Monday, February 20, 2012

8. The Hunger Games Analysis

Summary: After Katniss shot the arrow at the Gamemakers, she goes back to her room and cries because she thinks that due to her defiance, she and her family will be hurt. When they eat dinner, she tells them what happened and convince her that her family is safe and the worst they'll do is make life difficult in the arena. They get their scores. Peeta got an eight and Katniss an eleven. Katniss reminisces about Gale, and how they met in the woods six months after she had started hunting. Through mutual need, they started relying on each other. The next morning when Katniss and Peeta are to start prepping for interviews, Haymitch tells Katniss Peeta has decided to prepare alone.

Flashbacks: Flashbacks can put a halt to the flow of a story, but in this case, Collins has Katniss reflect back on home, which makes her think to Gale, and then go into how they met. To pull out of the flashback, Katniss starts to talk in more general terms about their relationship until it becomes part of the present.


  • Katniss: Her action and reaction in shooting the arrow at the Gamemaker's pig says a lot about her character. That she rebels, but doesn't mean to. That she's scared of the consequences once she thinks about it, but her problem is that she doesn't think about it.
  • Gale: With his importance to Katniss's life up to this point and in the other books, but not being able to actually be there, his flashback is important to understand his character. With the image of his going out to the woods which no one else does, he becomes a rebel, but one with a purpose, with the information that he's the oldest and needed to take care of his family after his father died.
What we can learn in a nutshell: Before a character does something drastic, hint at their personality by putting them in a smaller situation where they make the same choice. Ease into flashbacks and ease out instead of just plunging in.

Monday, January 16, 2012

7. The Hunger Games Analysis

Summary: Katniss and Peeta decide to be coached together for the Games. When Haymitch asks what their strengths are, each downplay their own and praise each other. Haymitch tells them to stick together during training, so they do. Katniss doesn't like their buddy-buddy act, but goes along with it. During training, Katniss sees the Careers who have been trained and bred to fight in these Games. She also sees Rue, who reminds her of Prim and has been following her around. After a few days of training, they're brought individually to the Gamemakers to be scored. Katniss is the last one, and the Gamemakers are tired of watching these showcases. Though Katniss does her best archery, they pay more attention to the roast pig coming in. In anger, Katniss shoots the apple in the pig's mouth and leaves.

Dialogue: The beginning exchange between Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch is excellent. First, there's a lot of emotion between the characters, especially Katniss and Peeta. This is brought out by Katniss describing how what Peeta says "rubs me the wrong way." Collins lets Katniss tell her the emotion she feels. But at the same time, for three-fourths of a page, there is mostly just back-and-forth between Katniss and Peeta, and this is how Collins brings the emotion and tension.

Tension: For the past few chapters, we and Katniss have been feeling good about her stake in the Games. But now we see the Careers, who will be a huge struggle for Katniss. Also, as we get to know Peeta more, the more tension it creates knowing they'll be thrown into the Games together. And if it wasn't enough to have Peeta, we're introduced to Rue as well. Now there are two people going into the arena that we don't want to die, but we don't want Katniss to die, either.


  • Katniss: We see her aggravated side here, her desire to keep people at a distance with Peeta and again with Rue. We also see her passionate, impulsive side when she shoots the arrow at the Gamemakers.
  • Rue: Katniss continues to compare Rue with Prim, and our established tenderness toward Prim goes out to Rue as well. At the same time, though, we see her with a slingshot and her ability to quietly follow Peeta and Katniss, which sets her apart from Prim as well and give her her own character.
  • Peeta: The interesting thing about Peeta is that in the beginning of this, I've met several people who read him in different ways. In this chapter, it confirmed to me that Peeta was crushing on Katniss. I've also talked with people who thought that he was out to kill Katniss, and others who thought that he just thought of Katniss as a friend. This is a highlighting chapter in these different perceptions of him, partly because we don't know him well yet. But looking back on this chapter knowing his intent, we see his pain (with his mother saying that Katniss will win), his genuine interest in Katniss doing her best in the Games (telling Haymitch her strengths), as well as his humor ("say the arena is actually a giant cake").
What we can learn in a nutshell: Dialogue is best when it's conveying emotion and accompanied by internal feeling of the MC. Never let the character think they're in the clear for long: remind the reader and the character there's still trouble. Give characters strength, and if you have two that are similar, still give them differences to make them unique.

