NOTICE: Before I begin, I want to announce the winner of a free copy of SHADOW ON THE MOON. It is Estella, but she left no way to contact her. So, Estella, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get that free book to you ASAP.
from Connie Flynn
Even though I’m starting this post by telling you I finished my fantasy novel a couple weeks ago, this blog really is about The Hunger Games. Honest. But I wanted you to know that I had plans to announce my completed novel from the rooftops. I figured I’d Facebook it, tweet it, blog it, post to my every Yahoo Group. But I didn’t and I’m not sure why. Oh, told friends and family, announced it at a couple writer’s groups, but that’s pretty much it.
I have no answer except that I still have revisions and some rewrites to do, so the book isn’t fully finished. So . . . perhaps I’m saving the celebration for the sale or pub date. Or maybe there’s a questions I’m not brave enough to ask myself.
Which brings me now to The Hunger Games. I wonder if Suzanne Collins knew, as she was writing, that she would produce a masterpiece?
I truly doubt that.
The book is composed with such effortless prose that I don’t think her thoughts were on anything except getting that scene just right, exposing Katniss’s true character action by action.
In case you haven’t read the books or seen the movie, here’s a quick synopsis.
Katniss Aberdeen is a hunter, living in a post-war society divided into twelve districts. Most of the sectors are pockets of abject poverty and District Twelve, where Katniss lives, is one of the worst. Katniss provides for her fatherless family by poaching in the forbidden forest and bartering her illegal kills for other commodities.
The seat of government is called the Capitol. It is affluent and corrupt and their major concern is keeping the districts under control so they continue providing raw materials that sustain the Capitol’s lifestyle.
They do this through the Hunger Games, an annual challenge fueled by a lottery called the reaping. One girl and one boy between the ages of twelve and eighteen are chosen as ‘tributes’ to compete with tributes from other districts. The televised game is unsupervised and at an isolated location and these young tributes battle until all but one is dead. The sole winner gains lifelong financial security and valuable boons for their district.
The story opens the day of the reaping. This is Katniss’s sister’s first year and she is not expected to be drawn. Unlikely as they thought it was, she is drawn and Katniss volunteers to take her place. Her offer is accepted.
She puts her family in the care of the boy who was her lifelong friend and hunting partner then leaves for the games with the baker’s son, Peeta, a gentle soul whose own mother told him she thought Katniss would win the games.
This powerful premise leads into a story of high stakes and unlikely alliances that require strategies worthy of Lucrezia Borgia and plays out with non-stop action, high emotion and unexpected twists. The writing itself is smooth, clear and punchy. Male readers are devouring this book and its sequels, probably due to the non-stop action.
The movie is just as powerful. A breath-stealing ride through the world Suzanne Collins built, it stayed truer to the book itself than most adaptations. According to the buzz, Collins was an active consultant. If so, this woman really knows how to structure a story. The complex details of this story demanded careful sifting to keep the external story thread intact, yet maintain the same rich emotional moments that gave the book its impact. The movie succeeds beautifully because the book was brilliantly written. In my only moderately humble opinion, The Hunger Games might be declared a masterpiece.
Now I wonder, did Collins know she was writing a masterpiece while she was writing? I still don’t think so. I think she was just doing a writer’s job, putting words on paper to build scene after scene, reveal character after character.
And that brings me back to finishing my own book, which contains complex societies and multiple characters. I, too, wrote it page by page, scene by scene, character by character. Yes, I now see the question I was afraid to ask:
Have I written a masterpiece?
It would be nice, wouldn’t it? But the truth is that I have no idea. Only time can tell. All I do know is to keep on writing, keep on revising, and keep on coming up with story ideas. So that’s what I’ll do.
I’m fairly well convinced that’s what Suzanne Collins did . . . and probably still does.
I hope some of you are as jazzed by The Hunger Games as I am, although some of you might not be and I’d be delighted to hear your opinions (no spoilers, though, please). Leave a comment and I’ll put you in for a drawing for a free ebook version of my first mystery short story, Old Bones, published by my alter-ego, K.C. Flynn. Please leave a way to reach you if you happen to be the winner. In the meantime have a great April and, if you celebrate it, a lovely Easter.