I’ve started writing a dystopian YA. I’ve read dozens of these books and finally have an idea of my own which I feel compelled to write. While I am good at plotting and cliff-hangers, it will be a challenge to build a new world. When I’ve written a SEER or DEAD GIRL books I already know the world and paranormal rules. But world-building is new to me and I have to do more than plot a story; I have to create a new world. I’m having to consider language, setting, history, rules of society and much more. I could spend months creating all the background for this book, but my impatient style is to just jump right into the first chapter.
How to start my book? If I compare myself with clever writers of my favorite novels, I’d probably get stuck and never write anything. I often like to start books with dialogue, but is that a good idea for a darker glimpse of a future world?
For examples, here are the opening lines from my favorite dystopian authors:
HUNGER GAMES: When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.
INCARCERON: Finn had been flung on his face and chained to the stone slabs of the transitway.
CITY OF EMBER: (Chapter 1) In the city of Ember, the city was always dark.
BIRTHMARKED: In the dim hovel, the mother clenched her body into one final, straining push, and the baby slithered out into Gaia’s ready hands.
FIRST LIGHT: Most boys his age had never touched paper.
All very different openings, but each sets the scene for a new and different world. Which is your favorite? I particularly like the opening for FIRST LIGHT. Not a surprise that this author, Rebecca Stead, went on to win the Newbery with her WHEN YOU REACH ME last year.
So now I’m thinking…should I start with dialogue? None of these authors did. But then I have to remind myself dialogue is a strength of mine. It’s important not to follow other authors and hone in on my strongest skills.
I have lots of notes about my society and I have an idea of where the book is going, including some dramatic plot points. But as I plot, I wonder if some of my ideas are over-used? My society is secluded, which has been done a lot. It involves scientists, which is also common. And even if I come up with something completely new that hasn’t been done yet, it might be published by the time my book is ready. So how can I make my story different enough to be publishable?
It would be interesting to know what things you think have been overdone in dystopian books. Comments please!