Friday, January 6, 2012

6. The Hunger Games Analysis

I'm back! So now we're on schedule again.
Summary: After Katniss and Peeta made a sensation at the Opening Ceremonies, they have dinner to discuss strategy with Haymitch, Effie, Cinna, and Portia. Katniss recognizes one of the servants. The adults are alarmed by this and tell Katniss she can't know the servant, an Avox (someone whose tongue has been cut out), because the Avox is probably a traitor. Peeta covers for Katniss by saying that the Avox looks like a girl from District 12 they know. Katniss and Peeta leave while the adults talk, and Peeta gets the story of how Katniss recognized the girl out. Katniss and Gale had been hunting when a boy and girl ran for their lives and were caught by a hovercraft. Katniss and Gale might have helped them, but didn't.

Dialogue: When they're at the dinner table and Katniss brings up that she knows the Avox, the conversation is straight-forward. Haymitch says, Effie says, not much frills involved. This keeps the story moving, because the words are more important than the actions at this point. We've already been situated in the fact that they're having a meal together. Whereas when Katniss has a conversation with Peeta later on, the way the two of them are interacting is important. Collins is sure to describe that Peeta is "conversational" as he mentions Gale and that Katniss is "observing" him. All of these descriptions to add to the dialogue gives a clearer understanding of their relationship.

World-building: Collins continually builds up the structure of this society, and in this case it's the Avoxes. This detail adds to how grotesque and brutal the Capitol is, even to its own citizens. She fleshes out the layers of their world through these people, who are not the Effie's and the prep teams like we've seen before.

Relationships: I think that this bit with Katniss and Peeta is important to start their involvement with each other. Peeta covers for Katniss, and in turn she tells him something a bit more personal. She's careful about deciding whether or not to share with Peeta, but it opens a way for her to at least see him as someone she can talk to. It's small, but it's an important development in the relationship they have.

What to learn in a nutshell: Keep conversation moving when the setting and people are established. But be sure to describe the characters and actions when it builds their personalities, situations, relationships, etc. Always be on the look-out to give perspectives of the world from all people's lives in the world. When building a new relationship, start with something small to make what grows out of it organic.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Why go with present tense?

Last week I came home for the holidays. However, my copy of The Hunger Games did not. Total head-smack moment about five hours into the eleven-hour drive when I realized that I'd forgotten it. So until early January, I'm not going to have any chapter analysis.

But, there is a subject about The Hunger Games that I've been meaning to blog about. And that is tense. It's really popular at the moment to write in present tense. When The Hunger Games was first released in 2008, it was the beginning of the trend that's been going on for the past few years now. But, my question is, how long did it take you to notice that it was written in present tense? I didn't realize it until I looked back in retrospect. My creative writing professor had finished the books a few weeks before and didn't know until I pointed it out to her. The present tense flows so naturally, that many people, even those who read a lot and study writing, don't notice it.

With so many books being written in the present now, it's my opinion (and again, this is just my opinion, and I'm not an agent or editor or anything) that to do present tense it really needs to work in favor of your book and not just be for the purpose of being part of the trend.

So what is it about The Hunger Games that makes present tense work?

  • Pacing. THG is a fast-paced book. By having it told in present tense, there is an immediacy to the story, an urgency that is somewhat lost if the book had been in past-tense.
  • Character. Strange enough, I do think that character is a part of the present-tense decision. Katniss isn't one to open up much. Even her flashbacks are need-to-know, and so having her tell things right then and there is more in-character. And given the state she's in at the end of the third book, her voice after the fact looking back would have changed how the events would have been portrayed.
  • Style. There's something about THG that makes its present tense subtle, something in the style. It doesn't flaunt itself as being in present tense, which makes it easier to read through.
Of course, present tense doesn't work for every book or every author. Experimentation is key. But these are the reasons why I think that The Hunger Games is able to work so well in present tense.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

5. The Hunger Games Analysis

Summary: Katniss's prep team from the Capitol scrubs her down and rids her of body hair. Then she meets her stylist, Cinna, who is very much unlike the rest of the people in the Capitol. For the Opening Ceremony, she and Peeta are dressed in identical outfits of a black unitard, cape, and headdress, that are lit with a synthetic fire. Cinna instructs Katniss and Peeta to hold hands, and then they go out on a chariot to the Opening Ceremony. Their outfits make a sensation, and the people love them. They leave the ceremony and their outfits are extinguished. Peeta says something nice to Katniss, but instead of ignoring it, she plays along and kisses his cheek.

Description: The Capitol is a complete contrast to the Districts, and so the colors here are vibrant--aqua, pea green, purple, pearly white. Of course, if the entire book had been written with this much in it, it would have become overbearing. But in the introductory chapter on the Capitol, all of the colors mark the difference in the drab world we've been in before.

World building: Much to what the description attests to, the Capitol is a complete 180 from what we've seen before. What really strikes us, though, (or at least it strikes me) is when Katniss tries to figure out how she'd make the meal she's had in the Capitol at home. On top of that, Katniss is being beautified. When she's going to her death. And her prep team notes how awful she'd been coming in, and how much better they made her. Collins shows us firsthand how horrible this place is. Not only do they starve their people and force them to participate in the Games, they also expect beauty from the Districts.


  • The prep team: A bit more good-hearted than Effie, but still, very shallow and they don't have their heads screwed on straight. Not all that smart. Katniss doesn't meet many Capitol people, and so the prep team is crucial in completing the characters in the Capitol. While Effie is a good character to have, it's wrong to judge a society based on one member alone. They confirm the attitudes of the Capitol people.
  • Cinna: He's a character that neither we nor Katniss were expecting. It's been hard for Katniss so far. She's literally had no break in the awful things happening. Cinna, however, is her one blessing so far. He really helps her make a sensation, which will help her in the Games.
What we can learn in a nutshell: When dealing with a duplicitous world, make details that will vividly portray their differences. Portray a society through their actions and people, but make them layered as well. Give a fair amount (but not too many) characters of a society to show their common norms and values. And as much as we're told to create more and more conflict for the MC (which we definitely should continue doing) it's okay to give them a hand once or twice--especially by creating a character the readers can love. Give the reader and the character hope. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

4. The Hunger Games Analysis

Summary: Katniss and Peeta help a drunk and vomit-covered Haymitch to the shower, and Peeta takes it from there. She remembers about how after she saw him at school after the bread incident, she noticed dandelions and started to collect them to eat. She collects plants to eat and starts to hunt. Katniss's mother comes back to life, but Katniss still couldn't forgive her for abandoning them like that. The next morning at breakfast, Haymitch is drunk again. When Katniss asks for advice, he responds sarcastically. Both Katniss and Peeta are angry. Peeta knocks the alcohol out of Haymitch's hand, Haymitch punches him, and Katniss drive a knife between Haymitch's fingers. By seeing their will to live, Haymitch agrees to help them as long as they don't interfere with his drinking. He tells them to do whatever their stylists tell them to do. They pull into the Capitol, where the colors are too bright and people dress bizarrely. Peeta waves and smiles to them, saying that one of them might be rich. Katniss realizes that Peeta's in it to win as much as she is--which means he's prepared to kill her.

Flashback: There is a lot about Katniss's life before we meet her that is important to know in order to know her character. Collins leads into Katniss flashing back by the sight of an object that connects with her past--in this case, a dandelion. From this object, the past event is connected to the present. And to come back to the present all in the same chapter, Collins has Katniss remember about how she had never forgiven her mother, and now, she had no chance to right that, because she's going to the Games and probably to her death.

