When readers crave for stories to fill their need for excitement and thrill, dystopian novels are typically their first targets.
With the current trends of today’s universal crises and disorder, it’s no surprise that everyone has ever welcomed thoughts of a dystopian society.
From the pressing possibility of conflicts erupting into wars, the ever-present threat of the virus mutating into something worse, and the continuous decline of the environment, society has claimed that people are slowly changing (perhaps, killing) the world. The idea of an apocalypse or a dystopian society has long transformed from a fictional image to somewhere closer to reality.
Once plot points which readers would only flip through in books, might become an experience they can encounter. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why dystopian novels have gained traction. It sounds brutal, but authors might have tapped into people’s fears and curiosities about what the world might become in a couple of decades.
The Rise of Dystopian Novels
Mass poverty, fear, and a cruel government system typically cover a dystopic world. From underground bunkers, greeneries covering most of the communities, and the broken street, life is undeniably harder post-apocalypse. Dystopian novels occur after a momentous, commonly destructive event, centering on the massive shift in societal systems.
These encourage readers to think far into the future, making them fear its infinite possibility. Novels that tackle topics of control or the lack thereof makes readers think about their current and future leaders and how every choice they create matter. Their lives matter. See, dystopian novels aren’t merely created for adrenaline or to scare those who are imaginative. Instead, they serve as a wake-up call, as intense, beautiful, and fictional as they are.
The Many Themes of a Dystopian Society
In every discussion of dystopic stories, the classic Hunger Games and Maze Runner won’t skip the circle. They’re the quintessential dystopian world, the epitome of an excellent and believable post-apocalyptic world and system. However, adolescents surviving a brutal world or organization isn’t everything there is for dystopian novels. Instead, it’s everything unimaginable put to words.
For instance, Black Menace by Kenneth Sousa is labeled as a post-apocalyptic story, but it’s not about people grappling to survive some wasteland. The book centers on a Moorhen, a bird that’s been traumatized by his past and is currently fighting for his future. It’s a story that’s too distinct from what’s commonly known as dystopic, but it’s one nonetheless.
Kenneth’s book is a standing testament that anything occurring within a post-apocalyptic world will be considered a dystopian story. But of course, not everything that’s thrown into a pile of rubble and debris will come out a success. Not every story labeled a dystopian novel will be one for the shelves.
The Keys to a Not-Terrible Dystopia
Dystopian novels can be fun to write. Authors don’t need to worry about restrictions in concepts and themes as it’s chiefly fictional. But this doesn’t mean they can dabble into everything and add whatever they want to their story’s mix.
Prioritize the Story
When attempting to write dystopian novels, some authors are too focused on creating their new government and societal system. Without them knowing, they’ll be too consumed planning all the subtle details before starting their storyline—bad move.
No novel exists without a storyline. A dystopian world is only a vessel to carry the story and vision through, but it shouldn’t be the author’s priority. While creating an interesting and complex world is crucial, the story must be delivered before anything else. Readers may want the captivating world but prefer having a compelling story and characters to connect with.
When one has a clue of their story, world-building will likely follow. The moment they begin, they will already have an idea of what their world will be.
Work on World-Building
Once the story has been settled, it’s time to work on the world to enhance it. This doesn’t only mean creating a vivid image of what the place looks like. It also includes having a concrete idea of what the government or new system must be.
Authors can draw their terrifyingly chaotic society from the real world. After all, dystopian novels are a commentary on how messed up real societies are. There are numerous examples of how crazy the world is across history. Authors can utilize these situations. Setting the government system is essential for these novels because they’re commonly the cause of the central conflict, the backbone of the story.
How systems are set is the primary driving force of the novel. These define the antagonists’ values and challenge the protagonists to survive.
Explain but Not Everything
What’s awesome about the fictional world is that not everything has to make sense. This relieves authors of the responsibility to spoon-feed everything about their world and systems to readers. Nothing needs to be explained as long as the readers won’t get confused.
To address the latter point, authors might need to address their dystopian world’s rules. For instance, what ticks the government? What are the society’s limitations that define what people can or can’t do? This help defines the new laws that have been established for the dystopian world.