20 Years of Harry Potter, 20 Quotes by JK Rowling

J.K. Rowling
(Photo by Dan Hallman/Invision/AP)

1. “Writing for me is a kind of compulsion, so I don’t think anyone could have made me do it, or prevented me from doing it.”

2. “I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

3. “You have to resign yourself to the fact that you waste a lot of trees before you write anything you really like, and that’s just the way it is. It’s like learning an instrument, you’ve got to be prepared for hitting wrong notes occasionally, or quite a lot, cause I wrote an awful lot before I wrote anything I was really happy with.”

4. “I think writing about the time in Hermione’s life that I write about – growing from childhood into womanhood, literally, I think it brought back to me how very difficult it is. So much is expected of you as you become a woman, and often you are asked to sacrifice parts of you in becoming a girl, I would say. Hermione doesn’t.”

5. “There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”

6. “I think that perhaps if I had had to slow down the ideas so that I could capture them on paper I might have stifled some of them.”

7. “I’ve been writing since I was six. It is a compulsion, so I can’t really say where the desire came from; I’ve always had it. My breakthrough with the first book came through persistence, because a lot of publishers turned it down!”

(Click the image) for 19 more of J.K.Rowling's quotes on writing

8. “Yes, it has made me happier. Finishing them has made me happier. Before I wrote the Potter books, I’d never finished a novel. I came close to finishing two.”

9. “Very early on in writing the series, I remember a female journalist saying to me that Mrs Weasley, ‘Well, you know, she’s just a mother.’ And I was absolutely incensed by that comment. Now, I consider myself to be a feminist, and I’d always wanted to show that just because a woman has made a choice, a free choice to say, ‘Well, I’m going to raise my family and that’s going to be my choice. I may go back to a career, I may have a career part time, but that’s my choice.’ Doesn’t mean that that’s all she can do. And as we proved there in that little battle, Molly Weasley comes out and proves herself the equal of any warrior on that battlefield.”

10. “I always advise children who ask me for tips on being a writer to read as much as they possibly can. Jane Austen gave a young friend the same advice, so I’m in good company there.”

11. (talking about her characters and scenes) “I imagine them very clearly and then attempt to describe what I can see. Sometimes I draw them for my own amusement.”

12.I can write anywhere. I made up the names of the characters on a sick bag while I was on an airplane. I told this to a group of kids and a boy said, “Ah, no, that’s disgusting.” And I said, “Well, I hadn’t used the sick bag.””3

13. “I just write what I wanted to write. I write what amuses me. It’s totally for myself. I never in my wildest dreams expected this popularity.

14. “During the first five years that I was writing the series, I made plans and wrote small pieces of all the books. I concentrate on one book at a time, though occasionally I will get an idea for a future book and scribble it down for future reference.”

Click the image for 19 more of JK Rowling's quotes on writing

15. “I write nearly every day. Some days I write for ten or eleven hours. Other days I might only write for three hours. It really depends on how fast the ideas are coming.”

16. “Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have “essential” and “long overdue” meetings on those days. The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance. I must therefore guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg.

17. “I’ve only suffered writer’s block badly once, and that was during the writing of Chamber of Secrets. I had my first burst of publicity about the first book and it paralysed me. I was scared the second book wouldn’t measure up, but I got through it!”

18. “I didn’t write with a target audience in mind. What excited me was how much I would enjoy writing about Harry. I never thought about writing for children — children’s books chose me. I think if it is a good book anyone will read it.”

19. “Read a lot. Reading really helps. Read anything you can get your hands on.”

“20 years ago today a world that I had lived in alone was suddenly open to others. It’s been wonderful. Thank you.

Next: George R.R. Martin’s 20 Quotes on Writing

see also:

Bukowski on Writing

George Orwell on Writing

Stephen King on Writing

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Andrei Tarkovsky’s 20 Quotes on Film

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1. “The film [Stalker] needs to be slower and duller at the start so that the viewers who walked into the wrong theater have time to leave before the main action starts.”

2. “I am only interested in the views of two people: one is called Bresson and one called Bergman.”

3. “The completion of Ivan’s Childhood marked the end of one cycle of my life, and of a process that I saw as a kind of self-determination. It was made up of study at the Institute of Cinematography, work on a short film for my diploma, and then eight months’ work on my first feature film. I could now assess the experience of Ivan’s Childhood, accept the need to work out clearly, albeit temporarily, my own position in the aesthetics of cinema, and set myself problems which might be solved in the course of making my next film: in all of this I saw a pledge of my advance onto new ground. The work could all have been done in my head.”

4. “It is obvious that art cannot teach anyone anything, since in four thousand years humanity has learnt nothing at all. We should long ago have become angels had we been capable of paying attention to the experience of art, and allowing ourselves to be changed in accordance with the ideals it expresses. Art only has the capacity, through shock and catharsis, to make the human soul receptive to good. It’s ridiculous to imagine that people can be taught to be good…Art can only give food – a jolt – the occasion – for psychical experience.”

