A Deconstruction of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
I don’t think of myself as a name dropper, but I do love to show how famous authors and bestselling books adhere to the principles of story structure. Especially when those authors are still breathing… I get nay sayers who like to cite Shakespeare and Cervantes as examples of… well, nay saying.
The earth isn’t still flat, either. But I digress.
They aren’t remotely my principles, by the way, I just put them into instructional buckets that I call The Six Core Competencies. They are universal. A sort of inevitable outcome of a process of natural selection within the craft of story telling: stories that work, even if their authors have no idea what they’re doing or what to call the structure when they stumble upon it, end up aligning with these principles… almost every time.
When a draft isn’t working, when an agent or editor suggests a change, that change almost always moves the narrative closer to the universal structural paradigm (the one that optimizes available story physics) that awaits… what it’ll look like when it finally does work.
It’s not formula, it’s story physics. It’s the gravity of storytelling.
And that includes the Harry Potter books.
Author names don’t come any bigger than J.K. Rowling. And because of that, readers regularly request a deconstruction of the Harry Potter oeuvre. Some, I suspect, want to see the theories disproved. Others simply want to see it exposed, lifted from the pages to becomes an example we can learn from.
So here you go. And I’m happy to give credit where it belongs: I didn’t do this one.
Today I’m referring you to a great website called Write Like Rowling, which offers four posts on this analysis, in addition to other good stuff on all things Rowling. This link takes you to the first in that series (they’re all there, a click away from this first one). The author even cites page numbers of the major story milestones, with rationale showing how these story turns fulfill the mission of each.
It’s creator and author, Carolyn, wrote me recently to introduce herself and let me know that Story Engineering has, in her words, changed her writing life, and to alert me to her application of those principles (a test, really) to Rowling’s books.
No surprise (to me, at least), it worked. Somewhere out there, a guy named Cervantes is rolling over in his grave.