Five Lessons To Learn From J.K. Rowling

By on November 15, 2012

It’s no secret that J.K. Rowling is one of the most successful authors in the world. Her rags-to-riches background has helped shape her writing in many ways, and with the recent release of her first non- Harry Potter book, The Casual Vacancy, her skills are even more apparent outside of the fantasy realm. Here are five lessons you can learn from J.K. Rowling.

Develop a Rich Backstory for All Characters
Whether all of their stories are used in the novel or not, you need to know where you character came from in order to portray them accurately and realistically. Many people heard from J.K. Rowling that Dumbledore is actually gay, yet that was never addressed in the books because she believed it was not entirely relevant to the story. However, having that background for Dumbledore helped her bring him to life on the pages, even if not all of his life was shared. Developing a background for each character is necessary, but be sure to edit yourself on how much of it is used in the novel.

Stay True to Yourself as a Writer
Rowling’s fan base is probably the biggest in the world, but she did not write the stories for them. She did not allow critics or readers to influence her writing in any way because she wrote what she wanted to write. When you have a very clear vision for your story and know you can execute it well, stick to it! Your gut is probably right and can be a good guide.

Treat Your Characters as Real People
Rowling has said that she quite misses Dumbledore because in writing his dialogue, she felt she was learning from him. She had formed such a special connection with her characters that they held a place in her life like real people. Allow each character to speak in the way that they need to, just like a friend.

Don’t Be Afraid to Tackle the Tough Subjects
If you are no stranger to the Harry Potter series, you’ll know that many of everyone’s favorite characters are killed off, sometimes in what seems like an unnecessary twist. While personally painful for Rowling to do, killing off beloved characters gave her story depth and drama, and prevented Harry Potter from being too simple of a series. She did not decide on the deaths lightly, but knew it had to be done in order to continue themes and plots of her story.

Use Your Own History in Your Novels
Rowling’s newest book for adults, The Casual Vacancy, focuses on the gritty underbelly of small-town Pagford. One of the main sources of conflict in the novel is The Fields, the poverty-stricken, drug-riddled section of Pagford. Rowling has experienced times of absolute poverty and the need to live off benefits, and was able to draw from her own experiences when writing about The Fields, which made it heart-breakingly realistic. If you’ve experienced something in your life, draw parallels from it to create a rich plot.

Elain Valentine is a literature student and avid writer who can be found blogging about anything from modern literary analysis to the best ways to utilize grammar checkers.

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