Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Don't give it all away

I was feeling lousy on Sunday and decided to treat myself to a day of reading. With my feet propped up, I opened The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and I devoured the entire thing. First, a big thanks to everyone who recommended this novel to me. I am hooked on the series. Second, I wanted to give a review of this novel and tell you what makes it a work of art (in my very humble opinion at least).

1. Suzanne Collins takes on difficult subject matter with ease. She dares to imagine what life would be like in North America under different leadership and different circumstances. She explores the worlds of hunger and starvation. She gives voice to the brutality many children face in countries around the world, but because she sets it on what used to be American soil, we cannot ignore what is taking place. How could this happen? What could we have done to keep it from coming to this? Are we doing anything now that could lead us to become like those in the country of Panem?

2. Katniss Everdeen. The main character of The Hunger Games is someone who I found myself both identifying with and marveling at. She is a strong female character, something literature desperately needs, but she also remain stoic in the face of many atrocities. The reader cannot help but realize young Katniss has seen more and knows more about class disparity and violence than what a young girl her age should have ever seen or known. Life has not been kind to Katniss, and she has erected a wall to protect herself that will not be removed easily.

3. Collins is not afraid to let her readers imagine the events. The events that take place within The Hunger Games are eye-opening and stomach-turning, but not because of the words written on the pages. Suzanne Collins adopts an art that was perfected in old Alfred Hitchcock movies - the art of suggestion. She suggests what is happening and lets her reader's imagination do the rest. This allows the reader to disengage during uncomfortable parts, or to imagine the events without too many descriptors given to guide the imagination. The power of suggestion and trusting the reader to imagine the events actually makes the novel more powerful. Suddenly the reader has to make a choice either to become involved in the narrative or disengage. If you become involved, The Hunger Games will force you to face demons you never knew you had.

Writers, are there elements of your novel, short story or poem that would make more impact if left unsaid? Resist the urge to describe everything, to give everything away. Give your reader's imagination the opportunity to engage the narrative. When you reduce the unnecessary description, you can focus on making characters memorable and relatable. You will be giving your reader the gift of imagination, something that distinguishes reading from watching a sitcom. So, don't give it all away. You will be giving your readers more than if you just handed them a roadmap of your writing.

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