1. ToxicWaste
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    ToxicWaste Member

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    Anti-Utopic

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by ToxicWaste, Apr 7, 2010.

    How does one begin to hint that the future/alternate world your character lives in is not a good one? That is to say this world has some sort of serious flaw or problem. The flaw maybe the ruling style of the government or a much more discrete thing, such as the no one over 30 deal of Logan's Run.
     
  2. B-Gas
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    B-Gas Contributing Member

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    It depends on the specific flaw we're talking about. If the flaw is one that is inherent and well-known in the society, then the character could be worried about something that we would think of as either minor or completely inconsequential- whether they're eating enough protein, how many miles they drove their car this morning, the precise amount by which they are late to the office. Seriously worried. This can then be segued into an explanation- or at least, dire prognostications about the possibility that something bad is about to happen.

    If it's a new one, or one shrouded in mystery- like what their food is made out of, or what, precisely, is behind that door into which they throw the traitors- then let the protagonist be caught off-guard just as much as we are. Fighting or fleeing from something that they can't comprehend is always fun.

    What particular anti-utopic element are we talking about here?
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Well, two things:

    First, there is a word for what you are describing: dystopian.

    Second, your societal flaw should serve some purpose within the framework of the story inasmuch as what you the writer are attempting to say. To use your example, in Logan's Run, when people reach the age of thirty they are somewhat ritually executed during Carousel. BTW, in the original story, the age was twenty one and there is no public execution. The people simply report to a sleepshop. The people in this story lack a group or societal memory because no one lives long enough. The society has degraded into a kind of hedonism because it (the society) lacks a conscience. No memory of the past, life is short and fast. Everything is for the now.

    So, when you choose your dystopia, what is it that you wish to point out? What is the message you are trying to convey?
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    By the way, the word is dystopian.

    You show it through the consequences of the dystopian element. In Logan's Run, you start with a likeable character deciding to live past thirty. Then you learn there the runner movement is vast, but up until now has just been another way to die. You show that the foundation of the strict law is a lie - the population does NOT need to be strictly controlled, because the outside world is, in fact, habitable.

    The details will vary according to the dystpian element you choose to introduce, but showing why that dystopian element is despicable is generally the entire point of the story.
     
  5. Evil Flamingo
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    Evil Flamingo Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well I would probably try to start out by focusing more on the characters first, then following them through their daily lives. In a dystopian world, your character isn't going to be immediately concerned by his common surroundings since their common to him/her. These common things for them will be, of course, of great concern to readers like us who can't relate to that kind of area. It will establish that things are really off, then you can grow from it. The key element I think, is to have your MC and others act naturally in the face of this world. It's what they know and they're living in it.

    Think of it as if your moving into the future to view this world. Your instantly confused and scared of your unfamiliar surroundings, where all the people who live here from day to day see it as the norm.

    It's the subtleties.

    E. F. Mingo
     
  6. Llylia
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    Llylia New Member

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    I quite like the way a lot of dystopian book show you a "perfect" world, with people seeming very happy and usually the main character feels slightly outside of it, which allows them to reveal the flaws. Think 1984, or Brave New World or Farenheit 451.

    I love dystopian novels and prefer it to be revealed slowly though starting at the end and retelling via flashbacks as such works - like Oryx and Crake (where he's sort of stuck in the breakdown and moving through the present while considering how the past brought him to that point.)

    HTH
     
  7. Evil Flamingo
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    Evil Flamingo Contributing Member Contributor

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    As much as I didn't enjoy Oryx & Crake, I did enjoy the flashbacks involving Oryx. I think they were the most powerful of the novel. Those other three novels are some of my favorites. =]
     
  8. ToxicWaste
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    ToxicWaste Member

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    I was under the impression that a dystopian society was one that wasn't very good in anyway. That is to say it isn't trying to be a utopia, where as an anti-utopia would be a utopia if not for one specific flaw. 1984's society had multiple flaws and wasn't enjoyable in anyway or even trying to be a utopia, where Logan's Run was trying to be a utopia, but had a serious flaw.

    Either that or I'm completely wrong and now look like a fool.
     
  9. Rechar
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    Rechar Member

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    Well its not so much what a Dystopia is, but what a Utopia is.

    A Utopia is perfect in every way, even a single flaw means it isn't a Utopia. The best we have to describe that would probably be Dystopia. Though i understand what you mean....its a blurry line, as all sociology is. Best i could say is a Dsytopia is a society that exhibits a number of Utopian ideals while maintaining other ideals that run contrary to the idea of a Utopia. :D

    The label isn't that important at the end of the day, aslong as you describe the situation the readers will be able to make their minds up.

    How to describe these problems? I'd say by placing the MC in situations which demonstrate the symptoms of the flaw without pointing the finger at the cause, let readers play doctor and diagnose the problem themselves :)
     
  10. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The different terms do exist, but the differences are very subjective. One person may look at the world of Brave New World and see a utopia gone wrong, others may see this world and be horrified by the near hive-like mentality of the society. It need not be so blatently dark as Orwell's 1984. In Clarke's The City and the Stars, the city of Diaspar might be seen as a perfect utopian society, but the flaw lies in the very perfection of the society. The society has stagnated. It is no longer moving or growing. The citizens are programed to be terrified to leave the city. Literally programmed. Some might see this as only a single flaw, some might see this as a heinous distortion of the human condition.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    'anti-' would mean 'being against' not merely 'not achieved' or 'abnormal/faulty' as 'dys' does... and a world can't be against itself, can it?
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd be inclined to call this a "failed utopia", but that's not a common phrase, I just made it up. "Anti utopia" would, to me, imply that _everything_ is wrong, as opposed to a utopia, where everything is right.

    ChickenFreak
     
  13. Aeschylus
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    Aeschylus Contributing Member

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    You're the writer. No writer is without bias. If you view your fictional world as a dystopian society, or whatever you want to call it, the story will come out that way. Your writing will echo your thoughts, whether you are obvious or subtle about them.

    Just don't describe the society outright as negative; the idea is that the characters are used to this society, so they might not recognize the flaws consciously at all. In fact, the characters don't have to be depressed or scared for it to be a dystopia; if the characters feel happy and contented in their twisted or collapsing society, it may very well make their world seem much more disgusting or unnerving to the reader. In Brave New World, for example, the reader can tell long before the Savage comes in that the society they live in a twisted, failed utopia; the characters are happy and are disgusted with what they know of our society, and the author still manages to convey the way their world has been warped.
     

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