Using J.K. Rowling’s Plotting Chart
There is no doubt that JK Rowling is a master of plot. The Harry Potter books introduce elements in the very first page that become important by the end of the book and that goes for the series as well. Innocuous little elements that you don’t even register consciously become majorly important in later books. So, how do you keep all of these things straight? One of the tools that JK Rowling used when plotting the Harry Potter books was a series chart or plotting chart. She actually released one that she used for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which you can find here. We’ll be discussing why this chart works so well in this article.
The first thing you will notice as you open Rowling’s chart is that all of her major subplots are listed as the columns of the chart. The calm that she reserved for plot simply describes the action that is happening, but she also keeps track of other elements of plot – her subplots – like what is happening between Harry and Prof. Snape, the love triangle between Harry, Cho Chang and Ginny Weasley and plot points like Hagrid and Grawp.
Another thing that is really useful that rolling uses in her plot charts is a list of the time period when the events are happening. This makes sense because they take place over a normal school term at Hogwarts. However, even if you do not necessarily use time the same way that Rowling does, keeping track of when you’re plot events are taking place could be very useful especially when it comes to things like describing the weather or showing the time has passed.
You will notice, if you have read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, that this plot chart does not follow the actual plot exactly. That’s another important lesson to keep in mind here. Just because you write it down in your plot chart does not necessarily mean that you need to stick to it. In fact, having a plot chart like this can give you more confidence when it comes to allowing your characters take a detour. Characters can often have a mind of their own, and letting them go their own way sometimes works out very well for the story. If you have a chart like this, then you can always bring them back on track.
The bottom line is that while some writers like to write by the seat of their pants without any plot whatsoever, and others like to plan out everything in great detail far in advance, there is a way to do both by finding middle ground between these two extremes. You can create a loose plot and then allow your characters the freedom to move around through your story. There is no doubt that a chart like this can be useful in that regard. There can also be no doubt that JK Rowling has been able to use this device to become the most successful children’s author ever.