In case you haven’t caught on yet my system for blog posts looks a little something like this – Saturday I write Mon-Thur’s blogs and then Friday is usually inspired day of. I thought a lot about what I would write this week. I knew it would likely have something to do with Harry Potter. I figured I’d write something about the movie, say farewell to a completed decade of entertainment. Blah, blah, blah.
However, the experience we had at the movie theatre last night was SO BAD that I’m still seething with rage. I thought about writing of the absolutely terrible management of a particularly bad situation, but figured that just needs to be expressed to MUVICO and I won’t bore you.
At my job I get plenty of time to contemplate as I stare at pools and make sure people are safe. The thing that popped into my head as I roamed around our splash pool this morning was to write a breakdown of what I’ve learned from J.K.Rowling a la the Summer Reading posts I’ve been doing.
Harry Potter first entered my world 12 years ago in the form of a birthday present from my former Pastor’s wife. She is British and was thrilled to give me the first two books because they’d garnered so much attention and claimed so many awards. I was immediately entranced. I was a kid, so the made up words were fun for me, suspension of belief was easy since I’d been an avid fantasy reader for awhile, and I loved Hagrid’s umbrella wand. For several years I had a pretty singular Harry Potter experience. The controversy about the books started a little bit after the third book (my favourite) and since we were in fairly conservative circles most of my friends weren’t reading them (also, most of my friends didn’t like to read). In 2007 I was traveling around on staff with Student Life Camp and for the first time I experienced Harry Potter in community.
I’ve read and re-read the books countless times. Thanks to abcfamily we’ve all seen more of the movies for Years 1-3 than we could ever wish. But this is all about the world of Harry Potter. What I want to tell you about is what I’ve learned, so here goes:
1. The story is in the details – and boy did Rowling show this off. From the smallest, tiniest, most seemingly inconsequential aspects she constructed a complete world. Somehow, she managed to paint the forest AND the trees so that at one point the reader is overwhelmed by the layers and complexity of the story, but just as easily shown the overarching plot. She really packed it in the last few chapters of Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows. Details from the first chapter of the first book were brought back full circle in the final pages of the last. It made the whole experience complete and that much more real.
2. You can write silly things in the midst of dark serious things – Rowling also proved that children can read it. Let’s be honest, life is rarely a singly-faceted experience. Even in desperately sad situations there is hope and humour. In the midst of mirth a bittersweet note can strike you as you realize someone long gone would have loved sharing in that moment. Emotions are varied, complex, and challenging to convey from one person to the next, let alone several hundred characters. These emotions and ideas are not pitch perfect the entire series, but they are impressive.
3. It may be difficult, but you can make your characters really suffer – this is something that puts the Harry Potter series miles away from most of its YA Lit counterparts. The characters go through realistically devastating experiences. There’s orphans coming out of everyone’s ears. Misunderstood teenagers run rampant, but are forced to take on adult roles instead of coddled or ignored. As I read Deathly Hallows I kept thinking how hard it was going to be for Rowling to kill Harry. I wasn’t writing much back then, but I operated under the conviction that I could never kill a character I’d written and gotten to know as well as I presume she has Harry. I still have a hard time conceiving the thought process that lead to that plot development. Maybe it was there from the beginning and it made it easier. I don’t really know, but I sensed her hesitation in the last bit of the novel. I felt the deaths of Hedwig and many other characters as well as George’s injury were her attempts to appease the muses that demanded Harry’s death. That could just be my over active imagination, but I was hugely impressed. And unprepared.
4. You can make your own rules and be a successful writer – This article goes into a lot more detail. But suffice it to say I’m proud that she’s been writing her own rules. She was careful shopping the movie rights, she’s been careful with the e-book rights, she’s a smart lady. I’m not even going to criticize and say she’s being greedy. I think it’s brilliant. With a move like Pottermore she’s making a concerted effort to knock Amazon of its monopoly driven high horse. Keeping control of the e-books will give smaller authors the courage to do the same.
There could be a lot of discussion of the translation of books to movies, where Rowling seems to have let people down, what the future looks like for her as a writer, but all I know is that if one day I come anywhere close to touching a portion of the amazing story she created with my writing I’d be happier than words could convey. Imagine being able to claim that your work inspired at least two generations to read.
For twelve years of reading wonder and ten years of movie magic, J.K. Rowling, I want to say thanks. You planted seeds in this little girl’s head. I waited awhile before claiming to be an author, but you’ll never know how grateful I am for you providing something for me to aspire to.
Author’s Disclaimer: This may be a bit too mushy and nostalgic. I wrote it with less than four hours of sleep under my belt and after a long day at work and a lunch meeting. Apologies if it was too sappy. Right now, I mean every word.