WhyPotter? 2: Plausibility

My series of why HP has such a strong Fandom

The Harry Potter novels are more than just random fiction. In the views of many there has always been a logic to the magic: Hogwarts has never been found by muggles because it is “unplottable”, certain spells require certain mental concentration such as the patronous charm and good memories, and the basilisk survived so long because they can live to be thousands of years old. Magic in the harry potter novels is understandable.

This is attractive to us the same way that science is attractive to us, by being a potentially infinite field of study that we can never fully understand: but even more so because it is magic, adventure and danger. When we look at these elements and want to explore them because at heart we all want these things in our lives. As terrible as life at Hogwarts seems, what with all the pending death, we all want to attend. We all want to explore our potential, think we are special and do something great.

Being special or unique is how we see ourselves naturally and when we write we seldom write fiction about an average farmer do we? And if we do it is about extraordinary circumstances that happened to a average farmer! I think for those of us that enjoy Harry Potter, or high fantasy have a certain aversion to being part of an amazing story. So many layers of events affected Harry in his life: we have this amazing story of his birth, then this drama with Sirius being framed and Harry discovering Wormtail and then we have the added complexity of his school environment! So capturing these in our writing is key in creating an epic story, we have to zoom in and out frequently from the large picture to the little one in our writing. All these features make for a realistic story and a grand one. One that feels like there is more than we are being told. Thus bringing me back to my main theme of this series: Why do Harry Potter fans care so much?hagrid__s_hut_by_sw3etlemon-d5kqxq6

I want to touch once more on plausibility. I think what Rowling did with making the muggle world we currently live in compatible with her series is perfect. Theoretically, the Ministry of Magic could exist because of how their magical world interacts with ours: wizards in hiding, dragon sitings being covered up and the muggleborn registry being wiped. And before I get a bunch of complaints about “Time Turners” and Quidditch rules, of course the novels were not perfect, but my point is that it is close enough to be considered. If someone is reading your fantasy novel they WANT to be convinced it is real. They will be willing to look past small chinks in the armour if you give them enough to crouch behind. Give your readers reasonable doubt of their reality and they will love you forever: because that is why they are reading fantasy.  To explore this “Worldbuilding” I advise you explore these sources: start with the Nerdwriter criticism.


In my next segment I want to touch on why we envy Harry but before we do lets discuss why we sympathize with him. Harry has had the worst childhood imaginable. If we experienced any of this boredom or relentlessness in our lives we feel his pain and imagine it being worse. I personally had very supportive parents growing up who went the extra mile for me and I still felt like this AND I felt guilty when observing the contrast of Dudley and how his life compared to Harry’s. Then we see something that could plausibly happen to us. A letter in the mail and just like that Harry is taken from his lackluster life into one of magic, adventure and most importantly uniqueness. We envision this happening to us and we empathize. Alice in Wonderland, Bilbo Baggins, Peter Pan, Men in Black,  The Matrix. My book includes these qualities. I argue that yours should as well.




Story and the StoryTeller


So these past few weeks I have been feverishly working over my story: filling this fantasy world I have created. So a friend, who is a philosophy major and a very read individual, has reviewed my work and told me that my writing style is atrocious. This is expected and my spirits are not dampened at all: We had the opportunity to discuss my world at length and I think he truly believes the story in itself is really good.

So if storytelling and story creating are different and I can do one but not the other I must pursue building my storytelling skills. I have immersed myself in this culture the last few weeks and I have always felt as if I have a knack for story creating. This being said to capitalize on the one I must advance the other. I have fallen in love with the writing community and I am willing to put in the commitment. I have now spoken to people in the creative writing department at my school and there was a number of graduate students who took time out of their days to help me find a few courses that would count as my electives that I could use to further my skills next year: the only problem is that to apply to these creative writing courses you have to be accepted. I’m told it’s rather competitive.

I now have a group of people including a separate writing club to contact to revise my work before I submit my 15 pages of portfolio to get accepted into the program. I have until mid-may but I am petrified. I cannot use entirely my novel so I will be including some poems: hopefully that I will post here! This means that this blog is about to see some more content! I look forward to hearing any feedback I may receive from you guys.

