THE HUNGER GAMES
(Photo drawn by Melanie Holscher)
Why should you care what the elements are?
Because, if you know what they look like it’ll be easier for you to write them in your own stories. And if your goal is to be a published author you’ll need these must-haves in your fiction. (It might sound boring, but if you make it a game and dissect movies with a friend it can be fun–especially when you disagree where the elements lie.)
Act Three is the act of character change. It’s where we see the character arc–how the main character is different from who she was in the beginning of the story. The change is gradual, but by this act we see the transition. It’s the character’s change that attempts to end the conflict.
How has Katniss changed in HG? Where’s her arc?
In the beginning of HG’s Act Three, when Katniss learns two Tributes can live if they’re from the same District, she races to find Peeta to form a team. When she finds Peeta and realizes he could die from his leg injury, she kisses him because she has feelings for him. But when the parachute flutters down with food as a reward for the kiss, Katniss learns what the sponsors like. From here on, she ramps her love interest in Peeta.
In the beginning of the movie (or book) she hadn’t understood Peeta when he said he wanted to beat the Capitol at their own game. But by this act Katniss gets it. She understands what it takes to stay alive. She’s learned what type of behavior brings rewards and she uses them.
The other elements in Act Three include the climax, the epiphany, and the denouement.
CLIMAX: Is the point of greatest emotional intensity, interest, or suspense. In HG it’s when Peeta and Katniss stand on the Cornucopia fighting Cato while staving off the mutant dogs. This is the highest point of action. If they beat the animals and Cato they’ll win the Games. This is where they have everything to lose–their lives, and food for their Districts, and everything to gain if they win. (Or so they think.)
DENOUEMENT – (sometimes called the resolution or the happily-ever-after) This is typically the final scene or chapter after the climax, where clarifications take place. Where plot points are explained. It’s what happens to the characters after they reach their goals, when the major conflict is over. This section ties all the loose ends in a neat little bow.
Or it doesn’t.
Let me dissect: In HG, the denouement is when Katniss and Peeta return home after the Games. But there isn’t a total resolution because this is the first book in a trilogy. It isn’t the end of the series. Some things are intentionally left undiscovered–which is why we want to read the second book.
The fighting in the Games is resolved, but there’s more conflict when Katniss returns home because she’s angered President Snow. She’s tricked him at his own game, and there will be consequences for undermining him in front of the Districts. Katniss did this when she instructed Peeta to eat the berries at the same time she does so the Games will have no winner. President Snow can’t allow every Tribute to die, so he agrees they can both live. But he doesn’t like feeling manipulated by Katniss.
EPIPHANY: Is centered around their lie–something the main character discovers by Act Three. This is the aha moment–when the main character discovers something she believed in at the beginning of the book, isn’t true. Many times, the character doesn’t know this lie exists. But by Act Three they see the truth. Sometimes it sets them free. Sometimes it challenges them–like in HG.
Huh? Let me explain:
In the beginning of this story, Katniss believes if she wins the Games she’ll never go hungry again, shell go home, and there’ll be food for her family and her District. Her goal is to win–and she does. But by the end of the story, she realizes she’s still at war with the Capitol. She can’t go back to her life as she once knew it. Too much has changed. And because she’s ticked off the government, she must continue to use strategies to survive. She must continue to feign a love interest in Peeta and appear different than who she really is.
The truth doesn’t set her free. It binds her, pins her into continuing her facade of being an innocent, young girl. The initial game is over, but not the big one. She and her family are still in danger of the Capitol’s rules. Even though she’s alive she has to face the consequences of President Snow’s wrath–which is unknown until the next book.
SURPRISE: I love surprises, don’t you? Especially in novels or movies.
In this act the big surprise is when the Capitol turns their rule around and announces only one Tribute can win. (I did NOT see this coming. Did you?) But the greater surprise was when Katniss and Peeta agree to eat the berries together so neither one will live. This shows us Katniss’ character arc in full swing. She’s become much shrewder at playing the games.
But how much longer is she safe?
What else did you notice in Act Three?