With the current movements to advance society, dystopian fiction is extremely important
because this genre allows us to explore societal issues, challenge norms, and reflect on the
It serves as an expression and critique of present-day concerns and encourages readers to
contemplate issues on a deeper level.
Of course, the story needs to be compelling and entertaining, but dystopian fiction should also
inspire critical thinking.
When writing a dystopian novel, ask yourself what societal problems bother you the most. How
have these issues been handled in the past? What would not solving things lead to? What would
the country or world look like if the worst thing happened?
The basic elements of writing a fiction novel are the same, but what dystopian fiction does
differently is highlight how the societies around the characters affect them, how their world went
wrong, and what the characters do to ‘fix’ it and create a better system.
Many dystopian fiction novels warn us about how our world would change if the worst we can
think of happened.
So, how can we ensure our story is relevant and compelling?
Develop a significant premise
A strong premise is the foundation of a gripping story. The theme and central conflict drive your
narrative. Make your dystopian world unique and thought-provoking by addressing current or
historical societal problems, successes, and setbacks.
First, look at our current societal issues. Then research how similar issues were addressed in the
What did our predecessors do to promote change?
To what extent did what they do work?
What or who stopped further change?
If the same process they used in the past was tried again, how would society handle that today?
What new approach do you suggest your characters and readers take to solve the problem?
If your book sets up a utopia-like environment, what current issues could easily alter the society
to be worse off than what we are experiencing now?
Write complex and relatable characters
While your characters are still well-rounded individuals with basic human desires and emotions,
because it’s dystopian fiction, they face personal struggles within the larger societal context.
They need strong motivations, deep flaws, and personal arcs. Their motivations are based on
both personal wants. Some flaws are common human flaws. Others can be seen by society as
flaws. As the story progresses, their personal wants become less important and evolve into
aspirations for bigger change.
Create a believable and immersive world
Dystopian fiction relies on worldbuilding to establish a vivid and immersive backdrop for your
story. Of course, this includes the physical setting, but your world is dystopian and what is more
important is how it affects your characters.
So, construct detailed political, social, and cultural systems. These unique elements of your
world will dramatically influence your character’s lives, create conflict, and provide room for
Establish relevant conflict and tension
Dystopian stories thrive on a sense of urgency and peril. Whether it’s the threat of oppression,
survival in a harsh environment, or the fight for freedom, the tension should be palpable
throughout the narrative.
Clearly define the stakes for your characters and establish extensive consequences of failure.
Explore moral and ethical dilemmas
Raise thought-provoking ideas that will make readers’ question established morals and ethics.
Your story should explore the complexities of moral dilemmas. As you challenge your
characters, your readers to grapple with difficult choices and explore the consequences of their
decisions and actions.
Balance darkness with hope
Dystopian fiction is intense and bleak, but it is essential to offer hope and show resilience.
Give your characters moments of compassion and acts of resistance. This will create a more
nuanced and emotionally resonant story that encourages readers to envision a better future.
Consider the impact on the individual
While the setting is a societal critique, remember to focus on the characters’ personal journeys.
Show their emotional struggles and growth throughout the novel. By grounding your story in the human experience, readers will connect to the larger themes and make your dystopian world
Craft a satisfying resolution
Dystopian fiction is challenging, but readers often appreciate a satisfying resolution. The
conclusion of your story should align with the themes and messages explored in your novel.
Strive for an ending that feels earned and leave readers with hope or reflecting about how they
can advocate for change.
Remember, dystopian fiction allows us to imagine and explore the darker aspects of society. By
crafting a thought-provoking narrative, creating believable worlds, and situations relevant today,
you will captivate readers and inspire them to improve the system.
About the author
Kristin is an internationally renowned professional editor, specializing in developmental, line,
and copy editing of speculative fiction.
She’s edited over seventy manuscripts, including two bestsellers. Many of her clients are authors
who self-publish or submit to agents and publishers. Kristin is a contracted editor for Brooke
Warner Coaching, LLC., She Writes Press, Greenleaf Book Group, as well as the editorial
service companies—Book Butchers and The Literary Consultancy. At Literary Wanderlust, a
traditional publisher, she held the position of assistant editor.