The other day, Jeff Goins posted a blog entry titled Why the Hunger Games is the Future of Writing. I respect Mr. Goins, and am sure he’s a fine fellow, but I disagree with him on this issue, and now I’m going to list the reasons why.
Please note, these are only my opinions — I make no claim to authority or market prescience, nor have I published a bestseller. (I say that only because I note Mr. Goins busted out the ol’ “oh yeah, how many bestsellers have YOU written?” zinger in his comments section.)
So, without further ado:
1) No, it isn’t.
Hunger Games isn’t the future. It’s now. It’s the Latest Big Thing. The market is already flooded with YA titles trying to cash in on the success of Twilight, and editors and agents are plumb sick of it. Thanks to the success of the book and the movie adaptation, soon the market will be flooded with YA titles trying to cash in on the success of Hunger Games, and editors and agents will be sick of that. You don’t embrace the future by imitating the last known success.
2) I don’t believe we are all “scanners.”
Call this a bias if you like (and you’d be right to do it) but I did a little informal poll of my fellow readers / authors, and not one of them self-identified with Goins’ idea of “cultural ADD” and the notion of scanning. Of course, Goins implies in another other blog post that authors should aim for a functionally illiterate audience, because no one reads. Do you really want to aim your book at people who won’t read it?
3) Mass success is not the only road to writer satisfaction.
Granted, Goins is talking about the road to blockbuster success with the YA crowd. Within those parameters, he has a point. I don’t agree with his thesis that “we are all YA,” in no small part because I find most YA titles I’ve read simplistic and not terribly interesting (and yes, I’m sorry to say that includes Hunger Games).
I’m not convinced that the success of one series of short novels has suddenly shattered the mold set by, say, something like Harry Potter. Readers have no problem sitting down and devouring an 800-page doorstop in a matter of days. When Hunger Games comes within spitting distance of Potter’s multi-billion-dollar success, then we’ll talk about whether it’s “the future.”
4) Books are not movies, the Internet, or television.
Goins posits that to succeed as writers, we must appeal to the shortest attention spans possible, since the written word is in direct competition with the Internet and various electronic forms of entertainment. While I think some people certainly might approach a book the same way they would a blog or a Facebook post, I don’t think most readers work that way.
Also, the key to maintaining reader interest? Good writing. Not big fonts, short sentences, or simplistic storylines. I believe Collins succeeded because she had a compelling concept, a great protagonist, and knows how to manage tension. Those things aren’t a function of story length.
Maybe Goins is right and the future of the novel is the pamphlet. All I can say is, I don’t think so. And I certainly hope not. And since I have no interest in writing in a style or genre that I dislike, I’m going to be fighting against this trend all the way, uphill or not.
What do you think?
60 Replies to “Why Hunger Games Isn’t the Future of Writing”
I think Goins is behind the times, actually. I read a lot of YA and the genre has been flooded with tons of post-apocalyptic YA and dystopian YA for the past 2-3 years already. Those titles are already on the shelves. The market is already glutted. Agents & editors are already tired of seeing them. Maybe there’ll be a rebound with the movie release but I can easily name 10 YA series off the top of my head that are post-apoc and/or dystopian and are already on the shelves.
Thanks for the insight and the comment, Alessa. I don’t follow the YA market very closely, so I wasn’t sure just how bad it had gotten.
I like dystopian & post apocalyptic fiction as much as the next misanthrope, but that alone does not make a book worth reading. And frankly, I’m really skeptical when anybody says that something is the future of movies, books, tv, etc. Most of the time, unless they’re talking about awesome technologies (and often, even when they are) the market proves them wrong in fairly short order.
Yeah, blanket declarations about THE FUTURE make me very suspicious as well. Thanks Joni!
One might even speculate that “the future” of X has not yet happened.
