Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Insecure Writer's Support Group for December 2013

Anna Nordeman


Thanks to Alex J Cavanaugh for starting Insecure Writer's Support Group.

This is my tenth post for IWSG. 

For those who would like to see my list of how-to-write-books, please go here
[If what I write here is difficult to understand, go back to my IWSG-posts for August here, for September here, and for October here, for November here.]

For my December edition of IWSG I would like to explore how some ideas in older books live again in new books; how stories inspire stories. Last month I mentioned the example of J.K. Rowling's incredibly successful story, the Harry Potter-series.

If you have read the Harry Potter books and/or seen the films, you may or may not have noticed motifs and themes from other stories. Yet, Harry Potter seems so fresh and original, as if Rowling invented it all. But she hasn't.

Let's take the example of how the main villain, Lord Voldemort, is connected to our hero. They can read each others mind from great distances. It is Harry Potter's ability to read Lord Voldemort's mind that enables him to defeat him. Where have we seen or read this before? In Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, of course.

Rowling has been careful to never use the word 'vampire' in her series. In the Harry Potter books there are witches, wizards, shape-shifters, werewolves, giants, dragons, unicorns, centaurs, flying horses, and a treasure trove of mythological as well as made up magical beings; but no vampires. 

But Rowling does let Lord Voldemort do a lot that Dracula can do. One of Dracula's victims can see into his thoughts and help defeat him. This is a motif that is too good to not use, especially since Rowling steers clear of tainted blood and sharp teeth for Voldemort. She leaves that to her werewolves. My guess is that this is a strategic decision. Dracula and vampires have become hackneyed, while connected minds was still fresh when Rowling wrote Harry Potter. 

Borrowing images, motifs and even characters has been done ever since stories were first told by the fire in cave dwellings. A good example of a borrowed villain is the Snow Queen in C.S. Lewis' series The Chronicles of Narnia. Where has C.S Lewis found her? 'The Snow Queen' is one of the Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales! 


A convincing villain is an asset to any story. So if you can't create your own, borrow one from the best!

Best wishes,

First Commenter: Alex J. Cavanaugh


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

No new ideas under the sun - it's all our individual twist on them that matters.
Funny, never made the Snow Queen connection until now.

Julie Flanders said...

I never realized that about the Snow Queen either. Interesting!

Great to meet you through the IWSG!

Tanya. said...

I have read all four of the books you mentioned Anna and yet never made the connections which are so obviously there when pointed out to you. But I think your are right with the 'borrow a villain' strategy. after all they are all stories that will be around forever so it obviously works well to create wonderful stories. I do wonder whether the authors were aware they were doing it or whether it was a subconscious thing bringing the villains of their own childhoods to life as they produced their stories??? Something to think about.

Nigel G Mitchell said...

Good one. It's true, lot of borrowing going on in great works

David T List said...

Though I agree with the possibility, I don't think you can claim that in any certainty unless Rowling admits it. There are similarities, sure, but who's to say that's even Bram's original idea?
When you brought up the relationship aspects of Harry Potter, I thought your were possibly going with (Lord of the Rings) Sauron, who has a palantir crystal, as does Denethor and Sarumon. With it he maintains a psychic link that ends up making Denethor and Sarumon go a little crazy... Which is something Snape tries to train Harry to avoid in the Potter series.
I totally agree with your main point, though. It's all been done before, somehow, someway.
Happy late IWSG to you!

Yolanda Renée said...

I hope you've had a wonderful Christmas and I'm wishing you a very happy and prosperous New Year!

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