Spoiler Alert! I talk about end of series events in this post.
I think a lot of people focus on Katniss, Peeta and Gale too much. What about Prim? Who was that little sister, and was she really an important character in the Hunger Games series?
I thought about doing a character sketch on the mother, but I don’t think there’s enough material there.
Prim. Primrose. Primmy Prim Prim. Primmerton. Primmethius. Say a word enough times and it loses its meaning.
Prim is an incredibly important part of who Katniss is. Prim is the driving force of Katniss – the reason to keep fighting another day. Without Prim, there really wouldn’t be a saving grace for Katniss’s character. And what I mean by that, is that Katniss is selfish. Throw the two boys in there, and she has no idea what she wants. There are times she treats them both like dirt because she knows she has them wrapped around her finger. She loves them both and doesn’t want to chose.
But with Prim, the opposite is true. Prim is the one in control of Katniss. What does Prim do with that power? She cultivates it. She loves her sister and does what is best for her. Throughout the series, Prim is a pillar of strength and gentleness. She does not allow her dire circumstances to sway her unending love of life. Not only her own, but for every living thing. Her mother, her classmates, her goat and cat. Prim is a healer, and it shows through her character.
Prim becomes a nurse in the final book. She looks death in the face and says, “Not today, sweetie.” The reader never questions if Prim is old enough to face the horrors of war, because it’s within her character to be intimately involved with the hurting patient. Prim is only 13 years old during the last book. Who in their right mind would send a child into a bloody war, regardless of how skilled she is at bringing life to the mangled?
She also loved her animals. She nursed her goat back to health when she first received it. Her cat was also near death when she first laid eyes on it. She always hated the fact that Katniss hunted due to her large heart for living creatures.
What about her faults? Was Prim the perfect character?
In some respects, yes. Prim doesn’t have any glaring character flaws that one hopes for in literature, but it fits her. She is only 13 by the end of series. She doesn’t have a lot of time to be jaded by the Capitol. Because of Prim’s strength and charm, Katniss has something worth fighting for. Katniss would never work that hard for her mother. Peeta and Gale are chop suey as far as Katniss is concerned (am I being unfair?). But Prim is something precious. Prim is fragile in Katniss’s eyes. Prim needs protecting.
Prim is also one of the few characters who can get away with telling Katniss how it is. Haymitch tries, and it usually ends in a fight. Prim rarely raises her voice to Katniss before she has Katniss’s undivided attention.
Prim doesn’t discriminate between Capitol people and District people when it comes time to heal. And that’s the best part about her. She doesn’t care who’s hurt, or whose side the patient is fighting on. She sees pain, and she does something about it. Unfortunately, that’s what takes her in the end. Her heart for the hurting. But I think it is worth it. For Prim, at least. She dies doing what she was made to do.
Developing a character is not a chore that most writers have to dig up from the bowels of the imagination. At least that’s what I’ve been told, and that’s what I’ve experienced. As long as I spend enough time with my characters, I get to know them. They tell me what things they’re going to say, or choices they’re going to make. As long as I’m listening closely enough to my characters, the job that really needs being done is to show up and type. Jackie Lea Sommers talks about “butt-in-seat, fingers-on-keyboard.” Just show up and write. Get to know your characters and listen to what they have to say.
If you decide to make the character do something because it would make the plot flow a little better, your reader is going to see a glaring point in which the character is out of character. Prim would never have allowed Katniss to drown her cat, even if Katniss had very logical reasons to do so. Prim would never have not dashed into the middle of a bombed square to keep herself safe. There were hurting people out there, and she needed to do something about it. If either of those examples had happened, Prim would have become a one-dimentional character. One that would not break our hearts.
It doesn’t matter if Prim was perfect or flawed. She was believable. Now go and write us a heartbreaking character with all the joy and sorrow of Prim.
Image Credit: The Hunger Games Wiki