I’d forgotten how enriching the words of J.K. Rowling could be until the recent surge of interest in her new Pottermore website led me, inadvertently, to a commencement speech she gave three years ago at Harvard. As I listened to that speech, I came to understand far better why the scope of good and evil in her Harry Potter series rang so true…and why the ultimate victory at the end of each book of good over evil was so empowering to me as a reader. If you haven’t yet heard her speech, here it is:
Posts Tagged ‘J.K. Rowling’
Another function of dialogue in fiction is to help set the scene. This can involve actual description within the dialogue tags, or it can mean setting the tone or feeling of the scene through dialogue.
J.K. Rowling does the first well in “Harry Potter.” For example, in this scene from “The Prisoner of Azkaban,” in which Harry begins the dialogue:
“What’s happened?” he [Harry] asked Ron and Hermione, who were sitting in two of the best chairs by the fireside and completing some star charts for Astronomy.
“First Hogsmeade weekend,” said Ron, pointing at a notice that had appeared on the battered old bulletin board. “End of October. Halloween.”
“Excellent,” said Fred, who had followed Harry through the portrait hole.
Even if you’d never seen the movies, you could begin to imagine the Gryffindor Common Room through these few exchanges of dialogue, in which brief snatches of the setting have been given.
As for setting the tone of the scene, consider this example from Carol Lynch Williams’s “The Chosen One,” in which one of the elders of the polygamous community has just arrived:
“Two things,” he says before any of us says a word, holding up his fingers to prove it. “I’m here for two things.”
I think I’ve stopped breathing, but I listen.
“Number one. Sister Kyra. I would like to have you over to dinner. A date so we can get to know each other better. Tomorrow evening.”
He doesn’t even wait for me to answer. A date?
“And number two, where is the baby from last night?”
Father stands now, loosening his arm from around my shoulders. “Mariah?” Father says.
“Screaming like that,” Uncle Hyrum says. “And in front of the Prophet. It was too much, Richard. Too much.”
“She’s not even a year old,” Mother Sarah says.
Uncle Hyrum looks at my mother like he could slap her. “Don’t speak, Sister Sarah, unless I’ve spoken to you first.”