Harry and Hermione, Sittin’ in a Tree?

When I first heard that J. K. Rowling had second thoughts in regard to the Ron/Hermione relationship (every time I opened my ISP, a link to the story was provided), I felt the burn of frustration. And just before Valentine’s Day, too! I refused to read any article on the subject at first. You see, I had wanted Harry and Hermione to wind up together when I read the series. (I have nothing against Ginny Weasley or Ron.) But I got over my thoughts of Harry and Hermione K-I-S-S-I-N-G. And now that the series is a done deal, to learn of what could have been frustrates me.

emma_watson_with_daniel_radcliffe_wide-wide

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you who they are, but I’ll do it anyway. From left to right, Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger)

Yes, I realize that as the author of her series, J. K. Rowling has every right to do what she wants with her characters—even regret that she did what she did. But this incident reminded me too much of a guy I liked during my senior year in high school who ignored me the whole year (though I tried to get him to notice me when he passed in the halls each day) until the day we cleaned out our lockers. He sidled up to me after saying hi and stood there in expectation that I would throw myself at him now that he was finally declaring himself available. I don’t know what led him to finally take notice, but I was frustrated by that point. “You pay attention to me now?” I wanted to say. “Where were you the whole year?” Too little, too late. At least he signed my yearbook.

Back to Harry, Ron, and Hermione, 479px-J._K._Rowling_2010I finally broke down and read an E! Online article which has this quote:

“I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment. That’s how it was conceived, really,” Rowling, 48, told [Emma] Watson, 23. “For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron.”

Wish fulfillment. I can relate. As far as the romances in the two novels that I’ve worked on in the last couple of years are concerned, I too had second thoughts. I had developed two characters I thought were cool, and therefore worthy of my heroines. Wish fulfillment? Probably. But two of my graduate advisors saw potential in other characters, characters I hadn’t planned to develop beyond the chapter each was in initially. Yeah, I can admit that now. Following their advice called for a paradigm shift.

I balked at the idea at first. With these two would-be love interests, I would have to work extra hard to make the romance plausible, since I barely knew these characters. Hard work—perish the thought!  Like Rowling said, my reasons for choosing these guys had “little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it.” So, I was tempted to ignore my advisors’ advice. I even wrote scenes between the guys I picked and my heroines. And you know what? There was no chemistry. In fact, there was downright hostility every time these characters encountered each other.

“Whoa, whoa whoa!” you’re probably muttering at me through the screen. “Aren’t you using your imagination? You can make these characters have chemistry.” That’s true in theory. However, once I knew what my characters were like, I realized a relationship between the guys I chose at first and my heroines would never have worked. I needed to get my wish fulfillment out of the way (especially since it dated back to guys like those at my high school—the ones that got away) and pay attention to my characters’ desires. I can’t live out my failed romances through them. They have their own lives to live.

St_ Valentine 98

So, I set off in a different direction—that in which my advisors pointed out. First, I needed to convince myself that each suggested relationship would work. Second, I needed to convince a reader. The jury’s still out on whether or not I’ve succeeded.

Are you a plot clinger? Or, as your story evolves, do you toss aside the plot in favor of allowing what you know about the character to decide the outcome?

Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe, and Emma Watson photo from hdwallpapers.in. J. K. Rowling photo from Wikipedia. Heart image from absolute3d.net.

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54 thoughts on “Harry and Hermione, Sittin’ in a Tree?

  1. I am impressed by your high school resoluteness! I bet he picked up on your signals throughout the year, and I can see him left in your wake, in the corridor, floundering in bewilderment.
    Or is that my wish fulfilment?

    • Now that I think about it, we were both shy people who didn’t have much nerve. I didn’t understand why he didn’t make a move. Perhaps it took all of his courage to finally come up to me. But back then, I was crushed, thinking he’d rejected me all that year. I was young and naive. Hindsight of course is 20-20.

  2. I’m usually a plot clinger, mainly because I don’t write romance to choose who ends with who. But, there are times when I let the character flow in the direction of his/her personality. Instead of reacting the way I imagined him/her to react, I test to see how the character would fair doing the opposite. The one with the more believable out come wins.

