Yes, I picked The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. It has a ton of great writing tips in it, and even four or so years after it came out, it is still extremely popular. When I first read it, I actually read the entire trilogy in three days, not stopping to do anything else. The story was amazing, of course, or I wouldn’t be using it for tips. Overall, Collins definitely hit the jackpot with this one.
I’m sure you know what this book is about, so I’ll keep my description brief. This is a dystopian novel that features Panem, a nation made up of a rich capitol and twelve districts that provide and are left starving with only the bare minimum to survive. These districts are reminded of the uprisings nearly 74 years ago with the Hunger Games. Each district reaps a boy and girl between 12 and 18 to fight to the death in an arena for the capitol’s entertainment, and the winning district gets food.
The story follows Katniss, whose sister is reaped in her first year of being eligible for the games. She volunteers as tribute, knowing she will die, and goes into the games in her sister’s place. This Hunger Games doesn’t go quite as planned when she begins to actually have a shot at winning.
The first thing I’m going to pull from this book is the whole idea of a dystopian society. Obviously, Collins wasn’t the first to come up with the idea of utopia and dystopia, but this book set the trend. Following The Hunger Games, many authors began to come up with their own dystopias and the characters that live in them. This book opened up a whole new place that fiction could go, like Harry Potter opened up witchcraft and Twilight opened up to the supernatural romance.
Think about what you are doing with your idea. Is it something that could set a trend in the fictional world? If it isn’t, that is completely fine. But keep an eye out for those ideas that can open up more doors for other authors. Don’t reject them if you have a few good ones. Write it.
Remember that thing I said about not caring what others think? Not even your reader? Yeah, that’s why we have drafts. And that’s why we don’t have to share our work until we want to.
Another thing I can pull from The Hunger Games is the unique balance between genders. This book isn’t considered “girly” because the main character is a girl. It isn’t a “boy’s book” either because of the violence. Collins was able to find a balance between killing opponents in the games and appreciating the fashion style of Cinna. She made the story apply to both stereotypical gender-specific sides (I say that because girls don’t have to read “girly books” and boys don’t have to read “boy books”). This opens up her audience and helped to get people interested.
If you look at your book, do you see your writing going to one side or the other? And this isn’t even only for gender, but even ages and lifestyles and target audiences. Do you see your writing only applying to a very specific audience and not to a broad audience? If you think that the only people who will want to read your book are ten year olds from New Jersey who hate mashed potatoes, you might want to broaden your audience.
But remember, don’t make your audience a group that you can’t relate to or that you don’t understand. You need to at least have some kind of knowledge about your audience before you start writing for them. And by write for them, I mean edit for them. Because you need to like what you are writing in order for them to like it, too.
Make it apply to the audience by tweaking later if it’s necessary. That’s really hard to do and it takes a bit of time, but if it is too much you might want to think about the audience you are in and see if what you wrote applies to them more. If you like it, maybe the audiences you fit into will too.
Finally, The Hunger Games was part of a trilogy. This is something that isn’t necessary. You don’t even need to have a second book. I, myself, am writing a stand alone. Trilogies and series are used to break up a long story into smaller stories. They can keep the reader hooked longer, but it also means that you kind of need to finish all of the books. That takes a lot of dedication. You don’t want to disappoint your readers because you want to write something else, do you?
Personally, I wrote the first novel of a planned trilogy and am keeping it in my back pocket. I don’t want to get it published until I know I’m going to finish the trilogy, or even go back and make the first book a stand-alone. I like the story, but my heart isn’t in it right now.
If your story is part of a planned series, don’t feel pressured to finish it if you want to take a break and work on something else. But don’t leave it orphaned completely. If you don’t want to finish the series, maybe rework it into a stand-alone. Take parts of the idea of it and put in other books. You worked hard on it, so don’t give up now. Use it.
So my challenge for you is to try looking into the doors you can open with your story. Look into the ways that you can make your story go in a completely new direction that other writers haven’t really gone in yet. Look at your audience. Is it too narrow? Make it broader. Is it too generalized? Try to focus in on parts of the book and look at who they apply to, and take that into account when you are editing. I might have to write a whole post on audiences…
Think about taking this great idea you have and making it bigger. Think about what it would be like to write another book in this world you created. Or even another story with the same world. Cassandra Clare uses the Shadow Hunters’ world for two completely different series that she wrote.
Maybe you want to have a stand-alone book. That just means that you have plenty more time to put all of your efforts into this one book. Make it great. Make it something to be proud of, something that you can call your “best work”.
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Thank you for reading, and don’t stop writing!