The New York Times had a discussion where authors and other professionals chimed in on the popularity of the dystopian genre and tried to understand why young adults specifically are so drawn to it.
What exactly is dystopian?
Dystopia, according to Merriam Webster, means an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives.
It’s the anti-utopia, the anti amazing heavenly paradise.
Stories in the dystopia genre are dark, conflict-driven and usually take place sometime in the future after something horrible has happened to the Earth whether through an apocalypse, government takeover, war, drought etc.
Coming up with the back story in a dystopian novel is where a writer can be truly inventive in social commentary and criticism. Some writers are very specific and detailed, while others only give vague descriptions about the past and focus more on the present events.
The protagonist has some kind of awakening or passion to right wrongs and find a way out of the miserable , but not with out lots of sacrifices and facing terrible consequences for fighting against the system. The protagonist becomes a hero for questioning what others are too afraid to question and for noticing what others are too afraid to notice.
If you want to read some classic dystopian literature to do some homework before you try your hand at it, you should definitely read Brave New World by Aldeous Huxley, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and The Giver by Lois Lowry.
My favorite contemporary dystopian novel is The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, which I’m on book 2 of. I know, I know the third one has been out for awhile, but I’ve been busy!
Here’s a dystopian writing prompt: Write a short story where everyone on Earth can only speak one word a day. Once a person chooses the word, they can only use it for the next 24 hours even if they have other thoughts and feelings to express. What would people’s conversations and interactions be like?