NaNo Day 20: What Katniss Taught Me [TWNP Blog Chain]

Normally I ramble about big YA film adaptations the day after I see them, but today I’m holding off on my Mockingjay – Part 2 post for a couple reasons:

  1. I promised the lovely Kate Gold that I would participate in her Today’s Word Nerd Ponderings blog chain today.
  2. I owe a review of the movie for [art]seen (the blog I write for here at U of M) and I should probably get that shorter and more organized post up before I write my gushy/ranty/super unorganized one for here. (Hopefully I’ll get a chance to spew my feelings all over you tomorrow, though?)

What I will say though is that–as pretty much always–this movie left me a bundle of mixed feelings. I have such a love/hate relationship with this series of adaptations. But overall Mockingjay Part 2 is very good and you should very much go see it.

Still, in the meantime: TWNP blog chain! This month’s prompt is:

This prompt centers around the theme of valuable lessons, especially that we have taken away from books. You might answer:
What is the coolest thing you have taken away from a book you have read? What sorts of things have your characters learned, as embedded in a story you have written? Or, what sort of message do you want to share with others, either in writing or through your own life?

All three options for this prompt are really good questions, but I think I’m going to answer the first one. About, well, The Hunger Games*.

I’m not sure if it qualifies as like the “coolest” thing I’ve ever taken away from a book, but one of my favorite parts of the Hunger Games trilogy is the fact that life DESTROYS Katniss. Repeatedly. And she somehow always finds a way to keep going.

Katniss is a really interesting example of the traditional “strong female protagonist.” I adore her. She’s one of my favorite characters ever. But this is less because of her physical strength as much as the way she deals with things emotionally. Katniss endures SO MUCH, yet she keeps going. Even after she falls apart, she finds the strength to keep going.

Katniss taught me that even someone who is broken can pick up the pieces and find the strength to continue on.

I’ve heard so many complaints about how Katniss reacts to things in Mockingjay, and I HATE THAT. People are convinced that to be a Strong Female Protagonist, characters aren’t allowed to break. This POV is harmful. Katniss isn’t strong because she physically survives the Hunger Games. She’s strong because she mentally and emotionally does.

Yes, she breaks. Yes, she’s selfish and hysterical and numb and HURT. But she finds her way back to being human again. And THAT is what makes Katniss so amazing.

A strong female protagonist is someone who tries her best despite her circumstances and flaws. Being strong isn’t about being invincible; it’s about moving forward, doing your best, while knowing you’re not.

It’s about looking at a world as screwed up as the one the Hunger Games series takes place in, and not losing hope for a better one.

Goal for Today: 1,000
Overall Goal: 31,000
Current Word Count: 34,514

~Julia

PS. For anyone who has seen Mockingjay Part 2: WHAT IS WITH THE ASIAN BABY?

*If this looks familiar, it’s because I’m essentially plagiarizing myself off a rant I did on Twitter back in June. #Oops

Wordy Wednesday: Writing with “Series Potential”

So, obviously the Paper Towns premiere yesterday was a highlight of this week. However, I got to do some other fun stuff too since last Wednesday. Thursday I explored the High Line park for the first time, which was as gorgeous and cool as everyone says it is. Then Friday Camryn (yes, that Camryn), Ariel (yes, that Ariel), Ariel’s best friend, and I went on a pizza tour of New York, then to the Hunger Games exhibition in Times Square. (Yes. That exhibition.) And it was all amazing.

We learned so much about the making of the Hunger Games film adaptations, saw so many costumes and props, and nerded out in general over the series.

  
I also spent a few hours this afternoon in the Museum of Natural History, then read in Central Park, and I hope I never fall out of love with this city (not that that’s probably even possible).

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a writing process post. (Thanks to Ariel for suggesting the topic!)

If you’ve ever queried a novel you hoped would become the first in a series, you’ve probably heard about the myth of “series potential.”

Basically, while you can hope someone will pick up your novel as a series, you can’t pitch it as that, because it sounds cocky. (Also, you know, it’s just easier in general to sell a single book than a series when you’re a debut author.) So instead you have to pitch your novel as being a standalone that you could expand into a series, if someone really wanted you to.

This is easier said than done, though. A book that stands alone that could also naturally flow into a longer series is like a cat that could also be a dog. (They’re things that look similar on the surface, but are very, very different at their cores. So now try smashing those into one thing. You get a whole new species.)

Of the five novels I’ve completed, I wrote three with the hope that they’d parts of series. These are some of the ways that I’ve gone about writing with “series potential.”

Make the Novel Stand on Its Own

This is the most obvious thing, and also one of the most important things for series in general. The novel needs to be able to stand on its own, with a plot that resolves and completed character arcs. It should follow dramatic structure. It shouldn’t read like the prologue to another book. It really does need to work as a standalone.

Every novel you write should read like it is the story you mean to tell. Maybe you’ll get lucky and get to make that story one element in a larger picture. But when you zoom in so the first novel is all you see, it shouldn’t feel like you’re missing something or looking at the wrong place.

Leave Loose Ends

On the other hand, you also need to make the reader want more. So, leave loose ends–just not in any way central to the story you’re telling. Maybe you leave a very minor subplot unresolved and touch on it again right towards the end, to remind the reader it’s there. Or maybe your protagonist’s character arc is complete at the end, but it’s clear s/he still could do a lot more growing in the future.

You don’t want a big cliffhanger ending. But you do want the cliff to be right there waiting, should the agent/editor choose to push the series over the edge.

Hint Towards More

This corresponds with leaving loose ends, but is slightly different. Whereas loose ends hint towards something specific, it also helps to hint towards the potential of more books in general.

I know this is a movie (and at this point kind of a dated reference; goodness, I’m getting old), but let’s look at The Incredibles. It’s a really solid example of a standalone with series potential.

At the end, the Incredibles meet the Mole and we get that shot of the heroes going off to work. It gives us an idea of the direction their lives are going and the fact that they could potentially have more stories to share in the future. However, it doesn’t give us anything specific; we know a future movie wouldn’t be about them facing the Mole, because:

a) we’re already seeing him at the end AND (and the “and” is the important part here)

b) it’s not some big “aha!” plot twist that we are

This tells us that the Mole doesn’t matter. He’s a stand-in for super villains in general, letting us know that facing many more people like him will be the fate of our heroes.

This kind of ending is the epitome of “series potential,” because it promises your protagonists have future stories to share without making the promise of sharing them.

Aaand yeah. That’s all I’ve got for tonight.

What are your tips for writing a standalone with series potential? Is there anything I missed?

