DWJ's answers: Harry Potter

Sally Odgers sodgers at tassie.net.au
Thu Aug 30 10:34:30 EDT 2001


> > Apart from the magical milieu, I can't see many similarities. Yes, in
Witch
> > Week DWJ uses a boarding school setting, ...The book DWJ refers to is
Charmed Life,

It strikes me that the difference in mass popularity might lie in the
characterisation. Harry is one of the archtypical hero figures, a bit rash,
brave and (fairly) honourable. A cross between the Schoolboy Hero, and the
Fantasy Hero. Now look at DWJ's heroes from the books above.

Charles and Nan, the main v-p characters from WW, aren't in the heroic mould
at all. Charles has a way of looking nastily through his glasses... I always
remember that bit! And Nan's Describing fit... oh dear!

Cat is nearer in some ways, but he does allow
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his sister to manipulate him, and admits to "quite liking" some of her
unsalubrious tricks. Come to think on it, I can't think of a single
straight-forward underdog/brave/hero of DWJ's. They're all more individual
than that, with their heroism just one facet of their characters. The Prat
Rupert is a hero, and so is Maree, but they're struggling against their own
strong personalities. They polarise people, whereas HP doesn't.

HP's enemies hate him because he's good and they're not, and he's in their
way. His friends love him because he's set up to be lovable. Teachers
probably tend to like him... excepting maybe Snape, who is prob the most
ambivilent character in there.

With Harry, the reader doesn't really have to wonder if H is likable,
deserving of admiration etc, therefore he appeals to a very broad bandwidth
of readers. DWJ's heroes are flawed, and sometimes their flaws aren't even
"lovable" or, to use a horribly overused word, "quirky". Sometimes they're
mean, underhanded, silly, hasty, prattish... prasie be! Just like us! And
maybe that's uncomfortable for some readers.

I'm doing a world-shift fantasy at present which looks at a few things I
don't seem to have seen in fantasy for kids. Specifically, my heroine has a
nasty physical reaction to her new world - she's allergic to some things
there which scarcely bother the locals. She can't get a handle on the social
mores and instead of being a world-saviour, she needs salvation herself. Her
sojourn there changes the life of the younger boy who helps her, but maybe
not for the better... he discovers the sister he's always thought was dead
is actually brain-damaged and has been "put away" in the interests of the
Succession. It's interesting, but not sure how the editor will react! She
might prefer her heroes - well - heroic!

Sallyo.


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