Fiction Writing Made Easy

#140. First Chapter Analysis: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

April 30, 2024 Episode 140
#140. First Chapter Analysis: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Fiction Writing Made Easy
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Fiction Writing Made Easy
#140. First Chapter Analysis: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Apr 30, 2024 Episode 140

“We need to advance the plot and we need to develop the character. When you can marry the two, you have a strong scene.” - Abigail K. Perry

We’re taking a deep dive into Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins to see how and why it works. Join me and Abigail K. Perry as we break down this first chapter of the third book of The Hunger Games trilogy to see how it hooks our interest and pulls us into the story! Here's a preview of what's included: 

[04:03] Chapter summary: This opening chapter sets up themes of resistance, manipulation, and personal agency against a backdrop of political turmoil and survival

[07:41] Macro analysis, using Paula Munier’s 7 Key Questions: Suzanne Collins masterfully sets up the expectations by addressing the tone, themes, and stakes of "Mockingjay", ensuring readers are engaged and eager to uncover what lies ahead

[26:17] Microanalysis, using Story Grid’s 5 Commandments: In the opening scene, Katniss Everdeen deals with the pressure to become the Mockingjay. Her internal conflict regarding her future role intensifies, setting the stage for subsequent events in the story.

[53:13] Final thoughts: The opening scene balances macro and microelements, ensuring readers are engaged and invested from the start. Evaluating your opening chapter through this comprehensive lens is invaluable for effectively delivering the big picture and the intricate details to your audience. 

Links mentioned in this episode:

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

“We need to advance the plot and we need to develop the character. When you can marry the two, you have a strong scene.” - Abigail K. Perry

We’re taking a deep dive into Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins to see how and why it works. Join me and Abigail K. Perry as we break down this first chapter of the third book of The Hunger Games trilogy to see how it hooks our interest and pulls us into the story! Here's a preview of what's included: 

[04:03] Chapter summary: This opening chapter sets up themes of resistance, manipulation, and personal agency against a backdrop of political turmoil and survival

[07:41] Macro analysis, using Paula Munier’s 7 Key Questions: Suzanne Collins masterfully sets up the expectations by addressing the tone, themes, and stakes of "Mockingjay", ensuring readers are engaged and eager to uncover what lies ahead

[26:17] Microanalysis, using Story Grid’s 5 Commandments: In the opening scene, Katniss Everdeen deals with the pressure to become the Mockingjay. Her internal conflict regarding her future role intensifies, setting the stage for subsequent events in the story.

[53:13] Final thoughts: The opening scene balances macro and microelements, ensuring readers are engaged and invested from the start. Evaluating your opening chapter through this comprehensive lens is invaluable for effectively delivering the big picture and the intricate details to your audience. 

Links mentioned in this episode:

Interested in becoming a book coach? Author Accelerator has a free quiz you can take that tells you if you're a good fit for a career in book coaching. Click here to take the quiz and to learn more about Author Accelerator's Book Coach Certification program! 

Support the Show.

Looking for a transcript? If you’re listening on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, scroll down below the episode player until you see the transcript.

Speaker 1:

I think that you, if you're in Katniss's head, which you are being in first person you're concerned, you're afraid, you're excited at the same time to see what's about to happen and, honestly, like I, pity her as well. So I go through a lot of emotions of pity, a lot of emotions of sadness and grief for what's been lost. I go through a lot of emotions of concern for Katniss and just true sympathy in her debate and what she's struggling with.

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. In today's episode, abigail K Perry and I are diving deep into the first chapter of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. This is the third book in the Hunger Games series and we are both very excited to dig into this opening chapter to not only see how and why the first chapter works, but also how the author has escalated the conflict, tension and stakes from book to book as well. So we have already done deep dives into the first chapter of the Hunger Games, which is book one, and then we did another deep dive episode on the first chapter of Catching Fire, which is book two. I will link to both of those episodes in the show notes. If you haven't already listened to them, they might be worth checking out before you listen to today's episode, just because we do reference a few things in each one of those other episodes.

Speaker 2:

Now, as I mentioned, I do have a co-host for today's episode. Her name is Abigail K Perry and she is a developmental editor and the host of an amazing podcast called Litmatch. On her podcast, she helps writers find the best literary agent for their writing and publishing careers. I will link to where you can find Abigail around the internet, as well as her podcast in the show notes. So, without further ado, let's go ahead and dive right into our conversation about this opening chapter of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins and let's see if we can figure out how and why it works and how it pulls us into the rest of the story.

Speaker 1:

Hi Savannah. Thanks for coming back again for the third first chapter analysis in the Hunger Games series. Love doing these episodes and I'm really excited to return for the finale of this series. This phenomenon in dystopian YA.

Speaker 2:

Yes, I'm super excited too, and spoiler alert, I feel like for anybody who's going to write a series or wants to write a series, it's amazing to study the first chapters or just, you know, any of the series books in general to see how things escalate and the tension gets raised and all that. And we're going to see that in the first chapter. So I've totally got my nerd glasses on today.

Speaker 1:

And I am excited to hear your many thoughts, and I know that you and I have talked off podcast. I have tons of questions for you and I have tons of areas that I think are worth exploring. We've been thinking about what would writers be asking on how to replicate something like this in their own work. So we're ready to go. So for the normal structure of these episodes, we do our seven key first chapter questions that come from Paul and Yunaid and that helps us see how big picture expectations are set up in the first chapter, and then we move into a micro analysis where we do the five commandments that come from Stray Grid and Robert McKee in order to understand what makes a well-structured scene. So before we do that, I'm going to give a quick summary of what chapter one is. We are going to talk a bit about chapter one and chapter two in this episode and we can kind of do a mini summary of chapter two maybe when we get to that point. But for the seven key first chapter questions, we'll start with chapter one. So that's the summary I'm going to give. Perfect. In this chapter one, what we have is Katniss returning to District 12, which has been demolished by the Capitol. So what she's doing is she's going around she needs to see this for herself during this whole really investigation of what's happened to District 12. She is constantly it's very internally driven. She's constantly debating about whether or not she's going to be the Mockingjay, which is what District 13 and the rebels would like her to be. So she's going through, she's going to examine District 12. Now it's really, you know, exterminated state going to examine District 12. Now it's really, you know, exterminated state. And she's going to see things like the bakery which is gone everywhere in District 12 has been completely disintegrated. It's full of skulls, it's you know. There are animals that are eating any remains of anything and the only thing that has survived is Victory Village, which is where her house, haymitch and Peta's house are, because they were the tributes in that area.

