Aerden (aerden) wrote,

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Critiquing Hunger Games (A Grammar Maven's Rant)

I decided to read the Hunger Games trilogy a couple of weeks ago when Mark and I went to see the movie. I'd heard that it was a very popular young adult series, but I'd never heard of it before, had no idea what it was about. I started reading up on the series in preparation for seeing the Hunger Games movie. Then I downloaded the books to my Kindle and started reading.

I have to say, Suzanne Collins tells a gripping story. I was riveted from page 1 and have remained so through the remaining two books. I'm on the third book, Mockingjay, now.

But the more of the books I have read, the more I am wondering how much of what I've always been told about the publishing industry is true.

I have always been told that, when you submit a book for publication, the mechanics--grammar, etc.--had better be perfect, or that will essentially be used as an excuse to decline your book unless the story is truly superior. Now, as I said, Collins has written a cracking good story.

Her books, however, are riddled with sentence fragments to a degree that is painful for me to read. Granted, she uses them only when Katniss is thinking--but they annoy me to no end because they could as easily be written as complete sentences; all Collins would have to do is insert dashes instead of periods in a few places, and she'd have complete sentences.

To me, that's not when you use a fragment. You use a fragment in dialogue, because that's how people speak. Perhaps you also use them to show stream-of-consciousness thinking, if you can do so without confusing the reader. You don't use fragments when you could just as easily use complete sentences.

I also think that the opening chapters of Mockingjay suffer because Collins doesn't use the first person point of view well. The opening chapters, in which Katniss describes District 13, suffer from a big dose of 'Tell, don't show.' The whole point of having a first person point of view is to give a book immediacy. I don't want to be told that everyone in District 13 wears the same color and style of clothing. I want to feel, in her first encounter with District 13's people, Katniss' shock at how drab and utilitarian their way of life is. I want to taste the boring food, walk around living quarters that look like everyone else's...something instead of just being told about it.

So my question is, how did The Hunger Games get accepted for publication in the first place, and why wasn't it reamed by a proofreader immediately? Collins was a bestselling author before the Katniss books; she has a whole other series that she wrote before Katniss' story. Is it just that the rules for established, bestselling authors are more lenient than those for unpublished authors? Well--yes, they are. But seriously, that many sentence fragments?!

What is this supposed to teach the teenagers reading these books? The message I'm getting is that grammar need not be bothered with. It's as if successful authors become like Gregory House--it doesn't matter what rules they break, as long as the patient lives--or the book sells. It is very difficult to argue for the importance of maintaining good grammar in the face of a book series that has earned $50 million.

I don't want to write like that--ever. I don't want to be sloppy--not about the story, the characters, or the mechanics. I want my editor, should I ever get one, to help me make my novels the best they can possibly be in all respects. I don't ever want to get so famous that editors start to think they don't have to bother correcting me because anything I write will sell.

Okay, actually, I would love to be that successful a writer, but anyway...

I'm sorry for sounding so grouchy and resentful. Frankly, I know that, for all my good grammar, Collins could probably write and plot rings around me; she really is brilliant at storytelling and use of her characters. But it's still frustrating to see so many blatant sentence fragments in print. There is a part of me that is just deeply offended by that.
Tags: writing work

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