A “series” of problems
When I hear the word “dystopia,” my mind immediately jumps to the novels I loved in high school: Brave New World. 1984. Animal Farm. I think that’s part of the reason I’ve been so critical of the YA dystopias that are so popular today – I’m always comparing them to what I consider the classics, and they never stack up. I want novels that critique society, not stories about girls who are trying to decide which guy she most wants to date. That’s not to say that there can’t be romance also, but I don’t want that to be the main focus (at least not without a good reason).
I would consider my current WIP a New Adult dystopian series. It does have romance, but the romance is necessary for the plot to work. It’s definitely more social commentary than romance. I’m not saying it’s as good as the classics, as it’s definitely not, but those are the novels that I’m using for inspiration. And there’s where we start to run into a problem. The classic dystopian novels all ended in a particular way. They weren’t happy. They weren’t even hopeful. Yet they were appropriate for the novel.
When I first came up with the idea for ALONE, it was a short story, and it had a very unhappy ending, the sort of ending I was used to reading about in high school. This was actually the short story I wrote for my final project in college. It went through so many drafts before I finally settled one, and I still can’t quite remember if it had a happy, sad, or hopeful ending.
Now that I’m writing it as a novel, I’ve had to reconsider the entire plot. I made the main character younger, and I’m focusing a lot more on other aspects of the world, not just the way women are treated (which was what sparked the idea for this novel). Suddenly, I realized that this story would work best as a trilogy, as there was much more to the story than I originally though. My original ending was a cop-out so I didn’t have to worry about what would happen after a particular series of events transpired.
So now I’m trying to figure out what will happen next, and I’m running into a problem. The classic novels all had pretty realistic yet grim endings. The current novels all feature an eventual overthrow of the oppressive government. The latter idea is so much more fun, but it requires the characters to stand up and act in a way that I don’t think would ever really happen.
I guess I’m just a pessimist at heart. I think humankind in general (or at least in America) is pretty horrible. I think corporations are taking over the country, and I don’t think regular people will ever win, partly because they’re not powerful enough but largely because I just don’t think people care about anything, at least not enough to really do anything about it.
This is the same problem I had when I was trying to plan my “fantasy” (read: medieval-ish setting without magic or any other fantasy elements) series. The government was evil and needed to be stopped, but I couldn’t imagine a realistic scenario when that would actually happen.
Maybe I’m overthinking this. I do that a lot. Maybe I need to have more faith in my imaginary people. After all, if you push people far enough, they’ll eventually break and fight back. Right?
What about you? Ever had conflicting emotions about the believability of your work?