Why The Hunger Games Is the Future of Writing

Hunger Games Book
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Suzanne Collins has created a worldwide phenomenon with The Hunger Games. It’s expected to surpass Twilight. Maybe even be the next Harry Potter.

The movie (titled after the popular young adult book series) is expected to earn over $100 million its opening weekend. When my wife and I went to see it, we remarked we had never stood in a longer line on opening night.

So what is this about? Why is The Hunger Games so popular?

I don’t think it’s an accident. Collins knew exactly what she was doing. And modern writers would do well to follow her lead, at least part of it.

We’re all young adults

Young adult fiction is red hot right now. But why? There are, I think, two reasons:

  1. Youth culture is now the dominant culture. Go to the mall and see how many 40- and 50-year-olds are dressed like their teenage children. Turn on your TV and watch the commercials; they’re geared towards youth and those who want to preserve it. The psychology book Teen 2.0 by Robert Epstein opened my eyes to this. Right or wrong, sells like adolescence.
  2. We live in a world of distractions. With more and more visual media, not surprisingly, most people in the U.S. are reading at the level of a seventh or eighth grader. So if you want to write a book for the masses, why not target young adults?

How does Collins accomplish this? How does she connect with the most amount of people via her writing? 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), maybe should consider doing the same.

Or you could, of course, fight this trend, but it seems to be an uphill battle. We’re all scanners now in one form or another. Maybe we had better write like it.

Is shorter better?

Collins writes short sentences that pack a punch. They are disturbingly terse, like a Hemingway novel (to be fair, Hem wrote his share of long-form, but he is known for simple sentence structure). This way of writing builds suspense, which works perfectly with a culture addicted to constant interruptions.

To give you an idea of how this is done, 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.

Edgy writing rings true

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.

If you’re a storyteller, this is important. The world is dark and hard and full of pain. But there is still hope. Which is why a story like this is so powerful.

During a time of self-preservation, one brave girl — Katniss, the main character of The Hunger Games — stands in place of her younger sister. She volunteers to die. In an age where our future is uncertain, these types of tales resonate with us.

For the first time in nearly a century, we will not be creating a better world for our children. They will face hardship we have never seen. We need realistic reasons to hope, in spite of the circumstances. The Hunger Games does this. Not in an idealistic way, but in a way that rings true.

Write your own Hunger Games

We need more stories like this. We need writing that captures our attention and keeps it — both through form and substance. So go write something short that grabs people’s attention. And as you do so, give them hope. That’s what we’re all longing for.

What do you think? Are you a Hunger Games fan? Does this kind of writing resonate with you? Share in the comments.

365 thoughts on “Why The Hunger Games Is the Future of Writing

  1. I think you’re right and wrong. For me, the Hunger Games are attractive because they do have a dark, compelling storyline and one that also instills hope… 

    but… I think there will always be real readers in the world. I think there’s a place for every kind of book, every kind of writing style, and they simply take turns for their spot in limelight. I don’t think your goal should be to copy the Hunger Games… just write something original, from your heart and hey, maybe people will start drooling over you. 

    Then the rest of us have to write something to compete with it. 🙂 Its just another cycle of life… 

  2. I think you’re right and wrong. For me, the Hunger Games are attractive because they do have a dark, compelling storyline and one that also instills hope… 

    but… I think there will always be real readers in the world. I think there’s a place for every kind of book, every kind of writing style, and they simply take turns for their spot in limelight. I don’t think your goal should be to copy the Hunger Games… just write something original, from your heart and hey, maybe people will start drooling over you. 

    Then the rest of us have to write something to compete with it. 🙂 Its just another cycle of life… 

  3. Yes, Jeff, a purist writer can continue to say “Hell, no…I’m not doing any watering down of my prose” (and sit with his idealistic proggishness) or he can wade into this new territory and get his message across, to his audience, shifting gears. He may just find he’s got an ever-increasing audience who needs to hear that message. I am presently writing a children’s series, tho’ I’ve never “gone there,” before.  There will be short, terse, action-packed sentences because that’s what my audience will want (I have 3 grandchildren in the 4-8 age group.) If one cannot adapt in the new milieu, then he’s alone, and I never understand authors who don’t do the necessary marketing to get their stuff out there. We write for an audience and they command attention; however, it’s they who set the parameters of what they want.

  4. I wish I understood the fascination with this book series. I’m midway through the second book and … well, I have no emotional connection to anyone. The romantic aspect is badly tackled. Either Katniss has no emotions, or she isn’t sharing them even with herself. They feel empty to me. At least with “Twilight,” badly written as it was, I felt something. But here… nothing. And I find that discouraging.

  5. I’m sorry … what were you saying?

    But seriously -> It’s sad but true. I do think the cycle will come full circle eventually and long form will have its day once again.

    For now, it’s knife through the noise with an exacto, not a machete.

  6. A lot of the comments here have said something along the lines of “any college writing teacher would give this an “F” – regarding Collins’ writing.

    I teach college English – including composition and literature – and I’m astonished by the argument for long sentences versus short sentences. There are long sentences that are incredibly wordy and convoluted. On the other hand, there are short sentences that undo me, and I specifically think of Raymond Carver, Andre Dubus, Flannery O’Connor, and Ernest Hemingway.

    That one is better than another is a ludicrous argument.

    Collins is a killer storyteller, and I was not in the least distracted by the length or clarity of her sentences, as I have been with lesser writers. Her story is one that, though not original (come on, is there such a thing these days?), is thought provoking. I wrote about The Hunger Games and subversion on my own blog this week here: https://www.thepickygirl.com/?p=2161 – I dip into the movie as well because I thought it was a fantastic adaptation.There is room for all types of writing. There was an article on NYT a couple of weeks ago about how the length of books has been increasing, so I’m not altogether sure an alarmist perspective including ADD as its touchstone is valid. Writing changes over time, of course, but I wouldn’t necessarily blame it on teenagers with short attention spans. As someone else in the comments mentioned, the recent explosion of YA lit supports the very opposite of that when you have children AND adults sitting down and reading for hours at a time to get through the lengthy Harry Potter or Hunger Games books. Interesting article, though, and one that has certainly produced quite a wide range of opinion.

