Dystopian stories arise from imagined settings in which a society has sought to create a perfect way of life—a utopia. However, because trying to create perfection tends to result in a loss of freedom, these societies backfire and become dystopias—places that are not pleasant to live in at all. To...
Dystopian stories arise from imagined settings in which a society has sought to create a perfect way of life—a utopia. However, because trying to create perfection tends to result in a loss of freedom, these societies backfire and become dystopias—places that are not pleasant to live in at all. To imagine the dystopian society that will be the setting of your story, think creatively about the questions on the worksheet. Write down your answers so you can remember what you've decided on. Here are some ways to consider a few of the questions:
Homelessness and joblessness: What solutions could a society come up with for these related problems? In The Giver, each person is assigned a job and a family unit so that no one is homeless. Perhaps your society lives in one big building, or perhaps residents must take turns housing those who have no homes.
Car accidents and similar disasters: In The Giver, residents use bicycles rather than cars. Your society might choose that or might use only public transportation such as trains and streetcars, or residents may have to walk everywhere.
Theft, forms of punishment: Societies must have a way to deal with those who harm others. In The Giver, residents who don't respond to correction are euthanized—that is, killed—although not all community members realize that. Our society uses fines, imprisonment, parole, and such methods to control crime. Your society might have a way of brainwashing criminals, or putting them into a coma for a time, or some other frightening and extreme method.
Treatment of elderly: In The Giver, the elderly live in a home for the aged and are eventually euthanized with an accompanying celebration of their lives. This could be one of the scariest parts of your dystopia. Our culture claims to value older people, yet many older people are lonely and unhappy. Ending the lives of those who are not considered "useful" is a hallmark of a dystopian society.
Age of adulthood: Our culture values childhood and allows the age of dependency to reach into the early twenties. Many cultures require young people to work and act like adults when they are in their early teens. But any arbitrary age for adulthood can cause problems since each person is an individual and people mature at different rates.
After you have thought through the characteristics of your society (don't be afraid to make them rather dark since you are writing about a dystopia), then you can write your short story. Think of your story in three parts:
I. Setting and Characters: In this part of your story, describe the setting and show what normal life is like for your main character. Give your character a goal. Then have something that happens that kicks off the problem.
II. Problem/Conflict: Here your main character struggles with something that puts him/her in danger or interferes with his/her goal.
III. Climax/Resolution: The danger reaches its high point, and your character makes a decision that will solve the problem—either positively or negatively. Then you describe what happens as a result and wrap up any loose ends.
Answering the questions on the worksheet is your pre-writing for your story. Once you have a clear dystopian setting, you can create a character and a problem that fits in that setting. Then let the character act and make decisions. Finally, bring the problem to its conclusion.