Speaker 1:

And she returns to Victory Village. She goes into her house. She does discover she has a run-in with Buttercup and she collects Buttercup, gets him to go into her bag, she grabs some other important heirlooms, like the wedding photo for her mom, and she grabs her dad's old coat for her. And then she goes back to where the District 13 and other soldiers, including Gail, are waiting for her to return to. And when she starts to come back, to return to the hovercraft, she finds a white rose.

Speaker 1:

Turn to the hovercraft, she finds a white rose. And before she goes there, and that white rose, she knows of course, is a symbol or, you know, a warning from President Snow. And she only knows this because of ironically, not ironically what happens in the first chapter of Catching Fire, because that is the connection piece that she knows that he is marking this as a warning to her not to overstep. And you know she even says something like imagining what he would be saying to her it's. It signifies I can find you, I can reach you, perhaps I'm watching you now. She, then, is constantly worried and debating about whether or not she's going to reveal this information, what this means to the other soldiers, including Gale, in the hovercraft, and to the other commanders of District 13. And even when Gale asks her how she is doing, she decides not to reveal that information, she keeps it to herself, and then they start to return to District 13.

Speaker 2:

Right. So what's really cool, which we'll get into more, but it's really cool thinking about the last two episodes, when we looked at the first chapter of the Hunger Games and the first chapter of Catching Fire. If you haven't heard those or haven't read those chapters in a while, it's well worth the exercise to go back and just look at the three books in the first chapters, because we'll talk about this more in setting. I know I'm like getting ahead of ourselves, but we go to the same places. But things are more dire. We see Buttercup in every single first chapter, which is crazy, and it's just cool to see how it's progressed over time, not only in like the plot but also in Katniss's internal arc. So super excited to dig into this Definitely.

Speaker 2:

And, like Abigail said earlier, we're going to start with Paula Meunier's seven key questions from the Writer's Guide to Beginnings. So we want to see, like, in this first chapter, what is the author, what kind of glimpse into the story is she giving us and what could we be expecting? What questions do we have and things like that. So the first one is what kind of story is it? And we like to look at story in two ways. So you know what commercially? What kind of story is this? Where would it sit on the bookshelf? And then the content genre what type of story are we in for? So how do we feel about that, abigail?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so for commercial genre, I mentioned a little bit in the introduction. It's YA dystopian or YA sci-fi. That's the commercial genre, how you're going to market it. And then for the content genre, we are continuing our streak of action content genre. So we're dealing with those life and death stakes and we very much can see how death is rampant in this first chapter in what's at stake.

Speaker 2:

Right, and Katniss is very good about reminding us who has died, the danger she's been in, what's to come if she doesn't accept this role of the Mockingjay and things like that. Also, for anyone writing sci-fi, fantasy or even historical fiction, it's really cool to see in these first chapters how we get a glimpse at what the commercial genre is, even if nothing crazy and exciting is happening. So I think these are great examples of that. All right, so that is our first question. What kind of story is it? We said young adult, dystopian, and it's an action story. Now the second question is plot. So what is the story really about?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so this is the book about the rebellion and the revolution. So out of all of the books I mean out of all of the three books that are leading us this is the one that we have built towards. We've seen how Katniss has been semi-forced into this position of being the rebel and now it's about whether or not she's going to embrace and accept that fully and become the Mokum Jay. So I think when you're looking at this story and you're looking internally, what is the story about, what's the big message, and externally what the story is about, we still have that big question plot-wise on, is Katniss going to survive and are people that she loves going to survive? So we're still on action territory.

Speaker 1:

As the main plot, you're going to see that key scenes in the novel are going to be. You know the main threat that she's going to be facing is life or death. At that same time, I think that you're dealing deeply with this wholly fleshed out and complicated internal arc about what am I going to do? Am I going to become the Mach-VJ or not? And I even marked on page 13 and page 12, there are a couple areas that I thought would be interesting to explore. Maybe we'll hold off on that until the character arc, because I think that that reflects deeply, with the character question that we're going to get to, yeah, and I think Yep, go ahead.

Speaker 2:

That point you just said it was really good about how it really blends the two together. Because Katniss, no matter what she does and she kind of explores this in the first chapter she's on Snow's radar and she's not going to escape what's happening to the world around her to like now she lives in District 13 unless she randomly decides to leave to the woods, which she explains why she can't do that. But she can't escape the conflict anymore. She's being pressured to become the symbol. If she does, she definitely stands a chance of dying. So I mean it's she has to accept that piece of her or that, find that strength to become the Mockingjay to survive.

Speaker 1:

So it's really well done, yeah exactly, and I love what you said right there, just to kind of emphasize about it, kind of we'll see this with stakes, but it reinforces that she can't. There is no debate about whether or not she can or can, but whether or not she can run from this or not anymore. I love what you said right there because she is enemy number one now. Yeah, so the second that she shot that arrow up in the arena at the end of catching fire, she became that she is enemy number one. There is no more guys, there's no more facade of who she is, and snow cannot make deals with her in order to contain the flame, as he would say right yeah, so it's a very cool setup.

Speaker 2:

And then in the question three we're in the point of view so who is telling the story? Have we changed from books one and two?

Speaker 1:

no, and thank goodness we haven't, because we love katniss's first person presence. You know there's, and I actually found this first chapter. Out of all the books, this one was particularly strong with the interiority and how it is, you know, deeply internal and reflective, as she's walking through District 12 that's now demolished and what she's taking and observing and you can just see her voice, how strong her voice is. That character voice is coming through. So thank goodness that we're so first person present for this book, because it is. I can't even imagine these books not in that.