  7. Amazing!  Been reading Moby Dick with my 10 year old daughter.  Sometimes Melville’s sentences will go several pages (on a kindle).  Reflecting, I realize I’ve needed to interpret every chapter so far (most of which I can boil down to one sentence).  I’m still sorting through my thoughts on this writing/cultural movement.  Thanks for stirring things up!

  8. What i hate is the way women are portrayed lately in all these ‘teen fic’ (harry potter) actually being the exception. Disney princess and twilight being the worst offenders. These woman are not independent… they can’t live without the ‘boy’ or have to wait for prince charming to come save them. It worry’s me how much the younger girls look up to these characters… what little girl doesn’t want to be a Disney princess, what teen age girl doesn’t want to fall in love with a sparkling vampire and have his baby? I think we actually have taken a step backwards here. Sure love is grand, and I support marriage and family… but I’ll be darn if my life stops if I don’t have those things.  Marriage is about partnership…not the man taking care of the woman, while she is a baby factory. I nearly walked out of the theatre when I saw the first twilight movie, I was so offended. I can’t remember the actual line but it went something like ‘make me a vampire because I can’t live without you!’ horrible horrible. Family and love are important but so is being able to stand strong on you own. A partner should be a support system not a crutch. But it seems so many young girls today just want to be taken care of.

    1. You state many important and true points Parisindy. But princess’s waiting for their prince has been around for ages. That isn’t a new ‘fad’.

    2. Has anyone seen the Disney movie Lemonade Mouth, or read the book? I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on the complexity of the characters’ backgrounds, especially for a Disney film.

  9. Writing for middle graders makes me curb my wordiness (!!), otherwise they’ll quickly lay down the material and be long gone. For them, writing has to be pretty much rapid-fire.From this post, I can see that what I’m having to do for them, is excellent practice for writing for today’s adults. It’s hard. I’m glad I’m in it.

  10. A best-seller in pop culture has never been indicative of what constitutes “good” art.  However, if your goal is to reach pop culture, then you need to use the medium that speaks to that culture.  But make no mistake about it, just because you adopt the mediums familiar to pop culture, and thereby reach the masses doesn’t make you a great writer any more than writing a top forty pop song makes you a great song-writer.  It might make you successful, widely read, or rich, but not a great artist.  That being said, I like short punchy prose as well as short chapters!       

  11. I am a quiet rebel.  I haven’t seen Titanic, yet.  I won’t do whatever the fad is.  On the other hand, my 14 yo daughters read the trilogy (last week),  and began to so identify, that they behaved as though they had no one to care for them and were living in the out of doors.

    I agree culture is going that way, but I am trying to maintain the delicate illusion that it matters that I attempt to give mine more.  If you please.

  12. I haven’t read the book and I haven’t seen the movie, so I should not comment at all. I can only comment on what Jeff says. I must be weird, because I treasure long, complex sentences that actually say something. I have always loved the writings of Paul, the apostle, for that reason. There is so much meat, and even gravy, in those long sentences. I know, I know, it’s Greek and who knows where the sentences end, but I read English, and in English, these are long, complex sentences. I think compelling plots and spectacular writing have always propelled success for writers. I’m not sure we should assume that one book will change everything for writers.
    If I wrote just for the purpose of writing something that would make money, I would probably try to emulate this author. Since I write in order to share something I think is important, I believe I must write in the style that communicates this message effectively. I’ll just have to live dangerously and see what happens. I believe Jeff told us all to write something risky, and I’m going to risk being myself to tell my message. I really can’t become someone else.

  13. Love this, Jeff! These times are changing, and authors need to be sensitive enough to feel and express them. I hope I do this generation justice with my mid-grade/YA series! We all have needs to fill, so let’s start by giving readers what that need. Cheers and keep up the good work!

  14. Awesome post! I totally agree with you – short and sharp is good. Keep the reader turning pages at speed because they just HAVE to know what’s going to happen. I actually think YA novels should be readable in one sitting.

  15. I don’t think the Hunger Games is popular because of its short sentences, or that the story would work if it was written in the style of the Bronte sisters. Neither the structure or the story are perfect, but as it is the concepts and ideas are making people think and talk. Surely that is a powerful result for a writer.
    I like the way the young are questionning the establishment and effecting change.

  16. Even non-fiction has gotten shorter. The modern philosopher, neuroscientist and NY Times best selling author expounds on the reason he is writing shorter books. Go to this link about his presentation about Free Will and go to 57:48 where he discusses the length of books. 

  17. I watched it intently. I look at it as introspecting movie. The setting and the characters were intuitively chosen, I think. The plots were weaved for a purpose. It may be that the means didn’t justify the end but it teaches me to be more adept and still remain true to what’s really important.

  18. One question I find interesting whenever this discussion comes up is why kids are able to play computer games for hours and hours.. and hours… on end, with nourishment from just a packet of stale donuts and a can of flat Coke (to the point where people have died of exhaustion and a clinic for people with a gaming addiction has been opened in Europe) when apparently no one under the age of 45 can concentrate for more than six seconds.

    People – young or old – are still capable, and even enjoy, being absorbed by an experience, whether it’s reading a book, playing a computer game or baking a cake. The concept of flow, or being in the zone, is still as attractive now as it was fifty or a hundred years ago, even for sixth graders.So what? This doesn’t mean that people will suddenly start reading Proust instead of checking their Facebook messages. What it means is that there’s a difference between saying that “we live in a world of distractions” or “a culture with attention deficit” and proposing that “we need good writing that captures people’s attention and keeps it.”The first statement says people in our culture are incapable of concentrating. This suggests there’s nothing a writer or producer of any kind of art can do about it.Implying that we are observing this trend from some higher vantage point seems a bit elitist, and if anything hints that writers should write work which is dumber than they are, because writers are soooo smart and readers (especially young adult readers) are soooo dumb. I doubt any good writer-reader relationship can be built on that idea. But apart from that, the fact that people of all ages are capable of giving sustained attention to one task clearly suggests that it isn’t that people are dumb or can’t focus but that writers aren’t pushing the right buttons often enough. And that perhaps there are too many writers blaming readers rather than just going back to their desks and writing better.The second line of thinking (that “we need good writing”) respects readers and just argues for quality. Quality, of course is a vague concept, but being admired by readers you respect might be one measure. This kind of attitude also implicitly acknowledges that there are (and have been for centuries) writers of a variety of art forms producing the kind of work that does capture people’s attention and keep it.

