Sarai is a free-lance literature enthusiast who current works as an academic. An avid horror and fantasy reader she is an advocate for its cultural importance:

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Latest Articles


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Everyone wants to be a detective.

The genre of detective literature – murder/mystery – has never actually experienced a period of absence. Much like the action adventure or the romance, it is a broad enough category to appeal to a wide audience. Yet what is it about detective stories that continues to engage audiences across time, across societies and across cultures? Is it that we all fundamentally like to solve puzzles? Or is it that we like being carried along with a brilliant sleuthing mind? Often it is discussed that we love the "I figured it out before the hero" sensation. So do we just like feeling smart? There are a myriad of great detective stories out there, but it would be worth honing in on the two most enduring, which is the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Agatha Christie mysteries that feature a number of different lead detectives, including Hercule Poirot.
So what do you think? Why does everyone seem to want to be a detective?


    Adult Picture Books

    Firstly, I am not using "adult" as an innuendo for pornography or erotica, I actually mean adult as in the state of being over 18. Picture books are often relegated to being considered only of value to very young children. Although recent artists and writers have been producing work that fits into the young adult category, there is very little that would be categorised as an adult picture book that does not then become a graphic novel. Largely this is a matter of categorisation, as publishers are uncomfortable with the idea of an adult picture book, and that many people too would not be comfortable purchasing one. Yet those picture books that end up categorised as young adult are usually very mature in their subject matter, dealing with issues as diverse as mental health, sexuality, grief and death, love and social responsibility. A prime example of this is Shaun Tan’s ‘The Red Tree’ shows the journey of a girl through a myriad of situations in a dark world that we would recognise: isolation in a crowd, depression and anxiety, feeling trapped by a situation, loneliness, a loss of direction, a loss of self, all without engaging in any writing and yet this is still considered as only a children’s book. Another example is ‘Meh’ by Deborah Malcolm about a boys experience of depression, and then there is ‘Michael Rosen’s Sad Book’ by Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake that depicts a father’s grief and mourning for his son, it even comes with a warning about the serious and realistic depiction of grief. Graphic novels and comics used to suffer from this assumption of immaturity, but many are now comfortably accepted as being adult-only.

    So why is it that we still cannot accept that a book that is primarily full of pictures can be for adults, and by extension may actually have something very real and important to say?


      A picture paints a deeper story

      An old saying is that a "picture paints a thousand words." Anyone who has had the luck to see the work of Shaun Tan will agree, art can be used to tell intricate visual stories. His picture books such as ‘The Red Tree’ and ‘ Rules of Summer’ are visual masterpieces that speak more than the few small words that accompany them.

      Often in society today we still privilege the written word to the exclusion of all else. I think it would be interesting to discuss the use of symbolism, allegory and imagery in "silent" graphic novels and picture books to tell a wordless story that is much deeper than any written version could have been. It might be nice to have a discussion of various picture books, graphic novels or even full size mural art pieces that are designed to tell a visual (wordless) story, and what this means for the viewer.

      • This could be absorbed into your Adult Picture Books topic suggestion, but I still like it so thumbs up from me :) – Amyus 2 hours ago

      Mental Illness, Modernity and Now

      The modernist period in literature saw a massive shift not only in the structural and generic elements of literature, but also in the thematic foci. One area that began to gain greater representation was the discussion of mental illness, especially through the lens of female authors. Great examples of this are Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs. Dalloway’, Janet Frame’s ‘Intensive Care’ and much more, Charlotte Gilman Perkins ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and more. We are almost 100 years on from these breaking edge works that helped shape a greater understanding of experiences of mental illness. The prompt I would suggest would be to look now at examples of contemporary fictional works that deal with mental illness and how those experiences and stories are creating new conversations.

