Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins follows 16 year old Katniss Everdeen as she volunteers to replace her sister in the Hunger Games, a live death match played out on television in the country of Panem. She faces almost certain death with that decision. However, between rehearsals, costuming, lighting and her survival instinct in the end she stands a chance at winning.

Because I’m probably one of the last people on the planet to read The Hunger Games, I’m sure you all know how great the novel is already so I won’t bore you with a rave review. If you haven’t heard how great The Hunger Games is then just check out the New York Times bestselling list. I’d rather analyze why the book was so great and use it to improve my own writing not that I think I could ever be a Suzanne Collins.

However, she made me want to go back to my work in progress and make sure some elements of good writing were in my novel and add them if they weren’t. In The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins nails the hook, emotion from scene to scene and original story.

I read several pages before I even realized it. By then, I was hooked and wanted to know what took place between those two covers. I cared without knowing I cared. She paints the world very well and without being so matter of fact about it. She writes great description without going on and on setting up the world for the reader. Katniss sees stuff and moves about, action, but disbursed in between that is description about what she sees and what her life is like. Not to mention an emotion permeates the opening as well. An emotion is evoked right away. I think a hint of anxiety is written into the scene. And it’s written in first person which is way more immediate. The reader doesn’t have time to protest, they are thrown into Katniss’ world.

Even though I won’t change my novel from third person to first person, the opening alone makes me want to write my opening with a definite emotion in mind. In my novel, I tell the reader what setting the novel takes place in albeit very descriptive. But after reading The Hunger Games, I want my character to look out over the landscape and have the reader see the landscape through their eyes. I’m adopting the You Won’t Know It’s There Unless One My Characters Look At It approach or touches or smells it. I’ll see if that adds another element to my writing.

While the opening got me curious, I stayed interested in The Hunger Games because of the emotion that carried from scene to scene. Even though there was heavy action throughout the novel, it was not all action. And even when there wasn’t any action the writing was interesting. I think that was accomplished by filling each scene with an emotion. Love, sadness, fear, anticipation. You name it.

I opened the book to two random places and read the scenes. In one Katniss watches the reaping selections on television. The scene goes from anxious to humor. The next one---of the stylists prepping Katniss for the games leaves her bewildered and resentful while the stylists are excited. This element makes me want to go back through my WIP and evoke an emotion under the action or happenings in each scene. Subtle or not. As long as something is there.

Lastly, The Hunger Games is a pretty original story. The world is its own, with Districts separated from each other--each producing something for the capital. And while war is not new and the Romans fought to the death in the coliseum first before live audiences, The Hunger Games still brings something new to the table. We find out how children fare in all of this.

While I can’t write a Hunger Games and my story is set in the here and now of America—not Panem, I most certainly can make sure my novel has at least a small element that makes it unique when compared to others. And truth be told, I think I have this one covered.

So how about you, can you think of some other elements that made The Hunger Games an excellent read? Are those in your novel? Are the elements I noticed in your novel?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

When Do You Stop Reading?

I'm currently reading a book, which shall remain nameless, that I just can't get into. I'm on page 32 and finding it a complete chore to read. This isn't the first time this has happened to me. I have failed to connect to other books for various reasons: characters I don't care about, not enough at stake for me, or a foreign dialect or setting that the writer fails to overcome--among others. However, this is the first. time. ever. that I've actually considered not reading the rest of the book. I usually painstakingly read the entire book if I chose to take it off the bookstore or library shelf in the first place, just to see where it goes or if it gets better. The books I have had to say this to myself with in order to keep reading--don't. Get any better. But I tell myself that anyway. Otherwise, I feel a sense of failure at having given up on the book. But for the first time, I may move on to another book that should make better use of my time.

How do you feel? Can you stop reading as soon as your connection is lost with the book? Or do you keep reading? When do you stop reading--if ever?