July 13, 2011

make characters matter

I am a big Harry Potter fan. I love the books, I love the movies, and I am excited to see the final installment in the saga tomorrow night.

Not only will the content itself probably bring me to tears, but watching these characters on screen for the last time will take it to another level. It will be like saying good-bye to old friends. I know I can pick up one of the books or watch one of the films any time I want, but it won't be the same. I'll never have that budding excitement and anticipation associated with this franchise.

I started reading the books when I was the same age as Harry. It was summer 1998 and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was newly arrived in the U.S. I devoured it and each of the next books in the series.

I even stood in line at my college book store to get Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I stayed up all night and through the next day to read so I could review it for my college paper's Monday issue.

Seeing the finale will be emotional. I explained this to my 11-year-old nephew who is just getting into the franchise and will go to the screening with me. Trying to comfort me, he assured me that I didn't need to cry, because it "wasn't real" and they were "just characters."

On one level my nephew is correct. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Snape, Dumbledore, Draco and the rest of the cast are fictional characters and only exist in our imaginations. But when you love characters as much as I, and millions of other fans, do, they take on deeper meaning. They're old friends.

That is how you know you have good characters. If you are sorry to see them go at the end of the book, and your imagination takes them on more adventures that are never published, you know you have succeeded.

It's a challenge I now extend to myself and all of you other writers. Create characters that matter and who people will give life every time they turn a page.

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