1. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    What makes HP so good?

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Rumwriter, May 29, 2011.

    So, whenever I write I always try to gauge a sentence as if I were a reader. I never write when I'm bored and don't feel like writing (because I feel like it translates into my work) , and I never write a scene that I think is somehow less exciting (because I feel like even if its on the low end of the curve, if I find it a boring scene as a writer, I need to find some way to make it better)

    But then I always keep another question tucked away in the back of my mind? What makes a series like HP so good? Is it the plot? Is it that we can all relate to the characters a little bit? It's goofy? It's got mystery, and suspense.

    And this can also be true of any absolutely wild fanatic books. I've never read twilight, but I imagine its the same. There are plenty of authors out there whom I bet people would say were literary genius's...take Charles Dickens. He's timeless. And yes I can't get through his works at all...so what do you think it is that makes a book like harry potter so easy to keep turning the page?

    If we can nail it down we might all be too busy sitting in publishing meetings to post replies, so start letting the juices roll.
     
  2. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    I think readers enjoy that awful things happen to HP but those terrible things show what he's made of. You want to root for him to succeed because generally his life was not easy.
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Well, what makes YOU enjoy the HP books? What is it about the writing that keeps YOU turning the page? YOU need to answer that (to yourself, not here). And once you do, you won't need anyone else's answers. OTOH, if you don't know, our answers won't help.
     
  4. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Perfect. You referenced both Harry Potter and Twilight. Allow me to be relevant.

    "Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend."
    — Stephen King

    Now, I don't particularly find the prose in the Harry Potter series to be that spectacular, but what can you expect? See, the thing about Harry Potter is that it's written in a way that the reading level is aligned with Harry's age. So in the first book, when Harry's 11, kids that are around that age can read it. Then, it goes all the way up to 17, et cetera.

    Twilight, on the other hand, is not the same. Twilight was so wildly popular (and also infamous) because it was written as a marketable novel. It was written to appeal to teenage girls, and it did.
     
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  5. LaGs
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    LaGs Banned

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    The prose in Harry potter is bog standard, for the obvious reason that they're written for children and young adults. I'm not a book snob or anything, but imo, if you rate harry potter up there with the best of books there is, i would automatically assume that you're a young person, or just a bit immature. I LOVED the harry potter books when i was 13/14, but i soon grew out of them, which is natural and expected really.
     
  6. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Make no mistake. Harry Potter is a YA book. It started off as a middlegrade book actually when Harry was ten. And at first it served only that segment of the public and the kids loved it. If I remember correctly Harry Potter really only exploded into mass appeal at around the time of the fourth book.

    If I were to give you my personal reasons why I adored it as a kid. I suppose it would be the immersive quality of the plot. She fleshed out a world so vivid, intricate and fascinating, you could almost believe it might exist somewhere out there. The main character was the typical underdog and extremely likable. You couldn't help but root for him. The stories themselves were very well structured and many themes and plot elements echoed through a number of books, yet it never got confusing. And then the endings. I used to race through to the end to find out what the big twist was. A couple of the latter books might have disappointed me, but as a child I thought the first few had brilliant endings. She was a master at wrapping things up.

    But alas, as great as I thought Harry Potter was, I'm afraid you have to make your book good all on it's own. There is no formula. There is just good fiction, and there's probably a number of books which do the above. The difference with JK Rowling, as a YA author, she did it superbly. You can extract any amout of writing devices from any number of authors, but to achieve excellence in the execution, you must search within.
     
  7. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    - Humor (Dursleys, the weird professors and classmates, awkward moments etc)
    - Mystery and suspense
    - Characters and setting that are relatable, and a world similar to ours, even though it's magic.
    - Unique creatures (As opposed to using the same elves, dwarves etc over and over)
    - Character you can root for, even though he seems like a Sue at times.
     
  8. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel like the only one who didn't care much for Harry Potter...
    I read the first one and thought it was okay and then read the second one and just barely got through it. But then, I read Prisoner of Azkaban and loved it. Seriously, that book is one of my favorite books. Then I read the fourth book and got halfway through before I gave up and has since just stuck to the movies.