5. “…art must must carry man’s craving for the ideal, must be an expression of his reaching out towards it; that art must give man hope and faith. And the more hopeless the world in the artist’s version, the more clearly perhaps must we see the ideal that stands in opposition – otherwise life becomes impossible! Art symbolises the meaning of our existence.”

6. “Of course people don’t learn from experience; today’s directors constantly use styles of performance that belong patently to the past. Even Larisa Shepitko’s The Ascent is marred for me by her determination to be expressive and significant: the result is that her ‘parable’ has meaning only on one level. As so often happens, her effort to ‘stir’ the audience makes for an exaggerated emphasis on her characters’ emotions. It is as if she were afraid of not being understood, and had made her characters walk on invisible buskins. Even the lighting is calculated to instill the performances with meaning. Unfortunately the effect is stilted and false. In order to oblige the audience to sympathize with the characters, the actors have been made to demonstrate their suffering. Everything is more painful, more tortured, than in real life – even the torment and the pain; and above all, more portentous.”

7. “Never try to convey your idea to the audience – it is a thankless and senseless task. Show them life, and they’ll find within themselves the means to assess and appreciate it.”

8. “What can it mean to them when they have not shared with the author the misery and joy of bringing an image into being?”

9. The poet has nothing to be proud of. He is not master of the situation, but a servant. Creative work is his only possible form of existence, and his every work is like a deed he has no power to annul. For him to be aware that the sequence of such deeds is due and ripe, that it lies in the very nature of things, he has to have faith in the idea; for only faith interlocks the system of images for which read system of life.”

10. “In world cinema there have been many attempts to create a new concept in film, always with the general aim of bringing it closer to life, to factual truth. Hence pictures like Cassavetes’ Shadows, Shirley Clarke’s The Connection, Jean Rouch’s Chronicle of a Summer. These notable films are marked, apart from anything else, by a lack of commitment; complete and unconditional factual truth is not consistently pursued.”

Click the image for 20Tarkovsky's quotes on Film

11. “We can express our feelings regarding the world around us either by poetic or by descriptive means. I prefer to express myself metaphorically. Let me stress: metaphorically, not symbolically. A symbol contains within itself a definite meaning, certain intellectual formula, while metaphor is an image. An image possessing the same distinguishing features as the world it represents. An image — as opposed to a symbol — is indefinite in meaning. One cannot speak of the infinite world by applying tools that are definite and finite. We can analyse the formula that constitutes a symbol, while metaphor is a being-within-itself, it’s a monomial. It falls apart at any attempt of touching it.”

12. “Substitution . . . the infinite cannot be made into matter, but it is possible to create an illusion of the infinite: the image.”

13. “What can one say, for instance, about the way Antonioni works with his actors in L’Avventura? Or Orson Welles in Citizen Kane? All we are aware of is the unique conviction of the character. But this is a qualitatively different, screen conviction, the principles of which are not those that make acting expressive in a theatrical sense.”

14. “What is art? (…) Like a declaration of love: the consciousness of our dependence on each other. A confession. An unconscious act that none the less reflects the true meaning of life—love and sacrifice.”

15. “The director’s task is to recreate life, its movement, its contradictions, its dynamic and conflicts. It is his duty to reveal every iota of the truth he has seen, even if not everyone finds that truth acceptable. Of course an artist can lose his way, but even his mistakes are interesting provided they are sincere. For they represent the reality of his inner life, of the peregrinations and struggle into which the external world has thrown him.”

16. “There is one film that could not be further removed from the principle of direct observation, and that is Eisenstein’s  Ivan’s The Terrible. Not only is the whole film a kind of hieroglyphic, it consists of a series of hieroglyphics—major, minor and minute. There is not a single detail that is not permeated with the author’s intent.”

17. “A man writes because he is tormented, because he doubts. He needs to constantly prove to himself and the others that he’s worth something. And if I know for sure that I’m a genius? Why write then? What the hell for?”

18. “In theater actual blood cannot be convincing as a demonstration of poetic truth if it merely has meaning on one level, as a natural function. Blood in cinema, on the other hand, is blood, not a sign, not a symbol of anything else. Therefore when the hero of Wajda’s Ashes and Diamonds is killed surrounded by sheets hanging out to dry, and he presses one of these to his chest as he falls, and his scarlet blood spreads across the white linen to make a red and white symbol of the Polish flag, the resulting image is more literary than cinematic, even though it is extraordinarily powerful emotionally.”

19. “Some sort of pressure must exist; the artist exists because the world is not perfect. Art would be useless if the world were perfect, as man wouldn’t look for harmony but would simply live in it. Art is born out of an ill-designed world.”

