Writing Rules

Three Ways The Hunger Games Can Improve Your Writing

I just finished reading the The Hunger Games trilogy (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay) by Suzanne Collins. As I’ve said before, I’m not fond of first person present tense writing, however, I found myself lost in this series. Yes, the books are violent, though not as graphic as some I’ve read. Yes, they are disturbing when you consider the idea of children being forced to kill one another to survive. And no, there isn’t one mention of God. But WOW!, talk about books that hold your attention. From my standpoint as a reader and writer, here are some ways in which she did it:

Suzanne Collins created a future world that has the reader asking, “What if?” What if a certain group, a certain physical locality, owned all the power in our country and the rest of us were virtually slaves, our children forced to be “fight-to-the-death” entertainment for other hedonistic people? 

Note to writer self: Create a compelling story line that sucks the reader in with the possibilities. 

Each chapter ended with a cliffhanger that dared the reader to put the book down and do something else. Each book ended in that same way. (I’m so glad I read the series after all three books had been released.)

Note to writer self: Don’t wrap up the scene at the close of a chapter. End the chapter while riding the wave, not after it reaches the shore.

There were two romantic interests for the heroine. Through each book, I argued with myself about which guy she would/should have in the end. I was led to believe the series did not have a positive ending, so I imagined all kinds of ways in which my choice would be wrong (or not survive). Maybe I’m a little warped, but I didn’t find the ending to be negative. In fact, I LOVED the last bit of dialogue of the last chapter in Mockingjay and the epilogue, particularly the last line. Perfect!

Note to writer self: Keep them guessing! Even a “happily-ever-after” romance should have times when the reader has doubts about how the couple will work out their differences. Then, give the reader the opportunity to take a deep breath and release a satisfied sigh at the end.

In all honesty, I don’t think I’ll want to see the movie. I can imagine what Hollywood will do when it comes to the violence. But, as a reader, the books were gripping. As a writer, they were a reminder of why certain rules work.

As a reader, what did you enjoy most about the story? What grips you and keeps you from putting a book down?

If you are a writer, did anything else stand out as a lesson to you?

As an author of heartwarming historical and contemporary romance, Sandra Ardoin engages readers with page-turning stories of love and faith. Rarely out of reach of a book, she's also an armchair sports enthusiast, country music listener, and seldom says no to eating out.

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  • Nicole Miller

    So glad you liked the series, Sandy!

    Other lessons I gleaned – creating flawed characters that make your readers want to throw the book across the room is okay (if you’re Suzanne Collins) and if you balance it with passion and reason. Katniss’ love for her sister drives the entire series and it is something readers can relate to.

    Collins took care with each character to make them memorable and important to the story. I’d argue this book is an example where plot is as equally a driving force as the characters themselves. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

    (And I’d also highly recommend listening to the series on audiobook. It’s a completely different experience and amazing in its own right!)

  • Heidi Chiavaroli

    Great post, Sandy! I’m on the second book right now, and your post made me excited for even more!

    I think one of the things I learned is that writing doesn’t have to be “pretty.” Technically, I already knew that, but it’s something I struggle with. Collins told the story, and she told it well, without extra details that would bog down the reader. Everything was pertinent and I agree with Nicole–brilliant. 🙂

    • Sandra Ardoin

      My writer antenna went up off and on because there seemed to be a lot of telling, but it didn’t make me stop reading. My opinion is that the second book, Catching Fire, was the best of the three, Heidi. I’ll be interested to get your take on the series when you’re finished.

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