      • I think this is a fantastic idea, and does a great job carrying through the tradition that found a strong expression in modernism. What also may be useful - at least in my opinion - would be to also venture beyond Freudian psychoanalysis that was en vogue during that time, and see rather the interconnection between contemporary psychology and literature. Maybe an obvious point, so forgive me if this doesn't help. But, given what we know about schizoaffective disorders and neurodivergences today, I would think many authors would touch on this. Is your focus mainly here on female authors? – KevinP 2 days ago

      Using RPGs to develop secondary characters in your narrative.

      A common complaint in literature is the presence of one-dimensional secondary characters. These are characters outside of the standard formula or protagonist and antagonist; or are characters that act as a stimuli for plot progression. Understandably a character that is only going to dominate a single scene or at times a single line of dialogue in your story is not going to be one that you develop in any real depth. However, the lack of any consideration, or flippant description, can be both jarring and demoralising for your reader and will ultimately remove their engagement in the story. The two most common issues are completely generic stereotypes – the balding fat cop or the little asian punk girl – or the use of disjointed extremes – the asian emo-punk girl cop with pink hair but still wearing the standard police uniform – both of which will break the verisimilitude of the reading experience.

      One suggestion is to begin to develop framework secondary characters using RPG character sheets. This is similar to making up a skeleton outline of a character, but using a template that keeps all the information in the same areas. The idea is that by using these pre-generated character sheets it will allow characters to be briefly fleshed out in ways that create them as more than a stereotype, but less than a full-blown character. The use of a standard template is already a good organisational strategy that will help you manage your secondary characters. And anyone who has had experience as a DM/GM will know how vital this is for developing NPCs (non-player characters) that populate their worlds. An RPG template will help you categorise the different abilities, skills, characteristics and even notes on physical appearance of each of your secondary characters in a fast and efficient manner.

      • As a GM, this is an interesting proposition and I agree wholeheartedly with the need to flesh out background characters (especially if you find yourself relying on cliches too often). However, I question whether Character Sheets are the best way to do this. A lot of what's on character sheets are strictly numbers, and while this could lead to inspiration for character traits (ex. This guy has an 8 in Charisma, I guess he's a bit stand-offish), there are other ways of fleshing out characters that lends itself more immediately to narrative traits. For example, there are countless "20 Questions For Developing Your Character" articles and things of that nature that can help a writer create a more developed character. Something that could set this piece aside from articles like those could be further recommendations on how writers should further utilize character sheets once they're made, perhaps using those numerical representations in their writing process beyond having a convenient layout for abilities and gear. – Shaboostein 3 weeks ago
      • I'm not predominantly a fiction writer, but my partner is and from what I've gleamed from him regarding the use of writing templates/formulas is that they are very good for beginners and getting used to structure etc., but when you begin writing more they can be somewhat constrictive and actually quash creativity. I'd say it would work the same in this case. It's probably a good exercise if you feel like you need to improve your skills in that area or if you're a new/beginner writer trying to figure everything out but after awhile you'll probably need to take off the 'training wheels' (so to speak) in order to do more. – ToriBridgland 2 weeks ago
      • I love your topic, and I think it can go a bit broader than the specific scenario you suggest here. Your idea goes beyond just keeping track of detailed character descriptions. Personally, my favorite parts of storytelling are creating new worlds, creating characters that are shaped by those worlds, and plot twists that change the arcs of those characters and/or dramatically impact those worlds. RPGs, especially from the GM's chair, offer those three things in spades! After making the world and using the rules to combine various elements of that world (this is how magic can intermingle with big swords, this is what affects a robot differently from a human, etc.), you can use any plot twists you come up with as milestones for the characters to be reached. The rest of the plot fills itself in through improvisation and (usually) dice rolls. See also the LitRPG genre. – noahspud 1 week ago

      The power of names

      The choice of a name is quite powerful in literature, and in most popular-culture texts, as it can set particular expectations, symbolise aspects of the character, identify even the unique context of the narrative. Children’s literature in particular has used this to good effect with the choice of names that capture the popularity and every-man position of the particular period in which it was produced. For instance Mary of ‘The Secret Garden’ is an ideal choice for the period in which the book was set, as it was an iconic English name. An example of a symbolic name is Bella Swan from ‘Twilight’ that means beautiful swan, which sets against the symbolic fact Bella perceives herself as an "ugly duckling" that blooms within the love story. There are many such examples of both selecting names of the time and names with symbolic value. What other examples can you identify?

