But Collins did such a spectacular job of writing, I don’t need to see the movie to see the characters in my head. How did she do it? Well, besides crafting an incredible story, here are three points to consider:
1. Described things specifically. On the first page, Buttercup the cat is described like this: The world’s ugliest cat. Mashed-in nose, half of one ear missing, eyes the color of rotting squash. She could have stopped her description at “world’s ugliest cat” but taking the time to give us three unusual descriptive phrases makes Buttercup leap off the page in 3-dimensional power.
2. Dressed her characters. Page 4: Katniss swings her legs off the bed and slides into her hunting boots. Supple leather that has molded to her feet. She pulls on trousers, a shirt, tucks her long dark braid up into a cap, and grabs a forage bag. Collins could have just said Katniss dressed for a hunt. But by describing her costume, especially her supple leather boots, we immediately relate to how it feels to have shoes that fit us well. Understanding that feeling makes it possible for us to feel some of the same things Katniss feels and that makes her real in our heads.
3. Detailed body language. Page 5: Even so, I always take a moment to listen carefully for the hum that means the fence is live. Right now, it’s silent as a stone. … I flatten out on my belly and slide under a two-foot stretch that has been loose for years. You can almost smell the earth as Katniss slips outside of the District’s boundaries. Descriptive body language awakens our senses and makes it possible for us to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell things that aren’t even written down.
Oh, if only I could grow up to write like this!