Three Things I Learned From Reading Harry Potter

Hey, everyone! Bethany here, with a bit of confession.
Before April 20th, 2017, I had never before read the books so extremely hyped that I couldn't help but peek at them. Yup. We're talking about Harry Potter.
I have to say that when I first picked up the book I wasn't expecting the story within to be anything like what I read. I'd been hearing people rave about these books forever, and last time I read a book people raved about I ended up forever haunted by my deep and relentless hatred for it. 90% of the time I find popular books more than cringe-worthy, and believe me when I say that I can't stand it when I read a book that's apparently loved by so many people but turns out to be pure garbage. I just don't understand it.
Why would people even like something so cliche and bland? With such a bad track record with popular books, you can probably understand my hesitance to dig into Harry Potter when I could be reading Animal Farm for the three-thousandth time, but when I picked it up off the shelf of a visiting library, I couldn't resist. I was honestly dying to know why everyone loved them so much, but more importantly, dying to know what I could learn from such a successful book series.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone arrived home safely and was read and analyzed in a grand total of two evenings, 4-5 hours give or take. The analysis you see below were thoughts I passed on to a friend who had encouraged me to read them, along with a few new points and tidbits I added after further consideration.
Let the psychoanalysis begin!


1. Character Age
My Thoughts Now:
Recently I've been working on a timetable of my book series when I came to realize that by the end of all the books, my MC is going to be 36. Needless to say, that freaked me out a little bit. How am I going to write from the perspective of someone that old? (It's not really THAT old, just... kinda... old...) I'm only 15 after all, how in the world can I pull that off? I'd been stewing over this for a while when I read Harry Potter. I found immediately a sense of a connection with the MC, who I was quite surprised to realize, was an 11-year-old kid! To me, he had the intelligence and deeper mindset of someone much older. Or maybe not so much older after all.
When I saw the world through Harry's eyes, I connected with him, but in my own mindset. I didn't interpret him the same way an adult would, or the way an 11-year-old would. No, I connected with Mr. Potter because when I read, I read within my own mindset, and so long as the character is flawed and humanoid, I believe that the same will be true for anyone else. No matter how old you make your character, so long as he/she is relatable I believe that your reader won't notice the age gap. When we read it's as though we are the ones experiencing the story, not the character. So does your character's age matter? Is it something you should be worried about? Not really.
(I would like to present the argument that an adult can probably write from a child's point of view more than a child from an adults point of view simply because an adult was once a child and therefore knows what it is like, whereas a child has never experienced adulthood and therefore could never write accurately from that perspective. The mindset argument still stands, however.)
My Thoughts Directly After Reading The Book:
You can say someone is 11, but you will always think of them in your own mindset when you read them. An 11 year old likely does not have that sort of thought process, but typically your reader won't notice if you do things to the extent in which they identify, and identify well, with your MC. You, therefore, should not worry TOO much about your characters age if you are writing about someone older/younger than you. Universally relatable situations/persons make it viable to write from any age perspective.
So, the same conclusion was, well, concluded after giving my first original point some thought. Good to know my brain works well with the concept of instinct. 

2. Your Reader Trusts You, And is Smarter Than You Think
My Thoughts Now:
Another thing I've been struggling with without realizing it is specifying everything down to a T, from layout to background to plot twist and description. Specifics hurt your story! They can draw you out of the magic weave and back into the world. Never state facts, tell tales. When reading Harry Potter I remember coming upon the scene in which Malfoy challenges Harry and Ron to a wizarding duel, and they end up traveling through Hogwarts's interior/exterior. The transition of location and description was vividly smooth, but not overdone. It was perfect. I wouldn't even have noticed if I hadn't been in psychoanalysis mode. When I read it I realized that I had been way too concerned about getting every little detail about location and direction right. Rowling, however, did not appear to be. She kept it short, quick, and simple. If she said that they turned left, then they turned left. I wasn't making a map of Hogwarts in my mind, I was too caught up in the story to care. That's when I realized why I didn't care (besides wanting to keep reading) I trusted Rowling to provide me with accurate facts. It was her story, I was just along for the ride. So of course, anything within the book she said, I would believe. I actually have come to realize that there is sort of an unspoken trust between reader and author. As soon as the reader picks up a book, they trust the author to have written the most truthful lies they can muster. Having never read Harry Potter, for me it was a bit like picking up a history of the world but starting in the middle (only because I'm a geek though). I believed everything Rowling said because I didn't know anything about what I was reading except that there were wizards involved. Since it's your story, you have your reader's consent to say or do whatever you like within. I hope I worded that right. As an author, you need to trust that your reader is smart enough to understand some things without you having to tell them.
My Thoughts Directly After Reading The Book:
Your reader trusts you, and therefore will believe most anything you say, so long as there is some logic/pattern to it. You don't have to go into incredible detail about something/someone/someplace because if you state a few facts simply enough your reader will understand the rest. Most concepts of our own creation we believe to be complex are actually quite simple from our reader's perspective. i.e, quidditch. I believe this game and its explanation as a whole worked quite well. Also the layout of Hogwarts. We didn't get into a whole lot of rubbish about the layout/directional function of things, we were merely told that they walked the to "____" and occasionally they would pass a similar landmark. This also is repetitious of the saying: Your reader is smarter than you think, and therefore you should leave them plenty of leeway to the imagination.
In conclusion, I happen to think I made more sense in the second paragraph, which is evidence that keeping things short and simple often times works better than going into extreme detail.

3. Story Structure Does Not Necessarily Have To Be Typical
A Combination of My Thoughts Both Then and Now:
This is actually a relief for me, after reading this book I had to smile because of how its format reminded me of my first draft. There isn't exactly some big villain or climax, I mean there is and there isn't. Really it's several short stories with a single overarching plot that connects them, as well as a greater overarching plot that was merely hinted at. The structure was different from most I've ever read and was actually quite good. So points for originality Rowling, and it's good to know that, yes, sometimes even the professionals are wrong.
After reading this and because of the way the story was structured (a single year of Harry's life at Hogwarts) I have a good idea of what the rest of the series will be like, and while I now have an idea of what to expect, after reading that INSANE PLOT TWIST AT THE END, my mind is quite blown and I think a bit wary. This is not some cliche story, but in fact a surprising tale with a cliche facade defending it. If we fall into a cliche mindset, the plot twist is that much more unsettling. Rowling isn't afraid to do something new and unexpected, and is a master of doing thusly yet still catching us off guard. I also appreciate the immediate friendship presented by Ron, makes me think of my book once again, and the immediate clashing presented by Hermoine and their apparent dislike of her. It was more satisfying to see them form a bond when they had disliked her previously.

Conclusion:
I think there is something to be said about an author who can not only write a fantastic story that is so original and out-there and crazy, but who can also teach you something about writing your own story while doing it. I found this book comfortably incredibly as well as jam packed with tips and knowledge I could probably rave about for centuries. No wonder so many people like it! I look forward to reading the next book, and who knows! Maybe I'll come back with more tips on writing from the wizarding world. Or I could come back crying. Apparently some soul crushing stuff happens somewhere in there o-o.
Until the Dimming of the Stars, My Beloved Readers

2 comments:

  1. Loved this! Thanks for writing :)

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  2. Very interesting! I've never read Harry Potter, but I'll justify NOT writing my usual laborious map-descriptions with this article. thankee!

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