      • What you're describing is actually its own well-established sub-discipline of literary studies, called "literary onomastics." If you'd like to read up more about it, I'd recommend perusing the decades worth of essays that have been published in Literary Onomatics Studies ( and its successor, The Journal of Literary Onomatics ( There's also the Names: A Journal of Onomastics (; I believe you'll need a university library login to access this one) for a less specialized view of names and naming, not exclusive to its function in literature. Some authors I'd recommend are Leonard Ashley, W. F. H. Nicholaisen, and Grace Alvarez-Altman; you also might want to check out the Oxford Handbook of Names and Naming (ed. Carole Hough, 2016), which is a pretty comprehensive primer on the subject. With regards to the article that you're proposing, I'm not too sure if "What other examples can you identify?" is necessarily the best springboard for a discussion, as it may reduce this broad field of study to a handful of stray observations. (Most of the early LOS articles were limited to how names are used by a specific author or text, so as to keep the discussion directed on a central argument.) The article may be designed as a cursory intro to literary onomatics for beginners, which would work best if it delved into some introductory theory, rather than being limited only to case studies. Or, since you seem to be interested specifically in naming in children's/YA fiction, that could be tighter focus for the article. That way the selection of case studies would be more directly relevant to matters genre and reader demography, as opposed to trying to be representative of the full extent of naming's power. Just my two cents. – ProtoCanon 4 weeks ago

      Theoretical paradigms

      Literature is a field of study. It is categorisation of all written (and some multimedia) texts that engage to some extent in narrative storytelling. It covers early Greek theatre, ancient mythologies, classical romance and gothic, horror verses weird, modern, post-modern, paranormal romance and so much more. It is a vast and unwieldy monster of source material.

      As such, to make sense of it literary critics engage most often with literary theory – lenses and concepts that can be applied to categories of works. These range again widely: genre, feminist, post-colonial, structural, mimetic, queer – theories, etc. The use of these different lenses is important as it helps to highlight the various hidden, intended or contested views within different literature. It also helps make sense of the context in which a text is produced, and reflected on through the context in which it is being examined.

      However, for many the plethora of literary theory is a terribly daunting and overwhelming spectrum. I would propose a great article that would help many would be to take a single text, one not too complex or long, and apply the different lenses to show how they work. Actually what would be excellent would be if a few people took on this topic with different texts (some old, some new) to help show the diversity of theory.

      • Excellent idea. This is definitely a topic worthy of approval and important. Literary theory is messy with its multiple categories and subcategories. I would suggest that anyone who takes upon this task takes a "Intro to Lit Theory" approach and perhaps chooses (for instance) 5 main theories for analysis. Sub genres could be listed later without going into detail. For example, within romantic literature gothic as a horror genre come forth. But gothic in itself has already split into post colonial gothic. Therefore, Romantic would be your main point off analysis, but later a small paragraph on its fruits of gothic could be 'listed' to help simply this heavy topic. – Pamela Maria 1 month ago
      • @Joseph. Part of what I'm trying to highlight is what Pamela has identified above, which is this is such a messy category that it cannot be narrowed easily down. I could just put forward a topic such as Feminism Readings, but even that has so much contextual weight in literary theory to be enormous. Instead what I want people to consider with this topic is that these are simply categories designed to help a theorist expand on the knowledge already present within either the text or the society in which the reader exists. I don't necessarily see an issue in having multiple people take on this topic, and it something that could work quite well on this site with so many disparate viewpoints. – SaraiMW 4 weeks ago
      • I also agree that this is a great topic, but could turn into a daunting article. Perhaps this could be a series set for decoding different fields of literature - ex. one article for post-colonial literary theory, one for queer literary theory, one for genre, - etc. Someone could tackle these one by one, or a whole host of folks address topics they feel best suited to. – LoganG 4 weeks ago