  19. If the point is that burdened prose gets in the way of the story, I can agree wholeheartedly.  As a reader, I dislike having to wade through a mangrove of literary illusions rendered by erudite authors like Updike and Pynchon to get to the story.  But, some people love this.  No one has ever accused Cormac McCarthy of weighing down his stories with a ton of Latinisms and round-about narrative but I don’t see him being touted here.

    Instead, I see a young author who writes in short terse scenes who has a nice grasp of action and a fond sense of the Amazon metaphor but damn little understanding of the myth underlying her stories which never transcend the dystopian, hopeless context in which they’re framed.  Her writing, like that of Rowling, is remunerative successful because it feeds a hunger among the young, spawned on TV, quick techno-fixes and gameboy, who crave simple, digestible tales that they can slurp up like a pop tart and go on.  Rowling’s series retells the Jesus story without the pack-saddle of guilt and puritanism laid on by the church dwellers.  Suzanne Collins has given us David and Goliath in drag, laid out in an action video game and it’s a no-brainer why the kids love  these stories. They move fast.  They require little thought and there over before the next snack break.   

  20. Reading through these comments is so interesting!  It seems to me that the main catch here is whether you’re trying to make money off your writing or not.  If not, write whatever the heck you want.  If you are, it would behoove you to learn from current trends.  If you believe that anyone writing for the purpose of making money (in any way, shape or form) makes them a “hack,” so be it.  The fact of the matter is, as many have said, Collins and Rawlings and Brown (and more) have hit a nerve with a GLOBAL audience and people are READING.

    I just had a discussion with a friend of mine that said YA fiction is ruining America.  They said there is “3,000 years worth of ADULT fiction for ADULTS to read.”  Well, guess what?  MOST adults don’t read.  Period.  So, if you expect to get adult Americans to pay for and read what you consider “adult material,” good luck to you.  (Full disclosure: I just bought an academic book (The Disabled God) about the liberatory theology of disability…for fun.  I like big words and long sentences, too.  hehe) 

  21. After watching the movie and realising how little i understood when hearing others who had actually read the books make their comparisons, i realised i was going to have to read it myself. But i felt nervous about it, i knew it was a triology, and once is start i would have to complete. So i knew it would eat a lot into my precious time with my med school exams fast approaching. But it was this short writing style that made things very easy. I was done with all three within 4 days. For me this is a mind blowing record.

    I think there is no reason for us to be reluctant to accept such a writing style or even the fact that it may become a trend. There have been many trends in literature over the centuries, and just because this writing style is simple, it doesn’t mean we have all deteriorated in to simple mind beings ourselves. 
    The reason this simple style was really a must in this type of action/sci-fi story is because you do not have to spend time re-reading things that you didn’t fully catch, and here that is necessary so you can actually move at the same pace as the story.
    So to conclude, i must credit that her style was brilliant, her plot too was intricate to just the right degree and what really gives the edge to the trilogy is the unmistakable parallels it presents, that highlight many of the obscenities we witness in our very own world.

  22. She also uses the writing techniques of putting it in first person as well as present tense, which helps to capture the teenage mind – we can relate to it better if it’s in first person. This article is kind of depressing, though….it kind of sheds a shadow on our time right now that we can’t even focus on a book anymore 🙁 Collins’ writing isn’t fantastically special prose or anything, I think it’s really the premise that caught people so easily.

  23. Nice assessment. Collins combined a great premise, with an mc who inspires admiration while caring deeply for her sister. We root for her at the same time that Collins makes us see the other contestants as people. Collins as a writer draws from her screenwriting experience to draw intense visuals and characterize beautifully while maintaining tension. I only hope that we will see more writing that excellent, but it’s a difficult bar to attain. How many Ernest Hemingways have there been? 😀

  24. Everything you say about The Hunger Games is true. It’s a quick, easy read. It’s edgy. It’s a story about youth. But I don’t think you can sum up its appeal as simply as that. The writing is also compelling. There are a lot of dystopian YA novels out there right now, and none of them can compete with The Hunger Games on any level. Collins created a fantastic and unique world, characters with motivations that ring true and threw in interesting plot twists that always raised the stakes.

    I read a good bit of YA literature, because I’m a YA librarian. I also read literature and nonfiction. The backlash against adults who read YA misses the point, in my opinion. There are well-written and thought provoking books written across all genres. People should continue to read what they like. Challenging yourself is a great thing, but reading is entertainment, and as long as you are engaging with the text, I don’t think there’s anything people should be ashamed of reading, from the smuttiest erotica to the most pulpiest mysteries.

  25. Okay, hold on a second and let me get this straight. Your blog is intended to help people become better writers, yet you’re advocating that they follow a similar format to the Hunger Games because the current youth generation is unable to read? My mind is blown. I really don’t want to live in a world where not only do people settle for mediocrity, but where we’re told its okay to continue the mediocrity because its the only way others will pay attention to us. Are you sure thats the message you want to be sending out?

  26. You know what would work even better? Adhering to the standard of picture books. Now kids won’t even have to read to receive the point that is being presented by a novel. It’ll take them less time to get through it, and therefore increase the probability that they will actually “read” the book! Leaving them plenty of time to spend with their other distractions.

    Incidentally, have you ever actually read Hemingway?

  27. I think the messages in The Hunger Games are much more disturbing than the idea that teens might enjoy reading shorter, more accessible sentences and words. 

