As a new writer, I spend my time rereading my favorite middle-grade novels and dissecting them to see what makes them tick. I just finished doing so with the first Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
I read this to my children years ago. In fact, I’m ashamed to admit, I used the book as a motivator to my oldest daughter to complete household chores. I’d say, if you do this task, I’ll read an extra 10 minutes of Harry Potter tonight. It usually worked.
What I found in this delightful book is how important friendships are to the main character. For this book, the friendship is between Harry, Ron and Hermione, though Hermione doesn’t join in until halfway in the book.
J.K. Rowling uses all three characters to tell her story, though the primary point of view is always Harry. I’m trying to do the same. My story is told almost exclusively through the eyes of my main character, Josey. At her side are her two friends: Eliza and Leighton. Eliza and she have been friends since kindergarten while Leighton is new to Josey’s community. Their friendship starts when Leighton’s mother, May Ellen, moves back to her hometown, Bennett Springs, to start a small business. May Ellen is based on my Aunt Mary Rose.
A few weeks ago, I made a list of seven scenes I still needed to write before I could call this book finished. I’ve crossed off all but two of them. But now I’ve realized that I must develop Josey’s friendships more before I can call this book done. Like Harry Potter, Josey needs her friends. I’ve given her too many problems not to allow her friends. So even though the book isn’t finished, the revisions have already begun.
James Thayer, in his book The Essential Guide to Writing a Novel, tells us that the main character’s sidekick has several important jobs to do. He lists six tasks, but I’ll comment on what I feel is the most important one: entertain the reader. Friendships make for good reading, I might suggest, because they elicit the warm feelings the reader has for his own friends. Thayer uses the example of Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee in “The Lord of the Rings.” I don’t think there is a better example.
A final note on Josey’s friends. I have written separate scenes in which Eliza, Leighton and a third classmate, Ricky Salinas, stand up to the boy that bullies Josey. Why, then, can Josey not do this for herself? Hmmm…
Hands and arms inside the cart, please. Next: why I love children’s books.