Sunday, July 31, 2011

And My Pottermore Name Is...

I'm PhoenixEye64!  Find me when you get there!

And I want to find you too.  So, please, in comments, share your Pottermore name! :-)

UPDATE: And while you're there, check out Jenny's AWESOME compilation of Pottermore name parts in the comment trail! Thanks Jenny! :-)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Quill Quest is ON!!

click to enlarge

Thanks to @Rubeus__Hagrid we have a screen cap of the Pottermore Magical Quill challenge.

7 Books, 7 Days, 7 Chances!

Sounds like we may be on the right track with the clues from the books we've been hunting.

I'll keep updating this page as new information is shared.  Contribute what you're hearing in the comments below, and the big news I'll add up here!

The Quill Quest is On!

Updates as they come in:

  1. Must read: Pottermore Insider:  The way I'm reading this, you only have to successfully answer one clue and find that day's quill to register, if you do it while that day's registration is still open.  You don't have to do all 7!  But they close registration for the day after a certain number is reached. I guess this is to make it more challenging and give more people a chance.
  2. When you find the clue, type it into the end of:  Note: Just because something you type in now doesn't work does not mean it's not a clue for sure. They may not activate the pages until the clue is released to keep people from random guessing.
  3. Based on some comments I'm seeing below and in other posts: the clue has not been released yet, just the process for how they will be released and what we must do to answer. I'm guessing, judging the time and that the UK is in bed, it will be tomorrow sometime. What they've done is to prepare us for how the clue process and early registration will work.
  4. As soon as a clue is released and I know about it, I will post it here. If I know the answer right away, I'll post that. Otherwise, we can work it out together.
  5. Seems like beside the 7 Day banner, a couple of new items got added to the desk. Going to check my old file and see what's changed.
  6. New items on desk -- what appears to be a red writing pen and an ivory Chess pawn, but I'm guessing both items are for pressing the wax seal. What do you think? Also something that appears to be a broken white quill on the front right corner near a letter.
  7. Major News -- As has been mentioned in the comment trail from a post on Mugglenet's forum, LeakyCon attendees were given a preview that for the first clue you will need to go to Diagon Alley. Note, this is NOT the clue. It's a hint for the clue. The actual clue is supposed to be released after 8 am British Time.
  8. I'd like to clarify one thing because I was a LeakyCon attendee as well -- the leaked information was posted here on my blog before I ever got my letter. People had found it released elsewhere and posted here in comments.
  9. Today's clue is posted! How many breeds of owls mentioned in Eeylops Owl sign x 49! Hurry! 
  10. I'm IN!! My new Pottermore name -- PhoenixEye64 !! Find me when we can all play!
  11. Guys, I just added a new poll to the blog --->> I'd love to know how many people who come here are in!
  12. I've started a new post to share Pottermore usernames. Check it out at And My Pottermore Name Is...  However, clue discussions in the following days will continue here!
  13. In case you haven't already seen it, Pottermore Insider has answered some basic questions about the Quill Quest:
  14. IF YOU WANT TO BE SPOILED -- Roxanne just posted a link in the comment trail to some pictures from inside Pottermore that look very legitimate. They are from Facebook from someone in France. I looked at the first couple and stopped because I want to explore myself. But here's a link for those who can't wait! Pottermore Pics
  15. Sorry! I was asleep for the release of clue 2 (Monday)! But my forums were not! Thank you all who shared in the comment trail and helped each other out. For the record, the clue was once again a number with multiplication clue -- in which chapter did McGonagall cancel the Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff, multiply it by 42. Alas, registration for today is already closed.
  16. The Pottermore Insider has updated with a new post. The most interesting detail on it to me is that the Welcome e-mails letting the Beta players into Pottermore will not start to come until AFTER all 7 clues have been released.
  17. Pottermore Insider has been updated! Tomorrow's (Wednesday's) clue will post between 9 am to 1 pm BST, which is between 4 am to 8 am Eastern (I think)!
  18. Day 3 (Tuesday's) Clue: In the Gryffindor versus Slytherin Quidditch match, in Harry's third year, how many points is Gryffindor leading by before Harry catches the Golden Snitch?
    Multiply this number by 35.
  19. Answer is in the comment trail. Just click "last activity" to see most recent comments for help!
  20. 4th day (Wednesday's) clue to post between 2 pm - 6 pm British, 9 am - 1 pm Eastern.
  21. Be ready with your multiples of 28! :-) 
  22. New Clue:  How many students take part in the Triwizard Tournament during Harry's fourth year?
    Multiply this number by 28.
  23. The Sony site is broke, just reenter this address:
    It will take you straight to the page!!! 
  24. Day 5: What is the house number of the Headquarters for The Order of the Phoenix in Grimmauld Place? Multiply this number by 21.
  25. Day 6: How many chapters are there in HARRY POTTER and the Half-Blood Prince?
    Multiply this number by 14.
  26. Day 7: How many Deathly Hallows are there? Multiply this number by 7.
  27. Seek for help in the comment trail!

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

    Friday, July 29, 2011

    Possible Pottermore Number Clue Found!

    Update!, the Quill Quest has been announced. I've started a new post to follow the clues as they are released. Check here: Quill Quest is ON!!

    July 31st is only 2 days away!!! And if you're like me, you're anxious and excited about what sort of early entry trial Pottermore will bring.

    Well, thanks to George Papastratigakis, who has been commenting in this blog's Pottermore -- The Numbers Game column, we may all have one significant clue to go on.

    George has been commenting for a few weeks about the numbers he saw carved into that large wooden desk on the Pottermore entry page.  But because I didn't have the contrast/brightness set right, and because my schedule was extremely hectic due to presenting a workshop at LeakyCon and then the week of #PotterChat, I couldn't see those numbers until today.

    Meanwhile, George had updated his comments with specific directions as to where to look and with the idea that the numbers could possibly be an Ottendorf cipher.

    So, not being too familiar with the film National Treasure, I looked up Ottendorf cipher and discovered that it was a book cipher. As one of the simplest ways JKR and the Pottermore team could have planted a book code was to refer to a page in a book, I decided to give it a try...still not really believing this would amount to anything.

    However, what seemed to me to be the numbers on that desk are just the 2 and 9. The other stuff around it, what some people are seeing as 121961, I saw as just distraction. The 2 and the 9 come out the most clear.

    click to enlarge

    If JKR was going to leave a clue to a page number on the Pottermore entry desk, then I believed it would be to a page in the Bloomsbury edition of Philosopher's Stone.

    And guess what happens at the bottom of page 29 of Philosopher's Stone:

       Dudley and Uncle Vernon came in, both with wrinkled noses because of the smell from Harry's new uniform. Uncle Vernon opened his newspaper as usual and Dudley banged his Smeltings stick, which he carried everywhere, on the table.
       They heard the click of the letter-box and flop of letters on the doormat.
       'Get the post, Dudley,' said Uncle Vernon from behind his paper.
       'Make Harry get it.'
       'Get the post, Harry.'
       'Make Dudley get it.'

    That's the end of page 29. And you know by now what that post has brought. The very first Hogwarts letter for Harry. So on p. 29 of PS, Harry's first letter has been delivered.

    What I think this could signify:
    1. I think this could be another reference to the Quill Quest for early entry.
    2. This clue could very well point to a method which will be used to gain that early entry. In other words, we may be hunting page numbers in books to find correct answers. However, the problem with that is, not everyone's going to have the same editions and page numbers. (Which, or course, will be solved with the HP e-books!).
    3. Therefore, the Pottermore team may be using other means to test our knowledge of the books.  However, as commented by Roxanne earlier in The Pottermore Quill Quest is On thread, if the Pottermore team hopes to keep the answers from flooding the Internet as soon as the early entry challenge opens, then a certain amount of skill will need to be involved. JKR has used tests before on some of her prior challenges on Don't forget the Wombats (as Farida Mestek pointed out).  The early entry challenge could be a WOMBAT style test where the team has put together so many possible combinations of questions and answers, that it would at least slow down the dissemination as people share.

    You think all this is coincidence? You may be right. Two more days will reveal the truth.

    But for now, what do you think?

    And good job, George!!!! Take a bow in the comments.

