The Hunger Games – A Novel Poorly WrittenI can’t take it anymore. If one more person tells me how amazing The Hunger Games is I’m liable to blow my lid and attack them. What is it about poor writing that amazes you people?
I’m going to pick on an article I read: Why The Hunger Games Is The Future of Writing – and I’ll apologize to the author of this article in advance:
I’m sorry I’m using you as my example, but I desperately disagree with what you wrote. I disagree, and I pray to every supernatural deity out there that this does not come to be reality.
I’ll say this up-front because it may turn many of you away from the rest of this post: I did not finish the first book. I was completely unable to read it. But I did try. If that’s not enough, maybe one day I’ll force my way through the rest of the book – torture that it may be, because I know, with many of you, not finishing it strips me of my credibility or right to an opinion.
To those of you who think this: Bugger off.
To the rest of you: Let’s get started.
In the opening lines of the article, our friendly writer says this of the book:
It’s expected to surpass Twilight.
Okay, well, yeah. In terms of writing, that wouldn’t be hard to do. But then:
Maybe even be the next Harry Potter.
What? No. No way. In terms of fandom strength and popularity, I suppose so. But this series cannot stand against the Harry Potter series based on the merit of its writing alone. It’s just not possible.
Harry Potter is very well written. It boasts an elaborately complex plot that weaves elements together from the first book all the way through to the seventh book. The characters have so much depth and personality that they might as well just take a breath and step off the pages, they’re practically alive as it is.
But a comparison between The Hunger Games and Harry Potter is not what I’ve come here to make.
Why is The Hunger Games so popular? So fascinating? So damn special?
Because apparently society is getting dumber. We’re all idiots. Adults in their 50’s are apparently stampeding through malls wearing tube tops and letting their jeans sag down around their calves while their children cry in embarrassment and hide behind the Dippin’ Dots booth, praying they don’t run into anyone they know.
Because apparently even adults are at a 6th grade reading level. Really? I was reading at college-level in 6th grade, or so the tests and teachers told me. And I don’t point this out to be arrogant, but I’m genuinely amazed if the majority of our population (the ones that actually take the time to read books in the first place) are not at least reading at a high school level.
So why is Suzanne Collins so successful with The Hunger Games?
She writes short novels, in large fonts, with quick chapters. If you’re going to get people to read your content (whether it’s fiction or nonfiction), you should consider doing the same.
No, please. Please don’t do that. She writes “short novels, in large fonts, with quick chapters” because she’s writing Young Adult fiction – please don’t recommend this to people as a general tactic to become the next best seller UNLESS they’re writing YA fiction.
I don’t want to read nonfiction that uses short, stilted sentences with jumbo fonts when I’m trying to learn something. I want information, I want lots of details and specifics, I want all of this and that’s why I came to you, Mr. Nonfiction. For that matter, I don’t want to read fiction that has such trimmed, empty prose either. There’s a difference between creating tension and suspense with cutting words because you can’t find words to convey imagery or emotion.
Collins writes short sentences that pack a punch. They are disturbingly terse, like a Hemingway novel. Yet, they build suspense and momentum and work perfectly for a culture with an attention deficit.
To give you an idea of how she does this, here’s an excerpt from The Hunger Games(via Slate Magazine):
We’re on a flat, open stretch of ground. A plain of hard-packed dirt. Behind the tributes across from me, I can see nothing, indicating either a steep downward slope or even a cliff. To my right lies a lake. To my left and back, sparse piney woods. This is where Haymitch would want me to go. Immediately.
Thanks to the constant noise of TV and the Internet, this is the future of writing. Yes, there may still be a place for long-form, but the burden of proof has shifted. Now, shorter is better, because it means the reader will actually stay engaged.
Ugh. Where to start…
First of all, does no one else see all the fragments in that excerpt? “A plain of hard-packed dirt.” Yeah, so? What about it? There’s no freaking verb there!