  • Haymitch: Besides being drunk, we see that Haymitch has just stopped caring about the Games. Reading it for the first time, we might be annoyed at him, just like Katniss, but Collins is creating a character here that has been through more than we know. She's laying down the surface problem before getting into his deeper emotions.
  • Peeta: The kind boy with the bread is being kind as usual, but then he gets angry, and starts to butter up to the Capitol people. Just like Katniss, we realize that he's fighting for his life as Katniss is. From this chapter, we start to see how he can act any way he wants in order to get what he needs--nice guy, aggressive, friendly. It's important for later on to be able to see that this is his strategy.
Dialogue: One scene in particular in this chapter has great dialogue, when Katniss confronts Haymitch about being their mentor and then they have their little rumble. What makes the dialogue so compelling in this scene, though, is the action that's matched with it. The dialogue and the action paired up with each other makes this scene exciting: Katniss looks to see Peeta's angry at Haymitch as well, Peeta knocks the drink out of his hand, Haymitch punches Peeta, Katniss drives a knife between Haymitch's fingers, all while they're confronting one another on what they want. The balance between the two keeps both the action and the dialogue fresh and exciting.

What we can learn in a nutshell: When beginning and ending a flashback, connect the past and the present together to make it flow. Show a character's outside that is important to their inside. Mix the action with the dialogue so both can help each other from getting monotonous.

Monday, December 5, 2011

3. The Hunger Games Analysis

Summary: Katniss is given an hour to say good-bye to loved ones. Her mother and Prim come in, and she instructs them how they're to survive without her. Peeta's father comes in, doesn't say much, but gives Katniss cookies and promises to look after Prim. Madge (the mayor's daughter) comes in and gives Katniss a pin of a mockingjay--a bird that is a cross between a Capitol-bred "muttation" bird called the jabberjay and mockingbirds. Gale comes in lasts and encourages Katniss to win, and that he'll take care of her family. He wants to say something but gets pulled away. She and Peeta are then taken to the train to go to the Capitol. We discover that Haymitch's job is to aid them in getting help once they are in the arena.

World-building: We come to see in this chapter that the Games aren't just a punishment for the districts, they're also entertainment for the Capitol. The Capitol hated the year when there was no wood so the tributes mostly froze to death, because of all the bloodless deaths that didn't stir any excitement. Then also Katniss starts to talk strategies, about her own refusal to cry and her thoughts leaping to why Peeta is crying, if it is to make himself look like he isn't a threat. We also hear about the children who train to enter these games and their fierceness. This puts the Games in a whole new perspective, that it isn't just to be thrown in and go, it's thought out. Katniss will have a lot more challenges than we thought, and this also reflects back on the society that not only made these Games, but made them competition and entertainment like the Olympics are today.

  • Katniss: In this chapter we get the first sign of Katniss having any type of rebellious streak in her. It's small, but when she eats her food with her fingers to annoy Effie, it gives us a sense of what type of behavior Katniss may have later. And despite her doubt that she can win, we see Katniss using strategy, trying to figure out others' strategies, and determining how she can best survive. We've observed her survival skills in the woods, and now we're really seeing her mind at work.
  • Effie: She's our only Capitol character at the moment, and she's characterized as an epitome of what the Capitol is. She worries about her appearance when they watch the footage of the reaping again, and when they eat dinner she talks about how last year's tributes, two starving children, had eaten so sloppily it upset her digestion. Yes, when she was taking them to their death.
  • Rue: Well, we don't know her name is Rue yet. But we're connected with her as the girl from District 11, who reminds Katniss of Prim. We don't even know her yet, but we sympathize for her because unlike Prim, no one steps up for her. She is who Prim could have been. 
Tension: In this chapter we learn that Haymitch, the drunk, will be Katniss's lifeline in the games. Now the odds just keep stacking up against Katniss. We may see how capable she is, but we've also seen how incapable Haymitch is. Now knowing that she has to rely on him has created more tension.

What we can learn in a nutshell: Foreshadow your character's traits that will be important later on. Make sure that readers can find a seed in them what they're meant to do in the future. Also, be sure that your character fits the story you've put them into. Don't forget when world-building to also set up the society's morals, feelings, manners, etc. into perspective for the reader. And of course, with the tension, throw more boulders at your characters. Make them rely on something or someone that will hold them down.