of the Potter books includes a major disturbance in Harry’s world.
These disturbances typically involve a threat to Harry’s life, which is
the sort of disturbance readers take seriously without needing
additional motivation. Just as, in the last few books, we automatically
take seriously the escalating situation, which threatens the entire
wizard way of life—and perhaps the Muggle way of life as well.
the exact nature of these threats is sometimes hidden from the reader,
the books reveal the existence of the threat early on. In Book 1, for
example, Harry’s scar flares during that first meal in the Great Hall,
but he blames Snape, not realizing that Voldemort (hidden under
Quirrell’s turban) is the one responsible. A bit further on, Book 1
gives us a more overt clue that something is amiss when Harry is nearly
thrown from his broom during a Quidditch match. Even then, though, the
exact nature of the threat isn’t revealed. In fact, the book goes out
of its way to direct our attention to Snape and away from Quirrell.
the Potter books have a major disturbance, one that readers can relate
Those disturbances get introduced early, and they form the backbone
of each book. Nearly every event in a Potter book either reveals new
information about the disturbance, moves Harry closer to resolving the
disturbance, or else exacerbates the disturbance. This is the
definition of tight plotting, and the Potter series is a poster child
for the cause.
Next in series: Details and Immersion
Looking for more help on the craft of fiction? Check out our Elements of Fiction series:
- Beginnings, Middles, and Ends by Nancy Kress
- Scene & Structure by Jack Bickham
- Description by Monica Wood
- Plot by Ansen Dibell
- Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
- Conflict, Action, and Suspense by William Noble