Saturday, November 12, 2011

Top 5 Writing Lessons from J.K. Rowling

I've been meaning to blog about J.K. Rowling for a long time now... Well, yesterday I purchased and watched Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (and yes, I had already seen it in the theaters). Definitely the best of all the Potter movies, in my opinion. But I'm not here to blog about the movie itself. No, I'm here to discuss the special features on Blu-ray, specifically "A Conversation with J.K. Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe," which revealed the answers to some big questions and also indirectly offered fantastic writing lessons. Here are my top 5:
  1. Persist: Here's where some aspiring authors fail. They get caught up in a get-rich-quick mindset and expect overnight success. They hear stories about how the idea of a spectacled wizard boy popped up into J.K.'s mind...and then they hear about the billion dollars she's made and see her name all over the media. According to her own words, writing the complete story of Harry Potter was a 20-year process! 20 years! Maybe you're struggling with writer's block at the moment or you've developed some doubts. Please, don't give up. Persist. Don't give up after 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 4 years, 5 years, a decade, two decades, three decades, four decades... If you love writing, write and persist. Don't expect overnight success. It's a marathon, not a race, okay?
  2. Treat your characters as real people: "They're in your life the way real people are ... I love writing dialogue ... I miss Dumbledore the most ... He was telling me things I needed to hear sometimes ..." Notice the connection J.K. Rowling has with Dumbledore. She apparently misses hearing from him like she would a far-away friend. As a writer, you need to form a special connection with your characters. Let yourself go and allow each character to speak his/her own dialogue without interruption. Don't get in the way of your characters.
  3. Know where the story's headed [SPOILER ALERT]: "Within the first year of writing, I wrote a sketch for what I thought the final chapter would be... I knew we were always working towards the final battle at Hogwarts. I knew that Harry would walk to his death..."
  4. Stay true to the story and yourself: "I went where my pen took me, and bad though it may seem to some people, I never really considered my readership in that way... I wrote what I wanted to write..." Rowling didn't allow critics or readers to influence her writing. 
  5. Focus only on relevant backstories: Many writers, especially newbies, get lost in backstory. They write as though the reader needs to know everyone's backstory in excruciating detail ... Now, many of us heard through the media that Dumbledore is gay. Rowling never mentioned his sexual preference in the Potter books, but did confirm that he's gay: "The relationship he [Dumbledore] has with Grindlewald--he fell really hard for this boy... His [Dumbledore's] one great experience of love was utterly tragic. It was with someone who was dangerous and demonic [Grindlewald] that was my idea of Dumbledore's tragic backstory..." But why didn't she add this backstory to the books? Because it wasn't relevant to the story, she implied. I also gathered from Rowling's conversation with Radcliffe that Professor McGonagall had a somewhat tragic backstory as well, but Rowling ultimately felt that that backstory wasn't relevant to the story either.
(J.K. Rowling image via Daniel Ogren)

1 comment:

  1. Great secrets from a great woman. Namaste, J. K. Rowling.