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I want to start with a caveat:  I actually did enjoy the Harry Potter series, though I liked the earlier books better.  It simply happens to exemplify some of the easy pitfalls that I try to avoid as a writer.  There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with them, but for me, they take something away from what could have been.

The Chosen One:  Harry Potter was marked as an infant to be the one who must defeat the villain.  He’s special, not like even run of the mill wizards.  Even though he’s not as smart as Hermione, he’s somehow more talented . . . And that seems like a problem to me.  The valor required for someone who is “special” to save the day is undeniably less than a normal person bravely reaching the same goal.  Who is more heroic, Superman stopping an armed robbery, or the man who’s just there to buy a jug of milk?  I’m not saying there can’t be wonderfully powerful “good guys”, I just don’t think they should be the central character.  There’s more drama elsewhere.  An example of getting it right: Tolkien’s main characters are hobbits . . .

I’m Not Dead Yet:  J K Rowling was quoted (when questioned regarding sequels beyond the 7 prescribed books of HP) as suggesting that Harry may not survive the series.  This I applaud.  What sort of conflict is there if you’re hero can’t die?  But let’s face it,  every book was titled “Harry Potter and . . .”  How was he going to die before book 7?  Would it have been “Hermione Granger and the Deathly Hallows?”  And whatever she thought, I was never convinced that Harry could or would die.  Convincing your reader that heroes can die isn’t easy without actually killing them, of course.  Rowling massacred second tier characters to convince us she was serious, but I never believed.

The Series that Doesn’t End:  I wonder, though I suppose I’ll never know, if Rowling found herself trapped by the 7-year format of the Harry Potter series.  No matter how well planned the series was (and I have my doubts), forcing it into a school career has to have taken a toll on the story.  Would it have been better as 4 books? 8?  We’ll never know.  The other part of the series’ length that has always made me wonder is the shift in tone somewhere around the midpoint.  The first books are light-hearted romps through a world of magic – with a little action thrown in.  The latter books are serious fantasy- action.   It almost feels like two different series.  The flip side of this, of course, is ending up writing endless installments (Xanth, for instance), instead of moving on to new worlds and ideas.

In the infancy (perhaps toddlerhood) of my own writing, I can’t say that I’ll never fall into these traps.  For the time being, though, they are in the forefront of my mind as I envision each new idea.

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