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Why was Harry Potter such a successful book?

Rook

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I would say it gleaned such a large following due to the fact that it was magicky but still based within our time, with innocent children scampering about solving mysteries and such.

So, in essence, a lord of the rings lite for the modern consumer.

I think I read one of them once, suffice it to say I blissfully forgot what it was all about.
 

Haim

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It have a great world,you can feel the world/characters and you want to know more about it.
That what I think that make a good art.
Also other things that make it a quality book.
 

redbaron

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Because it's written terribly, so people with terrible command of the English language can relate to it.
 

BatY

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Because it's written terribly, so people with terrible command of the English language can relate to it.
oi m8 wut u written eh? me fantasy bird Rowling got stacks fat stacks of evidence on u m8. u never think do u. literati is a bugatti wull eh m8 any 1st rate or even 52nd rate PROLIFIC authah know not to start a sentence with a bloody 'because'. pls
 

Minuend

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Some people enjoy the idea of actually being a special snowflake wizard who's whisked away to some fantasy world.

Some people like that kind of magic world/ system with weird spells, items and animals

I guess I could elaborate as to reasons why on the above, but...

Harry Potter stories/ mysteries are good for teenagers, I think. I saw a movie or two many years ago and were surprised there was actually like a plot twist. I guess the stories are simple enough for a vast majority to keep track, but at the same time have mysteries/ plot twists that will be difficult to predict for most? It's been like 6 years since I saw a movie, and probably over a decade since I read the first book as a school assignment. So I can't remember in detail how they pan out.

The characters are very relatable for a lot of teenagers as well, I think. And some adults. And a lot of the side characters are interesting for a lot of people. They are quirky, but not too weird for people to not get.

Since there wasn't too many fantasy movies produced on a large scale before (?), fantasy fans didn't have much to choose between and were more likely to give it a chance, perhaps.

If there was a magic system and world that I was fascinated by. If I found the characters interesting/ relatable. If the mysteries were exciting. That's a series I'd be a fan of too.
 

onesteptwostep

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It's probably because the school system picked it up as the series was being written.

I remember reading the second book, (Chamber of Secrets), when I was in grade five.

And it usually is the case that famous series-based books from Britain become global because of English's worldwide cultural and linguistic hegemony. E.g. the Narnia chronicles, Lord of the Rings, and so on. Douglas Adam's books were somewhat of a classic too, though his atheism probably mired his book's potential. Series' from America on the other hand only seem to cater to the American urbanized.
 

Sinny91

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Because it's written terribly, so people with terrible command of the English language can relate to it.
The books were primarily children's books, and increased in reading difficultly as the original readership grew. I thought that was cool.

As a side note, there is a conspiracy theory regarding the authorship of the book floating around, I've not looked into it yet. Here's a note to self.

The Snape plot was a cool twist. And the universe created as a whole is rather genius. It's a shame she owns the rights, the universe has many more stories to be told.
 

Architect

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There isn't a single reason. These things are usually attractive for several reasons, but then become popular enough that they become a "Pilgrims Progress" - i.e. everybody has to read it because everybody else is. That was the case for me, I didn't especially like the stories but caught up in the mania and did read the early ones at least.

Otherwise the reasons given above suffice; the writing was simple and crude enough to appeal to everybody. The story was appealing, etc.
 

Seteleechete

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And the universe created as a whole is rather genius. It's a shame she owns the rights, the universe has many more stories to be told.
Did you miss the 1 million+ fanfictions about it? I do agree with you though the HP universe works wonderfully for creating new stories in it. The biggest reason I love naruto/hp is because of how open ended the universes are in that regard.

Want to write about assassins/ninjas of any kind of genre? Here is a setting on a silver platter(naruto). Modern day hidden mage society(HP, type moon). Classic fantasy setting(DnD). Space exploration(mass effect). Space war(warhammer 40k, halo).

