Pablo Picasso once said that art is a lie that tells the truth, and if this is the case, the book-turned-movie series “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins is case in point. MSN.com reports today, April 19, 2016, that the U.S. government is sending 200 more troops and Apache helicopters to Iraq, more specifically, to Mosul.
How to Find Good Topics to Write About
For those of you who want to write a book, but who struggle with knowing what to write about, the news provides an excellent source of inspiration, especially if you’re writing a book.
Something is always going on in the world, and how to talk about it in your writing is what separates you from other writers and gives you your voice.
However, some aspiring writers that I’ve worked with have expressed to me that they don’t exactly know how to marry the two — a news event with the events of their book. I use news and current events in my novels, so I can appreciate the challenge.
When faced with this kind of “writer’s block,” I usually try to look at what other writers, artists, and filmmakers have done to incorporate current or historical events into a book or a film.
This leads me back to the article in the news today about Mosul. I pulled this quote from the MSN article, because it fits nicely into the topic of this post.
U.S. military and defense officials have made it clear that winning back Mosul is critical, but will be challenging, because the insurgents are dug in and have likely peppered the landscape with roadside bombs and other traps for any advancing military.
What the “Mockingjay” Book Can Teach You About Writing a Novel
Fans of the “Hunger Games: Mockingjay” book will recognize how similar this is to the climax of “Mockingjay.” Granted, Suzanne Collins wrote about Katniss invading Panem years ago – long before today’s events – but you can still use the passage as a creative writing prompt.
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Here’s How to Use This as a Daily Writing Prompt:
First, let’s look at how Collins dealt with this type of situation. Katniss and gang have entered the Capitol and are being briefed about what they’ll face. They’ve found out that they’re part of a unit of special sharp shooters. They’re also finding out why invading Panem’s capital city presents more challenges than they bargained for.
“This, for example, is the area surrounding on of the Peacekeepers’ barracks. Not unimportant, but not the most crucial of targets, and yet look.” Plutarch enters some sort of code on a keyboard, and lights begin to flash. They’re an assortment of colors and blinks at different speeds. “Each light is called a pod. It represents a different obstacle, the nature of which could be anything from a bomb to a band of mutts. Make no mistake, whatever it contains is designed to either trap you or kill you. Some have been in place since the Dark Days, others developed over the years. To be honest, I created a fair number myself. This program, which one of our people absconded with when we left the Capitol, is our most recent information. They don’t know we have it. But even so, it’s likely that new pods have been activated in the last few months. This is what you will face.”
Now that you’ve looked at this quote from “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay,” you’ll want to think about what it’s telling you so that you can use it as a creative writing prompt.
Remember, you started with the idea that you’d like to incorporate today’s news story into your book somehow. Notice how a general idea about invasion reveals information about character development and the nature of life in Panem.
Let’s break it down…
This particular Hunger Games quote in Suzanne Collins’ “Mockingjay” tells you a number of things.
- First, that a defense of the Capitol has been in place since the beginning of Panem and that the people of the Capitol have lived with potential land mines and bombs surrounding them, without even knowing it.
- Two, that the government of the Capitol has always been wary of its citizens in the same way that the East German government was wary of its citizens.
- And three, it shows just how big the role of the gamemaker (Plutarch Heavensbee) is in society.
When you’re looking for ideas for writing, you’ll want to figure out how to personalize the big events like Collins did. With this passage and indeed, throughout the “Hunger Games” trilogy, Collins shows us the personal side of the big events through the person of Katniss Everdeen. When you’re working with a news story or an event in history as a creative writing prompt, you’ll want to do the same thing.
I once had a history teacher who used historical novels in the classroom. He said that history is dictated by the convergence of people, ideas, and events. Novels like “The Hunger Games” demonstrate how this happens. Your job as a writer is to put your spin on this.
Creative Writing Prompt Assignment:
- Pull an idea from the news or from history. Find books that use these events to move a story forward. “The Hunger Games” is an example. The “Harry Potter” books and movies are also good examples, in particular the last ones: When attempting to show how racial prejudice manifests in society, the filmmakers pulled imagery from German history. Note how each storyteller takes a more general idea like invasion or racial prejudice and uses the characters in his or her books to personalize the story and to create plot points.
- Use your ideas you get from this exercise as a creative writing prompt to either start a journal entry or move your novel forward, following the example from books you’ve read.
What do you think?
Buffy Naillon is journalist and the author of the best-selling novel “The Girl Who Fell Into the Sky: A Retelling of the Grimms’ King Thrushbeard.” Follow her on Facebook or Twitter for more writing advice, to learn about book and gift card giveaways, and to keep up on Entertainment news.