Posts Tagged ‘The Hunger Games’

I got The Hunger Games: Catching Fire on DVD on Friday and watched it this afternoon. If I were to do a review, I’d say it was a very good adaptation of a book I absolutely hated for a number of reasons. However, I’m not writing this post as a review for Catching Fire. I’m writing this post because, after I took the DVD out and went to make my dinner, I thought to myself, “There is such a difference between Katniss Everdeen and Zahara.”

And indeed, there is a great difference between the two characters. And I’m not just talking about upbringing, religious identification, and their experiences. I think the biggest differences between Katniss and Zahara is their access to choices in their lives. (Okay, there’s also major differences in character development, but since all three books of The Hunger Games are out and only one book of the Reborn City series is out, I won’t go into that lest I spoil something).

In THG, Katniss rarely has any sort of choice in what she can or can’t do. Except for certain memorable instances, Katniss follows a script that someone else wrote, whether that be the Capitol or someone associated with the Capitol, or District 13 and someone in the rebellion. Sure, the moments when she gets a chance to make her own choices are pretty momentous. She volunteered for the Hunger Games, she nearly committed suicide using poison berries, and she killed President Coin in an act of revenge. But other than those moments, she’s mostly dancing to the tune of someone else’s fiddle. And she’s either unaware of it or she’s aware of it and so pissed off about it.

Zahara, on the other hand, has a little more leeway. When I wrote Reborn City and started planning its sequels, I obviously wasn’t planning on writing about Zahara’s choices. But after she’s forced to join the Hydras, she does find that she has a bit of choice in the events that occur later on in the story. And those choices do end up affecting the Hydras in several ways, whether  it involve a gang war about to go wrong, or by a simple encouragement that changes the way someone thinks. And as the series goes on, Zahara will get to make more choices, some of which will have greater effects than the previous ones she’s made.

Why the difference? Well, I guess you’d have to ask the authors. In addition to wanting to create a story that was a commentary on both our addictions to violence and reality TV, Suzanne Collins also wanted (I’m assuming) to allow readers to relate to the feeling that our lives are not our own. We’ve all been there, had those moments when we felt our lives weren’t our own, where we felt like our lives are being directed by someone else. Maybe our parents, our employers, our teachers, our government, our spouses, etc. Basically we have to subordinate our lives to the needs or whims of others. This speaks to plenty of people, particularly teenagers and young adults who are constantly pressured to fulfill the wishes and pressures of the adults around them. I can only guess as to why Mrs. Collins wanted to weave that theme into her trilogy, or if she even realized what she was weaving in until it was already there. What is obvious that Katniss exemplifies that theme of lack of control over one’s life, and it’s part of why people identify with her.

With Zahara and RC on the other hand, the intentions were very different. I realized early on in writing a novel about street gangs that people in gangs or in slums or broken families or several other similar situations that they feel like they can’t leave the situations they’re in. This attitude, which seems to perpetuate itself over generations in a terrible self-fulfilling prophecy, horrified me. Imagine people who didn’t try to change their horrible lives because they felt that trying was impossible, that it would only lead to pain and regret. Where they were was where they belonged. Throughout the trilogy I try to fight that belief through the travails of Zahara and the Hydras, making choices and fighting for not only their lives, but also to live their lives as they wish.

So I guess this difference in opportunity and choice for Katniss Everdeen and Zahara Bakur really just boils own to the intentions of the authors when we were writing our stories. I strove to write about teens fighting against a world that oppresses them and tries to control them, while Mrs. Collins seems to have written a story about a world where, among other things, the lives of others are maddeningly not their own.

It’s interesting what the intentions of the autor can do for a single story, isn’t it?

That’s all for now. Tomorrow school starts up again, so I’m heading to bed to get ready for the big day. Goodnight, Followers of Fear, and have a great week.

I’m proud to say that the first draft of Video Rage, the sequel to Reborn City, is finally finished! And it took exactly six months to write. I’m not kidding, I started it on July 5th, 2013 and finished it today on January 5th, 2014. Crazy coincidence, huh?

