There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

What I Learned from JK Rowling February 19, 2014

Filed under: Inspiration,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 5:25 am
Tags: , , ,

What I Learned from JK Rowling

J.K. Rowling continues to amaze me as a writer. When I first read her revelation that maybe Hermione should have ended up with Harry instead of Ron, I was upset. As a huge fan of the books, I felt like two of my favorite relationships were unraveling.

Ginny Weasley is perhaps one of my favorite characters in the series, alongside Neville Longbottom. We watch her go from silly little starstruck girl getting herself into trouble to a strong and powerful young woman, and her growth is all about the subtle changes along the way. She’s always on the outside of the trio but still involved, even if just by watching. She’s clever, and proves that she doesn’t put up with crap. She turns out to be quite the match for Harry, and I loved watching Harry get smacked in the face by his own feelings for her in book six.

Ron and Hermione I called after watching the second movie and seeing the trio reunited after Hermione had been turned to stone. She hugs Harry without a second thought, but she and Ron hesitate awkwardly and then shake hands. And then the way he calls for her instead of Lavender in the hospital? Swoon! My only complaint with their relationship is that it unfolded too slowly and felt a bit unnatural for that reason. I always worried that they were going to miss their moment. Happily, they created their moment in the middle of a battle. But still. Love them together.

So, of course, when Rowling admitted that she put Ron and Hermione together for her own personal reasons and that they weren’t necessarily the best match for one another, my first instinct was to scream with with the other fans about how unfair it was for Rowling to try to change things now or tell her she was wrong.

But was she? Who knows the Harry Potter world and characters better than Rowling? No one. She is the god of that world, so she knows the characters hearts better than we do. And she knows her own heart as well. It is really easy for authors to get lost in their love for their characters and to create fan service that would please them and possibly them alone. J.K. Rowling is amazingly talented, and so fans were more than willing to go along on whatever ride she took them on in the Harry Potter universe, even if it was just her own personal wish fulfillment for the characters.

This got me thinking about whether or not I do that as a writer, and I realized the answer was yes. I am incredibly impatient with love stories. When I know two characters are going to end up together, I tend to slap them together instead of going for a slow burn, even if it is more natural. I ran into this with the second book of the Heirs of War series. Thankfully, I had this epiphany before I sent it off to the editor and managed to slow down a pairing that I had originally planned on putting together in that book. I realized that getting them together now is just what I want to see and not what it best for the characters at this point in their stories. This epiphany led me to really reevaluate a lot of my plot elements and ask myself if I was writing as a fangirl or an author, and it has led to a much better book with a tighter story. And that’s all thanks to J.K. Rowling, who continues to shine as an author we can all look up to and learn a lot from.

What do you think? Do you agree with Rowling’s revelation? Have you read other series and thought that the author was being too much of a fangirl?

~Mara Valderran

Advertisements
 

What’s in an Apple? The Power of Symbolism in Fantasy: Part I April 17, 2013

Ever wonder at the symbolism behind the poisoned apple in Snow White? Or in Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule? Did the authors choose the apple on purpose, aware of its significance, or was it coincidence? Whatever their intention, their use of it left a lasting impression on me.

Why?

Because the apple has influenced the world for centuries. Knowledge, protection, love, temptation; these are but a few representations. Literature and myths from nearly every culture are full of stories about this simple yet powerful fruit.

But what of other symbolic examples?

The harp for instance. People in ancient times believed it to be an instrument of truth, wisdom, and to communicate between realms. In Juliet Marillier’s Wolfskin, a harp is fashioned from the hair and bones of a slain man so he can “sing” the truth of his murder.

And let’s not forget names, animals, gemstones, trees—all of which represent different ideas. In Anne Bishop’s The Black Jewels trilogy, the jewels denote the hierarchy of power. What about the White Tree of Gondor and the horses of Rohan in The Lord of The Rings? Or the ring itself? Epic symbolism there. Harry Potter is saturated with it.

Do our readers need to know the meanings behind our symbolic choices? No. The power is there regardless. It will weave itself into their hearts and minds, and stay with them long after they’ve read your book. And one day, if they happen to discover what a stone, a flower, or constellation symbolizes, they’ll remember it from your book. And mayhap they’ll want to read it again with this newfound knowledge.

And that’s a very good thing, yes?

Happy reading!

Kate

 

Hidden Lineage – Don’t Discount the Tropes March 23, 2013

You can’t be a reader of fantasy and not be aware of the fantasy tropes; dark lords, artifacts of power, ancient prophecies and the forthcoming end of the world / life as we know it. As writers, we navigate these tropes at our peril – not wanting to slide into the slush-pile of ‘seen it all before’. However having just read Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones, due for release on the big screen later this year, I’m reminded that certain tropes are enduring because they resonate with us at a personal level.

200px-City_of_Bones

In the case of City of Bones, the trope in question is the character with the hidden lineage.

Okay, so there have been a slew of peasant boys who’ve turned out to be the misplaced heir to the kingdom, son of the evil overlord and sometimes both at the same time. But what is it about this trope that keeps coming back, and in the case of Cassandra Clare, back with great impact.

Choice of Protagonist: Clary, the protagonist in City of Bones, is an every girl. She’s neither popular nor unpopular, dealing with fairly typical family dramas and generally getting on with life, when all of a sudden things change. Beneath the façade of life as we know it, she discovers a completely unforeseen world – one she must navigate and understand, in order to resolve her own unique circumstances.

Anyone who ever traversed those figuring-yourself-out teen years can relate to Clary’s dilemma, which in many ways is no different to those faced by Luke Skywalker, or Harry Potter. Clary has an family lineage of note – her family has been influential in shaping the world behind the world. And like Luke and Harry, Clary doesn’t just rise up and and assume the mantle of her parents (a very good thing too); she needs to understand how this new world works and where she fits in to it.

Context: An interesting fantasy realm really comes into its own when it forces a character to evaluate their beliefs. What I enjoyed about this novel was Clare painted a fully realised world, where the fantastical elements are well drawn and interesting, but ultimately they are merely a backdrop for the character’s main concern – family. The magical setting is something to be understood and navigated to gain a very personal end. It’s not just magic for magic’s sake.

Growth: Any peasant can find out they have a great lineage, but the real story is in how they respond to it. Despite discovering a new layer of reality, the thing I liked about Clary was she kept hold of the things that were important to her. She didn’t try and hide her ‘impossible’ experiences from her best friend, trusted her instincts and held on to her values. At the end of this book she was starting to look beyond her immediate circumstances to consider the greater good. It’s an interesting transition, and one I’m looking forward to following through with her.

A New Twist: If I’m honest, I almost put this book down before it really got going because I have read widely in this genre and I wasn’t sure if it was going to offer anything different. But a friend told me to give it time because there was a really good twist at the end. I’m so glad she did, because although there are tropes at play in this book – including werewolf, vampire and the fey, Clare put a great spin on it. The interplay between the main characters is interesting, and the twist was well worth it. Book 2 here I come!

While any form of trope or cliché should be handled with care, I’d encourage you to scratch the surface. You might just find a new way to tell a really good, old story.

– by Raewyn Hewitt