Saturday, June 25, 2011

What Will Pottermore Know?

Update 6/28: Thanks to PottermoreNews for the breaking news on a recent Time article, we now have more information on what Pottermore will contain and how it will operate:

The site launches on July 31 (Mr. Potter's birthday), when one million fans can compete in an online challenge to gain early access. Pottermore opens its gates to the masses for free on October 1, 2011.

But what is the site like? Those hoping for a sophisticated first-person odyssey may be disappointed. Pottermore isn't a game: it's a series of illustrated environments, themed around “moments” from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (material from the other novels will be added with time). The primary attraction for Potterphiles is access to arcana Rowling's been squirreling away in her attic. Want to know why Harry's uncle is called Vernon Dursley? Or learn about Prof. Minerva McGonagal's early heartbreak? You can find it on the site, although you may have to click around a bit to uncover the hidden treasures.

Users start out at Privet Drive, where they can explore Harry's cupboard under the stairs (replete with scampering spiders) before moving on to Platform 9 ¾, the Hogwarts Express, Diagon Alley and Gringotts. Each new witch or wizard gets a personalized trunk (where they can store their chocolate frog cards), 175 galleons and a Hogwarts shopping list (don't forget your crystal phials!) Then they're directed to Ollivander's, where they are asked a series of questions (eye color? Favorite artifact?) in order that their wand can choose them.

With personalized wand in hand, users continue on to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry itself, where, wearing the sorting hat, they are sorted into a House via a unique series of character testing questions written by Rowling herself. Some test the super-ego: would you snitch on a fellow wizard pupil who used a cheating quill? Others probe the id: which do you choose, forests or rivers? (Those who are not placed in Gryffindor get access to special material from The Sorcerer's Stone as compensation.) Once ensconsed in a house common room, users can read the secret lore of Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff, meet housemates, and earn housepoints through wizard duels and mixing potions to compete for the House Cup.

While the environments do have some animated features (Scabbers lurking behind the cabin curtains in the Hogwarts Express, owls and ravens flying about), Pottermore is no World of Warcraft. Rowling wanted to keep the emphasis firmly on reading and the "literary experience," which is why Pottermore's environments are more like digitized pop-up books than a graphic adventure game. (While the environments share some similarities to the films, they are not based on them. And there are no avatars.)

Rowling is also encouraging user contributions to Pottermore. Users can jabber on the site about the benefits of dragon heartstring vs. Thestral tail hair wand cores to their heart's delight. Fans can even submit art.

Given the boxes of material gathering dust in her house, Rowling hasn't ruled out the possibility of creating a Harry Potter encyclopedia. She says she has “no plans” for another Harry Potter book. From now on, Harry Potter will live in the digital age. Talk about magic.

Read more from Time

I'll be updating our list of what we know of Pottermore based on this article, but did you notice at the beginning the confirmation that there will indeed be an "online challenge" to get into Pottermore early? Anyone sensing a quill quest in their near future? :-)

Update 6/26: Thanks to alert blog follower Roxanne, I've now viewed a leaked video from inside the press conference which includes footage of the Pottermore site in use!  I'm ecstatic to see that not only will the website include more backstory and worldbuilding info, but will also include JK Rowling's thoughts behind her choices, which includes the possibility for writing craft decisions and mythological subtext sources!

I'm inserting screen shots of certain pictures below to help analyze what is to come.  You can watch the video yourself by following the link Roxanne provided in her comment below.  And thank you, Roxanne! 

JK Rowling has stated in all the media coverage that she will be releasing some of the information regarding Harry Potter that she's hoarded for years into Pottermore.  She says she's already written 18,000 words, with much more to come.

The question this reader and writer most wants answered right now, is what types of information will be included?  From the bits that have been released, character backstory and some background on worldbuilding will definitely be covered.  She says there's quite an extensive background on McGonagall for example.  But will she cover her writing process, her extensive research, her many allusions through subtext?

Through this page, I would like to document two things:

  1. specific information coming from reliable sources regarding what will be included
  2. suggestions from fans as to what we HOPE will be included

And to get things started out, I'm going to put my own wish list together.  Mind you, I'm a writer who has studied JKR's books for years, mining them for entertaining methods to learn the craft and business of writing.  So, most of what I want to know concerns her writing process.  In fact, I did an open letter last fall that covers a lot of these questions.

However, I'm also deeply interested in her use of mythology, especially Egyptian, throughout the series, and would absolutely die of bliss :-) if she covered some of the subtext and sources of her mythological allusions.

