Fans can’t resist an intriguing dystopian story, so authors Ben Fisher, Richard Kadrey, C.B. Lee, F.T. Lukens, and Tara Lynne talked about reluctant heroes of the resistance, the corrupt governments being fought, and writing a dystopian society on Friday at 2:30PM in Westin Chastain F-G.
A common dystopia trope is having a strong resistance group who are fighting against a corrupt government, but have you thought about what a main character really wants? The panelists agreed with Kadrey’s assessment that most people, with the possible exceptions of teenagers looking to rebel against the oppressors, don’t want to be heroes. They want a warm breakfast. A roof over their heads. They’re dragged into the resistance reluctantly.
Another provoking point was pondering about the more “normal” people working for the corrupt government. As Lee stated, they don’t necessarily know there are alternatives or that they are “bad.” They may very well be in need of three square meals a day, and just look the other way. At the end of it all, the day still goes and there are still responsibilities to yourself and your family.
One of the ways to write a good dystopia story is look at non-mainstream news sources, uncover the current problems in society, and then choose a couple of those points to push to the extreme. This works especially well in YA where there will always be an audience seeking content about protagonists that rebel against the authority that’s holding them back.
Once you’ve pushed that problem as far as you think you can, try to push it some more to see if it’s plausible, then imagine ways to fix the problems. Even if you push your setting beyond the boundaries of space and time, the audience will still believe the story if you write well rounded characters who react in a human way. That’s the craft of writing.
When asked what calls to action the writers want their readers to take, there was a resounding call to register, and use your right to get out and vote. Lukens said readers need to hold on, survive, and know that it will get better. Beyond that, Lynne added that she wants readers to continue learning and never accept where you are at knowledge-wise.
With all of the serious subjects that dystopia dives into, one method Fisher uses to lighten a story is by adding chunks of humor. In his comic about a world where touching another human results in death from that contact, the still living humans act out by making really terrible sexual graffiti everywhere.
Now you’ve discovered everything you’ve never really thought about, or wanted to know about, dystopian stories. It’s up to you to decide if your life is, actually, a dystopian novel currently in progress. Although, hopefully, our end doesn’t happen Fisher’s way. Think of how many times you would have died today running into other attendees. Looking at you, top-of-the-escalator-pauser.