"Well, have we got a treat for you tonight! If you're tuning in to this special interview, congratulations! This is only viewable for those of you with high enough security clearance to have pre-Reaping access to Hunger Games content." Octavius Cairns, celebrity host of the Games, was in top form as he introduced the live Capitol broadcast. With him sat President Vespasian Riker and Head Gamemaker Crispus Scelestiber, widely considered two of the scariest human beings to ever exist.

"Well, Octavius, let's get right to it, shall we?" President Riker leaned back in his chair as he spoke and languidly crossed his legs. "The 20th Annual Hunger Games were shit. It all felt so rushed, and viewership was exceedingly diminished."

Octavius chuckled nervously. "What a bold statement, sir! Mr. Scelestiber, do you agree with this assessment?" The only person who could possibly contradict the President and get away with it was the Head Gamemaker.

"Certainly," came the cool response, "even though the tributes themselves were fine, the Games did not perform to standard. Despite heavy planning, the execution of the event faltered. We even had a plague planned, but even that could not fix the narrative failings of last year's Games. We could have condensed the timespan of the competition into a single day and I don't think it would have been any better."

"And yet, it feels like it's been six years since that time, doesn't it?" Even though the three men sat in an empty room, Octavius left an awkward pause for an audience laugh. Riker and Scelestiber did not chuckle.

"The time has dragged," admitted the President, "but here we are, preparing for the 21st Annual Hunger Games nonetheless."

Octavius leaned forward with a gossipy gleam in his eye. "So, gentlemen, what's the plan for this year? How are we going to re-engage the audiences? Re-commit to the narrative structures?"

"We're going to have more of a hand in these Games than normal," Scelestiber paused to let the reveal sink in, "and we are going to guarantee a show. A learning experience for the districts like never before. You see, we've noticed over the years that tributes can be… tiring."

"Tiring in what way?"

"I thought you might ask, Octavius. And those who ask, receive!" On the cue from the Head Gamemaker, a hologram was projected onto the screen behind the three men. Scelestiber continued in his deep, raspy voice, "As you can see in this diagram, the demographics of all the tributes for the past Hunger Games have been charted. We compiled this data to demonstrate some unpleasant truths about the reality of the tributes who are being chosen.

"Many of these tributes, to put it simply, are stereotypes. They are one-sided, boring, predictable, and repetitive! There have been twenty Games, and the same archetypes are seen more than half the time. It is not feasible for 17 out of 20 males from District Four to have nautical-themed names, but it has happened! Capitol audiences are starting to tune out of the Games because they are tired of seeing so much of the same content year after year."

"How curious!" exclaimed Octavius, "What is to be done about this?"

President Riker smirked. "Thanks to one of my most trusted senators, a certain Coriolanus Snow, we have come up with a solution. The Gamemakers have taken the data and compiled it into genetic code-"

Octavius, thrilled, jumped in, "So they've managed to create real people from the raw data?"

"You've got it all figured out. They've built the most extreme versions of all the traits the Capitol has become tired of, to add a new twist to the Games." The President turned the explanation over to Scelestiber.

"You see," said the Gamemaker, "we love extremes here in the Capitol. Extreme fashion, extreme action, everything. Extreme tributes in the Hunger Games will do one of two things- either re-energize the Capitol's love of the Games, or prove to the Districts that they must supply us with better tributes than the weak chaff they've been providing recently. Like last year proved, you can't tell a good story when you simply aren't committed to it."

"Ah, intriguing! Is this considered a rigging of the Games? How will you arrange for these tributes to be entered into the competition?"

Riker sighed. "Octavius, Octavius, Octavius… it's no more difficult than how we normally arrange these things! In addition, these filler tributes have been pre-programmed with backstories, so they will fit right in to the Districts. It'll seem just like a normal Reaping ceremony."

That got another chuckle from the host. "Ingenious, I must say! Now, do either of you have any tips for those who may be wondering what makes a good tribute? Obviously, the Districts do not have the ability to access this interview, but there may be someone out there curious!"

"I'll answer this first, if you don't mind, President Riker?" Scelestiber hastily replied, "For me, a tribute is made by personality. Complexity keeps us interested and helps Gamemakers develop plots for the arena. We want to know the reason a tribute reacts and interacts the way they do, and that's all in the personality. I need to know what makes them tick, so I can break them. I want to know their history so I can see how it influences their motivations, but I couldn't give a rat's ass about their mommy's miscarriage or their favorite food. I want to see the reasons behind things. I don't care if a tribute is gay, I care about how that has affected their perspective on life. I create death competitions, not dating shows. I don't care that a tribute has schizophrenia, I care about how that changes their relationships. Same for orphans, thieves, the ones who train, the blind ones, all of it. I've seen it all before, but what I care about is how their circumstances change their personalities. I don't think tributes understand that their gimmicks don't give them bonus points- the only thing they have to gain is nuance. And even then, they'll still probably die."

