Writing Template for Dystopia Novel
If you want to write a great dystopian story, follow these eight points to make your story complete.
Keep in mind, this is just a structure – a skeleton. Characters, conflicts, plots, and especially worlds need to be fleshed out. If you include all these points in your story, though, it will continually move forward and be complete.
I show you some examples under each point by using three well-known stories (the first one is a dystopia but the other two stories are good examples):
- Hunger Games
- Harry Potter
- Star Wars
1. The Starting Point
This is the beginning of the story. You need to introduce your main and other central characters, but we should also be introduced to the dystopian theme. In a dystopian story, the dystopian world itself is a central character. We must see it and its undesirable attributes.
the inequality between rich and poor
suffering as entertainment
the importance of appearances
a dysfunctional society
the control of people
- Katniss lives in a poor district where they aren’t allowed to take their lives into their own hands even to hunt their own food. The people are poor and oppressed.
- Harry lives under the stairs with horrible guardians. His life is sad and boring.
- Luke lives the life of a farmer on a planet far away from intergalactic events, but dreams of more.
2. Introduce the Conflict
The character’s life or world must change in some way. Introduce your dystopia’s normal life and then turn it on its head.
- Katniss was happy to live in her world, doing what she could indefinitely. It was the Reaping that changed everything, throwing her into upheaval.
- Harry learns he’s really a wizard. He leaves the only home he’s ever known for a whole new world.
- After Luke’s guardians are murdered, he leaves with Obie-Wan for a new life as a Jedi apprentice.
3. Introduce Complications
This can be a dangerous/deadly situation, a villain, or just some other reason why the the hero is doomed and won’t be able to overcome the dystopia.
- Katniss finds out about other, well-trained tributes who’ve been practicing for years and are brutal killers.
- Harry learns of Voldemort, who killed his parents (which will complicate his reputation at school) and who still haunts the wizarding world.
- Darth Vader is introduced before Luke is, but Luke’s learning about him and the Empire, and the Empire using their secret weapon to destroy Alderan, all qualify as complications.
4. Turning Point
The turning point is a change in character motivations. The character goes from reaction to action. Up until this point in the story, the character has been acted upon by outside, dystopic forces. Now, they decide to be active, or pro-active, in bringing down the dystopian conditions.
- Katniss volunteers for the Hunger Games and actively tries to figure out how she can win.
- Harry decides to go find the Sorcerer’s Stone and take steps to stop Snape from stealing it.
- Luke decides become a Jedi and from then on takes steps to help bring down the Empire.
5. Things get worse
Things are getting worser like, a mentor dies, the main character is hurt, things get harder or hope seems to be slipping away.
- Things are going pretty well for Katniss when Rue dies.
- Ron is hurt and Harry has to go one alone. (That’s harder and scarier for him.)
- Obi-Wan is killed.
6. Climax/Human-Passion Moment
This is where the main character and/or their buddies fight valiantly against the dystopian world. It might be called the human-passion moment because often all hope seems lost, but they fight tooth and nail against the oppressive force because that’s what human beings do. This scene/part always ends in despair. They can’t do it. All hope is lost.
- Katniss fights to win the Hunger Games against everything they throw her way. Then it looks like either she has to kill Peeta or die herself.
- Harry does his best against a much more seasoned wizard (Quirrel), and Voldemort himself, but he can’t win against them.
- Luke helps the rebellion fight to destroy the Death Star but soon he’s the only fighter left with little or no chance to prevail.
7. Ah-Hah Moment
This is when themain character finds the one thing they’ve been missing that will help them overcome the oppressive dystopian regime. Often, this is something they find within themselves.
- Katniss uses something she learned from her father (about the poisonous berries) to manipulate the Capital into declaring them both victorious.
- Harry obtains the stone magically because his heart is pure. Also Harry’s touch is toxic to Voldemort. (Notice the reasons behind this don’t necessarily need to be explained right away. Just sometime before the story ends.)
- ”Use the force, Luke!”
Individual triumphs; dystopia overcome in some way.
- Katniss and Peeta win together.
- Harry destroys Quirrel/Voldemort.
- Luke destroys the Death Star and gets a medal of Valor.
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