How to write like JK Rowling

There are many reasons why JK Rowling’s series about Harry Potter, the boy wizard worked its magic in such a universal way. Much has been written about how the story and plot appealed to both adult and child because of the core archetypal themes that were presented. However, I’d like to suggest that there may be an even simpler reason as to why the books were so popular; they appealed to all the senses.

All seven books in the Harry Potter series in ...
All seven books in the Harry Potter series in order without their dust jackets. Each hardcover book used a different two-color scheme. The books are the first American editions published by Scholastic. Author’s collection. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We each have preferred learning styles; we may be kinesthetic, in other words we feel the world around us; we may be auditory, in these cases we will hear the world around us and we may be visual where we see the world around us. These styles are often reflected in the language that people use to describe both their experiences and themselves. For example, the kinesthetic would tend to use language along the lines of “how did that feel?”, the auditory person might say “how does that sound to you?” and the visual person might say “what does it look like?”.

Of course, there are many things that must also be taken into account and of course we all use our senses in different ways, it’s just that many of us will have a preference of one sense over the others and this preference is often reflected in the way we speak and write.

If we have a preference, then it naturally follows that others do too; just imagine how powerful a piece of communication it might be if we were all speaking to each other and matching the language to those preferences. My suggestion is that this is what JK Rowling does so well in the Harry Potter books.

If you read carefully, you’ll find that she uses her language carefully to appeal to each sense we might have, moving easily been the visual, audible, feeling and even the olfactory (smell) and gustatory (taste). In doing so she provides the ‘imagery’ that each group of people needs to engage with the stories.

Perhaps the easiest way to write like JK Rowling and emulate some of her success is going to be cultivating the ability to write outside of our own natural preferences and appeal to those senses with which we aren’t so comfortable.

You can find out more about how to use the senses in writing (this is in sales letters, but the same rules apply in all writing) in the following Slideshare presentation from Carol Bentley, who presented this at the copywriters’ conference I attended on 19th April.

For more about what made Harry Potter so appealing try the following resources:

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  1. I think it’s something we probably all struggle to get our heads around because it just doesn’t come naturally too us Hayley. But being aware of it can be really enlightening and liberating in a strange sort of way 🙂

  2. As a primary school teacher I strive to engage children through V A K, it helps a lot to know your own learning style too and it does make perfect sense to translate this to your writing. I know I’m a visual learner so use a lot of visual descriptions but I’m weak on the auditory and ‘smelly’ detail!! It’s a real effort to work this in when that’s not how I think!! A great tip though, thanks, I may have to use a friend who has a different learning style to add that extra element!!


  3. I loved the Harry Potter books, and I agree with what you’ve said here, Linda. I also loved the sheer imaginative glee of the tales, and thought how much fun she must have had writing them. That fun element – the magic – is part of what brought me back into writing. 🙂