    If I had a teenage daughter or son, I’d rather they read Twilight. 
    The Hunger Games is certainly dark and edgy enough to get the attention of kids raised on gory television and films, but there’s very little message behind the violence and even less hope. I’ve read holocaust memoirs that were more uplifting than this series that’s intended for tweens.
     There’s plenty of dystopian literature that either offers hope that the dystopia is eventually dismantled for the greater good, or that inspires the reader to change their ways so that we can have a brighter future in the real world. The Hunger Games glorifies violence and shows every ugly side of human nature possible while offering no hope, no possibility of a happy ending for the characters or world at large, and no message for those reading it other than the ugly facts that people will do despicable things to survive or to maintain their own power. 

  28. Has anyone mentioned the similarity of  Hunger Games to a short story written in 1949 by Shirley Jackson, “The Lottery”?

    The Lottery tells the story of one small village’s experience with the annual celebration called the lottery, where one name is drawn and that person is stoned by the remaining villagers.

    Mary in Michigan

  29. I think you’re right on the money about the shorter attention spans in general. I have often wondered by shorter, serialized novels in “blovel” format haven’t taken off. With everyone short on time these days, one would think that the “long form” of the novel would be increasingly less in favor with the “give it to me now” mentality that is so pervasive of this generation. Hey, if cellphone novels work in Japan, why can’t the Blovel ever take off?

  30. this entire article is based on hindsight and dismissive generalizations. i find no value in your writing whatsoever.

  31. Jeff,
    Have you read the other two books in the series? I’d be interested to hear your take on how the publisher handled her writing. It seems like the first book is written by an entirely different author then the second and third. I also feel like Collins didn’t give much thought to any critical analysis or a particular writing style. You say she writes short, straight to the punch sentences but it seems like that happened by accident, or maybe somewhere in the editing process. I don’t think it was because she understands the culture of short attention spans. Just a thought. 

  32. This is not meant to offend anyone. but this really discourages me. I know this probably isn’t what you meant Jeff but this is often how I feel after reading a post by a YA Author. I feel like there is no place for what I want to write because I’m not interested in reading or writing YA. That the world only wants YA stories, and if that’s true then I should give up now. Sorry to be a downer. 

  33. This is unfortunate in a way. I, sadly, am one of those with no attention span. But I still  am of the belief that this terse writing style should be reserved for news articles etc. Novels are presumably read for fun; as a leisure activity. For this reason, authors should not feel such a need to rush!

  34. I disagree. I don’t think tailoring your writing to suit one type of personality trait is not a good thing to do. If you write lengthy prose, elegant in detail and fashion and love building your characters to a complex level, there is a market for you. It might not be the most Popular market, like apparently, kids with ADHD, but if it is smooth, and rings true and is exciting it will be read. 
    Think of all the writers that went against the grain to break new ground. Kafka, Wells, Poe, all lengthy writers in their own respects, and look at the staying power of their work. 
    Sure, quick, to the point writing is good. Poetry is good. But it’s not the only way to tell a good story. 

      1. No, peddling to the masses is not synonymous with creating quality works. McDonalds is popular, but we don’t call it fine dining nor do we compare it to Celar de can Roca; yet McDonalds vastly outperforms all fine dining restaurants.

        Nietzsche put it well when he said he would never read a book that was set out to be written.

        YA is a consumer product meant to entertain; the reality show of the literary space. These books, and their content, mirror the sickness in our culture; a subtle form of illiteracy. These books are something one is meant to outgrow, to overcome, like baby clothes that no longer fit as one’s mind can no longer tolerate the simplicity and childishness.

        Adults who read YA can only enjoy it if they have never developed their mind beyond that of the teenagers portrayed. I read a few ‘best sellers’ in the genre and was completely floored at how much nonsense was peddled as wisdom; things you should be able to see through immediately as an adult.

        What next, kindergarten art on display at the louvre?

  35. If I decided to write a book called ‘How To Not be Taken Seriously by Intelligent People,’ I would have a whole chapter called ‘Step Four: Compare Suzanne Collins’ writing to Ernest Hemingway.’  Have you ever read a Hemingway novel, Jeff?  Have you ever read something written above a fourth grade reading level?  The Hunger Games reads like it was written by a barely literate gas station attendant who dropped out of high school at fifteen.  You, in what I can only assume was meant to be a serious comparison, actually equated a pop fluff hack writer like Collins with one of the five best American novelists to EVER LIVE.  There are no words to describe how much I hate you and everything you stand for.

    1. Oh MY! Can’t we get along. Hate is a strong word. A word better left for murderers, rapist and evil. Jeff is not evil and Hemingway is not holy.

    2. Can i just like freaking kill you right now? Like youre seriously a freaking MENTAL case. Suzanne Collins is a legend. And the Hunger Games is a fairly new book. Do u write? If not then u obviously dont understand what us writers have to do to even slightly compare to a book like the Hunger Games. Like seriously when i read the Hunger Games i couldnt put the books down for even a second. I finshed each of those books in a night. As in a night each. How do other less experienced writers like me even hope to become such well know writers that everyone knows our name, and everyone either loves us to death or hates us cause they didnt like or book. So before you judge her try to become more popular in times like now, or the future when peoples attension spans last a couple of seconds unless you can catch them and hold them really well.

      1. Sweetie, I’m a writer and I can definitely tell you (quite proudly) that Collins’ writing is like a bucket of fish guts next to many other, much more original writers. Maybe you should judge her worth by her writing, not by her fame. Crafting a novel isn’t done for the fame you seem to think writers all seek. We write to create, to beautify, to release our thoughts to the world. Not to have our last names dripping from the lips of those who can’t even be bothered to pick up a book that may require thought while reading it, let alone more than three days for an entire series.

        Do tell me what you think of Collins’ apparent legendary position once you read King, Rowling, Twain, Gaiman, Asimov, and Brom. I’ll be dying to know.