Update: Here's a few screen caps which show Pottermore in action at the press conference.
First up: The Cupboard Under the Stairs, and more information on Vernon and Petunia Dursley:

click on any to enlarge
What we see from these pictures, besides the back of someone's head, is the first entry of approaching Harry's cupboard with the flag to "read about."  Once that flag is clicked, you come to the next screen, which pops up the screens of a list of characters involved to the left and the "You've unlocked Vernon and Petunia Dursley by JK Rowling," that entices you to click to find out Jo's insights.  Once you click that screen, you come to the last screen which gives "additional background to the characters," which includes how Vernon and Petunia met at work, as well as (the most valuable in my writerly opinion) the reason Jo chose these particular names for these characters.  Hopefully here she'd also include any mythological allusions if they apply! :-) 

Here's the next set of screen caps from the press conference which shows the sorting.  Note, I did not include all the screens that were shown or the answers that led to Gryffindor -- the video did not show them all either.  But, we want to have a surprise, don't we?  We don't want to know the answers beforehand and trick the system!

click to enlarge
What this set of images showed was how a new student to Pottermore will be sorted.  You will be asked a series of at least 6 questions (they only showed a couple, but one was referred to as 6), where you have to click from the available possible answers.  At the end, you get your house entry!

So, here's the list of what we have already been informed will be in Pottermore, and what we hope to add to it.  Please, add to it through the comment trail and I'll keep updating the list in the post as we go.  Perhaps, we can get JKR's attention and persuade her to include a few morsels which she had not previously thought us interested.  Pretty please, Jo? :-)

List of What Pottermore Already Knows:

  1. McGonagall's complete backstory
  2. more information on the other three Hogwarts houses
  3. more in-depth wand lore
  4. how Vernon and Petunia met -- at work

Wish List for What Pottermore Will Know:

  1. What happened in that lost 24 hours between Voldemort's failed AK of Harry in Godric's Hollow and Harry's arrival at Privet Drive? (SPS)
  2. What exactly were James and Lily's occupations and how exactly did they defy Voldemort 3 times? (SPS)
  3. Did you originally intend for Snape to be part or whole vampire?  That early sketch you did of him sure looked like it. (SPS)
  4. Did you ever have someone, perhaps your sister, who would act as a critique partner or beta reader before you submitted your manuscripts to your editor? (I'm not referring to your first book, as you already said your sister read that one, but the rest). (SPS)
  5. How did you learn the craft of writing? We know you were an avid reader and studied classics at school, but did you ever join writer groups, read writer guides, etc.? (SPS)
  6. What was your inspiration for some of your mythological allusions?  Did the Egyptian trinity of Osiris, Isis and Horus give play in your subtext? (SPS)
  7. Specifically, did any of the myths associated with Thoth inspire the Chamber of Secrets? (SPS)
  8. What symbolism were you drawing from in designing the Deathly Hallows symbol? (SPS)
  9. Is the word Horcrux derived from the Cross of Horus? (SPS)
  10. To know more about Hogwarts' history, professors, headmasters, ghosts, and, especially, founders. (FM)
  11. More "Wizard of the Month" type of info. (FM)
  12. Did you ever think of making Ginny an animagi? (SPS)
  13. How did Dumbledore know what happened at Godric's Hollow? (SPS)
  14. More detailed information as to what Voldemort did after he left Hogwarts, where he traveled and how he learned the dark arts. (AK)
  15. When were the Death Eaters formed and when did the Order of the Phoenix start fighting them and how? (AK)
  16. More details on what happens after the end of Deathly Hallows that got cut from the epilogue, especially concerning the Trios future careers. (FM)
  17. A glimpse into a Hogwarts professor's lesson plan (FM)
  18. More on the Marauder's Map (anon)
  19. More on the making of Pottermore (anon)
Next to each entry, I'm putting initials of who asked it.

Let's get cracking.  Let's see how long we can get this scroll of parchment.  But please, be sure you're asking a question that's not already been answered.  And if I put one up that has been, please direct me to the place where the answer is.

Let's have fun!

P.S. - Need a professional edit on your manuscript before you submit or publish direct? Be sure to check out my services!


  1. Hi!
    I try not to set my hopes too high and expect anything because it's a sure way to be disappointed, however, I love Hogwarts and I'd love to know more about its history, professors, headmasters, ghosts and, especially, founders!

  2. I am afraid to hope too much for anything. My biggest hope is that she realizes she misses working in that world and wants to venture back into it.

  3. Have you seen this? Its a video from the press conference and it includes a live demo of the website.

  4. Farida -- I've added your wish to the list. Thanks for sharing!

    Angela -- LOL, don't we all hope for that! Personally, I don't want her doing another Harry story, but I'd love to see her visit the next generation.

