Hogwarts fanfic

Harry Potter fanfic is usually held in low esteem, probably because 1) they are children’s books, and therefore not that sophisticated to begin with; 2) it’s fanfic, which connotes trashy stories, such as shipping, more sex than the original material, and especially slash; and 3) it’s fanfic written mostly by youngsters, which compounds the previous two issues.

That said, the reason I liked the early Harry Potter books was that they reminded me of the early books by P.G. Wodehouse that he wrote for school boys, which were all set at public boarding schools, with boys split into houses that seemed to be constantly locked in interhouse sports rivalries, and the boys learned to deal with a new environment, adversity, and generally edged closer to adulthood.  Of course, a lot of this genre was codified in Tom Brown’s Schooldays over 150 years ago.  Harry Potter just adds magic to the formula.  Oh, and a great war between good and evil.  To be honest, I read books 5-7 just to see how it all turned out.  The characters and world made at least that much of an impression on me.

Currently, the two most recommended HP fanfics on TVTropes are

  • Harry Potter and the Nightmares of Futures Past: Instead of the canon successful last stand at Hogswarts, in this alternative universe, Harry eventually wins an prolonged war with Voldemort only after seeing everyone he cares about die.  So he figures out how to send his soul back in time and set things right.  So far, it retells the familiar events with Harry having the benefit of the lessons of his previous life.  The parts I find most poignant are when people face danger and their fears for each other, which is Gryffindor but also quite Hufflepuff.  The author seems to have a martial arts fixation (he also writes a Naruto fanfic), and I wish the recap chapters told from another character’s POV were simply integrated into the main narrative instead of tacked on.  The author also appears to have more trouble now that he’s diverging further from the events in the canon.
  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality: Petunia Adams marries an Oxford professor, and Harry grows up to be uber-Ravenclaw, to the point that Hermione is demoted to a Watson (though it’s usually Draco who plays this role).  This is quite obviously an author tract, as the author works on human rationality, AI, and decision theory.  But, you know, of all the directions an author tract can go, this is one I find pretty amusing.  Draco is upgraded from arrogant bully to arrogant chessmaster, and one that might be saved, but I don’t particularly like characterization for Hermione.  Stripped of her usual role, she worries about adolescent girl things but just happens to be an excellent student, which smacks of author appeal.

Anyway, if I were to write a HP fanfic (that’s a big if), I would probably write one about Hogwarts, not focused on the main characters, though probably set in the time period of the book 7 epilogue in case tie ins are desired.  The idea I’ve been kicking around is borrowed from Avatar: The Last Airbender (yes, yes, go ahead and mock): that cultural pride is all well and good, but there should also be balance and greater unity.  I’m hoping there’s some interplay between that and the house cup rivalries.

The premise of The Fifth House is there’s some students who don’t fit into mold of their house, feel outcast, but find what they need in each other (haven’t figured out what that is yet…).  I’m thinking of patterning this after the classic five man band, though because of the quidditch, this will probably go up to 7.

  • The Hero: A Gryffindor who is sick of his house’s tolerance for pranks.  Lawful good and would rather devote his time to certain causes (Muggle rights?  Muggle-born?  Other sapient magical creatures?).  Need to think of a central conflict for this character or would be too boring.
  • The Lancer: A Slytherin who’s sick of being someone else’s minion and has ambitions of his own.  Plays seeker on the team.  After his family is betrayed in a business deal, he cuts his bonds.  Would prefer to be in charge himself, but is mollified that at least now he’s not being ordered around all the time.  Has to deal with all the people he offended previously and those he recently abandoned.
  • The Smart Guy: Outcast from Ravenclaw because of their bias against non-magical technology.  Muggle-born, with a previous interest in computers before finding out he/she’s a wizard.  Will probably end up inventing a magical computer like Hex and study arithmancy.  Plays wizard’s chess, of course.
  • The Big Guy: Was minion to the same Slytherin as the Lancer, but leaves when the lancer does because he finds their former boss odious.  This defection produces trouble for his family.  Loyal to the lancer, but has a distaste for dirty tricks.
  • The Chick: The Hufflepuff who holds everyone together.  Just trying to figure out why he/she is outcast from Hufflepuff to begin with…  Would being the hero’s love interest be too cliche?  Then her issue could be tension between loyalty to her beau and her house friends.

EDIT: To put this into the context of Primetime Adventures:

  • Premise: a group of Hogswarts students attempt to bridge house rivalries that appear to be dividing the school.
  • Setting: Hogswarts after the fall of Voldemort.  The reputation of Slytherin house is low, something which Slughorn will no doubt address.  Maybe some Gryffindors have gotten a little to full of themselves?  And Hufflepuffs don’t want to be the 4th house.
  • Tone: try to keep it lighthearted, like the original books.

