Writing Lessons we can learn from Harry Potter
J K Rowling introduces characters with action.
She barely focuses on looks, apart from some distinguishing feature the reader is likely to remember (e.g. Hagrid’s size, Neville’s round face, Ron’s freckles). She keeps reinforcing these distinguishing features over and over again throughout the book. Also, when she introduces new characters, she tries to put in as much information about them as possible.
Case in point: Hermione’s introduction
The girl was already wearing her new Hogwarts robes. “Has anyone seen a toad? Neville’s lost one,” she said. She had a bossy sort of voice, lots of bushy brown hair, and rather large front teeth.
Also, JKR mentions characters in passing. An example of this is — when Harry walks into Platform 9 ¾, he sees several scenes in which we get introduced to several minor characters. In a single sentence, we can get a lot of information about the character without the passage sounding like an info dump.
He passed a round-faced boy who was saying, “Gran, I’ve lost my toad again.”
“Oh, Neville,” he heard the old woman sigh.
From this, we learn that Neville:
- Has a round face
- Has a strict grandmother he is scared of (is he only scared of his grandma or of strict people in general?)
- Has a toad and keeps losing it (is he forgetful in general or only when it comes to the toad?)
- The next time we meet Neville, we are told — The toadless boy was back, but this time he had a girl with him. This serves two purposes- making the reader flash back to the scene at the station, and reinforcing in their heads that Neville is forgetful.
Another example is the introduction of Lee Jordan.
A boy with dreadlocks was surrounded by a small crowd.
“Give us a look, Lee, go on.”
The boy lifted the lid of a box in his arms, and the people around him shrieked and yelled as something inside poked out a long, hairy leg.
From this single instance, we get Lee’s character sketch, that,
- Lee has dreadlocks. Does that mean he is black?
- Lee is surrounded by people after the holidays — it shows that he is popular.
- He has a furry creature with him- either he is a prankster or a daredevil who likes to play with dangerous creatures (a la Hagrid)
From J K Rowling, we as writers can learn how to make our side characters more interesting, and give them a unique personality the readers are sure to remember.
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