The other night, I was hanging out with my buddy Pat, who is currently reading and enjoying the first Dragontamer’s Daughters book. The topic soon turned to other young adult books, which led us to The Hunger Games, the blockbuster series that I bet you’ve heard mentioned a time or twelve.
I’ve read the first book (and seen the movie); Pat has read the whole series (and was kind enough to loan me the second and third books). I really liked The Hunger Games, but was struck by how very, very different it was from my book. I mean “different” by more than just plot, setting, characters, name recognition, and financial success.
No, I mean how it’s written. The Hunger Games is done:
- In 1st person (the story is told by Katniss Everdeen, the teenaged protagonist);
- In present tense (“I go to the door and open it”); and,
- From a limited perspective (the reader does not see or hear anything that Katniss does not).
Furthermore, the story moves very rapidly: by the end of Chapter 1 (a short chapter at that, as all of them are in the book), the plot is in full motion, and it never slows down from there. To facilitate that speed, the author does a lot of “telling” rather than “showing”: through Katniss, the reader is given a lot of exposition, especially in the first chapter. We’re told right at the start about Panem and the Districts, the failed rebellion, the punitive Games, the poverty that Katniss and her family endure, and how good she is with the bow.
In contrast, Dragontamer’s Daughters is told:
- In 3rd person;
- In past tense (“She went to the door and opened it”); and,
- From several perspectives (that is, the reader sees and hears what different characters experience, even if they are not with the main characters).
DTD moves slowly: the plot doesn’t fully kick into gear until Chapter 7. That’s because I tend to “show” rather than “tell.” Instead of doing a data dump on who each person is, what they’re like, where they live, etc., I prefer to let readers glean information over several scenes. Perforce, that takes a while longer. By no means am I saying that DTD is “better” than HG: they’re two very different animals. DTD’s emphasis is on characterization and setting; HG is mostly plot. You can enjoy one approach more than the other, but one is not inherently “right” and the other is “wrong.”
I’ve also noticed that a lot of the other young adult books I’ve read lately were written in the same sort of manner as HG: 1st person, limited perspective, present tense, fast-paced. These books, done within the last 15 years or so, are a lot different from the ones I read as a kid, which were more like DTD.
In addition, many YA books these days feature a heroic or superheroic protagonist: Katniss could audition for Hawkeye’s job in the next Avengers movie; Percy Jackson is a demi-god; Bella eventually becomes a vampire; and, of course, Harry Potter is not just a wizard, but an extremely talented and famous one. Etc. etc. In contrast, my two protagonists, Isabella and Alijandra, are ordinary girls with no amazing talents or superhuman abilities. That, too, is more in keeping with the protagonists of books I read when I was a kid, books like The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, or The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek.
Again, not to say that I think my way of writing DTD is better that Collins’ approach to The Hunger Games. It was just interesting to note, from a writer’s perspective, the technical differences between the two.