Alright, so I know I'm way behind in the game here because I JUST finished reading The Hunger Games and it's been a bestseller for a few years now. BUT! I just had to put in my two cents.
Many times during the story I'd ask myself, "Self, how did Ms. Suzanne Collins do it? How did she captivate me like this? What is her trick?" And I don't know if there is any one answer. So let me break it down into the areas I think are what really made this story such a success. And let me just say in case it's not already apparent, I LOVED it. Duh!
* The MC rocks. Katniss Everdeen is tough, clever, naive, a devoted sister, oblivious to her good looks, more concerned with her family than herself, a survivor. There are so any reasons to connect with Katniss--perhaps because she's been through so much. Or perhaps because she's tougher than most guys are. Perhaps it's a combination of these things. But the fact she is only remotely aware of her qualities allows us to love her even more.
* We see her in action. Throughout the story, Katniss is put into situations where the readers are along for the ride. We see her qualities and weaknesses unfold throughout the situations she's faced with. Never does the author tell us Katniss is tough, or pretty. She just is. We deduce this ourselves by joining her in her scenes.
* The voice is comfortable and practical. Although, I have to say there were many times I felt the voice of Katniss was that of a grown woman and not a teenage girl. Even so, it didn't matter because I was so gripped by the story.
* The plot was so fresh--pure genius. And in all actuality, it's not that original. It's similar to that of the ancient Roman gladiators being forced to kill or be killed as a spectator sport. But the fact Collins twisted this into a futuristic teenage game? Totally original and exciting!
* TENSION! Wow, there's so much tension throughout the entire story. It really is what compels readers to want to know more. The intensity draws us in.
Those are pretty obvious elements of what worked for The Hunger Games. But what about that ju ne se qua that reaches out and pulls the reader into the story? I truly felt like I was on this adventure with Katniss. How did Collins do that? How did she make me feel like I was really there?
I think the key word there is FEEL. That's the true art of telling a story. We can describe the setting so our readers can picture it vividly. We can have such snappy dialogue that our readers laugh aloud. But if our readers aren't feeling something stir inside them when they read our story, we're missing a HUGE element that makes it unputdownabale.
So what's the trick in making our readers feel? Wish I knew how to pinpoint it. But here's what I gathered from The Hunger Games. .... Collins uses just the right balance of description and introspection to trick our brains into believing we are really there with Katniss. Katniss feels what happens every step of the way: her pangs of hunger, her grimy skin, the dirt beneath her fingernails, the grief of Rue dying, the comfort of Peeta's body warmth.
We also get the unique setting and awesome story line with original creatures like mocking jays and tracker jackers. We get to picture all of it, and it sparks our intellect in imagining a dystopian world like this. But Collins only gives us what we absolutely need to know. And the rest ... she makes us feel it.
Awesome. It's no wonder why so many peeps love this story. After reading it and connecting with it on such a personal level, I now know I need to go back into my own story and make sure the MC is feeling everything ... not just the five senses, but his thoughts on how he feels about what's happening as well. The trick is in the balance.
And if you still haven't read it, consider reading it as a study for fiction writing. I promise you'll find it worth your while, and maybe you can let me know what elements of the story you found to make it so unputdownable. Please share ...