MOVIE BIOLOGY, Dissecting HG, Act Two

THE HUNGER GAMES – A continuation of the ACTS dissection.


ACT TWO is where the author needs to keep the suspense building or the reader will put the book down. Typically, Act Two is about 60% of the total book. A LOT happens in this act.

Specifically, in the beginning of HG Act Two, Katniss prepares for the Games. During the pre-games Peeta declares his love for her. She’s angry because she thinks it makes her look weak. But during this act Katniss learns how to get sponsors–those who can help her win. She must get them to like her the game and pretend she’s in love with Peeta.

But let’s look at our main goal for this act: To keep the reader reading. 

So how do you keep act two alive?

With conflict.

But the conflict can’t be just any conflict. There needs to be obstacles that prevent the heroine from achieving her goal.

Let’s look at HG and dissect Katniss’s journey. (Hint:  If you, as an author, can understand these elements, you too can build a successful middle story.)

How does Suzanne Collin’s keep the suspense building throughout all of Act Two?






Suzanne Collins:

Gives Katniss challenges to overcome.  She has to:

  • Defend herself at the Cornucopia and fight off the other Tributes for supplies
  • Escape the initial massacre
  • Search for food and water
  • Escape the fire the Capitol instigated
  • Heal from her burns
  • Escape the Career Tributes who wait for her at the bottom of a tree
  • Survive a wasp bite
  • Blow up Cato’s supply area
  • Spear her first tribute
Gives the reader hope:  When:
  • Katniss finds water
  • She receives the bread
  • Receives the medication for her burns
  • The boy from Rue’s district spares Katniss’s life
  • Katniss stays true to her values and gives Rue a decent burial
  • Receives the medication for Peeta’s leg

Remember this HOPE scene?

Katniss learns to play the games. This kiss gives us hope that Katniss will reach her goal because she’s giving the sponsors what they want. 




Raises the stakes:

Each time Katniss is successful in achieving her immediate goal the reader becomes hopeful that she will win. But after each hopeful scene, the stakes are raised again.


Makes Katniss likable:
How can we not like a girl who sacrifices herself for others? (Rue and Peeta) And takes the time to give Rue a meaningful burial–something Katniss (and the reader) values.


Shows inner and outer conflict:
There’s a push and pull inside Katniss. She wants to win the games, but this is in conflict with her value system. In order to win she has to kill another Tribute–something she doesn’t believe in.


Surprises the reader:
Just when the reader thinks the odds are insurmountable that Katniss will reach her goal, she finds her way out. This happens at the end of Act Two–when the Capital declares that two Tributes can win if they’re from the same district. This gives Katniss (and the reader) hope that her goal might be reachable.


Shows a fear of failure:
The reader worries Katniss will fail if she doesn’t acquire the bow and arrow.


Shows Katniss changing:
After she spears her first Tribute, Katnisis changes. Rue dies and Katniss gives her a decent burial to show the Capitol that they don’t OWN her. That even though the Capitol can dictate how the games are played, Katniss can still be true to herself. She promises Rue that she’ll win. From this point on, there’s a shift in the novel. Katniss becomes a stronger and more determined heroine, and we’re rooting for her. She remembers Peeta telling her before the games begin that he wants to remain true to himself–not change who he is–and she sets out to do the same.


In summary, how can you keep your readers from yawning through Act Two of your story? (Thank you to Susan May Warren at My Book Therapy for teaching me the following skills.)

Ask yourself these questions:
1. What is your character doing in this scene that captures the sympathy of the reader?


2. How do you see yourself in your character? How can you draw emotion from your own life experiences to describe what your character is feeling?


3. What will happen if your character doesn’t achieve his/her goals? Put obstacles in her path. But give the reader hope, too.


4. Is there a push/pull in the character’s value system?
When looking at your character’s inner self–are her own values in disagreement with how to attain her goal? Or, can you create another key character who has a conflicting value from your main character? This gives a scene tension. It’s when one value system is pitted against another opposite value system. It can be internal and external. Internal comes from the character’s own belief/value system. External are those outside forces that prevent the character from achieving his/her goals.


5. How has your character changed? What happens along their journey to justify this change? Show events in Act Two that lead to this change.


6. Is there a fear of failure? Give the reader a reason to doubt the character’s success. Show the character’s fear of failure.


What will the obstacles be in your Act Two?




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  1. M., I’ve read the HG and sequel but got so much more out of it thru your clear and excellent notes, I’m saving. God bless you. These are extremely heklpful to any hopeful writer. Also I know I learn things best when I teach it to others, so you’re cementing it into your own writing, too. Looking forward to your book release party, whenever that is!!!

    • Dee–thanks for your comment. It’s rewarding to know I helped a writer see Act Two in a clearer way. Yay! You made my day!

  2. Angelika Weidenbenner says:

    I really enjoyed reading the breakdown and analysis you did on The Hunger Games. Your notes clarified and broke down the 2nd act more for me as well. What a great thing you’re doing to help writers get a grasp on what is needed to captivate and hold their audiences attention!! Keep up the awesome work!!

    • Thanks, Angelika! I appreciate your comment. Be sure to check back periodically on Fridays to encourage my teen authors.(FAN FRIDAY) Each Friday I’ll brag about a teen writer and I’ll need cheerleaders. You’re such a motivator I hope you’ll help. Hugs!

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