It’s been a while since I’ve done a thorough story deconstruction on this website. I can’t think of a better lab rat than the iconic bestseller “The Hunger Games” for this project, which provides us with a glowing example of each of the six core competencies in play, as well as the underlying story physics that energize a story — any story — toward greatness.
Like the Harry Potter stories, Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” trilogy broke out from a YA niche to crossover into mainstream juggernaut territory, selling over 26 million copies thus far and inspiring the latest blockbuster film, which is a very true adapation of the first book in the series. I will be deconstructing both the first book and the film, and will come back to the second and third books at a later date.
Now would be a good time to get involved.
You may not have read the book or seen the movie at this point. And the series will work for you if you haven’t, though it’ll work better if you’ve consumed at least one of those versions of this story. I encourage you to do both, if nothing else than to root yourself deeper in the story in preparation.
You won’t hear me claim that this story is “perfect. “
Anytime a genre book reaches these heights, somebody always steps up to slam the writing. I’ve heard that — I don’t agree, by the way, it’s well written in my view — but that level of analysis isn’t what this is about. This is about story building craft, and on that count it is, if not a perfect story, at least a perfect specimen and learning tool.
It hasn’t blown up because it sucks, folks. It’s compelling and disturbing, as well as vicariously delicious.
Aesthetics are a taste thing, many won’t care for the violence and the fantasy elements. Reading outside our own writing niche can be very helpful, though, especially when a story hits all the notes relative to craft, as “The Hunger Games” certainly does.
Here are a few things to look for as you experience this story.
Notice how context and sub-text play a huge role in the reader/audience experience.
Part 1 (pre-plot point one) especially is driven by the context of impending and nearly certain death of the hero, who realizes it from square one. This informs and colors everything — every scene, every nuance, every line of dialogue — with a certain irony and a creepy flavor of fear, and its one of the things that emotionally penetrates early in the story.
Collins makes it easy to root for her protagonist.
This young hero (Katniss) emerges from the chute as a strong, rootable yet vulnerable character, which is another strong reason why this story has resonated so strongly, particularly with younger audiences.
You may not notice it at first (small spoiler alert here; then again, we’re in post mortem mode, and we’re all in the anatomy lab together), but at it’s heart this is a sort of love story.
In fact, that particular sub-text becomes the backbone of the entire structure, over and above the exterior plot (romance writers, take note)… this alone might make this series something that might pop a few story development light bulb for you as we go through it.
“The Hunger Games” is no Harry Potter, however, even though both stories take us on a trip to the dark side with elements of fantasy and, in the former case, science fiction (Hunger has both). Harry’s vicarious juice was enchantment and wonder, while Hunger is pure terror and creepy sense of cultural hopelessness that comes a little too close to our reality television-loving selves.
Tell your Hunger loving friends — writers or not — to join you for this.
If you’ve been struggling with the concepts of story structure, the vocabulary of it that I (and other writing teachers) use to explain it, and most of all the underlying forces of storytelling that are too often ignored yet, once you know them are impossible to not see in any stellar story… if you want a clinic in all this stuff, then stay tuned.
The deconstruction of “The Hunger Games” begins later this week with a series of posts that will expose and analyze it all, and from the perspective of the writer’s hungry eye for craft.
Have you visited the Peer Review page lately? There’s a new story for us from Derek Tumacder, check it out HERE. Derek tells us this is his first public outing for his writing, so let’s reward his courage — we all remember that moment for ourselves, no? — with our helpful support.
There is a wealth of material here for the analytic writer to learn from, and just as importantly, a chance to offer feedback to the writers who have braved this territory. Learn more about the Peer Review service HERE.