So you want to write a dystopian novel. Great! If you’re feeling a little intimidated, don’t worry. There are a few things writers in this genre repeatedly use to make wonderful novels. Some may seem familiar. Each offers a unique perspective when tied to dystopian fiction, however.
Involve Your World in Your Plot
The design of any original or altered world should play a major role in the novel as a whole. The world itself is half the draw for many readers. Show how your world is unique in how its social constructs, politics, and restrictions hinder your protagonist. The world needs to be more than a backdrop. It should directly affect the story’s action.
Steer Clear of Tropes
Like any established genre, it’s very easy for writers to fall into trope traps. If you’re suffering from writer’s block, don’t go the easy route. Take a break from the genre and look elsewhere for inspiration. You never know when some literary fiction, nonfiction, or even Jane Austen can spark a new blend of ideas. If you recognize major plot lines, characters, or even concepts from other dystopian novels, then you’re slipping into the trope hole. Be wary of black-and-white class conflicts and stereotypical, ‘Big Brother’ governments.
Play with the Grey Area of Morality
A dystopia is a perfect world gone wrong. Often, upper levels of these fictional societies enjoy tremendous wealth and even a progressive lifestyle. They may not even recognize the reality of the foundation of their prosperity. A dystopian world sets characters in extreme survival situations. Rather than battling a bear, a mountain, or temperature, however, they battle with society and the people that make it. If your character is squeaky clean by the end of a civil war – overt or covert – then you may need to explore the grey area of morality a little more. Your character’s actions should spark debate.
Pay Attention to Details
Like any story, a dystopian novel needs details. The small things will sell your story. Consider how people get around, what jobs they have, what they eat, where they shop, and how they address things like births and deaths. Add as much variety as possible, and feel free to borrow from reality. The hardest-hitting dystopian works always come from current fears, problems, or potential disasters. Even if you have a different idea, consider what marks of today’s world would remain in your dystopia.
Remember that People Are the Core
A dystopian world is made by people. Human action creates and perpetuates your characters’ environment. That makes humans the driving force behind every crisis and solution. Make sure those humans – your characters – connect with the audience. Although characters are always important, they make the difference between a great dystopian novel and a dull read.
Remember, the best part of any kind of novel comes from your unique point of view. Take time to consider what you write, and always leave time to edit. These tips are the foundation of a great dystopian novel.