Fiction Writing Made Easy

#136: First Chapter Analysis: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

April 02, 2024 Episode 136
Fiction Writing Made Easy
#136: First Chapter Analysis: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

“Usually stakes start personal and they become public. That's a way of raising stakes, regardless of the genre.” - Savannah Gilbo

We’re diving deep into Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins to see how and why it works. Join me and Abigail K. Perry as we break down this first chapter to see how it hooks our interest and pulls us into the story! Here's a preview of what's included: 

[05:22] Chapter summary: This chapter focuses on Katniss, who is navigating life after winning the Hunger Games. There is a suggestion of impending conflict or tension on a larger scale and overall, the story explores themes of survival, resistance against oppressive systems, and the complexities of relationships under duress.

[13:31] Macro analysis, using Paula Munier’s 7 Key Questions: Suzanne Collins expertly lays the groundwork for an engaging and suspenseful story. Readers are likely to feel curiosity, concern, and wonder throughout the chapter. They are curious about the unfolding events, for Katniss's well-being and relationships, and intrigued by the dystopian world.

[35:16] Micro analysis, using Story Grid’s 5 Commandments: Overall, this scene marks a turning point in the protagonist’s journey, throwing her into a more dangerous and complex conflict with President Snow. It sets the stage for the central conflicts of the narrative, particularly Katniss's struggle to navigate her public image and maintain her autonomy in a society ruled by fear and control.

[50:21] Final thoughts: This first chapter emphasizes the character development of Katniss and the intricate layers of stakes and decisions that drive the narrative forward. Ultimately, the discussion highlights the complexity of storytelling and the various paths that can lead to a compelling climax.

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Speaker 1:

I think that the first chapter also establishes concern and affection for these characters because of how they behave Right, for instance, like Katniss and Peter both take care of Haymitch and Haymitch has kind of his witty observations and even like the little bit of backstory that talks about why she's getting the alcohol for Haymitch and how that scared Prim. You can just see that these people in this chapter are good people that have just been victimized. Yeah, that makes you care about them.

Speaker 2:

Welcome to the Fiction Writing Made Easy podcast. My name is Savannah Gilbo and I'm here to help you write a story that works. I want to prove to you that writing a novel doesn't have to be overwhelming, so each week, I'll bring you a brand new episode with simple, actionable and step-by-step strategies that you can implement in your writing right away. So, whether you're brand new to writing or more of a seasoned author looking to improve your craft, this podcast is for you. So pick up a pen and let's get started.

Speaker 2:

In today's episode, abigail K Perry and I are diving deep into the first chapter of Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. So this is book two in the Hunger Games series, and we're excited to share this episode with you because, like we mentioned when we talked about the first Hunger Games book, this is one of our favorite book series and it's been really fun to break down these first chapters and see how they change from book to book. Now, if you've been listening to this podcast for a while, then you probably already know the deal about these first chapter episodes. But just in case you're brand new here, or just in case you need a reminder, abigail and I like to pick apart these opening chapters to see how the author hooked us into the story and kept our attention into the next chapter, and we like to analyze these opening chapters on both the macro and the micro level. So basically, we're asking why does this chapter work? And then, how does the scene or how do the scenes within the chapter work? So that's a very, very quick overview of what we're going to dig into. You'll hear more explanation for everything once we get into the episode.

Speaker 2:

With that being said, I also want to introduce my special guest in this episode. Her name is Abigail K Perry. She's a developmental editor and the host of an amazing podcast called Lit Match, where she helps writers find the best literary agent for their writing and publishing careers. I will link to her podcast in the show notes, as well as where you can find Abigail around the internet. So, with all of that being said, I won't make you wait any longer. Let's go ahead and dive right into the conversation.

Speaker 1:

Hey, savannah, thanks so much for coming back with me today. I am mega excited. I absolutely adore the Hunger Games. We did the first, the Hunger, you know, the first book in the series, the Hunger Games, or the trilogy and now we're on to Catching Fire. This might be my favorite book of the trilogy, so I'm really excited to dig into it. We have another doozy of a scene to analyze Doozy almost doesn't encompass it.

Speaker 2:

But yes, this is. I think this might be my favorite one too, and every time I think about the movie version of this book, I like that one as well. It's really fun because it's, I think, a great example of what escalating the stakes in a series looks like too. So we can talk about that more. But yeah, to our fair hearted listeners, you're in for a doozy. We just like the first book. We kind of struggled to analyze not the first chapter. We think the first chapter does its job in an excellent way, but we struggled to figure out that breakdown of scenes and we're going to talk about that kind of towards the end of the episode. But just get ready, buckle your seatbelts.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you know. It's interesting that you say that, because I feel like the Hunger Games is like a Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings for me, that I have read these more times than I can count and I feel like I know the story so well that I immediately thought when we decided we were going to analyze these, this is going to be an easy one to analyze because I know it so well. And then I get into the text and I'm just like, oh no, I figure out where I want to break off the scene, how I want to talk about the execution of the structure. So, while I can, I think I'm going to be able to speak big ideas pretty easily. The structure was challenging for me to put into. You know a way of organizing my thoughts and how I broke up into pieces. So we're going to get into it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah and it's funny because I'm on the same page as you I always use these books as an example of like kind of a straightforward action story in you know a dystopian or fantasy or sci-fi, you know one of those examples and then when you get into the text and like, yes, big picture wise that's true, but when you get into the scenes it's a little bit not as straightforward, but it still really works and it's done, executed really well. So yeah, we'll get into that.

