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!