Friday, December 16, 2011

How to write a YA dystopian novel

I've been reading A LOT of Young Adult, dystopian fiction lately.  

Along with watching Twilight movies and looking at pictures of Robert Pattinson on the Internet, reading YA dystopian fiction is my number one guilty pleasure.  I love love love it.  However, the Novels of Dystopia have been both amusing and frustrating me lately:  I've read so many of them that they are starting to blend together.  

And I've noticed many, many recurring themes.  So much so that I would like to write a quick cheat sheet for those of you who might like to dip your pen into the dystopian ink well:

Things to remember when writing a YA dystopian novel:
  • Your story will take place at some unnamed time in the future
  • Some (possibly unnamed) catastrophic event - disease, world war, excessive materialism - has forced The Powers That Be to severely restrict personal freedoms
  • Society is a small, self-contained unit that does not communicate with others outside its borders
  • Technology is even more pervasive than it is now, and it is used to track every aspect of its citizens from personal preferences, nutritional needs, and physical location
  • All inhabitants of Society must follow the rules and regulations in their entirety.  Failure to do so will result in punishment which may include public humiliation and/or banishment from Society.
  • The protagonist, usually a female, has willingly lived within the constraints of her society for all of her life, until she meets HIM
  • For some reason, HE lives on the fringes of society - by choice or due to some circumstance - and is attracted to protagonist.  As they get to know each other, HE explains that society's restrictions are just that, restrictions, and that life wasn't Always Like This
  • Protagonist is dating a "nice" boy, preferably an upstanding, model citizen who personifies the ideals valued by Society
  • Protagonist finds herself attracted to HIM and, as she spends time with HIM, begins to question her blind loyalty to Society
  • Love triangle somehow raises the suspicion of The Powers That Be, who must take some sort of punitive action against protagonist and/or HIM
  • Protagonist must make a choice between Society and True Love, which will result in Permanent Banishment from Society
  • Resolve some of the major plot points, but leave the readers (somewhat) hanging at the end.  Remember, you've signed a deal for a trilogy!

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