I actually disagree with both you AND Jeff. 🙂
I think Hunger Games is the future of writing, but not because it’s YA or dystopian (or short, which it’s not). Because it has the sharp storytelling and cinematic quality that comes from a screenwriter turned novelist. It is successful not because it’s appealing to short attention spans, but because it has fantastic storytelling.
Hunger Games: 99,750 words
Harry Potter1: 77,508 words
Harry Potter2: 84,799 words
Harry Potter3: 106,821 words
After that, HP gets long. But it was popular way before the fourth novel hit.
Hunger Games is not a short novel. 🙂
Thanks for the comment, Susan. I explicitly said near the end that I believe Hunger Games worked on the strength of its storytelling, and not its length. So we don’t actually disagree.
True! So we agree on that. 🙂
Great point, Susan. I think the size of the chapters and flow of the book does more to hold an audience’s attention than actual length of the book. HG does a good job of hooking you from the beginning (more than Harry Potter, in my opinion) and continues to do so throughout the book. Still, excellent observation.
I will agree that HG does a better job at engagement than Harry Potter — at least for me personally. A pet peeve of mine is the series that “takes a few books to get going.”
Something has been bothering me about this whole Hunger Games craze. I haven’t read it yet, but have a decent idea of what it’s about from hearing friends talk about it and from the various other people talking about it. I think what’s bothering me is that I feel like maybe I missed out on a window, as if my books could have hit a mark in this fleeting time that seems ripe for this kind of entertainment.
But as my wife said, my books are about young adults in a story that young adults shouldn’t be reading.
And what might that be?
If you care about the message and the audience, tell the story. When you’re done writing, make what opportunities you can. If you write entirely as a professional alternative to writing SQL stored procedures or brunch menus, the timing is critical. If you are passionate about your stories, concern over market conditions is a mere distraction.
I’ve long thought that good writing is good writing – be it for YA, or adults, or whatever the audience is. It needs to be self-consistent, the author needs to have a clarity of thought about the story, and there needs to be something compelling about the characters or what they’re going through.
And I don’t much care about trends. If next year, someone writes a novel with a brilliantly realized, compelling protagonist who’s a 15 year old boy living in Utah and deals with real issues that people actually deal with so that millions of people can connect with the story, and the novel is 1000 pages, well, that will be the next big thing. The next big thing is not the last thing.
My thoughts exactly, Eric. Well said. Stronger storytelling is the key, not shorter or requiring less attention.
I actually think Goins sells the book a bit short. I’ve only read the first book, but I didn’t find it at all poorly-written. Of course that opens up the discussion, “what is good writing?”, for which there are almost as many answers as there are readers. But the excerpt he quotes is not really a good example of the writing style of the book as a whole, and has to be taken in context: it’s the protagonist’s thoughts at the moment the games begin, when the participants have perhaps sixty seconds to take in their surroundings and plan how to survive *the next* sixty seconds. Brief, fragmented thoughts and images? Well, yeah, exactly.
I didn’t think it was poorly written either. I found it entertaining, but ultimately kind of forgettable to me. Which is fine, I just appreciate different things in a book, which is why I take exception to the notion that one style / mode of writing is the only formula for future success. As a reader, I’d hate to see all books become Hunger Games.
Great insight on the context of the quote he included. I hadn’t thought of that. Thanks for the comment, Sherry.
I kinda hate to say it this way but.. it reminds me a bit of fashion. What’s hot in Milan is usually a bit “edgy” for me and yet I don’t want to dress like I did 10 years ago. You know what they say about things coming back in style. It’s a cycle, ever shifting, like waves.
I believe writing has similar, though slower, trends. I have noticed a change in MOVIES as well as BOOKS. A shift toward tighter plots, faster paces. Authors want to grip the reader/viewer from the first second of the experience and not let go. Gone are the days when we see the list of names in FRONT of the movie without something occuring on screen at the same time. My kids always whine when the see an older flick and it has a few minutes of credits before anything happens.
