Trailing shortly behind supernatural romances, one of the top sub-genres today is the young adult dystopian novel. Forced factional occupations, forbidden teen romances and rebellion against a strict societal structure are all key elements in this craze, and in this week’s “How Not to Write” article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know to write the next big Hunger Games or Divergent saga yourself!
1. Know how dystopias work. We’re not just talking about an overpowered government. Society is going to be divided into factions in the future, each one based around a certain function like farming or fighting. This is going to be because of a great war in the past that made everyone decide that a more structured society was necessary.
2. Develop your characters. Male protagonists tend to look overpowered in this kind of genre, so write about a teen girl. She’s currently entering a position where what she does will determine a lot for both her and others, a moral and political dilemma that she isn’t sure she’s ready for. She’s vulnerable but determined, innocent and well meaning but prone to mistakes. It’s fine if she’s a Mary Sue!
3. Iron out subplots. What story isn’t improved without some kind of romance? The best and simplest way to add heart to your YA dystopian novel is to have your main character fall in love. If that’s still too simple, have her fall in love with two people at once. That will add drama and emotional suspense that your readers will love!
4. Climax with a bittersweet victory. If all goes well, your book won’t be realistic enough. But you do want a happy ending. Have your main character make a tragic decision that will cost something but that will free her and her allies from the oppressive regime they were brought up to serve.
5. Focus on plot. Your plot is your area of greatest flexibility, so make it a good one. You decide how the government should be overthrown and what the protagonist needs to do to get there. Meanwhile, everything else can fall secondary to that–characters, settings, the exact nature and inner workings of the government. Don’t worry about those things. Focus on the action!
Once you get started writing your dystopian novel, you’ll find that the work is very easy to keep up with. When you’re comfortable you can push your boundaries, adding more detail to your characters and more reasoning behind your plot. But don’t push yourself too hard! If you just follow these steps, you’re on your way to topping bestseller lists worldwide!