Terrible Writing Advice – Chapter 9: MAGIC SCHOOLS

While you are waiting for your letter from Hogwarts to come in, take a moment and watch a video that shows you how not to run a magic school.

My Honest Thoughts on Magic Schools

I had my share of bullies in high school, but there was one in particular who I had to deal with the most. The poor guy had a rough home life, a huge inferiority complex, and was horribly impulsive. I hated him when I was in high school. After high school I would occasionally keep track of him through the local paper’s arrest reports. This is the part where I should say “serves him right!”, but all I feel now (now that I’m older with more experience and perspective) is sadness. He had been dealt a crappy hand and was not able to rise above it. He never needed to be put in his place because he started at the bottom and stayed there. Society is not kind to people with poor impulse control and an inability to take even a single perceived slight without starting a brawl. Sometimes bullies go on to become CEOs or succeed in other highly successful careers. But a lot just go to prison or end up abusing their families, perpetuating the cycle of violence for another generation. My main point about all of this is that it is a real shame that more authors don’t go deeper into the psychology of bullies and handle this subject with more respect rather than using bullies as cheap strawmen to work out their own pent up resentment over their rough school years.
I suppose I am not one to talk. I added a bully character to the first Aeon Legion book. Vand wasn’t exactly a character brimming with nuance and deep characterization. He only lasts for like three chapters before the academy kicks him out for his sociopathy. The reason I did add Vand though was to show that a bully as terrible as him would not last long in an institution with high standards and values. Bullies either adapt or are crushed.
One of the strangest things I have experienced (and that very few books ever touch on) is meeting a bully years later only to find that they have actually become decent person. Like I said, bullies adapt or are crushed. Some of them adapt by getting over whatever insecurity they suffered from or gain the experience and perspective to move on. I sometimes wonder if the artificial bubble of schools is what creates some of these bullies in the first place. It is similar to how captive wolves treat each other compared to wild wolf packs. Turns out if you lock a bunch of young stupid people in a tight space and restrict their freedom they get rather cranky. Imagine that.
I guess I should also address the other elephant in the room. Yes, Harry Potter is good. It does commit a few of the sins on my list, but it balances them out well enough for those flaws to not detract from the work as a whole. Even the book’s bully character, Draco, was nuanced enough (especially in the later books) to spawn a massive glut of fanfics that swoon over him. However, Harry Potter is the exception to the rule and I feel like many of its copies miss the point. Inspired works have a bad habit of copying components without understanding why those components work in the first place. The character of Harry Potter himself is not awesome because he killed the dark lord when he was just an infant, turns out to be really good at wizard football, is already a celebrity, inherited his family’s wealth, and has a great destiny ahead of him. Harry Potter is a compelling character because even though he gets everything he could possibly want, he doesn’t get the one thing he wants most. He would happily trade in his fame and fortune if he could have his family back. He is defined not by what he has, but by what he lost and can never get back.