Why You Should Read Harry Potter if You are a Writer

Why You Should Read Harry Potter if You are a Writer

Have you read Harry Potter? I have a confession to make. Until recently I had only seen the movies, but read none of the books. I bought all of them, but they sat on a shelf collecting dust.

Last month, I took an Advanced Novel Writing with Harry Potter course using Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone. The instructor reads parts of each chapter, then dissects and discusses the masterful way J. K. Rowling writes. He points out several fascinating things I never would have noticed. Although I will never write like Rowling, there are a few things she does I would like to emulate.

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6 Things Reading Harry Potter Taught me

1. Start with Action

Rowling starts her first chapter with action, she introduces a mystery then sets the rules of the story.

“Its – all true?” Faltered Professor McGonagall. “After all he’s done… all the people he’s killed… he couldn’t kill a little boy? It’s just astounding… of all the things to stop him… but how in the name of heaven did Harry survive?

“We can only guess,” said Dumbledore. “We may never know.”

– Professors McGonagall and Dumbledore

2. Contrast and Compare

Rowling uses compare and contrast expertly. When she shows how much Dudley has (in terms of family, love and stuff) you realize how little Harry has without her having to spell that out. 

The table was almost hidden beneath all of Dudley’s presents. It looked as though Dudley had got the new computer he wanted, not to mention the second television and the racing bike.

– Harry Potter

3. Reveal Your World Gradually

Rowling doesn’t throw you into her world right away. She slowly reveals all the details. In a single paragraph, she can give you a ton of description.

The narrow path had opened suddenly onto the edge of a great black lake. Perched atop a high mountain on the other side, its windows sparkling in the starry sky, was a vast castle with many turrets and towers.

– Harry Potter

Rowling invented the game of Quiddich and all the rules. Some world building places and objects in Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone include:

Places

  • Diagon Alley
  • Qringotts Wizarding Bank
  • Platform Nine and Three Quarters
  • Hogwarts
  • The Forbidden Forest

Objects

  • The Sorting Hat
  • The Rememberall
  • Invisibility Cloak
  • Broomsticks
  • Wands

4. Sidekicks are Important

The protagonist can’t be everything to the story, you need a team. Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger are Deuteragonists (aka sidekicks) always on adventures with Harry. There to provide support, plot shenanigans, give advice or argue with. Hermione is brilliant and Ron is the perfect best friend and sometimes comedic relief.

“I’m going to bed, before either of you think up another clever idea to get us killed. Or worse, EXPELLED.” 

“She has to get her priorities sorted.”

Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley

All of them have a part to play in retrieving the philosopher stone (aka sorcerer’s stone) to defeat Voldemort. 

5. You Need the Perfect Foil

A foil is a character who contrasts with another character; most of the time it is the protagonist to highlight qualities of the other character

Draco Malfoy is the perfect foil he comes from a wealthy family and looks down on mudbloods (Hermione) and the poor Weasley family (Ron). Harry is loyal and brave while Draco is a snob and coward.

You’ll soon find out that some wizarding families are better than others, Potter. You don’t wanna go making friends with the wrong sort. I can help you there.

– Draco Malfoy

6. Pile on the Problems and Never Make Life Easy

It is important not to make the journey too easy for your characters. Challenges help provide character growth. You want your characters to act not react. These are some challenges that Harry and company faced.

Nothing comes easy for Harry Potter, he has to deal with:

  • Voldemort murdering his parents
  • Voldemort attempting to murder him
  • Dudley Dursley
  • Mr. Dursley trying to keep Harry from the Hogwarts letters

Image by Liselotte Brunner from Pixabay 

Harry, Hermione and Ron have to overcome:

  • Not knowing magic
  • The Slythein Bullies
  • A Mountain Troll
  • Norbert the Dragon
  • Midnight Duel with Draco
  • Causing Gryffindor to Lose 150 House Points
  • The Centaurs
  • Snape/Quirrell
  • Fluffy the Three-headed Dog
  • Devil’s Snare
  • The Flying Key
  • The Giant Chessboard
  • Retrieving the Philosopher’s Stone
  • Voldemort

Those are a ton of problems to have in a 17 chapter, 221 page book. That’s why the action never stops.

“Stop moving!” Hermione ordered them. “I know what this is — it’s Devil’s Snare!”
“Oh, I’m so glad we know what it’s called, that’s a great help,” snarled Ron.”

Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley

Final Thoughts

These are just some of the things reading Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone taught me about writing. Have you read Harry Potter? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time

Frankie

 

 

 

 

Note: I am not an affiliate for the Advance Novel Writing with Harry Potter course, but click on the link at the top if you are interested in learning more from a writer or reader perspective.

Note: Quotes in this blog from Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone are: Copyright @Joanne Rowling, 1997: All Rights Reserved. Rowling, J.K., 1997. Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone. Vancouver B.C. Canada. Raincoast Books

Feature image by Gabriela Palai from Pexels.