Feb 28, 2014

Harry Potter

I've spent a lot of time this month rereading Harry Potter, watching the movies as I go along. And I find it fascinating. Namely because after spending lots of times in the HP fandom (movies, games, fanfiction, fourms, and yes, the virtual Hogwarts were I took a semester of classes and was a staff writer for the Ravenclaw monthly paper....two years ago) it's interesting to see where my perceptions and memories had differed from the canon material.

The first book in particular shocked me, probably because I read it more as an author than as a fan. I had forgotten just how big a part Neville plays, it's very downplayed in the movies. He's with them when they find Fluffy, friends with Harry before Hermonie is, and I'm pretty sure if he had just a bit more of a curiosity streak we would be talking about a quartet instead of a trio all the time.

I'd also forgotten how quick the seven challenges at the end of the book were. Most of them, minus the mirror at the end, aren't longer than a page and a half. That chapter took less time to read than watching the events in the movie, and the movie skipped two of them.

JK Rowling's writing is super, super succinct. It's almost the opposite of a picture is worth a thousand worlds. In 200, JK told use what it took the director of the first film 5 minutes to show. My first time through, I don't remember being taken with the shortness of the action, so now I'm trying to figure out just why it's sticking with my mind. Am I just used to the drawn out climaxes of movies and TV shows? Or since the book has been published have more recent works had longer action scenes?

Another thing that struck me as a writer was that what I remembered being the bulk of the book, in fact wasn't. I remember being enamored with Hogwarts and the mystery of what Fluffy was guarding, but maybe that's the fandom talking because in much of it the visuals of the school and magic is striking and says with you for a long time. But in reality, Harry doesn't even get to Hogwarts until a third of the book, and you aren't introduced to Fluffy and the mystery until just past halfway. The pattern is similar for the Chamber of Secrets as well, though as the series goes along the proportion of time spent with the Dursley's decreases. (I have a feeling word count is the same, but the books get longer with most of that time at Hogwarts.)

Is that normal, to have the memorable plot not introduced until that late in the game? Or to have the introduction last so long? As I read several books at once, I've been comparing JK's style with other authors and I haven't found any others that push back the main plot so far. And while I can recall other books were I felt the exposition was a little long, none where as pushed back as halfway through the book.

Maybe learning about the Stone is a plot twist based on time, but there really wasn't much happening prior to it.

Regardless, on my way to start book four, I really enjoying reading the Harry Potter books again. I've read them often enough where I'm not picking up on missed things in the book and can solely focus on the writing and JK's construction of the world. It's fascinating.


  1. I know nothing about her life before HP, so I don't know if she was writing other things (novels, short stories etc). It's possible she wrote the way we wrote when we first started - she just happened to strike gold and have to learn the craft as she went along.

  2. Hmm ... clearly I need to re-read the books (again). I forgot all about that Neville stuff too.