One of the decisions I had to make when writing Hogwarts and the New Headmaster was the choice of voice. When I first started this project ten years ago, I scarcely knew what voice was, let alone what mine sounded like. It wasn't until I had written off and on for a year or two before I discovered my voice. It was then that I made the decision to try and match Rowling’s voice to the best of my ability, partly because I had discovered my natural voice was similar to that of Rowling’s (although not nearly as polished) and partly because fanfiction doesn’t feel real to me if doesn’t sound as if the original author wrote it.
Once this initial decision was made, however, there were still more questions to answer. For example, Rowling’s style changed noticeably over the course of seven books, and I had to choose which book’s style I should emulate.
Rowling wrote with a distant, at times almost omniscient, point of view. She would often describe things from the narrator’s POV as opposed to Harry’s. She’d tell us things Harry couldn’t know unless he was a mind-reader, she’d hint at future events, and occasionally come right out and say something that was obviously her speaking directly to the reader. I personally had no problem with this. I thought it was one of the more endearing aspects of the Harry Potter books, and from what I understand, the use of a distant voice was the norm for British middle grade books.
As the series progressed, however, she began moving away from this style a little (at her editors’ suggestions?). She still maintained a distant third person POV, but she cut back on the author intrusions. And instead of telling us things Harry couldn’t really know, she resorted to the use of filter words like “seemed” and “appeared” to tell the reader what she wanted them to know.
For example, instead of writing:
Firenze turned his head very slowly to face Dean, who realized at once that he had said something very offensive.”
which suggests Harry must have read Dean’s mind in order to know what he had realized, she would now write: “
Firenze turned his head very slowly to face Dean, who seemed to realize at once that he had said something very offensive.”
The addition of “seemed to” makes it sound more like Harry’s guess as opposed to actual knowledge. It wasn’t a perfect solution—“seemed” and “appeared” began popping up everywhere in her later books—but it did the job.
I eventually chose the fourth book as the style to match. It bridged the gap between her earlier middle grade style and her later urban fantasy voice. I thought that would be the end of my decision-making, but it wasn’t. While I was in the process of learning about how to write fiction, it seemed every article I came across on POV insisted that today’s readers wanted a close POV. The closer the better. Distant POV was so last millennium, they said. They even went so far as to say that the Harry Potter books, if released today, wouldn’t do nearly as well.
I never quite believed that. As I’ve already said, I thought her storyteller voice was one of the charms of her books. But after hearing the same advice spouted over and over again, I began to believe it. And over time, I began moving Hogwarts and the New Headmaster toward a closer POV, assuming that’s what the readers would want.
Now I’m not so sure.
My critique partners and I have debated the question of whether I should stay with Rowling’s distant style or tighten it up for today’s audiences. I don’t think we’ve come to a firm answer yet, but I find myself leaning toward the conclusion that readers who enjoy reading Harry Potter fan fiction might prefer the original distant POV.
So what do you think? Should I stay with the distant POV of Rowling or shift it to close POV for today's readers?
BTW, the second chapter of Hogwarts and the New Headmaster is now up on Wattpad.