Thanks for reading!

 

~Julia

TWNP Blog Chain: Favorite Characters

Quick apology for not posting over the weekend! BEA/BookCon ended up being way more hectic than expected, and it was either blog or sleep. (We all know how that situation turns out.) I promise I WILL gush all about the weekend soon, though!

In the meantime, today I’m participating in the new Today’s Word Nerd Ponderings blog chain. (Learn more about it here.) The prompt for this month’s chain is:

There are all sorts of characters that we create and read about, but like people in real life, we are only drawn to some. What makes you love or hate a character? What do you love about your favorite character(s)? And that’s it. You can talk about one of your own characters you really relate to, or I don’t care, a TV show you watched as a kid. Tell us about why you are going to name your kid after Blues Clues when you grow up.

So, the characters I like are pretty across the board in terms of what they look like, and what they’re into, and all the rest of that stuff. But I’ve found that I’m definitely drawn to a certain type of personality. Specifically: snarky, vaguely selfish characters.

A character doesn’t necessarily have to be all witty-one-liners and talking-back-to-authority to fulfill my definition of snarky. I’m more into the sort of pokes-fun-at-everything or slightly-annoyed-by-everything internal monologue. Think Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games), or Anna Oliphant (Anna and the French Kiss), or Simon Spier (Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda).

I’m into this obviously because it’s super entertaining, but also because I too am a snarkmonger in my internal monologue (but generally not so much out loud). So I connect a lot with that type of voice in first person narratives, because it’s similar to what runs through my own head. (Although, let’s be honest, I’m not nearly as witty as YA protags.)

Likewise, I really like selfish characters because I’m selfish myself. As much as I love Katniss, I’m not the person who would volunteer as tribute. (I’d be like, “Tough break, kid,” then feel guilt and shame for how terrible a person I am for the rest of my life.) (But I still wouldn’t change.) (Because hello, the Hunger Games are scary.) But even Katniss isn’t always selfless, and it is these parts of me that make me connect with her (although it’s her selfless parts that make me admire her).

One of my favorite protagonists of all time is Sam from Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall. I’ve heard a lot of dislike for her, because she spends the majority of the novel as kind of this self-centered brat. But I love her because of her brattiness. She doesn’t conform to the usual “likeable” character status quo. She doesn’t always try to do the right thing and she spends a good deal of her story mired in her flaws. But she still does grow as a person and finds redemption in the end.

It’s lovely to see someone like that–someone who feels just as messed up and terrible as I am, who still manages to turn things around and find the strength to be a good person by the time her book closes.

So yeah. That’s a basic overview of the traits that define some of my favorite characters. (To recap: I like not-good people who are funny.) (Which explains why I was totally Team Ultron during Avengers 2.)

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: The Trickster Figure

Here we go. Last couple days of the semester!

Yesterday was my twenty-first birthday, which I celebrated with lots of unhealthy food and people I love (and just a little champagne at midnight, because while I am far too much of a control freak to ever want to even get buzzed, I’m cool with a little celebratory champagne).

My last final of the semester is tomorrow, then I’m freeee. Finally. I loved my classes this school year, but I need a break.

One of the classes I took (and absolutely adored) this semester was Fantasy Literature. We read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. We dissected excerpts from The Lord of the Rings, short stories by Ray Bradbury, and an episode of The Twilight Zone. We watched Pan’s Labyrinth, Doctor Who, Star Trek, The Matrix. Basically: it was amazing.

More than anything else, what stuck with me from this class were our discussions about the Trickster Figure.

We used the term in relation to the Jungian archetype, and defined it as being someone–usually of some sort of lesser status (a child, or someone from a lower class, etc.)–who defies the rules of society in a way that is cunning (and often entertaining). For example, a classic Trickster Figure is Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

The other thing our professor pointed out, though, was the way Tricksters weren’t always that obvious. In fact, most Fantasy protagonists fit the role (as well as a lot of YA protags).

Take Harry Potter, for example. JK Rowling describes him as being kind of scrawny and gangly. He isn’t amazing at magic (although he is good at the things he works hard at) and he’s not super charismatic. But The Boy Who Lived does manage to defeat He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named–by tricking Lord Voldemort.

Likewise, Katniss survives the Hunger Games by outsmarting the Capitol and Tris’s whole superpower of divergence is built on her, you know, diverging from societal norms.

As a society and a generation, we’re in love with the Trickster Figure. The person who’s always one step ahead–unbreakable. We flock to see superhero and spy movies. (And speaking of Tricksters, who doesn’t adore Tom Hiddleston’s Loki?)

Why? You can argue that there’s something exciting about the act of deception. Secrets and cunning and that moment a superhero pulls off the mask. But what does that say about us? The fact that we seem to be so addicted to that excitement?

My first inclination is to say it means we’re bored with the mundanity of everyday life. We’re too set in our rhythms or too scared/tired/whatever to break the rules, so we live vicariously through the Trickster Figures’ adventures.

But while this might be true to an extent, I think more than that it comes back to Robin Hood.

People didn’t start telling the stories of Robin Hood because they were bored or scared. They told the stories about him because Robin Hood, as a character, was empowering.

After all, I doubt any of us want to live through the Hunger Games or go wand-to-wand with Voldemort. But seeing someone–and not just anyone, but an underdog–go up against something so terrible, and succeed, shows us that we could succeed against the antagonistic forces of our own lives too.

All this to say: I think Trickster Figures are awesome. And I’m happy they’re something everybody’s into right now. And while we already have a lot of Tricksters in the books and movies coming out these days, I want more.

After all, I doubt I’ll ever stop loving that squirm in my stomach I get every time a superhero reveals his/her identity to someone s/he loves for the first time.

**********

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

TCWT Blog Chain: Learning by Example

The December Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain topic is:

“What works of fiction have taught you by example, and what did they teach you?”

I’ve talked about this a little before. The best way to learn about writing is to pay attention. Pay attention to what you like or don’t like about the books you’re reading. Why you react in a certain way and how to either achieve the same effect or avoid it.

As writers, the books we read are our text books. And you don’t necessarily only learn from books in your genre. All reading you do teaches you in some way.

So, here are some books I’ve learned from and what they taught me.

**********

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: Break Boundaries

Like a lot of people, I hadn’t read anything, really, in first person, present tense before The Hunger Games. It’s funny because it feels so natural to read it now, but at the time it took some getting used to. But I was also really happy to see it, because that’s the POV+tense combo I’ve always naturally written, and pre-Hunger Games I felt like it was something I wasn’t supposed to do.