Speaker 2:

Well, and I like that you said we've seen kind of how much she grows in her voice, because I do think we're seeing a more mature version of Katniss who's she's been through some stuff and her voice, because I do think we're seeing a more mature version of Katniss who's she's been through some stuff, like it's no joke what she's been through and she's matured. I know she's 17 in this book, right, so she's been through a lot for a normal 17 year old, but even more so in this world.

Speaker 2:

And we see that in her voice, so it's really cool. All right, and so this is probably an easy question, right, but what character should we care about coming out of this first chapter?

Speaker 1:

Katniss, katniss and really anyone that she loves, that she loves, because I'm actually also equally concerned for Peeta and she reflects on that. She thinks Peeta's dead at this point, she suspects Peeta's dead. She doesn't have a confirmation about that. In chapter two we're going to see that he's alive and I think I guess that's where you're probably going to heighten your concern for him. But you don't know, there's an unknown, unlike pita's family, which you know are dead, um, right, or you know are dead. So I think that you're very concerned for katniss and, honestly, like you're equally concerned for her life, as much as what she's struggling with, with PTSD and trauma and grief really, and just the immense guilt that she is carrying. She almost calls her I mean she basically calls herself responsible for the deaths of the entire District 12 with the exception of the 800 survivors, right, and I can't imagine being 17 and carrying that burden inside of me, you know.

Speaker 2:

There's this part I like it said others probably overcome with smoke, escaped the worst of the flames and now lie reeking in various states of decomposition, carrying for scavengers blanketed by flies. I killed you, I think, as I pass a pile, and you and you.

Speaker 1:

Yep, and I mean you feel that because she truly does believe in it. Now, I think, later, as different districts start to step up to the plate and they join the cause, they join the rebellion. What Katniss needs to learn is that these people are starting to realize my life, despite it being at risk, is better for this, because the life that I'm living is not worth living.

Speaker 2:

Right.

Speaker 1:

So she has to come, step into those shoes and believe that herself. Where, right now, in the beginning of this book, we are seeing her still, I think, flirt with the idea of what is better to remain quiet or not. She's not really in a position to remain quiet anymore. And, savannah, you mentioned this and it happens in one, two, three, four, in extensive four pages, or I guess three pages from page 10, no four pages from page 10 to 13,. She does ask the question what am I going to do? Three times, yeah, and the first time it's not italicized it. What am I going to do? Three times, yeah, and the first time it's not italicized it's what am I going to do? I whisper to the walls because I really don't know. And then it's reinforced when she sees something with Peta's paintings and she says what am I going to do? And then it's reinforced a third time when she thinks about Sina and how he's died, who she also feels responsible for killing. And she says what am I going to do?

Speaker 1:

Become the Mockingjay? Could any good I do possibly outweigh the damage? Who can I trust to answer that question and I think that's another big part of it too Certainly not the crew in 13. I swear, now that my family and Gail's are out of harm's way, I could run away, except for one unfinished piece of business PETA. Yeah, if I knew for sure that he was dead I could just disappear into the woods and never look back. But until I do, I'm stuck Right.

Speaker 2:

So I like what you just pulled out, because she is stuck and she's torn between. I could step into the role as a mockingjay, but look what happens when I do stuff against the Capitol All these people die. I feel totally bad and guilty about it. Against the Capitol, all these people die, I feel totally bad and guilty about it. Or I could kind of, you know, say no, thank you. And then what could happen to PETA? What could happen to everybody? I might die anyway.

Speaker 1:

So it's a really tough spot to be in, and I think that that's what she's really struggling with, because she's not cowardice Like her running away is not a sign of cowardice in the sense that she is trying to run from her guilt. I at least, I got something to like and I think it's just like it's so consuming to that you just get to a place where you're like when can I put down the burden?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and imagine she's even said like everything I do comes with a consequence. Imagine feeling that, constrained by a wrong move. I'm being watched, my family could die.

Speaker 1:

You know that's tough, it's this amazing, such like a human condition struggle and debate between making decisions versus indecision, versus making the wrong decisions, the right decisions, not knowing that answer to that and feeling stuck. I feel that a lot in my life, you know, so it's like I think that that's so, that's so deep rooted in the human condition about having to make decisions and not knowing the consequences of what's going to happen either way, and for the extreme stakes that come with Katniss's decisions, in particular because at age 17, she's been asked to basically define the seat of all of Panem.

Speaker 2:

Right, I like what you said too earlier about the stakes are we feel that they're bigger and so, yes, we care a lot about Katniss. She tells us at some point in the chapter like my mom and sister are relatively safe now Gail's family's relatively safe, but the stakes have gone out into the bigger world because she's also telling us this person in this district and PETA's gone and Sina died and all this stuff. So we're getting the same like feel of her personal bubble and what's important to her and also these big worldwide stakes, which is similar but different to books one and two.

Speaker 1:

Yes, yes, so, and that's the trick when you have any type of series, trilogy, you have to increase the stakes. Each book yes, oh, how do you raise the stakes? Is a great example.

Speaker 2:

And I love that. I'm going to say this like 40 times in this episode, but I love how, in chapter one of book one, chapter one of book two and chapter one of book three, she is literally in the same place with the same cat. You know and like doing the same things, but it feels so different because of the stakes, I think that's so cool.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and I'm not Suzanne Collins, so I can't speak to exactly what she did, but I feel like that would have been intentional.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think so too. So we might've already gone into this question a little bit. But question five is where and when does the story take place?

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

So, this is obviously in District 12, but it's no longer there, a completely destroyed district 12, with the exception of victory village. So we're walking through that. When does it take place? Yes, we're in dystopian time period. In the stories time, this is after the quarter 12. Yeah, this is after the second, the quarter 12 hunger games. The 75th hunger games and and you know, this is this is after she has been rescued from there. So at the end of catching fire, we see that PETA has been intercepted by the Capitol. The rebels managed to get Katniss out and we're in this aftermath of the quarterfile Right.

