Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pottermore IS for Writers (but mostly in the subtext)!

As you know if you've been reading this forum, I've been fascinated with Pottermore and have tried to stay on top and cover this story as it has developed.  However, what might not have been as obvious is WHY I've been so fascinated.  I'll admit, though I'm very much a Harry Potter fan, I've approached Pottermore with more of a writer's interest.  I've been curious to see what JK Rowling would do with this new digital medium.  At heart, though, I'm mostly dying to take a dip into her brain waves and learn from her writing choices.

Would Pottermore deliver, however?  Or would it be a site for pure fan-indulgence?

The released hints, up until this point, were inconclusive.  It seemed that Pottermore would deliver SOME new insight useful to a writer, but I just wasn't sure how much.

Now that I am inside (YAY!!), I can take a deep breath of relief and assure all of you other writers out there -- Pottermore IS for you...but, as with all things Rowling, you have to look below the surface!

Let's look at what we as writers can learn from Pottermore in two parts, the craft and the business.  Because I have quite a bit to say about each, we'll cover the craft today and business tomorrow.

First the craft:
I've long lamented how little information JK Rowling had put out regarding her own writing process.  While we all know she loved to write in cafes and that she plotted her world and all seven stories in the first five years of writing, we didn't know many specifics.  In fact, I put together a letter several months ago asking just the sort of question I'd love to know from JKR.

But beyond writing techniques and processes, I personally had certain questions perhaps only I wanted answered--mostly things to do with the source material behind some of her magical elements.  Was the mid-east evil eye bead (or the Eye of Horus) really the inspiration behind Mad-Eye's magical eye?  Was the word Horcrux truly devised from the Cross of Horus?  Did she consciously think of the Seth protecting Ra myth when in Deathly Hallows she described the Room of Requirement "like a gigantic ship's cabin"?

Plus, there's the whole world of clue hunting, where fans spotted millions of clues they were never sure JK Rowling intended or not.  Did she use "spots" to point out certain suspicious figures?  Did she give her villains cameo roles in each chapter 13?  Did she deliberately use the word "swept" to hint at Snape's true allegiance in the infamous scene atop the Lightning-Struck Tower?

I'm happy to say, upon viewing Pottermore from the inside, that JK Rowling is definitely revealing more information regarding her writing techniques and choices.  As for her mythical allusions and mystery clues...well, we may have to read beneath the lines on that one.

Spoiler Alert Below this Point:
For the writing thoughts and processes, let me give you a (SPOILER) example from inside Pottermore where Jo reveals her thoughts in choosing the Sorting Hat as the medium for sorting first years into their houses.  She discusses how she'd always planned to divide students into the four different houses, but had played with various other methods of the sorting, from the use of a "Heath Robinson-ish machine" to talking statues of the four Founders.  Finally, with an intimate look into how she brainstormed out from eenymeenymineymoe to names out of a hat, she hit upon the Sorting Hat.

Now, this example alone is not that enlightening or inspiring.  But Pottermore has just opened.  Only Philosopher's Stone is available for navigation, and it has a decidedly beta-testing, unfinished feel to it.  I have no idea if more material will be added before the final version or just more gadgets, but if there are several revelations like this in each book, with six more books to come, then the writer can indeed gain greater insight into how the bestselling author of our time chose the craft decisions which turned her book into a publishing phenomenon.

As for my personal desire to know more about her hidden clues and mythical allusions...I may well have to continue hunting out JKR's subtext through Pottermore as well.  The evidence as to whether she will bring any of this above text at this point is, unfortunately, inconclusive.

Alchemy as an Example:
At the end of the first book on Pottermore, where Harry approaches his final challenge in the underground room below Hogwarts, when he comes face to face with Voldy-Quirrell, Jo's thoughts about the Philosopher's Stone are revealed.  Together with earlier revelations about alchemy from Nicholas Flamel, these insights show how she deliberately wove alchemical symbolism into the story.

But, that much was obvious to any serious student of her work. Jo had talked about alchemy in open interviews before.  And the information released in Pottermore only pointed out alchemy as an strong influence and plot point.  She did not go into the type of symbolic detail as to say, Sirius represents the Black phase, Dumbledore the White, Rubeus the Red... etc.

I still have hope! (Because I'm in Gryffindor now and I must! :-)  I'm hoping that through the direct feedback JKR is getting by way of the comments on Pottermore (which is consistently saying more...More...MORE!) that she will, as each book is released, include more of this below-the-scene analysis of her decisions and sources.

Once again, we wait...:
As with all things related to JK Rowling and Pottermore, however, we will have to wait.  Pottermore's release of Chamber of Secrets is not scheduled until early 2012.  And they haven't even said when the other books will follow.

I imagine that if JKR is truly wanting to get on with releasing completely new stories aside from Harry's world, as she hinted at in this Deathly Hallows Premiere interview, then she'll push to have all the HP stories released on Pottermore as soon as her computer geeks can handle it.

Go Jo!

In the end, where I think we as writers can learn more right now from Pottermore is regarding the business end, where I think JK Rowling once more has a lot to teach us.  But, like Pottermore, you'll have to wait for it.  Just until tomorrow.  Y'all come back now, ya hear! :-)

If you're eager to explore Pottermore, are you interested as a writer, a fan, or both?

And if you don't mind spoilers, or if you're already in Pottermore, be sure to check out my unofficial PottermoreWiki & Forums where loads of us are chatting about what we're finding inside those Hogwarty gates!

(Check Out JK Rowling's Newest Release -- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child here!)