Basically: The Hunger Games taught me that if it’s what feels right to you for your story, go for it. Even if it seems unusual. (And now look at us. EVERYONE writes in first person, present tense. Don’t be afraid to be the person who knocks that barrier down.)

Harry Potter by JK Rowling: Plotting & Planning

JK. ROWLING’S. PLOTTING.

I’ve never seen anyone else do so much work laying the groundwork for later plot developments and twists. Not to mention how much development she put into the world-building. The Harry Potter series taught me planning ahead is worth it. (And even the smallest hint in book one, brought back to be something huge later in the series, can make the reader all warm and glowy and happy inside.)

Also that growing up the book series alongside the reader is a really awesome thing to do.

Also a million other things because Harry Potter.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver: Hard Doesn’t Mean Impossible

Major spoilers on this one if you haven’t read it: Before I Fall taught me it’s okay to kill your protagonist at the end. I’ve seen so many of those unsatisfying “saved at the last second” endings–and endings when the protag DOES die at the end, but in an unsatisfying way–that it’s nice to see one that just feels Right. Before I Fall proves that killing your protag in a way that doesn’t piss the reader off is possible. END SPOILERS

Before I Fall also taught me your main characters don’t necessarily have to be “likable” for the reader to like them. Sometimes it’s the worst people we find the most fascinating.

Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan: You Don’t Always Have to Be Serious

The Percy Jackson series taught me that books don’t always need to be “serious” to be good. Sometimes your narrator can be super sarcastic and a little egotistical and it can be hilarious and that in itself can qualify as good.

Divergent by Veronica Roth: Line-by-Line Pacing

This book is such a fun action-y romp. I was rereading Divergent while working on revisions a while back, trying to figure out what made the line-by-line writing so rapid fire, and I realized it had a lot to do with the sentence length. VRoth is a master of the short, punchy sentence.

After making that connection, I reread some of my other favorite action-y books, examining their sentence structures as well.

As mentioned in last week’s Wordy Wednesday: Shorter sentences make writing run faster, so they’re better in your more intense, action-packed stories. Longer sentences make the reader slow down and pay more attention to the language, so they’re better in more literary, look-how-beautiful-this-imagery-is pieces.

Divergent was the first book to make me really think about how sentence length is an actual, active element in writing.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: There’s More than Romance

This book is all about friendship and it taught me you don’t have to tell the traditional romance-centric story to still have strong, beautiful relationships the reader will fall in love with and root for.

Waltzing the Cat by Pam Houston: Fiction CAN Feel Real

You’ll notice this one isn’t a YA novel, which just proves my point about learning from a variety of sources. Waltzing the Cat is a book of short stories, all starring the same narrator, I read for my first college creative writing class. And although it’s not something I would have picked up on my own, I couldn’t put it down. I’ve never read something that feels as real as this. Like I thought it had to be a series of short memoirs while I was reading it, but nope, fiction.

If you want to learn about character and setting development, Waltzing the Cat is the way to go.

**********

So, there you have it. Some of the writing-related lessons I’ve learned from books.

If you want to check out the other posts from this month’s Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain and see how other people approached the topic, here’s the schedule:

5thhttp://thelittleenginethatcouldnt.wordpress.com/

6thhttp://nasrielsfanfics.wordpress.com/

7thhttps://erinkenobi2893.wordpress.com/

8thhttp://introspectioncreative.wordpress.com/

9thhttp://semilegacy.blogspot.com/

10thhttp://kirabudge.weebly.com/

11thhttp://whileishouldbedoingprecal.weebly.com/

12thhttp://randomosityofeden.wordpress.com/

13thhttp://musingsfromnevillesnavel.wordpress.com/

14thhttp://www.alwaysopinionatedgirl.wordpress.com/

15thhttp://www.juliathewritergirl.wordpress.com/

16thhttp://miriamjoywrites.com/

17thhttp://horsfeathersblog.wordpress.com/

18thhttp://unironicallyexcited.wordpress.com/

19thhttp://theboardingblogger.wordpress.com/

20thhttp://stayandwatchthestars.wordpress.com/

21sthttp://unikkelyfe.wordpress.com/

22ndhttp://fantasiesofapockethuman.blogspot.com/

23rdhttp://lilyjenness.blogspot.com/

24thhttp://oliviarivers.wordpress.com/

25th – [off-day]

26thhttp://butterfliesoftheimagination.wordpress.com/

27thhttp://missalexandrinabrant.wordpress.com/

28thhttp://www.pamelanicolewrites.com

29thhttp://jasperlindell.blogspot.com.au/

30thhttp://maralaurey.wordpress.com/ and http://theedfiles.blogspot.com/

31st – http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)

What have you learned from the books you’ve read?

~Julia

NaNo Day 21: Mockingjay – Part 1 Reaction

Spoiler-free part of my review:

So, I saw Mockingjay – Part 1 last night and it exceeded my expectations by far.

Of course, my expectations were low. I loooved Catching Fire–it would have taken a freaking incredible movie to top that–and after early reviews talked about how Mockingjay – Part 1 felt more like a prologue to Part 2 than an independent entry to the Hunger Games franchise, I went in expecting a pretty bad movie.

Mockingjay – Part 1 is not bad. At all.

It’s not a masterpiece by any means, of course. Part 1 has a lot of weaknesses. But I also really, really enjoyed it.

Movie (and book, if you are the one human being alive who still has not read the book nor at least been spoiled for it) spoilers below. (Additional Warning: This is about to be a very jumbled up mess of my jumbled up thoughts.)

We open a little earlier in the movie than in the book, in order to get some of the back story of what has happened since Catching Fire, which is a nice way of immediately grounding us in the world and situations at hand. Other significant changes I noticed include the addition of Effie as a key player (replacing Katniss’s prep team, along with inheriting some of Finnick and Plutarch’s lines), added scenes from Snow and Gale’s perspectives, added scenes from the district rebels’ perspectives, Katniss’s role within key conflicts became more active (especially in what became the climax for Part 1, when Gale and the others rescue the Victors) (thank God), and the disappearance of THE BEST SCENE IN THE BOOK (aka when Boggs makes the wonderful comment about seeing Finnick in his underwear).

While I loved having Effie back (Elizabeth Banks is incredible), some of her inclusion feels a little forced and I’m annoyed they cut the scene when Katniss finds her prep team basically being tortured in the bowels of Thirteen. It’s supposed to be the first time we realize quite how awful Thirteen can be, which is something we need to have in mind in Part 2. But hopefully they’ll have something to make up for that at the beginning of Part 2.

