July 19, 2011

Harry Potter and Beyond: What Inspires You to Write?

Harry Potter books box set

Today’s post is part of the #PotterChat blog hop, a collection of fantastic blogs, Twitter chats, and prizes.  Check out Susan Sipal’s post at Harry Potter for Writers for all the details.

For those who didn’t win a prize in my Milestone Blogiversary Contest, you might want to complete the scavenger hunt of this blog hop, as one of the options is a beta read by me.  Other great prizes include critiques, guest blog posts, and free books.

In case you missed my boasting sharing on Twitter, I saw the last Harry Potter movie on Friday.  In 3D.  And IMAX.  And we were the first in line.  And yes, the whole experience was awesomely awesome.

Don’t worry if you haven’t seen the movie or read the books yet.  I’ll keep this post spoiler-free.  My review can be summed up like this:  The movie hit all the emotional notes I wanted it to—and some I was dreading.

My love affair with Harry Potter began with the books.  But I’ll admit I wasn’t one of those who read them before there was a bandwagon.  Starting with the fourth book, I bought the books in hardcover.  However, as I’ve mentioned here before, my to-be-read pile is scary-huge, so I didn’t actually read any of them until after the fifth book was released.

I loved them.

Let me explain how amazing that simple statement is.  My expectations for these books were sky-high.  How often have we heard others gushing about a book and then when we read it, we’re disappointed?

Not with these books.  I devoured all five books and then had to wait like everyone else for the sixth book.

Okay, that’s not a unique story.  Hundreds of thousands of others probably did the same.  What makes this story unusual was what I did during that wait.

I wrote.

I’d written a bit in high school short story writing classes (which I took mostly to avoid Shakespeare).  Then I got in we’re-calling-your-parents trouble with the school for one of my stories (the main character was near-suicidal and swore—a lot).  No one believed that the story wasn’t “a cry for help.”  (It really wasn’t.  My characters have lives of their own.)  Discouraged and misunderstood, I gave up writing for many, many years.

Instead, my creativity expressed itself with role-playing games, creating characters and worlds within the context of a game.  When life got too crazy to even continue gaming, I was a creative wasteland.  Until I read Harry Potter.

I knocked out 58,000 words in a little over a month by writing my version of what the seventh book would be like.  That’s right.  My first completed novel was fan fiction.

Of course my story was wrong in every respect compared to the real seventh book once it came out.  But I knew those characters so well that I was able to crawl inside them and write a story that was still true to them and their world.  For the first time, I felt a bone-deep connection to a character.

At the time, I told my family that if I ever came up with my own characters who spoke to me so clearly to watch out.  The writing bug had bitten me.  Hard.

Fast forward a year or so and my characters finally visited me.  My worlds formed in my head.  My muse started talking to me.  Now he never shuts up.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I suspect I’m not the only one to have been inspired by J.K. Rowling to start writing.  Millions of virtual trees have been used for Harry Potter fan fiction alone, much less for those who grew beyond that.

So as I sat in the darkened theater and watched the end credits of the final movie scroll by, that’s when I really started bawling.  Yes, we still have Pottermore to look forward to, but that’s not nearly as big as the movies, which weren’t as big as the books.  This last movie signaled “the end” to me in bright letters crawling up a 70 foot screen.

The tears stopped only when something new lit inside me: the desire to find, to read, or maybe, just maybe, to write the “next” Harry Potter.

We all have that moment when we were bitten by the writing bug, but something more keeps us going when the words aren’t flowing, when a harsh critique leaves us doubting ourselves, or when another rejection lands in our mailbox.  Something inspires us to continue to write.

I’m a writer today because of J.K. Rowling and her world of Harry Potter.  Do I think my stories can compete with hers?  *snort*  Uh, no.  But I think my efforts can honor the contribution she made to literature and to my life.  I think my stories can affect others on some level.  So in that small way, I can continue what she started.

What gave you the writing bug?  What inspires you to continue to write even when things get difficult?  Have you ever written fan fiction (stories about someone else’s characters)?  Do you want the answer to one of the #PotterChat blog hop scavenger hunt questions?  Hee. (His silver arm, page 470, Chapter 23 – Malfoy Manor)

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Comments — What do you think?

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Ava Jae

I would say if any one person inspired me to write, it’d be Ted Dekker since I was devouring his books when I picked up the pen (or sat at the keyboard, as it was).

I think most of us felt the same way when the credits rolled–that something immense had just ended and couldn’t properly be replaced. I know I did (although I’m seeing the movie again this week, so it doesn’t feel completely over to me just quite yet.

So now what? Well, there’s writing, of course. There’s reading (The Hunger Games, Divergent and Shatter Me all have some really great movie potential) and I did hear a little online rumor that J.K. Rowling has more in store for us…just not Harry Potter.

