I know I’m late to the party. Harry potter ended years ago, but I just got around to reading them. I had seen snippets of the movies, but I had never bothered to read the books. There were various reasons for it, but I think it boiled down to the fact that as a child I was impressionable and it’s pretty common knowledge that reading Harry Potter invites the devil into your soul. As a twenty year old I thought I’d give the books a shot and read through them, since I now know better.
I’ll start out by mentioning that I think Rowling is a horrible writer. Her word choice is blasé, and her style gets a bit repetitive, but I think that happens to the best of authors. The portion of her writing, however, that kills me is her affinity for adverbs. I’m certain that when she rewrote her books she looked at the sentences and said, “Man, I need more words to explain the action, since my dialogue is a bit boring.”
…and Harry Potter was born…
I think the adverbs, as I said, try to make up for her dialogue and lack of character development. Hermione is always a know-it-all brat with a holier-than-thou attitude, and Ron is useless throughout most of the series. Let’s not forget to mention that Dumbledore is quite literally a God when it comes to predicting people’s actions, and Harry is the same boy when he crawled out from under the stairs as he was when he defeated Voldemort.
All that said, I enjoyed the books. Rowling does what every author needs to do: get your audience to care. I cared about Harry. I wanted him to succeed. I even stormed around the house thinking of how I would have handled the situation better.” Geeze Harry, use portego!” I think that’s where the success of the Harry Potter books comes from. If you can suffer the beginnings of each of her books, which she wisely works into the plot, then I think any reader would want to get behind Harry. Voldemort is evil, and he needs to die, right?
Well, that’s another part of the Harry Potter series that I think Rowling messed up on. I think it’s important to get someone to sympathize with your antagonist. I’m a big fan of the hate to love antagonists. When you’ve become to close with the bad guy and you see where he’s coming from. Rowling could have taken this angle: Voldemort is trying to make the world better for wizards/witches he doesn’t want them to have to hide anymore. Why can’t the muggles learn to live with the Wizards?
But Voldemort was portrayed as super duper evil. He just hated muggles, and half-wizards, and mudbloods. His reasoning was almost stupid. I had a bad time as a kid, and I was a deranged psychopath when I was born ‘cuz Slytherin is evil, so I’m evil, makes sense? No sorry. Just because you lived in an orphanage, doesn’t mean that you turn out to be a psycho. He never even knew much about his parents’ back story. He just decided to hate muggles. I think the only type of characters that can get away with being evil just because are devils and demons.
One largely redeeming characteristic of Harry Potter is the fact that Rowling kills off a lot of major characters in the last two books. I really enjoy a good death and the way it gets me. Dear goodness, when Dobby died I was like: “Noooooo!” Again, Rowling makes you care about her characters, and that’s something every writer can take from Harry Potter.
Overall I liked Harry Potter, but I don’t think I’ll ever read it again. It’s nothing fantastic and honestly I don’t think it should be a billion dollar franchise. It is what it is though. I’ve read better books, books that didn’t make it to theatres or get the same notoriety, but I don’t think I’ve read as many books that make me have a visceral reaction about the Characters. I think every Harry Potter book had me feeling something.
Take home tips for writers:
- Adverbs and adjectives can be overused, and they almost always are.
- Villains should have a real, tangible motive. They shouldn’t be evil just because.
- Get your audience to care about the characters, create strife in the scenes. Be mean to your characters.
- Write a series, you’ll make more money.
- Develop your characters. They shouldn’t be the same in book one as they are in book seven.