Making Katniss more involved in conflicts throughout the film was a much appreciated change from the book, in which people do things around her a lot while she sits there and cries. While that was probably a more realistic portrayal of her grief and PTSD, it’s important to remember that we aren’t talking about reality, here. We’re talking about a book/movie. And to keep the reader/viewer invested and on decent terms with your narrator, you kind of need the narrator to be involved in what’s going on. (Note: I love the Mockingjay book. I know I’m in the minority for saying that, and I don’t disagree that it has numerous shortcomings, but I still really enjoy it.)

Both Finnick and Annie seem like they’re a little, well, less broken here than in the book. Possibly all the characters do. But I like that. It feels like a more natural transition from where they were at the end of Catching Fire than the dramatic, sudden shift the books present. (Also, I reread up until the halfway point before seeing the movie, because that seemed like the most obvious point to split at–and yay, I was right–but then I made the mistake of finishing Mockingjay this morning and OMG I AM NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO HANDLE SOME OF THESE DEATHS IN PART 2.)

(Also also, I hope they give more time to Finnick in the movie than the book, because Katniss doesn’t even register him as someone she knew well in the book when he dies, and THAT IS NOT OKAY. FINNICK IS YO’ FRIEND, MISS EVERDEEN. GIVE HIS SACRIFICING HIMSELF FOR YOU AT LEAST A MOMENT OF ATTENTION, PLEASE.)

Speaking of the translation from book to film: I really, really like where they chose to split the movies. It leaves enough plot for the second half to be more than just be an extended montage of the final battle while also giving Part 1 enough plot to work as a complete movie. While I agree that it does feel like it’s the prologue to the second half to an extent, the filmmakers have fit enough dramatic structure to make Part 1 work on its own.

The script’s decent. I love how many lines they took pretty much verbatim from the book, because wow, Suzanne Collins had some good stuff in this one.

The biggest things I took fault with were the inclusion of the random rebel fight scenes and the music.

The first because despite being beautifully shot and acted, they often felt random and we had no one specific to root for in them; they felt like these out-of-nowhere scenes spliced amongst the actual plot and characters. These scenes had SO MUCH POTENTIAL and they’ve proven they can do these sorts of inclusions well, like in The Hunger Games when we cut to District 11 after Rue’s death, but they were poorly handled.

The second because, like in Catching Fire, I felt like they reused too much music, to the point that a lot of it felt out of place and clunky and took me out of the scenes. (Also, because of the way they moved suddenly between silence and pathos-inducing sweeping score pieces, the music felt wayyy too manipulative to me.)

Those are ultimately minor things, though, and I’m yet to hear a single other person complain about any of the music in this franchise, so I think that’s just me.

Jennifer Lawrence is amazing, once again, as our Mockingjay. Holy crap. Can we cast her in every movie ever for the rest of time?

Josh Hutcherson does well with what they give him and I’m excited to see more hijacked Peeta in the next movie. I LOVED the way they did the scene when he attacks Katniss and him thrashing against the hospital bed with her watching at the end is haunting.

Liam Hemsworth has finally come into his own in this franchise. Maybe it’s because he finally had some real scenes to play with, probably it’s because he finally learned how to do an American accent, but wow. For the first time ever, I actually like Gale as a character. And I can’t wait to watch his relationship with Katniss fall apart.

Overall, the cast is great. I loved the new members and the returning actors all once again did great. They’re definitely the strongest point of the film.

Great use of special effects. District 12 was appropriately disturbing and really showed how the filmmakers are no longer scared of scaring off the audience, like in the shaky cam-obsessed scenes around the Cornucopia in the first film. The action sequences here are awesome and definitely show how much bigger in scale the conclusion to The Hunger Games is in comparison with the first couple. (Also how much more money they have. Lol at the first movie.)

WHAT HAPPENED TO JOHANNA? She’s in the movie for approximately five seconds, which makes zero sense after they used her in so much of the advertising. (Also, I wish some of the ads had been included in some way in the final film, because this movie had a brilliant marketing campaign.)

The propos kind of definitely made me laugh when they probably weren’t supposed to. I think it was the inclusion of Rue’s four note whistle. I’m just so used to it being used that way in the trailers for these films themselves that it seemed off to use within them. And now I’m not sure if we, as spectators, are supposed to be the Capitol or District 13.

Maybe this entire time we’ve been seeing the Hunger Games world from the perspective of the people in Thirteen–who in many ways resemble the Capitol citizens–and this has been the filmmakers’ big reveal. Or at the least, that’s who we are now.

Because no longer are we the complacent Capitol citizens who get amusement out of teenagers killing each other in the Arena; we’re rebels fighting alongside Katniss as she tries to figure out where she stands in a changing world.

Mockingjay – Part 1 is far from perfect, but it’s also far from bad. And I am both excited and terrified to see where they go from here.

Fire is catching, indeed.

**********

NaNo Update:

I’m supposed to write 7K today to catch up, but instead I finished rereading Mockingjay and caught up on things and did homework and talked to friends and now I’m about to spend my evening at a play. Oops?

Goal for today: 5,000 + Wednesday’s leftover 2,000 + Monday’s 2,000 + Sunday’s 1,000

Overall goal: 43,000.

Current word count: 36,123

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: The End Where I Begin, Chapter Fifteen

First off, this:

Also this:

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way: Hi. How are you? Are you having a good day? (I’m going to assume yes after those two videos.)

I’ve been sick(ish) for the past week or so, but I’m almost over it now and I just finished reading Blue Lily, Lily Blue and my plans for the evening involve revising and a meeting with a couple amazing Ch1Con team members, so I’m well. (Also: HOLY CRAP NANOWRIMO BEGINS IN THREE DAYS SOMEBODY HOLD ME.)

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a chapter from my 2013 NaNoWriMo project, The End Where I Begin. As always, a reminder that this has seen little to no editing and I’m still in the process of writing the novel, so there will be mistakes and inconsistencies and all that fun stuff throughout.

Also, heads up that this is the last chapter of TEWIB I’m posting. This is less because I plan to actually do anything with it (because it was always just a practice novel anyway), but because I kind of, sort of definitely have not written anything on it since the end of last year’s NaNo and that 53k ends in the middle of Part II. And this is the last chapter of Part I. So this is really the onlyhalfway decent stopping place.

Thanks for keeping up with this over the past year! It’s been fun.

