"The Hunger Games" Trilogy, Retold

For this post I'm gonna do something I have never done, which is to take a popular franchise I don't necessarily love and see in what other ways it could have been told that would result in -- at least for me -- a better overall story. Now, for this first specific post, I'm gonna be looking into the hot-as-hell The Hunger Games franchise.

This is a series that I'm a bit bitter about because despite its obvious similarity to one of my favorite movies of all time, always made me feel like it had created something truly special but never lived up to its full potential.

Now, I'm not gonna sit here and try to tell you that I'm a better writer than Suzanne Collins, especially with the second volume of my owntrilogy coming out in two weeks, because that would be stupid and probably untrue. This is an exercise in narrative and creativity. You see, as a viewer, maybe a fan, I'm in a much more comfortable position than Collins ever was. I have a finished product before me, so anything that could/should be changed is immediately obvious to me. whereas it wasn't obvious to her.

Anyway, that's the hypothetical: if I had been Collins' editor and she had given me the manuscripts for The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay, this is how I would have suggested she reworked the story.

First off, let's begin with the main points to consider for this retelling:

  • Ditch the 'revolution' angle as a focus for the sequels; make it a climax, or a plot point.
  • You're selling this because "this trilogy is about an oppressive government that forces kids to murder each other in a deadly game" is a much more interesting premise than "this trilogy is about a young girl who begins a revolution against an oppressive government". The more you focus on the games, the better.
  • Don't make Katniss the beacon of all of Panem's hope; it cheapens the character to present her as such a Mary Sue.
  • Tell the story through others' perspectives, not only Katniss'.
  • The first book begins with the 73rd Hunger Games, not 74th.
  • Don't name the male lead Peeta. Oh my god. In fact, reconsider most characters' names. They're way, way too goofy.

Okay with those basic guidelines, let's see how I would have told the story.

First, a large change to the world of Panem: other than Rue, it's hard to give a damn about any of the other Tributes in either game, and frankly I only cared about Rue because she was very young; she was barely in it and any attachment I had for her character was entirely superficial. Dozens of kids die in that book and there's barely any emotional impact. This happens because the kids meet each other when they're already tributes. Finding a way to make them be friends from before would make it better and harder-hitting.

In the new version of Panem, the kids of all Districts go to one academy together from age 11 to age 17, where they learn the trades of other districts, are sorted according to talents and relocated. After all, some kids would be better miners than woodsmen; it seems dumb of the Capitol to pigeonhole everyone just because they were born in one specific District.
I shall call it: Tribute Academy

So, all the kids from all the districts know each other during this Hogwarts-like period of their lives. Then, at the end of every school term, there's a Reaping for all kids, regardless of age, the exact same way the Reaping works in the books.  Keep the fancy kids from 1 and 2 getting special training; that works in this context too.

The Hunger Games take place during the summer, and the victor returns to the academy afterwards to finish. In the same way, all victors get a fancy new home for their family, special treatment during the remaining years in the academy, have to mentor tributes from the same district, and immunity for the games. Okay so that's how I'd present the whole Hunger Games scenario in order to significantly raise the emotional stakes for Katniss, and anyone competing, really.

So with that, let's begin:


Book 1: The Hunger Games

We begin at the Reaping for the 73rd Hunger Games. Prim (a cute first-year) is reaped, but Katniss (year five) volunteers in her name.

In terms of story I wouldn't touch the first book as much, because it's fine the way it is. That being said, in terms of narrative structure, things should be different. The Hunger Games should be the focus of the narrative, and should therefore begin much sooner so the action can occupy at least two thirds of the book. The training, world building, and lifestyle of the Capitol, can be established in a much simpler and more efficient way without taking away precious Hunger Games time.

With the extra room, you can endear the actual players a lot more. Let Katniss make other alliances and make their deaths heavier, with friends from Tribute Academy. This way the book has much more interesting character dynamics and a heavier emotional punch. Yes, this would remove all the drama with Katniss' mom and dad, but is that a big loss? I'd rather see Katniss being forced to kill some of her best friends, crushes, etc.

I'd also nix the Muts. All of them, not only the scene with the werewolf dog things. They serve no purpose and are frankly really confusing. You can have Mockingjays without any further explanation.

