Anyone writing dystopian fiction?

(241 Posts)
stripyeyes Wed 04-May-16 11:50:07

My novel is set in a modern dystopia, where the details of how society is ordered is gradually revealed.

The story centers around a young man and his boss, who has a not-insignificant power over him. She asks him to take actions which are increasingly morally and legally ambiguous and it is the consequence of this which makes the story.

My current issue is I've read the damn thing so many times, I've lost the ability to "see" what a new reader would know, and whether the implied threat is great enough to affect his actions. Does anyone have any tips? Or fancy a read?!

I'm reluctant to give it to friends and family to read at this stage due to all the usual issues regarding biased or kindly reviews!

CantFeelMyFace Wed 04-May-16 18:30:14

Have you taken a 3 month break from your book? I was like this when I finished writing. I couldn't bear to read it anymore; it was all a jumble. I made myself forget about it for a few weeks so I could look at it with fresh eyes. It really helped me pick up all sorts of things. How long is the book?

stripyeyes Wed 04-May-16 21:15:03

Hi, Thanks, yes I think I do need to take a break but I've been lurking on the Waiting for Agent's thread and i'm impatient to join everyone there as it sounds exciting! smile

Its currently 78 000 (down from 91 000). I think I'll do another print out as I find it easier to review on paper for some reason rather than screen.

I used my (rare) child-free time today to draft a synopsis instead of more editing and it was a disaster though confused

Madhairday Thu 05-May-16 09:10:38

I'm writing YA dystopia and yes it's very difficult to see it with fresh eyes - a few months break is a good idea but even then it's not easy. Yours sounds interesting - is it YA?

I'm writing about a reforming of our society into something fairly hideous after plague/decimation etc - the usual! But hopefully with a different twist/emphasis. I'm waiting on an agent with the full ms at present, it's torture.

Would you like me to take a look - send me a PM.

GetAHaircutCarl Thu 05-May-16 09:34:07

I'm currently writing a dystopian telly seriesgrin.

I think the main difference with this genre as opposed to usual milieu (crime novels) is how quickly and efficiently I need to world build.

The audience has to understand the new order of things almost immediately. That's a challenge. Don't be tempted to drip feed too much.

As for the stakes this is the same for all fiction. Are they commensurate? If your MCs actions are big, the stakes need to be bigger still.

Madhairday Thu 05-May-16 10:31:49

That's it, Haircut - but it's building the world without info-dumping and leaving some to the imagination - it's a huge challenge (and I keep finding little inconsistencies in mine, it's so hard to remember that every single thing has to fit with that world, down to the language used, types of clothes, names of common everyday things etc. So much can slip through the net.)

GetAHaircutCarl Thu 05-May-16 10:45:28

The technique I've used is a time-honoured one. The MC doesn't know about the New World Order so we discover it through her eyes. But quickly. I always keep in mind that this story is not about the New World Order, it's about how the characters react to it.

However, another way used very successfully is to simply throw the reader in. Explain nothing. Create a scene with inner logic. Give no more explanation or description that you would for a world everyone knows and understands, thus letting your reader breathe with the MC in real time.

And yes, the devil is in the detail. It's amazing how readers will suspend belief on major issues whilst small inconsitencies shatter their willingness to go along for the ride.

Like the people who will accept that The Walking Dead is about human eating zombies, but get pissed off that the grass has been mowed grin.

stripyeyes Thu 05-May-16 12:39:16

Thanks Madhair, and good luck from your full ms- hope you hear very soon!! So exciting! I'll PM you in a bit.

Hellie from the Get Published day said it sounded YA, but I'm hoping for more New Adult (and I'm crap at pitching and we spent most of the time talking about my poorly baby!!)

My approach is throw the reader in to the new order and let them figure it out. First draft contained an info dump and reading back it was awful and actually not necessary as I'd shown everything I'd dumped in the body of the story anyway.

Its a peaceful society- no zombies or hunger games-esque fighting/rebellions. (Think Never Let Me Go but written with much less skill grin).

Madhairday Thu 05-May-16 13:00:48

Oooh I love Never Let me Go, would be interested to read it!

Mine pretty much throws the reader in, it's in first person POV so living the story with the character, that's the idea anyway...

ImperialBlether Thu 05-May-16 13:48:48

And it works really well, Madhairday! I hate info dumps and you didn't do that at all. I'm always fascinated by anyone who can create a whole new world in their head - I'm the opposite - it has to be based somewhere I know.

stripyeyes Thu 05-May-16 14:54:41

It's fun making up your own world though Imperial! I have pages and pages of info that never gets anywhere near mentioned in the book, but it's important so I'm clear in my storytelling - its just like researching a place or period of history- but easier in my view as you can make it up and bend the "facts" to suit you!!

I also love Never Let Me Go; and enjoy the post-plague/survival ones too so will look forward to your publication Madhair smile

GetAHaircutCarl Thu 05-May-16 15:07:05

In some ways building your own world makes the writing easier because you can create conflict, risk etc as a fundamental of the scenery.

