John C. Wright (johncwright) wrote,
John C. Wright

Potter and Cupid

I am a True Fan of Harry Potter of spotless credentials, and yet I have noticed the awkwardness, nay, the total leftfooted-thumbfingeredness of JK Rawlings' romantic subplots.

It is hard to be critical of a series that has sold half-a-duodecillion copies; but even Homer nods.

Don't tell me romance is not for kids books. I have seen better hearts-and-flowers stuff done in the pages of, let us say, Spiderman comics, or during an episode of Kim Possible. Spiderman falling for Kitty Pryde in ULTIMATES was maybe the cutest thing ever.

Don't tell me my standards are too high. I am easy to fool when it comes to romance: even the most flimsy excuse or nod of the head in the direction of the fane of Venus is sufficient to convince me, as a reader, that the characters are in love: you don't need to write GONE WITH THE WIND, for Crom's sake. I am firmly convinced John Carter of Mars and Dejah Thoris are passionately in love.

Don't tell me Rawling did not have time or word-count to spend on the romantic plot. In West Side Story Tony and Maria cross glances at a school dance, exchange ten lines of dialog, exactly ninety words, and they are in love so deeply that they burst into song on the fire escape one scene later. It does not take long.

Tony: You're not thinking I'm someone else?

Maria: I know you are not.

Tony: Or that we've met before?

Maria: I know we have not.

Tony: I felt, I knew something never before was going to happen, had to happen. But this is so much more.

Maria: My hands are cold.

Maria: Yours too.

Maria: So warm.

Tony: So beautiful.

Maria: Beautiful.

Tony: It's so much to believe. You're not making a joke?

Maria: I have not yet learned how to joke that way. I think now I never will

The scene where Mr. Potter is allegedly interested in Miss Chang is flat and uninteresting. The reader no reason to believe, or even to suspect, that he is really taken with Ginny (whom the author has taken no  time to show us why she is charming); by straining I can barely imagine an interest between Ron and Hermione, but only because bickering is a typical prologue to warmer emotion.

I am not saying I can do it any better: the romances in my books need work, God knows. But at least I try. I have a formula simple enough that even I can use it. Whether I can successfully put it across to the reader or not, your humble author always makes up two things for any romance or potential romance: I make up what they like about each other or have in common, and I make up what the dislike about each other or do not have in common. My craftiness as a writer might succeed or might fail, depending on how generously the reader is willing to suspend his disbelief, but if anyone quizzed me, I could at least tell him what I was trying (at least) to put across. I could tell someone what Daphne admired (and disliked) in Phaethon, what Wendy means to Raven, or even what Pendrake means to Titania, or why Amelia cannot decide between Victor and Colin. I don't get the feeling J.K. Rowling is even trying.

The learned and insightful Fabio Paolo Barbieri directs his diamond-hard and diamond-clear intellect against this same puzzlement. He is as puzzled as I am, or, rather, he is convinced the writing, no matter how good in other areas, is bad here.

(Needless to say, this post is not REALLY a post, because I am only posting a link. It has the accidents of a post, but not the essence of a post: merely the form and matter of a post, but not the substance.)
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