Cast:

  • Lucas
    • Concept: 4th year Gryffindor.  Has a high sense of honor and integrity.
    • Issue: Conflicted about fighting.  Family has a history of bravery, and father was wounded in war with Voldemort, but sees Voldemort as a symptom of fighting within the magical world.
    • Story arc: Fed up with the constant pranking by his fellow housemates, especially against Slytherin (at least those who don’t deserve it).  Sets out to make the school less partisan.
    • Traits
      • Edges
        • Noble: family has a reputation for courage, integrity, and justice that he carries forward.
      • Connections
        • Neville Longbottom, new Herbology professor.
        • James Potter II, 1st year Gryffindor.  Yes, Harry’s son.
    • Nemesis: Leo, a 5th year Gryffindor prefect who encourages attacks on Slytherin by bending the rules for pranksters.
    • Personal set: Room of requirement (Fifth house version), where he plans how to change the school.
    • Screen presence: 2-1-1-2-3
  • Finley
    • Concept: 4th year Syltherin.  Is fed up with being someone’s minion.
    • Issue: Revenge, both against Malicius for treachery and others against him for his past deeds.  Has to ask himself if revenge will serve him in the long run.
    • Story arc: After his family was betrayed in business dealings by Malicius’ father, quits as Malicius’ lieutenant and follows his own ambition.
    • Traits:
      • Edges
        • Cunning: especially in social dealings, frequently calling on favors or blackmail.
        • Observant: sharp at noticing things like dialogue, body language, and snitches.
      • Connections
        • Kyle, fellow Slytherin who exchanges information and favors with him even after his fall from grace.
    • Nemesis: Malicius, former captain and life-long friend
    • Personal set: On his broomstick, where he feels in control of his own destiny.
    • Screen presence: 2-2-1-1-3
  • Ava
    • Concept: 4th year Ravenclaw.  Muggle-born and has an huge interest in Muggle computers.
    • Issue: Identity problem stemming from strong ties to both magical and Muggle worlds.
    • Story arc: Outcast from Ravenclaw because of obsession with Muggle technology, which is viewed unfavorably against magical skill and knowledge.  Wants to show Muggles are worthy of respect.
    • Traits
      • Edges
        • Technomancer: Has her finger in both Muggle and wizard technology and is beginning to merge the two.
        • Chessmaster: Proficient in both strategic and tactical maneuvering.
      • Connections
        • Older brother, who is a Muggle but gives her advice on everything from technical to relationship stuff.
    • Nemesis: Ella, a sort of Ravenclaw Libby
    • Personal set: Her laptop, which she is heavily modifying.
    • Screen presence: 2-3-1-1-2
  • Callum
    • Concept: 3rd year Slytherin.  Is tired of Slytherin treachery.
    • Issue: Guilt for the problems he causes his family, but refuses to return to Malicius’ service.
    • Story arc: Unlike Finley, didn’t have an acceptable (to Malicius) reason to quit as Malicius’ left hand, and so destroys his and his family’s reputation among many Slytherin.
    • Traits
      • Edges
        • Beater: strong yet dexterous, on and off the ground, protective of his teammates.
      • Connections
        • His mother, who supports him in his decision even though she feels the repercussions.
        • Horace Slughorn, head of Slytherin house, who also frowns upon influence by bullying.
    • Nemesis: Malicius, former captain
    • Personal set:
    • Screen presence: 2-2-3-1-1
  • Evie
    • Concept: 3rd year Hufflepuff.  Lucas’ girlfriend.
    • Issue: Loyalty, especially if different loyalties pull her in different directions.
    • Story arc: Torn between Lucas, whose person and goals she admires, and her tight knit group of friends in Hufflepuff.
    • Traits
      • Edges
        • Team mom: takes care of people, knows how to cheer them up and cool them down.
        • Popular: not lacking in looks, brains, or sports (makes starting Chaser her 3rd year).
      • Connections
        • Leah, fellow 3rd year Hufflepuff, best friend and confidant.
    • Nemesis:
    • Personal set: Her dormitory, where she is comfortable and surrounded by friends.
    • Screen presence: 2-1-2-3-1

Episodes:

  1. Pilot: introduces all the protagonists and any important recurring characters.  The protagonists meet and find a common interest, establishing the Fifth House and the premise of the story.
  2. Ava’s spotlight episode, displaying her new technomancy and innovative quidditch tactics.  Finley and Callum deal with the repercussions of leaving Malicius.
  3. Callum’s spotlight episode, as his troubles come to a head.  Evie demonstrates how important she is to keeping the team together.
  4. Evie’s spotlight episode, as she is asked to choose between her old and new friends.  Lucas takes a significant role as her boyfriend and teammate while he prepares the team for the finale.
  5. Season finale: The Big Game, where Lucas and Finley settle their scores.  Ava has a supporting role, trying to justify her new techniques.