But that said, when I read a book that holds me in its reality, I find myself wanting more of it when I’m done. When I see Lord of the Rings, I want to watch more of that kind of fantasy.
The Hunger Games was well-written and the characters were realistic and sympathetic. They drew me in and when I had finished it, I wanted more. Of that. So I will probably shop more YA dystopia in the next few months. But these trends in style, even my own changes in appetite based upon delicious reads, do not imply that Hunger Games is the FUTURE of writing. It may be the future for a few weeks, a few months, but then something else will nab everyone’s appetites and off we go again.
Still one wonders if the longer winded, more descriptive style of writing will ever be as mainstream as it once was.
Thanks for an insightful blog!
Great comment, Stacy. I think the fashion analogy really works, actually.
I definitely think that the modern novel tends toward a faster pace, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing in itself. And fantasy word counts have just gone up and up, because many readers want exactly what you’ve described.
I recently read Les Edgerton’s HOOKED, which talks about why the long, languid beginnings that were popular in the past have faded away, and personally, I don’t miss them. I’m all for strong scenes that move the action forward at a good pace, but I think there’s a huge excluded middle between that and emulating blog posts in an attempt to target “scanner” readers.
great post with interesting questions and points.
Very interesting thoughts and I think both of you make valid points. I have to agree that novel length has little to do with whether or not a story sells well. I’ve read fantastic novels that were 2-300 pages and just as wonderful novels that were 800+ pages. As long as the writing is captivating, I don’t think novel length is really a huge issue.
As a reader (and writer) who enjoys the YA genre (The Hunger Games included, as you well know ^_^), I have to say what pulls me to the genre is a combination of things: the pace is often quicker (but that doesn’t mean the novels are shorter, by a long shot), the writing, in my opinion, in many YA novels is just as wonderful as adult novels and the themes and messages can be very powerful. Now that’s not to say there aren’t YA novels that don’t fit that description (I’m pretty picky with what I read and I pass up a lot of books), but never has novel length played much of a part in whether or not I enjoyed the book.
Also, I think there are already novels that have been trying to cash in on the success of The Hunger Games for a little while now–just look at the bubble of dystopian novels that have cropped up since the popularity of a certain dystopian trilogy. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing (I’ve enjoyed quite a few dystopian novels written in that bubble), but it’s worth noting.
In the end, I think you’re right–what sets a book apart from the others is the writing. When a book is well-written, people take notice.
I realize I may have come off like I was bagging on YA novels. That wasn’t my intent. Most of what I’ve read hasn’t resonated deeply with me, but I’m sure there are some out there that are every bit as nuanced as material aimed at older readers.
Other than that, I’m totally with you. A 1,000 page novel will go by quickly if the writing is engaging. A 1,000-word short story can be agony if it’s a poorly-written, uneventful mess of a story.
One commenter on Goins’ blog did say that while he wouldn’t have a problem finishing a long book that was well-written, that he was less likely to START a book if it was very long. And I think there’s some validity to that.
I know your intent wasn’t to bag on YA novels, so that’s fine. We all enjoy different genres, it’s just a matter of taste. ^_^
I think that commenter brings up a good point–it definitely comes down to what type of reader the person is. It’s unlikely that a heavy reader will be deterred by a long book, but someone with less time to read (or simply doesn’t read as much) might be a little more hesitant starting a long book. Perspective.
An editor friend of mine made a great comment elsewhere on the net, which I’d like to reproduce in part here.
“There have always been avid readers and entertainment readers. Avid readers are going to read everything. Entertainment readers are fussy. They are two separate markets, and they always have been. There’s always been the guy who is pouring through Emerson’s essays while the majority of the people are eagerly awaiting the next newspaper installment of Great Expectations. And as far as I can see, there are still kids ages twelve and thirteen who are reading everything they can get their hands on. Are they the majority of the kids out there? No, but then they never were the standard representatives of their generation.”