Writing the last three chapters of VR were at times difficult but all the time extremely fun. I just felt the story flowing out, even when I made changes to how the scene played out in my head to how it played out on paper at the very second I was writing the story. And a whole lot happened in those last three chapters: the final conflict of the novel was resolved and I was able to set up for the third and final book of the trilogy (more to come on that later in the post). I’m actually very satisfied with how this novel turned out. I started it with the goal of making a kick-ass story where the characters didn’t lose their depth and weren’t reduced to one-dimensional cut-outs like Katniss Everdeen in Catching Fire. Although I may be biased against my own novel, I believe I did a very good job. Most of the characters grew in their own ways, and some had pretty exciting and at times tragic twists happen to them. I think anyone who reads this novel will be satisfied with it (God-willing).

And now for the page and word counts (and by page, I mean 8.5″ by 11″ MS Word paper pages). In my last post about my progress with Video Rage, the page count was 197 pages and the word count was 54,703 words as of Chapter 24. With the addition of Chapters 25-37 (the last chapter being called “Epilogue” actually, but whatever), the page count is 299 pages and the word count is 83,935 words! That’s a pretty decent-sized novel, around the size of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone actually. Of course the editing phase may either trim it down or expand it a little, depending on how I go about editing each and every chapter and what I do in those chapters.

So now that I’ve finished this monumental task, what are my plans? For now I’ll make sure to back up VR and other important documents so that I don’t lose them. Then I’ll only write for homework and for scholarship for a little while. After that period though I’ll work on several short stories and after I’ve done enough of those, I’ll get back to work on Laura Horn and finish that up as well. And as the final draft of Snake comes together, I’ll work on that too and get it ready for whenever it’ll be published. And when it’s time, I’ll start going over VR and editing it as well. Perhaps within a year or two it’ll be available as well.

And as for the third and final book of the series, I won’t write that any time soon. I need some time to work on other books and other projects so that I can return to the world of the West Reborn Hydras with fresh eyes and ready to finish their story. I also need time to figure out how the story will end. I know what my final scenes are probably going to look like, and I know who the main antagonist will be and how he’s going to be a pain in the ass for the Hydras, but I haven’t settled on anything yet. When the time comes though, I’ll let you know. And hopefully by then the Hydras will have a bigger fan base than just my sister, my stepmother, and a few good friends of mine. That would definitely be nice.

For now though, I’ve got files to back up and a dinner to cook before the new semester starts tomorrow. Wish me luck, my Followers of Fear.

The edition I got from the library. God, it was good! Blew my mind…and possibly a finger off. That explosive.

Some of you may remember from a while back I finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy and wrote a less-than-favorable review of it. It was around that time, I started to hear about a book that predated The Hunger Games and was considered by some fans to be much better than Suzanne Collins’ trilogy. And when I heard it was a Japanese novel, then I got really interested (typical me, I’m a nut for most things from Japan).

This past month I finally found the time to get the book, titled Battle Royale, from the library and sit down to read it. As I got about a hundred pages in, I started musing to myself that this was the sort of story I would like to write, well thought-out, exciting, and extremely well-written. About two-hundred pages in, I was so engrossed it was really difficult to put it down. And by three-hundred pages in I was staying up late just so I could read more! And today I finished Battle Royale, which has officially become one of my all-time favorite novels.

And of course, I had to write a review of it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the novel by Koushun Takami, the story takes place in a world where Japan is the seat of the Republic of Greater East Asia, which as far as I can tell is what would happen if Japan had come out much better from World War II as an authoritarian empire. In this Republic, junior high classes are selected randomly throughout the year to take part in survival games in which the classmates must fight each other until only one student survives. The novel tells the story of one particular class, Shiroiwa Junior High Class 3B and its 42 students, selected for the heinous Program and forced to fight each other on an isolated island in the Seto Inland Sea. The novel focuses mainly on the exploits of Shuya Nanahara, Noriko Nakagawa, and Shogo Kawada, three classmates who plan to escape the Program, despite the number of obstacles meant to keep them in the Program (not to mention classmates that are all-too willing to take part in the Program). The novel also looks at the lives of several other classmates, so that by the end of the book you feel you know at least a little bit about a majority of Class 3B.

And the twists and surprises in this story will keep you reeling until the very end. You can quote me on that and take it to the bank.

