If you love Harry Potter, or if ranting puts you off, skip today's post. It's not worth your time. I'm about to rant about the magical society in JK Rowling's Harry Potter series, and the things about it that bother me as a storyteller (though they don't bother me as a reader).
More than once, I've heard someone say "Harry Potter's magic system just doesn't work," and usually it's not because the magic itself doesn't make sense, although there are many inconsistencies in the way magic works in that series. It's not inconsistent because it breaks its own rules - rather it's inconsistent because it doesn't lay down rules to be broken.
Instead, the most common complaint I see about the magic system in Harry Potter is far more (pardon the pun) mundane.
You see, in case you're not familiar with the series, there's supposed to be an entire Wizarding World hiding in plain sight, relying on a million individuals to personally keep the secret of magic from the hundreds of millions of non-magic people in the world.
You can already see the problem with this. One person might be able to keep a secret, maybe even two. But millions? I don't think so.
Here's pet peeve number two - they apparently live in the same world with the non-magic folk, but have little or no idea how to use technology like cars, telephones, and cameras, even though there are a significant percentage of their own people who are born and raised in non-magic households.
Can you give me an example of a single instance in which a child shows a neat gadget to his friends, and they don't all know how to use it within a week? Even given that there are certain highly-magical locations where technology doesn't work (electronics "go haywire" around Hogwarts, for example) there's a period after schooling called "adulthood" in which these young people leave the cloistered safety of their school castle and live in, around, and near cities like New York and London, or near small non-magic towns where they can (presumably) purchase necessary supplies like food and clothing. (You can show me Molly Weasley conjuring soup all day long, but if they have to buy potion ingredients, tools, and clothes, you can't tell me food is somehow special and can be created from nothing.)
And pet peeve number three - stop me if you've heard this one - why did World Wars I and II happen if even one wizard from any of the competing nations thought it shouldn't?
Okay. I promise I'm done ranting.
The point of all this is relatively simple; it doesn't matter how cool your magic community is if it doesn't make sense inside the world where it exists.