    (PS: As I post this, I have Googled to see if any other sites have come up with page 29 of Philosopher's Stone from those numbers on the Pottermore desk. So far, I have not found anyone else with this clue. Which may just mean that we're off our rockers! :-)

    Update: One more thing I've just realized that makes me think those numbers may indeed be deliberately planted -- they are not symmetrical! If they were merely decorative, wouldn't they have been drawn somewhat symmetrically around that center line?

    Update 2: George Papastratigakis, who pointed the way to the numbers on the desk and the code theory, has been posting more comments in the Pottermore -- The Number Game thread.  He believes the full sequence of numbers are 1-219-6-1 and that it points to book #, page #, line #, and word #, which comes to the word "think" in the following bit from the Bloomsbury edition of Philosopher's Stone:
    Harry: "He's a funny man, Dumbledore. I think he sort of wanted to give me a chance. I "think" he knows more or less everything that goes on here, you know."
    Here's the picture George put together to highlight his ideas:

    click to enlarge

    What do you all think? Could that sequence of numbers point to a different book, maybe?

    Update 3: Jennyko in comments has pointed out what appears to be the numbers 9 and 6 carved into the headboard of the chair. The 9 is on the left side of the central circle and the 6 is on the right.

    If this follows like the 29 carved into the wooden desk, and we interpret it as a page number in Bloomsbury's Philosopher's Stone, then we come to the page where Harry enters Gryffindor Tower for the first time, with Percy giving the password as Caput Draconis.

    I did a whole editorial several years ago on Geomancy and Alchemy in Harry Potter, and Caput Draconis is a geomantic term. Here's what I said about it in 2004:
    Caput Draconis and Fortuna Major are two of these geomantic characters. “Caput
    ” (Head of the Dragon) is the first password Harry learns for Gryffindor tower in Sorcerer’s Stone (130). According to John Michael Greer in Earth Divination, Earth Magic: A Practical Guide to Geomancy, Caput Draconis is defined as: “A doorway leading in. Favorable for beginnings and gain”. It signifies the beginning of something new and positive — highly appropriate for the beginning of Harry’s new life.
    Fortuna Major, mentioned above, was the password in Prisoner of Azkaban.

    If we need a password to get into Pottermore tomorrow, and Caput Draconis is it, then you all should come back here and give Jennyko a huge thank-you! :-)

    Confused? Feel free to ask questions in the comment trail. You may also want to read through prior posts in the Pottermore label.

    Harry's Ultimate Ordeal

    Let me give you a hint regarding Harry's final ordeal…it's not defeating Voldemort.

    Like everything else she did, JK Rowling wrote the ending steps of Harry's hero's journey with a definite twist. As Harry approaches his ultimate confrontation with the Dark Lord, the stakes could not have been higher. Not only does Harry's life hang in the balance, but the fate of the whole wizarding world.

    So, it seems fairly straight-cut and obvious -- what happens at the end of Deathly Hallows is a simple hero's journey of the hero defeating evil and restoring order, right?

    Not quite.

    In looking at how JKR twisted the Hero's Journey in her final chapter of Deathly Hallows, we must first step back and get a quick overview. I'm not covering the whole hero's journey in this post, just the last half, the part that usually takes up the final action-packed minutes of a feature film. For Deathly Hallows Part 2, that was elongated by splitting up the book into 2 movies. But for the book itself, it starts with chapter 34, "The Forest Again," and spans the last three chapters of this 36 chapter book.

    Also, I'd like to note that while JKR plotted each book of the 7-book series with its own complete hero's journey, as I diagrammed out in a table in A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter, she also had an overarching hero's quest that spanned the course of Harry's journey from Godric's Hollow to the Battle of Hogwarts. What I am presenting here serves as the final steps to both Deathly Hallows and the series as a whole.

    Drawn from Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey, the steps I am covering include:

    7) Approach to the Inmost Cave: where the hero approaches the goal of the quest that he's been preparing for all along. Usually presented with underground, underworld, belly of the beast imagery.

    8) The Supreme Ordeal: where the hero faces the ultimate antagonist guarding the object of his quest and his greatest fear, usually includes a symbolic death

    9) Seizing the Reward: defeating this antagonist and his fear, and having faced death and survived, the hero is able to claim the prize

    10) The Road Back: the hero must return the object of his quest to his ordinary world, where his path along the way is often fraught with new complications from remaining antagonists or the main one who was not completely vanquished

    11) The Resurrection: The hero is tested once more. May replay the ordeal of facing death from step 8. Triumphing again, the emphasis here is that the hero is purified and reborn into a newer, stronger person.

    12) Return with the Elixir: Returning home, the hero shares the result of his quest with his people as something that benefits the group as a whole. Ultimately, the hero brings new life to his tribe to ensure its continuity.

    Approach to the Inmost Cave:
    Harry approaches his last, and deepest inmost cave as he walks from the castle to the Dark Forest, heading deliberately to his own death, to sacrifice himself for all those he loves who have willingly put themselves on the line to not only protect him, but to keep evil at bay.

    He approaches the Dark Forest of Death with those he has loved who have gone before by his side.

    The Supreme Ordeal:
    To better analyze JKR's twist in this last and overarching supreme ordeal, let's see how she has treated the Supreme Ordeal in prior books:

    1. In PS/SS, Harry's ordeal was in facing Quirrel/Voldemort in a room far under Hogwarts, and holding them off from the Philosopher's Stone.
    2. In CoS, Harry's ordeal was again under Hogwarts in the Chamber of Secrets, where he faced and slew the basilisk, stopped the Riddle memory/Horcrux, and saved Ginny's life.
    3. In PoA, Harry's ordeal came by the side of the dark lake, where he forced off his Dementors and saved Sirius' life.
    4. In GoF, his ordeal was in the graveyard, where he once again faced Voldemort in full form and dueled without cowardice or loss. Although he did not save Cedric, he rescued his body to bring home to Cedric's family.
    5. In OotP, the ordeal came in the bowels of the Ministry of Magic, when Harry battled Death Eaters to save his friends. When Voldy invaded his body, Harry forced him out through the power of his love for Sirius.
    6. And in HBP, the ordeal was in the Inferi Cave, where Harry faced Death in the form of the Inferi and saved his mentor's life.

    Notice how in each of these supreme ordeals, Harry enters an underground, underworld place, faces some form or force of Voldemort, triumphs over this antagonist, and saves someone's life. In each of these ordeals Harry stops or defeats a dark antagonist. That is the normal way it is with the Ordeal.

    However, in her last greatest plot twist, JKR gives the Supreme Ordeal of her overarching Hero's Journey a very unique twist. Harry's final ordeal is not when he defeats his arch-rival, but rather when he allows that villain to defeat him. The dark antagonist Harry defeats here…is Harry.

    Harry's final ordeal is not the scene in the Great Hall where he duels with Voldemort and wins, but rather the scene in the Forbidden Forest where he walks in willingly, without weapon in hand, and lays down his own life as a sacrifice for many. He faces Death with the comfort of those he has loved and gone before him by his side. Harry's final battle, as Dumbledore so wisely hints at, was not in killing Voldemort, but in vanquishing his own fear of death.

    While death is usually experienced in the Supreme Ordeal, it is not often the object of the hero going in, but rather a consequence. For JKR, death was not an unfortunate outcome of a successful fight nor a result of her hero's inability to battle the Dark Lord and win. Death was both Harry's goal and his ultimate antagonist. Voldemort was just a tool to deliver it to him.

    Seizing the Reward:
    Harry's reward for having accepted his own death and willingly laid down his life for others comes in three forms. First, as a reward not only for Harry, but for the reader as well, Dumbledore finally explains ALL. He talks with Harry as an equal, in fact, as someone he looks up to in reverence.

    Harry's second reward is the gift of ultimate choice -- whether to live or to "go on." And it truly is a choice he has to make. The lure of eternal peace and unity with those he has loved and lost beckons Harry onto that final train. However, the responsibility of knowing that others depend on him to see the final battle through makes him stand and return. He takes with him understanding and knowledge that Voldemort has not.

    The final reward becomes the elixir as well -- Harry's sacrifice has given the blood protection to all those fighting against the Death Eaters at Hogwarts. Just as Lily's sacrifice offered Harry protection against Voldemort all those years ago, now none of Voldemort's spells stick against those Harry has died to save.

