Suzanne Collins (born in 1962) is the bestselling author of The Hunger Games trilogy and The Underland Chronicles series.
Here are six awesome quotes she’s given us throughout the years that will help you in your writing life!
1. Whenever I write a story, I hope it appeals to both boys and girls.
I try to do the same thing. With every new story I write, whether it’s a love story or a horror story, whether it has a male protagonist or a female protagonist, I really hope to create something that appeals to all genders. I don’t think it’s smart to write something and assume only girls will like it.
At some point you have no control about the matter. Your story might not appeal to girls as much as it does to boys or vice versa. But the goal should always be that your latest story appeals to more than just one gender. That was certainly the case with The Hunger Games. That incredible trilogy has a mix of everything, and pretty much anyone from any background can find something to love about the story.
2. All the writing elements are the same. You need to tell a good story… You’ve got good characters… People think there’s some dramatic difference between writing ‘Little Bear’ and the ‘Hunger Games,’ and as a writer, for me, there isn’t.
You’re going to approach every new story a little differently of course, particularly if you’re writing something in a different genre than usual, but a story is a story, and some things shouldn’t really change. No matter what you write, first and foremost you need to tell a great, compelling story and come up with memorable, three-dimensional characters.
This is the case if you write a picture book. This is the case if you write a teen horror novel. This is the case if you write an historical literary short story. It’s the case with anything you put on paper. Tell a good story. Create good characters. Repeat.
3. I started as a playwright. Any sort of scriptwriting you do helps you hone your story. You have the same demands of creating a plot, developing relatable characters and keeping your audience invested in your story. My books are basically structured like three-act plays.
I do believe every prose writer has a lot to learn from playwriting and screenwriting. Read the craft books. Read a play and read a script. See how the story is told. A novel is extremely different from a screenplay, of course, but in both you are trying to write a fascinating story with relatable characters that keeps your audience invested.
That last part is something a lot of novelists might forget about. You have so many words to play with, so many scenes and chapters to write, that you feel you can slow things down often and not necessarily tell a story that’s always raising the stakes and keeping your reader invested. But you absolutely should! One thing I like to do is look at a scene from my latest novel and decide if I would keep it in a screenplay version or leave it out of the screenplay. If my choice is the latter, then that scene in the novel needs to go or be revised! It’s clear from The Hunger Games that Suzanne Collins understands how to write a story that never loses its grip on the reader. And studying plays and screenplays probably helped a lot in that aspect.
4. I wrote ‘The Hunger Games’ in a chair, like a La-Z-Boy chair, next to my bed. I had an office, but my kids sort of took it over.
It’s so funny. You look at a huge success story like Collins and The Hunger Games and you just naturally assume she wrote that trilogy in some awe-inspiring office that looks out over a gargantuan serene forest or something. You imagine her writing space as being incredible. The realization that she wrote these books in a La-Z-Boy chair next to her bed because her office had been taken over by her kids makes me smile.
Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you write. What matters is that you write, plain and simple. Whether it’s in a fancy office or next to your bed. Whether it’s in your home or at the coffeehouse. Do whatever works for you. Figure out the best environment possible to put your latest story down on paper. Stephen King wrote his first few novels in a laundry room, if I’m not mistaken. Sometimes you have to make do. And if you have talent, it will come through no matter what.
5. I have a pretty big TV background, and I have clocked so many hours in so many writers’ rooms over the years.
Once again, Collins proves that you won’t become successful as a novelist necessarily if you only write novels and only study novels. Collins has experience working in writers’ rooms for TV shows, which is an entirely different experience than writing a book on your own.
In writers’ rooms you spend a lot of time breaking down a story into acts and scenes, and learning this method can be helpful to your novel writing, given that you bring complexity to your narrative and characters and not approach everything as if it’s some kind of generic TV episode. Writing is writing. The more you write, the better at it you get. Whether that writing is done at home by yourself or in a crowded writers’ room.
6. Telling a story in a futuristic world gives you this freedom to explore things that bother you in contemporary times.
The Hunger Games works as well as it does because of its time period, because of the genre Collins decided to tell that story in. And it’s completely true — you’re able to get away with so much, especially in a work of young adult fiction, when you set it in a futuristic world, a dystopian world.
I’ve written a little bit of fantasy, but I’ve never written a novel set in the future. I’d like to give it a try one of these days. If I ever get an awesome idea, the kind that struck Suzanne Collins at the absolute perfect time, I’ll definitely take a crack at it, even if it’s far outside my comfort zone. If something bothers you in contemporary times, you might want to write a non-fiction essay about it. Might want to send off a few tweets.
Better yet? Try writing a novel about it, and set it in a different time period. Who knows what amazing tale you might be able to come up with!