It's often much more difficult to raise the necessary risk and conflict in real world situations as you're plagued with credibility issues.

Madhairday Thu 05-May-16 15:23:33

Thanks Imperial blush (I have actually changed the first chapter around a bit again to make it even more immediate, I think it works better now and has more show than tell, I read it through again with your notes and it was more detatched than I wanted it to be - so hopefully it's stronger now.)

Creating worlds - yy! I've been making worlds up since I was little, I love letting my imagination out to play like that. I also agree with you Haircut that we can stretch things a whole lot more - a dystopian future doesn't need to have the ring of credibility in every sense like books set in known worlds - it can go beyond limits and do what you want it to do. I've made up some fairly ropey techy stuff which beta readers tell me works fine, but it wouldn't work if I was trying to claim it's how things work now grin

Looking forward to reading yours, stripey.

GetAHaircutCarl Thu 05-May-16 15:26:40

I know when I'm writing my crime fiction that there's an element of confused and hmm when the MC manages to get into yet another life and career threatening scrape.

Why won't that woman fucking learn?

But in this project my merry band of survivors are in jeopardy just BT trying to get breakfast grin.

DustOffYourHighestHopes Thu 05-May-16 19:53:44

Have taken the plunge and started a dystopian YA last month. Because I don't think that market's been exploited enough...

So far I have bought a cheap laptop and written a plot. I have to pull my finger out and just write the bloody thing, don't I?

GetAHaircutCarl Thu 05-May-16 19:58:36

Yes you do dust.

TBH I don't think the market for YA dystopian stuff will ever run dry. Or at least not any time soon. It's a replenishing audience innit?

We're getting to be quite a gang here. A veritable Mumsnet Quiche!

DustOffYourHighestHopes Thu 05-May-16 20:02:07

I need a virtual slap Carl, thanks for providing it.

I think I'm going to go for the 'plonk a reader in it' technique to introduce the world. I always get vag-j-j clench when I read novels that start with the whole, 'Let me explain this world to you, reader'.

GetAHaircutCarl Thu 05-May-16 20:38:01

No worries dust.

I am happy to play cheer leader/ bollocker grin.

I have many failings as a writer but what I am good at is cracking on.

Madhairday Thu 05-May-16 21:29:39

A Dystopian Quiche! I like this.

Yes, get straight in there Dust, just start writing and see what comes of it - you could spend a long time plotting and preparing but there's nothing like just sitting and letting the writing flow. It's the best thing ☺

SpiderAndMouse Sat 07-May-16 06:39:21

Also writing a YA dystopian. Can I join the quiche? Love a good cheese and bacon...

[misses point]

I've done the 'plonk a reader in' approach, and having sent the first few chapters to family and friends there have been a few comments about confusion over terminology about things in the 'new' world.

Its taken me about four years (on and off, mostly off) to get the world and rules sorted. I like the freedom it gives me, but also found it restricting - I want it to be credible/believable.

I've challenged myself to average 400 words over 100 days, as I needed a kickstart. I lost 2000 words as my old laptop died a very noble death, but have just made up for these. 13k words in - it's the most I've ever written shock.

GetAHaircutCarl Sat 07-May-16 08:02:12

Just keep going spider.
Writing every day is key, I think. The writing muscle gets much stronger with regular use.

I'm currently on a pretty tough deadline so I have no choice. Concentrates the mind and all that.

GetAHaircutCarl Sat 07-May-16 08:11:23

I'd also add that my tactic with this speculative shizzle has been much the same as everything else. Just get it down.

I concentrate on structure, plot, character arcs, tone.

Once I have a first draft I work on the fine detail.

Now obviously when you're building a new world, you need to have a greater idea of what that might look like beforehand, particularly where the new world drives the story itself. But for me, it never pays to stop for too long working out the small print. I just skate over and trust myself that I will at some point deal with it.

SpiderAndMouse Sat 07-May-16 08:34:30

Thanks Get!

I woke up ridiculously early and have done 200 words whilst editing one of my weaker chapters. Normally I don't edit whilst still writing, but I was unhappy with it and it was bothering me grin.

I've also made a start on the epilogue of book three (it's a trilogy - ambitious? Me? Oops...) And I have a separate folder for 'notes and quotes' when these pop into my head. Usually happens when I'm doing the dishes or in the shower... And lose the thought before I've scribbled down!

GetAHaircutCarl Sat 07-May-16 08:39:15

Well done.

I too keep a notebook of notes and quotes grin. I am always on the hunt for new ways to describe fear...if I hear or read anything new, I'm jotting it down.

CantFeelMyFace Sat 07-May-16 09:22:19

I'm not writing in dystopia but it is a fictional world, maybe I could be a side salad to the quiche?

Get (not typing that again smile ) I know what you mean about fear, there's only so many times you can use 'pounding hearts' and 'racing pulses'. It's tricky finding imaginative ways to describe it.

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