Still, anything else by J.K. Rowling sounds great to me. 🙂

Susan Sipal

What a beautiful story, Jami. You are indeed a powerful storyteller and I firmly believe your stories are going to captivate many hearts and minds as well! Your voice comes through so strongly in this blog.

I was writing before I discovered Harry Potter, but JKR definitely inspired me into new directions with my writing. I’ve learned so much from being enchanted by her characters and studying her craft. It’s amazing how the power of Story can touch so many lives.

Maryanne Fantalis

For me, it was “A Wrinkle In Time” which I read in the summer between second and third grade on the recommendation of my beloved second grade teacher. I still own the paperback copy I bought then. I was completely blown away by it — truly altered by that book. Not only did it open up a world for me in which I wanted to live (and I did return to the world of that series again and again, trying to put myself inside it) but it made me see for the first time that you could do this for a living. That you could create and write things and someone would print them and people would buy them. Fan fiction was the first full-length, ambitious stuff I wrote (or rewrote) with my then-best friend — the first Star Wars movie, the entire BattleStar Galactica TV series. (I still have the BG script. It’s a HOOT!) When I coach my kids or other young writers about creative writing, I often advise them to try it, because what better place to start? You already love the stories, you know the characters, and the plots are all laid out for you. All you have to do is change one or two things… at first. It is the safest and easiest way to begin. Wow, Jami. I’m a LOT older than you. 🙂 (And how could you try to avoid Shakespeare?! He is the MAN!)


This was such a heartfelt post! Honestly I don’t have one book that got me started on the writing path. I wrote here and there I’n high school but nothing fiction. I missed writing, and ideas just kept coming. When u started writing, I just loved ALL if it. Then I realized I didn’t know anything and was prob terrible. I started researching and learning. I read potter because I watched one or two movies and needed to know what the buzz was about: her talent!

J. A. Paul

I can’t believe you got in trouble in school over Shakespeare! Until you said it was about your stories. Then I was like, oh, OK, that sounds more like Jami. Didn’t figure you for a spitballer.

Believe it or not Loius L’amour got me thinking about writing my own stories but it was my kids who pushed mover the edge – probably because of all the reading and story telling I did/do with them.

Lisa Gail Green

Beautifully said! It’s funny, I had a different experience. I read all seven books in two weeks time. I had resisted for a long time. And I was so blown away by the absolute complete world that JKR created that it put my writing career on hold for like 6 months! LOL. But then I realized that I didn’t have to BE her, I could aspire to be my best.

Gene Lempp

It’s great to finally get to hear your story, Jami. What a shame that other people turned you off writing for so long. My oldest daughter wrote a similar piece that ended up winning in a contest, but on the way to that, I had to go through a meeting with a principal and school councilor to explain that she wasn’t suicidal. Some people are just too tightly wound, makes me wonder who really needs help.

Great post!

Lyn Midnight

Jami.. YOU have inspired me today. 🙂

I have always said that I started writing because of Harry Potter. I wrote fan fiction on a few sites and found amazing writer friend there. But honestly, before Harry Potter/high school I had never written a story longer than a page or one that had a plotline, lol.

And then Harry came and poof, I started writing, and I’ve been writing ever since, so like you… my love affair with the books is two-fold, I fell for the series as a reader and a writer. But I also fell for Rowling’s storytelling genius. Like Ava, I would read anything she throws my way because like you said, Harry lived to those high expectations, and that doesn’t happen very often.

Wonderfully inspiring post! And I love what you said about writing the next Harry Potter book. I think we all have that dream and we cherish it, like something bright to look forward to in our lives, and that’s the biggest gift Rowling could have given us all. 🙂

Michelle Roberts
Michelle Roberts

What got me started writing? Tolkien–and C.S. Lewis. My mom had me read the Narnia series and The Hobbit when I was in 8th grade. My first story was very, very Tolkienish! 🙂 That one story was all it took, though. I was bitten by the fantasy bug and the writing bug and I’ve been writing ever since. Hopefully my current work in progress will someday make it to the bookstore shelves.

Kiki Hamilton

Harry Potter was the single catalyst that made me start writing! I talk a little about it on my post tomorrow, but that is TOTALLY the reason I became a writer and stuck to it.

Nicole Basaraba

J.K. Rowling inspired me too! I started reading her books when I was just a kid. I remember that my mom bought the books from my younger brother and I thought I would give them a try even though they seemed like “boy books” at the time. After reading them, I wished I could write like Rowling one day.

I didn’t start my WIP until March of this year, but I did start and I plan on finishing within one year as I’ve set that goal for myself.

I also wrote a blog post at the end of June of J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter:

Ben Reeder

For me, it was two writers who inspired me to return to writing. JK Rowling inspired the idea for setting, what I call “the world next door”, but it was Jim Butcher who gave me the confidence that my voice had an audience.