      Charmed and The Power of Three

      ‘Charmed’ is a tv show that spanned from 1998 to 2006 following the lives of sister witches that vanquish demons. The show remains a popular choice for reruns and still has a strong following. Although in no way original in plot, lore or dialogue it has remained an enduring favourite. I would argue that in many ways, similar to ‘Supernatural,’ the show’s popularity is based not on the genre but the relationship between the sisters and the drama inherent in their lives. An interesting discussion would be to look at the comparison of the fantasy genre elements to the drama elements to see what truly is the appeal of this show.

      • I approve. :) Might you consider comparing Charmed to similar shows that deal with female friendships, such as The Golden Girls or even a romp like Fuller House? You subtitled the topic The Power of Three, so I'm extremely interested to know what you think about female trios/quartets/friendship groups across genres (supernatural, dramadey, dom-com). – Stephanie M. 3 months ago
      • The trailer for the remake has been released and might be worth taking a look at. Supporting your argument, the central thread still involves three sisters and their relationships with each other and to magic. However, because the women casted are people of colour, I am wondering how race will impact the narrative. – oddiem 3 months ago
      • The same could be said about Supernatural. If this is to be a comparison. – PoweredxJarvis 3 months ago

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      Latest Comments


      An interesting discussion. I’m not completely sure I agree with the full premise, but that is the wonderful thing about discourses – engaging in a discussion. I think inherent within the definition of hero or leader is the characteristics that identify extraordinary in an ordinary world. I think interesting stories will evolve from the Marvel split, but in many ways what they need to highlight is the different between being superpowered and being a superhero, which is always an interesting dichotomy reflected in the struggles in the comics. Any way a great brain juices discussion, thanks.

      True Superheroes Should be Replaceable

      A great discussion. It is interesting that in reflection of Disney following the zeitgeist that they have identified as the central concerns of the modern age to relate to mental health. One of the interesting things about Disney from a socio-cultural discourses perspective will be the utilisation of the trends and dips in their film making as reflective of the social milieu that surrounds them and the topics they tackle. A great discussion, thanks for posting.

      Sensitive Topics in Recent Disney Films

      A great discussion and a really interesting point of view to take. Often when we are discussing Disney we tend to get caught up in the female gender construction with little consideration to the male depictions. Thanks for sharing a great and informative read.

      The Developed Role of the Prince in Disney’s Live Action Cinderella (2015)

      A nice little discussion that has left me hungry for more 🙂

      Life Lessons from Literature About Food

      Not a show I ever got into, but I must say I was impressed by your enthusiasm and passion. Thanks for sharing 🙂

      The Walking Dead: What Led To Its Jeopardy

      Really interesting, thanks for sharing, I’ll have to give it a go.

      Walking and Writing: The Effects of Exercise on Creative Thinking

      A good discussion, I’m not a huge fan of this series so I’m a little biased in saying this, but largely it seems to be glorising and normalising violence against women in a period (now) when society is already experiencing these issues. I understand the argument by many that it is “realistic” to the setting of the story, but I don’t think any more that is a good enough reason, and if they are going to show this it needs to be more than a HD “rape fantasy” of attractive people and a greater emphasis on the emotional fallout, the psychological damage and the ugliness of what they are actually portraying.
      I’m overall a bit sick of this sort of thing, especially by HBO, as being normalised.

      Why do the Women of Game of Thrones Suffer So Much?

      Good discussion of a complex genre. As the edges of YA keep shifting it is always difficult to pin down what does and does not constitute YA fiction, and in a way that often influences the portrayal of characters. There are some central concerns in the stereotypical presentation of themes and heroines, however, this is a double-edged debate as many would argue this is a just representation of the interests and society of the readers. However, I think YA has a great place to develop more challenging narratives that allow all readers to feel included, not just those that society deem as normal.
      Thanks for sharing.

      YA Novels and their Modern Leading Ladies