Speaker 1:

Okay, so with all the first chapter episodes, we are going to look at the big picture or main storyline first, and to do that we use Polly May May's the seven key first chapter questions, which comes from her book, the Writer's Guide to Beginnings. And then we're going to zero in and go look at the scene itself and look at the structure of the scene. We often use the five commandments of storytelling, which can come from StoryGrid or Robert McKee. So that is the order of what we'll be doing for this analysis today and I'm excited to get into it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so I'm going to kick us off with a little summary of Chapter 1. We might need to pause and talk about chapter two once we get into the scene analysis because spoiler alert we do think the scene carries into chapter two, but for now let's just focus on chapter one so we can see how and why this is a great. Opening chapter starts with Katniss. She's in the woods, she's lost in thought and she's kind of frozen. She knows that today she's going on a victory tour to celebrate the Hunger Games and it's very, very clear through her interiority that she is dreading it. So we learn the Capitals making her do it and she has no choice and she's kind of just thinking like once again, I'm being part of the Capitals media manipulation machine, right? So she's of the mindset like I'd rather put all the Hunger Games stuff behind me, I just want to be there with my family, and things like that. So then we kind of catch up with what's been happening since we last saw Katniss. Her family's now rich because she won the games. Gail's family still needs food and he won't take money or food from her, so he's working in the mines and she's hunting for her family, or his family mainly and, yeah, she's still risking herself for their survival. And then we find out that or sorry for his family's survival. Then we find out that her family's been moved to the Victor's village. So now her family lives there Peta lives there and Haymitch lives there, and it's pretty ritzy. But before she goes home to Victor's village she stops at her old house, feeds the cat that we'll remember from book one. She stops at Gail's house to drop off some of the game she caught, and Gail's mother, hazel, is very appreciative. And then Katniss says you know, in the future I'd like to take your little boy hunting because Gail's working in the mines and can't really provide anymore.

Speaker 2:

So then she leaves Hazel's and she goes to the hob to buy some things on the way home and she even buys alcohol for her mentor, haymitch, and he's been having a tough time ever since the last games. So she runs into some people she knows along the way. So she runs into some people she knows along the way, one of the head peacekeepers, another peacekeeper named Darius, and then Greasy Say, who's in charge of the Hob, and everyone's kind of aware that Katniss has to go take place in this media tour. So they're, you know making different remarks and you know telling her to basically dress up because she doesn't quite look like she's TV ready yet. So then we hear about how part of the capital's plan has been marketing Gail as her cousin, not a potential love interest, because they don't want to cause confusion with the Katniss-Peta love story. So we hear a little bit about that.

Speaker 2:

And then she heads to Victor's village. She goes to fetch Haymitch to get ready for the tour. He wanted her to wake him up an hour before everybody came to town and he's, you know, in a drunken sleep. And she wakes him up. Pita's there, he brings some bread and she mentions you know, we all three have to learn how to distract ourselves and kind of, you know, stay sane while, uh, we're going through this big charade. And then haymitch says remember, you guys have to act like you're in love, even though it feels awkward. So that kind of wraps up. She goes home and meets her mother and something feels kind of wrong Right when she walks in the house. Her mom's acting weird. And then, dun dun dun, president Snow is in her house and that's where the chapter ends.

Speaker 1:

Yes, awesome, okay, so a lot happens in these chapters.

Speaker 2:

Yes, and this chapter is 4,200 words. I looked that up before we went on this episode. Chapter one or chapter two or the combination, chapter one is 4,200 words.

Speaker 1:

And we even see it going into chapter two, so can imagine the word character the scene?

Speaker 2:

yeah, we see the scene going into chapter two.

Speaker 1:

Yes, yeah, okay, so for the first chapter. Then let's look at those seven key first chapter questions and how this sets up everything big that we know for the story itself. So the first question is dealing with genre and that question is what kind of story is it? You know, the night before the progress, you and I said we probably don't see this. If you listen to the hungry games episode, we probably don't see it as a different genre. I don't see as a different genre. What do you think?

Speaker 2:

I agreed I was about to say the same thing. So we said last time it was book one was a young adult dystopian novel, um. I do not think this has changed that at all. So we're still in that realm.

Speaker 1:

We're still in young adult and um yeah, yeah, and that's so to the difference between the content genre and the commercial genre. Um, content genre being the type of story that we're looking at and the commercial genre being the dystopian, uh ya, so how you would market that, how you see it in a bookstore? For the content genre, I'm seeing it as a pairing of an action story and a worldview story. So we'll get into this a little bit more, but dealing with those life and death stakes and also dealing with the internal arc for katniss's character on her breaking of innocence and moving more into that sophistication and meaning realm, which we'll get probably more into with character on the line level of things but, and so this is kind of a blurry line between question one and question two.

Speaker 2:

Right, because question two is about plot. So what is the story really about? And, like Abigail said, we're going to see life and death stakes. We're also going to see her grapple with like, who am I to the world versus who am I to myself.

Speaker 1:

And.

Speaker 2:

I think it's really cool that we get a glimpse of that. You know a little bit in this first chapter, but definitely in chapter two, which you've kind of become this like rebel and everyone's looking to you for things. So we get all of that in the opening. We're setting ourselves up for this story of like, how is she going to survive? Is she going to be this person they think she is, or is she going to remain? You know who she thinks she is, and things like that. So I think it's a great opening.

Speaker 1:

And just as a quick question, because we said that we do not see the genre changing from book one to book two in a series or a trilogy or any common, you know, any combination of, especially fantasy and sci-fi in this area of series. Do you think that it's ever common for the genre to change or is it likely that'll probably stay consistent?

Speaker 2:

I think it's likely it'll stay consistent. I think it's a detriment to a series when it does change.

Speaker 2:

For example, I think I've mentioned this on the podcast before but I loved the first Discovery of Witches book by Deborah Harkness and I could not wait for the second book to come out.

Speaker 2:

And then, when it did, I felt like I was reading a totally different story about the same characters. But instead of, you know, upping the stakes from book one to book two, I felt it kind of went the opposite way, and that was mainly because I feel like it had a content genre change, so we were no longer in these life and death stakes, we were kind of in quieter stakes and it just felt weird to me as a reader. But in these books, that's it's. You know, it kind of goes according to that plan of upping the stakes from story to story and making the conflict grow, escalate and complicate and things like that. The other thing, real quick, abigail, if listeners remember that when we talked about the Harry Potter first chapters, I will say there's a caveat, right, because in that instance we saw it go from middle grade to young adult, but otherwise they were action stories with worldview internal arcs.

Speaker 1:

Yes, and I think that's one of the reasons why you know we're going to step back into Hunger Games in a second, but just focusing on Harry Potter real quick, I always say there's many reasons why you don't compare yourself to Harry Potter. One of the technical reasons, though, is because of that crossover, that jump from MG to YA, because that is not for someone who's trying to figure out where to place it on the bookshelf. Where are you placing it? Are you in Milligrain or are you in YA and 100 Games? We're going to stay in YA the whole time. So it's a bit different than that.

