Wednesday 8 January 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group for January 8th, 2014

Anna Nordeman


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

This is my eleventh post for IWSG. I actually posted on January first, but then went to Alex J. Cavanaugh's site and discovered that IWSG will not post until January 8th. Yippee! More time to write this post! So my post has reverted to a draft until January 8th.

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 December here.]

For my January edition of IWSG I would like to continue looking at ideas and themes that can be found in novels, especially in children's literature. Last month, I looked at villians that appear and reappear in different novels, and compared J.K. Rowling's villian, Voldemort, to Bram Stoker's Dracula. 

For the January edition of IWSG I would like to return to the Harry Potter-series, to find examples of modern inventions that appear in magical disguise. 

One of my absolute favourite tools that Harry Potter is presented with, is the Map of  Hogwarts, that shows every individual's movement, within the castle. This wonderful piece of magic, that works well in several plots, was given to Harry by the older brothers of his best friend, Ron Weasley, the twins, George and Fred. There is nothing in our world, exactly like this beautiful piece of hand-lettered parchment. But a GPS-map comes close! 

The GPS-location system, without any disguise, plays an important role in several children´s stories, including the film, The Incredibles, and in Pagten, the Danish Christmas series about a family of gnomes.
Within Hogwarts, in Harry Potter's world (especially as seen in the films), everything seems to be done in an old-fashioned way, but with a little magic to speed things up. There is no electricity or central heating. Lighting is provided by candles or flaming torches. There are no typewriters. All writing is done by hand with ink and quill (unless you are the journalist and author, Rita Skeeter who has a magical, automatic pen). There are cameras and photographers, but all photographs (and even all oil paintings) move slightly, as if they were short video-clips.

The idea of magic, in the Harry Potter-series, could be interpreted as a symbol of the many inventions that we now make use of, that did not exist sixty years ago: Computers, the use of the Internet, mobile telephones and so much more, that I don't have time to list here. 

The magic wands that Harry and the other wizards and witches always have with them, exist partly, in our world: We have mobile phones and iphones and ipads, that allow us portable access to a world of information. In the 1960s, a comic book character named Dick Tracy, was admired by children at that time because he had a wrist watch that was a telephone!

I could go on and on comparing the recent past, a time that I myself once accepted as normal, with the 'Brave New World' in which we now live. But then I would have to use footnotes and document everything I say, when I just want to make conversation. I'm not writing an essay or trying to prove anything.

It is New Year's Day, and I really don't want to sink into a depression about the passage of time, and missing loved ones who are no longer here with me. I prefer to wish everyone who takes the time to visit my blog, a happy and safe 2014. Light a light, instead of cursing the darkness.

I have been reading Harry Bingham's book How to get Published, in between washing up, picking up and cleaning litter boxes for the cats. And it seems so hopeless. Will I ever get that far to even be able to use the advice in that book? I admire all of you who stick it out and finish writing your novel. 

There is one scene that I love above all others in the Harry Potters movies: It's when Harry and Professor Dumbledore call on Professor Slughorn finding him inside a house that is in complete shambles; it is Slughorn himself who has made the mess in order to hide from the Death-Eaters who want to recruit him. Professor Dumbledore suggests that they clean the place up, especially since the house belongs to a family away on a trip abroad. 

With a wave of his wand, Professor Dumbledore reverts all damage and sets everything to right. It is a wonderful example of special effects-filming. I don't know how they did it. It was probably computer-generated. For me, it is one of the happiest scenes in the entire film series. Magic put to good use!

When I look at my own kitchen sink, now, after the children have left again to celebrate New Year's with their father, I wish I had Professor Dumbledore's magic wand. Or perhaps just a new dish-washer?

It is January 8th and time to get back on the subject of writing books....

Is there a writing lesson to be learned from all of these gadgets and spells that abound in the Harry Potter Books? I think there is. J.K.Rowlings introduces her magical inventions in one book and lets them be used again and again in several of the following titles. The reader learns for example a spell in the first book that is used throughout the series. The GPS-like magical map of Hogwarts is introduced in book three and then used repeatedly until the end. 

This is an economical use of elements that help to hold the world of Harry Potter together. And this is something that is recomended in how-to-books on writing. Take, for example, Roz Morris, the author of Nail Your Novel. Roz Morris calls the reuse of elements for 'reincorporation'. According to Roz, many novel plots fail because the author has included too many elements that make it unmanageable (p.57ff). Roz advises: 'When you don't know what to do, or think you're inventing too much, lay your key elements out and see if there's something you can reincorporate.' 

The map, the cloak of invisiblity, the elder wand, and the resurrection stone, all help to tie the HP-series together at the end. J.K. Rowling makes good use of reincorporation thoughout the series. She is able to include many elements because she reuses them and renews them each time.

Something to think about when plotting your own novel!

Best wishes,

First Commenter:
Donna Hole


dolorah said...

Todays science fiction is tomorrow's science fact. Right?

I remember watching Disney's version of The Sword In The Stone, and even then wishing for Merlin's magic spell to clean and organize the house and pack all the necessities for an extended trip. Yes, some of the happiest scenes in my viewing life are quite humorous, yet have a practical application.

Magic isn't always unexplainable, but it sure is fun to forget for a while :)


Anonymous said...

We really are living in a 'magical' age. I write futuristic fiction and I stuggle to come up something that even compares with the ipad. It is impossible to imagine what the gadgets of the future will be.

Good luck finishing your novel.

Leanne ( )

Roz Morris aka @Roz_Morris . Blog: Nail Your Novel said...

Thanks for the mention, Anna! I was having a conversation just today about time travel stories, which perhaps is a useful addition to your discussion here. Like magic, they rely on using a few stand-out ingredients economically and cleverly - and when they work well they are exemplars of good storytelling. And as a writer, it's incredibly satisfying to wrangle your plot ingredients to give them maximum punch!

Kelly Steel said...

Great post Anna. And yes, it is!

Translate a text here: