Last week in Plot Structure and The Hunger Games we talked about how The Hunger Games, the novel, illustrates opening conflict and the first 3 of the 5 plot points below:
- Story Spark
- One-Quarter Twist
- Three-Quarter Turn
Today I'll cover the Three-Quarter Turn, the Climax, and the action following the climax.
Warning: As before, spoilers below. If somehow you haven’t read The Hunger Games or seen the film, do that first and come back. I'll still be here. Or the article will at least.
Moving On From The Mid-Point
As we talked about last week, at the Mid-Point of the novel Katniss suffers a serious reversal. Badly injured, she climbs a tree to evade her enemies. But all they need to do is wait her out. So she drops a hive of tracker jacker hornets on them.
This action results in her first kill in the games and serves as her Mid-Point action to commit and go all in.
Further, as it should, Katniss' action at the Mid-Point propels the story forward.
Because of it, Katniss allies herself with Rue. Rue helped Katniss spot the tracker jacker hive. She also helps heal Katniss heal from tracker jacker stings. The two form a plan to go after the supplies of the group of tributes who trapped and tried to kill Katniss.
The Mid-Point also leaves Katniss confused about Peeta’s allegiances.
She pretends for the camera that she and Peeta have a secret pact, but she doesn’t know if he played along with the other tributes to try to protect her somehow or if he truly wants to eliminate her. After all, only one of them can win.
These feelings are the perfect set up for the next plot point at the three-quarter mark.
One Possible Three-Quarter Turn
Like the One-Quarter Twist (discussed last week), the Three-Quarter Turn once again sends the story in a new direction. This time, though, rather than being an outside force the turn grows directly from the protagonist’s action the Mid-Point.
I see two possible Three-Quarter Turns in the novel The Hunger Games.
The first happens on page 244, which is about 20 pages before the actual three-quarter point in the book. The gamemakers announce that two tributes can win this year’s game so long as they are from the same district.
This world change opens the chance that both Katniss and Peeta can survive. Katniss immediately sets out to find him.
At first this twist seems to come from outside because it is the gamemakers who make the decision. Katniss, however, prompted that decision.
First, she survived her reversal. Second, she acted as if she and Peeta were still allies, despite that she didn’t know herself if that was true.
Also, while we don’t know for certain because the book is told from Katniss’ point of view, it’s likely that her care and concern for Rue when the girl was dying moved viewers so much that they began clamoring for Katniss to have a chance to be happy with Peeta.
From the turn on Katniss struggles to find and heal Peeta and to ensure his survival along with her own.
If we go by page count, at the actual three-quarter point in the book the gamemakers have already changed the rules. When Katniss finds him, Peeta is badly injured and dying.
The Capitol, however, announces that there will be a “feast” where each tribute can get something desperately needed. Katniss is sure there will be medicine for Peeta. Equally sure it’s a trap, Peeta makes her promise not to go there. He doesn’t want her to die.
But Katniss will not simply let him die.
When her sponsors send sleeping syrup, she mixes it in berries and feeds it to him. That way she is able to leave without him knowing it to fight for the medicine.
I like this development as the Three-Quarter Turn because Katniss makes a choice, making it more clearly a turn due to her own actions.
Whichever part you see as the turn, though, it drives the rest of the story toward the Climax.
As we approach the climax of The Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta fight the last tributes to the death.
But the true payoff is less about a physical fight and more about winning the battle against the Capitol.
When only Katniss and Peeta are left, the Capital changes the rules again so that only one can win. This switch brings together all the previous parts of the plot and the main characters’ arcs.
Peeta never believed he could win on his own. He did his best to survive but his main goal was to help Katniss win and get back home to help care for her little sister.
Katniss shared that goal, but once she knew Peeta also could survive she put the two of them winning together above her personal survival.
Now, in the climax, the gamemakers try to pit the two against one another again by reversing the rule change. Once again, only one can win.
Though once she strove to emerge as the sole survivor, Katniss is now determined to outwit the Capitol so both can live. That change occurs due to everything that happened in the games, her choices throughout, her growing feelings for Peeta, and her building outrage against the Capitol.
As a result, she refuses to accept the limits of the games. Instead, she encourages Peeta to (at least appear to) commit suicide with her. The Capitol stops them and declares both winners.
The awful choice Katniss faces and her quick-witted, determined response provide much more drama that a physical fight alone could.
The Falling Action
After the Climax, every good story includes falling action, which is what it sounds like — the results or fallout of the Climax.
The Climax and Falling Action together should resolve all the major plot points and show the consequences to the protagonist. It’s okay to leave a few open questions for the reader to ponder, but too many and you’ll leave readers unhappy and unsatisfied.
How long the section is depends upon how much needs to be resolved.
In The Hunger Games, it’s 27 pages.
Katniss discovers the Capitol now sees her as a threat because she outwitted the gamemakers. She also must deal with Peeta’s sadness when he realizes she exaggerated her feelings for him and with her own internal confusion over what was real and what wasn’t. Most important, she realizes the games really never end. She must play a part forever to avoid inciting a rebellion and risking the lives of the people she loves.
If you plan a sequel, it’s also a good idea to plant a few seeds for the next book in the falling action section.
The falling action in The Hunger Games works for it as a standalone novel and as Book 1 in a trilogy.
Katniss and Peeta survive the games, resolving the main plot. If the book was a standalone, that they will need to be mindful and play parts forever would be enough of a resolution, and the readers would be left to imagine how their personal relationship might or might not develop.
But these same points set up a sequel well.
In the next book, the reader can find out exactly what happens as they try to conform with the Capitol’s expectations, as well as how Katniss' mixed feelings for Peeta change her life.
That’s all for today. Until next Friday–