Speaker 1:

But I agree with you 100%, Savannah. I think that it is a judgment if you're usually changing genres, because you get your target readers into the story with the genre expectations that you set up in that first book. So if you, you know, if you pivot and you go way off, that, it's quite different than if you're an author and you're kind of branding yourself as your author name and you're writing maybe different books versus now. You're in a series and that series is building on the stakes that you have created expectations for, Right. So just something to think about.

Speaker 2:

Well, and something else. I know that we're already on a tangent. We're going to probably land on a bunch of these throughout the episode. But the other thing to think about too is I see a lot of writers who they are writing a series and they're like well, my first book was an action. Now I think I'm going to go to a mystery or crime just to shake things up and make it interesting, and it's like the intention's good. But the challenge situation where how do you up the stakes, how do you grow and escalate the conflict or complicate the conflict from book one. So I would much rather see people thinking that you know, think down that route versus I'm just going to switch it up because I think this will help me make it more interesting.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, exactly, Exactly Okay. So, like you said, with question number two and question one they kind of have some crossover. We are going to look a little bit more specifically now at question two. It deals with plot. The question is, what is the story really about? And go ahead.

Speaker 2:

Savannah, what do you think? Tour pretty quickly. That's going to shift into this. You know unique version of the Hunger Games, where it's there at the pool, is going to be from past victors. So we know Katniss is going. We don't know this in chapter one, but we know this from the back of the book right, that she's going to be in another Hunger Games and her survival is going to be on the line. But also she's more of a symbol in the world now than she was before. She has other. You know same things to live for that she did before. But also you know those things have grown and deepened and, like more lives are dependent on her. So, um, you know high level, I would say that's.

Speaker 1:

That's the gist of what we're going to read about yes, and not to go on another tangent, because this probably is worth like a whole another episode that maybe you and I should talk about separately savannah and make a whole episode about this. Yeah, but interesting looking at series and saying how you raise the stakes from book one to book two, and I think that, because you have to do that when you're in a series and I think that this one, like you said is, is going to do a really great job with that One of the things that I see that's really interesting is that we see in these first one to two chapters how already is more public stakes than personal stakes.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

And part of the goal of what you're always looking for in a story is that usually stakes start out personal and they become public, and that's like a way of what you're always looking for in a story is that usually stakes start out personal and they become public, and that's like a way of raising stakes or that can be a strategy you can go from, as stakes can start very personal and then become public. That can raise the stakes in a story, regardless of genre. And, uh, it's interesting to see how in the hunger games it felt like personal became public and or at least that's kind of how I felt moved more in that way and here it feels like immediately more people's lives are on the line for Katniss from page one because of the berries at the end of the first book.

Speaker 1:

I think, that's a great point, yeah, so it's like, it's interesting, so it's like these. You're already starting with personal and public stakes and they're going to become even more public and even more personal. So just an interesting strategy to show that that life and death on the line, immediately from page one, more people, that the only people really she cares about in the world, are all threatened because of her being a target.

Speaker 2:

And in book one it was kind of like they will be threatened if I don't come home. And now it's more like you know they're going to be threatened because of what my reputation is or what. President Snow asked me to do, things like that and we know she's going to go on the games again, which means she needs to come home because she does set up in this first chapter. If I were to die or something were to happen to me, my mom and sister would lose access to all the stuff that I have now. So the house, the money, all that and we know from book one they wouldn't be able to support themselves.

Speaker 2:

But I do think, okay, we're going to like stick on this series thing for a second because it's so interesting. I do think this is a really cool example of how, like obviously that going in the games was very entertaining for readers and viewers and it's like kind of what made the Hunger Games the Hunger Games right. So if I'm the author or writing a book kind of like this, where it's like I had something I really liked in book one, I want to do it again, but I can't make it the same. I think this is a really good example to study of how it's the same but different.

Speaker 1:

Yes, and why it worked. Yes, I think if you're going to study a story that executes raising stakes per book, this is it. This is the one you look at. So, yeah, I absolutely agree and I have more thoughts, but I'm going to save it for the character question. Yeah, okay, we're getting there All right. So question number three deals with the point of view, and the question is who is telling the story?

Speaker 2:

Yep, and this is also the same from book one. So we're still in Katniss's perspective, we're still in first person and, like we said in the last episode, it makes sense. It's her story right.

Speaker 1:

So, and like we said in the last episode as well, it is in present tense as well, which is really important for this series, because we need to not know if she survives or not. Right, it's not that. That's the only that you have to work in present tense If you are writing an action story that deals with life or death stakes. You know I tend to, as a default, usually actually even prefer past tense over present tense, but I love this series in present tense and I did think it created the tension of not knowing if she was going to make it out or not.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think that's a good point and you know, present tense is not for everybody, which is fine, as a reader and a writer, but if you are someone who is writing present tense or wants to explore that again, again, this is a great example to show you when it works. Okay, uh. But, abigail, let me ask you question number four, because I know you're like itching I conceal you to talk about character. So question number four is which character should we care about the most, given what we know in chapter one?

Speaker 1:

okay, so I mean we're going to care a lot about characters in a lot like multiple characters. I think in these first chapters Katniss is obviously the person we're going to care about the most. She is the one that we're following. We see how much pressure is on her from this beginning, basically to not only for her life anymore, but for the only reason that she feels that, like you know, the greatest meaning of her life is because of these other people, this very small group of people in her life that she cares about, and how they're threatened because of something that she has done. So she carries this great moral weight, I feel like, and that escalates her anxiety. You can see on the line level, particularly when you and I'm going to move and kind of combine the first two chapters now, because you get into this conversation in chapter two with President Snow and his awareness of her act of loving Peeta being in it, and I think that for even in chapter one, as katniss is going through her day, we really can see how much weight she feels she has to carry and I think that in chapter one it is showing you what chap what in what president snow points out about katniss in chapter two, which is that I'm going to pull up the text real quick.

