Monday, November 15, 2010

Guest Post: What Harry Potter Has Taught Me About Writing

Please help me welcome Jo Hart to Harry Potter for Writers as my inaugural guest blogger! When I first joined Twitter and started this blog a few months ago, Jo was one of the first people to respond to me and welcome me in.

Jo is a writer, teacher and mum living in Australia. She has stories featured on the Australian Literature Review and Smories (stories for kids). She's been a fan of Harry Potter for nearly 10 years and has several fan fiction stories posted on under the pen name Joanne K.

Her Blog:

And now...on to Jo:

How I Met Harry Potter

J.K. Rowling is undeniably a great writer. Her Harry Potter series introduced a generation of video-game obsessed kids to books. But Harry Potter is not just a series that appeals to children, it is a series that appeals to all ages, including adults. I was already an adult when I discovered Harry Potter and it has since had a big impact on my life, and in particular, my writing.

There have been several authors who have influenced my writing over the years. The earliest would have been Enid Blyton who first introduced me to the magic of story writing. Later, as a teen, John Marsden convinced me I wanted to become a published author. I discovered Harry Potter as a young adult while studying teaching and creative writing at university. I started dabbling in fanfiction as a way to relax between studying and because I felt a connection with the characters J.K. Rowling had created.


I know there are mixed feelings from writers when it comes to writing fanfiction (J.K. Rowling has said she has no problem with fanfiction). I'm happy to admit I once wrote fanfiction because it taught me so much about writing and in the end has made me a better writer. J.K. Rowling gave us well rounded characters to work with and through writing fanfiction, and through the feedback I received from reviewers of my fanfiction, I developed my writing skills to a new level. The skills I developed writing fanfiction have carried over into writing my own original works, skills like voice, description, showing vs. telling and creating tension.

Aside from my experiences writing fanfiction, I have learned a lot from J.K. Rowling's writing in the Harry Potter series. I'm going to talk about two important elements of writing I have learnt from reading Harry Potter: Character development and a well planned plot.

Character Development

J.K. Rowling writes well developed characters whom the reader can relate to. She doesn't spend pages describing every physical detail of the characters, but instead weaves the details throughout the story. She gives each character their own unique voice. When I used to write fanfiction I found it easy to get inside the characters' heads because J.K. had given them such a strong voice, in turn this taught me how to get inside the heads of my own original characters when writing them and develop their unique voices. She made the characters real through their voices, their actions, their relationships and their motivations, as well as their strengths and weaknesses.

Well Planned Plot

I've seen some of the sheets J.K. used to draw up her plot for the Harry Potter books. For a series like Harry Potter, which involves not only a plot arc for each individual book, but an overall plot arc as well, planning is absolutely necessary to tie all the threads together. J.K. did a masterful job with the plot arcs and overall plot arc for the series, she threw in red herrings, planted clues and wove in meaningful pieces of information throughout the story. To do this she needed a well detailed plan. When I started writing my current wip I took a page out of J.K. Rowling's book and wrote up plans and outlines before I started. I have found planning helps keep my plot straight as I write and weave in little details that will become important later.

I owe a lot to the Harry Potter series for helping me develop my writing skills. There have been a few writers over the years who have influenced my writing, but J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter series certainly top the list.

As it tops mine as well!  Thank you Jo for such a wonderful post and for sharing your experience on learning through Harry!

If anyone has any questions for Jo, or would like to comment on what you've learned about writing from reading Harry Potter, please post them below.  And be sure to visit Jo's blog at The Graceful Doe and follow her on Twitter at @GracefulDoe.


  1. Great post Jo! J.K. Rowling has been instrumental in my writing as well, for all the reasons above.

    Keep writing Susan! I'm a newbie blogger as well. :)

  2. Great post! JK is a major influence. I think she and Roald Dahl have inspired my reading and my writing.

  3. Thanks, BookGeek! Jo did a great job. And I plan to keep on blogging as long as I can! :-)

    And thanks Elaine. I love Dahl as well, and now my kids are reading him and I get to discover him again.

  4. Thank-you both!

    Roald Dahl is another favourite author of mine too. I remember sitting in the school library devouring his books.

  5. Great post Jo and great taste in authors too. My favorite of the three would have to be Enid Blyton though.

  6. Great post Jo! I have to agree with everything you said there - and it's nice to hear an author praising fanfiction for once.

  7. I definitely agree about the importance of planning. Every time I read a Harry Potter novel, my admiration for all the tiny ties it has to the other books is renewed. Love the post, Jo! Love your blog, too.