“Great characters, great plot, realistic outcomes and a gripping premise that never lost its edge.”
The above are common reasons for Harry Potter’s high readability. Other authors have also extolled the series’ magic, most notably Nathan Bransford’s Five Writing Tips From Reading J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, but I’m going to put the formula to the test.
The Test: flip to a random page in a random Harry Potter book, and determine why it makes me want to finish the rest of the book.
Tip 1: Foreshadow The Crap Out Of Everything
J.K. Rowling is a master of the Chekhov’s gun device. She introduces seemingly innocuous objects or characters in the form of mirrors, scars, and in this case, a trading card with information on Nicolas Flamel that will become important later down the story, whether it’s a few chapters away or, in Grindelwald’s case, a few books away.
After a few more of these smoking guns, readers will be hooked on speculating the meaning behind every sideways glance or clump of dust. Now that kind of mystery is addicting.
Tip 2: Incredibly Strong Characterization
There are numerous essays that ruminate over J.K. Rowling’s portrayal of race and “otherness”, and the attached political and socio-economical implications. Then there is the characterization of one’s personality, and nearly all characters in Harry Potter, minor or major, retain a core set of attributes that make them instantly recognizable. And, in some cases, instantly relatable.
Harry Potter’s awkward teenage romances? Check. Ron Weasley’s constant bemoaning of ridiculously long homework assignments? Check. Hermoine’s rigid moral compass that incites her to make hats and scarves for house elves in protest? If you watch the news, check.
Tip 3: The Conflict Never Stops, And I’m Not Sure I Want It To
Poor Harry. If he’s not getting hexed by Death Eaters, he’s getting insulted at school by his enemies’ teenage counterparts. In the summer months, he fights with the Dursleys, and at the Weasleys’, there’s too much chaos from moving bodies and Molly’s dramatics to properly exhale.
Harry Potter is never in a place where everything is alright. I repeat: Harry Potter is never in a place where everything is alright. If he is, then he doesn’t linger there for too long. This non-stop conflict sets readers on a seesaw of emotions as they live vicariously through a boy who doesn’t know what’s going on or what he’s doing most of the time. Now that makes a story worth reading (and rereading, and rereading…).
Here’s a sketch that was inspired by the Harry Potter series, from back when I sketched with pencil like a normal person.
Hope this post was helpful for your writing endeavours. Let me know if you have additional tips!