Dystopian & Post-Apocalyptic Lit: Final Questions

Dystopian & Post-Apocalyptic Lit: Final Questions

Figure 1. The Governor is a one-eyed villainous bastard, yes. But a COMPLEX one-eyed villainous bastard.

Figure 1. The Governor is a one-eyed villainous bastard, yes. But a COMPLEX one-eyed villainous bastard.


Here are the rest of the questions from the Loft Teen Writer Conference which I will answer in a quick-and-dirty dumbshitty manner:

Why are girly-girls portrayed as mean/dumb/shallow (Glimmer from The Hunger Games is one example)?

The world doesn’t like women, no matter what they do. This is the nature of patriarchy. Even people criticize Katniss for being too cold and unemotional. I am sorry we live in this world, young student. But go forth and write girls however you like, because we need to keep telling girl stories, however and whatever they are.

Why is the main character always being controlled?

The nature of dystopia is generally such that individual freedom is not valued. The system or the structure always must be obeyed.

In post-apocalyptic fiction, the demands of survival are what typically control the characters. There is no time for individual frippery or leisure or goopy feeling, generally.

What is the hardest thing about writing either post-apocalyptic or dystopian stories?

Speaking as someone who doesn’t write such stories, I would say EVERYTHING is hard!

But more seriously, the difficult task, I think, would be speculating about a world that is broken/destroyed/reengineered. This, at least, is where I see faults in some of these stories; the dystopian world presented doesn’t seem likely, or the smashing of civilization is unclear/hurried.

How do you create strong characters that stick with the reader?

Make your characters want or need something that they can’t easily get. Remember that sometimes your character will just want a hot cup of coffee or a good night’s sleep, not just world peace or true love. Provide hand-holds for the reader that establish humanity, regardless if character is a villain or the world is on another strange planet: people need sleep, food, amusement, shelter, etc. Providing for your characters in these ways gives the reader a sense of their bodies moving through this unfamiliar landscape.

Is it easier to write dystopian/post-apocalyptic stories than ‘normal’ fiction?

Nothing about writing stories is easy.

Do dystopian novels always have an unstable government system?

Well, it depends on where you encounter the government in the narrative. Often the government is rock-solid at the story’s beginning; discovering the cracks happens slowly as the story moves forward. Restricted information is a hallmark of dystopian fiction; what may seem like a nice system with the trains running on time may only be the surface view and when one looks closer (which is the call of the standard dystopian hero/heroine), it’s apparent that there are many flaws and weak links.

Why does the government in these stories always get overthrown?

The structure is the bad-guy, for sure, in either dystopian or post-apocalyptic fiction. And maybe this is because we understand our own government to be imperfect, too. Or we can easily point to lousy governing bodies all over this fine planet of ours. A structure, impersonal and powerful as it is, can be a wonderful villain, too. Especially when we really like delicious, multi-faceted villains these days, it’s nice to pin blame on a system instead of some Big Bad Evil Guy, you know?


I like reading Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic fiction a lot. Really looking forward to the third book in Veronica Rossi’s trilogy, Into The Still Blue, which comes out in January. Though I never write such things, I do love to talk about them. Perhaps this summer I’ll teach another class on the topic at The Loft?

For all the dystopian/post-apocalyptic musings on this blog, go here.

For a Walking Dead-specific fiction discussion, check out this post from Teen Librarian Toolbox.



One Comment

  • Matthew MacNish on Nov 27, 2013 Reply

    Frippery is now the word of the day. Shit, I’m putting that on Twitter.

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