by Bonnie S. Calhoun
The latest reading phase for YA (and a lot of adult readers) is the dystopian genre. A dystopian is categorized by a world set in the future, unlike the world we live in today. I’m even reading one now where the only difference in worlds is that in the book’s world all people are mandated to stay thin, and if you get overweight they send you to re-indoctrination F.A.T camps that cost you a bundle of money.
Yes…with the advent of major motion pictures in the last two years about them (second Hunger Game, Catching Fire is out, the first of two parts for the last book MockingJay will debut in October, and at the end of March (21st) the first of the Divergent series books will debut in theaters), the genre is hot.
Now I know there are people saying it is dead already…but they’ve said the same thing about Amish fiction for the last five years…and it continues to perform. So you make your own call.
Why do I think the genre will endure? Because teens…and even adults…love to see overcomers in dire circumstances. The way we portray life today as on the precipice of destruction, the youth like to read that if the destruction succeeds, mankind can also triumph above those circumstances. That being said…what constitutes a good YA dystopian?
• You need a character in the age group of 16 thru 19 (supporting characters can be older.)
• An urgent journey to find someone or something, to escape, or to deliver something.
• A well developed story world. (I would suggest thinking out the story world until you have at least one new thing you can show about the world or be involved in for each chapter. (This is the most important part of a dystopia…taking them to a new world.)
• And a bunch of roadblocks that the protag can win at…or not win at, but succeed in getting away from.
• A romance thread. Yes…you hear me, Bonnie Calhoun say there needs to be some sort of a romance thread *bleck* because female readers love a romance, especially YA readers.
• The story does NOT have to be a HEA (happy ever after) but…
One of the major lessons I’ve learned about writing dystopian from the last book in the Divergent series called Allegiant is DON’T KILL THE PROTAGONIST off. And don’t change your writing style from book to book. The first two books were written in first person singular POV of Tris. The last book is first person POV for both Tris and her male counterpart Tobias. It was very jarring to go from reading one person’s thoughts to reading two people’s thoughts, especially when there was no discernable difference in the characters. The reviews on Amazon are at almost 8 thousand and the book is evenly split on those who hated that, and those that thought it was all right.
In a dystopia urgency is the key. So let’s see what you can come up with!
Bonnie Calhoun is the Owner of Christian Fiction Online Magazine (CFOM). She serves as Northeast Zone Director of ACFW. The first book in a new YA series with Revell publishes in Oct 2014 titled Thunder (Stone Braide Chronicles). You can find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bscalhoun, and on Twitter (@BonnieCalhoun), and on GoodReads.