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How to make a story that's not too similar to Harry Potter?

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
I like student as a term. It comes from studere, which means to be eager. I liked casting myself as an amateur student (in conscious contrast to "professional student", a common derogatory phrase from my youth) -- one who loves to be eager.
 
I'd say you should stick to terms referring to magic users. It would be too confusing for the reader if you never used words to separate them from others...unless everyone uses magic?
 
Um, speaking as a dyslexic person, thats not how dyslexia works. The fact that we have trouble reading and writing doesn't mean we can't pronounce or write things correctly. Reading and writing just takes more time. So no, that won't work as a concept.
Don't call it dyslexia then - call it anything you like, but give her a challenge.
 

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
This Ted Talk has been going around for a while lately and now seems a good time to bring it out again. I'm not your inspiration, thank you very much

Short answer: Don't want to make another Harry Potter? Don't. The work has so very much to offer that a scarred young wizard is only a drop in the bucket. Check out talks like Ted, blogs like Writing With Color, and The Mighty. Tell the stories that don't often get told. Tell about fierce space waitresses who save the universe. About foretold heroes who aren't very good at the job. Tell stories about complicated, unlikable women, about stable hands who were never chosen for any great feat.

Tell the stories that don't often get told. Tell them with bravery.
 

Mad Swede

Maester
Really? So what exactly is my attitude, given I deliberately avoided the word disability.
As a dyslexic, I wanted to avoid this discussion because it risks getting out of hand really fast.

What you, like most non-disabled people, don't understand is that you (and they) have a series of preconceived ideas and predjudices about what we as disabled people are capable of. That isn't usually deliberate on your and their parts, but for those of us who are disabled it can come across as ignorant and patronising.

When you wrote that the character might be facing expulsion because they couldn't pronounce spells correctly as a result of their dyslexia you implied that we dyslexics can't read, write or speak properly. I hope that wasn't intentional on your part.

By implying (even accidentally) that we dyslexics can't read, write or speak properly you contribute to and amplify the picture of us dyslexics as stupid and incapable of doing things as well as other people. Not to put too fine a point on it, I find that ignorant and offensive. Very offensive. Trust me when I say that I got more than enough of that attitude when I was at school. I don't want to see it in published writing.

So my advice to you and others is never to use a disability in the way you suggested, not in any of your writing.
 

Queshire

Auror
Really? So what exactly is my attitude, given I deliberately avoided the word disability.

Having a disability be just a challenge to toss a characters way like it's a hurdle in a race or a dragon to slay.

Technically not using the word disability doesn't buy you much when you suggest not!dyslexia.
 
Okay, so when you guys have finished judging me, you might note that my original suggestion (in a bit of fun) was about creating a character beyond the usual mainstream tropes. After being called out on dyslexia (which is fine Mad Swede) I then suggested that you give the character any sort of challenging situation that causes accidental carnage. I so specifically avoided the word disability after MS's post.

I very rarely say anything about myself on these forums but FYI, I'm a lawyer who has worked in disability for years, and understand very keenly (and have advocated on) these issues. For what it's worth the zeal of some people wanting only the best outcomes for those who need consideration can come across as unattractive passive aggression sometimes.

This thread was clearly started in a spirit of fun. Can we try to keep it that way?
 
You could write a story that isn't about a chosen one. The character could go to a Dwarven School Of Wizardry, where everyone is short, bearded, and nonhuman.
 
I nominate you to write this.

Write it from a different POV.

Somebody for the love of God write one of these "wizard academy" stories from a teacher's POV. Imagine the teachers' lounge at a wizard academy. Imagine the parent-teacher conferences. Imagine grading homework.

Someone please write about a teacher of sorcery who has to keep getting her idiot students out of trouble. Show me all the conversations involving the word "frankly" when the headmaster discovers one of this teacher's students is The Chosen One and she's like, "hey, that's great, but I have twenty-nine other kids to worry about, so . . ." and all of them make our concepts of "gifted" and "special needs" look like child's play. Someone please write that. I'd buy it.
 

Mad Swede

Maester
Okay, so when you guys have finished judging me, you might note that my original suggestion (in a bit of fun) was about creating a character beyond the usual mainstream tropes. After being called out on dyslexia (which is fine Mad Swede) I then suggested that you give the character any sort of challenging situation that causes accidental carnage. I so specifically avoided the word disability after MS's post.

I very rarely say anything about myself on these forums but FYI, I'm a lawyer who has worked in disability for years, and understand very keenly (and have advocated on) these issues. For what it's worth the zeal of some people wanting only the best outcomes for those who need consideration can come across as unattractive passive aggression sometimes.

This thread was clearly started in a spirit of fun. Can we try to keep it that way?
Right, I'm going to call you out again.

If you're a lawyer who has advocated for and worked on disability issues then you ought to know much better than to joke about other peoples disabilities. It isn't OK, especially not in a public forum this. After all, you wouldn't have joked or suggested something similar on the basis of a persons skin colour or gender. Would you? So why did you think it was OK to joke about someone's disability?
 
Having a disability be just a challenge to toss a characters way like it's a hurdle in a race or a dragon to slay.

Technically not using the word disability doesn't buy you much when you suggest not!dyslexia.
If you're using a real disability, like dyslexia... or dyspraxia, autism, ADD/HD, blindness, deafness... don't make it the challenge the character faces. Make it a part of who they are. Perhaps it gets them discriminated against, but that's not a challenge. That's living with discrimination. The challenge is when they go out and slay the dragon, while having that disability and dealing with the discrimination.

And don't write that disability unless you have personal experience with it. Not just professional experience, PERSONAL experience. As in, you have it yourself or a very close person in your life does. If you're coming at it from any other perspective, you're going to other that character, and by extension, people who share their disability.

Speaking as a person with hidden disabilities. Nothing about us without us.
 
Right, I'm going to call you out again.

If you're a lawyer who has advocated for and worked on disability issues then you ought to know much better than to joke about other peoples disabilities. It isn't OK, especially not in a public forum this. After all, you wouldn't have joked or suggested something similar on the basis of a persons skin colour or gender. Would you? So why did you think it was OK to joke about someone's disability?

Please don't tell me what I ought to know.

As far as I'm concerned, anything can be funny. Anything, as long as it's done with sensibility and style, and with appropriate insight. Personally, I wouldn't write a story about a dyslexic person but I do like to see characters with disability or other challenges represented in fiction. I don't think it happens enough.
 

Devor

Fiery Keeper of the Hat
Moderator
Please stop before I have to close the thread. I recognize that topics can be very personal, but there's a point where a debate serves its usefulness, and a point where it degenerates into something that needlessly harms relationships in the community. It's better to let things go instead of crossing that point.


Don't call it dyslexia then - call it anything you like, but give her a challenge.

There's a series called Upsidedown Magic, where the main characters and several of the others struggle in a special division of the school because their magic is "Upsidedown" and doesn't work the same as everyone else's. I suppose it's similar to the arcs you often see in these inspiring disability stories, but it doesn't correlate to any specific real world condition.

As for the Ted talk, I think it's easy to forget that the literature kind of takes a necessary path of evolution. Those stories were in many ways essential for bringing attention and respect to the needs of the disabled community, and whatever their faults, I do think they warrant a modicum of respect for the intentions behind them and some of the positive effects they've brought.

~~edit to add,

Upsidedown Magic brings me back to the OP. There are plenty of ways to tell a story about a kid in a magic school that doesn't look like Harry Potter.... to the point, unfortunately, that there's a whole subgenre of magic school storytelling you also might run afoul of.
 
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