Speaker 2:

Yep, I think that's totally spot on. And then question six is how should readers feel about what's happening?

Speaker 1:

Oh boy, that's a big question for this one.

Speaker 1:

Some of it we have touched on already, but what do we think is like the main question or concern that we're thinking, I think that you, if you're in Katniss's head, which you are being in first person you're concerned, you're afraid, you're excited at the same time to see what's about to happen and, honestly, like I, pity her as well. So I go through a lot of emotions of pity, a lot of emotions of sadness and grief for what's been lost. I go through a lot of emotions of concern for Katniss and just true sympathy in her debate and what she's struggling with, and fear for what's happened to Peeta, fear for what's going to happen to Katniss as she goes forward, along with the excitement of, because of the back cover, knowing where the story is going to go. Right, but yeah, so I just listed a lot of emotions tonight. How do you feel?

Speaker 2:

I like to think about it in terms of curiosity versus concern, like what is the driving factor that's making us turn the page. And compared to the first two books, in the opening chapters the concern dial for me is very turned up. So we don't even really get curious about anything until we see that rose and then we're like wait, but we're still also flooded with concern because we know what President Snow represents. So I think that's another cool way to, you know, change the feeling of the reader. We're in the same spot with the same stakes. But in the first book we might've been curious, a little worried, right. Second book, we might have been a little more worried, but also we didn't know that she was going to get put back in the arena. So we're maybe mostly curious and whatever. And then in this book it's like nope, we're very worried, we're very concerned.

Speaker 1:

I'm obsessed with how you just simplified that Curious versus concerned, and that will definitely be something that I'm applying to all first chapters.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think it's such a fun. I love thinking in terms of dials, how you can turn one up or down, and I think, like this, one concern is at 100.

Speaker 1:

Well, this is why your podcast is based on practical steps that writers can do, because that is just absolute perfection. We try to make it easy.

Speaker 2:

Okay, so question seven is stakes. We already talked about this a little bit, but why should we care next, or what's like that main thing coming out of chapter one we're concerned about?

Speaker 1:

Out of chapter one, rose, right? So we see that he's planted these roses. So we see, I think I'm concerned, like she is. Is he watching, right?

Speaker 2:

What's he gonna do?

Speaker 1:

How much does he know?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I'm concerned about that. I definitely turn the page because I want to find out is PETA dead? Is she going to rescue him? Like what is actually going to happen with that? So we know now they're all connected. So, whether it's President Snow or PETA or just the state of District 12, we are definitely turning that page.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and just to talk about you know, maybe this is this, you do a whole nother episode on this, but I just love how complex President Snow is as a villain and how he really ties both of what you and I just said together with one simple action of leaving this like beautiful object. That is a huge threat.

Speaker 2:

It's also very interesting because traditionally we don't think of a rose as something to instill fear or dread, right. So he's turned even something as beautiful as a rose into something terrible.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and that's actually a really effective strategy in all the storytelling. I haven't seen it, but I remember someone talked to me about the movie Mayfest that came out and or I think it's Mayfest. Basically it it's a thriller and there's a whole huge massacre that happens throughout the entire thing, but the music is very happy and the coloring is very bright. So it's absolute contrast of what you would think it was going to be, and sometimes that's more disturbing.

Speaker 2:

Are you talking about Midsommar?

Speaker 1:

Yes, midsommar, okay, yeah, In Midsommar. And then the other show that comes to mind that does this is breaking bad a lot of the times. I love that, yeah, yeah, during really brutal scenes they have like happy music going on, happy mariachi music sometimes going on, and it's it's extra disturbing because of that.

Speaker 2:

And the rose has that same effect yeah, I actually I don't get me started on Breaking Bad, because that is a favorite show in our house and I love looking at the storytelling for it. But I love when he's cooking and he's in his zone of genius and it plays like classical or like really like music that you would associate with somebody being in their zone of genius and it's like something that you don't technically root for him to be doing, you know, but feel all the feelings they want you to feel.

Speaker 1:

It's so cool. It's all about how it's executed.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So I think, if we kind of just summarize the big things, we're thinking about the end ofjay. If she does, what's going to happen, if you know, we assume she's going to because we've read the back cover and then is she going to save Peeta and what are they all going to do together, which I think sets up the story pretty darn well.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and notice that those questions that you just listed also call action. She calls Katniss to action. Yes, so that's you know. Talk about advancing the plot forward. We have a lot that we need to see unfold on a big picture level. So that's, those are the questions we're going to see. Are they answered by the end?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and one thing I want to point out, because sometimes when I talk to writers about interiority and putting things on the page, that you want the reader to be wondering, and this is like a great example of how Katniss literally asks herself three times what am I going to do? And she's thinking about this central question If I become the Mockingjay, what happens? It's so spelled out for us and as readers, it works. So the writers out there who worry, like if I spell it out for them, they're going to hate my story Like no, this is it works. Story Like no, this is it works. So, anyway, in the scene structure we're going to look at the micro structure or the smaller scale structure of what's going on in this first chapter. So is there one scene? Is there two scenes? How do we feel about that? Do you want to go dig into that, abigail?

Speaker 1:

Okay, so Savannah and I talked a lot about this before we got on the podcast and I think that you can really go two ways. Uh, so it's interesting to hear what everyone else likes to go with. Maybe the comments are reaching out to us. I'd love to hear more people's perspective on this. But what we're debating about is are you going to do one scene, one chapter for chapter one, or are you going to do one scene over two chapters? And that's where you know I said we might need to talk about chapter two before we go into the analysis.

Speaker 1:

So, real quick, what happens in chapter two is that katniss returns to district 13 or when is district 13 underground and we get a sense of what district life in district 13 is like. It's very military and a lot of restrictions. But district 12 you get a sense that Katniss doesn't totally. I mean she actually says that she hates everyone here, but she hates everyone. I think she says and you had a sense that she doesn't totally trust everyone in district 13. She talks about someone from capital eight talks to her about they're there, for you know, the people that they welcome in are there for breeding and she's. I think that like it's a pretty cynical comment there, because not everyone is in that same District 13. But ultimately we see how life is, what life is like in District 13. And we're pressed even more so in the debate of people like Plutarch.