Episode 1

Budget: 23

Episode 1 / Scene 1:

Lucas and his mother arrive at Platform 9 3/4.  He hugs her goodbye, mention in passing why his father can’t be there, and goes to find Evie.  Walking through the cars, he finds the compartments are increasingly segregated.  He hears a commotion and runs into Leo.  He asks why Leo isn’t stopping the fight, and Leo says it’s just a couple Slytherin and he doesn’t care what they do to each other and continues toward the Prefects.  Lucas finds Finley having an argument with Malacius.  Malacius was trying influence a first year student (James), but Finley arrived and had a bone to pick.  Callum is also present.

  • Conflict: Argument between Finley and Malacius, which draws in Lucas and Callum
  • Stakes:
    • Lucas: doesn’t want the first year to get hurt, no interest in either Slytherin getting hurt
    • Finley: wants to punish Malacius
    • Callum: doesn’t want anyone hurt, but especially Finley
  • Cards:
    • Lucas: 2+Noble = H6, D9, T high; lose
    • Finley: 2+Cunning, Observant = 4H, Q high; lose
    • Callum: 2+Beater = 3H, TD, T high; lose
    • Producer: 1+2/23 = 2H, AD, A high; narrator

Finley and Malacius exchange heated words.  Callum tries to get them to stop, and which Finley picks up on and tries to get Malacius to back down if its 2 on 1.  Lucas physically shields James and stop the escalation.  Malacius casts first, and Finley blocks with a shield charm, which unfortunately is deflected and hits James.  While Finley is distracted by the accident, Malacius’ next hex pierces the shield and hits Finley.  Malacius gloats for a while, and Lucas and Callum carry James and Finley away.

Episode 1 / Scene 2

Evie’s scene: Evie finds Lucas.  Finley and James get countercursed.  Everyone learns that this is Harry Potter’s son.  James’ first impression of Slytherin is not favorable.  Finley and Callum say they don’t want to be associated with Malacius.

  • Conflict: What to do next.
  • Stakes:
    • Lucas: says if they aren’t like Malacius, then won’t resort to violence, helps Evie
    • Finley: wants to get revenge on Malacius, without people getting in the way
    • Callum: thinks there’s been enough fighting today, helps Evie
    • Evie: wants to stop the fighting and make sure James is okay
  • Cards:
    • Lucas/Callum/Evie: 2+2+2+Noble, Team Mom = 9H, QH, AH, A high; win, narrator
    • Finley: 2+Cunning = 8H, JH, AD, A high; win
    • Producer: 1+2/21 = K high

The group talks Finley into not going back right now, threatening to call prefect if necessary, but does not convince him to give up on revenge against Malacius.  James has bounces back just fine, and Callum’s behavior begins to chance his impression of Slytherins.  Finley and Callum take their leave.

Episode 1 / Scene 3

Ava’s scene: Ava pokes her head out of the compartment to see what the ruckus is about.  When she does, she runs into Ella and her crew, who tell her to get out of the compartment.  They need a compartment, and her’s is empty.

  • Conflict: Who gets the compartment
  • Stakes:
    • Ava: wants to share the compartment with her fellow Ravenclaw and get to know them better
  • Cards:
    • Ava: 2 = 4D, K high; lose, narrator
    • Producer: 1+1/19 = JH, J high

Ella agrees but then makes fun of her laptop.  After saying how magic is better than Muggle technology, she and her friends pointedly ignore Ava.  Ava eventually becomes too uncomfortable and leaves.

Episode 1 / Scene 4

Evie’s scene: Now that she’s found Lucas, Evie wants to find Leah.  Lucas has no reason not to and goes along.  They decide to escort James somewhere else, when they run into Neville, who knows James.  Neville introduces himself as the new Herbology professor and head of Gryffindor.  James relates what he’s been through, and Neville volunteers to speak with them.  Lucas says he doubt it would do any good, since Malacius would deny it.  Instead, he mentions how Leo could have intervened but chose not to.  Neville says he’ll talk with Leo later.  Lucas begins to detail his grievances against Leo when Evie, who’s been silent this conversation, says she’s going to find Leah.

