Friday, March 4, 2011

What I Got for X-mas or The Hunger Games - Part II

Mark recently blogged about his impressions of The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins.
Which fit nicely into a blog I've been planning for the last while.

Over the winter holidays, whenever someone wanted my gift list, I asked for books. I've never liked owning books, because I've always lived in small quarters and I like my spaces sparse. But, I decided that if I want to publish my books, I ought to support the industry that might some day print those books.

And yes, I am aware that there's a big ol' elephant crowding out all these nice letters I'm typing - go check out Shawn's current blog about e-publishing.

But setting aside that elephant for the moment (uuuummpph), I thought I should in some way support the industry I want to support me.* So I asked for books. And I got books. Lots of yummy books. (And to deal with my I-like-my-spaces-sparse fetish, I've been passing on these books to friends and then eventually to the Women's Prison Book Project, a local outfit which sends books to, you got it, incarcerated women.) I spent my time off work reading, reading, reading.

And I learned a couple things. And one of the things I learned was from Suzanne Collins: how to end a chapter. (This is the flip-side of advice that Lyda Morehouse gave us in a Loft class: never end a chapter with your character falling asleep: your readers will do the same.) Collins very often ends a chapter with a one-line paragraph--sometimes it's even a one-word paragraph. And that one line or word packs a huge emotional punch. A punch which makes you want to pause for a moment and think, feel, reflect. But after that moment, it makes you want to turn the page and keep reading.

It's hard to showcase her skill here, because realistically I can only give you a couple lines of text, but here's a shot at it with an excerpt from Mockingjay, the final installment of The Hunger Games:

Then I know Prim is right, that Snow cannot afford to waste Peeta's life, especially now, while the Mockingjay causes so much havoc. He's killed [----] already. Destroyed my home. My family, Gale, and even Haymitch are out of his reach. Peeta's all he has left.
"So, what do you think they'll do to him?" I ask.
Prim sounds about a thousand years old when she speaks.
"Whatever it takes to break you."

Oomph. Collins doesn't have to go on to say how Katniss, the narrator, feels when she hears this, because I as a reader feel it. Like a punch to the gut. And if Collins had gone on to describe Katniss's reaction, my own reaction would have been dampened; I'd be reading about a feeling, rather than feeling the feeling.

After realizing this, I've been going through my own WIP, trying to end more chapters in the same way.

Saying everything without actually writing very much at all.

*I've also thought that I should send a couple bucks to authors whose books I got from the library and adored. Maybe choose my top ten authors of the year and send them each ten buckeroos. Especially if they're still in the struggling category. Any thoughts?


Mark Teats said...

Nice post!
Re: your last point about supporting artists/authors. My home is also overrun with books, but when I walk into a book store it is a rare day when I walk out without a purchase. Part of this is pure selfishness--I love a good book. But I also see this as supporting the author(s) whose books I'm picking up.... and from time to time I try out new authors (as in, people who've only written a book or two) because I hope someday (soon) I'll be in their shoes and I hope someone else will open up their wallet(s) to support me.

On a different note, today I had the day off and spent some time looking into e-readers... maybe my next foray into book-buying that won't require another book shelf.

Qlaudie said...

Great post! I've missed you, virtually. :)
I'm the opposite of you, Lisa, books are my favorite decor, so I never have an issue accumulating. I love what you pointed out about ending a chapter. Great advice.
There is also a program, incidentally, to give blank journals to incarcerated women. I really love the idea behind both of these charities.