Novel Writing Tips - Lessons from Harry Potter

Here are some novel writing tips you can take from J.K. Rowling's hugely popular novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

Lesson 1) Readers root for underdogs.

Rowling's novel begins by showing Harry, an orphan, being mistreated by his aunt and uncle.

This immediately set

s up sympathy for the character so that readers are rooting for him.

Lesson 2) Start with conflict.

The main conflict of the Harry Potter series is Harry's battle with the wizard, Voldemort. But during the first part of the novel, Harry doesn't even know that Voldemort exists.

So, Rowling keeps things interesting by giving him another, smaller, battle to fight.

At the beginning of the novel, someone is sending Harry mysterious letters which Harry's uncle keeps confiscating and destroying. Harry wants to find out what's in the letters!

A conflict or a struggle gives readers a reason to turn pages -- they are anxious to know if the character will succeed in his struggle or not.

Give your character a problem right at the beginning of the story. Even if it's a small problem, it will get things moving and create interest right away.

Lesson 3) Keep it human.

The Harry Potter series is about the mysterious world of wizards and a battle between good and evil.

But Rowling keeps the books relatable by filling them with human-sized details: friendships and school rivalries and daily routines. This makes it easier for readers to imagine themselves in the story.

Lesson 4) There are no new ideas.

Beginning authors often worry their story ideas aren't original enough. But what will make your writing original isn't the idea, it's what you do with it.

In 1968, Ursa Le Guin published The Wizard of Earthsea, about a boy who leaves an unhappy home to attend a school for wizards. In 1998, J.K. Rowling published Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, about a boy who leaves an unhappy home to attend a school for wizards.

The same premise, developed in very different ways, led to two very different novels.

Lesson 5) Write to amuse yourself.

In interviews, Rowling has said that she didn't write with a specific audience in mind and never expected her books to be so successful.

She just wrote what amused her personally. "I wrote what I wanted to write and wrote the sort of thing that I knew I'd like to read," she says.

The enjoyment she took in writing the books has translated to enjoyment for her readers.

Lesson 6) Be persistent.

Rowling's novel was rejected by 12 publishing houses before it was finally accepted for publication.

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