  • Conflict: Lucas wants to get to know his new head of house, and Leah wants to sit with her friends
  • Stakes:
    • Lucas: wants to explain to Neville some trouble in Hogwarts he might not be aware of
    • Evie: wants be with both her close friends, Lucas and Leah
  • Cards:
    • Lucas: 2+Noble+Neville = 5D, 6 high; lose
    • Evie: 2+Popular = 10H, 10 high; lose
    • Producer: 1+2/18 = KH, 10D, K high; narrator

The couple have a fight.  Lucas says it’s important he talk to the new Gryffindor head of house, and Neville is keen to hear what he has to say.  Evie tries to charm away by saying they haven’t seen each other all summer, but when it’s clear Lucas doesn’t want to budge, she gets angry and storms off.  Neville says Lucas should take care of his friends and go after her, and they can talk later.

Episode 1 / Scene 5

Callum’s scene: Setting changes to the Great Hall.  The first years have been sorted, with James going into Gryffindor of course.  In contrast, every new Slytherin is eyed coldly by the rest of the school.  News of Finley’s fight with Malacius has spread amongst the Slytherin, and Malacius has more influence in the house, so Finley and Callum are keeping to themselves at one end of the table.  However, Malacius comes to pick a fight.  In particular, while he says why Finley would be upset, Malacius’ family has done nothing to Callum’s.  So Malacius demands Callum return to his service or Malacius will get his father to put the screws on.

  • Conflict: Callum is forced to choose between his friend and his former boss
  • Stakes:
    • Finley: doesn’t want Callum under Malacius’ control, helps Callum
    • Callum: wants to be separated from Malacius without reprisal
  • Cards:
    • Finley/Callum: 2+2+Cunning = QH, 2D, Q high; win
    • Producer: 1+3/16 = 7D, KD, K high; narrator

Finley threatens to use confidential information against Malacius if he does anything to Callum.  Malacius says his family already took that into consideration when they betrayed Finley’s family, so that threat doesn’t hold water.  Slughorn arrives, asking what the disturbance is.  Malacius does not explain, but delivers a parting shot: since Callum was loyal and appears to wish to avoid being actively antagonistic against him, Malacius will let him have some time to think it over.

Episode 1 / Scene 6

Ava’s scene: Lucas is helping Evie with her chaser skills when Ravenclaw arrives to hold team tryouts.  Ava wants to tryout for keeper, and has enchanted her glasses to project estimated paths of the quaffle and players.  Ella, the team’s star chaser, can’t get anything past her and begins to suspect.  Ella goes into a huddle with her wingmen.  When she makes her next attempt, someone casts finite incantatum, and Ella throws quaffle past Ava’s head into the goal

  • Conflict: Ava wants recognition within her house
  • Stakes:
    • Ava: wants her house to acknowledge her
  • Cards:
    • Ava: 2 = 3H, 7 high; lose
    • Producer: 1+2/13 = AH, JD, A high; narrator

Ella says that Ava is rubbish without her magicked glasses.  Ava replies the rules for quidditch says magic can’t be used against opponents, nothing about using it on yourself, citing Harry Potter using magic to keep rain off his glasses one game.  Ella says Ava’s enchantment violates the spirit of the game, like drinking Felix Felicis.  She forces Ava to continue the tryout without glasses, where Ava performs poorly and concedes.  As she begins to ride away, Lucas and Evie approach her about training with them.  Ava asks why, since they aren’t allowed.  Evie says they are a clever idea, and someone who made them could probably think of a way use them for training, even if they aren’t allowed during a game, like how Olympic athletes use technology to train.  Ava learns that Evie is a half-blood and they strike up a friendship.

Episode 1 / Scene 7

Finley’s scene: Finley is making his way between classes when his books start floating away.  They start floating in opposite directions, and he can only hold onto one.  The other flies off and hits someone.  The book he keeps hold of keeps floating until he’s lifted off the ground.  People laugh.  From his vantage point, Finley finally finds someone with his wand out.  He goes to confront the student why he did that.  The student says it’s in return for dangling him above the lake last term.  Finley says Malacius ordered him to, but the boy holds the grudge against Finley.  Meanwhile, Lucas investigates what the commotion is and runs across Leo again.  Lucas asks why Leo isn’t doing anything, and Leo makes an excuse that he was so engrossed in the conversation that he didn’t hear.  Lucas tells him to come along, but Leo suspiciously tries to delay him.  Lucas finds Finley arguing with two boys (one was hit by the flying book and believes Finley did it).  The boys think Finley is in the wrong, the crowd appears to take their side.  Finley says he’s no longer associated with Malacius, and people either don’t believe him, don’t think he can change, or don’t think that excuses him for his past behavior.  Lucas tries to speak up for Finley, explain his recent behavior.