Read previous chapters:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

**********
Chapter Fifteen
The blast of searing air knocks me off my feet. I fly down the hall. I land on my back, and my skull knocks against tile, and everything is a thousand colors, temperatures, swirling sensations. Chunks of concrete and twisted metal rain down upon me.
I hurt everywhere—no longer just in my jaw or my elbow, but everywhere—and it’s a wonder as I found myself on my feet, limping away from the explosion, with a scream in my throat but no way to hear it.
All I hear is a high-pitched buzz in my ears. Rich, black smoke chases me down the hall. I don’t know where the recruiting officers are, or anyone else, but I know the Second Origin must have set off this explosion, they must have, and I have to keep moving.
If I stop moving, they will get me. Again.
The smoke fills my lungs, clogs my throat. I lean against a wall and cough, retch, have to keep walking.
I don’t know where I am. This entire hallway looks the same—just one long expanse of blank walls and doors, and now it is torn to pieces, I can hardly see anything, why is no one else down here?
The tears burn down my cheeks, but I am not crying, and finally I spot the other end of the hall. A second stairwell. A way out of this madness.
I wrap my swollen fingers around the knob, clumsy, and push. It won’t open.
It won’t open, it won’t open, why won’t it open.
I shove my shoulder against the door, the entire side of my screaming body—my ribs are on fire, my leg is weak and covered in blood—and it moves just enough, just enough for me to slip through—and I trip over the thing on the other side of the door.
I still can’t hear my screams, but I’m aware that they must echo around this compact, concrete room, and Dr. Reede is on the floor before me with blood all around her head and a hole in her face and someone is saying my name. I don’t even notice it until I realize I can hear.
I spin. Dr. O’Brien lies on the floor behind me, only the hole in him is in his chest, and it’s not just one hole but several, and the vomit is in my throat but it won’t come the rest of the way out. My head is spinning, I want to lie down on the floor beside them but also run, run as far as I can, and the light is flickering, flickering, about to go out overhead.
Dr. O’Brien’s lips twitch ever so slightly. “You have to go, Miss Dylan. You have to go now. I’m sorry. We wanted to give you time. But you have to go.” He takes a breath, thick with liquid. His eyelids flutter, but he forces them to stay open. “Fifteenth floor. Press the green button. Prick your finger. Say your name.” He gasps again. It’s the sound of a fish without water, only of course he has too much liquid instead, and in the wrong places, and now I am crying, but I do not know why, because I barely know him anyway.
His last words are: “Don’t let them succeed.”

I don’t know how I find my way to the top of the staircase, but when I crawl through the door to the lobby, it is into a world of screaming sirens and flashing green lights and a bomb went off here too, so everyone is dead.
I pull myself up against the wall, but before I can move a step towards the elevator bank, the vomit finally works its way past my teeth, and I retch across the glossy black marble floor, now dull with blood, and the acid is not nearly as hot as it should be against my raw throat, because the explosion was so much hotter.
Faintly, faintly, beneath the alarms, people are screaming. I slide my feet across the floor, shoulder braced against the wall. The elevators are so close.
I press the up button and a sob breaks free as it lights up in response, because thank God, the elevators are still working, I cannot climb fifteen flights of stairs right now, and I don’t have the time.
I sag against the wall. I close my eyes. I don’t want to see the people. All of the Clinic’s extravagance torn apart, coated in dust and blood, the terrorists are real and I am truly leaving.
The doors slide open with a ding.
I step inside.
Someone shouts, “Help! Help me!”
I don’t want to look, I don’t want to see which poor soul on the floor is yet to stop breathing, but I look anyway. It’s not one of the blast-victims. It’s a woman covered head-to-toe in black striding towards me through the smoke, perfectly whole. Even her face is covered. She levels a gun at my head.
A member of the Second Origin.
“Alexa.” My name does not make sense on her lips. It sounds like a foreign word.
My heart is in my throat. I am no longer in pain, but numb. I don’t feel the button to close the doors beneath my finger, but when I look down I have pressed it.
“Alexa!”
I slam my fist against the button for the fifteen floor. I crumple against the marble.
The elevator lurches upward and I vomit again. All that is left is acid. It burns in my nostrils, sends fresh tears to my eyes.
I rock back and forth.
Dr. O’Brien did not tell me which room to go to on the fifteenth floor. I do not know how I will find it.
The doors ding open. Finding the room is not a problem. The fifteenth floor is a single, carved-out space with no windows, everything covered in the same black metal as the door to Ramsey’s cell was made out of.
So close. I am so close. I can see the control panel that must house the green button from here, in the direct center of the room. A low black thing.
I stumble out of the elevator and my forehead cracks against an invisible wall.
No, no—not invisible. Transparent. Of course. Glass. A glass wall, keeping me out of the room I need to get to.
“Let me in.” My voice is hoarse, lower than it should be. “Let me in, I have to get in, I have to go!”
They’re going to kill my family. They’re going to kill Daddy and Calvin and Amelia if I do not go. I don’t care if other versions of them exist in the other realities, these are my version, and I want them, I want them so badly. I don’t want to go, but I need to. I need to go to save them.
“My name is Alexa!” I scream. “I am Alexa Dylan!”
The glass wall shifts, separates. It comes apart before me and I fall to the floor with a hollow bang. It is hollow beneath the metal.
I crawl forward. I am so close to the control panel. I need to press the button before the Second Origin figures out where to go—before they come to stop me.
Press the green button. Prick your finger. Say your name.
Press the green button. Prick your finger. Say your name.
I reach the control panel. I am sobbing, blind. My cries echo throughout the vast, empty room so loudly it feels as if the entire reality is crying along with me.
I drag myself upright. The control panel contains two buttons.
The one is green. The other is the same color as my Identiband keeps flashing.
The elevator doors chirp open behind me. I spin.
“Leave me alone!” I scream. I know it will do no good, but I don’t know what else to do, but no one barrels out of the elevator at me. It is empty.
I don’t know what’s happening.
I turn back to the control panel and press the green button. A needle presses into my palm, but the pain is so miniscule compared to everything else that I barely feel it.
I sag against the panel. “My name is Alexa Dylan.” The lights in the room flash—go out. I am filled with a ticklish, upside down, sick feeling, the way I used to feel when my dad carried me with my legs over his shoulder, arms parallel with the ground. Laughing and kicking and screaming.
Only now I am crying. I cry as the Fifth Reality disappears from around me. I cry as they all disappear, and I never got to say goodbye.

**********

Happy early Halloween! TALK TO YOU NOVEMBER FIRST.

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: The Guiding Figure

It is currently 12:05 AM my time and my programme just got back from spending the day in Stratford-upon-Avon. (Well, most the day. We didn’t leave until like 2:00 PM, so first a group of us went to the Grand Cafe for cream tea, which was obviously touristy and delicious.)

