Writing Magic: What J.K. Did Right

The point is J.K. Rowling can do no wrong. We are reminded of this fact due to the recent publication of a Harry Potter update written by Rita Skeeter (which is confusingly written by Rowling herself, writing “inception”?) regarding our favorite wizards and witch. Somehow, Rowling is still able to draw veins of potential story lines and provoke meaningful questions through the eyes of one of the most pompous bystanders in the wizarding world. Somehow, Rowling captures our imaginations even years later. Put simply, the woman has a gift.

But if you’re not a HP fan, and you’re on the fence about her spell-binding hold on the literary world, check out this mentalfloss article. In it, you will see that Rowling is incredibly down-to-earth despite her stellar rise to stardom. Bookworms and philosophers alike can appreciate her for what she is: human. 

Of course, if you’re a writer, you will undoubtedly be compared to other writers, like Rowling. Perhaps you’ve even wondered how you will take your place in the YA fantasy genre without being constantly evaluated on Rowling’s credentials. Yet, no matter how great Rowling is, you’ll want to be your own writer. Write your own story and your own characters, without having to shorten your name to your initials; a recipe for instant fame. (Maybe I should sign all of my blogs B.B. Gunn…)

To do this, you will have to look at your favorite authors with an industrious eye. You may think J.K. was making it up as she went along, but not everyone has a vial of Felix Felicis hanging around their neck. 

So, what did J.K. Rowling do right when she wrote HP?

1. She created brands. Bernie Bott’s, Flourish and Blott’s, Diagon Alley, Gringott’s, you name it, the wizarding world has a store for you to buy it in. Rowling was a smart writer, but also a smart marketer. She specifically named every type of magical experience for the reader, not only to make the story come to life, but to truly bring it to life later. While she probably did not know that her books would inspire an entire theme park, she must have sensed that giving brand names to all of her products would be an intelligent marketing move. Now people wait in line to bring home a wand from Olivander’s or a Chocolate Frog.

Tip: So, when you are world building, try to make your products as specific and catchy as possible. The hard “C” sound is particularly pleasing: “Coca Cola, Kodak, Crocs, etc.”

2. She created her main character’s foil. A “foil” is a literary character who shares similar characteristics to another literary character and yet whose personality or circumstances differ in some way to enhance the qualities of the first character. Confused? Simply look to Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom. Both “orphans” and rather new to the wizarding world, Potter and Longbottom share a similar origin story. However, HP is decidedly “the boy who lived” and Neville is more like “the boy who simply exists.” There is no contest in deciding who the “foil” is. Neville is awkward in all of the wrong ways, while Harry Potter is subzero cool, due to his constant flirtation with death (every Halloween) along with his walking encyclopedia, Hermione Granger, and his morally supportive best friend, Ron Weasley. The point is, even the most minor characters can play a large part. And sometimes, they can even sssteal the show. (A terrible pun on behalf of Nagini.)

Tip: Make every character matter.

3. She wrote what she loved. This one isn’t a concrete tip, but that doesn’t make it any less important. J.K. has been quoted as saying that she didn’t really know that the books would be successful; she just wanted to write stories that she enjoyed. And she’s right. No matter what the outcome, Rowling knew that she would be happy with her final product. Luckily, we were too.

Tip: Writing is reputation building. If you want a “bad” reputation, write erotica. But if you want a bad reputation, write poorly.

And this is B.B. Gunn signing off. Methinks a butter beer is in order for a hard day’s work…

2 thoughts on “Writing Magic: What J.K. Did Right

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