Speaker 1:

In chapter two, he basically tells her that his adversaries just discouraged him from coming to reason with her and the reason why he thought that they were mistaken is because he thinks that she is just a scared girl. I mean, she's basically. She's just. She's a scared girl who just was doing everything she could to survive at the end of the game. Yeah, and I think he's right, I think that she knows he's right. And that is basically how you establish who Katniss is at the beginning of this story. And what's interesting is that in the Hunger Games that is, a lot of Katniss's motivation is that she is just trying to survive the games, figuring out how to outwit the antagonist with the berries yeah, but her act of defiance again, she even says it somewhere in these first few chapters her act of defiance wasn't with the intention of causing an uprising, right, she just wanted to survive.

Speaker 1:

And she was mad and she's mad and because of that she now has put in jeopardy multiple lives, including her own. But I think she cares about someone like Graham more than herself, even Even if that life is on the line. She cares about Gail's life more than hers, right? It kind of makes her a hero, and I think that what's really interesting is that Snow sees that and that's part of why he has this huge hold on her. Yeah, because in the beginning of this story we are seeing this great moral responsibility. She feels, this obligation that she feels that she has because of taking care of Gail's family. Now, he won't take money. I will provide game for the family, you know. So it's like my mom and sister are living with me. We don't need to worry about money anymore and we don't need to worry about food anymore, but there's still so much suffering out there. And also, like you know that this, like you said just mentioned a little bit ago, this can be taken away at any time if I don't survive. So a lot of her motivation for survival is based on, honestly, just living in fear, right, and I find that really interesting because in hunter games, even when you end with the first book, she realizes her, her, her worldview, her black money shift is that she realizes the games are never over. Hamish kind of wants it out to her and also why. In the beginning of this book and in the first chapter we see that hamish is someone she's always going to look out for. Yeah, and that's something because he went above and beyond for looking out for her and I think that that's like an interesting thing. They get to a place, hamish and Katniss and you'll see this later in the book when they're debating about, you know, who's going to go back in games? Will one volunteer?

Speaker 1:

All that Katniss feels is very cold to PETA. But it's because she's not like really understanding how to navigate her feelings. And there is a line in here that I actually found interesting about how she mentioned there's a line that suggests it implies that Gail and PETA are two of the most important people in her life and she acts very cold to PETA. So that's kind of funny to like rope PETA into that line when you see the affection for Gail but you're not really sure what's going on with PETA. But it's because to me she does very much care for PETAita but she doesn't know what to do with that emotion well, in part, probably, she wants to keep him safe too, and you know it may, consciously or unconsciously.

Speaker 2:

That's part of where the coldness comes from. If I'm cold, you won't volunteer right.

Speaker 1:

So, and that's where it's like I think that she it's, it's one of those things where she almost like doesn't allow herself to feel these emotions, because they to feel emotion makes her more like pita, which makes her more more at risk of being killed. Yeah and so, yeah, so that's where it's like obviously you're caring about her because she is struggling with so many burdens, right, and also she is a teenager who's like trying to deal with her emotions yeah, and a really hard life, no big deal, yeah but on top of that, because she cares so much about Gail and because she cares about Peeta and because she cares about Prim and because she cares about her mom and Hazel, we do care about these other characters as well.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, um, I think we care about those characters anyway because we have, we love them from book one. But it's just interesting to see. It's like where can you see? I at least like I love, love, love the characters in the Hunger Games series. So when I anyone, when Heemitch comes on, when Peeta comes on, like I'm obsessed with Peeta, he's like one of my favorite characters of all time. So it's like when all these people come on, I care about them, just because the first book has set them up. But I think that the first chapter also establishes concern and affection for these characters because of how they behave. Right, it's like Katniss and Peter both take care of Haymitch and Haymitch has kind of his witty observations and even like the little bit of backstory that talks about why she's getting the alcohol for Haymitch and how that scared Prim. Like you can just see that these people in this chapter are good people that have just been victimized.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that makes you care about them Totally and I think so. I'm going to share my thoughts. But I'm going to answer the next question and then talk about both questions. So question five is about the setting. Where and when does it take place? So, like book one, we're in district 12. We're starting out again in district 12. It's not reaping day, like book one, but it is the start of her tour, right? So it's another big day that her life is changing. So we're in very similar settings but also different. So in book one we saw her home. Now we're seeing her home 2.0 in the Victor Village.

Speaker 2:

Right, we're hearing about Gale and Peeta, but we're kind of taking that to the next level.

Speaker 2:

So I like thinking about this in terms of how book one did it and how book two did it, because in book one, like Abigail was saying, we kind of cared about a smaller group of characters, mostly Katniss, but then also we were told to care about her mom and sister, we were concerned about Gail and you know all these things.

Speaker 2:

Right Now, think about how wide the pool has gotten from book one to book two. So we already have built up this care and this empathy and whatever concern for Katniss and her family and Gail and Peta, and now we're kind of even meeting Gale's mom, hazel, right. So we're just expanding it a little wider, and also the setting from book one to book two in chapter one got a little bit wider as well. So I think it's just really cool Again the same, but different. It's also like, think about, from in chapter one of book one. It's kind of like, yes, that happened and what else can I put here, right? So, yes, we're seeing her hunt, same as book one, but what else can I do to make this different and also like familiar and bring people in? I just think it's a really cool case study to look at.

Speaker 1:

I love that. Yeah, I think that's great points that you just made.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and so this kind of all leads us to question six, which is about emotion. So how should we feel? And I think we kind of already touched on this right. We're concerned about a lot of people. We're worried especially when President Snow shows up at the end of chapter one, and we're also, you know, kind of curious how's this victory tour going to go?

Speaker 1:

Yes, Yep, curious. How's this, uh, victory tour going to go? Yes, yep, and so, and victory tour is not something that we get into in the first two chapters, but we it's been planted. You know why the pressure is on with this victory tour?

Speaker 2:

yeah, no, and we know she doesn't want to do it, so we're just. We feel the same way she does, you know, yeah absolutely the other thing I think not to discount is that, because this is in a dystopian world, we feel that sense of like, ah wonder, difference, right. Whatever we want to say, um, even though we've been in this world now we're kind of again seeing a little bit of a different setting compared to book one. So we do, um, you know, we feel that setting element as well.

Speaker 1:

Yes, yeah, and and one more thing to add on to the sending um the minds, yeah, and like how she kind of goes into even more detail, like you said about with the minds, uh, she has a little bit of backstory to talk about how the minds are advocating for her, when, um, when, she had to go there as a child, yeah. So like I found that really interesting as a uh did from her, like why, why that backstory? Why add that?

Speaker 1:

because it also brought in that child within her yeah and why then even from it's like it's just trauma, like this book is based on trauma, right? So it's interesting to see all the details like that, when you're pulling out setting and how to expand on it in the new way.

Speaker 2:

Well and I'm glad you just said that too, because people always ask how do I know what backstory to include and what to leave out and it's exactly what you said. You think about the purpose why we would include something like this. Why we would include something like this it's what Abigail said. It's also to create sympathy for Gale and to worry about him, because now he's in the mines and we don't want him to have a similar fate as Katniss's dad. It's also very relevant to what she's doing in the scene right. She's hunting for Gale because he's in the mines, you know.

Speaker 1:

so I think that's a great example, too, of why to put backstory in and when it really matters I mean you're not to go too much off on a tangent, but it was interesting too to see hazel versus her mom. Yeah, two books, uh. And how you see in, katniss straight up says she likes hazel, yeah, and we didn't go into backstory, we didn't reiterate backstory about how her mom responded to her father's death, which was ghost-like in the first book, and why that establishes certain stakes for her family in particular and why it's so dangerous for Katniss to go into the games In this first chapter. It's really about grounding us to care about Gale and his family.

Speaker 1:

And Hazel had the opposite response of her mom when her husband was killed in that same accident and has five children and had a baby the second that she had had the baby within less than a week. Katniss says she was out looking for work to support her family. So it was always on Hazel and gail. So I found that really interesting to see a comparison. But that was an advantage that we didn't need to then reiterate about katniss and her mom.

Speaker 2:

Right, book two we decided to focus on hazel because you're we're focusing on caring about why katniss needs to protect gail and that family yeah, well, and think about, too, how that actually tells readers what kind of pertinent person katniss is, because protect Gale and that family Well, and think about, too, how that actually tells readers what kind of person Katniss is, because what she's focused on, why she even says she admires Hazel yeah Right, so it does more than one thing, which is again a great way to check your own backstory.

Speaker 1:

Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, yeah, definitely.

Speaker 2:

All right. So the last question here is about stakes. So why should we care about what happens next coming out of chapter one? Yeah, I think this one's actually funny. It's like President Snow just showed up and this is scary, yeah, and she's scared.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's like another thing. That's like a big advantage is that when you, when you leak over into chapter two, I think let me pull up the lines real quick when you leak over into chapter two, I think, let me pull up the lines real quick it said, if he's made the journey all the way from his city, it can only mean one thing I'm in serious trouble, and if I am, so is my family Right, and I think that that's the big thing is like we'll get into this when we get into the structure, but when you have Snow show up in District 12, of all places, know it's bad because he doesn't waste his time.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

And I think that it was interesting to see why he wanted to come directly face-to-face to talk to Katniss, and it's basically to intimidate her Right.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and it says stuff about him as an antagonist too, like oh yeah, you're so concerned that you got yourself down here to intimidate a little girl, right, a young girl, I don't know.

Speaker 1:

it's so interesting but yeah, he's an interesting character.

Speaker 2:

Snow is very interesting yeah, maybe someday we'll do a episode about antagonists and he'll be oh yes, have to do that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

OK. So now to the part we struggled with, which is the scene. So Abigail and I were like, ok, what do we do? Because we only really see one scene, kind of within these first two chapters, which is pretty different than where we've seen other books in the past. So just to kind of remind us what we look for when we look at scenes and then we'll talk about why we got to this decision we want to know what is the character's goal, what conflict gets in their way, and we kind of see that conflict. We use the Story Grids, five Commandments, to analyze that, and then what tough decision do they have to make based on that conflict and what happens as a result? So that's kind of what we're looking at and if you zoom out and just look at the big picture of what happens, there's not really a tough decision in the first chapter, which is interesting for many reasons. Anything to add there before we go on Abigail.

Speaker 1:

No, I mean, I think that you and I are going to dive deep into this one, so I'll have more to say as we get into it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So I think the very first thing to think about is what is Katniss's goal in this first chapter? And it's pretty quickly stated in the opening that she's getting ready for this victory tour. Arrival of the party right. So we know that right away.

Speaker 1:

And dreading it.

Speaker 2:

Huh, and dreading it. Yeah, and we know she has some specific things that in order to be ready for that or to feel ready enough, she has to get them done. So one of them is like to hunt to bring something to Gail's mom, you know, because that's kind of what she does on a daily, slash, weekly basis. And then you know the other she has to change and go home, get with her family before going. I think actually they're planning to stay at her house. So there's just like a lot of little things she has to do within that umbrella goal of today's the victory. I don't know why I can't, what's the name of this that I'm not catching On the victory tour? Yeah, victory tour, okay. So this that I'm not catching on the victory tour, yeah, victory tour, okay. So, yeah, it's like she has all these little things she has to do to get ready for the victory tour and, um, most of them are just daily tasks, right, yep, so if we know that's the goal, and then we're kind of on the hunt for where is the conflict?

Speaker 2:

There's little bits of conflict that pop up in here, right? So at first she's kind of just stuck in her thoughts and she's frozen. That counts. Then you know she's thinking about Gail. She returns to the village. The cat shows up, like you know. It's not really that big of a conflict, but it's there. She goes to Gail's mom's house's very nice and appreciative, not really any conflict there, but we're still interested, right. So we'll talk about why in a second. Then she gets a little more conflict when she goes to the hob and she's talking to the people that are kind of like you don't look ready to go to the victory tour and why are you buying this alcohol and yada, yada, and then the conflict escalates even more. She goes to uh, talk to Haymitch and PETA's there and then she gets home and the.

Speaker 2:

The conflict kind of reaches its peak in this chapter when President Snow's there. Yes, so no real tough decision, but I'm curious what are your thoughts on why we're so engaged in this?