        Also, don’t talk about wanting to kill others for having a differing opinion. It makes you seem insensitive and severely unintelligent. Not mention your poor punctuation, capitalization, and inability to spell the word ‘you’ more than three times already gives you the unintelligent factor, so you don’t have much credibility from the start. 😉

  36. Reading this eight months later with the goodreads best book choices of 2012 out and stating the people’s choice, it seems the tide has changed.  Big juicy books filled with language and complex stories readers can fall into dominate.  Even in the sci-fi category we have literary writers filling the top spots.  Perhaps the real future of publishing is rapid and unexpected change.  The only thing that remains constant is to write, and write what you love for those you’d love to read it.  Yes, we are all skimmers these days, but that primal need of falling into another world that’s fully developed and you never want to leave seems to persist.  Perhaps The Hunger Games was a novelty with another novelty breathing down its neck.  We just don’t know in these rapidly changing times.

  37. Being the 18 year old writer that I am, I can see where you are coming from Jeff. I am admittedly one of those kids with a short attention span who enjoys short sentences, though that is natural, not forced. I myself have drawn inspiration from The Hunger Games because it does cater to my young adult needs. Instead of saying “follow her lead” which is synonymous with “do everything she does” I think you mean for us to internalize her style and incorporate it into ours, if necessary. I enjoy Collins’s work, but I also admire Tolkien and many other greats, even though their style is lengthy and not like mine. In other words, read what you love and write how you want. If it happens to be popular, then so be it, if not, find your target audience preference and stick with them. That is just my opinion

  38. Also @Mary in Michigan: The Hunger Games has been compared to “The Lottery” “Battle Royale” and many other movies/books, though she has denied any allegation of ‘stealing’ ideas from others and claims to not have even known about them until after publishing “The Hunger Games.”

  39. I agree that this is where literature is going, unfortunately. I, for one, hate the writing style of the hunger games because it is so simplistic. It shows how downhill, intellectually speaking, mankind has gone in this age of technology.

  40. The hunger games was of a very low quality. You seem to be saying people should not seek to better themselves, and I find myself filled with derision at the idea. ‘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.’ errr WHAT? Dumbing down makes you a better writer? Try reading a proper book, such as The Eye Of The World, or Gardens Of The Moon. It’s like comparing something made in China to something made in Germany; cheap crap that no one cares about, or quality items that will last more than a lifetime.

    1. If this is the style of writing that is getting more people to pick up a book rather than a remote control then why mock it? Also, we all know that as society changes over the decades so do language and storytelling; just because modern-day storytelling is faster and more to-the-point does that necessarily make it inferior to the classics? What they may lack in prose some may say they make up for in content.

  41. The other day I was discussing the Hunger Games with one of the boys in my class.

    We agreed (something that doesn’t happen very often between me and other teenage boys!) that the Hunger Games is popular because of the story. It actually isn’t written very well. I almost gave up reading the second book (wasn’t as good as the first one), as I lost interested in the general writing style of Collins’. The only reason I kept reading was because of the popularity it was getting at school and the story line – about how Katniss goes back in to the arena.

    THG is definitely not a short series (although when I first red the series I finished all three in a week – I was 12 at the time). It does have short chapters though, which I noticed more in the third book, as I re-read it. But sometimes I feel like it goes on and on. But the general idea is very gripping, and I believe that is why it’s popular.

    In saying all of this, I’m a total HG fangirl. I saw Catching Fire on Friday – and it was much better than the book. Better than the first movie, which I found surprising.

    I’m writing my own Science Fiction like ‘novel’. So far I haven’t finished writing the first chapter, and it’s already 2,797 words. So Collins kind of ripped us off with short chapters and large fonts.


    1. The point of the article, Lottie, isn’t the quality of writing, but the form. I think many will write more in this vein in the future, and as they do, the quality will improve. I’m certainly not married to the idea; I just thought it was interesting.

      1. My advice is read Divergent its a clever example of the form you are suggesting but holds a much more intelligent way of writing.
        At the end of the day its all a matter of personal opinion. I write for YA and I feel its insulting there intelligence by loosing half the sentence in order to make it snappy. The tone of the hunger games however I agree is a way forward for young people. Clear, short action with moral undertones.
        Its interesting to wait and see how the theory pans out.

    2. Lottie, I have a challenge for you. You have been presented with many conflicting notions about morality and ethics, the sum total of which indicates that it is better to kill another human than cooperate or even negotiate with that human. “The Hunger Games” deals with this moral dilemma in a way you might regard with some suspicion. Your distrust is not without reason. Yes, the imposition of that mandate comes from “above”, from parent-like authority figures, but the ultimate choice is left to the main character: kill or be killed. Ignoring the other minor details which question that mandate is the core of your distrust, I think. They are meant to be ignored because they are glossed over, both in the book and in the movie. I suspect that left some unanswered questions and a strange kind of emptiness within you, didn’t it? Here’s how to fill that void:

      My challenge to you: write a book that examines the notion of life as sacred, the most meaningful and valuable thing in the universe. Question: in all the Cosmos, what is the ONLY thing that pushes back against the flow of Time’s Arrow, the tendency for all things to crumble away to dust? Answer: life. For the first thirty years or so of human life, we grow. ALL life grows. Nothing else in the universe grows in that fashion. (Crystals do not grow. They accrete; expand by accumulation) Search your memories and the Internet. You will see this is true. Therefore, life is unique.

      I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but do you really understand it as the most basic description of who we are? In order to write great works, you MUST understand this! You must also understand the mirror image, the converse of that ethic: killing means destruction of the most unique thing we know. If you portray killing as necessary and desirable, you have failed in your task as both a human and a writer to examine the quality of that which makes us unique.

      Lottie, we have more than enough books that show killing and how it MAY be necessary, MAY be desirable, MAY in fact be exciting and glamorous. We do not have many books showing protagonists who achieve goals that benefit all of us by avoiding death and mayhem. If you think about it, killing to resolve any conflict is the cheap way out. It’s the EASIEST solution. Is life easy? You know darn well it isn’t. So why take the easy way out? Do you believe that the easy way, the laziest way is the best way? Then you are bound to be disappointed as a writer and as a human because no such condition exists in the real world. There are no easy ways, both in action or in thought. We are complex critters and the moral dilemmas writers portray MUST depict that complexity.

