Tuesday, July 24, 2007

At Ryan's Request

I have a post for real this time? Or for fake. Something like that.

This weekend was the weekend of Harry Potter Reckoning, so I dropped off the face of the muggle world and into one that is immensely more exciting.

A few general remarks, nothing specific to plot so don't be afraid to read it.

I think that Harry Potter is much more fun to read if you read it and analyse it with people. (i.e. the fandom community). There are a couple reasons for this: foremost, I think, is the fact that the books are good because of a thrilling plot full of clever twists and turns. This is made much more fun if you are experiencing it with people, hypothesizing and guessing as you go, rather than reading it in a bubble. However, almost as important are the characters. The characters are flat. They are all archetypes and almost nothing more. Few if any of them have complex motivations or conflicting emotions (except for teenaged angst, which gets old really fast) - the only complexity that is given is the fact that we might not know their motivations. Basically, people are either all good or all bad, all selfish or all selfless, nothing in between - and what we see as grey area is actually our misunderstandings of the characters. I'll use the very first book as an example -- Snape is all good, and we think for most of the book that he's all bad. That doesn't make his character ambivalent - it makes it all good and misunderstood.

However, with a group of friends, you can create the depth and the ambiguity that the characters lack in the books. You can create probable backstories, etc. And so when a character like Draco appears in the text, you don't just think of Draco as he is portrayed by Rowling (which is typical spoiled brat, nothing more and nothing less) but rather of the complex combination of typical spoiled brat, complicated rules and regulations of his family (a Malfoy code of conduct being a very common fandom notion), possibly questioning the morals he's been brought up with (for whatever reason - usually because Hermione beats him on all his exams) and so on and so forth.

Of course, in the past four years I have removed myself from the fandom community for a few reasons (foremost: I have been writing my own, original stuff) and as such didn't have these images in the forefront of my mind. Which left me with flat characters, a thrilling plot, and everything that everyone expects from Harry Potter books, no more and no less. And since I was half-expecting Fandom!Ginny and Fandom!Draco and Fandom!Snape, and even Fandom!Harry and Fandom!Ron and Fandom!Hermione, who are all deeper and more complicated than Canon!InsertNameHere, I must admit that I was a little bit dissatisfied with Rowling's characters, who do what they do because that is what they do, because that is their archetype and their stereotype or whatever other type you may have.

Er. Which isn't to say that I didn't love it, because I did. It is simply to say that I realized what makes Rowling such a good writer isn't her prose (which is straightforward and clear but not poetical) or her characters but her plot - which is thrilling and clever and keeps you laughing and crying and holding your breath until the last page. Everything is tied up into a neat little bow and you are left with the distinct impression that well, that's that. The story is over.

And that is exactly as it should be, and as it must be, and as it is.

I wanted to write a fanfic immediately after reading book 7. But that urge has subsided, fortunately. I say fortunately because it would not have been a very good fanfic, or a very good story, and because I have other better stories that I am working on. And the one good idea that I was going to use in the fanfic can be used in any number of other places, all of which probably suit it much better.

5 comments:

Ryan said...

Yay! A post! Thankyousomuch!

Also--I never really looked at the fandom that way. It's interesting.

ALSO--Thanks for not spoiling. I'm in the middle of The Idiot, and don't know if I can blitz through HP fast enough to justify a break from Dostoyevsky...

Embly said...

I have to say that I was not disappointed until the epilogue. Which of course brings up all sorts of things. But the epilogue was not in a time period that I cared about, and did not provide me with information that I was interested in. I would have much preferred 6 months later, or a year later, or nothing at all.
That's all I'll say for now.

Duff said...

HERE IS SOME FANFICTION:

hARRY: "rON i DO NOT KNOW IF MY REAL FATHER DIED AS A MAN OR AS A FIG. i AM FILLED WITH DEEP TROUBLES."

rON: "sANTA cLAUS WOULD BRING YOU THE ANSWER ONLY IF YOU BELIEVED IN HIM."

vOLDEMORT: "i MUST NOT BE NAMED."

hERMIONE: "eH?"

vOLDEMORT: "mY NAME MUST NOT BE SAID!"

hERMIONE: "wHAT NAME AND WHO ARE YOU?"

vOLDEMORT: "vOLDEMORT, THE EVIL ONE OF ALL EVILNESS. eVIL."

hARRY: "aHAHAHAHA! wE GOT YOU!"

vOLDEMORT: "oH NO! MY HEXING CURSE ON MY NAME! i AM DOOMED! dOOMED TO AN ALTERNATE DIMENSION WHERE i CANNOT STOP THE MUSIC, NO MATTER HOW HARD i WANT IT.!"

rON: "yEAH! tHAT IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU MESS WITH aMERICA!"

hERMIONE: "rON, DEAREST LOVE MACHINE, WE ARE bRITISH. i DO DECLARE THAT SOMETIMES YOU..."

rON: "usa! usa! usa!"

hARRY: "wHAT WILL i DO NOW THAT ALL HAS BEEN FINISHED??"


rON: "usa! usa! usa!"

hAGRID: "wHO WANTS SOME BEANS?"

dUMBLEDORE: "i'M NOT REALLY DEAD!"

aLL: "bUT YES YOU ARE!!"

dUMBLEDORE SHRUGS FADES AWAY. lAUGH TRACK. fINIS.

Duff said...

That said, I think you raise a really interesting point, particularly about how the fandom enhanced the story by what they read into the story, not so much in the story.

Elizabeth said...

Ryan: Dostoevsky is a very good excuse for putting off Harry Potter.

Emblies: I agree about the Epilogue, although I was disappointed with some elements before hand as well.

Duff: Your fanfiction is amazing. I like your capitalization, but I feel like you have a little bit too much punctuation. Or possibly too little. Your characterization is incredible and the descriptions suit the medium perfectly.

Also I think that a community is important in many reading experiences. That is why book clubs are so much fun.