Roxanne Skelly
Roxanne Skelly

What inspires me to write?
Hmm. Writing is cheaper than Thorazine as far as getting the voices out of my head.

Well, for my first book, I cut a few pages in half and shoved them in a typewriter (dating myself here) when I was in early elementary school. Bound with staples.

Then, in junior high, my english teachers decided they didn’t like me because I was very into science and math. They convinced me that I was no good, and turned me off of writing for quite some time.

Didn’t stop my storytelling. We had a movie camera, and I did a few films. And I took some video production in college. And I read bunches.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I picked up writing as my outlet for storytelling, and while I plod along, I’m making stories. Happy happy.

These days, hey, people tell me my writing is pretty good. We’ll let the market make the final decision when I finally publish, though.

Stacy Green

What a great story, Jami. The Potter books have a soft spot for me because I read the first five in December of 2005 while I was counting down the days until my daughter was born. I was reading Order of The Phoenix when I went into labor.

Like you, the last movie hit every emotional note I wanted and then some. It exceeded my expectations, which were pretty high. I’m still slogging through some withdrawal as I can’t believe there aren’t any more films to look forward to, but not as bad as when I finished reading the 7th book. That was a painful high to come down off of.

As for who inspired me to write, I’d have to say Anne Rice. I don’t write paranormal, but I was always blown away by the world she created, and her characters. I loved how her sentences flowed together, and I’ve read her books over and over.

Great post!

Sonia Lal

I don’t think any one particular book got me writing. In gradeschool, I rewrote the endings for stories whose endings I didn’t like. But it wasn’t until tenth grade I decided I wanted to be a writer.

Tahlia Newland

What set me off was Garth Nix’s, ‘Sabriel’. I’d had the idea for a novel for a while but I wasn’t sure how to write it – style, POV etc. When I read Sabriel I knew how to approach it. I too wrote like crazy after reading it.

J. M. Dow
J. M. Dow

Good lordie, my wife started crying the minute the Warner Brothers logo came up in the theater. I had the fortitude to hold out until the first actual shot of the movie.

What gave me the writing bug, though? It was actually several years before Harry Potter came out. Good old R.L. Stine’s books enchanted me with a world of spooky, spinetingling tales where anything could happen and you always had to be careful for what you wished for. Of course, I wrote a series of books called “Ultimate Goosebumps.” It was actually before I saw the TV series of the same name. Then I wrote…*gulp*…Dragonball Z fan-fiction. *Hides head in shame.*

Sarah Pearson

When I was younger I wanted to be Judy Blume. A few years later I wanted to write a book like Judith Krantz. Good grief, that must have been three decades ago!

Deri Ross
Deri Ross

I have wanted to write stories for as long as I can remember. When I was about five or six, I spent the summer reading the big three E.B. White books– Charlotte’s Web, The Trumpet of the Swan, and Stuart Little — over and over again. Right after that, we moved to a new house and I found a little blue, plastic typewriter in a closet. I don’t know if it was a toy or what, but it worked, and I typed out a story about a little lost lion.
Another thing that boosted my desire to write was my dad would read books like the The Hobbit to me, and I’d go to sleep with tons of new creatures dancing through my head. I don’t know why I never considered writing more seriously.
I actually have a MS that I wrote years and years ago (like early 90’s) but never did anything with. I only recently got into Harry Potter and read all the entire series two summers ago, right before #6 came out in theaters. My old MS is kinda along the same lines as HP (not exactly, and no where near as good, obviously) so I’d never publish it, but it was nice to know that some of my ideas had some merit. I think that really made me feel that I had some talent to cultivate and take writing seriously.


I actually did a post on my blog not too long ago about the moment I identify as part of my inspiration to write, but I’ve always had the writing bug, ever since I was a little girl of four writing in my little, pink notebooks.

But I know what you mean. My identifying mark had a lot to do with Roald Dahl and his amazing books, mostly The BFG, but also Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, and several others.

Thanks for sharing your inspiration with us! I really found it inspiring myself. My hope has always been that I could inspire someone else to write and read just as Roald Dahl did me and my friend. Have a great day and happy writing!

Julie Musil

Jami, that is such a cool story! I wonder if JKR has any idea of the impact she’s had not only on readers, but on writers. Amazing.

PW Creighton

Watching the final film it really did set in that it was ‘the end.’ Ten years of the books and movies and this series that has pushed the world has come to a close. There’s a huge vacuum and it’s a bit depressing. At the same time it makes you wonder what’s next? What can replace that influence? My original inspiration was my garbled muse telling me I wanted to experience a specific story with specific characters. After a year of trolling bookstores it occurred to me that the only way I was going to read that story was if I wrote it. So I started writing.


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