I finally read The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I am currently writing a trilogy and needed a good example of how to write one. I find young adult books or books written in first person are helpful in learning how to write a story.
In general, the young adult genre is helpful to read because it is in first person. The reader can feel what the character is feeling. If I switch the first person to third person in my head, I can then write in deep POV in third person.
The Hunger Games seemed to spark controversy. A writer told me that kids are killing kids, which upset her. A teenager told me that she wanted the author to get on with the story. None of those comments deterred me. I almost think negative comments spark more interest.
The Hunger Games starts out with the perfect first chapter because it sets up the story. In the first paragraph, we learn about the reaping and that it can’t be a good harvest. Katniss, the main character, feeds her mother, sister, and cat by hunting illegally with a bow and arrow her father made her before he died in a mining blast. The reader quickly has empathy for her. At the end of the first chapter, Prim, Katniss’ younger sister, is chosen to fight in the games. Everything changes.
In chapter two, the reader learns the goal, motivation, and conflict. The goal is no longer just to survive—it is to save Prim from going to the games. Katniss is motivated to volunteer because she wants to save her sister’s life. The conflict is the Capitol, which is debatable. It’s always their rules and they can change the rules.
Catching Fire doesn’t set up the same way. The set up seems to be in the last chapter. It’s another Hunger Games but with the tributes. We don’t find out until the last chapter what Haymitch and the other past tributes have been up to. I would have preferred not to be strung along, but it’s an interesting way to write a book.
Mockingjay provides relief with a new setting in District 13 that was thought to be destroyed. There is bloodshed and the Capitol is taken down. In a conversation between Katniss and Plutarch, we are schooled about the power between the people and the government. Plutarch is the Head Gamemaker in Catching Fire. He becomes a commander of the rebel forces in District 13 in Mockingjay. In real life there was a Greek Middle Platonist philosopher named Plutarch. In book three, Plutarch Heavensbee shares his philosophy as he explains to Katniss why there needs to be a wedding. The excerpt below shows how the philosopher influences Collins’ Plutarch.
“‘Oh, the city might be able to scrape along for a while,” Plutarch says. “Certainly, there are emergency supplies stockpiled. But the significant difference between Thirteen and the Capitol are the expectations of the populace. Thirteen was used to hardship, whereas in the Capitol, all they’ve known is Panem et Circenses.”
“What’s that?” I recognize Panem, of course, but the rest is nonsense.
“It’s a saying from thousands of years ago, written in a language called Latin about a place called Rome,” he explains. “Panem et Circenses translates into ‘Bread and Circuses.’ The writer was saying that in return for full bellies and entertainment, his people had given up their political responsibilities and therefore their power.”
I think about the Capitol. The excess of food. And the ultimate entertainment. The Hunger Games. “So that’s what the districts are for. To provide the bread and circuses.’” (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, p. 223)
The bread and circuses mention is inspired by Decimus Junius Juvenalis (known as Juvenal), who was a Roman poet, from the first and second centuries. Juvenal is referring to our ability to be easily distracted and ignoring our civic duty. I do appreciate Suzanne Collins’ research.
As for the trilogy as a whole I would say it’s about teenagers surviving a killing game and then fighting for freedom. It’s not about the romance, which I don’t even get into. The Hunger Games is mostly Katniss surviving her first game. The second book, Catching Fire, is Katniss in the games again, but as a tribute. In the background, other characters are helping her, but she doesn’t know it until the end. I feel like the second story of a trilogy sometimes gets lost in the reader’s mind. I was interested to see how Collins’ handled the second book. Sometimes readers don’t like it when information is kept from them. As I said before the last chapter is revealing. By book three, Mockingjay, Katniss is on a journey to find and kill President Snow. The tributes focus on taking the Capitol down and getting their freedom. I had a chuckle when Collins brought in the lizard mutts into the mix because I brought in a lizard creature into my third book of the MerSea series. I think by the third story in a trilogy it’s hard to come up with more story. She did a great job with the war and Katniss catapulting the people forward to support the campaign.
I suppose I like The Hunger Games trilogy because the voice is pragmatic. The second reason is because it feels like it could happen in the states and particularly in California. We deal with political whiplash from Gavin Newsom, our governor. He threatened martial law during the lockdown, which is unconstitutional. Then he threatened to shut down our beaches. Recently he sent us Californians checks to offset the cost of gas just around voting time. (It worked. He was voted back in.) I suppose we are to remember the latter when he is on the ticket for President of the United States. Newsom reminds me of President Snow and Effie Trinket all rolled into one, more the latter with his well-coifed hair (even during lockdown) and stylish, ironed suits. And didn’t he enjoy a fancy restaurant in LA without a mask and then went to Hawaii while the rest of us hunted for toilet paper and stayed home. I will not be snowed by political trinkets.
Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor!
From blog of melissacrismon.com
Copyright 2023 Melissa Crismon
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