Friday, November 19, 2010

What Makes a Book Series GREAT?

You'd have to be living under a rock to not know that the movie, HARRY POTTER and the DEATHLY HOLLOWS, part I, opens today.

So it got me thinking about popular children's book series (like, HARRY POTTER, THE HUNGER GAMES and TWILIGHT) and what makes them universally loved and/or respected.

I think it's a whole mish-mash of things, including:

1) Fantastic World-Building. When I read the seven Harry Potter books, I was right there, at Hogwarts, with those characters. I could see, taste, touch, hear and smell all of it. THAT, my friends, is why J.K. Rowling is amazing.

2) Universal Themes. Everyone can relate to loss, love, rage, and redemption. You really felt for Harry when he returned to his aunt and uncle's home in the summer. And when Rowling killed off some of our beloved characters (how DARE she?), my heart was ripped open too.

3) Character Development. Harry Potter was written in third person, limited. So everything was told through Harry's eyes. But most of the time I never realized it. I grew to love all of those characters, because they were fully developed: Hermione, Ron, Snape, Dumbledore, Hagrid, etc.

4) Story-Weaving. Rowling knew how to tell a good story. Her ideas were completely captivating AND fascinating--the wizarding classes (Defense of the Dark Arts), the Death-Eaters, Gringott's, Diagon Alley, The Leaky Cauldron (butter beer), on and on. She ramped up the suspense and made you want more and more!

I cannot WAIT until my six-year-old can read them with me!

HAVE A FANTASTIC WEEKEND, MUGGLES!

21 comments:

salarsenッ said...

Those are all important points. For me, character development is the clincher. If I fall for the character, I'm a goner.

....Petty Witter said...

I'm with Salarsen on this - the characters are what kept me reading. An adult when I read the books, it was so lovely to see my god children grow up with Harry and the gang.

Matthew Rush said...

Who's Harry Potter?

Kidding. I agree with you completely. The Wizarding World felt so ... IMMEDIATE. When I read the books, as I often do, I am carried there instantly. I also don't think it hurt that the details were so REAL, as in magical realism, I mean yes, they had spells and such, but pretty much everything else was perfectly normal, if British. I mean Vernon Dursley runs a company that makes electric drills. How perfectly ordinary!

Also the characters didn't hurt.

Maddy said...

I must be the only person that's never picked up a Harry Potter book. Fantasy was never really my genre, and not to mention the length of each novel!! However, I eventually want to read them someday! If it's this much of a cultural phenomenom, I can only imagine how amazing the books are!

Meredith said...

Love, love, love. I need to reread the books right now, because it's just such an incredible experience.

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

All very good points and I have to agree with a few that character development is what gets me. Which is why I probably spend so much time working on my characters and why my world building is suffering currently...sigh.
JK rocks at all these things and it's no wonder this series is nothing short of legendary.
Have a fantastic weekend!

Amparo Ortiz said...

You said it better than I ever could!!

Rowling = Genius. Nuff said.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

My 10 yo enjoy the books. My younger two have been enjoying the movies. They can't wait to see the new one. :D

Krispy said...

Agree agree agree. Most important for me is always character development, but it helps when the plot kicks butt and the world is so real. So excited to see the movie!

blueviolet said...

First of all, I guess I've been living under a rock.

She did a fantastic job with the books. It's true that the descriptions just make them come alive.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

I have only seen a few of the Harry Potter movies. I haven't heard of The Hunger Games. I have enjoyed Twilight but haven't read any of the above mentioned but I do know they are loved by so many.
My son (31) went at midnight to see the new movie.

Elana Johnson said...

Excellent points! For me, what I've realized is that books become popular for a couple of reasons, most of which has to do with word of mouth. If you can get people recommending to other people to read your book, they will. And then they can talk about it. That's what makes books popular.

That doesn't mean they're not well-written or well-done. But a lot of books are well-written and well-done and don't see the J.K. Rowling success. You know?

melissa said...

You're dead on with this list. I think the most important with fantasy books like this is to build an awesome world and then populate it with equally amazing characters. It's guaranteed to suck readers in!

Emy Shin said...

I agree -- these are definitely the elements that make Harry Potter series shine. It's real to me because the world and the characters are so real and detailed. :)

Little Ms J said...

Harry who?

Melissa said...

Exactly!!!

Shannon said...

I love the series. All of your points are dead-on accurate. I am constantly amazed at her ability to write such a fantastic story and weave in details that become relevant later in the series. It's brilliant.

Pamela said...

Every point you make here resonates with me. I love love love all three of these series and will reread them over and over again. xoxox

Meream said...

I giggled at the word "muggles." I so love this series, you have no idea. :)

PS. This is Meream from All Women Stalk. :D

LisaDay said...

So true. I just reread the books and would gladly read them again.

LisaDay

Girl Friday said...

I think it's the world-building I love the most, or at least that's what drew me in in the beginning. Thanks for pointing out how she creates all these fabulous but distinct places, like Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, the Weasley’s home etc etc. It's reminded me I need to try to do the same in my writing!