How to Write Like JK Rowling: Discover Her Process

Posted on Sep 6, 2023

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Written by P.J McNulty

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Do you want to learn how to write like J.K. Rowling, the author who brought us the magical world of “Harry Potter” and captivated millions?

This article is a roadmap to understanding her writing style and techniques, breaking them down so you can apply them to your own work.

JK Rowling’s storytelling techniques

Before diving into the specifics, let’s understand what makes Rowling’s storytelling magical. She doesn’t just write; she crafts a journey that hooks readers from start to finish.

The Hero’s Journey

Rowling heavily leans on the Hero’s Journey template to structure her narratives, especially in “Harry Potter.” Here’s how:

1. Ordinary World: Introduce the hero in their regular life. Example: Harry living under the stairs at the Dursleys.

2. Call to Adventure: The hero receives an invitation or challenge. Example: Harry’s letter from Hogwarts.

3. Refusal of the Call: Initial hesitance or hurdles. Example: Uncle Vernon tries to keep Harry from going to Hogwarts.

4. Meeting the Mentor: Hero meets a guide. Example: Hagrid or Dumbledore.

5. Crossing the Threshold: Hero enters a new world. Example: Harry boarding the Hogwarts Express.

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies: Hero faces challenges and makes friends and foes. Example: Harry’s classes, friends like Ron and Hermione, enemies like Malfoy.

7. Approach to the Inmost Cave: Facing the ultimate challenge. Example: Discovering the Sorcerer’s Stone or Horcruxes.

8. Ordeal: Enduring a significant hardship. Example: Battles and confrontations.

9. Reward: Gaining something valuable. Example: Destroying a Horcrux or saving someone.

10. The Road Back: Hero starts to return to ordinary life. Example: End of school year.

11. Resurrection: Final test or battle. Example: Final battle against Voldemort.

12. Return with the Elixir: Hero returns changed. Example: Harry as a matured wizard.

Emotional Connection

Rowling excels in creating characters that resonate with readers on an emotional level. She does this by giving each character unique traits, complexities, and arcs that mirror real human experiences and emotions.

1. Harry Potter: Rowling uses Harry as an underdog to rally behind. His loneliness and search for family strike a chord.

2. Hermione Granger: Represents the struggles of being an overachiever and the need to belong, making her highly relatable.

3. Ron Weasley: His feelings of inadequacy within his family and among overachieving friends make readers root for him.

4. Sirius Black: Highlights themes of wrongful imprisonment and the search for redemption, adding emotional depth to the story.

5. Albus Dumbledore: Embodies wisdom and moral complexity, questioning the notion of “pure good” and challenging readers’ perceptions.

By dissecting these characters, you can understand how to create your own emotionally compelling cast to engage your readers.

Genre Elements: Rowling’s mix of fantasy and reality

Let’s move on to how Rowling blends fantasy elements with real-world themes, a combination that amplifies the appeal of her writing.

How to worldbuild like JK Rowling

Rowling’s world-building is meticulous.

She doesn’t just throw magic into the story; she constructs an entire ecosystem that supports it, from the Ministry of Magic to Diagon Alley.

1. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry: More than a setting, it’s a character in itself, with its moving staircases and hidden rooms.

2. Magical Creatures: From house-elves to dragons, each creature has its own lore, rules, and impact on the story.

3. Spells and Potions: Not random but governed by their own logic and limitations.

4. Quidditch: A fictional sport so detailed it could almost be real.

5. Wizarding Economy: The existence of Gringotts and various magical shops make the magical world financially independent.

Real-World themes

Rowling doesn’t just create an escape; she addresses serious real-world issues within her magical universe, making the story richer and more relatable.

1. Discrimination: Themes around “pure-blood” versus “Muggle-born” wizards.

2. Friendship: The importance of loyalty and friendship in overcoming adversity.

3. Courage: Various forms of bravery, both big and small.

4. Authority and Abuse of Power: Portrayed through characters like Dolores Umbridge and Cornelius Fudge.

5. Death and Loss: Explored through Harry’s numerous personal losses and the finality of character deaths.

How does JK Rowling develop characters?

Characters make or break a story. Rowling crafts characters that are both relatable and complex, making it easy for readers to invest in them.

Relatable protagonists

We relate to Rowling’s protagonists not because they are wizards, but because they’re human, complete with flaws and desires. Here’s how:

1. Harry Potter: Relatable as the outsider and underdog, searching for a place where he belongs.

2. Hermione Granger: Represents the book-smart kid who feels the need to prove herself.

3. Ron Weasley: Shows the struggles of living in the shadows of successful family and friends.

4. Neville Longbottom: Epitomizes the journey from an awkward child to a confident, brave adult.

5. Luna Lovegood: Captures the essence of being different and the courage it takes to stay true to oneself.

Nuanced antagonists

Rowling’s antagonists aren’t cardboard villains; they have depth and reasons for their actions, which makes them more than just obstacles for the hero.

1. Lord Voldemort: His fear of death and quest for immortality stem from a traumatic past.

2. Severus Snape: A complicated character whose love and bitterness both define him.

3. Draco Malfoy: More a product of his upbringing than inherently evil, offering a chance for redemption.

4. Bellatrix Lestrange: Fanatically loyal but also driven by her own twisted sense of love and devotion.

5. Dolores Umbridge: Represents the banality of evil through her love for rules and order at the expense of justice and fairness.