Speaker 1:

yep, I think that that's when I was, you know, before we got on the podcast, saman, and I had said what do you think this is? Is this one scene over two chapters? Can we identify scenes within the chapter? And I think, like anything you know, it's all based on how you see a scene and how that helps you write your story or analyze your story, and how that helps you write your story or analyze your story. For me and Samia, and I believe you see it this way too, when we see scenes we're looking for when does a goal change? And when we see beats we're looking for when does an emotion change? Or is there an escalation of emotion? And I wasn't really being able to find an inciting incident that seemed to upset or disturb her goal of getting ready for this tour, until Snow appears at the end of the chapter.

Speaker 2:

Right.

Speaker 1:

So for me it's going to pull over into chapter one, chapter two and the crisis is going to come in with her confrontation with Snow. Why am I so that exactly? You just asked, why am I so interested in the first chapter, despite there being a lack of a high stakes crisis, we'll say in the moment, and I think a's the big thing, because a lot of the times when I feel like there's a lot of unnecessary info, dumping or backstory or setting when I'm working with writers, it's because it feels very much like you're just telling me all of this stuff in order for me to buy into the story, instead of showing me something that happens actually in the scene. Right, I think this is where you look at chapter one and you go back to those seven key first chapter questions which we can answer pretty passionately with the context of this first chapter.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's pretty clear.

Speaker 1:

So why do we care about the part with Buttercup? So with Buttercup, we know in the first book and see. This is where I think. Why am I interested? Because I think we're seeing things similar actually, but escalating. Exactly everything you've been saying. Book one, verse two, I think. I'm comparing and seeing how things are different, but worse in a way.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and also, she literally tells us she is dreading today. So let's just pretend we didn't read book one, which I don't know if any anyone out there has done this. But if you didn't read book one and you're reading book two the fact that she is just dreading today, we're like, oh, why should we be dreading day one or this day? Right, but because we have the knowledge of book one, we know that we can trust that she's dreading something major, because not a lot ruffles her. So we're just pulled into her and, like you said, we're setting up her normal world. Today it looks nothing like it did in the beginning of book one. I shouldn't say nothing. Some of it looks the same, but it's her attitude's different. Like there are a lot of differences and the little movements or those little beats. So we look at beats as kind of like the micro movements or moments within a scene and they move us forward. So we're always in motion. Like you've been saying, we know what the goal is early on. So we're reading forward to see. You know what's going to happen.

Speaker 2:

And, like we've been saying, the conflict does escalate, right. So like seeing the cat is a speed bump in the way of her day, like she didn't expect to see the cat. In theory she could have not fed it and just kind of been a jerk to it, right, but she stopped and she fed it. There's a timeline of when she needs to get to the victory tour. And you know, same with the people who are in the hob and they're saying I hope you're going to change before you're going to be on camera because you don't look so good Like I hope you're going to change before you're going to be on camera because you don't look so good, like it's just little things, little speed bumps, right.

Speaker 2:

So it's not like there's no conflict, it's interesting stuff. There's a little bit of conflict. It is escalating, especially when she gets to Haymitch's house and PETA's there and we get some history about what they've been going through. So these are kind of what we would say are beats. And this makes go back to our last uh episode about the first book. I think we said we had two scenes in there. I think we probably just had one with beats again yes, so what and what?

Speaker 1:

what's interesting, you know? I think about like a, an acting term. Um, they say the acting is reacting and I feel like katniss does have a lot of reaction because there is action presented to her. So like when you look at it in that lens, like something like you said, like when buttercup arrives she actually is friendly. She's kind of like forming a bond with buttercup, where in the first book she despised him yeah and I think that's like okay.

Speaker 1:

So we're doing that with that. When, like you said, the probably the biggest speed bump is when, because she gets her game and everything like she finds the beaver, she brings it to hazel. There's no challenge in the hunting there, it's already been successful. But there's emotional turmoil because we see, really like, because hazel understands katniss's and gail's relationship, even if katniss doesn't realize it, yeah, so we know that there's romantic tension kind of growing in that realm. The biggest speed bump is when they get to the hob and someone is critiquing her. That person's critiquing her about, uh, not being ready for the victory tour, because everyone understands the pressure that's on right, what's at stake of her having a successful victory tour or not?

Speaker 1:

and the districts aren't naive, yeah, no, you know like he has been able to control all 12 districts because of really destroying District 13, right, and bullying them with fear tactics. So they understand and remember that all of this is cinemaized. So, you know, un-televised, all of this is televised, right, right, making sure that all of that is. That's part of what makes the story so interesting is that she talks about there is no privacy, right, and that's true.

Speaker 1:

We see it Right Understanding like all of her movements are being watched, and that's actually emphasized even more in chapter two when Snow reveals that he knows about Gail's kiss.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

And I think that that's what you're walking through, like chapter one is really showing us everyone that Katniss needs to be exposed to in order to emphasize, really, what is at stake, which is that if she is not successful with this victory toward not only her, but District 12 is on the line, like right there's about also District 12.

Speaker 2:

Well, and also I think, like you said, district 12 represents the whole, which is the people who are oppressed, and, whether you know, some of them are probably more on the side of. I know that President Snow's dangerous and I'm worried for you. Others are probably like you represent hope and I hope you kick his butt, you know. So I think it's yeah, it's really cool, and it it all serves to deepen the dread that she was feeling, because the clock is ticking Right. She's getting closer to the victory tour, or people coming to her house, whatever of. You know, you're the symbol or you're the one that has to deal with these stakes, and as she gets closer to it, it's like putting her in a funnel where eventually it just gets so tight, and then at that point, president Snow shows up.

Speaker 1:

And think about, like, how much pressure that is on when she's 17, probably in this book, yeah, somewhere around there.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so I mean think about that pressure on a 17 year old, you know so it's like she's carrying the weight of an entire rebellion on her. Yeah, and I think what's so interesting is when you get to the interaction with pita, because I think that's the biggest at, you know, the first one that I just mentioned with the and that you mentioned with the, are you going to look nicer than this? That's the first like major speed bump. But when you get to pita, that's actually the biggest conflict probably in the scene in in the chapter, in that, I'm sorry, in this chapter and it's kind of unspoken in the sense that, like pita, honestly, like the, the reason why we well, you see it, because it's well written, but it's emphasized by hamish saying burr, you two are warming up to do before showtime, and it's because it's this, like you know, tap dance around each other.

