The Secret to Writing Dystopian Fiction?


Dear Karen…

“Dystopian” is the word of the week, with The Hunger Games movie setting records and dystopian novels making trumpeted debuts (Lissa Price’s Starters) and landing on the bestseller lists, as did Jeff Hirsch’s debut The Eleventh Plague. Jeff was a Guest Editor here recently addressing fears that dystopian was “over.” Read that, then visit The League of Extraordinary Writers, a blog by 10 writers immersed in the craft and news of the genre. But don’t focus on learning to “write dystopian.” Learn to write strong characters. Dystopian fiction is distinguished by characters who embody the quest to understand humanity. They live in societies that have morphed to emphasize humanity’s ugliest aspects, with the setting usually embodying this mindset. The dystopian hero recognizes the faults of his world and acts on this realization in a way that affects his world and makes readers believe that humanity’s strengths will ultimately triumph. Or at least have hopes of doing so. That’s the bottom line: hope. Strive to write characters who are rich enough to shoulder this literary burden, and read widely in the genre so you won’t write cliches but rather offer a fresh take on this noble quest.

Happy writing!
The Editor


  1. It isn’t dystopian specific, but Orson Scott Card wrote a great book on world building: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy

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