Ect... it's easier to write when you have something to start from and after you have taken the daunting step of starting amazing works can be made. Of course using someone else's work is a cheap way out but not an ineffective one.
 

Sinny91

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Yea, like there's tons of fanfics, but it really bugs me to see so much wasted potential, (hark! Lol). If only some of those fanfics were given the professional polish the deserve...

I'd like to see the Chronicles of Dumbledore haha.
 

Seteleechete

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Would professional polish really make them better(besides spelling which I am personally never bothered by)?

I like how these authors are not constrained by the opinions of some editors and can write whatever they like without considering what's appropriate or publishable.
 

Sinny91

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Meh, I like to see a finished and polished book.
 

Jennywocky

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Not a lot more to add. The kid/teen market on the thing was insane; it was just highly relatable/identifiable to oneself in that demographic, and once it hit critical mass, as noted, everyone had to read it because everyone else was. The characters are also appealing; only one of my kids was into it, but you can tell when he talks that there are characters he loves and characters he despises. Like any memorable fiction, the characters feel real to the devotees.

I've only read the first two (although i'm trying to read through it all). I've seen all the movies, which obviously dropped some of the detail but some of which were quite excellent and/or had excellent parts.

For being marketed in bulk to teens, it becomes more and more profound as the series unfolds. I really like all the Voldemort stuff, as there were no real attempts to dumb him down; he does some pretty terrible stuff. (The guy's a lich, by RPG definition!) I was shocked to see some of the stuff that was done in a teen book, like Voldemort getting resummoned in Goblet of Fire... that sequence is pretty badass. There's other decent scenes as well. I really like the very last movie; it might be marketed at teens, but... a lot of the themes and events there are very adult and profoundly handled (including the Snape bit). Explorations of loneliness, longing, mortality, responsibility, devotion, friendship, etc.

But still, I'm not exactly sure why the first book took off the way it did.
 

Alias

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And the universe created as a whole is rather genius. It's a shame she owns the rights, the universe has many more stories to be told.
Don't worry, JK's making pretty much all of the new Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie. And she's put out a ton of extra information on the internet.
 

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The reason is magic, of course!

I'd like to see why it's terribly written, aside from the fact that it's a children's book series. I fins it really cool how small details fit into the plot way later on. And the series grows up with the reader. The characters are usually great, like Snape and Dumbledore, and even if they're the character that makes everyone hate them (Bellatrix Lestrange, Umbridge), it's because they're so well written/acted. Also it has good life lessons for any age.

Of course, it's not for everyone I respect anyone who doesn't want to read the series. However, I dislike when people immediately dismiss them.
 

Sixup

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It's probably got a lot to do with marketing. I'd bet.
 

Pizzabeak

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Perhaps initially the tale of a lowly handmaiden performing a rags to riches feat enthralled citizens of any nation. The story made us all feel special as we related to Harry and his cohorts. There was something god awfully endearing and amusing about his going to school in an enchanting fantasy land. Part of it was timing. I believe they came out around the same time as the LotR films. They were a bit lighter and less grim (although they got darker later on). I believe there was some illusion that they didn't require as heavy an investment as other things and so people were willing to acquiesce. It was amusing to see a new, original storyworld and to see if it would hold up or fail miserably. They promised a saga and we all waited for its conclusion. Part of it must have been its world. Soon after many imitators attempted to cash in on the hopeful book-to-movie adaptation deal (remember those god awful Eragon tales) but nothing was ever the same. I am not sure why, ultimately. I wish I knew. I've known people who weren't into reading who became enchanted by the HP tales, as such. Personally, it is what got me back into reading actually. During the summer (~5th grade) we would just do random stuff, I guess. We made fun of our sister for reading HP and called it stupid. One day Ma forced me to read HP and I threw a fit because I didn't want to. She said I couldn't leave until I made it to chapter three. I sat for probably an hour protesting until relenting and trying to get it over with. Before I knew it I was actually past chapter three and fucking hooked. I didn't want to stop. I was like, 'Whoa'. Before that, I was into books from the exposure gained at school (~2nd grade). Somewhere along the line I just didn't devote that much time to recreational reading (Dragon Ball Z, video games;etc) until that. So, I don't know. I think it was something the family could enjoy.
I read up until Order of the Phoenix but then just decided to watch the movies (by the time our sister finished the next book the movie was out and I didn't really feel like reading it before the movie came out). The first three movies were the best, I think. Goblet of Fire was a fun read but the movie kind of sucked. Was slightly disappointed by the Prisoner of Azkaban movie but I liked the book. Hm, maybe I should finish the book series actually. Yeah, yeah. They're fun.
 