The author does a very good job managing a very large and diverse cast, giving most of the characters at least a little characterization so that those you meet seem at least well-developed, even those who only show up for one or two chapters. Takami-sensei (as he would be addressed in Japan) also manages to tell a very bleak story with engaging finesse, wasting not a single word. The action sequences are so terrifying you’ll be hearing the climax from Stravinsky’s The Firebird during the climax (at least I did), the musings on life, the government, and the meaning of the Program will pierce deeply, and the emotions of each character hit you pretty hard as you get to know these kids. And when you find out why a government would have a Program like this, you’ll think to yourself the same thing you’ll end up thinking when you read the resolution of the story: “That’s so clever! Scary, but clever!”

There was only two moments where I was dissatisfied with the story. One was I wanted to see more of a certain character that died midway through the novel. The other moment, later in the novel, was I had trouble believing that a certain character wouldn’t get treated for a potentially-fatal-if-let-untreated wound after he sustained it and the danger had temporarily passed. Why wouldn’t he get the bullet out before it killed him? There was time for it!

Other than that, I absolutely loved the story. Even the romantic subplot of the novel was woven in beautifully, and didn’t annoy me like it might’ve in a certain trilogy I could name (oh wait, I did name it! Never mind). The plot was quick-paced, terrifying, and left you with an impression that doesn’t go away.

All in all, Koushun Takami-sensei’s novel Battle Royale gets a 5 out of 5. I haven’t been able to immerse myself into the world of a novel in a long time, and after I was done, I didn’t want to leave because I’d grown to love some of these characters so much and so desperately wanted to see what would or had happened to them.

I’m going to go reserve the movie version from the library now. I doubt it’ll be as good as the book, but at the very least it should be interesting. Maybe even review-worthy (though that could also happen if the movie is incredibly terrible when compared to the book). Unless something else awesome happens tonight, I’ll blog on you later, Followers of Fear. Goodnight.

Two reviews in one post. That’s a new one for me. But what do you expect from me? Two very interesting series having two significant events on the same night, one after the other? Of course I’m going to do a double review! So without further ado, let’s start the analysis and reviews:

Now that’s what I call graphics.

Sleepy Hollow
Based on the famous short story by Washington Irving, Sleepy Hollow is an updated version of the classic tale, where Ichabod Crane is a Revolutionary War hero instead of a teacher. Get this: he’s the one who beheaded the famous Headless Horseman. Now the Horseman’s back, and Ichabod’s returned from the grave to stop him…and whoever’s controlling him. With some Biblical themes mixed in, some good ol’ fashioned American legend and folklore, and some superb acting, I think this could be the start of a great series.

So far I have only two complaints: one is that Ichabod, played by actor Tom Milson, seems not as culture-shocked as you’d expect for an 18th century man finding himself in the year 2013…or as torn up over the death of his wife Katrina, who appears to him in a ghostly dream. Also, I have a feeling that the series’ producers are trying to create a mythology from the first episode. While I admire that, let’s hope they don’t shove it down our throats. Give us the mythology too quickly and viewers may be turned off from it.

Other than that, the show seems really great. The characters seem very real to me, and the chemistry between Ichabod and Sheriff Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) is already strong, like Mulder and Scully in some ways. Also the cast is very diverse, which both brings a little humor to the show (Ichabod is surprised that Abbie, who is a woman and African American, isn’t a slave and is instead a lieutenant, making everyone rolls their eyes or laugh with a knowing smile) and makes me think we’re actually making some progress in terms of race relations. Not much, but some. And the show is filmed in the actual town of Sleepy Hollow, New York. Yes, there’s an actual Sleepy Hollow. It changed its name from Tarrytown a few years back to honor the original Irving story, in which Sleepy Hollow is a part of the Tarrytown township or district or whatever. Who knew!

All in all, I’m giving Sleepy Hollow a 4.6 out of 5. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season, and seeing whether this show can keep up the momentum or…you know what, I’m not even going to finish that sentence lest I jinx it. Let’s hope for the best.

Purists hate this show, but most seem to love it.

Under the Dome
In so many ways this show, based on the uber-long novel by Stephen King, who executive produced the show, departs from the original story. And as we saw tonight, it can sometimes stay true to the original tale. In the meantime, we’ve seen an incredible season. I was skeptical when I saw the first episode this summer (see the review here), but the story got better and better with every episode, taking the story in new directions, developing very real characters, and throwing in as many mysteries as it could without overwhelming viewers.

