5 Things we can learn about writing from JK Rowling

currently playing on my iPod: Spaceman by The Killers

Today I will borrow thoughts from Nathan Bransford’s blog. Formerly an literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd., Mr. Bransford now works full time writing and working in the tech industry. His book JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW will be published by Dial Books in May 2011. The numbered “things” are written verbatim from Mr. Bransford’s site and my comments are written below.  

5 Things we can learn from JK Rowling

1. You can accomplish amazing things with a 3rd person limited perspective.

3rd person limited focuses on the experience of one character in the story. The reader sees only what he sees. As Mr. Bransford discusses on his post, Rowling does a great job providing pertinent info through “fully developed scenes” using the pensieve, Harry’s invisibility cloak, newspapers, and a mental connection with Voldemort. I attempt this in my manuscript (written in 1st person) through my main character’s penchant for eavesdropping. 3rd person limited is one of my faves, second only to 1st person POV, because, as in HARRY POTTER, I feel as if I am struggling alongside him, feeling the same emotions, fighting the same battles. I become more easily immersed in books written in this POV(and in 1st person) because nothing breaks my attention. I don’t have to adjust for a new character’s mindset or remember who is talking to whom. Diving in proves effortless, allowing me to stay submerged for hours, coming up for a breath only when I simply must get to work, to bed, whathaveyou. What is your fave POV and why?

2. Don’t be afraid to show your character’s flaws.

Mr. Bransford mentions, rightly so, that Harry is a “jerk” in Order of the Phoenix, and we end up loving him all the more because he went through some difficult personal struggles and came out stronger. I agree. If your book’s characters are pleasant, practical, and unerringly just dandy (say with big toothy smile), your story becomes boring. Your characters must be real and real means sometimes getting a bit ugly.

3. Making it look easy is really really hard.

Don’t we know it. JK Rowling is a gifted woman, certainly, but she also knows how to work. There’s no way to make so many long and pageturnable books without expending a massive amount of effort in research, rewrites, and planning.

4. “You might try and go easy on the adverbs when the emotion is apparent  from the dialogue, ” Nathan said apologetically.

Still, I work on this. This weekend I worked on a scene that I first wrote as follows:

“Roland!” I shouted angrily and grabbed his arm. “Where is he?”

Angrily is unnecessary because the character grabs the other’s arm. The reader sees the anger in the action. “I shouted” is also superfluous because there is an exclamation point and proper following action. Here’s a better version:

“Roland!” My nails found flesh beneath sleeve as I grabbed the monk’s arm. “Where is he?”

5. Have fun with your world.

As Rowling does in HP, we should do in our stories. She has made Harry’s world such a wonderful place. We long for its charm when the story travels down scary paths. Rowling mixes original ideas with ancient legends to make that world memorable and delightful. This is a prime example of how her brillant talent combines with her research into languages and folklore. We are not worthy!

Thanks for the memories, Ms. Rowling.  And thanks for the lesson, Mr. Bransford.

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