So as a writer, this has thoroughly intrigued me. J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, has come out to say she wishes she had changed the romantic fallout of two of the main characters in her books. (For a look at the article, check it out here http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/02/showbiz/rowling-hermione-ron-revelation/ )
It stirred something inside me to have an author change her mind about a book that’s already been published. Not that I don’t think she has the right to express her opinions about her own work, but as a reader, it was a little unsettling.
As a writer, it made me wonder… do I write based on how I’m feeling at the time?
Personally, I don’t. I find that I can’t make my characters do anything they aren’t supposed to do, no matter how I feel about it. If I do, everything comes out forced and fake.
Every writer writes in a different way and I have no judgement on what works for them. I know for myself, my books will be how they are written, because I don’t feel like I have much say in what the characters do–it’s up to them.
What about you? How do you feel about this?
(photo courtesy of pattygopez.buzznet)
You don’t feel that you have much say in what your characters do. I like that. It’s like your world grows out organically from the characters. You don’t know for sure what their decisions and reactions will be, or even how it’s all going to end. That seems realistic, seems like it would lead to characters that are unpredictable and dynamic, like real people.
Sometimes I feel like I “cling to the plot as I first imagined it,” as J.K.R. put it, and sort of use the characters to make the plot do what I want it to do. The plot may do something badass or romantic, but the characters may seem less rich.
I guess it’s a difference between starting from your characters and then working from the ground up and starting from your plot and then working from the top down, or between treating your characters as ends in themselves and using them as means to the end of the plot…
Thanks for your thoughts,Xof! I agree–I’ve met several writers who let the plot go where the characters take them (like me) and others who know where the story is going, but it’s more about finding out how the characters get there. When I write, I LOVE not knowing what’s going to happen because a) it keeps me interested in the story and b) if I want to know how it ends, I have to keep writing it! Definitely a writing motivator. 🙂
I personally felt that Luna Lovegood had more romantic chemistry with either Harry or Ron than Hermione or Ginny. She just sparked off them in better ways for a love story. (Perhaps why she was moved offstage for most of Deathly Hallows?) But yes, a number of J.K. Rowling’s story beats were set at the beginning, and rethinking them might have thrown the writing speed off considerably. And unfortunately, certain of the readers didn’t understand that, and felt betrayed when their favored outcome failed to materialize.
Thanks for the comment skjam2013! Luna was definitely a much more calming figure for both Harry and Ron. I’d never thought of her as a love interest though! Very interesting…
So, 14 years after writing the first of a series of books that made “Best Sellers” kind of obsolete, the author is having second thoughts about some major plot lines? Anything in review after a long time could cause any author to pause – their life experience has changed over time. And Ms. Rawlings is certainly allowed to express these doubts. As the reader, though, I am faced with some huge “what ifs” that will never be answered, which is fairly unsettling. Will she rewrite the whole thing the way she now thinks is better? Do I go back, re-read and try to incorporate her doubts into the story myself? Argghh!!! I agree with your style – the characters go where they want, and that is the way it is. Let the characters and readers form their own “what ifs”.
OZV– Thank you for your comment! I can see, too, how a large amount of time away from any work could change what you think of it. But I also worry if her comments will creep into my head next time I read Harry Potter.
I can see why Rowling might be pondering the literary road not traveled, now that she has some distance from it and perhaps a different perspective on life. I suppose it just goes to show how much she still thinks a lot about the characters and universe of Harry Potter…which is understandable given how incredibly lucrative it was and given that it was also her first published work (I think). I don’t think I’m ever content with anything I write, draw, paint, say…I am perpetually editing. That said the pairing of Ron + Hermione felt more organic to me than Harry + Hermione. (Sidebar: I know better than to read comments, but for some reason I did with that article and holy cats people were seriously hating on Ron. WTH?)
To tell the truth, I feel that if Rowling were to change anything, it should be the way she handled the back story with Harry’s parents and Snape. Harry’s dad was a nasty little bully all through his teens and when I did the math (yes I did the math) I figured out that Harry would have to have been born when his parents were in their early 20s. That doesn’t leave him much time to mature into a decent person, of the sort to whom one would expect Lily would be attracted. If his experiences fighting evil HAD rapidly matured him, I would like to have known how that worked out. As it was, I could not fathom what Lily, ostensibly a kind and compassionate person, ever saw in a git like James Potter. And given that for whatever (insane) reason she DID marry him, it then leaves Snape as an incredibly tragic character, much more so I think than Rowling even intended him to be. Maybe Rowling was trying to allude hauntingly to unspecified details, in that way that Robert Louis Stevenson could do better than anyone–but if so, it didn’t work.
Thanks for your thoughts, Amoyer! I agree that there are some areas in the Harry Potter books that perhaps Rowling could have looked at more, rather than changing something she’d already explained in depth. And I’m also unsure where all the “Ron-hating” is coming from. Guess it’s an eye opener for me how attached people can become to your characters–in ways you never would have imagined.
like you pointed out in your post, all writers DO write differently, including differing styles, preparations, editing, the whole shebang. my writing comes from somewhere inside, and it just happens. i write what exposes itself to me at the time. however, when i have written something down, it’s down. i have never returned to one of my works and changed a crucial component because i’m in a different time, place, or space. when reading what rowlings said about the pairing of her characters, it caused me no great concern. i had already inhaled the harry potter stories the way they’d been written, and that was more than good enough for me. unlike a lot of people, i didn’t even get into a discussion about who ‘should’ be paired with whom during the reading of the story. if i’m enjoying the story, i allow the author to unfold it for me, unless there’s something i totally disagree with (hagrid’s brother, for example). even that, tho, didn’t take away any of the pleasure of allowing and accepting the rest of the story to enfold and engulf me. as far as i’m concerned, rowlings wrote a treasure just the way it is. if she has second thoughts about it, that has nothing to do with me.
I assume because of the scale of her series’ fame that she had a very tight schedule to keep, and so it does not surprise me in the least that she may not have been able to stay as true to her characters as she would have liked to.
I always rooted for Ron, but I had assumed he would be stuck in Harry’s shadow indefinitely, because of how the story is written even into the 6th book.
Good point, Stu! I have not (yet) been subjected to a publishers deadline. It may affect writing differently. Thanks for sharing!