TheManBeyond

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- because harry was forsaken and powerful
- because the ambience was pretty
- because music was damn good
- because nerdy kids were having trouble to morally deal with american pie series and its soundtrack and self steem issues and potterland was their way of escape.
 

The Grey Man

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It have a great world,you can feel the world/characters and you want to know more about it.
That what I think that make a good art.
Also other things that make it a quality book.
I must be indifferent to your art then, because I don't accept the virtual "world" as an end, but a means to covey the message, when we speak of art. Art to me is the execution of the artist's exegetical intent by any means. I'm critical of art by this definition, too, because it strikes me as commentary on the real world or philosophy that "filters" itself to be aesthetically pleasing to people; the intent is exegetical only because the artist's thoughts on the objects concerned are communicated indirectly and reconstructed by the audience (the process of filtration). I don't need to be reminded that I'm capable of pleasure as I explore the objects that art discusses. I don't need a filter. I like directness. Art has its place as a distraction that is pleasurable and/or points the way to philosophical trains of thought.
 

Pyropyro

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... And the universe created as a whole is rather genius. It's a shame she owns the rights, the universe has many more stories to be told.
You can use Public Domain "universes" such as the lore and mechanics found in the System Reference Document to make similar stories.
 

Peripheral Visionary

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Why is Harry Potter successful?

A combination of tried and true fictional formulae-

Extensive Universe Formula- Fictional stories set in expansively imagined alternative realities tend to draw in readers. The greater the amount of detail, the more readers can become "lost" in visiting that universe (e.g., Star Trek, Star Wars, Dune, Hunger Games, Twilight, etc,) This especially works when you set up a premise that calls for a suspension of disbelief (for example- you can fly if you believe you can fly) but also establishes rules and limitations that the fantastic premise must operate within (for example- flying requires belief--but also magic pixie dust).

Special Snowflake Forumula- A story in which a previously isolated, possibly shunned loner/outsider who lives a mundane or humdrum life is revealed to have special qualities that have previously gone unrecognized. (e.g. Harry is the son of powerful wizards, Luke Skywalker is the son of the infamous Anakin Skywalker, Neo is the "One").

This is an especially appealing situation to lonely, shy, unpopular nerds who feel persecuted because of their poor social skills and solitary habits. We could all become Batman if we just got off our asses and started studying and working out, but how much better to discover one day that the innate qualities will manifest without getting off the sofa?

Combine the above with Cross Demographic Appeal. The prose style was simplistic enough to be grasped by adolescents, but complex and dark enough to also to hold the interest of parents who read to their children. If you make the task of reading to your kids a pleasure instead of a chore, then you can make millions in sales as well.

PV
 

Solitaire U.

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Heh, simplistic prose combined with bad ass marketing topped off by awesome dust jacket artwork = bestseller.
 

redbaron

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WHERE THE FUCK HAVE YOU BEEN?
 

Hadoblado

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I read so much harry potter. I had nothing else to do. I read the first three over 10 times each while waiting for the fourth. I read the last four only 1-2 times each though, as I had more to entertain myself by that time.

Never liked the movies, but that's always the case when you read the books first.