    The Road Back:
    Harry's road back is both in leaving the peace of King's Cross and his unity with Dumbledore to return to the pain that awaits him in the battle, but also the rocky and branchy path from the Forbidden Forest to the castle, cradled in Hagrid's trembling arms. In this perilous journey, Harry must weigh carefully when to reveal his revived self to be best able to finish off Voldemort before Harry can be truly killed himself.


    It is at this step where Harry, because he no longer fears death, is able in his moment of resurrection, to defeat he who has always fled from death. Because of his choices, Harry has faced something Voldemort never could and gained the power and knowledge he needed in order to defeat the man who has always fled death.

    Harry's resurrection takes place in the Great Hall, under that wonderfully bewitched ceiling, which shows the dawning of the "red-gold glow" of a new day. Not only does this red-gold sun in the great hall hint at Harry's attaining of his own personal Philosopher's Stone, as outlined in The Great Hall as the Great Work, but it also hints at Harry's role in this last story as the sun god Re/Ra in his ultimate defeat of the serpent of death, Apep, as will be detailed in an upcoming post. And, of course, there is the Christian imagery of Christ's resurrection from the tomb, which was discussed in St. George's Holey Ear.

    Return with the Elixir:
    Like the first book, Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone, the elixir is granted in the Great Hall. However, unlike the first book, instead of Gryffindor winning the house cup, all the houses, indeed the whole wizarding world, share in this cup of new life. For Harry's actions have not only brought about the end of Voldemort's reign of terror, but also united all four houses.

       McGonagall had replaced the house tables, but nobody was sitting according to house any more: all were jumbled together, teachers and pupils, ghosts and parents, centaurs and house-elves…
       Along the aisle between the tables he walked, and he spotted the three Malfoys, huddled together as though unsure whether or not they were supposed to be there, but nobody was paying them any attention. Everywhere he looked he saw families reunited…"

    That the reuniting of the Malfoy family is included in a place where before they would have shunned and been shunned, shows the power of this elixir Harry has wrought. Families have been reunited, unity (even if temporary) in Hogwarts has been attained. And families who have love for each other, even if under prior taint of misguided beliefs, have found a place of sanctuary as well.

    Harry did, indeed, fulfill his role as a hero and deserves the round of applause that awaits him when having his final talk with his greatest mentor in the Headmaster's Office.

    As always, we analyze these steps in JK Rowling's writing to help us understand how to complete them in our own. The hero quest is a wonderful mode of plotting because it is so innate. We've heard these stories from childhood as they've been preserved since antiquity. The frame is malleable enough to be wrapped around most any genre. JK Rowling has give us seven great examples of how she plotted her hero's journey that help us look at our own ideas and see which are the strongest and in which order they should flow.

    If you haven't yet studied the Hero's Journey, a quick trip to the oracle of Google will give you a general understanding of either Christopher Vogler's or Joseph Campell's basic steps. With these in hand, you can plot out your work in process to see what steps you have used and in what order. Then you can analyze, have you saved your most meaningful confrontation for your hero for his Supreme Ordeal? Have you given him a reward worthy of the sacrifices he has made to achieve that victory? And has he returned to his people with an elixir that will enable them to live anew?

    Share with me one of your favorite ordeals from either your work or another's!

    Tuesday, July 26, 2011

    Twisting and Deepening the Final Battle

    The final plot for the ultimate book of the Potter series was a closely guarded secret. How would this beloved epic end? Millions of readers' fervent expectations, and the financial well-being of the vast Potter empire, all rested on JK Rowling's nimble fingers.

    For readers, they were concerned that their beloved friends survive the impending war and that the proper soul-mates hook up together. Many were also hopeful that their pet theories--of who was to die and who was to survive and who was loyal to whom--come to fruition.

    For writers, who are more knowledgeably trained in the craft, we knew certain beats of storytelling must be met. What most fascinated us was on speculating HOW Jo would interpret this particular hero's journey.

    Evil must be defeated. Harry must triumph, even if he died in the process. And order must be restored. JKR had not dutifully followed the hero's journey to end it short of the ultimate elixir.

    The biggest question, for me at least, was how could this amazing mistress-of-surprise delight her readers one final time when expectations and speculations had risen so high? Was it possible that she could pull off one final twist? A twist, that of course, must have been well-laid throughout the vastly scoured pages of these most beloved tomes.

    In this final chapter analysis, what I hope to cover are 1) the surprising plotting tricks JKR still had up her magical sleeves, and 2) her unique interpretation of the hero's journey. We'll cover plot twists in this post, but to keep the length sane, the hero's journey will follow another day.

    With JKR, a plot twist is never just a craft technique alone. It must carry a deeper meaning to the whole series.  Therefore, this plot analysis is closely linked to the one I did a couple of days ago on themes in the final battle.

    First up, that master of disguise, Snape:

    JKR's ultimate plot twist, of course, was Snape. And while many of you will say that you knew Snape was loyal from Book 1, many readers had serious doubts up until the final shared memory. I can clearly remember discussing with a relative of mine, after finishing Half-Blood Prince together in July 2005, whether Snape was good or evil. My relative is extremely intelligent, well read, and a prolific writer. And he was convinced Snape was guilty. I was sure he wasn't.

    We discussed the evidence. In the end, my kin had doubts about Snape's guilt, just as he'd introduced the faintest niggle in my mind as to where Snape's loyalty lay.

    That's how well planted a trail of clues and red herrings JKR left for her readers. The evidence pointed in both directions, but only one side would emerge victorious.

    Snape's act of mentor mercy killing, his role as double agent, was pivotal in bringing about Voldemort's demise. It was his reason for doing it, however, that had left most Snape supporters divided. Many were on the Snape/Lily ship well before the last book's release. Others believed Snape to be acting with goals of his own personal power. This last surprise of motivation was carefully concealed until the final book to keep the readers guessing and intrigued.

    On that, JKR succeeded brilliantly.

    The complete story of how JKR wrought the mystery of Snape is fit for a book, not a (relatively short) blog post. However, I will say that although Snape had exited the scene before the very final chapter, his actions still affected Harry's ultimate outcome. It was Snape's loyalty to Dumbledore, which Harry threw in Voldemort's face, that most unsettled the Dark Lord. Because it was in learning that Snape had not conquered Dumbledore, as Voldemort had believed, that left Voldemort holding a useless wand. Without Snape's actions, Harry would not have been triumphant.

    And without Snape, JKR could not have shown off the depth and complexity of two of her crucial themes -- the power of love and the importance of choice. Because Snape had loved, he was able to make a better choice than Voldemort, who knew not love. Even to have loved once and lost is better than to not have loved at all.  For love is that ultimate elixir that protects the soul from ultimate destruction...always.

    A come-from-behind mother, Narcissa:

    For me, the surprise twist that caught me the most off guard was the role of the Malfoys, especially Narcissa, in the final battle. Who would ever have thought that the mother of Harrry's school nemesis and the wife of the Dark Lord's second lieutenant would be Harry's final savior? That one, JKR completely snuck by me.

    And yet, she prepared the reader well for Narcissa's surprisingly soft hands absorbing Harry's very alive heartbeat as she touched his chest to verify his death for Voldemort. Yet, it was her Dark Lord Narcissa betrayed, not Harry. And the betrayal was due to her mother's love, a theme JKR had developed from the very beginning, not only through Lily's sacrifice, but the love of mothers such as Molly Weasley and Alice Longbottom. Even Petunia loved Dudley dearly, though her short-sighted love sometimes caused more harm than good. And we must not forget those loving packages from home that Draco's owls constantly brought him. Indeed, the crucial criteria separating Narcissa from her deranged sister Bellatrix is that Narcissa bore a mother's love.

    So, in JKR's wonderfully circular way of writing, a mother's love stopped Voldemort in Godric's Hollow as a mother's love stopped him in the Dark Forest. In essence, Narcissa prepared Harry's body for his final resurrection in the Great Hall. (There may even have been a hint of Mary Magdalene in Narcissa's hair touching Harry's body).

    Harry, a simple hero with a standard spell:

    The final, greatest mystery yet to be unveiled was in what manner would Harry defeat Voldemort. Defeat him, we knew he must. But how?

