Monday, June 25, 2012

Rooting For Katniss/Your MC

In his workshop at the Storymakers Conference, John Brown spoke about lessons learned from The Hunger Games. He said the first pages of the popular book add layers of existing hardship. Elana Johnson would call it portraying the normal world in which the main character lives. Brown says the first two paragraphs didn’t particularly interest him. The third mentions a scrappy cat. That snagged his interest. Attracting interest is fundamental but the main character must have likability. Is your MC likable?

To be likable, the character needs to be interesting, basically good, and an active participant with a chance to succeed. Likeability of a character that has a problem naturally leads to us rooting for him/her. Likability + Problem → Rooting. We rooted for Katniss but held sympathy for Rue. Katniss had a goal, she took action, she had a chance to win her goal. We hoped for Rue to stick around but knew she couldn’t win. We could hope and fear about the possibilities for Katniss. Rooting for the MC drives the story.

Another lesson he shared conflicts to some degree with other ideas floating around, including recent ones on this blog from Save The Cat. John Brown says not to fit your story into a formula or percentage. As in The Hunger Games and many other books he analyzed, the problem is presented early and quickly, the struggle to overcome is most of the book, and the resolution quickly wraps up. There are no three acts of 25% presenting the problem, 50% struggle, and 25% resolution or something equally structured. His analysis follows more like a 8-9% problem, 79 or 80% struggle, and 8-10% resolution. I like this; it seems simple and rings true. I’m going to do my own examination because I don't want to settle for it out of convenience.

Okay, there are two lessons here for you to consider. The first shows how to drive the story by rooting for a likable MC and the second simplifies the structure into problem, struggle, and resolution with struggle making up the biggest chunk and the other two taking just what they need to get the job done. What have you found in your reading analyses?


Liesel K Hill said...

I agree on both counts. I follow many book review blogs and I see many posts about how they didn't like the book because the MC drove them crazy and they just didn't care. Definitely make your MC likable! As for the percentage thing, I agree again. I tend to have more wrap-up than most writers do, but it works for me so formula-schmormula. Do what works for you and your stories. Otherwise, it will come off being campy and forced! Great post, Renae! :D

Renae W. Mackley said...

Great comment, Liesel. I never want to read a book where I don't like the MC. Liked your formula-schmormula attitude too.

Liesel K Hill said...

Hey Renae! Me again. I've nominated you for the Liebster Blog award! Go to my blog at to see what to do next! :D Have a great day!