Speaker 1:

Uh, we because pita, pita's affections are genuine, yeah, and he loves her so much that he, you know, kind of lets her treat him poorly, yeah, and not that because, because it's not intentional, her treating him poorly is not intentional. She does care about him, but they don't know how, like, there's just so much, I think, pressure on katniss that she can't even have time for her thoughts, to understand how her feelings not her biggest priority, no, and she can't prioritize it, and that's not fair to the other characters, necessarily, but it's not fair to her either. So that's what's Not her biggest priority understanding a trauma that no one else can really understand. And I think it just reiterates also like why Peeta is such a beautiful character and why later in the story it's where Haymitch will say something like you can live a thousand lives and not deserve that boy.

Speaker 1:

It's because Peeta is able to always kind of put his own emotions aside for the well-being of others. Katniss does the same thing in a different way, yeah, and it's interesting to see their, their deny, their dynamic there, and also it's like why they are one of the reasons why they're meant to be together. But I think that that's the thing is you're always working up to this victory tour, and pulling Peter on the page reminds us that Katniss, oh man, the pressure that she's having to deal with everything, the stakes that she's having to deal with, that it's not fair, that she's going to be the one that has to be the deciding factor of how this goes, but also other people are having to handle equal pressure. You know, like softer limelight.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and so I think like there's a lot that pulls us into the first chapter. We said from the big picture it works, it is part of a scene. But the scene continues in the chapter two and basically it, you know, the conflict escalates until president snow is is like you know. I know that you guys are putting on a ruse. The world better not find out that you're putting on a ruse and that you have this like that gail's not your cousin. Wherever you see the turning point, it all kind of adds up to her facing a decision like now, what do I do? Because I've been called out right?

Speaker 2:

Um, so it's. You know it does span two chapters, it's quite long, it's over 7 000,. You know makes sense then why you break it up in two chapters? Because you're controlling the reading experience. If we say that the inciting incident of the scene is President Snow's arrival. That's a great way to build a cliffhanger, right, If you play or you put the inciting incident of the page in chapter one at the end and then the scene follows in chapter two.

Speaker 1:

So it's it's a very interesting example. Yeah, sorry to cut you off, notice that it's the inciting incident at the end of that chapter one that moves into chapter two. Yeah, I think that's a pretty common pattern. If you are going to have a scene in the way that savannah nine defines scenes, um, as a movement from chapter one to chapter two, it's effective, or extremely effective, if not most effective, to have the inciting incident as what moves you, versus, like, the turning point or the crisis. We need to kind of get that into the body of the second chapter.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I mean it could be. I've seen it work too, where it's anything at the end of that first chapter. It can be the inciting incident. It's usually not like a complication in between so often, but I've also seen it be the turning point. I've also seen it be the crisis, you know, or the climax, and the resolution comes in the next chapter. So I just think it's such a cool tool to know what your scenes are made of and then where could I break them? That will make the best reading experience with those chapters.

Speaker 1:

And how do you think you would decide that Savannah? Is that just a personal thing that you have to look at for a story?

Speaker 2:

I think so. I think it's when you've taken some time and space away from it. You come back through and you read it and you feel those chapter breaks. I think yeah, but yeah. So again, super interesting case study. It works even though there's not a chapter or there's not a scene in the first chapter. We would love to hear what you guys think. So let us know on social media, leave us a review and let us know your thoughts on this one. But it was really fun to break down. I also think this is why it's hard for writers to well, first of all, there's so many definitions of what it means to write a scene. People call beat scenes, they call scenes other things, they call scenes chapters, right, so so we feel you it's pretty difficult, uh, but also you you know there are smaller movements that you, in theory, could look at and say what is her choice when she's visiting hazel? Like there's probably a choice we can infer there, but it's not significant enough to um move us forward.

Speaker 1:

So yeah, okay. So knowing all that, do we want to move into the breakdown with the commandments?

Speaker 2:

um, we can. I think I feel like we kind of just did in a way. Do you want to go through them officially?

Speaker 1:

yes, let's go into a little bit more about the crisis and why we picked the crisis. Yeah, okay, it was so because I think that that's that's something that we had talked about a little bit off podcast when we were debating where is the crisis itself and I saw potentially three options. I settled pretty confidently on the one that I picked. You said what two options? Probably Savannah.

Speaker 2:

Well, yeah, so walk us through your three options real quick.

Speaker 1:

Okay, so all my options are because the insight is chapter one, so all my options are in chapter two and I'm just getting to the text of them, the three big ones that I think I the first one that I was reading through and my mindset with it was okay. I can see this is kind of something directly on the page that she's thinking about and I'm just scrolling real quickly to pull out the exact wording of it, but it's when President Snow says to her the berries as an let's see. However, people viewed your little trick with berries as an act of defiance, not an act of love. And if a girl from District 12 of all places can defy the Capitol and walk away unharmed, what is to stop them from doing the same? He says what is for them to say in uprising and it says it takes a moment for his last sentence to sink in. Then the full weight of it hits me. There have been uprisings.

Speaker 1:

I asked both sheldon, somewhat elated by the, by the possibility and this is really interesting because I think that on the page it takes a moment for his last sentence to sink in. That felt very revelation like to me. There doesn't seem to yet be a decision about it. There hasn't been something to present her into a decision. So I put a bookmark in it and I was like, okay, I can see something as to, if nothing else, why this raises stakes, but probably not what I'm going to pick for the crisis.

Speaker 1:

Still a significant line to pull out Right, to emphasize that even more. Just being a film background and film nerd as well, it's really interesting to see how in the first movie you have the advantage because you have an omniscient narrator with your camera lens of when she signals to the camera after burying Rue how the districts are reacting to her active defiance, and that raises the stakes in a visual format where here we and in the books we don't get that, and now we get that. We get confirmation of that in the second book. So it was kind of fun from a reading experience to have that revelation with Katniss Right and that raised it in a more personal way. And it raised it in a different way when you're watching the film, because you start to get even more excited for the climax of the movie. You know, add it with the music and you see what's happening outside of the games, right.

