Hunger Games Dilemma – How To Pit Your Characters Values Against Each Other

At my house the Hunger Games are the thirty minutes before bedtime pleas for every kind of food imaginable. If there is anything that my kids haven’t thought to ask for, they will.

It’s a written in stone law that kids value staying awake anything that keeps them that way is fair game.

The movie Hunger Games evokes an emotional response from almost everyone who sees it, either good or bad. The premise of the movie even slams me in the gut.

Movie viewers went out in droves to see what all the fuss was about. Why? Because of the gutting wrenching emotion the characters face when their values are pitted against one another. As writer’s we can learn something from the Hunger Games. Pitting our characters values against each other evokes a strong emotional response.

How to Pit Your Characters Values Against Each Other:

*Identify two values that matter in equaling amounts to your character. The more important the values, the greater the intensity of emotional response.

*Build up small steps to these values in the plot until the ultimate value is tested. We want our readers scaling mountains, not flat lining on plateaus, so make sure the steps escalate each time.

*Show the emotional connection the value has to their past. My Book Therapy does a great job of showing the lie journey in characters and how to build that journey in your characters.

*Toward the end of the book, make the character choose between the two values. Build up to this so it shows how difficult it will become.

*Be careful not to annoy your readers. Realize that some readers will be deeply annoyed if you make the character go against their morals. Make sure that the end result is satisfying to your readers.

What are some values that you have seen pitted against each other in a book or movie that works well?


About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

10 thoughts on “Hunger Games Dilemma – How To Pit Your Characters Values Against Each Other

  1. In The Firm, Mitch’s love of the law is pitted against the corrupt law firm he’s working for.

  2. Michelle Lim says:

    The Firm is a great example! John Grisham tends to have values conflicts in most of his novels..

  3. M. Saint-Germain says:

    In WILLOW, Aunt Fifi (short for Stephanie) installs electric dog fences, but Levi, an older gent, believes these fences make dogs more aggressive. This conflict of interest makes Aunt Fifi and Levi quarrel, but sparring about this issue brings them closer together. Sometimes opposites attract and it’s these differences that initially attract the opposite sex.

  4. M. Saint-Germain says:

    PS. Love your photo here!

  5. Robin says:

    Great post! Love the idea of challenging a character’s core values. It definitely creates tension.

  6. Melissa Tagg says:

    Ooh, ooh your point about not annoying readers totally reminded me of Gilmore Girls. I love the show, but in later seasons, Rory’s character totally starts making decisions that seem to go against her own moral compass. She’s just a mess and it annoyed me so much. It’s like they messed with her character for the sake of storylines…and it made me mad. 🙂 It’s one thing when your character(s) has/have competing values…I like that. I like it when their own values are tested…or maybe they realize they’ve had the wrong values…or they go against their values, but reap the consequences. I DON’T like it when characters go against their values in ways that make no common sense whatsoever (case in point: Rory).

    Good stuff, as always, Michelle!!

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