Decision vs Action Driver stories

by Wayne
(Burbank)

Question: I love your thoughtful blog. What advice can you give on writing a decision story? For unity, should you try to make more than one signpost turn on decisions? Can an action story be really a decision story? I was thinking of Hunger Games. (SPOILERS AHEAD) The starting driver is the arbitrary random decision to pick Katniss' little sister. It's reversed by Katniss' snap decision to volunteer. Then she makes a strategic decision (really a plan) to go along with playing up the romance angle. The snap decision of Katniss to comfort Rue. The looming tragedy between Katniss and Peeta reversed by the ruler's decision to allow 2 tributes from the same district. Then the decision revoking it. Then the decision to both kill themselves by eating the poison berries. Then the decision to reverse the rules again and allow two winners. What's the difference between a considered decision and a snap decision? Thanks.


Answer: In theory, all the drivers in a decision story should be decisions, but it's rare to find a story that fits the theory perfectly.

Regarding The Hunger Games, I think the first driver is actually Peeta's decision to give Katniss bread when she is starving. Without that choice, the rest of the story would never have occurred (because she and Prim would have died). Act one then concerns Katniss's illegal hunting to ensure her family's survival. Much of this act is summarized or told in flashback in the book, but it matters greatly to the story.

The second driver is Katniss's decision to volunteer in place of Prim, so that Act 2 is all about everything Katniss must do to win support from sponsors and prepare for the game (makeovers, training, TV appearances, etc.).

The 3rd driver is the moment when the Hunger Games begin. That's when the focus shifts to Katniss being hunted by the career tributes.

The 4th driver, as you say, is the Gamemaster's decision to allow two tributes to win. Because of that, the focus of the fourth act is on nursing Peeta back to health so that he and Katniss together can defeat Cato.

The final driver, Katniss and Peeta's suicide pact, forces the Gamemaster's defeat.

Sometimes it's hard to say what's an action and what's a decision. They can seem like chicken and egg. (I mean, if a character does something, usually it's because they decided to do it.) However, I would argue The Hunger Games is a decision story because most of the key drivers just feel more like decisions - e.g. volunteering, changing the rules, the suicide pact. Decisions tend to cause other things to happen. In an action story, actions tend to cause things to happen.

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