Writing Methods from “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” Part 3 – Characterization Cont…

Last week, I promised a continuation of my post on characterization with more examples. This post will focus on friendship among characters–these being the famous trio: Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

What about these friends make their bond so strong? As Rowling said in the very first book, “There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.” Like true Gryffindors, what sets Harry, Ron, and Hermione apart is their enduring willingness to courageously fight for each others lives and stand up for one another in perilous circumstances. And like their house’s mascot, the lion, they each have a terrible temper if rubbed the wrong way. Take for example:

Ron Weasley

Ron comes from a financially struggling pure-blood family of nine. The subject of his family’s condition is a touchy one, as he is known to react violently when harassed about it. This sets him apart from Harry and Hermione, but like them, he always sticks up for his family when under verbal attack, as well as his friends (Hermione especially).

Hermione Granger

Coming to Hogwarts from a muggle household, Hermione is passionately dedicated to her studies. Unlike Ron and Harry, she is most insulted if her academic ability is challenged. Also, like Hagrid, Hermione has a soft spot for animals and pursues justice for her friends and magical creatures alike. If an enemy is being cruel to one of her friends, she retaliates physically as well as verbally (see page 293), and will go to great lengths (even flying, one of her greatest fears) to help her friends.

Harry Potter

Unlike his friends Ron and Hermione, Harry has no living parents; since the age of one, he has been raised by the Dursleys (his muggle aunt, uncle, and cousin). After learning of his magical heritage and the death of his parents, he suffers even more contempt from the Dursleys, and like Ron, what really makes his pot boil over is verbal attack on his family (just look what happens to his Aunt Marge when she insults his dead parents). Likewise, he sticks up for his best friends through thick and thin.

While each of these characters come from different backgrounds, what binds them is their loyalty to one another.

Next to come: overlapping conflict in The Prisoner of Azkaban, followed by lots of juicy Goblet of Fire posts! And lastly–

What do you find special about the three main characters of the Harry Potter books? Have you learned as much about writing from the third book as I have? What other books and authors would you like to see in upcoming “writing lessons” categories?


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How To Publish Your Writing With Duotrope

If you’re a writer like me, working to widen your publications, you may or may not know of an essential publishing tool called Duotrope. As profitable as it is, I figured a lot more writers would have heard of it and put it to use, but upon being asked, most reply “What’s Duotrope?” So I decided to write an article explaining what it is and including a few strategies to try when using it. You can read it here on Ezine Articles or here as originally posted on the site. It’s my first published article of many more to come; as I listed in my Goals for 2011, I’d like to write a lot of these, so stay tuned and I will update you when I have another one available.

Do you use Duotrope as an aid in publishing your work? Do you share this valuable resource with your friends? Did you find this article useful and what writing/publishing topics would you like to see in an upcoming article?


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“Of Women’s Wiles and Underwear?”

Apparently, there is another writer out there who shares my last name. More coincidentally, his name is Michael A. Tashjian. How strange. He has a story called “Of Women’s Wiles and Underwear,” or “Wiles and Underwear” for short, being published online at Eric’s Hysterics May 15th. Opening in the waiting room of a doctors’ office, it begins when a curious adolescent boy picks up a women’s magazine, an incident followed by a garage sale and a cute girl.

Even more bizarre than the story writer’s name, Michael A.’s style seems similar to mine–except for the fact that I would never write anything so vile as a story about underwear and wiles. Nevertheless, perhaps you’d like to read it when it appears on the site this Sunday.

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Writing Methods from “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” Part 2 – Characterization

Before I dive into its 734-page sequel, The Goblet of Fire, I should get part two of three writing techniques from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban written up for you avid H.P. readers and aspiring writers like me. The remaining two tactics are more general than the first I mentioned: realistic characters and overlapping conflict.

This post will deal with characterization. If you are like me, your most horrifying prospect as a writer is to create a half-baked character. Something I realized early in this series is that Harry Potter is not our ideal, clichéd goody two-shoes protagonist. He is not a silently-suffering martyr, but like any pre-teenaged boy, or any human, really, he has his breaking points. Real people have breaking points. I would encourage you to give each of your characters a breaking point, that line that must not be crossed, or else. (Or else what? Another aspect that further shapes an individual.) Reading through The Prisoner of Azkaban, I glimpsed these points in each and every character, and it was these manifestations which made them all the more real to me. Take for example…

Albus Dumbledore

The headmaster at Hogwarts can be easily recognized as the “wise old man” figure that comes up in almost every fantasy novel. (See Merlin from The Once and Future King, Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings, and more contemporary examples such as Brom from Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance series.)

