*Warning! Spoilers contained below!*
According to some feedback I’ve received on Waking Athena, my Madge theory is at least intriguing. Its plausibility hasn’t been called into question, as I expected would happen. But then, with fanfiction, I suppose leeway is really the name of the game.
One reviewer on fanfiction.net pointed out some of the issues with the first chapter. The feedback I had received before I released Waking Athena was in line with those comments as well; the chapter is too contrived, too heavy, too bogged down in wordy writing; Madge is inaccessible, unrelatable, and detached.
Yes, and that’s what I was going for, which is why, subsequent to noting that response in readers, I changed a handful of sentences as and released it anyway. Madge’s character isn’t Katniss, nor Primrose, nor Peeta, nor… on and on. Madge is a very unique character in the books, in that she’s the only one who actually lives with thorough, impenetrable privacy, even in Catching Fire. I think writing her as a viewpoint that can be easily grasped would be wrong and would unseat the very reasons I settled on her for my theory. She doesn’t have a sociability. She’s awkward at best, and in the main she is sullen and introverted to the point of total alienation, even from herself.
The inherent danger in writing from such a viewpoint is one that all writers face at some point and tacitly avoid because it grates on some readers. Collins’ books wouldn’t have worked at all, would not have been published, if Katniss had lived up to the foreign, odd feeling she expresses from time to time. Whereas Katniss could open up to two people, Gale and Primrose; Madge can open up to none. Even in Catching Fire we don’t get a glimpse as to who Madge is, only noting that she’s even detached from her parents. Madge lives what Katniss sought to attain; a life thoroughly void of any emotional interaction, while possessing an abundance of material goods necessary to sustain the empty shell. Being so void of the purposes of life, Madge can only continue as a dazed, bleak, and unresponsive machine, which is confusing to those of us who embrace passion. Katniss associates with Madge, because Katniss has tasted that life and thinks she wants it. But Madge doesn’t associate back, because she has that life and finds it as unsavory as death.
Therefore, excessively wordy, distant, glazing? Hard to read even? Yes, but that was the risk of writing Waking Athena. My primary challenge wasn’t that the plot would strike people strangely, though I’ll get to that momentarily. It’s that Madge isn’t a character who can be easily perceived. It seems that a good percentage of people aren’t going to quite appreciate that, and their objections are well-received. Because of the profoundly different viewpoints, Waking Athena is a very different read from Least of These, but I maintain that both are good and some others agree.
Of the Madge theory… I would really like to thumb through Collins’ trilogy and pick out a few lines to demonstrate why I came to think of the 74th Reaping as rigged in District 12. Sadly, that will have to wait for a day when I don’t have plenty of Sunlost to work on. For now, we’ll take it as axiomatic that someone made sure that Peeta and Primrose were selected; the question was who set it up?
Clearly, it couldn’t be the Mayor, because it was entirely outside of his character. Mayor Undersee was a status-quo appointee, not a rebel. Gale then, with all his rhetoric against the government? Sure, but he didn’t have access. That brings me back to government officials and Peacekeepers. Perhaps Darius! Hmm, but he was also not a rebel. He was a Peacekeeper with a heart and a stomach. He wouldn’t’ve risked losing Katniss in the Hunger Games, not when she brought some of the best game to the Hub.
Access, motivation, and seclusion… Madge is a bit of a mystery and she was killed at the end of Catching Fire, when District 12 came under assault. The bomb might have targeted the Mayor, but then whether or not the Peacekeepers attack the Mayor for things he’s done is another matter entirely. Maybe they thought he’d betrayed them. So, Madge then!
Initially, I was going to write it from start to finish, beginning with the Underground contacting Madge and tentatively offering a role for her. Then they slowly convince her to make the switch, while not telling her who is going to be selected. Then, Waking Athena was going to lead us through Madge’s misery in watching Katniss suffer the games.
Already, I was facing the problem of Madge being a very despondent and cold personality. To have such length, for the most part buried only in Madge’s thoughts would have been prohibitive. I didn’t want to write that and no one wants to read it. Least of These tracks enough of Madge’s response to her actions, which exempted me from the necessity of going through it in more detail. I needed only to show exactly what had her so distraught, and the shortness of Waking Athena is proper for the revelation of Madge’s role. Had I written more lead-up, the reader would have known what she was going to do, and having read Hunger Games, would know that she did it in the end, Underground convincing her one way or another. Thus lead-up would also be unnecessary, even harmful.
Waking Athena is left short intentionally, the same as it’s written differently from Least of These. It was actually an odd diversion from writing Sunlost, since Sunlost is third person, and much more interactive in terms of the emotional dynamic between the characters. What I have for Waking Athena, I like, and it provides the answer for those who read Least of These as to why Madge seems torn up. Give them both a read if you like The Hunger Games.