Hey JK Rowling, You Should Be Able to Do Whatever the Hell You Want

An Open Letter to JK Rowling

Ron Weasley in Harry Potter | © JK Rowling

Ron Weasley in Harry Potter | © JK Rowling

Dear JK Rowling,

Because you care about your fandom and take time out of your very busy schedule to drop knowledge on us about the Potterverse, I want to send you this very important message: you do whatever the hell you want with your characters.

If that means crushing fan theories on Twitter, you do that. If it means you have one, two, three, or even forty sequels only available to those lucky bastards in London (I’m looking at you, Cursed Child), you do that. And don’t you ever feel like you need to answer to us for your decisions.

Here’s why:

They are YOUR characters: You made them, you made us love them, you know what’s best for them better than we do. If it means that Snape is not a vampire, and a hopeful fan’s daydream of a Twilight and Harry Potter crossover collaboration between you and Stephanie Meyers is forever fractured, too bad, so sad. They were your characters first; you know them infinitely better than we ever will. If it means preserving the Snape that we know and love then please, crush away.

Integrity Thy Name Is Rowling: You have to stick to your guns to keep the Potterverse unmuddled by the vast assortment of insipid, clichéd and shallow tropes that tend to become a part of any franchise after the final pages have been completed. When there is a glut of fan theories and no delineation between what a valid theory is and what are just bad ideas, the end result is a watered-down story. Your books are good because you value quality and unique storytelling above checking off fan-theory boxes. That’s the key difference that makes YOUR work YOURS and other stories simply ordinary. Hold fast, and give your fans what they NEED instead of what they want. Give them the truth.

You Know When to Let Go: You have encouraged people to create and think differently about your characters. You’ve allowed fan theories and fanfiction to flourish under the right conditions, provided they don’t conflict with your characters and with the Potterverse as a whole. That’s more than okay, because you once said you had tons of notebooks filled with ideas that were never published. I know you have a plan, you have a purpose for all that you do, because you are one heck of a creative woman. People love what you write, because you stay true to the creative process without needing to poll the crowd for ideas or validation.

Your Fans Are Lucky To Have You: I don’t know a single popular writer who takes as much time with her fans as you do. You don’t have to explain or respond to anything if you don’t want to. But you do! You interact with them all the time! If people don’t want their questions answered they should not be asking you. Period. You clearly value the rapport you have with your fans and take a lot of personal time to show and explain things about this beautiful world you created for them. If they don’t like the answers, don’t worry about it. You can’t make everyone happy, but you can stay the course and keep producing amazing stuff.

It’s your story first: You’re THE Potter-momma. All things Potter originated with you. You have so many fans who love the universe you created, and sometimes, they forget that you will always love it more because it was yours first! You worked through all the tough bits where you wanted to give up: you filled the plot holes, tied up loose ends, and you were the first to cry when your characters died or were in pain. In those quiet moments when it was just you and the story, you formed a bond that all writers form with their work. As much as fans love the Potterverse, that bond trumps any theory, and as the keeper of that bond, you should always have the final say to keep your work authentic and a part of YOU. It was yours first, and that’s okay.

People often say that once a writer publishes a work, it’s no longer theirs because people are entitled to their own interpretations. That’s like telling a parent that not only does their child belong to the public, he or she is forced to become whatever someone else wants them to be. That’s the quickest formula for us to misinterpret and misunderstand the truly magnificent story you’ve gifted us. So I would like to close by thanking you for taking the time to reorient us. Keep confirming or denying our theories. Keep it real. Keep it you. And keep doing whatever the hell you want. It’s what got you to where you are today. It will be what keeps us coming back for more.

About Therese Ptak (5 Articles)
Therese Ptak got her start writing fanfiction thirteen years ago. With two creative pieces published and a full-length novel in the works, Therese knows how to keep herself busy but can be bribed away from her writing with a glass of port and some chocolate.

3 Comments on Hey JK Rowling, You Should Be Able to Do Whatever the Hell You Want

  1. Rachel Smith Cobleigh // December 12, 2015 at 6:34 am // Reply

    The question of creator voice vs. fan voice is a false dichotomy: it’s not an either/or proposition. A work can be an author’s AND it can belong to all of its fans simultaneously. Anyone should be able to speak out about anything related to the work, and no one should be shut down: not the original creator(s), and not the fans. People cherry-pick their headcanon all the time. If a person wants to stick only to canon and treat the author’s subsequent words as continued canon, they’re free to do so. The point is that although the original creator(s) can always claim first dibs (and should be able to protect their livelihood and brand!), once an idea is out in the world, it’s impossible to stuff it back in the bottle, and you have to live with the consequences of that reality. If a creator doesn’t want anyone to play in their universe, the only practical way to achieve that goal is to not share their universe with the world. Otherwise, all bets are off. The more passionately the fans love the work, the more passionately they’ll engage with it.

    Also, the question of whether a work is original or derivative is entirely separate from the question of whether it is high quality or of dubious quality. There are plenty of brilliant derivative works (most of Shakespeare comes to mind) and likewise plenty of “original” drivel. But really, let’s all be honest: everything created today is a derivative work, based on thousands of years of recorded human storytelling. It’s just a matter of degree and the timing of when our present laws were enacted.

    So I agree with you: nobody should be able to prevent J.K. Rowling from objecting to fan theories. But likewise, nobody should be able to prevent fans from formulating whatever theories come to them, and sharing those theories with the world, in whatever form(s) the fans wish. And nobody should be prevented from objecting to anyone’s objections. 🙂

    You wrote a well-formulated article, thanks!

    • Oh absolutely! Fans can absolutely make and hold to all the fan theories they want and if they’re happy with having those theories unconfirmed by the author then more power to them. But if they ask Rowling to confirm or deny them on Twitter and she does what they ask…people shouldn’t get so bummed out about it.This is a response piece so it’s aimed squarely at the the stuff going on with Rowling’s social media with Rowling’s answering or squashing of fan theories which have been sending tweeters into a tizzy lately.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Well stated. As a writer of several books myself (and I’m by no means anywhere near the status of Rowling) I couldn’t agree more.

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