• Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us!

Help! its Professor McGonagall and she won't go away!

I'm currently writing a short story about several young students in an adventuring school, and I wanted to have a stricter teacher, similar to Professor McGonagall. However, I'm already taking a huge amount of inspiration from the Harry Potter series, and to have a McGonagall like character would be overkill, it would make the whole thing seem like fanfiction rather than its own world. however, no matter what kind of character I create in my mind's eye, I find myself with something very different from the kind of character i want, or it's exactly Professor McGonagall. I need help finding a set of quirks to make a teacher still seem strict-yet-kind, but also to not be Professor McGonagall.
personally, I’d ask yourself why you’re drawn to a character like Professor McGonegall? What does a character like that offer your story in particular? What do they specialise in? How did they get to be a scholar in the first place? What’s their back story?

JK Rowling based Hogwarts on British public schools, and in most real life scholarly institutions you usually have teachers who fit into a few familiar categories, from very strict to not strict at all, and some that will be in that strict but kind category. All teachers have different methods, some are more radical than others, so what does your character want to get out of their pupils?

Does your character need to be female? Or white? Or any other familiar traits to the JK Rowling character?


Keep the McGonagall inspirations, but pick another character you like and try to weave in traits from them you like. Imagine one that's half Sherlock Holmes; able to see through a student's shenanigan's at a glance.


Article Team
IMHO, dive in you who your teacher character is. What do they want and why? Who do they love and why? Who do they hate and why?

To me there are three things that help show the dimensions of who your characters are. Show what do they do for work. (You got that covered) Show what do they do for play and why. Show what's it like for them at home? These things can reveal a lot about who your character is beyond the archetype they fit into.

You can the follow up with some specific things like what's their history? What made them want to be a teacher? Once you answer and understand these things about your character they start to become their own thing.


Myth Weaver
I thought I had answered this one...

Is McGonagall all that different from all the other depictions of stern schoolmarm types? I suspect that you could your character straight from her example, and just be in good company with many others. I also suspect that if you start writing her, she will start to deviate and become her own character before long. And when that happens, just go fix the earlier part. As a neat trick, maybe have her look to McGonagall as an idol ;)
I agree with pmmg . Professor McGonagall in Harry Potter is not so much a real character as she is a character archetype. The strict teacher who gives the hero crap but secretly has a soft spot for him and helps him out is a very common trope. There is nothing wrong with simply copying it.

What's more, she's very much a side character. We know pretty much nothing about her other than what I've described above. For Harry Potter this works fine. We see the story from the viewpoint of a kid. A teacher is just a teacher, not a real person. Just consider how much you really know about teachers you've had. This means that any type of interests you put into your character will make her different from Professor McGonagall.