The Hunger Games side effect

Like many bloggers, I am an aspiring author. These days, I work on revising a novel—which is nice, because when I say I have the first draft written, people actually think I might finish and publish one day. Hey, I think I might finish.

Being in the revision stage has been like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how tiny that light is, you know the end is out there.

Unless you take a step backwards.

I recently read The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins. In record time, too. This story pulled me in so deep, I think it took me a week and a half to read all three books.

I’ve thought a lot about what it was about the story that captured my attention, my emotions, and my imagination so strongly. There are likely a lot of answers to that. But one of them no doubt lies with some of Collins’s writing decisions.

Collins wrote The Hunger Games and the following books in the first person point of view and in the present tense, not terribly unusual choices these days. Present tense makes events in a story feel more immediate. The first person lets the reader feel the narrator is talking directly to her or him. Through these techniques, an author can bring the reader right into the story.

Thing is, I’m not a huge fan of first person. I don’t really object, and I certainly don’t avoid it. But I don’t reach out to it as my first choice. And I don’t use it in my writing. Ever. It has never felt natural for me.

But the experience reading this trilogy prompted me to consider using first person: If first person can create such an intense experience, what would it do to my story? My story is lacking in the emotional connection column. And after reading just a few chapters of The Hunger Games, my first thought of my own work was “timid.”

After a few weeks of letting the thought ferment in the back of my mind, I actually rewrote my first scene.


The difference was huge. Immediate. Impossible to miss. My main character’s voice jumped out, when before she was merely peeking out from behind the curtain of third person.

I tried again with the second scene, just to make sure that wasn’t a one-shot. It wasn’t.

Insert heavy sigh here. I know what this means. Rewriting. Nearly everything.

A big step backward in the progress department.

But I refuse to get discouraged. I hardly can when I see the improvement in my manuscript. And as anxious as I am to finish, I want to put out the best work I can. This will only make my story better.

And so the writing continues, and will for some time. An unexpected side effect of The Hunger Games. Thank you, Suzanne Collins.

UPDATE: Jeff Goins has this to say about The Hunger Games and today’s writing trends. So maybe I’m not so off base…


flickr credit: mikecpeck

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