    I'm not sure why I liked Azkaban so much, but I know why I didn't really care for the rest of the books. It was because I was so mature compared to the rest of my class... jk. But I think the books were a little below me. You see, I kind of skipped the YA genre. When I was around ten I got really into vampires and read Dracula, then Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Other monster books followed and I eventually ended up with Anne Rice. Then when I was thirteen, I was to read Harry Potter in school, and all I could focus on was how the plot was kind of childish and the writing not really what I was used to.

    Also, ironically, while I love supernatural books and write a lot about it, books about magic and wizards rarely interest me.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    first and foremost, not everyone thinks it's 'good'... and that includes me and countless other readers who can't abide mediocre and worse writing, no matter what the story may be... along with those of us who don't find childish fantasies good reading once we've outgrown them [which, in my case, was at about 8 or 9, after i'd discovered shakespeare, homer, stevenson, and sci-fi!]...

    it's not really good so much as simply popular... and so-so to truly gawdawful stuff has sadly become popular ever since humans first learned to tell stories and write them down, because a lot of readers either don't know good from bad, or just don't care, if the characters and/or stories interest them...
     
  10. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    I like Rowling's prose. It seems pretty standard at superficial analysis, but if you re read it you find out that his way of writing is pure action and she gives A LOT of information in few lines, so the reader can see in his mind the characters, the locations etc.. in a very realistic way.

    She did all these things keeping a light and direct approach...I wouldn't consider "just a popular writer who made a lot of money because she was at the right place at the right time". Not at all.
     
  11. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    And that begs the question, who are we to say what's good and what isn't? What if popular does equate to good? If millions of young readers could have been so enamored by her writing, does that not suggest that her work must be good. Or should we rather judge a novel in a rarefied academic setting, where we can study the prose and analyse each line and plot element and rate it accordingly. Fiction is a form of entertainment, and one would think that the best way to judge fiction is by how entertaining it is. It's very subjective of course, but the fact remains more young readers have been entertained by Harry Potter than any other book on the planet. So I can't help but feel that this talk about 'mediocre writing' kind of fades in relation to the sheer millions who didn't care about that.

    What makes the people who didn't find Harry Potter good better judges than the ones who did. I just see them as outnumbered. They're entitled to their opinion but they're not entitled to be pretentious about it.

    Which is why even though I detest Twilight. I don't look down on the millions who don't. I don't think they lack the ability to recognize a bad story when they see one. I think the author did an outstanding job at achieving something, she just didn't achieve anything with me.
     
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  12. LaGs
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    LaGs Banned

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    If the readers of the story are entertained, and they can relate to it, then books like harry potter can only be deemed a success for this reason alone. By extension i suppose it could be deemed 'good' because the author achieved what she wanted to achieve. She was hardly aiming to impress intellectual academics or pretentious people used to reading Homer; she set out to immerse young people into a story and that's what she did.
     
  13. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    Any examples that demonstrate how Rowling is not a good writer? Could be interesting...
     
  14. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    I grew up with Harry Potter. For me, what made it so good was the amazing world that Rowling built. She captured my imagination, as well as my peers'. Not only that, but she captured the imagination of people both younger and older than me too.

    I always read a lot, and I still do. But my classmates weren't always the same. Seeing kids who normally wouldn't pick up a book reading HP books was something truly amazing. Rowling was one of my inspirations to become a writer, and she helped me expand my mind, as well as countless others' minds, too.

    Harry Potter is so good because the central theme at the heart of the entire series is that love and friendship and good will always triumph over fear and hate and evil. Throughout the entire series, it highlights the beauty of love in all its forms and the power of friendship. What better things could you teach a person, child or adult?

    But best of all, Rowling made me and millions, even billions, of other readers believe in magic, believe in this beautiful world she created. I remember flipping the pages of Half-Blood Prince at lightning speed when I got it at midnight the day it was released. I finished that book within the hour that I got it and reread it many times, as I have with all the books. I've waited for hours in line to see the next movie at midnight showings, and fantasized about what House I would be sorted in, what type of wand I would have, what my favorite classes at Hogwarts would be. I remember being truly disappointed when I didn't get my Hogwarts acceptance letter in the mail. Rowling made me believe, and that's why I love Harry Potter so much. :)
     
  15. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Simplistic and lowest common denominator is often the most popular. That's not being pretentious, it's just the way the world is.