      I think you’re up to this challenge. You are young, your mind is flexible and you are capable of thinking outside the box. Do so. Give us something unique that reflects our nature as humans. Give us a moral quandary that doesn’t inevitably result in bloodshed and death. Give us something profound to consider. Read carefully, write honestly and surpass our previous efforts to describe the human condition. You can do it. You have hundreds of thousands of years of genetic success as a survivor and complete access to the greatest supply of knowledge the human species has ever known. Your mind is a nearly perfect result of good nutrition, excellent health, terrific genetics and beyond adequate training.

      Just don’t repeat the easy way, the lazy way over and over again. “The Hunger Games”, attractive as it may seem, is the lazy way. Just kill and let God sort out the bodies. Haven’t we done enough of that already?

      1. I think you serverly missed the point of the Hunger Games. The books are all about how the war and violence is horrible, corrupting, scarring, cruel etc.

        Katnis only kills in self defense and otherwise tries to do everything in her power to avoid killing, up until the 3rd book, where its clearly shown as all the violence having a negative effect on her mental state

    3. I agree that the Hunger Games is good story, but it is not a good book or good writing. The concept had the potential to go much further than it did. If the story could be likened to a forest trail, the author sprinted down the most open, obvious route, missing all the interesting little side paths in the process.

  42. Comparing Collins to Hemingway (not sarcastically) is precisely what is wrong with today’s society.

  43. I hope it isn’t because it’s terrible writing. The characters are one dimensional and the plot is simplistic. It is not hard to figure out how the story is going to end. The idea of a society designed so that the elites live off the labor of a vast under or slave class was first put forward by Plato and the first fiction work that dealt with it was the book 1984. So the end of the series is already written with the bad guys being over thrown it just the details of how that happens that need to been drawn in and if you read the books those details become pretty obvious. What Collins could have done was kill off her Heroin in the first book creating an entirely different narrative for the second or third. You would still get to the same point but at least it would keep you guessing and since there are only a limited number of plots in literature keeping people guessing is what keeps it interesting.

    1. Well, Orwell ripped off Zamyatin, so 1984 isn’t the first work of fiction about a soulless dystopia. Zamyatin likewise ripped off H.G. Wells. And so on and so on. Nothing is new under the sun.

      Though killing off Katniss Everdeen would have been interesting. As it was, it was a cop out restoring her blind eye–I was disappointed with Collins over that.

  44. I think Suzanne Collins got lucky by happening upon a great premise which happened to hit a nerve with teens. The pressure on teens today is astounding–how could they not like a story where they literally battle each other to the death? Her writing style is pretty darn pedestrian, and at times almost confusing–yes, I found parts of it unclear and awkward. Not efficient and clean like Hemmingway’s. The fact that you would even compare it to Hemmingway is intellectually disingenuous.

    After she came up with a great idea that just so happens to be popular, she threw in a lot of action, created some clever character names for color, put in a few symbols (fire, the mockingjay, etc.,) made Katniss a character of opposites, peppered it with fashion and pretty clothes, and then added a love triangle for good measure. Between all these things she has all the bases covered: male and female readers, old and young. One reader might read it for the action, another for the love triangle, a third to see what Katniss’s dress is like. It’s pandering raised to an art form, with just enough simplistic literary techniques to make readers believe they are reading something deep. Her book isn’t a niche work, it’s a book for everyone–and that’s why it sells so well.

    And I will admit, I liked the book a lot. But it wasn’t nearly as good as everyone says it is.

  45. I was listening to the older kids in my school, and they were talking about the hunger games. I’m only 10 now, and I’ve read every book and watched catching fire and the first movie.

    You said they are ‘bloodshed and adult themes’ but to me, its not scary. The games are really cool, I even wish to be in it so badly, so what I’m saying is that, they are very non- scary.

    I have written many hunger games storys in my notebook, and some are no way alike the books. They are good for my age, one of the are 243 pages big!

    1. Tell you what, kid. I’ll buy you a one-way ticket to a poverty-stricken, developing country run by terrible people. Then you can have all the fun in the world fighting for your life. You’ll see just how ‘cool’ and ‘not scary’ real hunger games are. Deal? Oh, and when you get scared or tired of starving, you don’t get the choice to come back to your plush life. The people who live that every day don’t, so you shouldn’t either. Still sound cool? Didn’t think so.

        1. Ender – your comment was a perfect example of Collins-esque writing! Short, blunt, and direct. 🙂

      1. I agree with the spirit of your reply. However, it is also true that ‘bloodshed and adult themes’ are peddled so lightly in modern entertainment and media that watching such content is no longer as sobering as it should be.

  46. Hmm, you think that writing pithy, nonsensical sentences is the only, or best way to engage a reader? Looking at the excerpt you provided, it breaks (rather ineffectively) one of the most essential and important elements of writing that literary agents, editors, and writers alike have been stressing for ages: show, don’t tell.

    This paragraph, as you say, is not “disturbingly terse, like a Hemingway novel,” and it builds little suspense and carries no momentum. Rather, it is dreadfully concise, and that makes it dreadfully boring. When I read that excerpt, I am essentially reading nothing less than “see Spot run. Spot runs fast.” While Collins may explain what Katniss is seeing, it is as plain as the “hard-packed dirt” one she just mentioned.

    However, the reason Collins writies with her particular style is not to cater to a hard-hearing audience (that would be too clever), but rather because that is, in part, her actual skill as a writer (she writes numerous incomplete and run-on sentences), and the story is told from a first-person view and has the attention-span of the character who is narrating it; it is also a dystopian romance trying to express itself as the modern history of the Roman Empire, and gained far too much cultural popularity because, at it’s core, it’s still a YA romance novel — coincidentally featuring an action-prone female protagonist (who also happens to have the mental capacity of the squirrels she hunts). That, in a nutshell (no pun intended), is why this story is so popular: all of the girls want to be Katniss Everdeen — shooting arrows and falling in love with all the “pretty” and “sensitive” boys who will love them back.