By understanding how Rowling fleshes out both her protagonists and antagonists, you can strive to add similar depth and nuance to your own characters.

How does JK Rowling use literary techniques?

Literary techniques are the tools of the trade, and Rowling uses them skillfully. Let’s dissect some of the most effective ones she employs.

Use of dialogue

Dialogue in Rowling’s works isn’t filler; it serves multiple functions, from character development to foreshadowing.

1. “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” – This line from Dumbledore showcases his wisdom and serves as moral guidance.

2. “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.” – More than a catchy phrase, this line sets up the Marauder’s Map and its rule-bending significance.

3. “You’re a wizard, Harry.” – A transformative line that shifts the entire premise of Harry’s life.

4. “Not my daughter, you b**!”** – Molly Weasley’s line reveals her fierce protectiveness, adding depth to her character.

5. “The world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters.” – Sirius Black’s line adds nuance to the story’s morality.

6. “After all this time? Always.” – Severus Snape’s line uncovers his lifelong love for Lily, redefining his character.

7. “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” – Dumbledore’s line serves as inspiration, echoing the book’s themes of hope and resilience.

Foreshadowing and plot twists

Rowling masterfully plants clues early on that pay off later, surprising even attentive readers.

1. The Snake at the Zoo: Foreshadows Harry’s Parseltongue abilities and connection to Voldemort.

2. Scabbers the Rat: An early, seemingly inconsequential character turns out to be Peter Pettigrew.

3. The Locket in ‘Order of the Phoenix’: Initially overlooked, it becomes a crucial Horcrux.

4. Snape as the Half-Blood Prince: Misdirection makes this revelation surprising, yet plausible.

5. Neville’s Importance: Initially portrayed as inept, he becomes crucial in killing Nagini, Voldemort’s last Horcrux.

Use language and style the Rowling way

Rowling’s writing style is another cornerstone of her success. It’s both accessible and vivid, making it easy for readers to get lost in her world.

Simplicity and accessibility

Rowling’s language isn’t overly complicated, which makes her books accessible to younger readers without alienating adults. She employs a straightforward vocabulary and sentence structure that invite readers of all ages into her magical world. At the same time, her choice of words is never condescending, allowing for a layered understanding of the narrative, making it a hit with both kids and adults.

Vivid descriptions

Rowling’s descriptions add depth to the world without being overly verbose.

1. The Forbidden Forest: Described as dark and full of odd noises, setting up its ominous nature.

2. Diagon Alley: The vivid imagery makes it feel almost like a character in the story.

3. Dementors: The cold, the darkness, and the feeling of despair are palpable.

4. Hogwarts Castle: Its grandiosity and magical quirks come alive through Rowling’s words.

5. The Burrow: Described in a way that instantly communicates its warmth and homeliness.

6. Horcruxes: Each is described with enough detail to give it a sense of individual menace.

7. Room of Requirement: Its ever-changing nature is vividly brought to life, making it both magical and believable.

Understanding Rowling’s mastery of language and style can help you enhance your own writing, making it engaging without losing depth or nuance.

How does JK Rowling use structure and pacing?

Structure and pacing are crucial for maintaining reader interest, and Rowling is a master at both. Let’s dive into how she does it.

Building Tension and release

Rowling knows how to ramp up the tension at the right times, often culminating in a significant event or revelation that then gives way to a quieter period where characters and readers alike can catch their breath. This ebb and flow keep the reader engaged without feeling overwhelmed. For instance, the Triwizard Tournament in “Goblet of Fire” is punctuated by periods of school life and relationship dynamics, offering a respite before the next challenge.

Evolving story and character arcs

Rowling’s story arcs evolve, both within individual books and across the series, which keeps readers invested.

1. Harry’s Arc: From an unknown boy to the leader of the resistance against Voldemort.

2. Hermione’s Activism: From student to social activist with S.P.E.W. and beyond.

3. Ginny Weasley: From timid girl to a strong, independent young woman.

4. Sirius Black: Introduced as a villain, evolves into a father figure for Harry.

5. Lupin’s Struggles: From a beloved teacher to a conflicted man battling his inner demons.

6. The Elder Wand: Its significance grows gradually until it becomes central to the final battle.

7. Dumbledore’s Background: Initially the wise mentor, later revealed to have a complicated past.

How to write like JK Rowling: final tips

You’ve got the insights, now let’s talk about how to get started and continue learning.

Practice makes perfect

The only way to master Rowling’s techniques is to practice them. Start by writing short stories that incorporate her methods. Once you’re comfortable, graduate to more complex narratives. Don’t forget to revise; Rowling herself went through numerous drafts before arriving at the final versions.

Study Rowling’s writing

Reading is the best form of research for a writer. Go back and read the “Harry Potter” series with a critical eye, paying attention to the techniques discussed in this article. Take notes, dissect the characters, analyze the pacing, and delve into the world-building.

Are you ready to embark on your own magical writing journey?

Now you’ve got the tools and understanding to write like J.K. Rowling.

Take these insights, practice relentlessly, and don’t forget to add your own unique touch.

The magic is in mastering the craft and making it your own.

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