    I don't think Harry Potter is anywhere even close to 'good'.

    By the same token, I also think some classics are wayyy overrated and impossible to get through.

    Everyone's got their opinions and should have.
     
  16. Lilithmoon
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    Lilithmoon Member

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    ^This

    I am sorry but if you can't find some major things in common with HP, Twilight, Homer, Shakespeare, and Sci-fi then you are not looking very hard.
     
  17. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe 'simplistic and lowest common denominator' is the most popular. Maybe not. It's subjective. And everybody is entitled to their own opinion. But what's a bit pretentious is something like this:

    To say that the millions of readers who made the book popular don't know the difference between good or bad or don't care. That's a bit sanctimonious don't you think?

    How do you know the difference between good or bad? How do any of us?

    And remember one person's simplistic is another person's simplified, so maybe that's not exactly 'the way the world is'. Maybe concise, simple clarity is what's good fiction if so many people have taken to it. Good is a point of view.
     
  18. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    I'm not a fan of either Harry Potter or Twilight.Actually I like the world of Harry a fair bit, its enjoyable, it keeps comming at you from strange angles, and perhaps most important of all, its fun. But for me after the first one, it sort of lost that fun part and got darker and darker.

    As for Twilight - I haven't read it, and can honestly say I loath it with a passion. This isn't to say the writing is bad or even the story. Its simply because I am not a prepubescent teenage girl. Perhaps mostly I loath it because I saw the first movie (or half of it - I couldn't get any further then that without needing to hurl) on the understanding that it was a vampire movie. Vampire movies are about gore, neck biting and stakes through hearts. They are not about long meaningful stares and 'does he like me?' I'm a traditionalist when it comes to horror.

    Still the author seems to be selling to millions, so obviously she's able to write according to her market's likes, so clearly she's doing something right. She's entertaining them. That in the end is probably what makes JK's works so good as well.

    Cheers.
     
  19. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    Therefore anything popular is bad?

    I don't think so, and if you can't see the difference between Rowling and Brown I've to say you didn't read their works carefully.
     
  20. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Pet peeve of mine: "Begs the question" does NOT mean demanding that the question be asked. It is a term that characterizes flawed logic, in that one tries to justify an argument by using the argument (s)he is trying to justify.
     
  21. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It is always en vogue among writers (particularly amateur writers) to slam the most popular works out there. Happens every time. But you don't get to the level of literary success of these popular phenomena without doing something right.

    For as much as I hated The Da Vinci Code, it would be foolish to suggest that Brown didn't do a lot right with that novel. Clearly, for a great number of readers, he did.

    Meyer's Twilight was a runaway success with many, many, non-prepubescent girls. I know men and women of all levels of education, from about twelve to fifty, who enjoyed the books. The agent who bought it paid out an vast advance on an unknown author before even a dime was made (in fact, Meyer had multiple publishers competing against one another for the rights). Obviously, she did a hell of a lot right with that book, and it resonated with a lot of readers (not me, but I don't think my subjective tastes are the ultimate arbiter of such things). The vast majority of writers will never achieve even a decent fraction of what she has in terms of relating a story to numbers of readers.

    With Potter, Rowling took a lot of what was floating around in similar literature and put together something that fired the imagination of millions. Clearly, she also did a lot right (and with Rowling and Meyer both, they were hardly the first to write those types of stories, but something set theirs apart). When people bash Rowling's writing, they're usually looking at the technical writing and, fairly or unfairly, making criticisms.

    But in each of the cases above, where I think the technical proficiency of the writer can be called into question in many instances, people tend to forget that the technical act of putting to words together is merely a vehicle for a story. You may say that any of the above authors are guilty of instances of bad writing, but what is clear beyond doubt is that for millions of readers, they told great stories.

    If you tell an incredible story, readers will overlook less-than-perfect writing. On the other hand, if your story sucks, then you can be the most technically proficient writer in the world and it isn't going to help you.

    Rowling, Meyer, and Brown have all succeeded at storytelling. Sour grapes on writing sites looks pretty sad, from my point of view.
     