A final word, I have picked up Stephen King’s book “On Writing” and I am about halfway through it since yesterday despite 8 hours of class time yesterday. I feel this alone is greatly improving my writing skills in a very short time frame: I am going to re-write my entire chapter once I finish. I highly recommend the book.



Travel and Writing


This weekend I had the opportunity to travel a little with some friends and it offered a refreshing look at directions I could take my writing. Many of us often travel by plane or car very far distances and it allows a phenomenon to occur that tricks out minds into not accepting the distance traveled. We pack into a box for an hour and emerge in a land that would have taken months to arrive to by more traditional means. When we emerge our senses take on an entirely new surroundings, and we become hyper aware of the differences and wonder of our new environment. We need to give this feeling of euphoric emerson to our readers as we paint the picture of settings, jump to a new character’s perspective and feed them the skeleton of the environment in a way that reflects the mood.

The actual how of this is most likely told better by a more practiced author than myself but I realized this weekend that this wanderlust is an important part of fiction. The characters having cultures and lore of the land are elements that we find in real travel to be interesting. History buffs and world building are immediately linked, this is the element of fiction that some criticize books like LOTR for. Just as we thirst for knowledge and history in the crevices of a new city we need to feel similar as we enter stories of far off lands.
I picked up a hiking magazine and read it on my first connecting flight home and truly enjoyed it: the photos remind me of the possibilities of reality and by extension: fiction. I hope to travel more in the future and I feel I will grow every time and I thought perhaps my fellow writers could use a reminder to appreciate the act of writing through experience as well as imagination. The two need to work in concert and compliment each other to add real furniture to your writing.

Character and Place Naming in Fantasy

Hello again, so I wanted to share some resources I found while researching ways to name characters and places within my book.

I needed to start with my main character who is actually a human living on earth in our time: so this was really easy as I just had to find name generators in google and look at some different ones: however, I wasn’t totally satisfied with this and I knew the majority of my characters would have odd names from a fantasy or medieval setting. So with relative ease I found this awesome site! http://fantasynamegenerators.com/ This site has really anything for anyone, whether you’re writing sci-fi or fantasy I think it’s a great resource as it has place names, weapon names and spell names all in one place. I personally don’t follow it perfectly and usually I only include half of the name i get from it. My main character gets his last name from this site and I found the first on another site like this one: http://www.behindthename.com/random/ which even lets you pick the origin of the name if you want to give your character more of an origin than you communicate directly in the story. Even just starting my novel using this tool I have implanted a few easter eggs of backstories that may or may not be developed farther.

If you want your characters’ names to belong to a certain place or time in human history there are resources just for that such as http://www.top-100-baby-names-search.com/medieval-boy-names.html This allows your story to feel more authentic than naming a knight in shining armour “Chris” or “Jim”. It also adds a setting detail where there is no context so the reader doesn’t feel bombarded with detail and that they came up with the image on their own. For example, if a bearded man shouts for a woman named Helga we already have a picture in our mind of Scandinavian cliffs, horned helmets and golden locks.

A tool I use for naming places other than mixing the names of existing places in my novel is Toponymy. Using the study of place names an online resources you can discover the latin phrase for lake is. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_French_exonyms_for_Italian_toponyms

This again allows to to give origin and context to places and settings.

I have included a picture of Yennifer for a reason: I think it is an example of a fantastic name. Still sounding beautiful and natural it has a twist from Jennifer that seems foreign enough to impose a fantasy vibe. I will also develop this technique in my novel, alongside famous names it should make for an interesting game. I have currently started to plan for a wonderful character bearing the name of Garfield of Airtua. Indeed my account name is a reference to this, I plan to have a discrepancy between the pronunciation hoping to use it to create interesting dialog.

Finally, if nothing is right, find a word like “Tremendous”: then write it backwards “suodnemert”. Now sound it out “Suohdnemert”. If it’s Italian add a vowel, make it smooth and welcome to the wonderful kingdom of Suohdemerta.

Reach me at andy.of.airtoa@gmail.com