspiring writers and those who want to consume writing content in a more informed way. I for one would love to read that piece and learn more about how we construct fictional worlds (characters, but this could also extend to things like objects, sensory experiences, and settings) from our own collections of experiences, and how writers best help us recall those experiences in their own work.The second component, as tmtonji discussed earlier, is very relevant politically. To reference your example of Harry Potter, the casting of Noma Dumezweni as Hermione in the London performance of "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" made headlines and (I would posit) introduced the public to changing the way we imagine characters or link their identities to race. Another example is the Marvel company's changing of race and gender of some of their classic characters (perhaps, more accurately a transfer of a character's title to a different canonical character, but still) and how different audiences have reacted. It's definitely something you could delve deeply into. – Shaboostein 2 years ago
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  • I am highly interested in this topic and how readers (psychologically) make their characters look like in their minds. For instance, Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series was never described in terms of skin color, and this goes for many other characters in other books as well. An important note to make when writing this article is how many book adaptations to film tend to have light-skinned actors/actresses, and figure out whether it is intentional or not, and WHY this occurs so often. – Yvonne T. 2 years ago
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  • This is a great topic. Personally, when Im reading I prefer character descriptions to be vivid and frequent. I can't pot a random face to a character when I read. I don't know if this is due to my own inability of imagination or what. But I also feel that since reading is a form of escapism for a lot of people, making a characters face in the image of someone they know might be counter intuitive. – vmainella 2 years ago
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Latest Comments

While I think this article makes some very compelling points about what kinds of emotions we should be subjecting children to at young ages, and the possible results of that, I think it glosses over the idea that many children simply do not pick up on things that might be potentially frightening, traumatizing, or scarring.

For animation, my example would be The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Spirited Away, or The Sword In The Stone. These are films I watched in my youth, and some I absolutely loved (NOT the Hunchback of Notre Dame). However, it was not until I came back to them as an adult that I realized how truly dark and scary they are. I could not believe that I had not been traumatized by them, and the type of horror they possessed. I concluded that, as a child, I had simply not fully grasped what was happening in the films, and did not understand the gravity of certain situations presented, perhaps because, as a child, I had always assumed everything was going to be okay and have a happy ending.

And perhaps that is also a benefit of these darker kids’ movies, and animated ones in particular (I specify animated movies because I think Pan’s Labyrinth is the best possible example of this, but is not animated)- reflecting upon our childhood selves in awe or even fully understanding and re-compartmentalizing treasures childhood memories as deeper lessons.

Should Children's Films be Dark or Light?

This was also rampant in the first Deadpool film; most notably, the scene where Wade Wilson is tortured in the effort to activate his linger mutant DNA, is set to a bubbly, upbeat “Mr. Sandman.” For me, this is the only thing that makes this scene watchable. Such horrible visuals offset by unexpectedly chipper audio cues not only adds humor to the film, but is also what makes the genre accessible to more people. For the opposite- the fateful helicopter drop in the second movie set to the blood-pumping Thunderstruck- it changes the expectations of the audience, and that also adds to the humor of it all.

Deadpool 2 Soundtrack: Ridiculous or Genius?

I was honestly surprised by her disclusion from this article. While Voldemort was the one to kill Harry’s parents, he had a self-motivated reason for that. He believed he had to kill Harry in order to be immortal, and James & Lily stood in the way of that. I’m certainly not justifying their killing, but I’m just pointing out that he had a personal stake in the matter, and he wouldn’t necessarily have killed them otherwise, (especially with James being pureblood). However, Bellatrix Lestrange, the executioner of Harry’s other pseudo-parent/godfather figure, Sirius Black, committed murder for her cruel enjoyment alone. It was during a battle that Sirius died, but it was also right when he was fighting alongside Harry. Bellatrix gained nothing personally from killing him, making her far more cruel than Voldemort. I would be open to the argument that it is more a issue of situation; that in Bellatrix’s place, Voldemort would also have simply slain his enemy in a battle (and in fact, I’m sure he did), but Bellatrix’s killing of Sirius is also more impactful on Harry- who knew him as an adult, and yet never really knew his parents before they died.

Harry Potter: The Importance of Antagonists

Yes, I agree that is probably the most memorable scene for me. It was impactful to see both how the boys reacted to the story, and to the old man specifically, and the applicability of the old man’s story to the boy’s lives as well, which is of course his intention, as he overheard them in the bathroom while they were arguing.

Innocence and Violence in the Slums of La Haine