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

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