    For an author who had based so much on her theme of love and the maiming of one's soul through killing, how would Harry kill and yet perfect his hero's journey at the same time? Surely, love would play a part. But how could love truly bring down a tyrant?

    Of course, there could be a magical explanation for whatever devise she used, but with a writer of JKR's caliber, every magical and fantastical element in her created world must have a realistic counterpart in our everyday one.

    In other words, to uncover the true ticking of JKR's final plot, we must understand what all that wand lore symbolizes in our real world.

    In JKR's adept fingers, Harry defeated Voldemort not because he became a killer, but because he sacrificed himself for others. Harry defeated Voldemort not because he murdered, but because he refused to harm anyone any more. Harry won the wand off Draco not through killing a school bully, but in yanking it out of Draco's hand in his bid to protect his mates. Harry's triumph was a culmination of always seeking to protect others, to put an end to tyranny, and to remain true to his core beliefs.

    In the end it must be noted that of all the Horcruxes destroyed, Harry killed only one. Harry had learned to join forces with others, to trust in the wisdom of his mentors, to lay down his life to save many, and to always seek to disarm rather than to harm.

    All these lessons are just as real in our world as in Harry's.

    And so, what of that ultimate fantasy weapon, the wand? How could a hero in ours truly stop a tyrant by disarming his wand? In our world, we do not have wands. But we have power. And we have tyrants who wield their power over others like Voldemort does with his wand.

    When a ruler uses his power to harm his people, it can be stripped away if those oppressed rise in unified protest. Tunisia and Egypt are two recent examples. People rose up. People fought. Yes, people were killed, but the dictators' wands were ultimately disarmed.

    As writers, I believe that we must plot the significance of our climax as carefully as we plot the actions which lead up to it. It's not only important to tie up most loose ends and to deliver that final, stunning twist. It's also crucial that the story have import.

    Through leaving revelations of character motivation and action to the final chapter, coupled with a well-prepared trail of clues, JKR satisfied her reader with final surprises. Above all, JKR twisted every significant action and surprise with even deeper meaning into the themes of life she explored.  Because she wove her story throughout with meaningful subtext relevant in today's world, she ensured her readers would not soon forget Harry.

    Above all, your reader will remember your characters' final triumph. If it's weak, or not well grounded in reality, your story will soon be forgotten. But if you plot your story well, both the above ground action and below the surface meaning, then you should leave your reader with the thrill of a satisfying read that warms their heart and is not soon forgotten. And that they then tell their friends about.

    What plot twists have you saved for the ending of your manuscript?  How is that particular surprise relevant to your story's main themes?

    (Update: I'm away from home using a slower computer and am noticing that sometimes the comments below don't load. There IS a comment trail. If you are not seeing it, try reloading. Your connection may be too slow).

    Monday, July 25, 2011

    Mad-Eye's Magical Eye

    Because I've got a new toy I want to play with today (CommentLuv!), and because I don't yet have my blog post ready, I'm re-posting one of my favorite posts (with updates!!) from the early days of this blog. However, I see from the poll over to the right, that not as many of you are as in love with the Egyptian mythological references in Harry Potter as I am!!  That's ok, you can suffer through today. :-)

    Actually, you may want to comment anyway because my new toy is supposed to show/link to your last blog post on YOUR blog when you comment on mine.  I want to make sure this new widget works properly before I put a new post up. along. Please....Thanks!


    Look at the three images I have on this post and see if you recognize any similarities.

    Let's start with the first image, the ancient Egyptian Eye of Horus.

    The Eye of Horus was an amulet of healing and resurrection. One of the most revered and powerful amulets in ancient Egypt, the Eye provided protection from evil. It was a symbol of royal strength and assisted in the rebirth of the deceased.

    As the granddaddy of apotropaic amulets, meaning a talisman that turns back harm or evil, the Eye was so popular that it spread throughout the region and the centuries, morphing and adapting to various cultures, but always retaining the staring single eye. It is truly very old magic.

    nazar boncugu

    The Eye still exists in various incarnations even today. It is very popular throughout the Middle East, especially in Turkey where it is known as nazar boncugu. In Turkey you will still see this amulet nailed over doors to homes, decorating the hulls of ships, and pinned to the clothing of young children, placed there protectively by their loving mothers. (Actually, you see it EVERYWHERE! :-)

    Now let's look at Mad-Eye's mad and magical eye.

    From Goblet of Fire:
    But it was the man's eyes that made him frightening.

    One of them was small, dark, and beady.  The other was large, round as a coin, and a vivid, electric blue.  The blue eye was moving ceaselessly, without blinking, and was rolling up, down, and from side to side, quite independently of the normal eye -- and then it rolled right over, pointing into the back of the man's head, so that all they could see was whiteness.  (p. 184-185)

    Hmm. An all-seeing round eye with the colors of black, blue, and white... Ya think there's a connection?

    A few years ago, when E.L. Fossa of Wizarding World Press pointed out to me the similarities between JKR's creation and the Turkish nazar boncugu, I felt a bit dimwitted.  Here I was, married to a Turk, having lived in Turkey many years, with many boncuks hanging in my house, on my keychain, or pinned to my children's clothes when they were babies, and I'd not made that connection.  Yet, this was the early days of my induction into the murky subtext of Harry Potter and I was only then learning how to seek below the surface.

    If I'd had any remaining doubts that JKR intended for the reader to make these connections to the nazar boncugu or the Eye of Horus, it was  was when she had Umbridge nail Mad-Eye's glass eye to her office door just like the Turks do with their good luck bead that cinched it for me.  On the surface, Umbridge's action was just a bit odd.  And you can bet, whenever JKR is doing something that seems odd or slightly out of place, that she's getting at a deeper meaning, most likely using a mythological reference.

    But ... why would JKR pin a benevolent amulet onto a character who in his first appearance is a Death Eater and fraud?  I think there's an initial reason, and then a deeper one that leads to the underlying mystery of the series.

    First the initial reason -- the Eye of Horus, as well as its descendant, the nazar boncugu, are amulets that represent the protection of an all-seeing divinity.  In Goblet of Fire, pseudo Mad-Eye (aka Barty Crouch, Jr.) fills this role.  He sees all, knows much more than any other character what is truly going on, and is bent on protecting Harry and getting him through as champion in the Tri-Wizard Tournament.  Unfortunately, all this protection is aimed at sacrificing Harry to his lord and master, Voldemort.

    However, in the end, despite himself, Crouch's protection works effectively.  It is Barty Crouch as Mad-Eye who taught Harry how to throw off the Imperius curse, an ability that helps Harry survive his encounter with the Dark Lord and return safely to Hogwarts.

     For a deeper analysis of these ancient references -- JK Rowling utilized ancient myths, I believe, to show the continuity of belief....Jung's universal collective subconscious, if you will.  What people have believed for two thousand years, still rings true long as you change the clothes and settings.  Good versus Evil, the eternal nature of Love, our need to fight our Shadow and triumph.  All this rang as true to Egyptian ears three thousand years ago as it does to ours today.

    As writers, we have the option of working sub-textual meaning into our stories.  If we do so with skill and resonance, as JKR has done with Moody's eye, then we've provided a whole new layer for the reader to engage within our pages, time and time again.

    Notice that JKR never says the words Horus or Egyptian mythology in the text.  Nor does she point out directly the resemblance of Mad-Eye's bulging blue eye to the Turkish good luck charm.  She simply describes her creation in a similar way, has it utilized in a related manner, points the reader in the direction of Turkey and Egypt in other places (Bill's work in Egypt, the Egyptian Quidditch referee, and the mention of Ludo Bagman's win over the Turkish Quidditch team).  Thus, with such subtle but deliberate hints, the game master leaves these little Easter Egg delights for the reader to discover.

    That's the joy of subtext and why layers of it added to your writing bring your reader back to your story time and time again.  Readers delight in being able to read a Potter novel for the second, third, (cough, sixth, cough) time and still discover meaning that was not evident on an earlier read.

    So, why would JKR draw so much attention to this particular ancient Eygptian amulet?  I have a theory and it points to the Horcruxes.  But that's a huge 'nother post. (Actually, it became two. You can read When is a Horcrux not a Horcrux here, and That Deathly Hallows Symbol here.