Again: “To my left and back, sparse piney woods.” What?? What are you trying to say? To my left and back, there ARE sparse piney woods? To my left and back, sparse piney woods were painted on a backdrop to give the illusion of setting? To my left and back, BAM! sparse piney woods sprang up out of nowhere and slapped me in the face before I could finish that sentence?!
That’s not a SENTENCE. Both of those are only half of a sentence. That’s like going to the ice-cream stand and asking for a banana split and only getting a cup with bananas and chocolate fudge but no frickin’ ice cream. It’s incomplete and it leaves you frustrated and angry, wanting to know why the hell you paid for a full split and only got the bananas!
Sure, if you’re lactose intolerant then this doesn’t upset you. And there’s a hefty part of the population that has…literature…lactose…intol—Fine! I’m losing the analogy, but you get my point!
There are people who love this partial writing. Just look at the success Cormac McCarthy had with The Road – He dropped half his ice cream in the dirt on the way to the publisher. He handed them the cone and they grinned like idiots and said, “This is the best ice cream ever!”
I gotta stop with the ice cream references.
Second? I’ve grown up my entire life with the TV in the background, a gadget in my hand, a game console in every room, the internet, cell phones – SHINY THINGS!
But I still have an attention span that will allow me to sit for HOURS upon HOURS while I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows from start to finish without eating dinner or going to sleep or really doing anything aside from the necessary break to pee.
He says: “Now, shorter is better, because it means the reader will actually stay engaged.”
The whole reason I didn’t finish The Hunger Games was because I never felt engaged so it wasn’t a matter of losing me. There was nothing there to make me care from the start. As writing becomes shorter, more terse, more bare…I care even less.
Then there’s this:
The Hunger Games is not a children’s book (or movie). It’s full of bloodshed and adult themes. Like teenage kids battling it to the death as a form of entertainment for a futuristic dystopia, in which the government controls the population through forced sacrifice. Yep. Intense.
And I’m sorry, but The Hunger Games is a book for kids. Unless my sources are entirely inaccurate, The Hunger Games is classified as a YA novel. “YA” meaning Young Adult, specifically for children between the ages of 12 and 18. This book may have darker themes and be a bit on the graphic side but it is still a book for teenagers, also known as “Not Yet Adults” and thus: “Kids.”This is the main reason it’s written in such a short, snappy fashion. And yet, I am so against urging writers to perpetuate this style of writing.
Collins has essentially “dumbed down” her story to a point where it is barren of character depth and provides no emotional investment. You get the bones of the story, but you’re missing out on so much more that could have been there.
This article suggests that society has devolved in terms of a collective intelligence and that we’re too easily distracted by anything that flashes bright colors or a little boob or spurts fake blood. So then this is my question:
Why are we constantly changing everything to accommodate society rather than working to improve it?
“Oh, there are more obese people in America than ever before? Change the sizing scales so a size 8 is now a size 4 and a 4 is a size 1. Yay! Problem solved.”
NO. Larger women don’t end up feeling better about themselves because they’re suddenly wearing a size 4 – they just feel worse because now they’re simply competing with the size 1 and starving themselves until they can graduate from the 4 into the 1. The solution isn’t to change things to accommodate society, the solution is to FIX society.
Teach women to be healthy and then teach them that being healthy means loving their bodies as they are: sizes notwithstanding. Educate children on food choices and nutrition. Put physical Ed back into the schools.
If our attention spans are so freaking bad that we can’t make it through a kids’ book without it being stripped of everything that gives the story its depth, then let’s work on educating children and teaching them to focus. Take your kids outside to play, for crying out loud. Get them off the computer. GET YOURSELVES OFF THE COMPUTER AND GO WITH THEM.
Read to your children while they’re young so they learn what it is to invest themselves in a story, to get caught up in the plot, to not be so impatient that they want to skip “the boring parts” so they can get to the blood and guts and explosions.
The Hunger Games cannot be the future of writing. If all books take on this style of producing empty prose with nothing but mindless action and terse descriptions…then, well…let’s just end this sentence visually: