'The Hunger Games' Author, Suzanne Collins, on How She Got the Idea for the Books

Whether you’re a fan of the books, the movies, or both, it’s almost impossible to think about “The Hunger Games” without appreciating the mind that created the world of Panem. The dystopian story somehow comments on the spectacle of entertainment, the horrors of war, sacrifice, survival, and politics all in one breath. Yet somehow, in the midst of it all, it also manages to be a love story about a young woman learning to be vulnerable for the first time.

How Suzanne Collins got the idea for ‘The Hunger Games’ books

But just how did the idea for “The Hunger Games” come about? In an interview with The New York Times, Suzanne Collins, who authored “The Hunger Games” and its sequels “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay,” revealed that she got the idea for the series while flipping through channels. One night, Collins found herself channel surfing between reality TV and footage of the Iraq war. Somehow, those simple actions planted a seed in her mind and the idea for “The Hunger Games” was born.

Collins knew that Katniss would be a gifted archer

Shortly after Collins had the idea for the books, her main protagonist, Katniss Everdeen made herself known. An image of Katniss appeared in Collins’ mind holding a bow and arrow. It was important for Collins to make Katniss an archer so that when she entered into The Hunger Games she already had some experience with weapons. “A bow and arrow can be handmade, shot from a distance, and weaponized when the story transitions into warfare, Collins shared. “She was a born archer.”

Though Collins knew right off the bat that Katniss was meant to be an archer, finding her name took a little more time and research. “The Hunger Games” author actually discovered Katniss’ name (as well as some of the other characters’ name) when she was reading up about surviving in the wild and what plants were safe for humans to consume.

How Katniss got her unique name

“Her name came later, while I was researching survival training and specifically edible plants,” “The Hunger Games” author shared. “In one of my books, I found the arrowhead plant, and the more I read about it, the more it seemed to reflect her. Its Latin name has the same roots as Sagittarius, the archer. The edible tuber roots she could gather, the arrowhead-shaped leaves were her defense, and the little white blossoms kept it in the tradition of flower names, like Rue and Primrose. I looked at the list of alternative names for it. Swamp Potato. Duck Potato. Katniss easily won the day.”

Why ‘The Hunger Games’ books are written from Katniss’ perspective

As essential as Katniss is to “The Hunger Games”, Collins had no intention of letting the story be entirely Katniss’ to share. But, when she started writing, it was clear that it needed to be told from the Mockingjay’s perspective. “I hadn’t intended to write in first person,” Collins shared. “I thought the book would be in the third person like The Underland Chronicles. Then I sat down to work and the first page poured out in first person, like she was saying, ‘Step aside, this is my story to tell.’ So I let her.”

It’s fascinating that something as simple as channel surfing was what led to something as unique and brilliant as “The Hunger Games.” But, it just goes to show that inspiration can be found practically anywhere.

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