Monday, July 9, 2012

Character is what makes a series great

After much dragging of my feet, I finally read the Hunger Games trilogy. I know, I know. The thing is, I purposely avoided reading them because so many of my reader friends warned me that the second book fizzled and the third one just lost it. I didn't want to invest myself in characters that would disappoint me.

But obviously I relented. Partly because I saw the movie (it was meh) and wanted to read the book to see what I was missing. The first book was great! Loved it! Without delay, I launched into the second book and was so sad.

I finished the series, and as predicted, I closed the last book in disappointment. How could something that started so strong end so...hmmm.

The writer in me couldn't stop thinking about it. I had no idea what it was about books 2 and 3 that hit such a sour note, until I read Insurgent by Veronica Roth.

If you haven't read this book (or number one in the series, Divergent) stop what you are doing and go get them. Seriously, you don't even need to finish reading this. Just set the laptop down and get thee to a book store.

Her main characters Tris and Four are so believable. They are real people, who see the strengths in each other and the weaknesses in themselves. Their dystopian world is beyond any reality I know, but their actions and emotions are so true that it's all believable.
books that make me cry
Because I like books that make me cry!
When I prepped myself for Insurgent, I was prepared to be let down. It would be hard to keep up the intensity that Roth provides in Divergent. But, she delivered.

And in doing so, opened my eyes to what was missing in the Hunger Games series. Despite their world falling apart, Insurgent never takes its focus off our two main characters. Even though there is a ton going on and the plot is thick with intrigue, double crosses and complex cover-ups, we never lose how all of it is impacting Tris and Four. I never have to wonder how they are feeling, what their fears are, what their goals are. They are intricately tied to the plot.

In Catching Fire and Mocking Jay, the districts' fight for independence takes over the personal struggles of Katniss and the others. By the end of the series, I completely stopped caring what happened to her. When bad things happen (vagueness for those who haven't read it) I was not impacted emotionally. I didn't feel for her. Because the books stopped being about her and turned their focus to the war. A war, I didn't care about because Katniss doesn't care about it.

This was a huge lesson for me since I am writing the second book in my Watcher series for my Fast Draft class. It helps me remember that no matter how intense the plot of the book becomes, I need to stay focused on my characters and remember they are who my readers will care about.

3 comments:

  1. It's so tough to write the second or even third book for this reason. You have to keep the stakes high and keep the reader caring. Not easy to do.

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    Replies
    1. Stakes that escalate through each book and spanning the series is definitely a struggle.

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  2. I'm impressed by your detective work and insight into what makes the books work or not work. (I'm also pleased to hear there are some who didn't like the Hunger Games.) Thanks for sharing the info -- and good luck on your Fast Draft class! :-)

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