Tips on Tuesday: What We Can Learn From Dis-HOPE-ian Books

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Like dystopian writing? Or are you all dystopianed out? They say the popularity is beginning to wane ‑‑‑ publishers want something else, something “new”.

Here’s what the dystopian pieces I read did for me: I started with The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I don’t normally read horror and/or gruesome kinds of books. This was about as “edgy” as I could stand. Yet I found myself going through radiation treatments for a second bout with cancer when I started the first one and kept turning the pages no matter what. Read them in the waiting room, when I was angst‑ridden, when I needed to be someone else for a while. Couldn’t stop: exciting, nerve‑wracking, challenging, never a dull moment!

Immediately thereafter, I started reading the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. I found this dystopian world to be compelling: exciting, nerve‑wracking, challenging. Well, a little more trouble with the third volume, but not enough to make me give it up.

Next I took on James Dasher’s excellent The Maze Runner trilogy. More of the same. In fact, if anything, even MORE of the “more of the same.” Admittedly, I did have to put it down after book two to read something else — but I think that was because it was #8 of 9 in a row of dystopian. I needed a BREAK from angst, excitement, plot twists and all the rest of it.

It was literally a set of three books you could not put down at the end of a chapter. And how it’s done.

Let me give you some of Dashner’s examples ‑‑‑ but no spoilers. I’ll name some types of events at chapter ends without doing them in order or telling you which book they’re from. And I’ll keep them as general as possible.

Contemplate what you can do to your characters that will hurt them the most. If you end each chapter with ideas like these, you may have a real page turner, if not a page burner.

  • a kid wakes up, in a huge “elevator:” NO memories of any past life (you may guess some facts if you know ANYTHING about it, but I did need to set the stage)
  • a kid loses the one he most cares about, the one he promised to save
  • a kid is incarcerated in a small cell for nearly a month with NO human contact
  • a kid loses his ability to trust when he’s betrayed by a true friend
  • a kid feels responsible for leading friends and foes into overwhelming trouble
  • a kid is berated and beaten for failing to keep an unknown “promise” to a friend
  • a kid finds out he’s trapped by enormous, rock walls that close every night, with no escape
  • a kid finds out his allies are setting explosives to bring down the building they’re all in
  • a kid watches, helpless, as a sick, demented person is run down by the vehicle he’s in
  • a kid is given a secretive note, told he must swear only to open it when the time is “right”
  • a kid shoots a true friend in the head on purpose ‑‑‑ and suffers terrible guilt
  • a kid races away from a deadly mechanical creature, only to confront three more
  • a kid sees that a friend’s sacrifice still leaves everyone else in jeopardy

What are YOU writing? “Go, thou, and do likewise.”

See you next for Thinkin’ on Thursday!



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