In Stratford-upon-Avon, we got really nasty fake butterbeer at a shady off-brand Harry Potter/Doctor Who-themed store by Shakespeare’s Birthplace, then toured Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, sorta visited Shakespeare’s Grave (we reached it after the church had closed for the day, but we still walked around the grounds a bit), grabbed dinner across from the Thames, then finally saw the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Two Gentlemen of Verona (which was excellent).

All this to say: I’m sorry I’m posting technically on Thursday yet againnn, but Wednesdays are crazy here. I love them. But they’re crazy.

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a writing process post.

**********

In class Tuesday, we were discussing the different elements of the medieval journey narrative when we stumbled across the role of what our professor called the “Guiding Figure.” Because we’re studying the Inklings, the immediate examples we talked about were Gandalf and Aslan. Basically: the Guiding Figure is there to keep the protagonist on course throughout his or her journey, both outwardly (the physical journey) and inwardly (the character development). So, for example, Aslan guides the Pevensies across Narnia in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe while teaching them Important Life Lessons along the way.

The goal was to discuss the Guiding Figure’s role in only the medieval journey narrative, but of course the trope appears in more types of stories than just that–especially coming-of-age ones (so basically All Young Adult Fiction Ever).

The interesting thing about the Guiding Figure in YA is that s/he’s general not some wizened old wizard who is special purely for being a wizard or, you know, God in lion form. Instead, the Guiding Figure almost always manifests itself in an honest-to-goodness teacher.

This works well in YA, because most YA protagonists are in some sort of situation an older character has already survived and returned to for the pure sake of helping out the new generation, whether it be high school or the Hunger Games. The job of the teacher is to impart wisdom on his/her pupils. Got some life lessons to share amongst all those geometry problems and history texts and hand-to-hand combat strategies? Boom. Guiding Figure.

The Guiding Figure role can be a fun one to fill, because you get kind of an Auto Beloved character out of it. Who doesn’t love Dumbledore’s rambling speeches or Haymitch’s drunken insults-laced-with-advice. Everyone remembers Gandalf and Aslan.

But it’s also a sad role, which was something we discussed in class I’d never thought through before. Because, eventually, the Guiding Figure has to go away.

The journey (whether it be YA or the medieval sort) is not his/hers. It’s the protagonist’s. And in order for the protagonist to fulfill the unwritten contract that is Your Protagonist Must Develop Over the Course of the Story*, the Guiding Figure has to stop being an active influence.

Eventually, they have to stop telling stories. Stop giving advice. Stop leading the way. Then, it’s up to the protagonist to prove that s/he truly learned the lessons taught.

In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Aslan dies on the Stone Table and it is up to Lucy and Susan to understand his lessons of love, sacrifice, and hope in order to bring him back. In practically all the Harry Potter books, Dumbledore must be otherwise occupied at the point of the climax in order to allow Harry the freedom to exercise the lessons he’s learned and prove his worthiness in learning them in order to defeat whichever annoying, magical being he’s up against this time.

And in the greater arc of the Harry Potter series itself, Dumbledore must die–not because Voldemort’s assigned Draco to or he’s gone and gotten himself cursed anyway, but because Harry must learn to face the world completely torn loose from his Guiding Figure in order to gain the distance to finally make the decisions concerning his own values necessary to defeat Voldemort.

Like in real life, when you eventually have to leave the safe environment that is high school and your childhood home and the friends you’ve known since you were born (you know, if we’re living the same life) in order to grow and figure out who you truly are–away from those assumptions and expectations and safety nets,–eventually Harry must also leave Dumbledore behind. Katniss must leave Haymitch. Lucy must leave Aslan and Frodo must leave Gandalf.

And like when the system shoves you out of high school into the big scary world that is either Holy Crap I’m in College or Even Holier Crap I’m in the Workforce, it’s almost always involuntary within the context of the story. Just something that happens. It’s painful and the protag is not happy to be testing his/her wings. But those are growing pains. The protag will learn to fly.

So where does that leave the Guiding Figure?

Generally: either dead or in a position much more frustrating (and boring) than the protagonist’s.

The Guiding Figure is there every step of the way along the journey, then has to step back and watch everything unfold from a distance when it comes time for the climax. S/he has to watch his/her pupil get hurt, contemplate giving up, experience all manners of traumas. S/he has to simply stand there and hope that the lessons sunk in, s/he’s prepared the protag enough, and things will turn out in favor of their side of whatever conflict the story’s about.

So it’s a sad role.

But it’s a bittersweet sort of sad.

As part of a novel I worked on back around sophomore year of high school, I wrote a letter from the founder (Petra) of the Super Secret Spy School (Petra’s Driving School) my protag (Nora) attended, explaining the concept of being the founder of something.

Being a founder is really similar to being a teacher. They’re both types of Guiding Figures. In the letter, Petra explains that “the founder’s legacy lives on not in being the best, but in providing those who follow with the ability … to be better.”

When the protagonist does succeed in saving the world, it is with the knowledge that it wouldn’t have been possible without the Guiding Figure’s help. And the Guiding Figure knows that all the love and hard work s/he poured into the protagonist has paid off (you know, as long as the Guiding Figure has actually managed to cling to his/her life until this point, because for SOME REASON authors have a tendency of liking the clean cut that comes with murdering their Guiding Figures I’M LOOKING AT YOU JK ROWLING).

A teacher doesn’t take up that position with the hope of earning fame and glory. S/he does it with the hope of inspiring others to earn those things.

And generally, like in the case of Harry Potter, a Guiding Figure’s already had his/her own share of adventures by the time the protagonist comes around. Now it’s just a matter of passing those lessons along and guiding the next generation the next step up the path.

After all, as Dumbledore says in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, “It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.” And as the Guiding Figure of Harry, Dumbledore is able to guide the Boy Who Lived to the sort of conclusion that leaves Harry able to be a Guiding Figure for the next generation. Who will guide the next. And the next.

**********

Thanks for reading!

 

~Julia

PS. Sorry if this is super long and rambly. I’m exhausted. I’ve now been writing this on and off for four hours now. I’m not even sure if I’m still writing in English. I am terrified of reading this in the morning.

*Sorry I’m giving so many things Important Capitalized Titles in this post. (In my defense, it is now going on three in the morning and I’m actively using half my brain to resist the urge to make tea, since the only kind I have in my room has caffeine. So basically this is the Extent of My Writing Abilities at the moment.)

OH PPS. I FORGOT TO MENTION THAT I AM SEEING JK ROWLING ON FRIDAY DIDN’T I OMG SOMEBODY HOLD ME. (<–Also, grammar. That is another thing I have forgotten.)