I think people here have given some good explanations. The world building in particular (even though the world is terribly inconsistent). Harry acts as a medium for our exploration of the magic world. He's got some talents, but he's pretty average in general, appealing to a large demographic of people who don't stand out except for the few times that they do which are far more prominent in their minds.

Rowling is a good communicator, and was also thinking really far ahead. As with having an extensive world, she had a lot of the arc mapped out, and this helps avoid tropes. For instance, while Harry was pretty obviously chosen-one.trope, Neville Longbottom fulfills all the criteria for the prophecy as well, and he's the one that manages to destroy the final Horcrux (or w/e they're called). She also melded genres very well, mixing high fantasy with detective elements. I had more to say on this but find myself fogging out. I'll finish with another plug for Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky, who's some famous AI dude who happens to push out high quality educational fan fiction.
 

Haim

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I must be indifferent to your art then, because I don't accept the virtual "world" as an end, but a means to covey the message, when we speak of art. Art to me is the execution of the artist's exegetical intent by any means. I'm critical of art by this definition, too, because it strikes me as commentary on the real world or philosophy that "filters" itself to be aesthetically pleasing to people; the intent is exegetical only because the artist's thoughts on the objects concerned are communicated indirectly and reconstructed by the audience (the process of filtration). I don't need to be reminded that I'm capable of pleasure as I explore the objects that art discusses. I don't need a filter. I like directness. Art has its place as a distraction that is pleasurable and/or points the way to philosophical trains of thought.
Before an artist create the physical art itself he has a "vision",the world itself.Now an artist can shove a message in our throats, it's adds spice to the art and helps create it, but the creation itself is the world the characters, the better you can see this world from the artwork window the better the art is.I value art even if it does not have the creator propaganda in it, thank you acidemia and museums.In the end reason of creation is nothing more than a reason, not the thing itself, does it matter why I got up it the morning?what I have done after that is important, sure it can motivate me but the results can be good even if I am not motivated.
For example Naruto has some repeated messages about being different,being bullied and trying to recover friendships, at some point you get sick of over hearing them, you stay for the world.The creator of Naruto really needed to find new reason to create.(duh i don't consider Naruto a masterpiece or anything close to that, just for example sake)

What secret message this smiley has?:storks:
This smiley creator hated to clean his ears or something?:dontbelieve:
 

Cherry Cola

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The books were really good escapism. His Dark Materials is on another level though.

The last Potter book was such a failure, the world had to be artificially shrunk, what looked like it was going to be epic and dramatic turned out to be more of the same thing involving the same people as before because Rowling couldn't be arsed to come up with new characters. Which meant the whole war thing seemed like it took place on a really small scale, that the wizard world wasn't very big at all but rather extremely tiny. An impression she hadnt given hitherto.
 

Happy

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Did you miss the 1 million+ fanfictions about it?
There's only one fan fiction worth reading, and that is Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (HPMOR). I finished that whole 2000+ page goliath, and it was totally worth it. Although, it did get a bit slow for a couple hundred pages.

I found it amusing that any character that was deemed as having poor intellect was just written off (i.e. Ron and Hagrid) and barely mentioned again.

I thought Harry, Hermione, Draco and Quirrell were so much more interesting characters than in Rowling's universe.

That book was written solely for NT types.
 

Happy

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What would you say made reading Methods of Rationality so worth it?
A HP story where Harry is a super genius... How can that not be worth reading?

I find the exact reason for why I enjoyed it to be ineffable at this time. If I manage to articulate it, I'll post back here. I'll try and touch on a few thoughts anyway.

I think the biggest reason I can think of for liking it is just how the author took the precedent universe that Rowling had set and asked questions of it. I'm sure many of us were frustrated by how little the magical world is manipulated in the original books and HPMOR just keeps pushing and prodding it and combining the scientific and magical worlds at every opportunity.

