Notes of A Storyteller: What Suzanne Collins Taught Me Not To Do

I should have known I was going to read The Hunger Games eventually. Back when Harry Potter got his first movie, I scoffed at the series and then blazed through the book like a wildfire. The pop culture sucked me in. Well, when Katniss Everdeen got her film debut a few months ago, I started scoffing again. So, naturally, when my little sister came home from Chicago with the book in her hand, I borrowed it from her and was done with it in a good 4-5 hours.

Like many things which I didn’t plan to do, I learned something from this. For those of you who haven’t heard, I’m writing the second novel of my own trilogy. Reading the first part of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy reminded me something about pacing: sometimes it can be too fast.

Katniss Everdeen is put into the Hunger Games at the end of the first chapter, and immediately she’s whisked away to the Capitol. She’s so busy getting dressed up, listening to Haymitch snarl about strategy, and preparing for the Games that I never get a chance to catch my breath. She has a moment with another tribute the night before the Games, but it’s not nearly long enough. There’s not enough detail. The scene comes and goes as quickly as the others.

Once we get into the Games, Katniss goes into survival mode, and events move even more quickly. It’s harrowing stuff, and marvelously entertaining, but I get the sense that it would have been even more harrowing and much more marvelously entertaining if I had had more time to get to know Katniss. Her story is too much of a blur for me to truly connect with her.

Perhaps I’m asking too much from a YA novel, but it has reminded me of something as I write some key scenes for my own novel, The Stand (Part Two of The Kingdom Trilogy). I must be careful with pacing. This is my second novel with my old friends Arman, Larsor, and Oarath, but I cannot stop delving into their characters. I need those little moments, the slow ones where nothing seems to be happening. Moments as trivial as drinking beer and watching a sunset.

Those are the moments where the reader spends time with a character and finds that he/she is just as interesting during ordinary times as he/she is during extraordinary times. With that discovery, the reader becomes truly invested with a character. What happens during the extraordinary times will have much more urgency.

The Hunger Games could not deliver that for me, and it is my fervent goal to achieve that with The Stand.


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