In a way, it’s really amazing how the show weaves in so many ideas and subplots and characters in a coherent narrative. That’s something I’d like to be able to do someday, and do it with ease as well. In any case, I’m not surprised that Under the Dome will be returning next summer for a second season, especially based on that very strange cliff-hanger of a season finale. If you haven’t gotten into the show yet, I suggest you look it up. Dean Norris from Breaking Bad could easily win an Emmy for his work on the show as town councilman James “Big Jim” Rennie, especially now that Bad‘s over and done with (at least I think it is. The series ended, right?). And Dale “Barbie” Barbara, the show’s lead played by Mike Vogel, looks underdeveloped as a character at first glance, but you find this bad-ass charm, mystery, and kindness on the second. I think it’ll be interesting to see what they do with him in the second season.

For the season finale, I give UTD a well deserved 4.6 out of 5. And for the entire first season…I’m awarding it a 4.8 out of 5, for taking a complicated story and a not-so-good start and making it one of the TV events of the summer. Yeah, I said that. Weep, Miley Cyrus. Your little freak-out on MTV didn’t hit my radar.

Expect more TV show reviews as new and exciting series, like Dracula or Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. begin this fall, and a few movies such as Carrie and Catching Fire come out. Not to mention the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor, comes out this November. I cannot wait!

Well, that’s all for now. Hope to do my weekly exercises tomorrow. Good night everybody!

Today we had a rather interesting discussion in my Science Fiction and Fantasy class (for those of you new to the blog, yes there’s such a thing. Apparently Ohio State’s English Department has been studying the foundations of nerd culture since 2007. And possibly there’s a grad student in the Sociology Department who’s studying the actual people of nerd culture, but that’s an investigation for another time). Anyway, we were talking about the differences between heroes in science fiction stories from pre-WWII and the stories written after WWII.

In the pre-WWII stories, the heroes were always larger than life, able to overcome evil and fight off any villain with ease. In a sense, they were Supermen without superpowers, and they still won every battle, got the girl, saved the world, and were home in time for tea. Some great examples were John Carter of Mars from the Barsoom novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Freder from the movie Metropolis.

But then you have World War II. There you see death camps, POW marches, bombings, jungle warfare, beaches that run red with blood, mortars and claymores and bullets, racism and nationalism, beheadings, and several other bits of Hell made incarnate. Those who came back from the war were given a darker outlook on the world, and those whose talents were more geared to the written word and who in turn enjoyed a little space travel incorporated that new world view into their work. The best examples I can give you of the sort of hero that became popular after WWII are Barton from the short story The Cold Equations and Han Solo from Star Wars. They are not Supermen. They are simply men. They have problems, conflicts, flaws. Barton is haunted by what his job requires him to do when he finds a stowaway on his ship. Solo is looking out for himself and his ship and nobody else, though the Expanded Universe of Star Wars says that he’s like that because his lover died leaving him cynical and jaded. And then he met Jabba the Hutt.

The point is people liked these characters. A lot. They’ve been around since then in some way or another. Look around at science fiction and fantasy stories today. Harry Potter admits he’d be lost without his friends, and as Hermione is fond of pointing out, he’s useless with girls. Katniss Everdeen is troubled by her feelings for both Peeta and Gale and her memories of the Hunger Games, and is only in the situations she’s in so that she can protect her sister and stay alive, in that order…though she does love a little revenge every now and then. Max de Costa from Elysium is trying to be a better man, but with his life on the line he becomes the definition of a survivalist, willing to do anything to live. And Buffy Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a host of issues that inhibit her life, especially in season six of the series. Jeez, that season was psychologically dark!

And it’s not just science fiction. Other genres of speculative fiction have these sorts of character. My own fiction has these sort of flawed characters:

Zahara Bakur (Reborn City): low self-esteem and a sometimes overwhelming timidity and fear of violence.

Rip (Reborn City): recovering drug addict with image issues.

Snake (Snake): highly disturbed serial killer due to abusive childhood.

Laura Horn (Laura Horn): pathological shyness, social anxiety and general anxiety due to sexual assault.