The climax is similar, and in the end Katniss defies Snow and shows the Capitol's weakness. It ends the same way, with Lenny Kravitz warning Katniss about the consequences of her actions, because things are gonna get serious now.

 Book 2: Catching Fire

Here come the big changes. For the 74th Hunger Games, Snow proves that he's pissed off with Katniss and, for some crazy coincidence, Prim is reaped again. Katniss tries to volunteer, but Snow pulls some bullshit loophole where now that she's a victor, she can't compete again so fuck you, your sister's going into the arena.

Book two focuses on two stories: Prim trying to survive in a crazy complicated arena, and Katniss on the outside mentoring her. Can you imagine the degree of emotional punch this would have? Not only that, but we get to see both the action inside, and more details into the world outside during the Hunger Games. Katniss gets to really appreciate how disgusting the Capitol is during the Games.

She plays the political maneuvering, does her best, and this is when the spark of revolution begins. Katniss begins to investigate influencers inside the Capitol, makes hush-hush allegiances, and then, during one moment of distraction for her, pow, Prim dies.

Yes of course she dies. I had problems with her death in Mockingjay because it feels contrived and narratively redundant. Unlike that, in this version, her death was an almost complete inevitability. It is Prim's death that really pisses people off, both in the districts and back in Tribute Academy. After all, she was only there because the Capitol wanted to punish Katniss.

So let's give the goddamn girl's death an actual narrative purpose and not have it just be an ending twist for shock value.

Prim's death creates the spark. She is the fallen Mockingjay, and now the one to follow is the one who felt the tragedy more powerfully: Katniss. A revolution is about to begin, and Katniss isn't only a pawn puppeteered by the adults (which always cheapened the character a fuckload to me), but the mastermind behind it.

Epilogue: for the 75th Games, the Quarter Quell,  we get The Hunger Games: All Stars. It ends with "I'm going back to the Arena."

Holy shit.

 Book 3: Mockingjay

 This book begins with the prep time before All Stars. We don't waste time making some ridiculous Tribute tour throughout all of Panem; we jump straight into meeting the All-Stars tribute. We find out soon enough that Snow knows about the impending revolution and, like in the original book two, it's clear that many of the Tributes' sole purpose is to go and kill Katniss.

We could have met characters like Finnick or Joanna from the second book (after all, they would be mentoring someone, right?) so we have them well endeared before the games.

Katniss goes into the crazy arena, in more danger than she's ever been, and begins the plan of escaping mid-game. But we don't know this, because this game will be told from several perspectives, not only Katniss'. You can hide the twist of Katniss' escape without cheapening the character (I hold: having her be a pawn in better characters' plans isn't the sign of a good lead character) by just hiding it from the reader. Tell the story through the POVs of Katniss, one of the villains (Brutus, for instance) and one random other tribute who isn't in on Katniss' plan.

That way when halfway through, when the action is at full swing, it'll be shocking when Katniss fucks up the arena, prematurely ending the 75th, and final, Hunger Games.

 Her escape becomes the spark that really launches the revolution which had been brewing for a while. Once out, they launch on the all-out attack that eventually brings down Snow and the Capitol. You don't need to waste time with no District 13, no faux politics, no Coin, no recon missions, no characters with sudden magical soldier skills. In fact, no additional characters that didn't need to be there at all. Nothing: just action and character. You jump from the controlled danger of the 75th Hunger Games to the series' Climax in the Capitol.

After all that, the ending/epilogue can stay the same. Who cares?

And that's that!

I feel like telling the story this way would give emphasis to the most interesting aspects of  the Hunger Games universe, make Katniss a more interesting character who is more in charge of her own freedom, up the emotional stakes, and keep the plot moving from book one until the very, very, very end. You don't stop and pick up momentum again as it happens with the real books 2 and 3.

Agree? Disagree? Buy my book, because the sequel's out in less than two weeks!

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About The Damn Beast

Pre-op trans-minotaur, sci-fi/fantasy/horror author, metal singer, videogame journalist, pop culture blogger. I also lift heavy things and put them down again repeatedly to occupy more space.
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