20. “Let everything that’s been planned come true.”

see also:

Martin Scorcese’s 20 Quotes on Film

Stanley Kubrick’s 20 Quotes on Film

Sidney Lumet’s 20 Quotes on Film

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Django is NOT The Hero Black People Deserve

Django is NOT The Hero Black People Deserve

There was a lot of talk about the excessive use of violence and the n-word in Django. The criticism is personally hard for me to get. As a non-American, it’s hard to understand the powerful connotation of the word. I know the context, I know some of the facts, but the concept of eliminating a word from your vocabulary, except for a chosen few – black people and Louie CK – is hard to understand. There’s just a single comparison that arises: most of the times I hear the n-word (not nigger by the way, but actually the n-word), it takes me back 10 years, back to when I was reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for the first time; sitting in the Hogwarts Express, watching people shivering and twitching, adjusting in their seats, and contorting their faces at the mention of a word, “Harry, it’s He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”

Despite the fact the horror for a particular word feels alien to me, I can understand it. It’s associated with a dark period in America’s history. It’s both synonym of pain and oppression for African-Americans, and shame and guilt for white people. Even understanding its power, if I had a problem with the word, I don’t think I’d have a problem with its use in Django; historical accuracy should be enough to make it a non-issue.

Tarantino explained it:

“Personally, I find [the criticism] ridiculous. Because it would be one thing if people are out there saying, “You use it much more excessively in this movie than it was used in 1858 in Mississippi.” Well, nobody’s saying that. And if you’re not Continue reading “Django is NOT The Hero Black People Deserve”

Farnsworth Says: Anaphora

Farnsworth says [click for GIF]

Read the previous post with the Introduction

Martin Luther King wanted to see his nation rise up and “live out the true meaning of its creed.” He wanted the descendants of slaves and slave owners to sit down as equals ending “the heat of oppression”, transforming it into an “oasis of freedom and justice.” He wanted little black boys and black girls to hold hands with little white boys and white girls. He didn’t want to force them or anything, he just wanted to let them do it, if they wanted to. He also wanted some Biblish thing.

People listened to his speech and were inspired by it. The “I have a dream speech” remains inspiring to this day. Martin Luther King had a dream, and he wasn’t afraid to say it. In fact, he said it eight times, always at the beginning of his sentences. Returning to the same sentence, he empowered it, lending it a hammering effect, an involving rhythm, making it more likely to be remembered. It worked.

This is called an anaphora, Farnsworth says: “it occurs when the speaker repeats the same words at the start of successive sentences or clauses.” They can be used differently for several purposes. I’ll enunciate and give the best examples:

1. Repetition of the subject with changes in the verb: the auxiliary verb is repeated while the main verb changes (produces a sense of inexorability).

“But the ordeal sharp or long, or both, we shall seek no terms, we shall tolerate no parley: we may show mercy – we shall ask for none.” Churchill, London Radio broadcast (1940)

“He’s too delightful. If he’ll only not spoil it! But they always will; they always do; they always have.” James, The Ambassadors (1903)

2. Repetition of the subject with different complements, as applying more than one modifier to the same person or thing.

“I shall lay this siege in form, Elvira; I am angry; I am indignant; I am truculently inclined; but I thank my Maker I have still a sense of fun.” (to highlight the contrast between negation and affirmation) Stevenson, New Arabian Nights (1882)

I was in mortal terror of the young man who wanted my heart and Continue reading “Farnsworth Says: Anaphora”

5 Issues With Today’s Blockbusters

Blockbuster, now you see me, wwz, world war z, poster, new on dvd

In the past years some blockbusters had an exponential increase in IQ. The people behind some of them have actually started treating the audiences as people who know the meaning of the word exponential. Nolan’s Batman and Inception, The Avengers, Iron Men (the plural of Iron Man I, II and III). Even last year’s action flicks Dredd and The Raid: Redemption, despite their brainless action, managed to treat audiences as educated members of society, who simply wanted to watch people’s brains spluttered on walls. It’s not completely my fault that I expected too much from WWZ. I was just spoiled.

Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof, J. Michael Straczynski and Matthew Michael Carnahan. These were the four writers of WWZ. Five if you count Max Brooks, the writer of the novel (amazingly narrated). But I don’t know why you’d do that; as it’s been repeated to exhaustion, the movie took only three words from the novel: World War Z.

Its first scene made me look into these four men’s biographies. To my surprise, none had worked in advertising. The way they tried to cram so much information in the first sentences seemed more appropriate in a commercial than in a feature film. It should be the example used in lesson number one of screenwriting classes, under the title:

Common Pitfalls of Character Development.

Instead of an organic way to develop the background story of Brad Pitt’s character, the writers decided to make his kids ask him what they felt the audience needed to know. They chose that exact morning breakfast to have a conversation that would demonstrate all of our hero’s backstory. Show, don’t tell, was a rule completely ignored throughout the movie:

“Brad, we need you ‘cause of that thing that you did in that place.”

“Brad, he’s the leading figure of that thing with the thing we need the most right now.”

“Brad, you are 5’10’’, with blond hair and dreamy grey blue eyes.”

Yes, we can see that. Stop treating the audience like a bunch of brainless zombies! Write some intelligent and Continue reading “5 Issues With Today’s Blockbusters”