Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rereading 'Prisoner of Azkaban'

This past week I printed out the first draft of my WIP to read and make (abundant) notes on. While I was doing that, I decided to reread Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban for I think the 7th or 8th time. This time I decided to read it very slowly--it took me almost a week and a half to finish it. I really wanted to take the time to look at the book from a technical standpoint, as in sentence structure, plotting, literary devices, etc.

Here a few things I picked up this time around:

- J.K. Rowling actually uses a lot of ellipses in her writing! (I do too--although I've been trying very hard to use less of them in the WIP).

- Cho Chang, Cedric Diggory and the Quidditch World Cup are all mentioned very briefly in the book (with Cho even causing Harry's stomach to do some "flips"). They all, of course, play vital roles in Book 4. Just in case I needed reminding how carefully Rowling planned out the story as a whole.

- There are a lot of clever ways for Harry to gain vital information. Since the book is told strictly from his point-of-view (third person close narrative to be exact), Rowling reveals info by using devices like an overheard conversation between Fudge and some teachers in Hogsmeade (which Harry had to sneak out to get to and therefore was hiding during). The chapter starts out as we follow Harry on his fun, rule-breaking venture and ends up giving exposition while still propelling the story along.

- This is not something new I noticed, but it's amazing how much I am blown away by the intricacies of plot every time. All the minutest details come together in the end in the most unexpected way. It's something I'm very much striving to do in the new WIP and it reminds me of something one of my favorite screenwriting teachers used to say: "You want to make your ending inevitable yet unpredictable." Which, as you might imagine, is SO. HARD.

- J.K. Rowling is a genius. This is a totally new discovery and not something I spend every day of my life ruminating on, I swear.

Let me just say that Prisoner of Azkaban is one of my very favorites of the series (along with Order of the Phoenix and Deathly Hallows). I distinctly remember reading it for the first time almost exactly 10 years ago. It was the book that made me realize that there was something much, much more happening in the series than just a couple of really entertaining, page-turning books.

So now I just have to revise my WIP and make it, you know, that good. I'll see you guys in four, maybe five, years or so.


  1. I have read the Harry Potter series many times over… in fact, I never stop reading them. Once I finish, I start over and read them all again. Now I read other books during this, but I think I’ll keep reading the HP books for years to come.

    Good luck on your revisions.

  2. The third book remains my favorite, I think -- mostly because of the time elements at the end -- but it's a tough call since they're all so good.

    I enjoyed your analysis, and I often think of the "ending must be surprising yet inevitable" screenwriting rule while writing; especially when I'm trying to make the beginnings and endings parallel each other in some way. JK always delivers on that promise.