Speaker 1:

President Coyne, they've saved Katniss to be the mockingjay. They've saved her from the court of law to be the mockingjay. She is aware of this. Is she going to take this on? And they bring her into a meeting and there is a televised interview of Cesar Flickerman interviewing Peeta.

Speaker 1:

And of course that turns everything for Katniss, because even in chapter one we see that the reason why she's not running is because she doesn't know if Peter's alive or not. And in the interview Peter reveals that he and Katniss had no idea what was going on with the rebel plan, which is true, and you can kind to see his desperation and his anger with everything in that. At the same time, by the end of the interview he calls for a ceasefire, which is not at all like Peeta's character. That she knows that there is no going back from this right. They would just return to life that was, which is no longer worth living, or worse, it would probably be worse Right, and I think that from there that's what's really going to influence her mocking Jake question Do I be kind or not? And by the end of chapter two we see her answer that. So, and you also see that people, a lot of people, are calling PETA a traitor.

Speaker 2:

Now, right, well, so so if I were to zoom out and this is how Abigail and I look at things we say what is Katniss's goal in the first chapter, and that helps us determine is it one scene or two? So what is her goal? So in chapter one.

Speaker 1:

I think her goal is to figure out the answer to the Mockingjay question. Like she needs to go down into District 12. She's looking for something that can help her make this decision Do I become the Mockingjay or not?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, she feels really stuck. She knows her two options and she doesn't know what to do. So she's just. I think she's hoping something will push her over the edge either way.

Speaker 1:

Right, and I think, like we see, we kind of get an answer to the beginning of chapter two on the surface and Savannah and I talked about this, there was kind of an excuse that Katniss makes is I secretly was going down to district 12 to collect buttercup for prim, and we see Gail say something to her like oh, I see why you had to go down there.

Speaker 1:

Now she smuggles Buttercup into District 13, even though cats aren't allowed, and, realistically, though, we keep seeing Katniss return to that internal question of what do I do, right? Yeah, so she's looking for something that can tip the stone or tip the scale, and I think, as you're going through that with the gold factory, you can argue, probably either way, that you can combine the two chapters into one scene or you can stick to one chapter, one scene. I leaned though I can see strong arguments for both. I leaned towards one chapter, one scene because I felt like what happens in chapter two is so defiant and significant in the story that I wanted to see it work on its own. But I can see how chapter one and chapter two is so defiant and significant in the story that I wanted to see it work on its own. But I can see how chapter one and chapter two could be merged into one scene and we can explain why as we go through the commandments.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So one thing that I like to think about too is where do we possibly see decision moments? And one of them is at the end of chapter one, where she's back in the transport after seeing the rose and Gail's like what's wrong? And she I'll read what she says here, cause this is a part of her crisis moments. Let me get to this. He says you all right. She says yeah, I say wiping the sweat off my face with my sleeve. He left me a rose.

Speaker 2:

I want to scream, but it's not information I'm sure I should share with someone like, uh, with someone like Plutarch looking on. First of all because it will make me sound crazy, like I either imagined it, which is quite possible, or I'm overreacting, which will buy me a trip back to the drug-induced dreamland I'm trying so hard to escape. No one will fully understand how it's not just a flower, not even just President Snow's flower, but a promise of revenge, because no one else sat in the study with him when he threatened me before the victory tour. So with that context, we can go back to the beginning of the chapter and say like yes, she's trying to figure out what's going on here. Can I be the mockingjay? Is something going to push me over the edge here or not.

Speaker 2:

And there's this part where she feels that pain in her left temple and she kind of starts getting overwhelmed with these thoughts and feelings and she ends up kneeling on the ground. And so we know that she's aware of, like I don't want Gail and whoever's in the transport and Plutarch and whoever's watching to see that something is wrong or that I'm this affected. And she says Gail says Katniss, should I come down? And then it's a paragraph at the end she says I must look on the verge of some kind of breakdown. This won't do not when they're finally weaning me off the medication.

Speaker 2:

So it's like she wants to do all the stuff Abigail said, but she doesn't know who she can trust, which is something you called out in the chapter already, and she doesn't want to be seen as someone who's not stable. So I think that's important context that makes where we lean, as this is one scene. It provides the argument that we're going to share with you in a second, so just wanted to throw that context in. And then, abigail, we're looking for an inciting incident. So what is the first blip of conflict? That kind of relates to that turning point, crisis, climax resolution in the scene.

Speaker 1:

Well, just to backtrack a bit. So when you are looking at the crisis because you're saying it's really important, and I'm with you when you look at scene to try to figure out where's the structure, I look for that conflict crisis combination first. That's the main thing that I'm looking for. So are you saying that you think that the crisis is when Gail calls down to her?

Speaker 2:

No, I think the crisis is at the end of the chapter, where she gets back in the transport, and it's this crisis around. Do I tell anybody what's going on, what I just saw, or not?

Speaker 1:

Okay, and so I'm with you on that, because I would call this, when G Gail calls down to her, probably the inciting incident Exactly.

Speaker 2:

So that's why I like to look for this matching set, because in the beginning of the chapter she touches her temple and she kind of puts a knee to the floor and whatever Gail says are you okay? And she's like oh, you know, I need to make sure that they don't see me as unstable, right? And then her decision at the end of the chapter relates to that right. So she's saying I can't tell them about the rose because either way it's not going to go well for me.

Speaker 1:

And that's the same thing with stakes. Whenever you have that question of how do I raise the stakes, how do I raise the stakes, you can look to the conflict. You know the commitments, right, the inciting incident, the unexpected disturbance that can either interfere with the want that they're trying to achieve in the scene or create the want, and how does it connect to the main conflict of the scene, the crisis of the scene, the climactic action that shows that you are acting on the crisis in the resolution. The stakes should rise with that, right? So that's exactly it.

