Learn how to use happy moments to balance out the horrible things you put your characters through
by @dramaticllama Nightshade ***Big thank you for this brilliant blog!****
When you think about it, J.K Rowling’s fangirl-worthy series “Harry Potter” is actually pretty dark. Just for a moment, let’s reminisce about all the freaky masked Death Eaters, dementors, and ENORMOUS SPIDERS (nobody can blame Ron for being scared of those). Then you get into all the parts with good ol’ Voldemort and reanimated dead bodies pulling people underwater and things get even freakier. However, despite all the horribly serious stuff that’s an integral part of Harry Potter, the series still has a light-hearted, whimsical feel that enchants even the most stubborn reader.
So, anecdote over with, I’m going to show you seven ways you can take a dark story that’s pretty much just terror after tragedy, and turn it into a balanced tale where the sweet moments are emphasized by the awful ones, and the bad bits seem worse in contrast to the nice ones.
Don’t be afraid of complex characters
“Real” people aren’t moody, grim, or threatening all the time, and your characters shouldn’t be either. For example, Draco Malfoy may have been a jerk and deserving of his temporary ferret form most of the time, but he still had fun with his friends, was too weak to kill Dumbledore, and suffered with his family. He had his flaws, and your characters should have theirs too. Not only does it open the door for lighter scenes, it also makes your characters easier to relate and connect to, which is ultimately what makes readers care what happens to them in the first place.
Friends are your friends
Even in the hardest of times, your character can always go hang out with that friend (or family member, if they have some of those) that never fails to makes them smile. I’m not saying your character has to be insanely popular, but hopefully there’s someone they can vent to. For example, even though they fight sometimes, Harry can always turn to Ron and Hermione to help him out and cheer him up. After all, what are friends for?
Readers love romance
You have to admit that the whole Cho and Harry situation was pretty sweet (awkward, yes, but sweet). The Order of the Phoenix was a great time for it too. Harry kissing Cho in the Room of Requirement and then going and laughing about it with Hermione and Ron (in the movie) was a beautiful reprieve from all that yelling and anger. Maybe if the hard, angry side of your character is all that the readers are seeing it’s time to reveal a new layer.
Pretend people need to let loose too
Sometimes a person just needs to step away from all the stress and crap that life (or the author dictating their life) throws at them. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One, there’s a scene where Harry and Hermione dance. It wasn’t in the book, but it was still a lovely moment where, amidst all their suffering with Ron gone and a nearly indestructible locket to destroy, they just break down and have fun for once. Your characters need a break. I know it’s fun to rip apart their friendships and put them in puzzling dilemmas, but come on. They deserve a break every now and then.
It doesn’t have to rain all the time
The mood of your story is very important, and weather seems to be a huge factor when it comes to mood, so choose wisely. In Goblet of Fire, Mad-Eye Moody (actually Barty Crouch Jr.) first enters Hogwarts in the middle of an intense thunderstorm (Side note: who else screamed when they saw David Tennant in Harry Potter for the first time?). Same when Dementors visit Privet Drive in Order of the Phoenix. To contrast, when Harry, Ron, and Hermione leave Hogwarts, it’s usually pretty nice out. Use the weather (and the mood) in your story to your advantage. It can help to help give the reader the feeling you want them to have, or it can create irony, if you want to go there.
That character doesn’t have to die
Trust me, I know how fun it can be to brutally murder your characters. But really, think about it first. Every death in Harry Potter was significant and/or touching. Dumbledore, Snape, Dobby, George, Harry (well, sort of)... Every one of these characters’ deaths were built up to and meaningful. Even the people Voldemort killed just for the heck of it told us about him as a character. Avoid the senseless violence and give everything a purpose. The lack of fun will be paid for in the amount of readers who care, I promise.
Weave in some subplots
It’ll be easier to do some of the things listed above if more things happen than the strict plot line of your story. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, not only Voldemort regain his power, but Harry also completed the Triwizard Tournament, met people from Durmstrang Institute and Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, went to the Yule ball, etc. This will also lengthen your story, maybe even to a full novel.
I know how easy it could be for you to ignore everything I just said and go write a story about a possessed chick who kills everyone in her path and just goes around slaughtering people for a few thousand words before she eventually explodes, but, as Dumbledore says, “We all must face the choice between what is right and what is easy,” and that includes you. So maybe give the possessed girl a chance. She might surprise you and turn into an interesting, sadistic sociopath comparable to Umbridge.
What do you think are the best moments in Harry Potter? What do your characters do when you overwhelm them? Share in the comments!