Whether you're a plotter or a pantser, I want the odds to ever be in your favor. Let's look at what The Hunger Games shows us about HOW TO BUILD ANTICIPATION.
In another post, we used BLACK PANTHER to go over the three key plot beats that tie a story together. I call these the ALL IS LOST moments. Your character faces a HUGE decision or they'll lose everything.
If you figure out one of these plot beats, you've already figured out the other two.
Now for what to do BETWEEN those three key moments. Each scene in between serves one general purpose: TO CREATE ANTICIPATION. Here’s none other than the Girl on Fire to show you how!
Katniss knows that you play by the rules or die. Her whole life is about survival. For herself and the people she loves. And that's how you know the three key ALL IS LOST scenes will force her to question how safe playing by the rules really are.
Let’s go over these three key scenes.
ALL IS LOST SCENE #1
Prim loses the lottery. NO!!! To save Prim, Katniss volunteers as tribute. And that means playing the Capitol’s game on every level.
ALL IS LOST SCENE #2
Katniss literally rises on the platform that takes her into the Hunger Games. We’ve seen what she’ll sacrifice to protect the ones she loves (Prim). But the only other person she could care about is Peeta. And that’s just for show…right?
ALL IS LOST SCENE #3
With Rue’s death, Katniss is again confronted with the consequences of playing by the rules. She’s always felt conflicted about it. And now she sees the truth. Playing by the rules will cost her everything.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Look at how the scenes deliberately mirror each other. You could forget about outlining anything besides these three moments. Because here is the key to letting the other scenes write themselves.
Each moment leading up to the next key scenes creates ANTICIPATION for the next moment of TENSION. The reader will intuitively understand what you're doing, if they don't know exactly what will happen. This collection of scenes will lead to a new challenge. All you need to do is make the reader HUNGRY to find out whether your characters will succeed or fail for the upcoming All is Lost scene.
This is where you can pants to your heart’s delight. Or think things through in advance if you’re that kind of writer… (I’m that kind of writer)
Look at the scenes leading up to ALL IS LOST SCENE #1. These gifs volunteer as tribute!
Katniss used to speak out against the Capitol but has since learned it’s best to say nothing. She stays silent to protect her family.
Katniss still breaks the rules to hunt. So we see she IS still willing to break the rules. But only to protect her family.
So already, we’re anticipating the first big scene. She’s going to face a BIG decision. So what does Katniss do when Prim is selected as tribute? The preceding scenes prepare us for that question.
Or All is Lost scene #2, when Katniss rises on the platform into the Hunger Games proper. Look at how the preceding scenes create anticipation for how she’ll handle herself.
For example, Peeta openly searches for a way to live with dignity. Or to die with dignity. He wants the Capitol to know they don’t own him. But Katniss is still afraid of what happens if you break too many rules.
Or when Peeta says BUT I LUFF YOU. It builds anticipation for when Katniss goes into the arena. We’ve seen what she’ll sacrifice to save someone she cares about. So now we have the big question. Do they really care about each other?
Or Rue!!!!!!!!! Can you imagine if Katniss and Rue had been the last two alive? I’d have just laid down and cried.
Each of these moments serves a unifying purpose: to create ANTICIPATION for the next All is Lost scene.
There you go! You know your three main destinations. But how do you get there? Do whatever you think will create the most anticipation for the next big destination.
Of course, as you write, you’ll discover your own process. But if you’re really struggling to fill the pages, go back to the Black Panther post.
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