Does your world suck? If it does, you’re probably writing dystopian and your world isn’t exactly raining down sunshine, lollipops and unicorns on your characters. Dystopia is the opposite of utopia. It is an imperfect society.
You may be questioning how you balance all that dark with some light. You need to find a happy middle ground or your reader will bail on you and your characters. After all, if you characters start in the gutter, whine about it the entire book and are still in the gutter at the end, what’s the point?
There needs to be some deviation, a roller coaster ride as it were, of events.
The characters can start in the gutter, but they need to have hope things can get better. If there isn’t hope what reason do your characters have to survive in their world? Why not end it all and leap from a bridge? Even with a spark of hope alight in their breast, your readers need a reason to cheer for them and a villain to despise.
Your world may suck and your characters have a disadvantage to overcome, but now you have given them hope things can improve. They struggle, fight and climb from that gutter, your readers cheer. Then your villain slaps them down and your readers jeer. Even with the setbacks throughout the story, your characters don’t lose hope and they keep fighting their enemy.
This is your balance. A little good and a little bad and always hope. Just because the world is dark and dreary, it doesn’t mean the entire story has to be as well.
Readers want to see your characters live happily ever after. They don’t want everyone to die in a heap where they started. Nor do they want whiny, depressing characters that can’t get over themselves, think Bella of Twilight.
When you’re essentially writing about a society that’s supposed to be depressing, it’s hard to find a reason for your characters to hope. Yet, that is exactly what you need to find for them. A teeny little spark of hope, you can fan into a raging fire they can rally around as one. One your readers can get behind and devour page after page until, before they know it, they’ve reached the end of the story.
Because you’re world is imperfect, so must your characters be imperfect. Give them flaws that reflect the blemishes of your world. Make your readers want to cheer for your underdogs as they fight for their little slice happiness.
Dystopia may sound as if it’s difficult to write, but by contrast, I think it’s much more difficult to write about a utopian society than a dystopian one. If everything is already perfect, what do you hope to make better in your life? First, you need to destroy perfection before you can set your characters up to strive to make things better. In essence, you must turn it into a dystopia first, in a manner of speaking.
Now that you’ve given your people hope and a reason to get up and out of the gutter, get them out there and start them fighting for their new life! Oh and beware of those villains, they can become cliché if you aren’t careful with them. Give them as much attention as you do your other characters, they are just as important! For some readers they are more important. After all, who doesn’t love a good villain!