Archetypes & Specifics

The social media world has buzzed today with celebrations of the 20th Anniversary of Harry Potter’s publication. Both Twitter (custom hashtag) and Facebook (fancy tagging animation) have had tributes to the series.

We’re in the midst of a read-aloud trip through the series; the thing I come back to as I re-read them is the way J.K. Rowling mixes a deep connection to archetypes with a grounded, specific, detailed world.

The basic characters and scenarios she writes are familiar to anyone who knows the work of Joseph Campbell, to say nothing of Homer, George Lucas, and millions of other examples. That’s important, because it connects her to a deep stream of literature.

The specifics, though, are so fully realized and specific that even the oldest plot devices feel fresh.

I think that’s part of the magic of any creative act – to join the deep stream of what came before you, and wed it to your own unique, and fully-developed, worldview.

Fail to be specific, and your music will seem bland and impersonal.

Fail to connect to the archetypes, and your music will lack timelessness.

It’s only when you powerfully draw both things together that you create something worth celebrating 20 years on.