1. It’s okay to write in present tense!
I mean, I never thought it wasn’t okay to write in present tense. I just hadn’t thought about it. Before reading The Hunger Games, I’d never read a book in present tense. It’s kind of scary to begin with. You’re unused to it. And then, a few pages in, you forget you ever had doubts. Present tense is fresh and alive and more personalized. Because you’re in the story NOW – not then, not soon, but now.
2. You can write a whole book by the view-point of 1 person.
I’ve heard (and read) that it’s better to share your story around your characters. Explore more perspectives. Probe deeper into the secondary character’s lives. Maybe even see what the villain is thinking. While those are excellent reasons to write by more than one character, The Hunger Games introduced me to the pros of reading by one character.
You get to know that character so much better. You aren’t tripping through other people’s heads (and wondering whose you’ll be in next). You stick to one character. And you have a great time.
3. Ending every chapter with a cliff-hanger is so cruel!
Cruel to the reader that is, because, come on, we can’t put the book down and do other things…like live life. That book has you in its grasp until the last page and then it still has you in its grasp because the story and concepts are swirling around your head. But I love that. I love how the author never lets you (or really, the characters) rest. So there’s no way you can put that book down.
4. A hooky beginning doesn’t mean you have to shoot someone, blow something up, or give the startling resolution like “I murdered someone”.
Though, I have to add, there’s nothing wrong with starting books like that. Fury (by Shirely Marr) did. Or The Scorpio Races (by Maggie Stiefvater ) with “…someone will die”. Talk about hooky. And I do love it. The Hunger Games could have started with any of those lines – but it started at the beginning. On Reaping Day. (Which, when you start reading, you have to ask “What on earth is Reaping Day? Harvest?”)
“When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping.”
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
5. You don’t need buckets of dialogue keep your eyes glued to the page.
Actually, the dialogue is quite sparse in The Hunger Games. And it’s not the most riveting dialogue I’ve ever read. But that doesn’t take away from the story at all. I don’t find my eyes skimming the next page for signs of dialogue, instead, I’m comfortable with seeing everything through Katniss’ eyes. I don’t need gripping or funny or intense dialogue to keep interested. But I do need to be inside the character’s head and I think The Hunger Games does perfectly.
6. Writing a romance doesn’t mean the heroine must spend her days mooning about boys and the complicated aspects of love.
Phew. I don’t read romances for those particularly annoying reasons. In The Hunger Games, Katniss isn’t in love, she doesn’t have any time for it, and her sole purpose in life is to protect and care for her family. In fact, she doesn’t want to get married because she doesn’t want her kids to compete in the Games. And yet there’s the element of romance in the novel. Because…wait…Katniss uses a romance with Peeta to protect her family? Am I calling that a romance? Well, whatever it is, it’s pretty good reading.
7. Fragment sentences, if they’re done right, are brilliant!
I haven’t read many books where the author can pull of “good” fragment sentences. (Meaning, they’re not jerky, unnatural, or annoying.) I never gave them much thought. But fragments can give stories that extra push, style and flow of words. They take talent though, and talent means practising, but still, reading The Hunger Games opened my eyes to the wonders of fragment sentences. If they’re done right. As you can see. Mine lack.
8. Characters should be complicated.
We don’t get to “understand” Katniss’ character. She’s a tangle of hidden thoughts and emotions, plans, beliefs, actions and words. She loves, but doesn’t love. She cares, but doesn’t care. She lies, but tells the truth. That’s complicated. And you know what? It’s right. You fall in love with Katniss (no matter how callous she comes across, because, really, you know what’s underneath and what’s driving her to be that way) because of her complexities. and her faults (readers love a character with faults). And her character keeps evolving and changing. She is definitely not the same girl in the 1st book as she is in the last. Because events change us. And the author captured that.
9. Description doesn’t have to drag on and on and on. A clear image (with a few words) goes a long way.
Sitting at Prim’s knees, guarding her, is the world’s ugliest cat. Mashed-in nose, half of one ear missing, eyes the colour of rotting squash.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Exceprt from Chapter 1
Exceprt from Chapter 1
Do you see Buttercup (that’s the name of the cat)? His description is 2 sentences (with bonus extras throughout the book) and it sets him up for life. The author uses fresh words to create a picture we’ll see in a second and hold onto for life. Eyes the colour of rotting squash? That’s something I don’t read every day – so I get a vibrant picture in my head and I’m not going to forget it. It’s so important to create pictures with only a handful of meaningful words. They mean so much more.
10. You don’t need to see everything to feel its full meaning.
There is a lot of violence in The Hunger Games (granted, I mean, come on, it’s a book about fighting for survival in a “game” invented by a corrupted government). But we don’t see it all. A lot of the violence and killings are just said with a few words, and we imagine the rest (which is actually more terrifying). And that doesn’t just go for violence. That concept can be carried into every aspect of writing, like the adage “show don’t tell”.
Parts of stories sometimes veer off the page (like when a chapter ends, when something is briefly recounted, when the book is over, or before the book’s even begun). But they can pack just as big a punch as the writing on the page. Think about it.
We didn’t “see” Katniss father die. So why do we care about him? Because of Katniss pain when she thinks about him, or mockingjays, or the songs he sung, or the kind of man he was. A few words about her dad and we start tearing-up with her. We didn’t “see” (and it wasn’t described) the girl who lit the fire one night (while Katniss is in the tree watching) or her death. A single sentence and the tramping away of her predators was enough to give us a pretty creepy picture.
11. Your writing should change people.
Hundreds of people have been changed by The Hunger Games (don’t believe me? Google it…). Why? Because it gives you plenty to chew over when you’ve finished it. There are deep, meaningful themes in the book, themes that don’t preach but leave a message. Family bonds. Being who you are. Reality TV (and the secrets behind it; though I’m not saying people are dying in your favourite TV shows every weeknight). Appearances. Personal sacrifice. Love.
Books can make you think differently. And different thinking changes people.