I always joke about “my unpopular opinions,” but today I am going to talk about one of my very popular opinions. It is virtually a universal fact that those of my generation love Harry Potter and admire the woman behind the series, J.K. Rowling. I nearly titled this blog post how Rowling AND the Harry Potter series have influenced me as a writer, but, wanting to keep this blog post to a readable length for those of you perusing over your lunch break, I decided to stick with Rowling herself as there are several admirable traits of her talent that I admire and have taken inspiration from.
First and foremost–accessibility. Rowling’s HP series starts off with Harry as a young boy; I was the same age as Harry when I first read The Sorcerer’s Stone, and as such I could relate to him innately. However, my Mom read the books after I finished them, and she felt drawn into the story just as strongly as I did. This kind of broad readership was achieved through a masterful use of characterization and a wonderful assortment of word choice. It was the outstanding craft of the writing, I believe, which allowed these books to be enjoyed by grade school children and their parents alike. The word choice challenged children and allowed adults to appreciate the elevated nature of the works themselves. I remember reading The Order of the Phoenix and seeing the word “detritus” for the first time–context clues made it obvious that the word referred to the garbage littering Harry’s room, but Rowling’s choice to incorporate such a high level word speaks to her skill to create a breadth of audience.
Versatility is also a very important quality Rowling’s work possessed. As I read the books, I literally grew up with Harry, Ron and Hermione through Rowling’s masterful development of these characters from children into young adults–almost verging new adult territory by The Deathly Hallows. To this day, I am still impressed with how she carried this out. A subtle change, book-by-book, a darkening of tone, a deepening of connections. Order of the Phoenix was where this really stood out to me; the world around Harry and his friends had changed so much, but so had Harry himself–he was starting to grow up. To me, opening up a Harry Potter book was somewhat like coming back to the first day of school after summer break and seeing the subtle changes and maturation in your fellow classmates. Her versatility as an author is not only displayed in HP; I read The Casual Vacancy earlier this year and my awe of Rowling as an author was sealed in its veracity for good. The book was incredible–totally adult, full of engrossing characters, and completely different from HP. This, for me, was what made me love The Casual Vacancy for what it was; Rowling had proved herself capable of going beyond HP as an author, and creating a work with just as much merit. No one else but a true master of words could construct a story surrounding so many main characters and have the reader be deeply invested in them all. The themes of The Casual Vacancy are dark, they are modern, and they are real, thus proving Rowling can pull her own in the realm of contemporary adult fiction as well as YA fantasy.
Finally, one of my favorite ways that J.K. Rowling inspires me–her humor. Throughout the Harry Potter series, I adored Rowling’s interspersion of humorous elements to the text. Particularly her tendency to insert a particular adjective to a sentence to make it hilarious. One of my favorite lines is “Harry then did something that was both very brave and very stupid…” from the scene in the bathroom with Hermione and the troll. The insertion of the word stupid injects the text with dry humor, which is incredible. This adds to the lighthearted tone the HP series can take on at times; it’s an element that makes the books enjoyable and lovable, and adding touches of humor (especially, dry ironic little adjectives) is something I incorporate into my writing style.
I could keep writing for quite sometime about Rowling as an inspirational author, but I need to get back to the query gauntlet. I will continue to post about authors/books that inspire me on Wednesday as I saw such a great reaction last week. I hope everyone enjoyed this week’s post!