Saturday, 13 November 2010

JK ROWLING AND THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE It could have been oh-so different.

On her official site, JK includes a section where she mentions some of the opening chapters she wrote, and later discarded, for THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE:

The dynamic:
Voldemort enters Godric’s Hollow killing family members left, right and centre – a touching scene as Lily clutches tiny Harry to her, shielding him. Death defying.

The inter-species:
A muggle betrays the Potters. Whether he was greedy or power hungry, he brings evil to the family at Godric’s Hollow

The melodramatic:
Pyrites, a servant of Lord Voldemort – in his white silk gloves - comes to arrange to bloody them by participating in the murder of the Potters, in the night

The Unnecessarily Convoluted:
Hemione’s muggle father, from the mainland, sees an explosion on an island, sails out to find the bodies of Harry’s parents and, no doubt, the squalling baby left alive in the aftermath


With the first, Harry’s danger is too imminent - the reader would bond less well with the simple life of Harry.

The second alienates us - we Muggles suffer the guilt of being, partly, responsible for Harry's situation
The third makes Voldemort too dainty: I am evil. Great evil. My poison stains the land but my servant has a great tailor and a natty line in white, silk gloves. Black and death-masky is a much more “happening”  look.

The fourth makes so many interconnected connections, we’d all be strangled in their webs. Harry can make his own Muggle friends, already, without too much help from his authorly buddy.

Most of the time, I see JK as the pinnacle of writerly genius that only those born with the appropriate gene can aspire too. After I had taken this journey with her, saw the inner workings of how the HP Chapter 1 came to be, I never felt so badly about the number of openings I experiment with when trying to get page one in-the-can. 

From some funny looking kernels some mighty .... 

                                                     STARRING - MG my next wip 



Built into a deep bend in the River Dove, Tallin School was surrounded on three sides by water and the students were regularly up to their knees in mist. The Chief Inspector for Inclusive Education, recommended Tallin to promising pupils he met on his surprise drop-in visits to schools around the country. This small, preparatory boarding school provided an outstanding, all-round education. It offered some exclusive classes. These were extras and not everyone was offered them.

Mist from the river lay low and soupy, but not as thick as usual. It was late, well past midnight. Moonlight illuminated the grounds outside. It shone in at the first floor landing where the Fourth Quarter from the other dorm, cursed when the top step creaked.
Rowland, hiding in the shadows by his door, was impressed.
One foot hovering between steps, the boy waited until the candle on the Nightwatch Desk flickered again with the regular snatch and snore as Matron settled back to sleep.
Rowland knew the other boy was Lucas, one of the Twinks, but he still couldn't imagine wanting to leave. "You won't be able to get out," he whispered, "the doors are ch-chained at night."
"I hate it here," said Lucas. Flopping onto the step, he grabbed his bag and squeezed the air out of it.
Rowland held his left hand palm to the landing behind him, put his right index finger to his lips and said, "Shh!"
Lucas felt the fine hairs on his neck rise. When the sound from his bag went from strangled to silent, he jumped back to his feet again, "See?" he whispered loudly, "That's what I'm talking about. I hate it here."


  1. It would've been the wrong kind of backstory to start the series with. She did better by saving it for later.

  2. I agree. The chapter one we got let us peek into the world Harry would grow up in.

  3. Hi! Thanks for stopping by my Harry post--and cool, I see you wrote one too! Very informative. I didn't know any of this. Luckily, JK Rowling started where she did instead of any of these places! And nice to read your WIP; very interesting.

  4. Hi Carol
    I love the Potter books. I can't imagine any other start.
    Thanks your kind words on the new wip - officially starting in December.
    I'm making the most of the time available.

  5. Wow, I hadn't known that about the alternate openings. Very interesting!

  6. That is absolutely fascinating. What an insight into her process--and a wonderful lesson for us all! I used to do those convoluted openings--getting tangled up in the story before it even begins.

  7. Nathan?
    Don't you find it's all about the craft? I need to know how things are created, too.

    *I'm, definitely, fainting later. ;)

    Hi Anne
    Isn't it great? It's amazing what you can find on JK's site.
    I think my biggest lesson learned this year came when I forgot you need more than conversations to make people care about your characters.
    Did you read the letter for the unfinished wip? I hate them but they don't make me bang my head on the desk any more.

  8. Weird to think all we known could have been said different! I have to say, she did right! I love her! =D

  9. Harry's little life in Privet Drive was so important.I read HP1 to my children when they were small, they could see the characters, were horrified about Harry's living conditions - they didn't usually cheer during bedtime story either ;)