Speaker 2:

So we know that she is trying to really hold everything together to not be seen as anything other than fine, right, although there's no way you could ever be fine well, and what's really great is, as she walks through the town and she sees all the things whether she knew they were there or they're brand new to her you know a consciousness. Whatever she's, it's threatening that goal of like. I don't want them to see me as crazy because if she reacts in a certain way, that might trigger the people in the hovercraft or the president or whatever to think that she's what she doesn't want to be seen as, and I think that that's a big thing in general with this book in particular, because we are going to send you know you would have deep discussions on trauma and PTSD which Katniss and PETA will suffer through.

Speaker 1:

All, really all of the B I mean really everyone in this story is going to suffer from trauma in some point, but especially the tributes in the games suffer from PTSD, and I think that that's part of what pulls Katniss towards people like PETA, people like Finnick because and people like Haymitch, they understand her in a way that someone like Gail is not going to be able to understand her Right, and I think that a lot of her ability to execute goals and plans that she wants to do is dependent on people seeing her as stable, Right From the superiors who are going to allow her to do things like take a hovercraft to district 12.

Speaker 2:

Right, and that's that's part of her thought in the beginning is like I had to really argue to even get to come here, and if I blow it by reacting in a certain way, there's going to be other things that I want to do that I can't.

Speaker 1:

And she is constantly just thinking about what is one of her main goals for the majority of this book save PETA. You know it's that's really been her goal since book two, beginning of book two, the second that they go in the quarter. Well, her goal is safe pita. Right, interesting, because you know, book one's about safe creme and then it becomes book two is about safe pita, and then in book three, what do you think that big question could be? I think it's kind of it's kind of safe pita.

Speaker 2:

But also by saving pita we save everyone, right, because she does get him back, I don't know before the halfway point, right.

Speaker 1:

But not enough she would right. I think that's kind of like the big thing, because then it's like, I mean, and to me like this is one of the most brilliant plot twist was that's why I was talking about earlier, about why snow is such a maniacal villain because he was just playing games right, always just playing a game. And I think that's what it's like, his.

Speaker 2:

His way of toying with katniss is just pure evil right, so okay, so let's just run through, because I know there are people that are thinking like, okay, well, wait, you didn't say the command. So inciting incident is when, like people notice her reaction from the hovercraft and gail says are you okay? What's the turning point? Crisis, crisis climax and resolution.

Speaker 1:

Okay, turning point is the rose, right? Yep, because the turning point that. And notice that that is the biggest emotional reaction for Katniss in the entire scene. So when you see things like, she does interact with things like skulls that are upsetting. She interacts with things like the Burntown Bakery, which is upsetting. She has this moment with, of course, the inciting incident which she's trying to hold together. But the flower, the rose, is the thing that really makes her have almost like a panic attack and in her mind you even see it. She says he left me a rose. I want to scream, but it's not information I'm sure I should share with someone like Plutarch looking on. First of all, because it will make me sound crazy, like I either imagined it, which is quite possible, or I'm overreacting, which will buy me a trip back to the drug-induced dreamland I'm trying so hard to escape. That's your crisis, right? So your crisis is that debate. Am I going to speak up about what this rose means or am I going to let this fester inside of me?

Speaker 2:

Well, just what do I even do, like, do I tell someone what I saw right there? It's all wrapped up in that crisis and I think it's very nicely on the page. And then the climax is she keeps it to herself which is interesting, because this is what Abigail and I were talking before we started recording is she's got this whole thing about. I'm guilty. I almost deserve to feel guilt, because look what I've done and this is another burden she's carrying alone Again for so many reasons. But it's like I don't know if anyone's going to understand. I don't want to seem crazy. I'm very isolated. That's how she feels. So I like that. It reinforces all that stuff that's been set up.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and I like how it reinforces her black and white view. That's going to hold her back as well in this story until she can start to. She needs to start to lean into people and see who she can trust and who she can really like fight with, because that's something that I think prim brings to her awareness later in the story. Yeah, reinforces and reminds her that she has people who love her and will stand behind her. Yeah, and I think that Katniss has always felt alone books one and two. That's why she's so drawn to Peeta, because he probably is the one character that she feels not alone with or that she feels like I can be my complete self and I can still be loved and taken care of. Right, and she has that with Gale, but not quite in the same way.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, cause he can empathize, I guess. But he or he can sympathize, but he can't ever know what it was truly like. And someone like PETA can.

Speaker 1:

And I think just it reinforces we talked about this in Catching Fire the difference between a PETA and a Gale. For Katniss this is entering the love subplot area, but Gale is so angry at the Capitol that he will do anything to take them down and that will be the crutch that destroys Katniss and Gale, because he gets to a place of seeing lives and what you know, the risk of life in general and what he'd be willing to do in order to take out snow in a way that I don't think pita ever would right. And I think that that is that's the mark between where katniss is kind of always in, between what way do I go? And her heart always leans more towards a pita approach, even though she'd be such a hard shell right and so okay, so, okay.

Speaker 2:

so that's the crisis we said. The climax is when she does not tell anyone in the transport what happened, and the resolution is they kind of just go back to District 13 and she's, you know, feeling the feelings about it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and I think also feeling the fear, because that's where this chapter one ends with. You know, it speaks of unfinished business, it whispers I can find you, I can reach you, perhaps I'm watching you now, and that is a mind-blowingly amazing, great, wonderful. I can't rave about it enough. Last line, because of the stakes set up in chapter two. Yeah, I'm sorry. I'm sorry Because the stakes set up in book two, first chapter, because that is the whole thing where she leaves her conversation with president snow, with him basically dropping a line that confirms that he has been watching her the whole time. It's about gail and her kiss and now it's a matter of do you even, are you even still watching me here, right? It? Emphasizes the whole hook with televised material as well, right it?