Speaker 2:

So I'll do the second option, because this is the one I saw. So again, we're looking at possible crisis moments where there's a possible decision for Katniss. So option two was when he says how is the love of your life? And he's talking about PETA, and she's like, oh, he's good. And then he says at what point did he realize the exact degree of your indifference? And then they kind of have this back and forth, right, and. And then President Snow says, how's the handsome cousin?

Speaker 2:

And she's like my revulsion at this conversation, at discussing my feelings for two of the people I care about most with president snow, chokes me off. Speak, miss everdeen. Him I can easily kill off if we don't come to a happy resolution. He says you aren't doing him any favor by disappearing into the woods with him each sunday. And then she has this whole paragraph. If he knows this, what else does he know? And how does he know it? Many people could tell him that gail and I spend our sundays hunting. Don't we show up at the end of each one loaded down with game, haven't we for years? And it, you know, goes on and on and on.

Speaker 2:

So and then at the end she says um, if we've been watched. Since what have they seen? Two people hunting, saying treasonous things against the capital, yes, but not two people in love, which seems to be President Snow's implication. We are safe on that charge, unless it only happened once. It was fast and unexpected, but it did happen. And then she talks about how Gail kissed her. So that's an option, right, because we're seeing her kind of filter, what he's saying and there's this kind of sense of how are you going to respond? What are you going to do, right? Yep, but then option three is kind of where we landed, right.

Speaker 1:

Do you want to do that one? Yeah, so option I was just going to yep. Option three is where we landed, because I think option three takes the conflict that you just discussed and presents her with a decision that she has to make about it. So now that she knows, or suspects that President Snow knows, about this kiss and she that immediately tells her Gail's life is in jeopardy, if I, if I misstep here Right, which tends to be, in Katniss's mind, always a little bit worse for the people she loves to be killed because of her especially Right, instead of her especially right, instead of her own life. Because she even says to him like, why don't you just kill me?

Speaker 1:

And at the end of this, that then goes into this decision that she has to make about when president snow tells her to convince everyone that the love story is real. So he says I'm only interested in how it affects your dynamic with PETA, thereby affecting the mood in the districts. He says it will be the same on tour. I'll be in love with him just as I was. So she's starting to kind of be anxious and saying like I'm going to do it, I'm going to convince them. And he says just as you are correct, president Snow, just as I am, I confirm Only snow. Just as I am, I confirm only you'll have to do even better if the uprisings are to be averted. He says this tour will be your only chance to turn things around. And she answers I know I will, I'll convince everyone.

Speaker 1:

So we see her climactic action is very quickly like the anxiety is extreme here, understanding I have to convince him that I can do this. And before he even says it the last paragraph there, it's why it puts such a punch to the final decision here President Snow says convince me. He says he drops the napkin and retrieves his book I don't watch him. And before he turns around and says and I know about the kiss. So it's kind of an extra punch in the stomach. Yeah, I think that what's really interesting is that the two options that we were debating about in addition to this third, which is what we settle on both of those, actually layer the intensity of the stakes, the personal and public stakes that she makes a decision about, if not instantaneously makes a decision about, when presented with the decision here is are you going to convince them or not? And then not only that are you going to convince them?

Speaker 2:

or not. And then not only that, are you going to convince me? Well, it's kind of like what's the other option? Right, if you don't convince him and you stay a rebel or you stand up to him, whatever, there are very clear stakes, what's going to happen? So it's also very interesting because this first scene sets up her arc for this book. Right, she's kind of like like I will bend over backwards and do whatever you say because I'm so concerned, and then, of course, that's not kind of how she is by the end, yeah, and just another kudos to katniss's character development.

Speaker 1:

We see in her reaction with kleinatz is like this just how scared she is. Despite that she's super fiery, has the girl fire when and like when he will ask certain things and she'll say things like it must be a pretty fragile system if it can fall apart with berries. Yeah, she's actually surprised that she says that, like interiority. We see that she's surprised that she says that, but she has, you know, she has the goal to to say it to him and I think that that is that's why person snow is also fascinated with her, you know. So it's like he understands, he's like I can think I can break this poor little girl. That's like in his mind.

Speaker 1:

Like I still think I have the upper hand here, but you're a threat, yeah, and she that's where, like when you get later in the series, like Plutar, cambridge, like you can see, and even the other game players in this book, you see it. Why? Why certain people bet on her Because she does have that fire in her, despite the fear. Yeah, and that's what makes her really interesting as a character.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and it's we really wanted to point out the three options and kind of our thought process, because in theory, if you chose any one of those or at least felt kind of those moments, you will still get to the same point that we get to, which is the scene works and there's movement going into the next scene. So we've raised the stakes. You know, the president's nose made his threat. She kind of knows how she has to be going forward. So you know, I don't like saying there's a right and wrong answer. We don't really think there is. But as long as we all get to the same point, then I think the analysis has done its job. So anything to add there, Abigail?

Speaker 1:

I think that's well said, and it was super fun to do this one and I can't wait to do Mockingjay.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, we're going to come back with our next analysis episode will be from the Mockingjay, and if there are any series or books that you guys want to see us analyze, feel free to leave a review and let us know, or send us a message on Instagram, whatever, because we are always looking for suggestions. So thank you, abigail, for joining me on this one today. I had fun and I love nerding out with you Always.

Speaker 1:

Savannah. Thanks so much and thanks for everyone being here with us.

Speaker 2:

So that's it for today's episode. Thanks for everyone being here with us. Savannahgilbocom forward slash podcast. If you're an Apple user, I'd really appreciate it if you took a few seconds to leave a rating and a review. Your ratings and reviews tell Apple that this is a podcast that's worth listening to and, in turn, your reviews will help this podcast get in front of more fiction writers just like you. And while you're there, go ahead and hit that follow button, because there's going to be another brand new episode next week, full of actionable tips, tools and strategies to help you become a better writer. So I'll see you next week and until then, happy writing.

Analyzing Catching Fire Chapter 1
Discussing Series and Raising Stakes
Analyzing Themes in Chapter One
Analyzing Conflict and Goals in Scenes
Scene Breaks and Chapter Structure
Katniss Faces Intense Decisions
Podcast Promotion for Fiction Writers