Let the Magic Begin

That was the tagline for the first film in the series based on the books by J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I can hardly believe that it’s been almost thirteen years since it was released in theaters on November 16th, 2001. I was six years old, and I had never heard of Harry Potter until, around the time the first film was released, the corresponding LEGO sets came out. I still remember scrutinizing every detail of the sets in the catalogs and magazines, staring in wonder and imagining what the actual story of Harry Potter was like.

I wouldn’t find out until I was almost fourteen, but that’s another story. For now, I just want to elaborate a bit on the first film and why, even after numerous viewings, I still love it.

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Yesterday, I saw a special screening of the film at a small movie theater with some friends, and thus got to experience it for the first time on the big screen. At times, I could imagine that it was 2001 and I was seeing the film, along with the rest of the world, for the very first time. I thought of what sort of looks people had on their faces during certain scenes: Harry’s arrival at Hogwarts, the Quidditch match, the Mirror of Erised, et cetera. Surely, for the most part anyway, they were looks of awe and wonder, as I myself was struck with awe and wonder when I first saw the film. (I saw the first film before I started to read the books, but did not see any of the other films until after I had read the respective book.)

There are many reasons I enjoy this movie so much, but I’m crunched for time at the moment, and I don’t want to make you read a novel of a post, so I’ll limit myself to a few things. The first is that, watching the movie, the love that director Chris Columbus poured into it is almost tangible. It’s easy to sense his passion for the story, not just because of how faithful he was to the plot, but also to how he presented Harry Potter’s world, and the characters especially.

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Speaking of characters, that’s another reason this film never gets old for me. Not only are the adult characters played expertly (Richard Harris as Dumbledore, Maggie Smith as McGonagall, and Alan Rickman as Snape, just to name a few), but the child characters — especially The Trio — are overall played with wonderful charm. Sure, sometimes the kids’ acting is a bit awkward, but for the most part, Columbus got some great stuff out of the kids, not just as individual characters but also in how they interacted with each other. I’m still especially impressed with Rupert Grint (Ron) during the chess sequence, and many humorous moments throughout the film; Emma Watson (Hermione) with pulling off both her bossy side and her real strengths hidden beneath; and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) during the first Mirror of Erised scene.

Finally, one more top reason I love this movie is that it truly captures the heart and soul of Harry Potter, perhaps better than any of the other films did. While the later films often focused too much on the darker aspect of the story, the first film had a wonderful balance of humor and danger, of wit and wisdom. There’s variety here. We have humor, and lots of it. We have action, including what I think is still the best Quidditch sequence in all of the films. We have darkness and danger in the Forbidden Forest and the encounter with Voldemort. And we also have heartfelt poignancy, most prominently in (once again) Harry’s first encounter with the Mirror of Erised, and also Hagrid’s gift to Harry at the end of the film. While many of the other films focused too much on one particular aspect — darkness, romance, spectacle, et cetera — this one is a great mix.

Is this film perfect? Absolutely not. Again, there’s some awkward acting from the kids sometimes. It takes a while for it to really take off. Some of the visual effects don’t hold up very well nowadays. The editing is a bit rough around the edges. Columbus could have done better with his overall filmmaking technique. But as with many other things, these problems are outweighed by the things this film does right. I could go on forever about them, but I think it’s time to wrap this post up.

So, in conclusion: thank you, Chris Columbus, for creating a funny, exciting, touching, wondrous, and truly magical film. I will be watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for years to come.

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NaNoWriMo: To Plan or Not to Plan

That is indeed the question.

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When it comes to NaNoWriMo, there are basically two approaches you can take in planning your novel. They are as follows:

Option #1: Pantsing. Derived from the expression “flying by the seat of your pants,” this approach involves little to no planning whatsoever. Basically, when November comes, you just open a new document and start typing away, making everything up as you go. I’ve never “truly” pantsed a novel — my second novel had the least planning of any of them, but I still basically knew who my characters were, I knew where the plot would (very) generally go, and I had a few ideas for some specific scenes. I would personally not recommend pantsing your first novel, or even your second or third, unless you’re crazily spontaneous when it comes to creativity and have zero worry about producing a bad first draft. (You shouldn’t be worried about producing a bad first draft no matter what your approach is, but still.)

Option #2: Planning. There’s a pretty wide spectrum of planning: everything from just your main character and a general outline all the way up to a detailed roster of all of your characters, a description of what happens in each chapter, a written-out character arc for each character, et cetera. I’d recommend this approach, especially if you’re a newbie, but beware of over-planning. Preparing too much of your novel beforehand can actually hamper your creativity, not to mention productivity, when you actually sit down to write the thing. At the very least, you should know your main character(s) and have a basic idea of the overall plot.

Whichever approach you choose, be sure to have fun doing it! NaNo is less than two weeks away.

Which reminds me… I’d better get planning. Meep. o.o

NaNoWriMo 2014: A New Adventure Awaits!

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It’s that time of year again! Writing. Madness. Caffeine, if you’re a coffee drinker. Thousands of participants. Forum conversations. Inspiration. Plot bunnies. Writer’s block. And, most importantly:

50,000 words. 30 days.

I’m talking, of course, about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, sometimes shortened to just NaNo). It’s an amazing event that has taken place every November since 1999. People all around the world gather together via the Internet to cheer each other on as they each attempt a seemingly impossible goal: to write a 50,000 word draft of a novel in 30 days. That translates to about 1,667 words per day.

“That sounds insane,” you might be thinking. “Is that even possible? Why would anyone even want to attempt it?”

Well, first off, I can assure you that it is possible. I’ve done it every year since 2009, and have won each time. (When you say you “won” NaNo, all you mean is that you reached the goal of 50,000 words. It’s not really a contest — no prizes or anything.) So, yes, it is possible, although quite challenging. In fact, as I understand it, less than half of NaNo participants win each time it happens. Even if you don’t win, though, it’s an absolute blast if you’re into writing, or if you’ve had a story you’ve been wanting to write for a long time.

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This NaNoWriMo will be my first time while in school and while having a job, so I know I’m going to be more time-crunched than usual. I’m also a little nervous that I might not be able to win, and I don’t fancy the idea of breaking my streak. Still, though, it’s been so much fun every year that I’d hate to miss out on it, so I think it’s definitely worth the risk!

Curious? Maybe even thinking you’d like to participate this year? Head on over to the NaNoWriMo website and check it out! I’d start with the About, How it Works, and FAQ sections. And if you do decide to sign up, add me as a buddy if you like!

Even if you don’t decide to participate, I hope you’ll pray/cheer for me as I embark on my sixth noveling adventure!

November is just around the corner. *evil chuckle*

Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn

The colors. o.o

The colors. o.o

Okay, so, technically I’m a bit late with this post — summer officially ended in September — but it’s here now. So.

It’s that time of year again! The days are shortening, the nights are lengthening, temperatures are dropping, and colors are changing. Better start zipping up those jackets, folks: summer is long gone, and autumn has kicked in!

I’ve got to say, I sometimes feel a little conflicted about what my favorite season is. Yes, officially, it’s summer, but autumn may very well be a close second. There’s a tangible crispness in the air. The red, yellow, brown, and gold of the leaves changing is mesmerizing. Warm sweaters. Pumpkins — and, more importantly, pumpkin pie! All that good stuff.

As much as I love summer — the break from school, the sun, the water, the green — I am ready for the cooler, more comfortable weather and the change in schedule, however busy it can get. So, with this post, I just want to remind everyone to make sure you get the most out of it while it’s here.

Because, hey, we’ll all be begging spring to come almost as soon as winter rolls in. Am I right?

Until next week, dear friends and followers!