NaNo Day 22: CATCHING FIRE Movie Reaction

I’m warning you ahead of time: THIS IS FULL OF SPOILERS. I’m not going to white it out because if you haven’t read Catching Fire yet and therefore don’t know what the plot’s like, that’s your fault more than mine. But also, if you don’t want to be spoiled about the changes from page to screen, don’t read on, because that’s going to be a focus of this reaction post.

(If you want a faster take on reactions, here’s a link to the video Hannah, our friend Emily, and I made last night right after the movie.)

**********

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Where do I begin.

I. LOVED. THIS. MOVIE.

If something was weak in The Hunger Games, they made sure to make it strong in this one. At first I was sad when they ditched old director Gary Ross for Francis Lawrence, but oh my gosh, Lawrence went above and beyond with Catching Fire. He took the movie in a direction I don’t think Ross would have, and I’m so glad he did. The cinematography was beautiful and he used just enough shaky cam to harken back to The Hunger Games, and THE SPECIAL EFFECTS!

The fake fire actually looked like they tried a little on it this time. The fog was thoroughly and appropriately frightening (and a whole lot scarier than it was in the book–I actually didn’t want to continue watching that scene partway through because it was so freaky, which means that it was also really well done). The monkeys were incredible, and I loved how they portrayed the force fields. A lot more money must have been spent on special effects this time ’round.

The entire cast shines in Catching Fire. I wasn’t even all that annoyed with Liam Hemsworth, who I thought was terrible in the first one. (His accent has improved so much! Still not quite there, but not so awful that I noticed it every time he spoke.) Every once in a while one of the actors did something or said a line in a certain way that didn’t quite work for me, but I mean, that’s always going to happen, so no big deal.

Individually, Jennifer Lawrence is, well, Jennifer Lawrence. There were a couple times when I thought Katniss should have shown how she was confused more, while Jen just sort of stood there and frowned into the distance (all she had to do was furrow her brow a little! come on). Overall, though, she is Jennifer. Lawrence. Fantastic job. She brings so much depth to the character in just the fact that she is so subtle about the majority of her acting (and then sometimes she makes faces like the one in the elevator when Joanna strips naked, and you’re reminded that this is also the girl who regularly talks about bodily functions in interviews, here). I can’t wait to see how she handles Katniss’s emotional journey in the next two films, because girl. can. act.

Josh Hutcherson‘s Peeta was SO MUCH BETTER in this one than in The Hunger Games, primarily because we actually got to SEE him this time. We got Peeta’s sarcasm and self-deprecating humor, and you could really see how much he cares about Katniss. (Also: I don’t know how they did it, but he seemed taller in this one. Or at least not-quite-as-short-in-comparison-with-Katniss.)

Sam Claflin is FANTASTIC as Finnick. I was a little bit scared going in to see how he’d do, but he was great. His accent was wonderful and he very much embodies Finnick’s vibe. I’m worried about how attached we’re all going to get to him in Mockingjay Parts 1 + 2.

Love the rest of the new cast members as well. They did a good job of making you fall in love with these new tributes in a short period of time. Whereas with the last movie you weren’t really supposed to like any of the tributes outside of Katniss, Peeta, and Rue, this time the moviemakers work for you to fall in love with or at least respect all of the others, which makes the entire thing so much more disgusting and heartbreaking. When I went to see The Hunger Games at midnight, there were a few moments when one of the antagonist-type tributes died and everybody cheered and applauded, just like the Capitol citizens. There’s none of that this time. The only cheers and applause in my theater were for when people rebelled against the Capitol. They took the theme of “remember who the real enemy is” to heart while making this. Good for them.

Great performances by the supporting cast, as usual, especially Donald Sutherland (Snow), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Plutarch) Elizabeth Banks (Effie), Stanley Tucci (Caesar), and Woody Harrelson (Haymitch). When Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) gets beaten to death–oh my gosh. I sobbed. That was such a well-paced scene, and exactly how I pictured it in the book, especially with Katniss then being thrust up into the arena right afterward.

Loved getting to see some of the old tributes again. The moment when Katniss goes all PTSD and thinks she’s shot Marvel again is chilling, not to mention seeing the projections of the tributes–seeming so alive up there above their grieving families–during the Victory Tour. It broke my heart. And RUE’S FAMILY. Did anyone else notice how it’s just her mother and younger siblings, because her father rebelled during the last movie and therefore, more than likely, is dead at this point? Just thinking through that made it so much worse. That family has lost so much.

For everything they cut, it was interesting that they added a character for this film–President Snow’s granddaughter, played by Erika Bierman. She was barely in the movie but was very good at being a sort of foil to Snow’s hatred for Katniss; she loves the Girl on Fire for the exact reasons her grandfather hates her. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with her character in Mockingjay. I’m hoping we get some juxtaposition between her and Prim.

Why was Buttercup so different? Like I get that you probably can’t get the same cat again, but at least try to make it LOOK like the same cat, you know? (HG Buttercup is black and white; this one is an orange tabby.) (Also, I was looking for pictures of the cats from both movies to prove that this is a real thing and I’m not just crazy for thinking they changed cats, and this popped up. I understand them wanting to make the cat look the way he’s supposed to in the books, but at the same time–you already messed it up, so why not embrace your mistake rather than trying to backtrack when it’s already too late? Weird.)

Catching Fire overall is very true to the book. Of course they left some things out (primarily: a lot of the stuff from the beginning chapters of the book, the way the mockingjay symbol has spread throughout the Capitol as a fashion symbol, Plutarch Heavensbee’s watch, and the bread in the arena). I think the movie functioned fine without all of it, though, and looking back on it I’m actually sort of glad they left out the mockingjay watch, because in the context of the film it would have been too obvious. In books, you can lay little clues like that and keep them muddled under layers of other storylines going on. In movies, because you can’t have Katniss’s here-and-now thoughts distracting you from the actual meaning behind something, every little thing seems much more deliberate and therefore easier to figure out.

Catching Fire really hits its stride once we reach the reaping. Ahead of that I thought a lot of the pacing was dodgy. Either a scene was too short or too long, half the time. But the pacing from the reaping, out, is perfect.

One of my very few disappointments with the movie was that they never watched any of the old Hunger Games, so we never got to see how Haymitch won the Games. I adore that scene in the book, and while the movie works fine without it, it still would have been nice.

