Since the 1990s, there has been a shift in the science fiction world. Instead of the brave new worlds of hope found in ideas like Star Trek, the genre has shifted to more of a Dystopian ideology. Books like 1984 come to mind, but so do novels by Veronica Roth with The Divergent Trilogy or Suzanne Collins with The Hunger Games.
Creating a world that is Dystopian doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re creating apocalyptic literature. It simply means you’re crafting a story as a writer that is in disagreement with your personal ethics, philosophies, spirituality, or other components of life. In most cases, this means the fictional worlds created will move toward a negative view.
How can you write this type of fiction? Here are some tips to help get you started.
#1. Create an anti-character. The world might be moving in a negative direction, but your readers still want to have a positive character with whom they can identify. This will help to draw the reader into the story so they can picture themselves in this world. A good example of this tip would be Katness Everdeen from The Hunger Games.
#2. Give your world familiar elements. We all have routines. We all have favorite places to eat. We all like to do certain things for enjoyment and relaxation. If you can put some of these routines into your Dystopian world, but altered to incorporate the negative world elements, then you’ll add another layer of authenticity to your dialogue.
#3. Descriptions are everything. You don’t need to offer 3 pages of description for every new scene offered to a reader, but you do need to be selective with your adjectives. Keep them dark and gritty whenever possible, with details that are still familiar to the reader.
#4. Even lonely people need to form relationships. Let’s use the Kevin Costner movie The Postman as an example here. We’re introduced to Costner’s character as he travels alone with his mule named Bill. Together they put on Shakespearean plays for the villages that remain in a post-apocalyptic world. Readers need relationships so they can picture their own relationships in such a negative world and examine what they would be like… and it doesn’t have to be a relationship between two people.
#5. The worst possible thing can and will happen. Negative events shape the lives of your characters in Dystopian fiction. Parents will die. Friends will be kidnapped. Nuclear war is going to happen. Aliens are going to enslave humanity. Think about the worst possible thing that could happen in the world you’ve created as a writer and then allow it to happen. Much of the joy which comes from exploring this type of fiction is to see how your characters are going to dig deep and overcome this issue.
#6. Find your time and stick to it. Dystopian fiction might be a sub-genre of science fiction, but you’re not limited on time periods. These novels can happen in the past, the present, or the future. You can even create a story like Timecop or Time Trax which involves multiple time periods. As long as you explore the worlds you’ve created and draw comparisons to what would happen to the real world if we followed such a path, then all you’ve got to do is find the right period and stick with it.
#7. The end is just the beginning. There are a few ways to explore the ending of your novel. Some writers prefer to leave a door open to a hopefully brighter future thanks to the lessons learned in a negative world. Others like to have their world spiral into an even more negative direction. Whichever you may choose, just make sure the conclusion makes sense for the characters involved. Tie up loose ends and limit plot twists that could be confusing. Dystopian fiction typically needs a solid finish in order to be meaningful.
#8. Get out of your comfort zone. For Dystopian fiction to be vivid and engaging, a writer must disengage from the world that they know. Reality must be suspended. You must place yourself into this world, think about how you would react, and then describe those thoughts, feelings, and action. Create a unique story, build a world no one has ever seen before, and in many ways your story will tell itself.
[bctt tweet=”The best Dystopian fiction will create feelings of horror and hope simultaneously. #amwriting #writetip #dystopian” username=””]
The best Dystopian fiction will create feelings of horror and hope simultaneously. Your readers will want to cheer for their favorite characters as they examine their own ethics to determine if their actions could create a similar world in real-life.