So after a long overdue I finally read the epic Harry Potter series. Though I have always been a huge fan of the franchise, I thought that the movies had done enough justice to the story and I did not really feel the need to read the novels, especially now that I know what exactly is going to happen in each of the books. But my interest in the book waxed due to an intriguing claim by most “Potterheads” I met. One of the consistent eulogies for the series is that J.K.Rowling has created the whole magical world so beautifully and explained it in such a way that, “one could almost see everything visually without watching the movie”.
Though I have read a fair amount of books where authors have described places and characters in their book in much detail, sometimes stretching for pages, giving every intricate minutia of the thing possible, yet somehow I have always felt that the detailing has often rather deterred the storyline and led me to lose concentration over the otherwise gripping event happening at that point of the story.
So I was intrigued to see just how exactly is J.K Rowling able to create the charm. Therefore with great curiosity —not only for the story(as I already knew it) but also for the manner of storytelling— I picked up the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. And my expectations were duly satiated.
It is patent that the Harry Potter series is a masterpiece. And it’s only fair to say that it does indeed manage to create a whole new magical world mysteriously well, so much so that which any reader can connect and visualize almost with certainty. But I theorize that the reason for this is not the extremely detailed description of things but rather the lack of it!
To explain my case, let me talk about another, rather unrelated movie- Inception.
To the uninitiated, the movie is basically a science fiction heist thriller(at least that’s how Wikipedia describes it). But what is unusual about the movie is that the heists take place in the victim’s dream, who is himself in a dream of an “architect” , who builds the dream in his own dream ( Okay, this can go on forever..)
The “architect” here has a very important role. As the main protagonist, Dom (played by Leonardo di Caprio) very accurately explains the architect Ariadne (Ellen Page)— ” You are the dreamer; you’ll build the place, and the subject’s mind would then populate it”
It indeed is an incredible power that our subconscious possesses. Our mind does not need every detail in order to visualize a subject. The brain can use what little information it is provided and is capable of building the rest of the missing pieces by itself! This, in turn, makes the visualization more “real”.
Consider a simple description:- “The boy lived in a neighbourhood lined with similar looking bungalows, with triangular red-roofs and a grey chimney.”
Though it is a very simple example with hardly any description, but as soon as one reads the sentence and the main pointers in it( bungalow with triangular roof and chimney), one’s mind will subconsciously form a picture of a scene similar to the description, and fill the rest of the details by itself( like the weather, the sky, the roads etc.). These details are again modified automatically in our imagination just as the author gives some more information about them.
Hence, when we are told that Hogwarts is a grand castle with many towers, the reader automatically imagines a basic castle with many towers. The rest of the details are filled by the brain by itself temporarily. Then again when Rowling tells us about the marble staircase, the brain edits that part of the imaginative castle immediately. The magical backdrop of the story further helps as the mind is open for imagining just about anything, and hence when Rowling describes the magical roof of the main hall which depicted the weather outside, it magically fits in the visualization!
And just as Dom from ‘Inception’ points out, the role of the architect is of utmost importance. The architect has to carefully build the bases of the dreams and then let the subject fill it by its subconscious. J.K Rowling plays the role of a consummate architect and leaves just enough indication on the canvas of imagination, to let the readers connect the dot and fill it in with Magic!