“Harry Potter”: The Rights and Wrongs of its Writing Style
J.K. Rowling has an internationally bestselling book series. Well, we all already knew that, if not from statistics then simply by the response the books on the boy wizard have. Harry Potter itself is described as timeless, but what is it that it does really well? And what is it that it does poorly? All to be revealed in J.K. Rowling’s writing style.
- good sense of character (Each is individual/unique/believable.)
- intriguing plots (Magic! Come on, it’s awesome.)
- also, very interesting sub-plots (And not all of them have to do with romance! Wow, what a concept!)
- interesting reveals (Information is revealed as needed and gives twists and turns.)
- bildungsroman (Basically, this is a coming-of-age story for Harry and even his friends. If you grew up reading Harry Potter, you grew up with them all, whether you were eight years old when you started or twenty years old.)
- third person (It’s mostly in Harry’s point of view, but keeping it in third person leaves a lot open to interpretation, in a good way!)
Ms. Rowling has created some beautiful books that reel in readers, gripping them, almost as though taking you along with the characters. “You” are never referred to in the books, but Harry and his friends and teachers take you with them. Dramatic irony is very rarely used, as you discover information as it is revealed to Harry simultaneously. Each character stands on their own, and you like or dislike them—perhaps you think every character is more interesting than Harry, perhaps you love the sarcastic boy Harry is—but ultimately you see how they shape the story, how they progress the plot (and sub-plots), how they contribute to Harry’s coming-of-age and his ultimate showdown with Voldemort.
Despite that, there are still some things in Rowling’s writing style that don’t quite work. Let’s take a look!
- too many adverbs (Maybe this seems a little specific, but in prose it’s best to avoid adverbs, especially when describing dialogue tags. “Sirius said doggedly” clogs up the phrase rather than enhances the description of it. However, as the books goes on, her style in this regard improves!)
- lack of description in earlier books (The description improves significantly as the series goes on, but in the first book especially there is little said on what things look/feel/smell/taste/sound like, other than something is “soft” or “yellow,” maybe. As she writes more of the books, though, this gets better!)
- plotholes (As amazing and touching as the plot is… if Fred and George had the Marauder’s Map, then how did they never mention to Ron that he was sleeping next to a man named Peter Pettigrew in the first two books? That might be the biggest plothole. Or the fact that Rowling once admitted the fourth book is much longer than the first three because she spent the whole thing fixing a plothole that appeared in her earlier drafts.)
As noted, there is much less wrong with the books than what is done right, and the list stretches for each individual. Harry Potter has its faults, and it is important to recognize those so as to truly appreciate it for its rights and everything it is. Its idiosyncrasies are what make it beautiful.