Speaker 2:

feels pretty ominous. We exit that scene and we're into chapter two, and that's when Abigail gave that description of we see PETA on TV Right. So why we struggled with this a little bit, even though we feel good about where we landed it's one scene in the first chapter is that chapter two really answers the question for Katniss of am I going to step into the roles of Mockingjay? And by the end she does, but it's Peeta that had to tip her over the edge.

Speaker 1:

All right, and this is where I have to ask you a question, savannah, because this is where I am also happy with where we land.

Speaker 1:

I'm also, as a book coach and as a writer, trying to look for ways on when we have a scene and you're going to define something as a scene, are we making sure that we do act on our crisis in order to confirm the climax?

Speaker 1:

And I think you and I have argued that she technically does act on her crisis in book one I mean, sorry, in chapter one, so that we can see her answer and her crisis. And I'm not going to say anything but dig into what you're about to say here with, I think, that idea of how, what do you do if there's a scene? Are there any scenes where you can have where there is no action on the crisis, or does it need to pull into that chapter? And I know this is the difference between, you know, planning a story in scenes versus planning a story in chapters, because chapters define the reader's experience and a scene defines how a writer can plan a book and how it advances the font and develops character within the confinements of a scene, moving into the next scene and that cause and effect trajectory. So just curious your thoughts on that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I think I think the answer goes back to how we framed what scene one was about. Because it's, although the question on Katniss's mind was like I need to visit this place to decide which route I'm going to take, that wasn't the like. There's, there's layers to it, right? So that's kind of her. We can say it's almost her sequence problem, say it's almost her sequence problem, um, her on the ground goal is to get that cat. That's what she told everybody, right? So that's like the I'm you know, uh, like what do we say when it's something? I'm looking for a word where we we lie about what we want to do, so no one can know the truth, but whatever. So that's what she's doing. She's she looking for that stupid cat, but also trying to get her. She wants to lean one way or the other. And by the end of the scene she has not answered that question, which is why it's still appropriate going into the second scene. But in the second scene too, I think, if we look at the beginning, let's see, so there's, you know, gail's kind of asking her questions. They're hovering down to District 13. And then, let's see, she's just kind of telling us what happened when she got here, they walked down a series of stairs and then she goes to deliver the cat to her family. So here she's not really pursuing the goal, the same that that question of should I become the mockingjay she's not really pursuing that as much as she is delivering the cat that she got from scene one. So this is to me, this is how I see the difference, and I don't know if I'm going to explain this right, but it's basically like she had the question in scene one. The commandments are kind of built around her, not wanting to appear crazy or unstable, uh-huh, right, so that's like the inciting incident was there. The crisis was around that.

Speaker 2:

In scene two, in chapter two, the commandments are going to be built around pita and it's going to answer the question of the mockingjay. So she's delivered the cat from scene one and that's her goal, right, deliver the cat. And then she tells us about her schedule. You know she reads us like my mother and sister are home for 18 o'clock reflection and half an hour of downtime before dinner. So she's just kind of delivering the cat. That's her like on the ground goal. And then the PETA part is what triggers the conflict. So I look at them as they're very related, obviously, because you know it takes her to get to PETA. Are they going to notice that I'm unstable and that's what her crisis is around? Does that make sense, or am I kind of just saying all the things we said in the episode save?

Speaker 1:

that last part, again about the crisis yeah.

Speaker 2:

So I think it's the conflict that she faces through the five commandments that makes the scenes different, because in theory we could back out and say, well, the rose kind of is an inciting incident, and then the PETA part escalates the conflict and she decides to become the Maki Jay Right, and this is what we were talking about before. We pushed record and everyone who's listening is getting a behind the scenes of how messy our brains are in the inside right now.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's just to reinforce that everyone goes here, right right, everyone spirals.

Speaker 2:

But so, uh, in the in the first scene, her, her, uh, state of being is aware of I need to decide about becoming the mockingjay. Her goal, her specific goal, is to get that stupid cat. Yes, right, so as she's on the ground trying to get that cat, also observing because she has this big question she can't answer, she accomplishes her goal of getting the cat. She does not have an answer about the mockingjay, but that threat has escalated via president snow. Right in the second chapter, second scene, her goal is to deliver the stupid cat, and I'm saying stupid because that's what katniss says.

Speaker 2:

I don't think any factors do do that. We're not calling it, and the conflict there is around Hita. So if I look at this chunks of conflict, one is around. I can't react. I don't want them to think I'm crazy. That will get in the way of her goal as well. Right, if they pull me out, I'm not going to get that stupid cat, I'm not going to see what I need to see here. And the second one revolves around Peeta and combined, it's this sequence of scenes that helps her decide she's going to be the Mockingjay, okay, so it's how I see it.

Speaker 1:

No, I just love how your brain works, so I agree with all of that. Here's another question for you, because in chapter one versus chapter two, I don't think that the reader gets a sense that Katniss is there to get Buttercup until she tells us that as her excuse in the beginning of chapter two. I don't think that the reader gets a sense that Katniss is there to to get Buttercup until she tells us that as her excuse in the beginning of chapter two. Right, is this a good example of how? If that is, if it's based on execution of goal and that's what you're using on the surface for butter collecting Buttercup versus delivering Buttercup. Like the conflict being much deep, like way more deeply rooted in her arc than that.

Speaker 2:

So what I would say? Because, like, how do we write this if we don't want the reader to know that the goal is to get Buttercup, or that's what she's doing?

Speaker 1:

Yes, but to put the author's perspective, that's what I want to see like does it matter? To the author to know that right.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So let's just say that, as a writer, we're trying to write a scene like this and we say our goal, or Katniss's goal, is to see what happened in District 12. My question to that writer would be okay, but why? And Katniss's why is because she wants something to be the impetus to decide for her about being the Mockingjay or not. So she and she knows that right, but she can't tell the people that, she can't tell plutarch or whoever coin that she wants to just go to district 12 so it can help her decide. So she's like she. She told them.

Speaker 2:

Well, she didn't tell him anything, right, she just said this is a condition, I want to go back right. Right, she didn't tell him about the cat. She didn't tell him about anything. She just said like I need to see it and that's of you know, I'll come with you if you let me see it, whatever. Yeah, so I think you could. If you were writing this, you could say her goal is to check out what happened in district 12.