    Have you layered in subtext in your writing? What technique have you found to be the most useful for referring to a theme, myth, or item below the surface?

    Photo credits:
    Eye of Horus
    Nazar Boncugu
    Mad-Eye Moody 
    Door with Boncuk, Turkey

    Friday, July 22, 2011

    Circling Home to Theme

    “Well then, I think the answer is that a circle has no beginning.”
    ---   Luna Lovegood, Deathly Hallows

    One of JK Rowling's thematic images that I believe to have been most powerfully conveyed in the movie Prisoner of Azkaban was that of the spiral. Remember Trelawney's crystal globe thumping down the spiral staircase of the Astronomy Tower? Or what about the spiral of the fossilized snail on the rock that Hermione threw at Harry's head in the time-turner sequence?

    Alfonso Cuaron's film was one of the most artistic of the series, and he knew how to hit home (and heads!) with certain themes. The spiral is a beautiful metaphor for how Jo dealt with themes throughout the Potter series

    How JKR begins her story is how she ends it, but not in a simple circle where nothing is gained or loss, but as a spiral, ever progressing.

    I'd like to look at five of the main themes that JKR developed throughout the series which carried through to the climax of the final chapter. We'll examine how she introduced each theme, how they spiraled through the story, and what she finally had to say about each one at the conclusion.


    "It was here," [Ron] touched a point close to his heart, "I could feel it, it was hot. And once it was inside me I knew what I was supposed to do, I knew it would take me where I needed to go."
    ----  Ron Weasley, Deathly Hallows

    It could be argued that the action which sets this whole Potter saga in motion is when Peter Pettigrew betrays his best friend James. His act of disloyalty in order to save his own rat hide leads the whole wizarding world into a downward spiral of darkness and war, with deaths suffered by the many touched from the Death Eater's and Voldemort's wands.

    (article continues below)

    One of the aspects of the series fans will often mention as their favorite is the loyalty shared between the trio of friends Harry, Ron, and Hermione. And yet, each has a fall-out with the others through the course of the seven books. Ron's jealousy with Harry causes them not to talk for weeks during Goblet of Fire. Harry won't forgive Hermione for reporting his Firebolt to McGonagall in Prisoner of Azkaban. And of course, Ron's fight with Hermione over Crookshanks killing Scabbers not only pointed to a major theme, but a crucial plot device as well.

    But perhaps the greatest show of tested loyalty came in Deathly Hallows when, suffering form the effects of wearing Voldy's Horcrux, Ron left his best friends. It was his love and loyalty for them, as well as Dumbledore prescience in gifting Ron the Deluminator, which enabled his return. For what is a Deluminator exactly? For JK Rowling, a Deluminator takes light from one source and sheds it upon what is most important to that person. For Ron, his love of Hermione, and his loyalty to his friends, is the guiding light that brings him back into the heart of the trio.

    While Bellatrix shows extreme loyalty to Voldemort, hers is an example of a perverted twist of loyalty that is not returned and only results in the harm of others. Voldemort is loyal to none as he AK's or tortures anyone who trips him up, no matter how loyal they have been in the past.

    Finally, it is the loyalty of the three friends, the loyalty of the students toward Hogwarts, including Slytherin, and the loyalty of Snape to his childhood love, that conquers the lonely Voldemort and his band of demented souls whose only true loyalty is to themselves and their own desire for eternal power.

    Even though as hero, Harry must in each ending take the final step, he never would have made it to the point of facing his worst fears without his friends by his side. As Sirius says, keep your friends close. Because what is life without friends?


    "To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure."
    ------  Dumbledore in Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone

    According to Dumbeldore, as the mouthpiece for JK Rowling, sometimes the things we most want as humans are the last things that will truly make us happy. Voldemort pursues eternal life with a rapier-sharp passion unrivaled by other wizards. And yet, is Voldemort ever truly happy?

    Death looms over the series from the beginning through to the end. From the deaths of Harry's parents, which brings him into the home, if not the bosom, of the Dursley family, to the deaths of Cedric, Sirius, Albus, Remus and Tonks, Fred, Collin, and many others, the fear and often untimely ending of everything human is explored from various perspectives.

    The taking of life is the most evil spell a wizard can cast, which leaves a permanent blight upon his own soul. Whereas the acceptance of one's own death is perhaps presented as the noblest, even if the most shocking -- Dumbledore's fore-planned sacrifice. (For the rest of us Muggles, it's called a Living Will).

    A Rainbow of Gray:

    "The world isn't divided into Good People and Death Eaters."
    ------ Sirius Black in Order of the Phoenix

    People are not divided into black and white, but most of us exist in some shade of beautiful gray.

    While the series started off somewhat simplistically, with Harry's world fairly well defined between the good and the bad, it did not remain that way. Over the years, Harry not only had to face the mistakes and disappointments made by the adults and friends around him, but had to also come to grips with the dark side of his own character.

    For me, the most exemplary moment in which Harry explored the darkness of his own soul was when he cast the sectumsempra spell at Malfoy. In every place before, even when confronting Death Eaters and Voldemort, Harry aimed to disarm, petrify, or impede, not to physically harm. From this point with Draco, Harry understood the fire he'd been playing with in the Half-Blood Prince's potion book and gets rid of it. How fitting it is, then that in the end of DH, Harry saves Malfoy's life (twice)!

    This theme of the various shades of gray of human character is best exemplified by Snape, who is one of the grayest. (For more, please see my post on Snape's Gray Undies). Indeed, it is because of Snape's very gray, ambiguous character that he is also considered the most intriguing in the whole Potter universe.

    Even Voldemort, the chief baddie and darkest character in the book, is shown with a touch of gray when through the Pensieve we see what brought him as a child to such darkness.

    In the end, Harry does not defeat Voldemort as the white knight on a stallion charging at a black dragon, but rather as as a young man who has faced his dark side, challenged his shadow, been refined and strengthened through conflict, and learned to trust the loving side of his nature rather than his hatred and fear of death. Because, for JK Rowling, the key ingredient in determining what shade of gray we reflect relies on what choices we make.


    "It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
    ------  Dumbledore, Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone

    From Harry's first moment of choosing Gryffindor over Slytherin, and Dumbledore's explanation, we know that this is one of the main themes of the series. Harry chooses to risk winning the TriWizard tournament in order to ensure that Fleur's sister is safe. He chooses to claim the Goblet of Fire with Cedric. He then chooses to risk his life to bring Cedric's body back to his parents. Ron and Hermione choose to accompany Harry on his dangerous quest to find and eliminate Voldemort's Horcurx. Ron chooses to return. The examples are too numerous to name. We see choices that bind friends together as when Hermione covers for Ron and Harry about the troll, and choices that tear families apart, as when Percy turns his back on his family. Finally there are the choices that kill, such as making Horcruxes, and choices that save, such as finding Hallows.

    In the end, Harry makes the choice to disarm Voldemort rather than to kill. It is Voldemort's choice to kill anyone standing between him and eternal life which denies him that impossible dream.


    Dumbledore: "She sacrificed herself for you. And that kind of act leaves a mark... This kind of mark cannot be seen. It lives in your very skin."
    Harry: "What is it?"
    Dumbledore: "Love, Harry. Love."
    ------ Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone

    Finally, the inner core that guides the choices a person makes is the love that person feels. Love is the most powerful, ancient magical theme in JKR's awe-inspiring arsenal. It is love that makes Lily give her life freely in order to save her baby's. It is love that lives in Harry's skin protecting him from Quirrel's touch and Voldemort's reach in his mother's blood house. It is the love that Harry feels for Sirius that Voldemort cannot stand to come in contact with. And it is love of his friends and adopted family and sharing in those they have lost that guides Harry's feet into the Dark Forest to lay down his own life so that others may live.

    To be denied love is to not only never truly live, but to also exist in the meanest way possible. To be denied the love you seek, even when it may be your own fault, is to live a bitter life, never filled with the joy of sharing your innermost dreams with another.

    Love is the magic that lives beyond the grave. Love is the balm that carries us through a Dementor's attack. And love is the music of the Phoenix song that lift our hearts and inspires us in our darkest times.

    What themes do you work with in your own novel? How have you introduced it to your reader? Have you shown the theme in its full glory, from its negative through to its positive aspects? Have you brought your theme home, in a magnificent spiral from the beginning, to conclude it at its strongest, most powerful impact?  And can you somewhere, somehow in your story encapsulate your theme in the words of one of your characters?

