Sunday, January 30, 2011

Creating Katniss



...jumbled within the constant drama of edit work on the upcoming release, I managed a spare couple of hours to read "Mockingjay," the third and final installment in the "Hunger Games" series, created by Suzanne Collins.

Before the read, I couldn't help but notice the negative controversy circulating BlogLand in regards to how Ms. Collins chose to wrap up her ever popular, Science Fiction series. Outraged bookworms voicing their opinions, claiming injustice after remaining forever loyal to her work. Others a bit more understanding, yet guessing that perhaps the writer wasn't sure herself on how to finish the series, thus resulting in a less than stellar performance.

And so I opened the book, having already enjoyed the first two installments, attempted to clear my mind of any bias, and returned to the land Panem, amidst a civil war, the Districts rising up against the intolerable Capital and their evil dictator, President Snow.

I finished the book a day or two later, realizing what went wrong for Collins. It wasn't how she finished the series, that one climatic moment scribed into the final fifty pages that left every reader throwing their arms into the air in blasphemy.

Nope, under normal circumstances, in any other novel, from any other writer, that scene would've not only been just fine, it would've been considered a stellar piece of fiction. The final prose was perfect, Collins's penmanship a rare beauty, her talent in storytelling unequaled in young adult fiction.

The problem revolved around the life of a girl. Seventeen. Described as anything but gorgeous. Hair a bit mousy for anyone's taste. Her legs unshaven. Thoughts of bathing put on the backburner for another day. Gifted with the reckless bravado of most men, preferring a day in the woods, armed with bow and arrow, to an afternoon in the hair salon.

And yet, her attitude, an undying loyalty to her sister, to her closest friends, a survival instinct gleaned sharper than the tips of her arrows, a simple girl from District 12, Katniss Everdeen, won over the hearts of readers from the shores of one ocean, to the faraway coast of another.

Katniss Everdeen. A girl created by Suzanne Collins, and thus, the reason behind the fallout.

Following "Hunger Games," and "Catching Fire," the love affair for Katniss shared by fellow readers had reached a point of chaos. Fan mail arriving on Collins's doorstep by the truckload, her email inbox locking up from overburdened use. Everyone congratulating her on the creation of an earthbound hero, a normal girl from the back alley who finds herself thrust into the limelight during a time of rebellion. A girl we may pass on the street without noticing. Just a girl.

Yet in those letters and emails were everyone's thoughts on how the story should end. What they would do. The final showdown between Katniss and Snow. How the war should end. Who should die. Who should fall in love in the closing moments. So many ideas. Requests by the thousands. Pressure building. A frozen pipe, its seams flexing.

I have no idea how Ms. Collins decided on the fate of Katniss Everdeen. How could anyone?

This was the question I considered after closing the book, studying the falling snow through the window next to my chair. My very own District 12. A world enslaved in ice.

How would it feel to create a character like Katniss Everdeen? A simpleton from any side street, perhaps just around the corner, a person brought to life through your very own fingertips...a person devoured by her readers. An instant celebrity. An icon for both young and old to marvel. Readers staying up at night, scouring the pages a second time, a third, restless and kicking off the sheets...wanting to be her. Would slip into her shoes in a minute if the offer were to arise, regardless of the tumultuous storyline, of the bloodshed. Just to be her. Or him. The character you created.

That's the blessing, and in itself, the curse of popularity. How to end the story? A story beloved by millions. How to keep the reader happy. How to dot that final period, in hopes of bringing tears of joy, prayers answered, the story finishing up exactly as everyone envisioned.

Pressure. Success. Together they entwine like strands of rope. As writers, it's our dream, but if not careful, our dilemma as well.

"Mockingjay" did not finish as I'd hoped. For those who've yet to read it, I won't argue the spoils and ruin the finish. Would I have done something different, were I in Collins's shoes? Probably. Could I have pulled it off? Probably not.

Regardless of how it ended, Suzanne Collins created one of the best characters I've come across in a very long time. Katniss Everdeen. Just a girl. Perfect in her struggles. Her simpleness far withstanding that family of vamps from Seattle. (Actually, I think Katniss and Edward Cullen could stir up quite an interesting plot if ever they were to cross paths during a hunt:) (See my earlier post, "Katnisssss," if curious)

As writers, that's our challenge. Creating our own Katniss Everdeen. She's in there somewhere...perhaps right on the edge of our fingertips, just aching to leap onto the page...where her story awaits.

Thanks for reading:)

22 comments:

Colene Murphy said...

This is a great post! Great opinion too. I am one of the few that liked the book, the ending, etc. My problem was how Katniss character changed. She wasn't strong like she was in The Hunger Games anymore. And that was the bummer for me.

E.J. Wesley said...

A fine examination of the book, Elliot! Also very fair ... I agree somewhat with the comment above, but psychologically speaking I can certainly understand how someone would change after being put through that ringer.

I'm not sure I've ever read the 'perfect' ending to any series that I've enjoyed, but I think that is more of a testament to the best stories (Harry Potter comes to mind as well). When a story is VERY exceptional, it tends to carry us to places even the author couldn't have imagined. Consequently, any constraint or ending probably isn't going to meet the ideal we have created in our minds.

I think great endings may only be able to be reached in one-off novels. Too much changes over the course of several books.

The Words Crafter said...

