Writer’s View – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

From Goodreads: In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister Primrose, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before — and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

The Writer’s View:

This post was inspired by Lan at The Write Obsession. Over the past few weeks, she’s posted quite a few blog entries in tribute (pun intended) to the upcoming movie release of The Hunger Games. I decided to jump on the band wagon and write my own post about The Hunger Games.

I have practically been frothing with anticipation ever since I found out The Hunger Games was being made into a movie. I bought The Hunger Games audio book about a year and a half ago. I had a long drive I needed to make for work, and audio books help keep me awake in California traffic. About ten minutes into the drive, I was sobbing. As I listened to the story unfold, I ended up crying for most of the drive. I was so moved by the story that I immediately bought the print version and re-read it, just so I could study Collins’ writing techniques.

Needless to say, everything about The Hunger Games is inspirational from a craft perspective. One thing in particular stood out to me, a writing technique that I have since incorporated into my own writing.

The inverted narrative structure

I was most interested in the way Collins used narrative structure in each individual chapter. The classic narrative structure looks like this:

Most books that I read structure their individual chapters to reflect this classic method. I describe it as this: 1) introduction of problem, 2) escalation of problem, 3) resolution of problem.

Collins used what I call the inverted narrative structure. (I made this term up. Those of you who read my blog know I am fond of making up terms when there isn’t an existing one handy.) Essentially, the inverted narrative structure takes took the classic structure and flips it upside down. The triangle in the diagram will point down.

What we end up with is chapters that do this: 1) resolve an old problem, 2) introduce a new problem, 3) escalate the new problem.

The end result is that each chapter ends on a cliffhanger. Each subsequent chapter resolves that cliffhanger—but by the time we get to the end of that chapter, we’ve reached a new cliffhanger.

This technique fascinated me. One of the many things that impressed me about The Hunger Games was its rip-roaring pace and my inability to put the book down. I copied this narrative structure in my own WIP.

How do other writers out there structure chapters? Do you use the classic narrative structure, inverted narrative structure, or something completely different?