    Regardless of that, the biggest issue that I have with your speculation is where “we’re all young adults” runs into “shorter is better,” (which by the industry standard of show, don’t tell, it’s not). Correlation is not causation. Just because your grandpa thinks he’s hip and cool in his blue-striped Hollister polo, doesn’t mean that everyone is too stupid to read a long sentence. Your very premise is based on a non sequitur argument.

    Literary agents, editors, and writers alike have been stressing for years that a key to engaging a reader is “show, don’t tell.” That’s not to say that you can’t tell, but rather that if you want to pull a reader into an immersive and engaging story, you have to make them feel like they’re there, and the most effective way to do that is to show them what you are trying to tell them through figurative language and imagery, appealing to each of their senses.

    The first few pages of The Hunger Games is almost so boring that I would prefer to be under the pain of death. The only reason I kept reading it was because the story had an interesting premise, based on the synopsis, and the small elements discussing the story conflict, but the rest of it was just typical, run-of-the-mill exposition. Katniss wakes up (that’s how we begin, really?), mentions her sister, tries to be funny by expressing her disdain with the cat, and then goes into the forest to meet her boyfriend.

    The only reason anyone kept reading that was because Katniss briefly mentioned things actually relative to the story: the Reaping and the Hunger Games. This was not because of Collin’s ability to write, but because the conflict seemed interesting. There are great writers, and there are great storytellers, and sometimes, an artist is gifted as both. Collins is not blessed as a great writer, but she told a good and intriguing story.

    1. What is up your behind? The person writing this did not say ‘this is the best writer in the history of mankind’, ‘no one should ever write in any other format other than the one Suzanne Collins uses’, or ‘no one is in this world is capable of reading long sentences anymore’. He is simply stating something that many have noticed. That the way books are written is indeed heading in a new direction whether you like it or not. If The Hunger Games books are so boring, why would millions of people around the world read them? Millions of people cannot possibly all be wrong and all of them be reading the book just because they have heard the basis is good and are tolerating the boring writing. In an age where MOST(note I did not say ALL) kids spend most of their time just playing video games I am happy there are books like The Hunger Games that still put their nose in a book. No clue what age you are but whatever that age is, you need to grow up and not be so closed minded. If you didn’t like the books, that’s fine. Nobody is trying to force you to like them.

      1. Flower – Well, there *is* some merit to be found with the narrative that The Hunger Games is trying to tell, but Diana is right, the writing isn’t fantastic. Look at the reader-demographic that contribute to such statistics as “millions of people around the world”, and you’ll likely find a solid portion of those to be, well, young girls. They’re the same people who move sales for Divergent and Twilight, not exactly the best judges for the quality of a written work. They’re the people who love the book primarily for the contrived love-triangles that most recent YA-oriented fiction series are known to include. Kind of sucks as a boy to find that most top fiction series are primarily romantic.

        Where I’m from, people my age – I’m 18 – can both game and stick their noses in books and differentiate the good works from the bad, so I believe that people should be encouraged to tackle more worthy literature than THG. I don’t agree with this whole “shorter is better” notion. You don’t have to limit yourself to just that, nor should it be taken that that is a definitive trend for the way people read. Long-form is just as good as telling a story, if not more so. You can have your cake and eat it too.

        Of course nobody is forcing anyone to read THG, but isn’t that what this whole discussion is about? What’s the point of this comment thread if its just made up of people kissing ass to an above-mediocre book?

      2. Here is an unnecessarily brief, pithy statement: Millions of people can definitely be all wrong. Interpret this as you will.

  47. To all the hater’s in this thread, you all need to grow up. Nobody if trying to force you to like Suzanne Collins and her books. I think Goins hit the nail right on the head, this is the near future of writing whether you like it or not. Most people don’t read books to try to figure out how much education the writer has, do they have the best grammar and what not. We just want to read a good story. If this can get kids reading, that is all that matters. So YOU don’t like her writing. That is a-okay. Its is even okay to say that. But if you have to spend your time writing about how many ways she is not a good writer or all the reasons why the books aren’t that good, then you are basically hating on all the millions of people who felt that her style of writing, her characters, and everything else she brought to the table was exactly what makes a piece of writing perfect for them.

    1. The way I look at it, the Hunger Games is a ‘low’ book. Not a BAD book, necessarily, but a low one. It caters to an audience with a short attention span, provokes thought in the thoughtless, and is brutally shocking if you’re painfully innocent. This is perfectly fine, but it is understandable that many people protest its overwhelming popularity, as it is still just part of the bottom rung on the reading ladder. Those who have read ‘high’ books (some ‘classic’ books qualify as such) read the Hunger Games and think, “Meh. I’ve seen better.” So they are annoyed when high school students fawn over it with statements like, “That was the greatest thing I’ve ever read!” The message these people are trying to get across is basically, “But wait–there’s more!” If I may compare reading to eating, the Hunger Games is like baby food. Fine, if you haven’t developed a set of teeth, but we adults should be allowed to prefer steak.

  48. Ha I read this book in 5th grade! Now i’m finishing elementary, I picked upnMockingjay and re-read it. It didn’t make sense to me when I was in grade 6. Now I’m in 8 it totally makes sense

  49. I never felt like she wrote it that way just to keep the reader’s attention. If the only reason you right is to get people to be able to sit through your story, you have a problem. I felt the writing style flowed from the character’s observant and not-so-flowery personality and from the tense mood of the story. Consider the how poetic and beautiful the epilogue in Mockingjay is. The mood has slowed to a calm at this point, Katniss is older, she’s grown softer from security and love. I almost feel like this is an insult to Suzanne Collins, to say she only wrote this way to rake in readers. Yes, authors must compromise their precious writing to an extent for the readers, but you don’t sell out. You write within the mood of your own story, within the personality of your story’s narrator. Whether you write long or short, there will always be reader.

