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?