|Photo credit: mithrandir3 on Flickr|
According to dictionary.com, a dystopia is “a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.”
If YA Dystopian novels are to be believed, dictionary.com is pretty on the money.
Oppressive (and usually horrible) governments, revolution, disease, poverty, strict laws and an all around unhappy (or soon to be unhappy) society are all markers of dystopian novels. Though that’s really just a sampling of dystopian issues.
Note: Post-apocalyptic and Dystopian novels are not always the same thing. Some Dystopian novels do indeed happen after an apocalypse (making them Post-apocalyptic as well), but not all Dystopian novels are Post-apocalyptic and not all Post-apocalyptic novels are Dystopian as well.
Pros/Cons of Writing YA Dystopian:
- Insta-conflict. The great thing about Dystopian novels is conflict is a given—it’s literally built into the society and the setting, so all you need are some captivating characters with a little push to get things going. This means most Dystopian novels make for very exciting reads (and, as it happens, really fun writing experiences).
- Typically fast-paced. Like I said in the previous point, YA Dystopian novels tend to be pretty exciting to read and write. There’s usually quite a bit of action and the stakes are often hugenormous with dire consequences if the protagonist fails.
- Play with worst-case scenarios. So many Dystopian novels are based off What If? scenarios and expanded to extremes. These can be really fun to play with when brainstorming and writing, as characters in extreme circumstances are usually pretty enjoyable to write and read.
- Extremely tough market. Like YA Paranormal, YA Dystopian, unfortunately is currently a dead genre. As I said when explaining YA Paranormal, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to sell a YA Dystopian novel right now—it just means it’s extremely difficult due to a seriously overcrowded market.
- A lot’s already been done (several times over). This is related to the first con, but because the market is so overcrowded and there are so many YA Dystopian novels out there, that means there’s very little out there in the Dystopian world that hasn’t already been done to death. That being said, just because it’s already been done doesn’t mean you can’t write it—it just means you need to make yours unique and amazing in a different way.
- Lots of worldbuilding. If you like worldbuilding, this isn’t really a bad thing, but it is good to keep in mind. While you’re not necessarily making a world up from scratch like you might in a High Fantasy novel, you are still building a world that doesn’t exist—a world with laws and expectations and a culture unlike our own.
I say this every time, and I will continue to do so: you must read the genre you write in. No really. You do.
Knowing your category and genre is key to adding something meaningful to the market. So do yourself a favor and read up on some of these fabulous book. (Caveat: I haven’t read all of these, but I’ve heard good things about the ones I haven’t read).
- The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games trilogy) by Suzanne Collins
- Shatter Me (Shatter Me trilogy) by Tahereh Mafi
- Divergent (Divergent trilogy) by Veronica Roth
- The City of Ember (The Book of Ember series) by Jeanne DuPrau
- Delirium (Delirium trilogy) by Lauren Oliver
- Legend (Legend trilogy) by Marie Lu
- Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky trilogy) by Veronica Rossi
- Wither (The Chemical Garden trilogy) by Lauren DeStefano
- Uglies (Uglies series) by Scott Westerfeld
- YA Common Clichés series: Dystopian by S.E. Sinkhorn on Maybe Genius.
- The Dystopian Society by The Writing Cafe on thewritingcafe tumblr.
- 4 Tips for Writing a Dystopian World by avoorelewis on The International Passion.
- Lauren DeStefano & Moira Young Share Advice on Writing Dystopian Fiction by Maryann Yin on GalleyCat.
Thinking about writing YA Dystopian novels? Writer @Ava_Jae shares some tips, recommendations and more. (Click to tweet)
Do you write YA Dystopian novels? Share your experience at @Ava_Jae’s So You Want to Write series. (Click to tweet)