    Themes help guide our writing, keeping us on track as authors. For myself, I may be able to start a story without a theme in mind, but I won't be able to conquer the hard parts until my core is identified. I think of theme as the hub of my story's wheel, around which rotate the spokes of character, plot, setting, conflict, and metaphor. Any time I get stumped, and am unsure of which choice to take, I go back to my theme and let it guide me.

    How you choose your theme is as varied as there are writers out there. But one thing is for certain. Choose your theme wisely, for if it does not resonate with you personally, it does not stand a chance in an Inferi cave of igniting a flame within your reader's heart.

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

    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    Final #PotterChat Prize Entry Info

    Friday is the last day for our fabulous week of #PotterChat blog posts, Twitter chats, and Scavenger hunt!  Tomorrow is also the first day you can enter to win one of these fabulous prizes:

    Entry is simple. Here's all you need to do:

    1) E-mail PotterChat8 AT gmail DOT com
    2) List the clue answers (see below) and the blog they were found on.
    3) If you'd like, let us know your top 3 choice of prizes from the above.
    Winners will be determined by number of correct answers and receipt time of email.

    That's it! Simple!

    Just remember to wait until the last blog is posted on HarryPotterforWriters at 9 a.m. Eastern to submit your entry!

    Clue Questions:
    1. In Order of the Phoenix, the Weasley twins planted this outside of Umbridge's office in the fifth book before leaving Hogwarts.
    2. In Deathly Hallows, this gift was the end of Peter Pettigrew.
    3. In Prisoner of Azkaban, what shape did Dean's Boggart take?
    4. In Goblet of Fire, what does Dobby reveal to be his pay per week for working at Hogwarts?
    5. In Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone, when Professor McGonagall introduces Harry to Oliver Wood saying that she's found him a Seeker, she also notes that Harry caught the Remembrall in a dive that even who   could not have done?
    6. In Half-Blood Prince, during Dumbledore's visit to Tom Riddle's orphanage, he instructs Tom to empty items out of his box in his wardrobe.  Name one of the three mentioned.
    7. In Chamber of Secrets, who helped get Harry out of trouble in Filch's office by persuading Peeves to crash the vanishing cabinet on the floor above?
    8. In Deathly Hallows, on the radio show Potterwatch!, although he wanted to be called "Rapier," Lee Jordon initially introduced one of the Weasley twins as... (this name).
    Good luck to all!

    Need to see where to find the clue answers on the participating blogs? Go here!

    The Shining Moments of Character Development

    This is the fourth in a series of posts to analyze the final chapter, "The Flaw in the Plan," of Deathly Hallows.

    (Spoiler Alert -- I truly feel this is not necessary as the books have been out for four years. However, if you're a fan of the movies who has not read the books, you have been warned!)

    When finishing a story successfully, there is little (if anything) that ranks higher in importance than drawing your characters to a final, fulfilling conclusion. For JK Rowling, in capping off this epic, massive, seven-tome series, the pressure must have been weightier than Hagrid standing on Gawp's shoulders.

    Not only did JK Rowling have impossibly high expectations from her fanbase, many of whom had written their own fan-fiction versions of the final battle, but she also had a humongous cast of characters to deal with, many of whom were competing with each other for most endearing role.

    How well did she bring her characters to their final destination and how did she do it?

    To successfully judge a character arc, we need to look at 1) where that character started, 2) what obstacles they had to overcome, 3) what changes occurred along the way, and 4) where they ended up. I'll cover the major secondaries below, but the primary characters will have to wait for their own post. Otherwise, this parchment would rival one of Hermione's.

    Please note that even though these analyses seem rather long, I'm truly keeping them as short as possible, just hitting the highlights. It is not my goal to document every aspect of that characters growth…which would require a book rather than a blog post…but rather to point out what is most necessary to help us as writers see the techniques JK used to show (not tell) her characters' growth.

    Neville -- started off a fumbling, forgetful, awkward, picked-on child. His character growth is startling. Throughout the series, Neville had to face not only the condescension from the other students, but his grandmother as well, all while living with the constant pain of seeing his parents as empty shells. But through his incredible skills in herbology, Neville began to believe in himself. He developed his own brand of bravery and strong convictions, obviously like his auror parents. When pressed to defend his friends, and to stand up against those he believed wrong, he became a true resistance leader and proved himself worthy of not only his parent's heritage, but his place as destroyer of the last, and only living and deadly, Horcrux.

    Neville's shining moment is of course when he pulls Gryffindor's sword form the Sorting Hat and uses it to slay Nagini, the final Horcrux. Gryffindor's sword is like the badge of courage to the Cowardly Lion, a symbol of what was already abundantly clear -- that Neville was a brave leader of many.

    Luna -- Luna started her place in the story as a rather flighty, imaginative, childlike teen, who, because of her unusual beliefs, was ostracized by many other students. But even through this, perhaps because of her earlier loss of her mother, she had the ability to see things and understand the mysteries of life others did not. This ability was put to the test as she joined in Dumbledore's Army and made true friends, but faced new adversaries, more merciless than her school chums. Forced into her own personal imprisonment and a certain loss of innocence, Luna maintained through it all her faith in human nature and her willingness to look at life differently. In the end, she was able to channel her belief in the fantastical and her extreme loyalty to her friends towards a great benefit, as she did when fighting in the Final Battle and when helping Harry escape from his admirers in the Great Hall at its end. Pointing out a Blibbering Humdinger she knew did not exist, Luna laughed at her own self in a way.

    Luna's shining moment -- actually comes before the final chapter when she helps Harry find the diadem of Ravenclaw by getting him into Ravenclaw tower to view Rowena's bust. When confronted by Alecto Carrow, Luna successfully stuns the Death Eater.

    Ginny -- To become our hero's love interest, Ginny had to prove herself worthy and strong. She goes from being a shy little sister to a very popular girl-about-campus to an understanding and comfortable companion for Harry. However, along the way, she faced her insecurities from knowing Harry barely noticed her, and certainly didn't look at her as anything other than his best friend's sister. She got along with her own life, becoming a prowess on the Quidditch field and a powerful witch capable of casting a Reductor Curse that even stopped a Death Eater during the Ministry of Magic battle in OotP. She also developed a strong note of compassion for those picked on by others, as shown when she goes with Neville to the Yule Ball and stops others from picking on Luna.

    Ginny's shining moment is when she fights Bellatrix (along with Hermione and Luna), proving herself once again a valuable member of Dumbledore's Army, even though underage, and an opponent far stronger than her 16 years, a brave girl determined to stand up to her brother's murderers.

    Draco -- Draco's character growth could be seen in what he does not do rather than what he does. It is the fact that in two critical moments he does not act upon the extreme prejudice and privilege to which he has been brought up and ingrained in him that makes his story compelling. Draco starts the series as a simple arrogant bully, determined to make anyone who does not align with him, as Harry chose not to, suffer. As the series progresses, and the reader meets Draco's father, we understand that he has been trained to hold the attitudes he possesses. Still, even when Draco is forced to kill to protect his family's position and his father's life, he is unable to do so. His hesitancy stems from the fact that he is not the black heart Voldemort, and sometimes Harry, would have him be. His mother's love has protected him from the depths of hell that has claimed Voldemort's lost soul.

    It is in the Room of Hidden Things during the final battle where Draco has his shining moment. Unlike Crabbe, who shoots Avada Kedavra at Hermione, Draco stops him with yells to not kill. He then seeks to protect his stunned friend Goyle from the Fiendfyre, even to the point of risking his own ability to save his life by refusing to drop Goyle's hand to climb aboard Harry's broom. Draco has demonstrated that he cares about someone beyond himself and that, considering his upbringing, his inaction is a show of heroism.