One of my favorite lines is Effie explaining the new training center, because in the book that isn’t a thing–the training center and apartment and all that are the same ones throughout the entire trilogy. So I’m glad they chose to explain it instead of just doing it and leaving us to be confused. (And Effie’s line about “An entire room of mahogany” or whatever! What a great throwaway comment to use as an Easter Egg for fans.)

When Katniss hangs the dummy of Seneca Crane and she takes the time to paint on the beard–I practically had to stuff my fist in my mouth to keep from laughing, because nobody else in my theater did at that point, but wow. What a great detail.

The arena is gorgeous, and it’s because of that fact, in part, that it’s so horrible. Watching the trailers I kept thinking that it was such a beautiful location, it would be hard to be scared of it watching the movie. Nope. That place is basically scary as all get out and I was ready to get out the moment we arrived. I’m going to see this in IMAX next week and I don’t know how I’m going to handle it, because it’s going to be terrifying.

I was a little bit annoyed at first that we didn’t get to see an of the reactions back in the districts during the Games the way we got to in The Hunger Games, but at the same time I think NOT being able to see what was going on there was important for how the overall arc of this story played out.

One thing I’m a little, tiny bit iffy on is the fact that we got to see Peeta fight other tributes. He probably fights a bit in the book and I just don’t remember it, but it would have been nice if they’d made more of the point that Peeta is the only decent victor and the only one who probably cares more for others than he does about his own survival, since that’s such an important part to bring back in Mockingjay.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the musical score. They tried to remain very true to the score from the first movie, only the feel of this movie is so different from The Hunger Games, so it didn’t work as effectively as a score should. Not terrible, but it did pull me out of the movie every once in a while.

The only things they left out I was really disappointed about were Cinna’s line about channeling his emotions into his work so that he doesn’t hurt anyone but himself and the fact that they never mentioned the baby again after the initial announcement in the Capitol. There were several instances when Peeta or Joanna or Finnick easily could have just let an off-hand comment slide about Katniss being pregnant, like in the book, but none of them ever did it. If you aren’t going to keep up the charade, what’s the point in starting it to begin with? Both of these things–Cinna’s line and the pregnancy–would have been so easy to include, I don’t know why they didn’t.

Lol at the pictures they chose for the locket. Aren’t those promotional shots from The Hunger Games, made to look old-timey? Effie gets the locket for Peeta, which means that it’s made in the Capitol. The Capitol has uber technology. Let’s think this one through, shall we?

I cried so much throughout this movie. Just every little thing set me off. I don’t know if it’s because I’m really stressed out about stuff right now, so I’m kind of high-strung anyway, or because the movie really is that good. But I cried SO. MUCH. There were more than a few points when just everyone in the theater was sobbing. Bring tissues if you don’t want to snot all over your neighbor.

There’s so much more kissing in this movie than last time! I was really annoyed in The Hunger Games when they were like, “Oh, yeah, we’re going to up the romantic elements!” AND THEN THERE WAS LIKE ONE GOOD KISS PERIOD. Rest assured, this one makes up for that deficit. (It’s hilarious when Katniss kisses Peeta right after Finnick gets his heart restarted because you can see a little bit of slobber action going on. This is great just because the cast talks so much about a take for that scene when there was spit hanging out everywhere and it’s like, “Yup. I can see how that happened.”)

Remind me to write a wildly popular novel set in Hawaii someday, so they’ll make a movie about it and I can hang out on set all day. What lucky ducks, getting to shoot there.

The costumes are magnificent. Some of them aren’t true to the books, but I love the interpretations. The wedding dress is gorgeous despite the fact that it doesn’t resemble the one from the books at all. It’s also interesting how they did the tribute uniforms different this time around–last time, the colors were different depending on district. This time they were all identical. Underlying message from Plutarch Heavensbee?

A couple random little things that they changed that don’t really matter, but are worth mentioning: The countdown only goes for ten seconds instead of sixty. Peeta can swim (and, apparently, fight in water). When Mags walks into the fog, Finnick freaks out about it rather than just going along with it more, like he does in the book (I partway like this, partway don’t–it’s nice to see how much he cares for Mags, but at the same time it made me question how much this interpretation of Finnick knows about what’s going on).

Loved the change in how the Peacekeepers take over District Twelve. When they bag the old Head Peacekeeper as he’s welcoming Thread to 12, it was so well-done. Great moment. (I feel like such a terrible person applauding their ability to portray evil in this film, but seriously, WELL DONE.)

When Katniss shoots the arrow into the force field at the end and then Snow goes storming out to find Plutarch and he isn’t in the control room, I threw my fist in the air like, “YES! You two have been talking about moves and counter-moves this entire time, and YOU JUST REALIZED YOU’VE BEEN PLAYED, SUCKAAA.” We never got to appreciate the full effect of Plutarch’s betrayal to the Capitol in the book, so that has to be one of my favorite moments in the movie.

The end with the hovercraft and Gale telling Katniss what happened to 12 is really powerful. It doesn’t pack quite as big of a punch as the ending in the book does, but it’s still fantastic. (And YAY FOR ACTUALLY FOLLOWING THE PROPER ENDING THIS TIME!)

While I’m here, on the topic of splitting Mockingjay into two films: A lot of people are upset about this, and I’ll admit, I am a bit too. I was a lot more, though, when they first announced it. This is because I recently saw an interview in which they talked about this decision–and remember how the Mockingjay book has kind of bad pacing, and the ending is rushed and confusing, and you see very little of what’s actually going on since you’re stuck in Katniss’s head? Yeah. Apparently they’re planning on trying to fix all of that for the movies. Which makes me hope doing two Mockingjay films isn’t entirely just a matter of getting more money out of fans and following the trend Harry Potter started, but also about just giving us a better, fuller experience.

Gahhh, I feel like I’m forgetting half the stuff I want to say, which is sad seeing as this post is getting insanely long. But this movie is SOOO GOOD! Let me leave off by saying: Go see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It is leaps and bounds better than The Hunger Games and was well-worth the year and a half wait since that one. The script is great, the cast is outstanding, the cinematography won’t make you throw up from dizziness, and it’s just. Wow. So good. It is sad and terrible and wrenching and funny and scary and beautiful and all the things I wanted out of this film.

When I gave The Hunger Games 4 out of 5 stars, I was being nice. This one, without a doubt, deserves its 4.5. I cannot wait to see it (and bawl my eyes out throughout it) again.

**********

Read my Hunger Games Movie Reaction here.

Find more information on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire here.

Buy tickets to go see the movie here. (Because, you know, you should. YOU REALLY REALLY SHOULD.)

Oh, and here’s a link to Jen and Josh being adorable. In case you weren’t already in love with them.

day 22

 

~Julia