Bring on the Potterverse

This past week JK Rowling announced that the film series Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them would be extended to a five film series, rather than the trilogy as it was originally announced.

News Source: CBC News Entertainment

fantastic-beastsI could not be more excited. The first film looks amazing, and I’m elated that we get a chance to explore more of the Harry Potter universe. I love that we can visit different characters in different settings and even different time periods. I personally think that getting away from Hogwarts will do wonders for expanding this fictional landscape.

But the news of more films has not been met with uniform enthusiasm. I’ve seen several blog posts about JK Rowling that suggest she’s just milking the HP world for more money. And if you search for ‘Fantastic Beasts’ on Twitter you can find many negative reactions to the news. The first movie hasn’t even come out yet and the series is facing some deep criticism.

I have to admit: I’m confused.

There are many authors who continuously return to the same universe to explore it with different characters. Names like Brian Jacques, David Eddings, Terry Pratchett, and Mercedes Lackey jump to mind. But the author I keep coming back to is Tamora Pierce.

Tamora Pierce created the Tortall universe. It is composed of a total 21 books, which are organized into smaller series featuring different main characters. The first book in this universe, Alanna: The First Adventure, was published in 1983. This series featured four books of the universe.

song-of-the-lioness

The multiple series following these books contained characters mentioned or featured in Alanna’s story, yet had their own adventures and their own stories to tell. In 2003 she published the book that I fell in love with, Trickster’s Choice, which featured Alanna’s daughter.

daughter-of-the-lioness
When I first read the Tortall books as a child, I was absolutely delighted to discover how each book related to another in the universe. One of the first things I would do when opening a new book was draw lines to previous characters, establish how they were related and what roles they had in previous stories. But beyond the characters, what I loved about Tamora Pierce was that she created a world, and the more I explored that world and the more characters I met, the more it felt like a real place.

And Tamora Pierce isn’t done. She has books coming out next year that are part of the Tortall universe. To summarize: more than 21 books. Over 34 years. All in the same universe, featuring different characters. And as far as I can tell, she hasn’t received criticism over her stories.

hp-and-the-cursed-child

JK Rowling is criticized for publishing more stories, for almost every move on Pottermore, and now for expanding a new movie series. So what is it? Is it that the Harry Potter series is simply so huge, is so successful, and yes, has garnered so much money, that it gives people the right to tell Rowling to stop writing?

Let’s be clear: This is her world. Her characters. And if she wants to explore more of that universe, that is her choice.

Our choice is whether or not we read, watch, and buy into that world.

Everyone is allowed their opinions and criticisms. And I think it’s awesome that Rowling is expanding her universe. She can choose to write as many or as few stories as she wants, and I will choose to read the books and watch the movies because I enjoy them. So I say, bring on the ‘verse, Rowling. I’ll be there.

On Writing Accents

hagridDuring my English degree, one of my classes studied Hagrid from the Harry Potter series. I was fascinated by our class discussions on his character, and specifically, his accent. My professor’s theory was that Hagrid’s accent reveals not only his education level, but his intelligence level. His lack of intelligence combined with fierce loyalty is what makes this character endearing and, more importantly, absolutely trustworthy to the reader.

While the Potterhead in me was protective of Hagrid, the class made me more aware of the role that accents can play in books, suggesting character’s origins, economic status, or indeed education levels. As I’m turning my time more and more to writing, I’ve been playing with character accents. It just makes sense to me: in a diverse world, people from different places speak differently. What I’m discovering, though, is that writing accents is a lot harder than it seems – and it’s more than just dropping your g’s.

Growing up, I never had a problem reading Hagrid’s accent. It flowed with the overall narrative of the story and was never distracting. I didn’t really have to think twice about why the character had an accent – he just did.

“Las’ time I saw you, you was only a baby,” said the giant. “Yeh look a lot like yer dad, but yeh’ve  got yer mum’s eyes.” […] “a very happy birthday to yeh. Got summat fer yeh here – I mighta sat on it at some point, but it’ll taste all right.” (p 40-41)

happee-birthdae

Yet in contrast to this accent, I recently read the book Closer to Home by Mercedes Lackey. In this novel, the character Mags had a rough childhood and as a result has a rather rough accent:

“‘E said ‘e waited a decent bit afore arrangin’ t’hand the letter off to someone that’d give it to a Shin’a’in horsetrader ‘e’s got contact with. Wish’t I knew how ‘e managed that. I didn’ know th’ Shin’a’in went that far.” (p 9)

As a reader, I hated this accent. It was inconsistent, distracting, and completely irritating. I found myself actually skipping over parts of the dialogue because I couldn’t be bothered to read the accent. And taking a look at the Goodread’s reviews, I’m not the only one.

So where does this leave me when I’m trying to write accents myself? Well it turns out that there is a lot of great advice out there when it comes to writing accents. I looked through quite a few posts but wanted to share two of my favourite finds:

Phrasing – Including stereotypical phrasing, specific to that character, helps the reader to visualize the accent. “Whatever could he want with her, darling?” is a different accent from a different social status than “What the blazes does he want with her?”

6 Tips for Writing Accents by Jaimie M. Engle

I really love the idea of phrasing. It allows for characters to have distinct voices from one another based on the way they say certain things. It also allows for the character’s personality to come through the dialogue. Check out the blog post for the other 5 tips – I liked them all!

Similarly, this blog post outlines the issues of Scottish accents and how they can be disruptive to the flow of reading. I really liked her suggestion:

More Dialect, Less Accent. In other words, use the appropriate regional words and phrases that will attach a locality or nationality to your character—without all the accents. Slang works the same way—it can indicate young versus old, city versus country, and a lot more. Do you carry your groceries in a sack or a bag? Drink soda or pop? Eat a sub or a hoagie? Those words place you.

Dinna Canna Dialogue by Raelene at Pubparlor

The idea of dialect makes so much sense to me. It’s easy to think of examples – Like Harry Potter and ‘jumpers’ – and again is representative of a realistic world.

Both of these strategies really appeal to me. I love that I can create distinct voices and personalities between characters without interrupting the flow of the story – or annoying the reader. It will be interesting applying these techniques to characters as I make decisions about their social status, education, and background. I’m looking forward to writing this week!

How about you – do you have any great strategies for writing characters with accents? I’d love to hear them – leave a comment!