  • Conflict:
  • Stakes:
    • Lucas: wants people to give Finley another chance
    • Finley: doesn’t want to associated with Malacius
  • Cards:
    • Lucas: 2+Noble = 4H, 6D, 10D, 10 high; lose
    • Finley: 2+Cunning = 2D, J high; lose, narrator
    • Producer: 1+2/11 = 3H, 6H, 3D, 6 high

Finley tries isolate the leader, saying he doesn’t have the brains to Slytherin or Ravenclaw because, given the situation, it would have be better to play him and Malacius off each other.  But if he wants to paint a target on his face… Lucas tells Finley violence is undermining his case, but Finley responds he’s not threatening the kid and states he will do nothing if the kid walks away, but warns he’ll will reply in kind if attacked again.  Lucas gets him to apologize for what happened before, and tells the crowd that rehabilitation requires giving people another chance.  The crowd can go either way, but the first person to speak says, “We don’t believe you!” and it becomes the truth.  Leo makes his entrance at this point to break up the crowd.

Episode 1 / Scene 8

Callum’s scene: Callum is using Prof. Slughorn’s office to floo his parents, to warn them about the possibility of Malacius’ family taking retribution.  Callum’s father scolds him for getting caught up in Finley’s rebellion, while Callum’s mother supports his actions, wondering why Callum subordinated himself to Malacius in the first place.  Callum feels some shame in bringing this upon his parents.  As he leaves the office, Slughorn asks him what is wrong.

  • Conflict: Callum seeks a way to mitigate repercussions on against his parents.
  • Stakes:
    • Callum:
  • Cards:
    • Callum: 2+Beater+Slughorn =
    • Producer: 1+3/9 =
  • Lucas, Finley, Callum
  • Lucas, Finley, Callum, Evie
  • Ava
  • Evie, (Lucas)
  • Finley, Callum
  • Ava, Evie, (Lucas)
  • Finley, (Lucas)
  • Callum

Workshop for new GSIs

I’m being interviewed to lead a workshop for new engineering GSIs.  If anyone has any thing they would like to say to engineering GSIs, leave a comment.

General GSI stuff:

  • Discussion
    • Student passivity: Many students will want to passively take notes and not participate.  However, there’s no guarantee such students understand and can apply the material.  Therefore, I advocate engaging all students by posing questions and creating an atmosphere of discussion and student inquiry.  Also try to avoid a few loud students crowding out the others.
    • Scope: Discussion is not measured by how much material you cover but how well the students understand the material.  Have backup material if you finish early, but you don’t have to get through everything.
    • Students in trouble: Expect attendance to drop immediately after midterms.  Most likely, these students skip because they are busy with other midterms and assignments.  However, generally it’s the students who need your help and can least afford it who skip.  Need to find a way to reach out to those students.
    • Transparency: If you have some teaching technique or policy that the students might resist, I suggest you treat them like adults and discuss it with them and explain your motivation for it.
  • Office hours
    • I run mine like discussion, but focused on individual questions.  I feel it’s okay to cover a solution to a problem set, but the student should figure it out with you asking leading questions.
  • Grading
    • Consistency: In order for the professor to assign semester grades, it’s important for students to be evaluated fairly.  Therefore try to enforce this in your grading arrangements, such as having each assignment/question be graded by one person or, if multiple people are grading, to share a detailed rubric.
    • Speed: 5-point rubric.
    • Transparency: If there’s anything you’re looking for (e.g. clear organization) or taking off points for (e.g. notational errors), tell the students.
  • Announcements
    • Repeat yourself: Just because you mention it in discussion or post to bSpace doesn’t mean everyone got the message.  If it’s important, repeat it.
  • Feedback
    • From GSIs/readers: Feedback from grading assignments and from teachers should be shared with the teaching staff as a whole so any significant issues can be dealt with.
    • Mid-semester evaluations: In case something can be altered to make the second half of the semester better.  See GSI Resource Center.

Engineering specific:

  • Sciences
    • Higher-level skills: Many students have gotten into a habit, possibly from high school, that learning mainly is the first few basic levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy (knowledge, comprehension, application).  But, as engineers, we want them to use this knowledge in new …
    • Prerequisites: Like mathematics building up from definitions and postulates, many courses in engineering rely on material from prerequisite courses.  However, do not be surprised if some students have forgotten some parts or have some misconceptions leftover.  Help them through it and take note of any prevalent problems so you know what to look for next time you teach the course.
  • Labs
    • In my experience, many students treat labs like another problem set to be gotten over with and look no further.  However, there is probably a reason your course/department has that lab component, so make sure students are getting what they need out of it.