Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB
Last February, one of the panels at Life, the Universe and Everything (LTUE) took on an interesting question: why the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins had become so popular. Patricia Castelli, Bree Despain, Allison Hymas, Diann T. Read, and J. Scott Savage all had interesting opinions.
Have you read the series? Actually read all three? Personally, I couldn’t put it down—which was amazing, as I was pretty traumatized at the time, having just found out I had cancer . . . again. After 25 years of being clean. I handled it well on the outside: teaching, participating in my life, taking care of business. But on the inside I was apparently a bowl of quivering jelly. And that gripping series got me through the biopsy, the surgery, the beginnings of radiation, along with the Holidays—Thanksgiving on into Christmas/New Year’s. Well, they didn’t take me that long to read, but they stayed with me.
As writers, we can learn something from that.
The panel in question opined that YA is usually about HOPE. One reason for popularity within dystopian literature is that in a dysfunctional, broken world, the reader can HOPE for even the little people to effect a change. The Hero/Heroine will have the strength/skill, etc., to change his or her world.
The Hunger Games series offers several lessons:
— Katniss was sympathetic, volunteering in order to save her little sister
— The role “reversal” made it interesting: the girl with the bow and arrows; the boy with the bread
— Even with the female author and heroine, boys still liked it because fighting, etc., were so strong; while the “romance” became less and less important
— The “triangle” was handled believably
— Damage to survivor characters was realistic: after such traumatic incidents, they would be damaged
— Katniss is broken down in a different way in each book because of the difference in her trials
Spoiler alerts: (I’ll be a non-specific as I can. READ them!)
— an Assassination was well done
— when one major character dies saving another, the motivation was brilliant
Which of the points above can we writers emulate today, without being derivative? Appeal to male and female readers with sympathetic characters; keep the story riveting; handle human relationships in realistic, believable ways; be sure characters’ reactions synchronize with the events happening to them; give your major characters a variety of challenges throughout the story; keep your characters motivated in a consistent way.
There was some opinion that the series was modeled after Spartacus. As a teen, I think, I read the book before the movie starring Kirk Douglas was made—yikes, I’m old! I kept waiting for something to “happen” in the book, which I hated. But I remember the film as being one of the few ever that was better than the book—so I had a rather visceral reaction to that opinion, though I might change my mind now if I either read or saw them again. Well, I’m not going to. But they recommended a few other books which might serve as models: the “early” dystopian, The Giver, by Lois Lowry (though the sequels weren’t considered as good); The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; and Suzanne Collins Overlander series. Happy Reading, Happy Learning, followed by Happy Writing!
See you day-after-tomorrow for Thursday’s Thirteen!