That’s exactly right and I have nothing to add. Fantastic, thanks for sharing.
I was actually not crazy about the style of writing in Hunger Games, nor was I impressed with the main character. I loved The Hunger Games because the story was interesting. It really was great. Not executed as well as it could have been, but still an interesting read. But ultimately, I think the hunger Games success came in the fact that it was easy to picture; the biggest rush of HG excitement that I saw was after the movie had been announced. Then a ton of people ran out and rea the book, could picture what it would look like on the big screen, and boom. Phenomenon. I don’t believe for a second that this is the future of writing. I don’t have a problem with YA as a genre; some of it is quite good. But Mr. Goons did seem to have a problem with it, ultimately claiming that future writers would only be successful if they watered down their skills and appealed to a crowd that can’t be bothered to give two flicks of a rat’s tail about your hard work at all. Well, I’m sorry, but I disagree. If you wrote to make money, fine. Do whatever you want. But I wouldn’t dare pretend to be stupid just to get a guy to like me; why, then, should I water down my writin just so someone buys it? I wasn’t taught to write for money, I was taught to write to tell a story, and I’m not going to do something to damage the integrity of that.
Very strongly put, Lauren, thank you. I appreciated the protagonist for not needing to be rescued at any point during the story, and for not mooning over a boy, well — most of the time, anyway.
I am very much with you in that I think it’s a mistake to appeal to the kind of readers Goins characterizes in his post. I don’t actually think they represent the dominant market segment.
Having just read the first book this past Friday (in 7 hours no less) I’d have to say what pulled me in was the pace. I’ve been looking for something that’s gonna get me in a few sentences. Why?
Well, because I needed a change from all the other novels I’ve been reading. Sometimes it’s just nice to not have to think too much about what you’re reading. I enjoy getting sucked in quickly. Length doesn’t matter for me. I’ve read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series (800+ page books) in a short period of time as well. It’s all about keeping me interested. As someone who tried with all her heart to get through A Game of Thrones, and failed, I think it also has to do with the reader’s frame of mind AT THAT TIME.
When I want something quick and easy, I head for YA. When I want something with a more intricate plot, I look elsewhere.
Now if that wasn’t a ramble, I’m not sure what is 😉
Also the comment on the future of writing, well that’s just silly. In reality there is no future, only present. Think about it. So I agree, Hunger Games is the now. Something else will be the NOW when we get there.
I think that’s a fine reading rhythm to adopt, Angie. I tend to do the same thing. After reading some big fantasy doorstop or heavy piece of literature, I usually read a few shorter, lighter reads to refresh the reading palate.
Great post, Daniel!
As others have pointed out, these aren’t short books, so in no way does their success imply a short attention span. And I love what you point out in #2. Do we really want to aim for a “lower” readership?
That idea was pointed out to me a couple of years ago when I asked an editor about the advice to have dialogue start their own paragraphs (with the suspicion that some people skim until they see a quote mark at the beginning of a paragraph). Her response was to ask who I wanted to write for–those who read shallowly or deeply?
I write for the reader who’s willing to read every sentence, dialogue or not. 🙂 And just as a long story won’t prevent people from reading a book if the story is good, non-dialogue sentences won’t prevent a great story from becoming a bestseller.
Also, as Sherry pointed out in her comment, Jeff’s post was very disingenuous for the quote he chose. These books are 1st person, deep POV. The quote was taken from a very fast-paced scene where she’s literally cataloging her options as fast as she can. Most of the book was *not* in that style.
I think the main draw of Hunger Games was the extremely high-concept storyline. It just *sounds* intriguing and interesting and full of conflict. Then, once we start the story, we’re drawn into the tragedy of the story, and we need to see what happens next. Most people’s disappointments about the books are more about the character development or implementation of the idea. But the idea itself was brilliant.