Speaker 2:

If you want the cat piece to be something we find out later, or whatever that piece is of your story, we still need to see a why. So the why that makes sense for the reader is because she's grieving, she's trying to figure out is she going to be the mockingjay? She wants to see what her home looks like, so she's not just walking aimlessly. Because this is where I think writers make a mistake is they'll have a scene like this where we might be feeling the grief, we might be overturning stones and going in buildings or whatever, but we don't know what the bigger why is Right, and that's where we can go wrong. So it's because it's usually people are afraid to give away too much either way. Yeah, but also, this is book three, right? So I don't think a chapter like this would have worked in book one.

Speaker 1:

I agree with that wholeheartedly. Yes.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

This has to be a book three opening. Yeah, I agree with that wholeheartedly. Yes, yeah, like, this has to be a book three opening. Yeah, just to, because we already. Basically, it's like if you were to go to therapy it takes a long time to explain your life story, to get revelations, right. Right, and I think that that's what's so interesting is from the reader distant from Katniss, and in Katniss, with POV, you can see how, honestly, I don't know if she's figured out that that's really what she's doing Right. So it's like she, she has inside of her why she's responding the way that she's responding because of the traumas, because of her past, because of everything that is, the pressure, everything that's layered in her, and then she just has what she's acting on Right. So that's what, and that's why I think it's so amazing as an example, because you can just see how this is what we do as human beings, right, we don't understand fully, honestly, most of the time, why we do what we do, right.

Speaker 1:

Well until we understand that we can't really act in full clarity, and even then it changes again, right?

Speaker 2:

And even like. So the thing I love about this is that it's very purposeful. So she, the author, I mean I'm imagining this right, but I can't imagine I'm wrong on this assumption. She's trying to show us Katniss's internal state by showing us that disconnect, like it's almost like you show up here and you don't quite know totally why you're here. But Katniss has a little more awareness than that, but maybe not all the way Right. So she's got her excuses, she's got the general thing she told them, which is I just have to see it. You know. She tells Gail like OK, I got the cat, that's why Don't worry about me, I just got the cat, Right, you know. So we get, we're privy to things, or we can make our own assumptions based on how Katniss is feeling and operating and all that stuff. And if we're older and wiser than her, we might see exactly what's happening, like Abigail just said, because she wants to believe that she's fine, but she knows she's not, you know Right.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I think she's working through it, which I right. From the author's perspective, I think she has executed everything wonderfully.

Speaker 1:

That's why Katniss is the hero as well, because she's working through it.

Speaker 2:

And from the writer's perspective. I just would encourage people out there who are confused about writing a scene like this Think about am I showing the why enough From the reader's perspective, whether it's totally right or wrong. Maybe you have a reveal coming later, but there still needs to be a why, otherwise it's not going to read like believable behavior. And then is the goal specific. So either way you look at this, whether it's to get that specific stupid cat, or it's to see my home, because it was destroyed and I need to understand the threat, because maybe that's what she told Coyne, right like I need to understand, I need to see it firsthand before I decide, or whatever. Either way, it's specific, it's not just like she's here walking around holy cannoli Savannah.

Speaker 1:

You that's. Yeah, I get fired up about goals. I'm gonna, I'm gonna listen to that answer a lot of times yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Well, and just the easiest way for me to think about it is that a sequence of scenes, or, you know, multiple scenes in a row, can have the same overarching question Am I going to become the Mockingjay or not? But you can't have her. If you had another scene like this, where she goes home and she's still thinking am I going to be the Mockingjay or not? Not, that wouldn't work because we need to see the goal met or decidedly.

Speaker 1:

not right, that's right because otherwise we don't advance the plot, and that's that's what I seem to do. We need to advance the plot and we need to develop the character.

Speaker 2:

When you can marry the two, you have a strong scene right, and so the question is they're overhanging both scenes, but the goals are that the timeline of each scene and the goal is succinct and like contained yeah, that's how I make sense of it. And the conflict is contained. It has those five commandments and then it changes to the end the focus. It's kind of like you can zoom in and out with your camera lens, right, you know, like in the district scene we're kind of zooming into that internal piece of Katniss and yeah, and is she going to be found out for being crazy or whatever? And then we're kind of zooming out a little and more into the atmosphere of like PETA's on tv and mom's here and blah, blah, blah.

Speaker 2:

So, yeah, I think it's a pretty darn good example of a third.

Speaker 1:

I mean a great chapter in general, but a third book opening absolutely, and if there's nothing else that you take away from this episode, hopefully you can take away how to ask yourself those questions when you're reviewing your scenes to see if you can execute that complex crisis and how it is doing. You know double duty really advancing the plot and Mary and developing the character and together they're moving the story forward.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and like we always like to say on these episodes, if you came up with the answer that scene one is chapter one and two, I mean you're not really wrong. It gets us to the same spot. It's just do we want to highlight what's going on in chapter one, scene one and Abigail, and I think it is something big enough that's worth highlighting. And if we were writing this book, we could argue to our editors or coaches like this is why I'm doing this, I'm showing that inner turmoil, I'm setting up her arc. You know things like that. So you know, we want to hear from you guys. Let us know what you think, because we're over here in our little recording bubble just talking to ourselves. So let us know what you think. Do you see one scene, one chapter, or do you see one scene across the first two chapters? We would love to hear from you.

Speaker 2:

So that's it for today's episode. Thank you so much for tuning in and for showing your support. 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 get this podcast in front of more fiction writers, just like you. As always, I'll be back next week with a brand new episode full of actionable tips, tools and strategies to help you become a better writer and craft a story you're proud of. Until then, happy writing.

Analyzing Mockingjay's First Chapter
Exploring High Stakes in Mockingjay
Analyze Emotions and Stakes in Chapter
Analyzing Story Structure and Character Decisions
Raising Stakes in the Hunger Games
Katniss's Internal Conflict and Goals