    Roxanne -- thanks so much for that link. I've seen a shorter video from the press conference, which I posted on this blog, but haven't seen one that shows the demo of the website. I definitely want to see how it works, but will check it out in the morn when my eyes are not crossed. Thanks so much!

  5. hahaha....the video I linked is a leaked video....I dont know how long it may stay up before it gets taken down. Hopefully its still active when you wake up.

  6. Also I'd like to have more "Wizard of the Month" kind of thing. But Jo did say that those who'll be sorted into other Houses will get extra information about famous witches and wizards there.

  7. I've watched the video and it's really cool. I think Pottermore was Jo's way (among other things) to make it possible for her to provide us with the kind of an encyclopaedia that she wanted to do but that would not work as a printed book. I remember her telling about it at PotterCast some time ago...

  8. Roxanne - Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Yes, it was still up, but you gave me quite a heart attack when I read your comment first thing this morning and thought I might have missed it! I rushed to watch it and it gives exactly the kind of insight I'd hoped we get from Jo, plus shows much more clearly what Pottermore will contain.

    I'm going to upload a couple of those images into the blog today so everyone can see better what's coming. But it may take me a little while.

    Thank you! :-)

  9. Farida -- I've updated the list with your question. Also, I read in the transcript of the press conference on Leaky where she was asked directly if she still intended to publish the encyclopedia. Basically, she evaded giving a direct answer, which to me indicates that she's thinking of Pottermore at least possibly as the answer to the encyclopedia.

  10. Hi All, I've updated this post to include screen caps from the press conference which shows Pottermore in action!

  11. I don't know much about JKR, but I would love to know about her history as a writer. Like had she written several novels before? How much revision was necessary? Or was her brilliance just brilliant from the start? You probably already know all these answers, don't you Susan?

  12. @Julie Musil,
    JKR says that she's been writing all her life and that she had written bits of different novels (never published) before the idea of Harry Potter came to her. Actually, you can learn quite a bit about her writing from her interviews or on, so I'd start with those. She worked on 1st HP book for 5 years (and building up the whole series in the process) and I imagine that there were quite a lot of drafts and revisions, because on her website she talks about different versions and ways the story and the characters could go that were discarded later as well as her work with her editors.

  13. @Susan,
    I think that what Jo is trying to say is that with Pottermore we don't need a physical book, because it's all going to be out there for our free and unlimited use. And from what I see of the pictures it will be exactly what she wanted it to look like and to function all along and, of course, she would never be able to accomplish all of this within a book.

    At the same time, I think, that if the pressure for her to produce a physical encyclopaedia continues (and I'm sure it will), she'll publish it for a charity (as she always said she would), but only once all of the books and extra information is up there on Pottermore. And it will definitely take years.

  14. Julie, I don't know 1/4 as much as I want to know about her writing process and history, which is why I'm including those questions on the list. And thanks, Farida, for providing an excellent summary of what we do know.

    Farida -- I think you've pegged it on what JKR is thinking about the encyclopedia and Pottermore. Couldn't agree more!

  15. I would definitely like to know more about what exactly Voldemort do after leaving school. What places did he go to for learning all the dark arts ?

    When and how Death eaters vs Order of Phoenix war started first.

  16. Thanks Ameya! I've included your questions.

  17. I'd love to know about Harry's and Hermione's work at the Ministry of Magic. I also hope that on Pottermore Jo will include all the information pertaining to the future of all the other characters that she intended for the Epilogue but later decided that it wouldn't work in the format of the book. (Sorry for spamming you with my questions! But I have ever so many!)

  18. Guys, this blog post on What Will Pottermore know has been updated with some exciting new information from Time regarding the content and a hint of an "online challenge."

  19. According to the pottermore twitter, there is going to be some sort of special preview tomorrow.!/pottermore

  20. I saw that, Roxanne, and I'm so excited. I plant to be here blogging and tweeting as it is announced.

    Also, LeakyCon 2011 announced that attendees will get a special preview of Pottermore, and as I'm presenting my Writer's Guide to Harry Potter workshop there, I guess I'll get to see that too! I'll blog about that afterward as well! :-)

  21. As a teacher, I'd love to have a glimpse at Hogwarts' professors' lesson plans :D

  22. more about the marauders map and the making of pottermore

  23. Guys, I've posted with a possible new clue to early entry for Pottermore, with help from one of this blog's commentators. Check:

    Also, I've updated with the two new requests for the list of what we want from Pottermore.