Disclaimer: This post contains spoilers.
With so many competing sources of entertainment and little attention span, it is really hard for the author to hook readers, to their words.
Here’s my analysis of the chapter— The boy who lived. We’ll break it down, into easyly understandable chunks.ow can in these difficult times an author manage to hook her reader to the piles of pages and millions of words she wrote.
Many factors play to make the work of a writer compelling, but I don’t want to go into them all, I want to speak of something very basic today. What gets the momentum going for a book: it’s a great first chapter.
I think the very first chapter of the first Harry Potter book is almost, if not absolutely— perfect. It is so thoroughly thought through, surly Rowling would have revised it a number of times, concocting just the perfect dish, out of her collection of most exotic ingredients.
Here’s my analysis of the chapter— The boy who lived. We’ll break it down, into easily understandable chunks.
There are two worlds in Potterverse, the real world and the wizarding world. The first scene, is a walk-around in the life of Mr. Dursley, the regular boring world. He is on routine to business, in this scene. He and his family finds comfort in everything boring and familiar about this world. Anything uncanny, strange and mysterious is unwelcomed. The second world is the Wizarding World which has entered this boring world. Entry of Dumbledore marks the beginning of the second scene; but the transition is so subtle that even before you know it, the magic is there. Thriving alongside the regular world but shielded from it, is the magical world. Rowling did not keep the reader waiting for the treat in her book, but instead she sprinkled some dust of the magic in the first chapter itself. It is done in ways that by the chapters end, the reader is sucked into the mysterious happenings of this magical world. Brilliantly executed.
The characters in Harry Potter are clearly defined and are very idiosyncratic; comical yet very realistic in their beliefs and even with their prejudices. Dursleys are self centered magic hating folkes; Mcgonagall is the stoic strict teacher who sits stiffly even as a cat; Dumbledore is the carefree and powerful headmaster who wants to have his sherbet lemon, even when Macgonagal is jacked up about the happenings of the day and Hagrid as the big man with a kids brain, which make him very relatable to the intended audience. The characters do not change through the course of the series, they remain consistent.
Note: Only character that will evolve, throughout the series is Harry Potter( protagonist generally evolves during the course of a story) and one that changes externally is Professor Snape, who can also be referred to as a Trickster—a subject for another article— but internally he is the same, he always cared for Harry.
Need for attention, since childhood we all have wanted attention, we even cried for it. Let’s be honest we have all craved it and Harry Potter has it in his universe, even before he could know or do anything about it. A reader can not help but imagine himself in place of the protagonist, she wants a piece of the fame.
Even if this was not intentional from Rowling, it’s an ingenious device for the plot, reader finds herself drawn into the world of this famous protagonist.
Exposition as ammunition:
Rowling does not have her character’s talk about how cool Hogwarts is, it’s moving stairs or how much magic can be used in the wizarding world, instead we come to know about the stretch of it’s possibilities as we read the book, it keeps us engaged.
To much exposition saps the excitement of discovery, out of the story.
Humour is like the regulator of a pressure cooker. When the audience is on the edge in an exciting or exhilarating scene that has your brain engaged; having humour helps ease the tension. Humour is like gentle cool breeze in the shade on blazing hot sunny day. Humour keeps readers engaged, it is necessary in just the right quantity.
I can’t refrain myself from quoting an instance:
“Mrs Dursley was thin and blonde had nearly twice the usual amount of neck, which came in very useful as she spent so much of her time craning over garden fences, spying on the neighbours.”
Apart for eluding to the nature of the lady, this small passage bring a smile to your face. Humour adds spice to the story.
. Humour adds spice to the story.
These are some of the observation that stood out to me on reading Philosoper Stone.
These are but tools that can polish your story further. Rowling surely would have made many revisions to her first chapter to make it so compelling, it works for her. But, this list is no recipe for success. What worked for J.K. Rowling worked for her, you have to do your due diligence to lend the flavour of authenticity to it .
Let me know what you think, what I missed and where I was bang on, in the comments.