Inspired by the latest Harry Potter movie hoopla, I decided to visit J.K. Rowling’s official Web site (JKRowling.com). As you can imagine, it did not disappoint! It’s creative and colorful — and just interactive enough to make you feel like an insider instead of a visitor. Needless to say, there’s lots of information about the books and a fun bio. There are also a number of intriguing sections, including one called “Edits.” There, our gal Jo gives us the inside scoop about her struggles with the first chapter of her first book. What? How could this be? Didn’t all of Harry Potter trip skippingly from Jo’s pen or pencil? Far from it, apparently! How very encouraging. Read on!
As Jo readily admits, “There were many different versions of the first chapter of ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ [Note for HP fans: the ‘Sorcerer’s Stone’ in the American version] and the one I finally settled on is not the most popular thing I’ve ever written; lots of people have told me they found it hard work compared to the rest of the book. The trouble with the chapter was (as so often in a Harry Potter book), I had to give a lot of information yet conceal even more.” Hey Jo, I know the feeling! I’ve rewritten the first chapter of my YA novel about eight times now, and I’m still not quite happy with it.
Anyway, in one early version, Jo actually had the arch-villain Voldemort kill both Harry’s mom and dad. She scratched this idea; this event happens “off stage” well before the story begins in the published book. In other drafts, she featured a character called “Pyrites” (fool’s gold) — but Jo totally dumped him, even though he was a colorful character and she was fond of him. And in yet another early version which also fell by the wayside, Jo had the Potters living on a remote island. Hermoine’s father witnesses a huge explosion from the mainland and tries to rescue them. Mmmm…
Great to know isn’t it, that even a supremo storyteller like J.K. Rowling left a whole raft of ideas on the cutting-room floor? Fascinating also to see that she discarded a lot of flashy dramatic openings and settled for something much quieter — and more familiar. The book opens on the street where Harry lives and then dives into his story. Brilliant!