The Strengths of the Harry Potter Series

Author:
Publish date:


This post introduces a 13-part series on the craft & technique of Harry Potter by the insightful Jim Adam. This series includes:

Image placeholder title

--

Introduction
In the original version of Destiny Unfulfilled: A Critique of the Harry Potter Series, I made no attempt to discuss the strengths of the Potter series in any detail. At the time, I rationalized this by pointing out the success of the series. Its commercial success shows beyond a doubt that Rowling’s magnum opus is a powerful work of fiction that appeals to a wide range of readers, while the critical success has resulted in books, websites, reviews, and articles that address the strengths of the series more thoroughly and with more skill than I could manage.

Though none of this has changed, in the fullness of time I recognized my approach for what it was: laziness. Criticizing will always be easier for me than offering praise. But beyond personality flaw, in failing to analyze and meditate upon the strengths of the Potter series, I had missed half of the equation. A writer, to be successful, has to do more than avoid making mistakes, she must also imbue her work with positive characteristics.

Critics occasionally complain that a particular bestseller is poorly written. Assuming that some of those complaints are valid, this suggests that certain positive qualities in fiction are so powerful that they can cover a multitude of sins. In the case of the Potter series, the positive qualities are such that they overshadow a number of weaknesses—enough, in fact, to fill an entire book, as Destiny Unfulfilled shows.

Is it possible that certain positive qualities are so powerful that a writer dare not leave ignore them? After considering a wide range of bestselling commercial fiction, it seems clear that only one quality can be called an absolute requirement: story.

Control of point of view (POV), clean prose, a solid protagonist: we can find bestselling novels lacking one or more of these qualities. We can find bestselling novels that start with long expositional blocks (e.g., some of James Michener’s epics). But all such books have a story to tell, and they tell it.

Next in series: Telling a story

WD Vintage_Armour 12:03

Vintage WD: Don't Hide Your Light Verse Under a Bushel

In this article from 1960, poet and author Richard Armour explores the importance of light verse and gives helpful hints to the hopeful poet.

Arlen_12:1

Tessa Arlen: On Polite Editorial Tussles and Unraveling Mysteries

In this article, author Tessa Arlen explains how to navigate the differences between American and English audiences and create a realistic historical mystery.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 547

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a lazy poem.

Williams_12:1

Denise Williams: Romance, Healing, and Learning to Love Revisions

Author Denise Williams recounts her experience with writing her first book while learning about the publishing industry and the biggest surprise about novel revisions.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Next Steps

Here are the final steps for the 13th annual November PAD Chapbook Challenge! Use December and the beginning of January to revise and collect your poems into a chapbook manuscript. Here are some tips and guidelines.

shook_vs_shaked_vs_shaken_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Shook vs. Shaked vs. Shaken (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use shook vs. shaked vs. shaken on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 30

For the 2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets write a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's prompt is to write an exit poem.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: New Online Courses and Manuscript Critique

This week, we’re excited to announce courses in blogging and memoir writing, manuscript critique services, and more.