  50. An interesting post Jeff. I’ve read many of the comments below regarding quality of writing but I know where you are coming from. YA fiction has been at the back of my mind recently. I’ve read so many posts, mainly on the Passive Voice blog that give the indication that the number of younger readers are increasing, becoming one of the biggest group of readers.

    I certainly don’t agree with compromise, selling out, or being mercenary, but most of us would like to earn money from our writing, now or in the future. It is only common sense to cater for a big market. Maybe my next book will be YA 🙂

  51. I beg to differ. Suzanne Collins has created a worldwide phenomenon, by stealing every single idea from Battle Royale, to create The Hunger Games.

  52. Um, I think Battle Royale was already a worldwide phenomenon. The American ripoff has hardly contributed anything to it’s status as a classic.

  53. I have read and enjoyed The Hunger Games trilogy and slightly disagree with some who are labeling Collin’s style of writing as poor and unskilled. In the example given above, her sentences are mostly short, quick and to the point. Some may argue that descriptive value and content was lost here, and the lack of actual sentence structure makes for poor grammar.
    However, Collins was writing from the mind of Katniss. Katniss was in the arena; she didn’t have time to think in full sentences. She wasn’t going to observe every detail of her surroundings in order to create a full description of scenery. Her goal wasn’t even to build suspense. Katniss’s goal was to survive. She observed quickly, saw what mattered, and made a decision to stay alive. I believe Collins was mainly writing from the mind of her character, as I believe a true narrative should. Katniss wasn’t raised in a highly educated environment; wouldn’t it make sense her story wasn’t written with highly intellectual thought and thorough description of scenery (a style more similar to the writings of Tolkien and Hugo)?
    I find it hard to criticize an author who dove into the mind of her character so deeply that her very style reflected the thoughts, characteristics, and priorities of the character

  54. For initially in nearly a century, we will not be creating a better world for our children. They will encounter issues we have never seen. We need authentic aspects to wish, regardless of the circumstances. Unblockedgames

  55. Not everything has to be Edith Wharton and Anthony Trollope. Everybody’s busy these days, so short and to the point is a good thing. At least kids are reading. That’s the important thing. Anyway, why are you reading teen books if they suck so badly? Go read something meant for adults if you want more sophisticated literature.
    -Angie Sargenti

  56. I definitely agree with this and have recognized it in a lot of fiction published recently. I also find myself writing in shorthand almost unintentionally–both when I write fiction and non-fiction. It just feels natural. And I think that’s part of why it connects so well. It’s the way we talk; the way we think. And to me, it really enhances wordplay, because of how it allows you to play with the rhythm of prose.

    And yes, I’m a Hunger Games fan. Just saw Mockingjay 2 last weekend. Ouch. So much pain, but so much beauty. The world definitely needs more stories like this.

  57. I HATE Suzanne Collin’s writing and the Hunger Games as a whole. It looks as if an eight year old child wrote the sentences – I feel my eyes begin to droop whenever I even try to stomach reading such an angsty, cliched book. I WILL NOT follow in her footsteps for fuck’s sake. I REFUSE to write a pathetic love triangle for the main characters I have created, nor do I plan to create a villain as dull as President Snow. NOOOO. These books are crap.

    I AM trying to write a book that will capture the public’s attention, but I think the Hunger Games is a fad that will hopefully fade. Katniss is the perfect example of a False Feminist and is an atrocious, unstable ‘heroine’. I am appalled that she is even considered to be a ‘role model’ for young girls! If they want one, they should look to Malala – why aren’t parents naming their daughters after her? Disgusting.

    Okay, wow, now that I look back on what I’ve written I don’t think I realized how much I intensely dislike the series. Wow. I hate it more than Twilight.

  58. If you want to read a better dystopian novel, then I HIGHLY suggest George Orwell’s 1984 – it’s a masterpiece. But unlike Suzanne, I won’t be ripping off the whole book. *cough* Battle Royale *cough*

  59. I LOVE LOVE LOVE The Hunger Games! Suzanne Collins is a wonderful author. I aspire to write a trilogy for her and Katniss Everdeen. They are both huge inspirations to me, and it breaks my heart that someone has the nerve to say Suzanne Collins and Katniss stink. You know how I know they are wrong though; they are dropping f bombs and other bad words all the time. Someone like that is not respectable. If someone asked me if I loved The Hunger Games Trilogy, I would not say yes. I would say REAL.

  60. People tend to keep young, due to their standard of living. Through this series of Hunger Games, it highlights some aspects of life in another shade. If you can read between the lines, you will find many truths about our world, translated into the pages of this long story…
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  61. LOL all the people in here plugging that ultra-obscure masterpiece 1984. Next, I suppose we should give more attention to that Lord of the Rings story that never got the fame it deserved.

    Unlike many of those who praise it, I have actually read 1984, and not only was it not particularly original even at the time (significant portions of its plot and themes were copied directly from Yevgeny Zamyatin’s novel We, the actual originator of the dystopian genre), its plot and characters are utterly absurd. The villains have no real motivations and bear more resemblance to Descartes’ hypothetical omnipotent, omniscient demon than to Nazi Germany or the USSR. They are supposed to be after “power”, but they seem to be only marginally less restricted by their own system as everyone else; nobody ever seems to really benefit in any way. The suffering of the heroes comes off as scary, but is never as emotionally powerful as it is supposed to be, as they are totally unsympathetic and have no real moral objection to the totalitarian state beyond it interfering with their own personal freedom.

  62. I did enjoy the first book, it was a very easy, entertaining read. Yes, some books serve no greater purpose than simple entertainment, and that is ok in my opinion. If you want to read great literature what are you doing in the YA section? I would never compare the novel with Hemingway, Huxley or others aforementioned, but I don’t think the author was trying to produce great literature. If anything, she was trying to be a PG rated Kenta Fukasuku. My biggest criticism would be directed towards the two follow up books in the trilogy, it seemed as if without having battle Royale to use as an outline Suzanne Collins got completely lost and started to pants it a little too aggressively. She also got a little too deep into Katniss’ head. They just didn’t hold my attention in the same way that the first book did.

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