Welcome to Writers’ Uni-Verse-City (or WUVC for short because every university has an acronym), a place where writers/bloggers can meet to discuss the craft of writing in the Internet age. I want to learn what it takes to make it in the world of writing and publishing and nowadays there is a wealth of information on the web. WUVC will involve independent research, setting a curriculum and hopefully finding other participants (like you – readers/bloggers/writers) to: chip in, give tips, suggest books and other materials for study, teach me the ways of the warrior writer, and offer to guest post here at Uni-Verse-City.
Please excuse today’s interruption of the scheduled program on examining Kristen Lamb’s “We Are Not Alone”. In light of Rowling’s recent annoucement, this week’s post has changed topic and we will resume with Lamb’s book next week.
This post is dedicated to J.K. Rowling, one of the most famous and well-known household names of today. Spending many years (about 17 if I’m not wrong in saying) plotting/writing and world developing for the first in the Harry Potter Series: The Philosopher’s Stone (as it was titled in Canada); The Sorcerer’s Stone in the US.
The video below is an interview with J.K. Rowling and its one of my favorite videos. It was shot at the time when she was writing book 3 and before the movies were made. Great inspiration for writers.
Rowling has a degree in writing and she spent years developing her series. Many people might wonder if she just started writing the wizarding world one day and it ended up being 7 lengthy books. But she didn’t. After the idea came to her on the train between Manchester and London, she spent years taking notes, researching, drawing scenes or parts of the setting and developing her characters. I don’t believe that Rowling’s books took off like they did only because she created a new world that people of all ages were hooked to.
I think one of the main reasons her books were so successful was because of the time she spent creating a new world with its own rules (societal rules, ex. no underage wizards can use magic out of school), its own educational system (i.e. Herbology, Diviniation) and its own characters (pure bloods and mud bloods, for example). Not only did Rowling know her world so well that she could write it with such details that she transported the readers into story. The readers remembered the world (as I’ve demonstrated…I didn’t look these tidbits up).
The readers also remembered the characters, especially the three main protagonists invluding the hero: Ron, Hermione and Harry. She created a trio that every reader got attached too. I think that most people reading the series have a hard time choosing their favorite character because all three are very likeable, flaws and all. In my opinion (and I’m sure there will be many who disagree, but I want to try to identify the character flaws to learn from Rowling), Harry’s flaw is stubbornness, he wants to do everything alone so as not to put his friends in danger (but caves in allows/is happy for them to help), Ron’s flaw is fear (which he challenges in later books) and Hermione’s flaw is being a little too uptight (its hard for her to relax or go with the flow, as she learns to do later in the series).
Not only did Rowling create a dynamic trio, but her antagonists (Malfoy and Snape – notice how they are known by their last names……technique, I think so) and all of her secondary characters had the same high degree of personality and motivation. Everyone remembers Hagrid (Groundskeeper), Minerva McGonagall (Headmistress), Sybill Trelawney (Diviniation teacher). Each character was unique and had mannerisms, personality traits, and even physical appearances that made them memorable.
So what makes a bestseller (or in Rowling’s case – sellers)? I would say, not only a great plot, but the memorable characters who drive the plot. In addition to being a bestseller in books, the Harry Potter movies were a huge success grossing about $6.5 billion to date (not including Deathly Hollows part 2).
On the topic, I have to mention Pottermore. This is GENIUS!!! What a better way for the Harry Potter fans to converge in one place, interact online, learn more about their favorite fiction world not to mention it will be a hub for the e-book versions. Basically Rowling and her publisher will dominate the market for the e-book sales on Pottermore. Now this is a strategic example worth paying attention to and learning from.
J.K. Rowling Announces Pottermore:
Which author do you look up to? What’s one thing their writing taught you? What do you think of Pottermore?