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  22. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Pet Peeve of mine: when people bring up issues like this. Just kidding. But seriously I've had this argument before, and I stand by my belief that 'begs the question' has been used so often to mean 'draws emphasis to the question' that the term has in a way evolved into having a dual meaning. One for the pedantic usage--that seldom ever gets used, and one for informal speakers who use it for it's literal meaning "begs the question to be asked." I wouldn't recommend it to be used in formal prose, but I don't see any harm in a casual discussion. I know there are a number of arguments against this, but maybe that's for another thread.
     
  23. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    I think the Harry Potter books are fantastic really. For several reasons that would really require an essay for me if I were to truly delve in to the topic.

    Overall, this is one of my top recommended books. It is a book that I go to when I am absolutely bored with everything else. I have read each one a minimum of 16 times now, some more than others. I read the first book when I was 12. At 22 I still read them, and each time I fall more and more in love with them. Sure the books have flaws, but in the end the overall package is still superb and I would argue that the flaws have only added to the books than taken away from it.

    And on the contrary, I have found more people close to me who haven't read the books than those who have. While I agree that HP has become popular, the merit of that has so many facets, that if you want to be objective about it, you need identify all the facets that make it popular and explore them.

    I can name more people that haven't read the books than those that have read the books. Yet all those people that haven't read the books, watch the movies and love them... so popularity in someways is irrelevant.

    Who cares if it is YA. Just because something is meant for children doesn't make it any less valuable. In fact, I would argue that those that can appeal to kids are more valuable as they are future readers and your books influence them as to what books they pursue in the future. I freely admit that I don't like most contemporary YA novels of today, but if were to tell you what my favorite books were and which ones really inspire me, most of them feature younger protagonists.

    Also, everyone has different tastes. I despise some books that other people love and vice versa.

    Why is HP so good. Because it truly brought me into Harry's world. I never once ever felt like I was an observer in the books. I felt like I was right there with Harry and all his struggles were my struggles, and all his triumphs were my triumph and so on and so forth.

    I consider HP to be my favorite books. They serve no purpose to me other than they are my favorite. HP never inspired me to write, it never made me want to come up with another world, it never solidified my reasons to want to be a writer, it really didn't do anything for my creativity or make me want write like [i[that[/i].

    Other books have - other books that were far different from the HP books inspired me to write. Those books solidified my passion to want to be a writer etc., so why is HP still my favorite? Because I simply enjoy them and ten years later, despite knowing the story line like the back of my hand, I still gasp, and laugh, and chuckle, and CRY every single time. They haven't failed me ONCE. The only thing from Harry Potter that I want to bring into my writing is I hope that my works can have that type of longevity and passion tied to them. I wish someone one day can read something of mine and love it so much that they keep reading it for years and years to come.
     
  24. Kio
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    Kio Contributing Member

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    I suppose it's because it's one of the few series I've gone through without getting hella bored or getting frustrated with the characters. Sure, at times you can get mad at Harry , but by the end of it you feel like he's family. He's like a little brother to me at this point in time. Sometimes he will annoy me like crazy and act like an idiot other times, but that's what humans do.

    The central theme of love and friendship was closely relatable. I hold love and friendship dear because that is what usually helps keep me together. Loyalty, togetheress, and trust are also in the workings in this book.

    The Harry Potter cast is highly entertaining. I can never get tired of Ron and Hermione squabbling (though, to be fair, it did get a little tedious by the sixth book because by this time everyone knew that they were gonna get together so they might as well just COME OUT with it) and Harry's peers were fun-loving, outgoing, and unique in their own ways.

    This may seem childish, but part of its appeal was that it was basic yet incredibly detailed. You didn't have to go too deep in order to get it. The books have been a starting point for those who have never taken a book seriously in their lives. The only books people TOLERATED reading were the HP books because of its quality simplicity. Not to say that it's stupid though, because that is far from the truth. It's a brilliant book.

    And it's a good icebreaker. I've made friends through Harry Potter. The irony is that I asked this same question you did to somebody back when I was in the eighth grade and they couldn't shut up about it. Then we became pretty good friends from then on.

    All in all, it's a book that is pure, loving, and heart-warming.
     
  25. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not at all, just that popular doesn't have to mean good.

    To look at 'worth' based on numbers (of units sold, or of people who read something) is not really an argument, imo.

    Where does Brown come into it? I've read both, incidentally.

    There's lots of 'popular' things I enjoy. Just for the record. :)
     

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