Writing Tip: A Short Study of Harry Potter

Okay, okay. So you’re all ahead of me already and have finished the last HP book with gusto. But I’ve got one up on you. I get to read all these books for the first time with no waiting required. Wahoo! And is it fun. I have really enjoyed the first three books. My goodness, Book Three is simply divine.

I could probably talk forever on what makes these first three books so great, but I’m on vacation, and need to get back to my reading before my husband and kids come back from the beach and need attention. So, I’ll just share a few things on what I loved about these books.

Great Names for Wonderful Characters
I love the names of all these characters. I find character names very difficult to think up. Of course I’m also one who couldn’t come up with a baby name for any of my children until I actually saw them and held them in my arms. No sure names for me.

The perfect character name, whether he/she is friend or foe, has to roll off my tongue in a familiar way. A good name helps me define my character. And J.K. Rowling has thought of great names. And wonderful characters.

Take the Dursleys. Notice how this last name just rolls off your tongue in a dismissive manner. Cousin Dudley. Uncle Vernon. Aunt Petunia. Do you see yourself liking characters with these names?

Now you have Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Fred. George. Neville. Percy. Hagrid. Dumbledore. Professor McGonagall. The house of Gryffindor and Slytherin (All I could think with this was slithering snakes, and then when the gigantic snake appeared in Book Two, I was pleased). Sirius Black. Professor Snape. Draco Malfoy. Voldemort. What do you feel about these characters just based on their names? And then when you see how J.K. Rowling develops these characters, don’t these names make perfect sense?

Great Use of Emotion
Rowling is genius with her use of emotion in these first three books. I felt disgust and anger towards the Dursley’s, sympathy and hope for Harry, the yick factor for Draco Malfoy. Fred and George, Ron’s twin brothers are magnificent for comic relief. Hagrid is like the sweet teddy bear you want to befriend and protect.

The emotive quality of the book chapters go up and down. One chapter ends on a sad or evil note. The next chapter has a comic or happy note.

Books One, Two and Three are so full of adventure, mean spirited bullying, comic antics, pure evil, innocence, extreme heroism, great friendship…I was so surprised with the touching ending of Book Three. It made me cry and yearn for more. Now that’s great storytelling.

Great Pacing
These books are long. But the pacing of the book is simply wonderful and I just wanted to keep reading. No boring, long passages. No wanting to close the book for another time.

No Boring Backstory
In Books Two and Three, J.K. Rowling tells the backstory of the previous books in a manner that is natural to the course of the story. No tedious excerpts from the previous books so loyal readers are drumming their fingers until the juicy stuff comes along. And enough backstory so readers who aren’t familiar with the books can pick up and start reading out of sequence. Not that you’d want to though.

Extraordinary Imagination
J.K. Rowling clearly has an incredible imagination to come up with the freedom and conflict of the wizard world, the bureaucracy and suspicion of the Muggles, the fairy tale of Harry Potter’s beginning, and this spellbinding story that still begs to be told, even after three books. This is quite an accomplishment.

Okay, I’ve got to stop this for now. Here’s your chance. What do you think makes the Harry Potter books so awesome? And what about any criticisms, if any? Just curious since J.K. Rowling certainly breaks some rules at times, such as the descriptive telling rather than showing the story. What do you think make her books so great that we can overlook things that we wouldn’t necessarily in other books or our own manuscripts?

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Vivian Lee Mahoney

Consider yourself warned: I write books about rebels. I'm also a postergirlz for readergirlz, a literary advisory group for teens. Who knew going back to the teenage years would be so rewarding?

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