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The Daily Life of a Compulsive Writer

Symptoms of a Dystopia Novel – Is YOUR Story Showing the Signs? August 19, 2011

Filed under: Writing — katblogger @ 4:31 PM

Dystopia – it’s the new hot trend. Everyone wants to read about a world more screwed up than this one.

http://verticalandwastingoxygen.blogspot.com/2008/06/motivational-posters-round-30.html

For those of you not immersed in YA literature, I’ll give you a definition: a dystopia is a world that seems perfect on the outside, but is actually really messed up. Think The Giver. Uglies. Delirium.

Even if you had no idea that dystopia was a word – thankfully my spellcheck recognizes it – you may be incorporating it into your writing. Here’s a quick (or maybe not) list of elements often found in dystopia novels:

– an oppressive regime that people, for some unknown reason, love

– brainwashing from an early age (may explain number one)

– blatant censorship – may also work by presenting older works as ‘stupid’ or ‘misguided’

– propaganda/conditioning

– some sort of rebellion working outside the society

– spies and turncoats (not necessary, but they make it a lot more fun)

– cool technology (as such novels are usually set in the future)

– some sort of rite of passage at a specific age

– no freedom of choice

– people see the world or aspects of it differently

– for some reason, these novels often appear as trilogies

– a disenchanted teenager will lead a revolution

– the corrupt society will kill without remorse for the ‘greater good’

– authorities/law enforcers are generally pretty nasty

Any other ideas? I just came up with these from the dystopia novels I’ve read. I’m guilty of writing one – my last NaNo – and they’re pretty fun. You get to find the flaws in our world and magnify them to a terrible scale. Basically, you get to be a prophet of doom, without getting as many weird looks as the guy sitting on the curb waving a sign reading ‘The End is Near’.

It’s all in the presentation.

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2 Responses to “Symptoms of a Dystopia Novel – Is YOUR Story Showing the Signs?”

  1. jessicaminyard Says:

    I’m actually working on a dystopia myself right now. Naturally, it’s YA. 🙂

  2. katblogger Says:

    Naturally. 🙂 Personally, even when I’m forty I’ll be reading YA, because it always seems to be far more interesting than adult lit.


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