    Hagrid -- Hagrid started the story almost as the adult version of Neville -- rough and stumbling, made fun of by the pureblooded Draco, and forced by the actions of Tom Riddle to live his life literally on the periphery of wizarding society. Hagrid's road to growth begins with his journey to recruit the giants, a crucial role he fulfills along with headmistress and other half giant Madam Maxime. It is when Hagrid encounters the community of giants that he truly starts to stand up for himself and reclaim an aspect of his life that was once lost. Hagrid brings his midget-giant half-brother Grawp home to Hogwarts, putting himself in physical harm in the process. It is Hagrid's firm belief in the good in all living creatures, no matter how monstrous, that is his true strength and what brings him to his triumphant concluding arc. For it is largely because of Hagrid that centaurs, thestrals, and Grawp join the final battle. Their fierce attack upon the Death Eaters ushers the combatants into chaotic confusion into the Great Hall where Harry can take his final stand.

    Hagrid's shining moment is when in a moment reminiscent of him bringing the sleeping baby Harry to Privet Drive at the beginning of the series, Hagrid carries the pseudo-dead body of Harry into the final battle. In alchemical terms, Hagrid symbolizes the Red Man who ushers the completely broken down body of the prima material into his golden moment of resurrection.

    Mrs. Weasley -- Molly went from being the ultimate Mum to the fiercest Amazon on the battlefield, singlehandedly bringing down Voldemort's most loyal Death Eater. Along the way, we see Molly progress from a somewhat harried mother, not sure of which twin is which, giving Ron the sandwiches he doesn't like, to taking Harry in as one of her own, to standing up to Sirius when she believes he is in the wrong. Along the way she becomes the fierce motherly lioness, both capable of defending and attacking her own cubs when they do wrong, while battling her very real fears of the potential deaths of her beloved children.

    Molly's shining moment was, of course, her slaying of Bellatrix to protect not only her daughter, but all the other children in the wizarding world as well. How many of us will ever forget -- "NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!"?

    JKR deliberately choose this mother and housewife to be the killer of her most evil female counterpart. Jo said this was very important to her, to show the strength and ultimate veracity of maternal love.

    McGonagall -- Contrasted with Mrs. Weasley, McGonagall, was introduced to the reader as a very stern, upright person, instantly recognized by Dumbledore, even as a cat, because of her rigid composure. She tolerated no shenanigans either inside or outside her class, and was even willing to deduct points from her own house for Harry's rule breaking. Even though awesome in powers herself, she seems to be always secondary in comparison to the wisdom of Dumbledore or the intrigue of Snape. However, throughout the series, her warm side began to seep through the cracks. Is it she who uttered the first and most horrible scream of denial at the sight of Harry's "dead" body.

    It is in the Final Battle where Minerva McGonagall fulfills her latent potential in her shining moment. True to her name as the goddess of war, she took charge inside the castle to prepare for the battle of Hogwarts. She prepared the other professors to protect and enchant the castle, transfigured the suits of armor herself to do battle, then organized the younger student to leave and the older to stay and protect. She made a brilliantly capable, as well as warmhearted, commanding general.

    So much of the strength of JK Rowling's series lies in the depth and quirkiness of her characters. I think she was able to bring these pen and paper creations to engaging life because they lived so fully in her head. This ability to visualize her creations in such detail must be because she's the kind of person who finds people an endless source of amusement and fascination. I imagine that JKR is a people watcher, constantly studying those around her and analyzing why they act the way they do. It is this fascination with human nature, with a benign sense of humor and understanding of their foibles, and yet a rapier-sharp anger at the needless bigotry and greed that causes others harm and loss, which she is able to so successfully embody in her characters.

    Do you watch people? Do you study them, seeking below their superficial appearance to try to understand what motivates them? What unique characteristics, mannerisms, foibles make each person you meet on a daily basis completely unique, and in their own way interesting? How can you bring these characteristics to life on the paper?

    Everyday people can be just as intriguing as Hagrid and Luna…if you find them so. If you're a person who likes to study and understand others, you can learn the techniques to make your own ink and paper creations breathe a full life as well.

    While writing in an exotic, fantastic world does give JKR a certain edge in creating eccentric, memorable characters, her basic skills are still ones we can apply to our own writing, no matter the genre.  Draw your characters, even your secondaries, in engaging, intriguing, yet realistic detail.  Get at their hearts to understand what they are good at...and as with the boggart in the cupboard, what they most fear.  Give each character a goal and a reason to be motivated toward this goal.  Make each one face a stumbling block, a hardship or conflict they have to fight against toward attaining this goal. Make your characters conquer real challenges before achieving their triumphs. And through all this, show your characters' choices and development with action, not just with narrative words.

    Note: The primary characters I will cover in a separate post include: Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore, Snape, Voldemort, and, of course, Harry.

    What tools do you use to complete your character arcs? How do you show with action their overcoming of obstacles?

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

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    Series Question Poll Added

    I'm playing with a new toy and just added a poll to the right side-bar. --->>

    I've discovered I quite like writing posts in a series, because it helps me (somewhat) keep the posts (somewhat) shorter, plus to fully explore a topic.

    So, I've listed a few that interest me for the next-up after I finish the Final Chapter Series.  However, I'd LOVE to know what you think!

    Please take a moment and click on the top 1-3 that interest you the most.

    And thanks!

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Pottermore Quill Quest is On!

    Update!, the Quill Quest has been announced. I've started a new post to follow the clues as they are released. Check here: Quill Quest is ON!!

    Alright, I may be jumping the gun a bit, but our hunches from the last few weeks of hunting clues seem to be paying off.

    HPSupporters just pointed out that in the Pottermore blog post revealed today there is a hidden, invisible link.  And guess what that link points to?  An interview where JK Rowling discusses how names of students-to-be are written down by a magical quill in a book that record all magical births.  It is from this book that invitations to Hogwarts are sent out when they reach their 11th year.

    Thanks so much @HPSupporters!

    So, the Quill Quest seems to be shaping up to be a very real thing.  Though I'm not sure it will be limited to finding quills.  It seems to me that there is a wand disguised as a limb on the Pottermore Flash (above) that many of the fansites are sporting.  Plus, I know from the LeakyCon Pottermore preview that we will document our path through Pottermore by points of lights on 7 limbs, one for each book.

    I think when July 31 rolls around, we'll be definitely hunting 3 quills in fandom, and perhaps a wand as well.

    What do you think?  Did you see the hidden link?

    About the wand disguised as a limb theory:  Look at the Flash above.  See the largest owl who is front and off-center to the left?  Now, look at his talons.  In the working Flash, he lifts and lowers those feet.  And his left talon seems to be gripping a very straight, long stick, while all the other limbs are bent or crooked.  That limb may actually be a wand.

    This would be keeping with the original Pottermore Owl Tree where three quills were disguised as leaves.  You can see them below.  They are the bottom three on the left side:

    Update 7/20: Roxanne makes a very good point in the comment trail.  JK Rowling and the Pottermore team are smart enough to realize that if the quest test for early entry is something as simple as finding 3 quills (and possibly a wand) once they are found by one person, the locations will be shared all over Fandom.

    Therefore, there must be something to the early entry test that can be individualized and not simply shared.  Roxanne suggests a test of skill of some sort.  I'm thinking that once you find the quills and wand you have to do something with them.  Perhaps there will be a writing test! :-) (just kidding...I think!)

    Siriusly, what do you do with a quill, especially at Hogwarts?  You write. 

    What do you think?

    Confused?  Not understanding what we're talking about regarding Pottermore, early entry, and the Quill Quest?  Read back over the Pottermore posts here to see the build-up to this article.

    Monday, July 18, 2011

    LeakyCon, Pottermore, and Potter Frands

    Can you imagine the excitement of getting 3500 Harry Potters geeks together in one special place during the release of the very last Harry Potter movie?  Picture a scene of various Snapes slouching about, sneers on their faces, one with a very tall Bellatrix in prison garb by his side.  Or Dumbledore strolling through a hotel in full robes in Florida heat with his beard tucked into his belt.  Then there's Lucius and son Draco, looking very blonde indeed.  A heavily feathered human-sized Hedwig fluttered about, quite full of life.  But the costumes I liked the best, even though I didn't originally recognize what they were, were two Patroni (Patronuses?) with silver robes, silver paint, antlers, and even icy blue Christmas lights giving them a spectral glow.

    Funny...I never saw a Harry.