  3. I’m the opposite; I was always on the Harry/Ginny and Ron/Hermione bandwagons so I was actually really confused when these comments came out. Especially considering that time when JK copped a fair bit of flak from the fandom for calling the Harry/Hermione fans “delusional”. I mean, as you say, an author can regret doing things later, but JKR always seemed to have everything so firmly mapped out in her head, so it surprised me a bit.

    I had great arguments with the characters in my… 2012 NaNo, I think it was, because while I had decided one pairing was going to be end game, another pairing had far more chemistry (possibly confining the two of them to very close quarters and having them snark at one another a lot contributed to that). I think if I ever rework that story I will simply go with the second pairing.

    • Wow. If you go for the second pairing, will that mean a ton of rewriting?
      I love character chemistry. But sadly, I don’t always recognize what characters work together. I have the plot too firmly in mind, which is why like J. K., I have second thoughts later. I’m grateful for advisors and beta readers who help me see reason.

  4. Leave it to you to come up with something so thoughtful out of all the Harry/Hermione/Ron hubbub. It’s so interesting that you ended up having to rethink who the love interests should be based on how your stories and characters were crystalizing as you wrote them, and I love the term “plot clinger!” Now I’ll definitely have to ask myself from time to time: “Does this work, or am I just being a plot clinger” as I’m drafting and revising 🙂

    • Thanks, Laurie. 😀 I can totally hear Amanda say to me, “You’re getting plotty.” And she would be right. I have my plot points that I shoot for like landmarks on a map. And sometimes these destinations don’t work for the character. In fact, I haven’t considered the character at all. I can’t help thinking of the lines used in Return of the King: “The board is set. The pieces are moving.” That’s how I treat my characters. There has to be a support group for plot clingers like me.

  5. I’m finding that romance plotlines are some of the biggest headaches for an author. At least for me. Seems everyone has their favorite couple and sometimes I’m not even sure who is going to end up with what. One thing I have noticed is that many readers don’t look at character chemistry so much as pairing off their favorites. I remember all the debates among my friends for Avatar the Last Airbender. It was all about who Katara would end up with and everyone made good arguments, but it really ignored how the characters clicked.

    • I had my opinions about that too, Charles. I wanted Katara with Zuko, even though the writers established early on Aang’s feelings for her. But my thoughts were surface level. I thought they would be cute together. 😀 Same with my novels. I think that surface-level thinking is what my advisors wanted me to go beyond.

      I’m sure you’ve probably heard opinions about Luke’s relationships! 🙂

      • I didn’t like the Katara/Zuko thing mostly because they solidified Katara/Aang rather quickly. Also, I liked the Mai/Zuko pairing. They seemed to work oddly well and felt rather natural.

        I get a lot of people wanting Luke to end up with Nyx. The problem here is that I’ve written test scenes with that. Every time it feels so wrong and the characters can’t get into it. Nyx and Luke have a great brother/sister chemistry, but going beyond that does damage to their relationship. I guess some characters are destined to only be friends.

      • And I totally get that. The brother/sister vibe is just as important. I’m glad you know that to push their relationship beyond this level feels wrong. THAT’S what’s important.

      • I have to admit that I’m oddly disturbed by the investment some people put into fictional relationships. I know people who are more dedicated to those than their real-life ones.

  6. Okay, I have to ask, what did the guy write in your yearbook, Linda? He miss out, that’s for sure! I think I’m probably more of a plot clinger at the beginning of the story. I loosen up as I go along.

  7. Argh! Now I’m wondering if I’m clinging to the plot I’d imagined in my current WIP. As for Hermione/Harry — I’m with Emily. I liked that Hermione and Harry could be friends. I feel like too many male/female fictional friendships result in romance. As if girls and boys can’t have complicated platonic friendships. As Laurie said above — thanks for bringing deeper thought to the H/H hubub. And thanks for connecting it back to craft.

    • Ooo. I’ll get down to her comment soon. I see your point. The male/female friendship dynamic is worth exploring. And that’s the route I went with the guys I chose initially. I have wonderful male friends, so it can be done. But I can’t help wishing Harry and Hermione had been more than friends. 🙂

      When I read the article, I realized that I had the same second thoughts that J. K. had. As Amanda always pointed out to me, “You’re getting plotty.” That’s my default mode. I forget about character and try to force my characters to move across the board of my story.