Why are these characters so popular when they are so far from perfect? I think it has something to do with the fact that’s what they are: imperfect, They care deeply and try hard, but occasionally they fail and they fall and the consequences are terrible. To the readers, that makes them real. We don’t want to read about infallible heroes, because we know all too well that they don’t exist. We want heroes who are a little more like us. They depend on people, they hurt, they need a good smack occasionally to see that what they’re doing is hurting both themselves and their loved ones. We’ve all been in positions like that to some degree in our lives. And that makes these characters relatable to us, and our problems, even if they don’t involve magic or spaceships or fighting in an arena with other young kids.

Not only that, but these protagonists tend to grow in the story. They tend to become better than what they were before. And I don’t mean better warriors or fighters or healers or wizards or whatnot. I mean better people. They learn what’s really important in life, or how to express their love for others, or they come back as true leaders who put the lives and interests of those who depend on them first. In other words, the sort of people we want to be.

I personally prefer using these characters with their flaws and warts and troubles. I used to be more into characters that were impervious, Granted, I was a kid at the time, and all my favorite TV, movie, and book heroes seemed impervious to me. But I’m older now, smarter, wiser, and a bit more aware that the world doesn’t usually produce such heroes. So I like to use the heroes with problems, with something that’s keeping them back. Along with the conflict of the story, it gives me something to grapple with and for the characters to grapple with as they fight onwards. After all, a story is not just getting from Point A to Point B, it’s also about letting the characters grow and become better people.

“I’m not even perfect, and I’m bloody brilliant in all my forms.”

Now are these sorts of characters here to stay? I’m tempted to say yes, at least for the meantime. If you look at the latest movies, TV shows, novels, and comic books, the main characters all have problems of some sort that makes life difficult for them. Watching them grow, take on these problems, and overcome them is part of the appeal of the story. And I certainly plan to use these flawed characters in the future, as do other writers I know. So yes, it’s quite possible these flawed protagonists will be staying for quite a while.

How do you feel about flawed characters? And are there any that you particularly like above all others?

Catalyst: like a line of dominoes.

According to, a catalyst is, when used in literature, “an inciting incident which that sets the successive conflict into motion.” In other words, fiction, which is reliant on a conflict of some sort for the story to occur, cannot exist without the catalyst that starts it all.

I’ve been thinking about the catalyst for a while now, and I’ve come to believe that the catalyst is actually a pretty interesting and underappreciated element in fiction writing. Imagine what would happen if Katniss Everdeen had never volunteered to take her sister’s place in the 74th Annual Hunger Games and instead of Peeta, Gale had gone to the Capitol? There would be no story. Katniss would somehow go on with her life after a period of depression, and maybe even still get together with Peeta at some point, but would anyone really want to read that? That single catalyst, Katniss volunteering to save her sister and Peeta being selected to go with her to the Capitol, is what makes the story interesting, that draws us in and makes us want to see how events unfold.

And the catalyst for a story can take many forms. It’s usually the first thing you learn in writing any story. In a romance story, it’s usually boy and girl meet for the first time. In a mystery, it’s the occurence of a crime that needs to be solved. In stories like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or The Hobbit, where a journey is prevalent in the story, it’s that inciting incident that causes the need to go on a journey that gets things going. In a zombie novel, the catalyst is (obviously) the appearance of zombies.

You look at any story, you’ll identify a catalyst. Heck, my own stories all rely on the catalyst. In my WIP Laura Horn, the catalyst is the titular character recieving a particular item that causes her to be the target of a government conspiracy. In Snake, the loss of something important to the main character is what causes him to beocme the Snake. And in Reborn City, events that happen to the founders of the Hydras about a year and a half before the story even starts serve as the catalyst.

And speaking of RC‘s catalyst occuring a year and a half before the story starts, you can find plenty of stories where the catalyst to the story occurs a long time before the story starts. For example, for years Harry Potter fans couldn’t identify why Voldemort wanted to kill Harry, thus causing the whole story that would be Harry’s life, but after Book Five, they realized the catalyst for all of Harry’s life was Professor Trelawney’s prophecy being leaked to Voldemort, thus setting his sights on killing Harry.

