Tag Archives: exposition

Observations from Reading the Harry Potter Series

Early this morning I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and so finished reading the entire seven-book Harry Potter series. I’ve read them all before, of course, but I wanted to do it one shot. It took about a month.

A few observations from reading the whole series at once:

Exposition Mania
It’s amazing how J.K. Rowling loves the exposition. Without fail every book in the series has a climactic moment that comes to a grinding halt while we bring on the exposition:

  • Sorcerer’s Stone – Quirrell explains everything to a stalling Harry Potter.
  • Chamber of Secrets – Tom Riddle stops to fill Harry in on everything instead of just calling the basilisk and getting it over with.
  • Prisoner of Azkaban – Sirius and Lupin have to recount the whole story of animangi and werewolves.
  • Goblet of Fire – Pick your expository moment! Voldemort tells Harry exactly how he came back, Fake Moody reveals exactly how he got away with it, or Dumbledore gets the full story from Harry (Harry sitting in Dumbledore’s office as exposition happens repeatedly).
  • Order of the Phoenix – A lengthy bit of post-climax exposition where Dumbledore explains everything to a raging Harry.
  • Half-Blood Prince – Since Malfoy can’t kill Dumbledore himself, he might as well do some exposition. While the climax is fairly exposition free, most of the rest of the book feels like cleverly disguised exposition.
  • Deathly Hallows – Another pick your expository moment! It could be Dumbledore’s brother before Harry, Ron and Hermione return to Hogwarts, or the entire chapter of Snape’s memories, or the psuedo-heaven sequence with Dumbledore (among others). This book could be divided neatly between daring action scenes, the three main characters arguing/plotting/camping, and exposition).

I’m not saying all this exposition is bad. These stories clearly need to fill in the details so you can know what’s happening. And for the most part, Rowling does that fairly creatively (though by the end I think the pensieve was cheating). I just think it’s amazing that she continually saved all the exposition for the end. After a while it starts to feel like you’re being strung along because you know all the pieces won’t come together until the very end.

Don’t get me wrong—I like exposition. I think most of the novels I’ve written have been exposition. I just don’t like it when the action grinds to a halt so we can fill in the missing pieces. I think it’s lazy.

Continue reading Observations from Reading the Harry Potter Series