Writing Dystopian Fiction: 7 Tips
by Roderick Vincent
I’ve been told to chill. “Don’t worry. Be happy,” they say. “It’s all good.”
I appreciate the cool, laissez-faire attitude, but I grew up alongside apathetic Gen Xers who were the first Internet trolls, the first gamers, the first Goths, and the first speed-metal heads who blasted Metallica’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. Now, Gen Xers might be considered dystopian downer dudes as we creep into middle age, but perhaps that sentiment will change when the government starts cutting up EBT cards and kicks us off the free, bitchin’ Santa Monica debt wave we’ve been riding for the last couple of fun-filled decades where “money for nothing, growth for free” pervaded. Like Jeff Spicoli (played by Sean Penn) saying, “I can fix it” when he smashes up Jefferson’s Trans-Am in the film Fast Times at Ridgemont High, governments often give us the same line with foreign and economic policy as they wander through the turnstiles of Congress passing the baton to the next set of anointed who continue making syrupy promises about our future. As the middleclass lives out the tale spun by Stephen King’s Thinner, we might find ourselves picking up a dystopian novel to relive our despondent youths. In other words, if you feel angry about the current political milieu, then you just might be a dystopian author.
In most cases, the dystopian genre explores a fictional future, tapping into present fears about the path society currently travels. The art is in imagery of the not yet invented but easily imagined. It’s not a surprise the dystopian genre is often lumped together with science fiction (check out Amazon’s browse categories) where technology plays a crucial role. Robotics, nanotechnology, advanced artificial intelligence, cloning, and all other derivatives of advanced, imaginable technology are often used as colors on the canvass painted into a reader’s mind. In George Orwell’s 1984, the all-seeing Big Brother uses the telescreen. In Aldous Huxley’sBrave New World, reproductive factories of the future are used to produce a limited number of citizens preordained to a caste-world void of pain.
1. As you’re writing dystopian fiction, think about how to take current technologies and extrapolate. When you have a vision of what that might look like, ask yourself how it changes the society that does not yet exist.
Other dystopian novels avoid the technological aspect, but drive one forward with a central theme (book burning with Fahrenheit 451, ultraviolence with A Clockwork Orange, and the cycle of revolution to despotism in Animal Farm).
For more tips, visit this article on Writer’s Digest.