I guess the relationships between Harry/Hermione, Harry/Quirrell and Harry/Draco and how the insights of each support the development of the others were a large part of what kept me turning the pages.

I also liked that the Harry/Voldemort dynamic gradually built up to a clash of great minds - good vs evil. It was almost reminiscent of something like Sherlock vs Moriarty or L vs Light Yagami. And i found the final battle between the two to be so satisfying.

So much of the story was irrelevant, but quite fun nonetheless. Some of it was quite frustratingly padded out though. Particularly the triwizard tournament ripoff. I recall it being called battle magic or something.

Also, I liked that there were no holds barred when dealing with difficult content. A particularly brutal character death is brought to mind. Probably my favourite character death ever.

Side note: Did not appreciate references to rape, or Malfoy's obsession with it. Fortunately, it's abandoned pretty early.
 

Tannhauser

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A lot of "reasons" as to why it was a success are of course being presented, but the real reason is very simple: the popularity of books typically follow a power-law distribution. This means that almost all success is going to be concentrated around a very few writers, just due to randomness. This is also the case, for example, with wealth (and why so many are complaining about the "1%"), popularity of you-tube channels and many other things. These domains have in common that the quantity by which we measure them (money, popularity) is scalable. If you are rich, it is easier to get even more rich. If your book sells very many copies, you are likely to sell even more copies. It is the opposite of the effect typically modeled by the Normal distribution: things like body weight for example. If you weigh 100 kg more than the average human, it is almost impossible for you to get another 100 kg heavier. Now think about what happens if you are $100 million richer than the average person.

So the "reason" why it is so popular is that it just happens to be a part of a power-law domain. It has nothing to do with the quality of the book. There are millions of books like Harry Potter out there, it's just that these ones have not won the lottery of popularity.

This idea is not my own btw, it is taken straight out of a great book called "Black Swan" by Nassim Taleb.
 

Haim

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Luck is in the casino.
What people call luck for successful art are just factors they don't understand, luck can bring you to the field but will not let you stay a good player, JK rowling knew where to research where to explore, that no luck.The luck ended once the first book was published, not any book could have done that and if the book was published today it still would have some success.
 

Tannhauser

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Luck is in the casino.
What people call luck for successful art are just factors they don't understand, luck can bring you to the field but will not let you stay a good player, JK rowling knew where to research where to explore, that no luck.The luck ended once the first book was published, not any book could have done that and if the book was published today it still would have some success.
I'd say you are vastly underestimating the role of chance and randomness, and vastly overestimating your own ability to "explain" things by deterministic causal links.

I am basically paraphrasing the book again, but this is a defect of human thought in general: we love fitting narratives to past events, explaining "why" things happened. Every history class you have been to was an exercise in this defect. Meanwhile, almost all significant events in the past were outliers, completely unpredictable random events.
 

onesteptwostep

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Haim

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I'd say you are vastly underestimating the role of chance and randomness, and vastly overestimating your own ability to "explain" things by deterministic causal links.

I am basically paraphrasing the book again, but this is a defect of human thought in general: we love fitting narratives to past events, explaining "why" things happened. Every history class you have been to was an exercise in this defect. Meanwhile, almost all significant events in the past were outliers, completely unpredictable random events.
Not any event can become huge(in directly visible way), the same events to other book would probable not result in the same way.For example you would not tell your friends about the new bad game that just came out, but you will tell them about a game you really liked.Not to say the if many people like a game then it is good, but something make that game likeable.jk.rowling develop her mind in a way other people did not, that is the skill people regard as "luck", I call it the genius attribute.People even the artisans themselves will tell well I had luck seeing that and this, but not anyway would make such greats ideas from these idea seeds, the skill to take an idea seed and make it a great idea is no luck, not anyone* will notice the seed and work on it.
 