"Well said, Crispus," the President mused, "I speak from a different perspective. I run a country, not the Games, but I find that the first impression of the tributes is the most important thing for me. I've noticed that recently, tributes have become uniformly beautiful and less physically diverse. I think that speaks to the use of images in the Capitol to introduce citizens to tributes, but it does make me wonder what's in the water out there. It's certainly not quite realistic. Names, too, are deeply important to me. I root for tributes who have appealing names. After all, I frequently address Victors and I don't want to have to speak to someone with an ugly name. I'm tired of all the Glitters and Desires from District One, and the people in Eight named after things from a sewing kit, and all the variations of Ash from District Twelve, and all the teenagers named Nyx! What are the parents in the districts thinking, naming their children such oddly specific things? Then, when I watch sponsors try to choose tributes to support, they often look at their strengths and weaknesses. Tributes often say their strength is something like 'being kind', because they want to be seen as a good person. They are forgetting that they are entering the Hunger Games- kindness is a weakness, trust is a weakness, but certain unpleasant traits may be strengths."

"President Riker, that's a fantastic point! I-"

"I'm not finished, Octavius. Tributes also tend to list physical attributes as strengths or weaknesses, forgetting that sponsors are mainly interested in personality. They do not actually care if a tribute is good at climbing or bad at swimming, and they certainly do not care about phobias. If a tribute says they are scared of lightbulbs or something ridiculous, I will assume they have no personality. What I want to see from a list of strengths and weaknesses is a multifaceted person who I can enjoy watching in the Games."

"Thank you both for your valuable opinions. Is there anything else you'd like to add, before we go to a break?" Octavius asked meekly, afraid of interrupting the President again.

"The twelve year olds who act like infants- they are eligible for the Games for a reason! They should act like it," spits out Scelestiber.

"I hate the ones who say they have some sort of mental illness, but are clearly faking it because they have no idea what it actually entails."

"Every tribute who believes they are the hero or the villain annoys me. I'm the Gamemaker- I decide the plotlines, not you. You aren't supposed to be purely good or purely evil as a tribute, that's no fun for us."

"And the ones who think they can win by acting like they were made to win! This is the Games, being tough doesn't guarantee you a Victory. Have you seen our Victors? Some of them are weak beyond belief."

Octavius laughed at his colleagues and guests, amused by their intensity. "Thank you for your time, kind gentlemen! It's been quite an exciting night with lots to discuss. In the meantime, enjoy yourselves, and prepare for the Twenty-First Annual Hunger Games!"

HELLO I AM BACK. Hmm, what's changed since I was here last? Well, I've been through college, I've traveled globally, I was briefly engaged, I've grown and matured, and I am a completely different person from who I used to be! I currently am at home due to the pandemic and I thought, well, what better time to return to writing? And what better kind of writing to return to- there's a story formula already in place and a community I'm familiar with!

So here's the sitch: this is half SYOT in the same universe I've had since the beginning, and half How-To-SYOT guide. Confused? I don't blame you. Please read thoroughly.

I'm an old, jaded, experienced SYOT-er, and starting in 2014 I did a survey of more than 30 accomplished authors to collect writing tips, pet peeves, and opinions on what makes a good tribute and SYOT. I want to pass that knowledge along to the best of my ability in a fun, engaging way! Please take advice with a grain of salt, because every writer is different.

I will be accepting 12-16 tributes out of the normal 24. All slots are open. I will choose the tributes that work best for the story, have the most development potential, and excite me to write. The rest of the slots will be stocked with 'filler tributes' as described in the prologue- extreme stereotypes of characters that will be used to make amusing, self-aware points about SYOT tributes and writing throughout the course of the story. These filler characters will not have POVs and they will comprise the bloodbath. That's right! You heard it! If your tribute is accepted to this story, they will automatically survive the bloodbath! Because I am using the SYOT form to make points about tribute creation and writing styles!

Isn't that neat!

So yes, for the most part this is a typical SYOT- submit your character, they get POVs and development and a chance to win the Games- but on top of all that, there will be discussion in each chapter about the actual process of creating tributes and writing stories. It's like mini lessons snuck in the normal story! The 'How-To-SYOT' part of the story will be mostly contained in the pre-Games chapters, and once the Games hit, it'll be a more traditional story. So if you're here for the tips and tricks only, you won't have to stick around forever. I will do my best to denote the 'guide' sections of the story, so it won't be a guessing game of 'what parts of this are story and what parts are satire?'

Submission information is on my profile! Drop a review too if you want!