As an archetype, this stereotypical character occurs again and again in books, so what sets Dumbledore apart from the rest of the lot? His temper, for one thing. Throughout the series, Albus is always depicted as a calm, kind, and understanding adult; correspondingly, the one thing that sets Dumbledore off his ticker is an outsider endangering his students (see page 181). This further emphasizes his primary characteristic of protectiveness.

Severus Snape

Chapter 14 of The Prisoner of Azkaban uncovers the roots of Snape’s hatred for Harry, to an extent that was not revealed to us previously in the series. Continually throughout the book, we find that Professor Snape is a bitter man, embittered by events in the past worsened by his own pride. What makes him most angry is being challenged or humiliated. This accentuates his pride and effectively draws either loathing or pity from the reader.

Rubeus Hagrid

Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s friend Hagrid, the gamekeeper at Hogwarts takes on the role of Care of Magical Creatures professor during the trio’s third year. Anyone who is familiar with Hagrid’s character knows him as the “gentle giant,” another archetype, recurring especially in children’s literature. He is caring and kind, but can be abrasive at times. Passionate about justice, he is enraged when the “bad guy” gets away with evil deeds. The most guaranteed way to make Hagrid lose his temper, however, is to put his friends or his animals in danger. This further exhibits his benevolent nature toward his pets and his friends.


These are only a few examples of secondary characters and how beneficial to the story it can be to take the time to flesh out and refine even insignificant characters–because every real person adds up. This is especially important when building a fantasy world, as believability is a crucial factor. I will continue to post more character models as well as a review of overlapping conflict in The Prisoner of Azkaban, but for now–

What characters in the Harry Potter books stand out to you the most? What makes them unique? What techniques do you use in your writing to add dimension to your characters?

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Essay Published in “Unschooling Now”

The first issue of Unschooling Now is finally here. This is an e-zine for those who want to learn outside the scope of traditional education systems. We can never outgrow learning. My essay mentioned in this post appears on page 9. Click below to read. 🙂

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What I’ve Learned from J.K. Rowling – Writing Methods from “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” – Part 1

After reading only a few chapters into Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, I couldn’t help but notice all the different crafty methods J.K. Rowling uses in her books. Too many to cover in one post, that’s for certain, so I’ll go ahead and point them out one at a time, post by meticulous post. Without further adieu, part one of the many writing techniques to be learned from such wonderful literature:

One of the methods I’ve noticed so far in The Prisoner of Azkaban is that there is a hook at the end of nearly every paragraph. If the paragraph isn’t wholly dialogue, Rowling always instigates the idea that something else is coming. See a couple of examples I’ve taken from pages 50 and 51 of chapter four, “The Leaky Couldron.”

…but the thing that tested Harry’s resolution most appeared in his favourite shop, Quality Quidditch Supplies, a week after he’d arrived at the Leaky Couldron.

What tested Harry’s resolution most? We wonder.

…a newly erected podium, on which was mounted the most magnificent broom he had ever seen in his life.

Do tell us more about the most magnificent broom he had ever seen in his entire life!

As you can see, hooks don’t belong only at the ends of chapters and the end of a book in a series but also at the end of paragraphs to really keep the reader turning pages.

Do you use this technique in your own writing? If not, try it next time you write some prose; and if you like a challenge, try writing a paragraph with a hook at the end of each sentence, and do leave a comment below.

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Catching Up with the Times (and all the other writing birds)

So I’ve finally decided to get on Twitter, an idea at which I’ve cringed for a long time. And like publishing short fiction and poetry on the web–more for the sake of directing people to my blog than directing blog readers elsewhere. But if you happen to be a Twitter addict, click the bird to follow!

I’ll be announcing each new post I publish,  but also lots of little things I fail to mention on the official blog. I hope that this venture from Internet rube-ishness accomplishes my goal of wider readership. And speaking of such lovely things as gaining more readers, check out these 40 Twitter Hashtags for Writers.

Do you use Twitter to promote your writing? What are your favourite hashtags to use and why?

(Hint: I’ve found Writers’ Digest’s #storyfriday to be a great way to warm up the writing muscles and get new readers and followers.)


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