Thanks for the comment, Jami. I think you make a great point. I believe we, as authors, should actively write for the audience we want, not compromise ourselves in the name of conjectured market realities. That doesn’t mean writing to a market that doesn’t exist — not if we want to have any success — but I think the market’s big enough to encompass all kinds of readers.
And yeah, the core idea of HG is a winner.
Hmm… I had to think about this for a minute – 1.) because I haven’t actually read the Hunger Games – not for any particular reason, I just have a stack of books on my TBR pile and I’m always 5 years later to the party – and 2.) because there were two issues presented. 1.) Is there are future of writing? and 2.) Is the HG that future?
In short, I think the answer for question one is a flat out no (which renders question two moot.) Pretty much everything we do has been done before. Aliens, robots, vampires, magical kids – I mean, seriously? Look hard enough, and you’ll find it. I’ll admit, I didn’t LOVE Harry Potter the way some people did (a preference that makes you wildly unpopular with many) – but maybe that’s because I’d already read a million books where children fell into magical powers and other realms? I read the Golden Compass so many times I had to buy a new copy.
As as for long books vs. short books – there was a time, before legacy publishers found it necessary to standardize book lengths to maximize profits and offset costs, where books could be found at just about any length, and a LOT of them are short. To imply that “short books” are the future, when in fact, they’re also the past – and the present – is kind of preposterous. Yeah, readers may be losing attention spans – but you don’t have to sit down and read a whole book end to end (although God, why wouldn’t you want to?) My boyfriend has ADHD that makes a dog chasing a squirrel look like a stone monolith (wait, where was I?) The first time he sat down with a book, I was shocked. “Wait, you read?” Turns out, that’s a really good way to look like an arrogant asshole. Yeah, he reads too – just not in marathon stretches – and sometimes, he is better at reflecting on the material than I am, if for no other reasons than the breaks in between.
Wow, back on subject here – a book’s length, I think, corresponds roughly to the subject matter and the writer’s temperament. Fantasy books are often really long; they also have the task of worldbuilding, a move that requires either a lot of explanation, or a world similar enough to ours that it doesn’t have to be described. I also know a lot of fantasy writers, and guess what? They tend to be really long winded people. So, that said – whatever book is “in” at the moment might affect book lengths temporarily, but I doubt we’re going to see any real and permanent shifts towards ANYTHING in our lifetimes.
What a great comment, Maria, thanks! The central question does seem to be whether a single market success like Hunger Games can truly shape the future of publishing — personally, I don’t think so either. A device like the Kindle, perhaps, and maybe the Internet and mass media have shortened attention spans to a certain degree, but I’m not convinced that impact is so great that the solution is to be universally shorter and more scannable.
Thanks for the counterpoints, Daniel. All excellent and aptly made. I appreciate your perspective.
My pleasure, Jeff, thanks for the inspiration to write this post.
Cheers for point number three: “Mass success is not the only road to writer satisfaction.”
Many comments have talked about individual tastes, and the difficulty of finding a style that is right for everyone. Perhaps the success of Hunger Games says more about the future of big publishing houses and movie options than about writing in general. In a dystopian future where publishers have little say in the length of your sentences, and readers can tell their own e-books to set font sizes with heartless disregard for both Ritalin-popping teenagers and bifocal-sporting octogenarians, publishers are probably inclined to stop competing for the long tail, and stick to the inoffensive banality and flashy attention grabbing that have been working so well for Hollywood. And I’m not decrying inoffensive banality. Let he who drinks no Starbucks cast the first stone.
I won’t try to predict the future, but lately, the major change I’ve felt in writing has been that, given lower production costs, there are more thriving niche markets, and more diamonds hidden in larger roughs. Audience tastes often surprise me.
If you want to connect with a large audience, try sincerity first, and if you’re still unsatisfied, you can tinker with sentence length and scannability later.
I could not agree more, Colin, thank you.
