Monday, February 27, 2012

Can Your Story Spawn A Theme Park?

As I mentioned last week, my family went to Harry Potter World recently, and I'm still thinking about how excited my kids were to walk through Hogsmeade and Hogwarts castle. Some writerly reactions:

So, first there is a healthy jealousy. Besides loving the books, I'm deeply in awe of J.K. Rowlings' vision. Harry's world resonated with her readers so much that they had to build a theme park to fill their need to be there. That's crazy, right? And it has such wide appeal that kids and adults alike are excited to go get a mug of butterbeer. I know that many of the images were from the movies, so there's a second layer of creative talent adding to Rowling's descriptions, but isn't it amazing that she put all of this is motion with some words on paper? Words are powerful. Writing is an act of creation.  Crazy awesome.

Look at the giant pumpkins!
Think about how many unique details there are in these stories.
I want someone to count and tell me how many there are.
 Maybe I'll bribe a kidlet to do just that...

My kids loved it- the snow on the roofs, the Three broomsticks, the Every Flavored Beans, the wands with their type of wood and core and many details (and so much merchandise!) Not all stories will lend themselves to souvenirs, but the second point is that Rowling is an amazing worldbuilder. She obviously spent a lot of effort thinking about the world, about the personality of the wizarding world, its quirks and benefits and drawbacks. And it's so funny: Mr. Weasley with his Muggle obsession and Hagrid's parasol-wand and Dumbledore's charming habit of loving the simple things, like lemondrops.

We watched Harry Potter 1 as a family before going (my younger 2 hadn't seen it yet, and they still haven't seen the "scary" parts, since we're not interested in them sleeping in our bed because of nightmares) and Nathan was explaining that "Diagon Alley" is a pun on diagonally, and I had never realized it. Maybe I shouldn't admit that in public. I had never stopped on that word long enough to think about it. Rowling did. She thought about every detail, probably many times over.

In a recent rejection letter, the agent told me that "I like the alternating perspectives between 'our world' and 'theirs.' However, I couldn't help wishing that the world-building had been just a bit more developed, so the reader could really picture the world."

That took me by surprise. I thought I had done that, but I realized I hadn't pushed the descriptions of the "other world" far enough. It wasn't all that different from a really nice garden in this world. And then I had a big idea, something that everyone could see themselves a part of, something that I'd love to live myself. It feels right, so I made some notes so I won't forget.

I'm working on my next story now and not planning to do anymore edits on Ways To Fall because sometimes you just have to move on. But I may write that agent and ask if she'd be interested in seeing a revision, and if she is, I'll write it gladly because I want it one step closer to being real.  

How do you know that you've developed the world enough? Any suggestions to share?
Happy writing!


  1. I think that's a really good way to imagine it: if you could build a theme park around it, your world building is going well. This will definitely help me take a deeper look at my world. thanks!

  2. Wow, that is an interesting comment by that agent. Everything is so subjective, but I'd say, if you are inspired by it, go for it! (But focus on your new project, too, of course.) :)

    I'm not an amazing world builder, but I do admire writers who are. It is incredible how JK Rowling's words sparked all the frenzy around this series. Very inspiring!

  3. Hey Jeigh- It's a pretty high bar, right? I don't think a beautiful, well-developed world will necessarily result in a theme park, though:)

    Amy- I found it interesting, too. It took me a few weeks to get it. Not saying I like it as a reason for rejection- I think it probably meant something more like she couldn't lose herself in the world, never felt transported, which is a broader issue. I mean, if you loved a character and a story and everything else is great, don't change it, but the world description was a little light, would that really be enough to reject on? I don't *think* so, but who knows?

  4. Hi Kelly! I'm new here and happy to be your 100th follower!

    You're so lucky that you had the chance to visit the Harry Potter theme park. I've been dying to go ever since it opened. You're right; there is a TON of world-building in those books. I'm not the best at world-building myself, so I can't really give any tips. But J.K. truly is exceptional.