Five Ways My Writing Style Has Changed from Reading “Harry Potter”
For National Novel Writing Month, I am working on a young adult fantasy novel that I’ve been planning for a long time. In writing this novel, I’ve noticed that 16 years of reading and rereading Harry Potter has found a way of influencing every step of my writing process. Some of it comes from intentionally emulating J.K. Rowling, but other parts come from deep in my subconscious.
1. British Words
I was born and raised in the United States, but somehow British words and phrases keep creeping into my vocabulary. I love the word “reckon,” and somehow my characters always end up saying things like “bloody hell” or “mate.” I gained a lot of my vocabulary and spelling from reading these books, and at the time, I didn’t realize there was a difference between British and American English. I’m not sure if that’s brilliant or rubbish.
All of us who grew up with Harry Potter fell in love with the themes of love and sacrifice in the books, and I didn’t realize how important they were to me until I started writing a story of my own. At first, it didn’t even occur to me that my fantasy novel was dealing with similar themes to Harry Potter. As I looked at it more closely, however, I noticed that my whole premise was based on big topics that I had first grappled with when reading the Harry Potter series. Throughout my novel, I was exploring the message summarized by Dumbledore’s quote: “Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love” (DH 722). This has always been a quote that I had difficulty internalizing, and apparently I needed to write a whole book to really wrap my head around it!
3. Names with Meanings
I used to pick just any name that came to my mind for my characters. But then I did research on J.K. Rowling’s names and realized that even the names of her minor characters have meanings hidden in them. Now I find myself on baby name websites and Google Translate trying to find the perfect name for every character I come up with.
4. Plotting My Story
I never used to be a plotter, but after hearing J.K. Rowling discuss how thoroughly she plans her books, I realized that if I wanted to write anything half as good, I would need to at least try to plan it. For inspiration, I looked at the table Rowling displayed in Harry Potter: A History of Magic, where she planned out the entire 5th book, following the different plotlines throughout the story. Plotting and organizing don’t come naturally to me and are a bit overwhelming at times, but they have done wonders for my book. I feel far more confident that now I am writing the story I want to tell.
J.K. Rowling has taught me the value of the little things in life. The details she adds to her stories are what make the magical world feel so real. She foreshadows in the most subtle ways, slipping in small throwaway comments or character references that become important in later books. She makes her side characters just as rich and interesting as the main characters. Rowling has made me aware that world-building is all about the details, and I’m always on the lookout for places where I can use little things to enrich my story.
No matter what writing obstacles are thrown my way, I use the Harry Potter books as a model and guide for teaching me about writing. When I’m struggling with how to open a chapter, introduce a mystery, or pace my dialogue, I look to the books I know so well for examples. I know that the lessons they teach me will be endless.
Do you think your writing has been influenced by Harry Potter? If so, how?