Great post as usual, Dan. I also enjoyed Goins’s post. The thing that struck me about both of them (and the comments so far) is that only Sherry has really commented on the actual prose style so far. A key point of Goins’s argument is that the prose has a terse, clipped quality that mirrors the short attention span of the whippersnappers and their electronic doodads. I suppose it does, but I don’t think that’s why it’s like that. Not every part of the book has the quality of the passage that Goins cited (and props to Sherry for pointing this out), but in general, the prose is clear of excess description or ruminations or other things that don’t in some way relate to Katniss’s experience or her worldview. I haven’t read anything else by Suzanne Collins, so maybe this is just one of her traits as a writer and not a point of style, but to me, the prose of The Hunger Games was a perfect match for the protagonist.
Katniss notices, processes, and cogitates on the things she finds useful, or the things that resonate with the memories or emotions most important to her. There’s no time for extended descriptive passages that combine eighteen different literary allusions into a feverish prose poem that scratches the surface of the meaning of life itself. She’s smart, but relatively uneducated. She’s got a keen sense for beauty and elegance, but she’s not flashy. She’s got an incredibly mordant sense of humor, and she has no time for anything that is not immediately material to her being or circumstances. This is all reflected in the prose. In Katniss’s voice, Collins lets a lot of things go under- or unstated, and the brisk, purposeful pace of the chapters and sentences mirror the stride (and sometimes watchful, enforced patience) of a born hunter. Again, maybe this is just how Collins writes, and maybe she chose this kind of protagonist and story just to hook reads with ADHD. But I don’t think so.
I think the prose of The Hunger Games demonstrated considerable craftsmanship, and if it serves as an example of the dystopian future of YA lit, then I think it’s more by coincidence than design. I wouldn’t be surprised if attention-span-challenged readers gravitated toward the book because it hit them like Ritalin, but I don’t know that it was constructed in such a way for that reason. I would also mirror the commenters who point out that even if the prose and chapters are brisk, readers do sit down and consume them in huge block of time. My hunch is that if it turns out that readers start consuming Hunger Games-esque books in smaller chunks and quantities, it’s not because the style is meant for those with low attention spans, but because readers will — as you predicted — have grown tired of the stale knockoffs and recycled tropes.
Thanks for the insightful and articulate response as always, Matt.
I am a new writer so I don’t feel experienced enough to comment as to whether Hunger Games and similar novel types are the future. I haven’t read Hunger Games (but I plan to eventually) and I never got into the Harry Potter series (just not my type of story), but I CAN tell you that I absolutely loved the Twilight series. I have all 4 hardcover books and have read the series twice, with intentions on reading them again in the future.
I am a bit of a lazy reader and I can tell you that one of the things I adored about these books was how easy they were too read. They weren’t written so simple that the reader would be offended, but simple enough that it wasn’t WORK to read them. The story was also exciting to the point where I was going to bed late every night because I just couldn’t put them down…I had to see what was going to happen next. She made vampires (and werewolves) sexy and glamorous without ever letting us forget just how dangerous they were. I couldn’t get enough.
This series was also what made me realize my dream of writing a book. Not long after I started the first book, an epiphany hit me. I could do this.
Whether books like these are the future, I have no idea. I do know, however, that this series renewed my hunger for reading and helped me realize a dream that I’ve had for many years. 🙂
I don’t think there’s a thing wrong with a lazy, easy read. I love the John Carter books for just that reason. I take issue with the notion that they’re THE FUTURE and we should write the most inoffensive, easily digestible treacle we can.
I liked the HG because they weren’t a kind of book I normally read or enjoyed and even being so different I loved them. But I think the originality of the story was what was so attractive for me… That writing style most often makes my head hurt. Heh.
I’m one of those obsessive Hunger Games fans but I’m also kind of dreading the next new phase of Dystopian-short-choppy–first-person spin offs that are already appearing.
