For Writers - 8 Lessons from The Hunger Games' Worst Reviews

I finally got around to reading the Hunger Games, just to see what the hype was about, and got totally sucked in. The writing was great, story compelling, and characters very real.

A lot of other people thought it was great, least the first book. Let's take a look at the statistics:

Hunger Games got over 13,000 5-star reviews out of over 17,000 total reviews.

Catching Fire, book 2, got over 8,000 5-star reviews out of over 10,000 total reviews.

Mockingjay, book 3, got over 6,000 5-star reviews out of over 11,000 total reviews.

Having more reviews for book 1 than books 2 and 3 is not abnormal, considering a series almost always has a lot more reviews for a first book than the following. However, what is abnormal is the ratio of good reviews to total reviews, and particularly the fact that there were more 1-star reviews for book 3 than books 1 and 2 combined.

This is particularly significant because most people decide about a series on the first book. If they don't like the topic or genre or writing, they won't bother reading the rest. People who go on to book 3 likely really enjoy the story and want to know how it ends. They feel emotionally invested in the characters and have a high opinion of the writer/writing.

In other words, book 3 disappointed loyal fans. Here's what two readers had to say on Amazon:

"Unbelievably disappointing."

"Too many possibilities for a better ending and the fact that we were left with emotionless / depressing / rushed garbage I just can't give this book a good review because I don't see myself ever reading it again."

One word or theme I kept noticing was that readers felt "betrayed." It's a harsh word for a fiction story, but readers had come to care for these characters and felt the author let them down in the final third of their story.

There was so much more that should have developed in the end, particularly with Peeta.

What does this have to do with us and our writing? Here are a few lessons to be learned:

1. Set the bar high with great writing on your first book, but know that means the bar is set for future books as well.

2. Don't be in a hurry to finish. Better to write something great than get something out on the market quickly.

3. Care more about your characters than writing memorable plot. Great stories are made by great characters, not intense scenes.

4. Developing a huge fan base is great, but know it comes with accountability. Authors need to earn respect and then keep it.

5. Don't ever decide you've arrived. Keep learning, stay humble, utilize and learn from what your readers have to say.

6. Create an ending that leaves your reader smiling or contemplative when they close the book, not confused or disappointed.

7. Develop your ending as much as your beginning. Leave a good taste in readers' mouths.
And the one I consider the most important:

8. Get reader feedback. Had book 3 been sent to 100 readers, I think the author would have been informed about the major holes that would disappoint. She might have even been given a few ideas on how to fix the problems, or at least be aware of what they were.

What do you think? Have you ever been disappointed by a favorite author? Why? Share so we can all learn from their mistakes rather than making them ourselves!