  8. I tend to change my outcomes rather than cling to the plot I started with. I usually have the ending in mind when I start writing, but as often as not that ending changes. In one of my YA’s, the romance fell apart because of cultural differences and the two retained a mutual respect for each other even though they didn’t even stay friends. I realized that the grudge they held made both of them look bad, so I had her give him her new phone number in the end. In reality, people do hold grudges, but they don’t always and it’s not a good thing to do so. Maybe I was protecting my characters in a way to have them reconnect in the end, but I also wanted a satisfying experience for the reader as well.

    • Lyn, you brought up an interesting point, which has affected the romance in my novel. They have so much animosity at the beginning. I couldn’t see either of them getting over that much animosity quickly. So I had to tone down some of the romance, even though I naturally gravitate toward that. I like the bit of hope you provide your characters at the end.

  9. My plots are never detailed enough to begin with and I rarely know how a novel’s going to end so I’m one for going with the flow and seeing where my characters take me. I imagine if you’ve worked out a detailed plot and have decided on the relationships your characters are going to have it’s difficult to go off in a completely different direction.

    I think that’s an interesting point about characters having chemistry as I think you as the author have to have chemistry with a character to begin with (and know who they are) before they can spark off another character.

    • Yes. I’m finding that characters have a certain energy. If writing scenes with them are a chore, that’s my cue to either free write scenes with that character or give that character the heave ho. Sometimes, characters need to be cut from stories, especially if they’re not working.

  10. I wish I was more of a plot clinger some times. My stories never turn out even close to how I imagine them in the beginning and I spend way too much time changing my mind then going back and rewriting.

    That being said I am a huge fan of the Ron/Hermoine coupling. I found it believable while reading the stories, and really liked that the leading girl didn’t end up with the hero of the book. I also liked that she was a strong character and chose someone who would be supportive of her (i.e. Ron mentioning the house elves before their first kiss etc.) instead of ending up with Harry who she played a supporting role towards. I could go on forever, but I’m going to stop myself.

    • You raised some good points, Alison. I think that’s also what Laura and Emily were getting at. And I see the point. Did it bother you then that J. K. had second thoughts on their relationship?

      • You know, I don’t have a huge problem with it, but sometimes I do get frustrated with Rowling’s attempts to kind of rewrite the book by talking about her opinions or changes she would have made. The John Green quote “books belong to their readers” comes to mind. If you didn’t put it in the book, then even if you are the author and you created the book, I don’t think the added thoughts are necessary. If that makes sense?

        She should say whatever she wants to whoever she wants, but I just wonder what she is trying to accomplish by saying that.

      • I know what you mean. Second opinions frustrate and confuse fans, especially those who had a desired outcome in mind. I just wish she’d write another book set in the world. I’m not sure how she’d go about it. I’d love a prequel.

      • I wish someone would convince her to do it. She could even write the book for charity if she’s feeling bad about gaining yet another fortune off of it.

  11. Do you still have that yearbook? Isn’t it funny how what happened to us during High School continues to surface into our adulthood? It’s great how you are able to sit back and study your characters and give them such care in creating them. I’m sure that will pay off. 🙂

  12. Ultimately, our chars dictate how our ‘plot’ (loosely defined as outline of story) unfolds… they actualize on the page as they are being written and born on the page.
    All that to say, if the pairing you’re rooting for doesn’t happen, then it’s okay if it ‘feels’ organic in the life of the chars involved…but if it doesn’t, then perhaps the author is whipping the chars into submission to the ‘plot’ at all costs! Just a thought.
    peace

  13. I think one thing that bothers me about this whole discussion is the assumption of inevitability that two of the three of them must get married. I mean, they met at age 12, do they not ever meet anyone in their adult lives? Most of us do not end up marrying someone we met at 12, and that’s okay. There’s no reason they can’t all be friends, or Hermione can’t be a strong single woman. I would, in fact, like to see more of that represented in young people’s literature. This isn’t a Disney princess movie. It doesn’t HAVE to end in a marriage.

  14. Pingback: Links for a Lazy Sunday | Hardcovers and Heroines

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