    The Great Hall was well adorned with the house colors, stone walls, flickering candles, suits of armor...and able to sit over 3,000 attendees!  In this awe-inspiring setting, Wizards Wrocked, Puppets Palled, Evanna Lynch talked to eager fans, Starkids delighted, musicians and singers Final Battled, and more of Pottermore was revealed!  Unfortunately, they put a hex on all our cameras before entering the room. :-(

    For me, the workshops were the big draw (because I'm an old fuddy-duddy...see I even still use the word fuddy-duddy).  And I saw several good ones.  Erin Sweeney did a wonderful presentation on Cracking the Planetary Code: Harry Potter, Alchemy, and the Seven Book Series as a Whole, where she covered a part of alchemy in the series I had not looked at in depth.  She showed how each book related to a progression of the alchemical planets and the gods they represented.  Wonderful and enlightening.

    Then there was David Martin's workshop on Casting Your Patronus: The Representation of Mental Processes in Harry Potters Novels.  David, a computer guru who had graciously helped me out the day before during my workshop when my laptop refused to cooperate, presented an aspect of JK Rowling's technique which I had not considered or covered before.  In fact, I was so impressed with his presentation that I asked his permission to give a synopsis of it to you all here.  So, look for that in the coming weeks.

    And then there was Mark Oshiro's talk from his popular Mark Reads Harry Potter blog.  Wow! Can this guy entertain.  He's sharp, witty, and insightful, and packed the room full of fans who overflowed into the hallway afterward to continue talking with him for at least an hour.  Do check out his blog when you get the chance.  he also "reads" and "watches" other fandoms on his ever-expanding site.

    And then there was Pottermore.  Unfortunately the nargles plagued the Pottermore presentation at the beginning, as they did my workshop, and were slow to get the technology cooperating.  A lot of what was presented, especially in the beginning, we already knew.  I had a personal thrill when they flashed some Tweets on the screen in front of 3,000 people, showing the breadth of speculation as to what Pottermore was...and mine was one of them! :-)

    But some new information was revealed.  And here's the gist of what I found most intriguing:

    • When entering Pottermore for the first time, you will not be allowed to create your own name, but rather will be given the choice of about 5 to pick from.  This, among other safeguards, is there to make sure the community is friendly to younger readers.
    • The Great Hall and your House Common Room will be places to talk with other users.
    • Throughout the course of Pottermore, you will not only earn points for your house, but will also be able to win galleons and sickles to shop for virtual items in Diagon Alley, such as your wand, schoolbooks, and a pet.
    • A few new wizarding schools will be mentioned in new locations.
    • When asked if Pottermore was the long anticipated HP Encyclopedia, the presenter answered, "Sort of."
    • He referred to all those notebooks JK Rowling is famous for keeping where she wrote about her world and characters...they are all to be included on Pottermore, as well as new material.
    • Pottermore will basically cover the storyline, special moments from within the books, and allow fans to share with each other.
    • So far, 44 special moments have been brought to life on Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone alone... of which "The Potions Master" chapter is number 21! :-)
    • You can find hidden objects and will be able to unlock new revelations from both objects and people.
    • It will NOT be a place to post fanfiction (but you can upload fanart and make comments on each scene).
    • They decided not tot show faces of the characters because they want people to still imagine for themselves what Harry and friends look like.
    • The Sorting Hat questions are all designed by JKR.

    While the Pottermore presentation was indeed thrilling, perhaps what I enjoyed best about LeakyCon were the times I got to talk with other Potter frands (friends + fans) that I'd just met.  Because being a Potter fan is a bond that makes us friends as well.

    And don't forget to check out PotterChat this week for great blogs on Harry Potter and loads of prizes!

    Something Potter This Way Comes!

    LeakyCon was amazing! I had a great time, met many wonderful Potter fans, and have loads to tell you. But that will be a post for later today.

    Right now, I have some exciting news to announce. I've joined with seven other fabulous bloggers to bring you a FULL WEEK OF POTTER FUN! Figuring that most of you can't let the magic end, we've created #PotterChat, complete with a blogfest, a scavenger hunt contest with great prizes, AND interactive twitter chats! All the information is below.

    For me, this week I'm also celebrating my first year blogoversary here at HarryPotterforWriters!! So instead of just one prize in the contest, I'm offering two, because I have a lot to be thankful for! A full year of blogging about improving our magic of writing with Harry Potter as our text with other wonderful writers and fans! What could be better?

    And now.....drum roll please....


    Can't let go of the excitement of seeing Deathly Hallows Part 2? On pins and needles until the opening of Pottermore and hoping you'll be one of the lucky early entries?

    Then join our #PotterChat every day this week for fantastic blogging and Tweeting on all things Potter! Each day, some of our lovely and extremely interesting bloggers will bring you a new post on Potter sure to help quench your craving for that golden Harry Polyjuice. Then, at special designated times on Twitter, join us for a #PotterChat, where you can discuss live with the bloggers and other fans all things Potter -- your review of the movie, your expectations for Pottermore, whatever.

    But BEST OF ALL -- is the PotterChat Scavenger Hunt. Follow the clues from one blog to another and collect the Q&A answers. When all answers have been revealed, e-mail the answers with the name of the blog they were found on to First correct entry gets first choice of prizes, second entry gets second choice, and so on.

    Here are our fabulous Bloggers with links to their blog and Twitter:


    ---------> PotterChat Announcement!

    Writability by Avalon Jaedra on Top Five Favorite Harry Potter Moments (9:30 a.m. Eastern)


    Jami Gold, Paranormal Author by Jami Gold on Harry Potter and Beyond: What Inspires You to Write? (8:30 a.m. Eastern)

    Bekah Snow's blog by Bekah Snow on Heroes Worth the Read: Ways to Make Your Characters Jump into Readers' Hearts (7 a.m. Eastern)


    Alivia Anders; Musings of a Microwaving Burrito Enthusiast by Alivia Anders on Why We Still Feel Sympathy for the Bad Guys


    Kiki Hamilton, Author, by Kiki Hamilton on The Magic of Harry Potter: People, Places and Things (10 a.m. Eastern)


    Paranormal Point of View by Lisa Gail Green on How To Leave 'Em Wanting More! The Wonderful World of Potter (7 a.m. Eastern)

    Lyn Midnight Against the Odds, by Lyn Midnight on The Boy Who'll Live Forever... in Fan Fiction (9 a.m. Eastern)


    HarryPotterforWriters by S.P. Sipal on Circling Home to Theme (9 a.m. Eastern)

     --------> Final Round-up and Prize Winners

    Here's the schedule for our one-hour #PotterChats on Twitter each day. We've tried scheduling for various time zones. Simply follow the owl...I mean the hashtag!  :-)

    • Monday: 9 pm Eastern
    • Tuesday: 4 pm Eastern
    • Wednesday: 11 am Eastern
    • Thursday: 9 pm Eastern
    • Friday: 5 pm Eastern (where we'll reveal the prize winners!)

    Scavenger Hunt Prizes:

    Scavenger Hunt List of Clues:

    Here are the clues that you will have to follow and find throughout the week. Once you have visited all 8 blogs and found ALL 8 clues, please e-mail your list of answers and which blog they were found on to Potterchat8 AT gmail DOT com.

    Please note: You cannot submit your entry until 9 a.m. Eastern on Friday, when all 8 answers have been revealed on the blogs!
    1. In Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone, when Professor McGonagall introduces Harry to Oliver Wood saying that she's found him a Seeker, she also notes that Harry caught the Remembrall in a dive that even who could not have done?
    2. In Chamber of Secrets, who helped get Harry out of trouble in Filch's office by persuading Peeves to crash the vanishing cabinet on the floor above?
    3. In Prisoner of Azkaban, what shape did Dean's Boggart take?
    4. In Goblet of Fire, what does Dobby reveal to be his pay per week for working at Hogwarts?
    5. In Order of the Phoenix, the Weasley twins planted this outside of Umbridge's office before leaving Hogwarts.
    6. In Half-Blood Prince, during Dumbledore's visit to Tom Riddle's orphanage, he instructs Tom to empty items out of his box in his wardrobe.  Name one of the three items mentioned.
    7. In Deathly Hallows, this gift was the end of Peter Pettigrew.
    8. In Deathly Hallows, on the radio show Potterwatch!, although he wanted to be called "Rapier," Lee Jordon initially introduced one of the Weasley twins as... (this name).

      Thanks for visiting and for playing! We look forward to a wonderful week with lots of fun!