“Freud was half-right: the causes of all problems are mothers and prophecies.”

Of course if you want to get technical with it, the story began in 1925 when Voldemort’s mother used love potion on Tom Riddle Sr, leading to their elopement, Voldemort’s conception, and his birth. But I digress. The point is, a story can rely on events that occurred years, decades, or in some cases centuries before the start of the actual story to act as the catalyst (I’m thinking of The Lord of the Rings trilogy when I say centuries, by the way). It’s actually a little mind-boggling, if you think about it.

So what more can be said about literary catalysts? Probably a lot more than I could probably come up with, especailly in a blog post. But to finish this post, I’d like to say that without the catalyst, the fictional stories we love so much, despise so much, debate so much, examine so much, and write fanfics to so much, just wouldn’t exist, and I think our world would be a lot less interesting to be in.

I did a TNBTBH back in February (and yes, that is an abbreviation) for The Quiet Game: Five Tales To Chill Your Bones after being nominated by fellow blogger and author Lorna Douvaena. On Friday, my friend and fellow author Matt Williams did his own TNBTBH on his Whiskey Delta trilogy (check out the exact post here: As usual with these posts, he nominated several others to do this, including me. So I’m doing a Part 2 to my own TNBTBH…without Jason Voorhees behind me (anyone get the reference? If not, you need to watch the first two Friday the 13th films).

And what work am I doing this time? Reborn City, of course! Matt and I both seem to have a fondness for it.

What is the working title of your book?

Reborn City, which is the name of the city in the first book and the name of the trilogy of the whole. I wanted to do a different name for the trilogy, but guess what? Trilogies named after the first book series are on the rise. Might as well get on the bandwagon.

Where did the idea come from for your book?

I was walking home one day from the library back in high school and was listening to rap music on my Walkman (yes, I had a Walkman in those days). At that time I’d just seen and become enthralled with the movie Freedom Writers, which was filled street gangs. A stray thought went through my head that I should write a story about a street gang, and it took hold. At that moment an explosion went through my head and I went to the nearest Dairy Queen to eat ice cream and figure out how I should go about writing a gangster story. All the elements of the story–the science fiction element, the themes of racism and Islamophobia, the street gang leaders with their special powers–came later on. As they say, the rest is history.

What genre does your book fall under?

Science fiction. ‘Nuff said.

Which actors would you pick to play your characters in a movie?

If I had a choice…I’m not sure. I’ve such a firm idea of what my characters look like in my head, I’m not sure any current actors could play the characters. We might need to look for some newcomers.

Of course, I wouldn’t mind if Samuel L. Jackson played my main villain Jason Price. He’s the perfect actor for the role, and I actually based the character on some of Jackson’s best performances.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

“Street gangs in a post-apocalyptic future”. That’s what I tell people when they ask, anyway.

Is your book self-published, published by an independent press, or represented by an agency?

It’s going to be self-published. However, if a major publishing house wanted to give me a deal…well, let’s talke and see if it comes to anything.

How long did it take you to write your first draft?

About two years. I was in high school when I wrote it, so I had to take a lot of breaks for school, homework, my after-school job, the Sabbath, and just to find time to relax. I hope for the sequel I can keep it within six months, since I’ll hopefully have a lot more time on my hands.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I hate comparing one work to another, but I think that perhaps Hunger Games might be a good comparison. The government’s evil, and the fate of many rides on a bunch of disillusioned teenagers with a penchant for getting into deadly fights.. If that doesn’t sound like Hunger Games, I need to reread the books.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I think the thought that like Freedom Writers, both the book and the movie, inspired many teenagers to apply themselves through writing and words rather than fighting and guns. I thought if RC could help people, why not write it? That’s kept me going through the years, especially when I realized the book might also help combat Islamophobia.

What else about your book might pique readers’ interests?

I think that it’s a unique tale, involves street gangs in a post-apolyptic landscape, and that most of the characters have very real problems that resembles problems in today’s world might draw them in. But then again, read the book when it comes out and tell me what you think. You might like it.

That’s my TNBTBH. I hope you enjoyed it. And if you read this blog post today and you’re working on something, you’re nominated for a TNBTBH. Congratulations. Let me know when you’ve written your post!

Good night, everybody.