Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why THE HUNGER GAMES Trailer Is The Perfect Query

For those of you who still haven't seen it, here's the full-length trailer for The Hunger Games:


Not only is the trailer OMFGawesomeonastick, I think it's a little instructional for writers. After I saw it, I kept remembering the dreaded Q-word: queries. The more I dissected the trailer, the stronger the impression I got that it resembled a perfect query letter. 

Here's why:

 The World-Building

For the most part, the HG trailer focuses on how this dystopian world works. How the Tributes get picked at the Reaping, how they train for battle, how they're groomed for the reality TV-obsessed audience, and what the Hunger Games actually are. And it does so in very little time. The trailer focuses on the key info that's necessary for a general understanding of what the movie's about: cruel government + children competing in a fight to the death = world-building.

The Conflict

Katniss doesn't want to be selected for the Hunger Games, but she's prepared for it. Her little sister, however, isn't. So she has a choice: volunteer on Prim's behalf to save her, or stay out of the Hunger Games. When she steps up to take Prim's place, audiences can see her heart breaking. And when she meets her fellow Tributes, her fear and discomfort are palpable as well--she doesn't want to take anyone's life. But she does want to survive. Katniss's inner and outer conflicts are well defined, which is what agents/editors expect from your query. Above all else, they should care about your characters. Paying close attention to the inner and outer conflicts helps do just that for them.    

The Cliffhanger

The trailer could've shown a bit of footage from the Games. But it didn't. It stops right when the Tributes are racing toward the Cornucopia. Right when the good stuff is about to happen. That's how your query should end--it should compel agents/editors to request pages. It should make them go "Whoa, whoa, whoa... You can't just leave me hanging like this! WHAT HAPPENS NEXT??". Some authors/agents suggest only including what goes down in the first 3 chapters, or first 50 pages, of your manuscript in a query. I'd have to agree, but the key thing to remember is to hint at something big, terrible, and inescapable for your MC. Something that whoever gets your query will only find out if they ask for more.

So. Not only is this post an excuse to watch The Hunger Games trailer for the umpteenth time, it's hopefully a helpful tool for your query writing process! 

Now tell me: do you have any query writing tips to share? Do you like writing queries (like me), or loathe it with all your being? 


  1. If only we had two and a half minutes of Hollywood produced glory to sell our manuscripts to agents!

  2. I agree with Matthew ^ If only :(

    But I totally see what you mean. This is an amazing trailer. And an amazing query, because we're all impressed.

    Now I'm going to watch the trailer again... this time for RESEARCH purposes. Really!

  3. This is absolutely brilliant. Must share this everywhere! Thanks, Amparo!

  4. I'm with Matthew. Your insight has opened up a world of possibilities... if we had cash. I must get on this *googles Ellen's number* We can do this.

  5. @Matt, Rida and Jen-- I know! If only... *sobs* BUT it's not impossible to write a super awesometastic query. I have faith in y'all. :)

    @Katrina--You are too nice. For reals.

    @Demetra--Ditto to what I told Katrina. Thanks!!

  6. What a fantastic observation! It is the perfect query. And while we may not have Hollywood bigshots to craft ours for us, this is an awesome formula for success.

  7. This post did double duty: got to think/watch HG and writing the dubious query. Thank you!