Tannhauser

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Not any event can become huge(in directly visible way), the same events to other book would probable not result in the same way.For example you would not tell your friends about the new bad game that just came out, but you will tell them about a game you really liked.Not to say the if many people like a game then it is good, but something make that game likeable.jk.rowling develop her mind in a way other people did not, that is the skill people regard as "luck", I call it the genius attribute.People even the artisans themselves will tell well I had luck seeing that and this, but not anyway would make such greats ideas from these idea seeds, the skill to take an idea seed and make it a great idea is no luck, not anyway will notice the seed and work on it.
The problem with claiming that such extreme successes as JK Rowling was due to skill, is that it is simply at odds with the statistical properties of the way these events manifest themselves in the world. When you think about properties like IQ, skills, physical strength, etc – these properties are always Normally distributed. Popularity contests is a different statistical category altogether, as I have mentioned – the follow power laws. In a domain of power-laws, almost all of the mass of "success" is going to be concentrated around a few individuals. However, there is no inherent property of humans that follows a power-law, so there is a huge mismatch between the distribution of skill and the distribution of success.

Sure, Harry Potter is probably a good book, but ask yourself: is it really 1000x better than some other book that has sold 1/1000 of the copies Harry Potter has sold? There is a vast sea of writers out there who write as least good books as Harry Potter, but they haven't won the lottery of popularity.

Here is a good exposition of the connection between power-laws and popularity contests: link
 

Haim

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Not necessarily that Harry Potter is better overall, but it is better at that it is likable be many people and can make people to recommend the book to other people, not any good book is good at that.
To start "power-laws" and keep it rolling you need to have something, a not that good book even if by luck(advertisement) to start "power-law" would stop gaining power pretty fast.
Of course many people do like shit "art", but even shit "art" need to have something to keep the success, to make that thing you need some skill, not every shit can stick on the wall.
 

Bock

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I believe i was 11 or so when i read the philosopher's stone (in swedish), it completely devoured me. Great worldbuilding and engaging writing, that's my view in hindsight at least. I remember reading various other books at the time but nothing came close. Not that i means much more than that the HP books were fantastic compared to other books aimed at the same age span/demographic available in the stores here.

The books were primarily children's books, and increased in reading difficultly as the original readership grew. I thought that was cool.
This is how i remember it too, both the writing and the themes in the books matured as the sequels came and the characters grew older.
 

TheManBeyond

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Ahh really easy.
Everyone acts normal, passive.
These kids acted abnormal and got their victory.
It enlightens a certain deep hope about becoming active.
But it is just a hope. Not the reality.
So it fits.
 

Cognisant

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I think the first book did the "special snowflake" thing incredibly well, the first few chapters hooked the reader with the promise of a school where magic is taught and kept threatening to take it away. Once Harry boarded the train to Hogwarts all JKR had to do was keep the ball rolling, the reader was hooked on the premise and would continue reading as long as JKR kept telling them about the world of witches and wizards.

Those first 2-3 chapters made the Harry Potter franchise.
 

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Jan 24, 2013
Messages
7,182
Location
...
Kids + Heroical Archetypical story.
 

Serac

A menacing post slithers
Local time
Today, 20:15
Joined
Jun 7, 2017
Messages
2,474
Location
Stockholm
Ya can't talk about what made a winner win without looking at the cemetery of losers. That cemetery just happens to be filled to the brink with stories just like HP. It's randomness, folks.
 

Haim

Worlds creator
Local time
Today, 23:15
Joined
May 26, 2015
Messages
699
Location
Israel
Ya can't talk about what made a winner win without looking at the cemetery of losers. That cemetery just happens to be filled to the brink with stories just like HP. It's randomness, folks.
Even having the same settings, the same archetypes and even story structure does not mean they have the same popularity potential and quality. There are many Shounen anime/manga which basically have the same settings,archetypes and story structure yet you can clearly see there is major difference in quality and virality potential.This argument make no sense, it like saying that if I draw a dragon it is the same as leonardo da vinci drawing a dragon.
 
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