The Hunger Games Plot: A Beat Sheet for Writers

Originally a novel by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games is a superbly plotted story, from the exposition that offers excellent worldbuilding to the satisfying conclusion that leaves room for a sequel. In this beat sheet, we’ll explore how The Hunger Games plot closely follows the Hero’s Journey story structure made famous by Christopher Vogler. May the (writing) odds be ever in your favor!

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Act 1: Setup

Beat 1 – The Ordinary World

We meet the protagonist Katniss, who lives with her mom and younger sister, Prim, in the country of Panem, in the poorest area of District 12, known as “The Seam.” She spends time with her best friend, Gale, hunting and trading for food to survive.

The story begins on “reaping day,” a televised annual event in which a teen boy and girl from each of the 13 districts are selected to compete in a survival contest—and only one winner is left alive. This contest is punishment for an uprising among the districts 74 years prior.

Beat 2 – The Call to Adventure

When Katniss’ sister Prim is chosen as the tribute from District 12, Katniss quickly jumps in and volunteers to take her place. She recognizes the male tribute from the village, Peeta, who saved her life years before by sharing bread from his family bakery.

Beat 3 – The Refusal of the Call

Katniss is given three minutes to say goodbye to her sister and mother. She encourages them to stay strong and take care of each other. She meets with Gale and briefly wonders if she made the right decision before asking him to take care of her family.

Beat 4 – Meeting the Mentor

Katniss and Peeta board a train for the Capitol, where they meet Haymitch, a former winner of the games from District 12 who serves as a mentor in the televised contest.

But Haymitch is an alcoholic and doesn’t seem like much help, offering little hope that they will survive. His prime piece of advice is “get people to like you” so that folks will sponsor them with helpful items during the Games. He doesn’t think Katniss is very likable and encourages her to be more like Peeta.

Beat 5 – Crossing the Threshold

When they arrive, Katniss is prepared for the Tribute Parade to announce herself to the world and acquire sponsors. She is concerned that she’s not good at making friends, but Peeta’s and her fire costumes steal the show. They head to sleep in a lavish penthouse suite, ending a successful night.

Act 2: Confrontation

Beat 6 – Tests, Allies, and Enemies

Over the next four days, the Tributes participate in exercises leading to an individual evaluation where they perform their skills before the Gamemakers. The goal: to earn points and win over sponsors. Katniss and Peeta’s competition includes “Careers,” trained volunteers from wealthier districts who win the Games almost every year.

When Katniss shows up with her bow and arrow, the Gamemakers ignore her—until she puts an arrow through an apple in their dinner display. Haymitch is impressed by her audacity and skill. When Katniss gets the top score, President Snow begins to see her success as a threat.

Katniss seems to be adjusting well until the night before the Games when Peeta announces his romantic interest in her on national television. Thinking about her sister, she seems anxious and unable to sleep.

Beat 7 – Approach to the Inmost Cave

The next morning, after a quick pep talk from Haymitch, Katniss heads off to the Game Grounds with the other Tributes. As the Hunger Games start, many of them are immediately killed, fighting over supplies. Katniss is overwhelmed and runs into the forest, where she evades attacks and finds a safe harbor up in a tree.

Beat 8 – The Ordeal

Seeking to avoid the Careers, Katniss wanders around the edges of the grounds until the Gamemakers force her hand, setting the forest on fire and leading her to them. They chase Katniss up a tree and shoot at her with a bow, but Peeta persuades them to wait until she comes down.

The next morning, Katniss’ Tribute friend Rue appears, motioning to a hive of venomous wasps called tracker jackers. Katniss hacks at a branch until it falls, killing some of the Careers and scurrying the rest. Stung herself, Katniss escapes down the tree and grabs the bow. She experiences hallucinations for a couple of days while being guarded and healed by Rue.

Beat 9 – Reward (Seizing the Sword)

When Katniss revives, Rue explains that the Careers have all their critical supplies in a central spot (surrounded by mines). They form a plan to blow it up, and thanks to Katniss and her bow, the plan is a success. But Rue is killed just moments later.

Katniss is grief-stricken, and her improvised funeral for Rue—despite the kill-or-be-killed nature of the games—inspires the public, leading to riots in District 11. President Snow grows increasingly concerned.

Act 3: Resolution

Beat 10 – The Road Back

At this darkest point, the Gamemakers announce that two tributes from the same district can now win jointly, aiming to win back the public with a love story. With renewed hope, Katniss searches for and finds an injured Peeta. As the cameras watch, Katniss cares for him, leading to a kiss.

The next morning, it’s announced supplies will be available at a central location, including medicine. Katniss goes to get it and is nearly killed. But after applying the medicine to each other, both are healed and feel confident. Since she and Peeta are the only ones teaming up, victory seems in reach.

Beat 11 – Resurrection

As Katniss and Peeta start to hunt for food, two of the three remaining Tributes are killed, and a pack of giant dogs is sent after Katniss, Peeta, and Cato. While being chased, Katniss and Peeta come upon the last Tribute, Cato, who attacks them. Finally, Katniss and Peeta succeed in killing him, leaving them the joint winners of the games.

However, at the last moment, the Gamemakers announce that the rules have changed again—now, there can only be one victor. Katniss and Peeta plan to die together as an act of defiance, but the Gamemakers stop them and crown them both winners.

Beat 12 – Return with the Elixir

In the aftermath, Haymitch tells Katniss the Capitol is unhappy with being shown up. After one final public appearance celebrating their victory, she and Peeta board the train to return home. In District 12, they’re welcomed back as heroes. But President Snow is clearly angered and plotting his next move.

Hunger Games Beat Sheet (Plot Guide) - Plottr

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