I've heard so much about this series. I bought the first book, and now I can't even find it. I love that you pointed out the positives, like how Collins created a massively popular character and caused millions of people to read the series. No one can please everyone and you're right. That's a tremendous amount of pressure.

gideon 86 said...

EL,

This is an amazing post. Your passion is so evident you writing.

I've read many revues on books, but yours is superior in the fact that your driven with a love for the character. This is well written and articulate. I really enjoyed reading it.

If you write this well for your post, your novels must be amazing.

Michael

B.E.T. said...

I completely agree with you about the whole 'your own awesome character leaping off the page' concept. I'm always trying to tell the stories of those little voices. And endings are precarious...especially with well loved series. At least the ride was good! :D

DEZMOND said...

HUNGER GAMES are going to be adapted into a film later this year :)

Haleine said...

A great post featuring a fantastic character in a brilliant series.

The Golden Eagle said...

I read the first book in The Hunger Games, and while I liked Katniss to an extent, I guess I'm in the minority--she isn't one of my favorite characters.

But I see your point in that Suzanne Collins was under a lot of pressure, deciding what would happen at the end of the trilogy. So many people enjoyed the book, and so many people had differing opinions on how it should have ended.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

A very insightful, eloquent post, Elliot. As early as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's killing of Sherlock Holmes at those imfamous falls in Germany, readers have been horrified by what authors do to their beloved characters.

Well-written characters tend to take on a life of their own with the public, the readers investing their hopes and dreams and fears into them.

You wrote such an even-handed summation of the last book that I am in awe. All of us dream of creating a character, a world that catches the hearts of the reading public. I pray that your own book does that. Roland

Elliot Grace said...

Thanks everyone for your thoughts:)

Katniss and her "Hunger Games" has captured the hearts of many, sparked a flame to the reading populace, which is a very good thing, regardless of who favors, or disapproves of Collins's ending.

It's the type of story that can be shared with children, discussed over beers, or spoken of in one's sleep...it's that good.

Kudos to Collins for her creation, and to you guys for commenting on my take of "The Games."
EL

Jules said...

Thanks for the review, Elliot. I do agree with the character being right there in front of us. Maybe I should wear my glasses more often, I might find mine :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Maria said...

though i haven't read the series and have no intention to read it, i enjoyed reading your review. you got a great point there. i would understand the ones who were disappointed but i wouldn't blame Collins either.. well it's her story,as you've said, she made Katniss in her own fingertips so who else should decided the girls fate but her creator, right?

p.s I am also happy that you stumbled upon my blog not just because you liked it but more so i could find my way to yours.:)

Jemi Fraser said...

It must have been so difficult for Suzanne Collins to finish that series. Like so many people I couldn't wait to see how she finished it. I don't know if there's ever a right answer on how to do this for a character beloved by so many. Katniss made so many difficult choices for her world. So well written!

It's hard to even imagine writing a character so many people would become invested in!

RaShelle said...

Hey EL - Suzanne created a strong character in Katniss. Great post. You're so great, passionate!

Pk Hrezo said...

THanks for commenting on my blog the other day.
I have still not read the series yet, but plan to in next month or so.I think regular peeps are always where it's at in stories. Ordinary peeps who do extraordinary things... because that's who most of us are.
THis was a lovely post to read.:)

Lola Sharp said...

I truly loved the first book, but the last 2 didn't hold my attention and I found myself skimming.
But, your point is well made, and ending a very popular series is an almost impossible task. You just cannot please everyone.

Have a wonderful week, my friend.
Good luck with your final edits and I look forward to supporting your book launch in any way I can.

Hugs,
Lola

Arlee Bird said...

I haven't read any of this series, but my niece was raving about it and was enthralled with Mockingjay. She's only 13, but an absolutely voracious reader, so I'll take her word on it. This sounds like a series I might enjoy--I like the concept.

Have you jointed the A to Z Challenge yet?

Lee
Tossing It Out and the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2011

L'Aussie said...

Hi Elliot! I haven't been over for awhile so I thought I'd pop in and see how the editing was going - ongoing I see. Good luck with that!

I was interested in your opinion of the final in this series as I've just bought Hunger Games after reading so many good things. I had to gloss over it towards the end as I didn't want to see any spoilers. I'll be interested to see for myself.

Anyway Elliot, hope all hums along well and you're not in the path of any of those massive snow storms. We are about to be hit by the mother of all cyclones (north of me). Poor Queensland, battered and blue.

I'm posting a new Publication Party in a few hours. Hope you can come by.

Publication Party!

Ariel said...

Fantastic post.

And I totally agree.

At first I was disappointed, but then after reflecting I realized that Collins would've perpetually lost no matter what ending she chose simply because she could not make everyone happy. Everyone had their own thoughts, their own hopes on how it would end. But she completed it the way she wanted to, and in the end that is really all that matters. It was enough for me, and I will always hold that series up on a high pedestal.

Jodi Henry said...

Thanks for not spoiling the end. I have yet to read the books, but they are on 'the list.'

It's funny how success will/can manipulate what we produce or don't. Whether that was the author's intention or not, her fans certainly wanted things another way (it seems.)

Can't wait to read the books.

J

Kristy said...

I thought it was perfect, start to finish. Best series I've ever read and next time I read it, it will be the fourth time.

Adeeva Afsheen said...


Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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