I totally agree, I think its just the Latest and Greatest and eventually it will fade and we’ll have another new YA fiction obsession. I’m a young adult and maybe I should try copying the national bestsellers but whenever my writing starts to sound like what I’ve been reading… I give myself I time-out from all fiction until I find my own voice again. Which, incidentally, happened a couple weeks ago when I reread HG for like, the tenth time. ;P
Maybe next we’ll have a growth of novels about mutant vegetables. Or Pandas. I wouldn’t mind copying that. 😉
Ha, anyway, I like this post! 😀
Thanks for the kind words and the comment! No one can tell what the next big thing is going to be. Though we all seem to keep trying! I think your advice about finding your own voice is sound.
I read books, I never skim them – what would be the point? Books are for deep involvement and details.
Totally. I love a book I can disappear into for weeks.
As elated I am for Collins to be having such a great success with her writing, I haven’t read the hunger games, nor do I plan to. The whole bleak futuristic theme just doesn’t appeal to me. Kill or be killed, no thanks. I think there’s enough of that going on in real life and it certainly isn’t anywhere I would want to escape to.
It’s not really my cup of tea either, but I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Thanks for the comment!
All of this awesomeness about The Hunger Games (future or now, what have you), and I haven’t read the books or seen the movie. I am so slow!
I only just read the book myself and probably won’t see the movie for months. Thanks for the comment, Amberr.
I have long been baffled by the intelligent adults I know who are so passionate about YA. In my experience, most YA is just not that engaging.
The stories are often well written and compelling, but clearly written for KIDS. I don’t get the adult fascination with them. It bothers me. My 13 year old loves Hunger Games, and I think it is great for him. The dark and dystopian themes are needed when you’re an adolescent. For me? Eh. Interesting story, but I read the book in an afternoon. I want more meat with my potatoes.
If this is the future of novels, I’m not looking forward to it.
Thanks for the comment, Amelia. I don’t think it is. Good YA fiction appeals to the youth in all of us, but I don’t think it’s a surrogate for more sophisticated work.
This is large reason why whenever I finish the project I’m working on, I’m waiting to actually publish till the next big thing is space opera. Then I can safely be able to tell a publisher I’m not trying to follow a trend.
I guess part of my own dislike is, I told my sister I was writing a military centric cyberpunk inspired fiction. Somehow she thought that a post apocalyptic dystopian hybrid was the same thing. I don’t see the connection but whatever. (And yes I know cyberpunk died in the 90’s.)
Cyberpunk will never die. We’re practically on the verge of living it today.
How old are your fellow authors/readers, though? Did you ask any teens?
A lot of my students skip through books. Some look at the ending first. One even (inexplicably) looks up the entire plot on Wikipedia before reading. Some read halfway then Wikipedia the ending. Or read the first book in a series and Wikipedia plot summaries for the rest of the books. Or start a book then drop it halfway for another. Young folks read differently than adults do–many of them read in fractured fits and stops. So any simplistically-written book with a lot of action is what’s going to be holding their attention spans. And, yes, many of them decide on a book based on its length. I do this, too–my patience is just too short for long books, sorry. With so many things pulling kids’ attention spans apart, I can see way some think Suzanne Collins is the future of YA. Unfortunately her ideas aren’t nearly as deep as the things previous generations of teens have read. Yet teens still think the ideas in Mockingjay are pretty heavy and philosophical, when really they are quite clichéd and hackneyed. (I did, however, enjoy the first book.)
The prose of The Hunger Games is quite pedestrian and sometimes even a bit confusing. What I don’t appreciate is how quality of prose is taking a backseat to plotting and characterization–there’s no reason why all three can’t coexist in the same story.
Many, many YA novels being published now have taken The Hunger Games as a template and run with it: action + romance + a “strong” female protagonist (who still completely loses herself in the presence of her love interest) = publishing success. So, yes, it essence is is the future of YA, only because it is what everyone is currently copying.
Not everything that “everyone is currently copying” has longevity. I would say the copycat phase has just about run its course, much the way the copycat phase of Twilight has.
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