The Hunger Games and the Lack of Section Breaks

You probably had already seen this a thousand times.
What's your reader's peeve?

You know, one little element or mechanic about stories that always bother you? That peeve can lower your enjoyment of a book, or even make you set it down. And then send you onto the Internet to complain about it. Multiple times.

Well, I doubt that most of us get to that last part, but I'm tired of the multiple times.

Remember that forum re-post I did about someone's else's  beef about The Hunger Games? It's time for me to present a totally different complaint.

That's right, The Hunger Games.

I have a complaint against it.


Go ahead and shoot an arrow at me! Through the knee chest! Or perhaps send a swarm of tracker jackers after me? Or if you're that enraged, how about a muttation? Of my teddy bear! Perhaps that would satisfy you.


Nah, I'm just pulling your leg. I know you fans wouldn't be that cruel, despite the violent content of this trilogy.

This showed up on Google Images, somehow.

My Problem with The Hunger Games

Okay, my number one complaint is milder than all the other complaints that I have seen. You know, setting inconsistencies, breach of logic, the love triangle (of course)...

Lack of section breaks.


While this didn't hamper my enjoyment of The Hunger Games to much, since it's still a great and thrilling series, some parts of the book would have benefited.

For books that have two or three-page chapters (Maximum Ride by James Patterson being a popular "offender"), this is basically a non-issue, since pacing structure is radically different. But for a book with twenty-seven chapters and with multiple scenes and changes of time and place, this can lead to a problem.

Section Breaks

As a recap, a section break is a break in a book that isn't at the end of a paragraph or a chapter. Basically, a two-line gap or three *'s is considered one. 

Their purpose? It's usually to signify that there's a new scene, or a change in time or place. It's a stop sign on the road. It tells readers, "Pause. New scene. Continue reading". That small small serves as a good enough of a transitions to assist readers on reconfiguring themselves. Scene structure is a mechanical yet subconscious element.

And what if there isn't a section break when there should be one?

Well, you drive right by the intersection, and not realize you missed your turn onto you're two blocks away. Either that, or you crashed from looking back and trying to do an u-turn.

For a person who reads really fast, to the point of shifting gears toward "Too Long; Didn't Read" mode, it's a problem.

Everything Turned into Mush

Guess what blog I got this from!
WARNING: Spoilers ahead.

One problem Suzanne Collins, the author of The Hunger Games series, has is with the passage of time. Which ties in with the whole lack of section breaks problem.

You see, it was one reason why the last book of her previous series, The Underland Chronicles, fell flat to me. She would bring up all of these battles almost too casually, while she was in full summary mode.

While I understand the need for it, Collins has the tendency to use summary mode too much, reducing the impact of the overall narrative.

ANOTHER WARNING: Real spoilers ahead.

For instance, take the entire sequence after Prim dies and Katniss falls into depression. The entire narrative reflects that. Katniss goes into the fugue and spirals into the lowest emotional point in the entire series. There's no sharp distinction between each small period of time as everything flutters by.

With section breaks, the entire sequence could have been divided into distinct scenes, giving a more stark feeling into it. The pacing would be slower, sure, but it would give more time for the magnitude of "Her Darkest Hour" to settle in.

However, Ms. Collins never uses section breaks.

So I went into scanning mode, those couple of chapters went too fast for me to truly absorb Katniss' pain, and everything turn to mush.

And the same exact thing happened when the Capitol made things hell for District 12 in Catching Fire. It's hard to remember the dire straits it endured before the Quarter Quell.

No wonder some people complain that Katniss' apathetic at times.

On the Other Hand...

...I'm nitpicking when I complain about there being no section breaks in summary mode. After all, the point of summary is that it's supposed to go fast. I would say Collins uses summary too much, but that's a whole different issue.

Remember that she never uses section breaks? Or almost never uses them?

I don't have the book with me right now, but I recall a certain moment in the book:

One moment, she's eating at dinner. Now it's a dream sequence. Now she's awake, and with her make-up team. Now she's...

Or something like that. but my point is, actual and complete scenes next to each other often lack section breaks. And Collins isn't good enough at transitions to completely make up for it.

Fortunately, that's my biggest complaint with the series.

But it's still a complaint.

YOUR TURN: Do you have a reader's peeve of a minor element of fiction that bothers you for the slightest of reasons?