1. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    How do you make your story's oppressive government interesting?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Link the Writer, Oct 3, 2012.

    In short, my fantasy story is about a group of Altrans, the enslaved Devonians and a revolution to overthrow an evil empress.

    ...Except I think empires (especially evil ones) are way too overdone. I want to form another 'oppressive' government for my protagonists to overthrow.

    My idea was a blend of Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany, and the leader (let's call her Tyrina just for the sake of example) is the head of this government.

    Question: How do you make it interesting and worth reading about? How do you make them seem well-rounded and evil enough for the readers to hate, yet sympathetic enough so they don't seem flat?

    And how do I avoid the typical "big bad guy sits there and does nothing" cliche? What should I have "Tyrina" do?

    Suggestions?
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    They don't necessarily have to be sympathetic to be non-flat. Orwell's "1984" had a very engaging totalitarian government, and it certainly wasn't sympathetic, but it was well-rounded enough to be fascinating.

    I'd say an important factor is to have some dark mysteries. In 1984, for example, there is the feared "Room 101." Have something like that, or some kind of mysterious location that dissenters get carted off to, or some kind of other horrifying secret behind closed doors. This will keep the suspense up, and for most of us, what we don't see/know is scarier than what we do.

    Also, try and reinvent the wheel. While Nazi Germany was horrific, if you take all the same horrors and use them in your book (the concentration camps, etc) readers will already know what's going on, because most of us have taken history classes at some point and learned about WWII and Nazi Germany. Definitely use it for inspiration, but add in some things that are your own, that won't be guessed as easily.

    And if you do want it to be sympathetic to some degree, have a character who is part of the government or otherwise on the inside. You could have him/her represent the people who just went along with the regime because they felt their own lives were at stake if they didn't, or because they didn't know what was really going on. Or, you could use that character to display the "it's not my idea, and I was told to do it, hence I'm not guilty" fallacy of human thought -- millions of people thinking this way is more responsible than one evil dictator for the dark parts of history.
     
  3. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    it seems like your leanign twords an autocratic state.

    so some options is royalty/ inherited blood line thing.
    a religion position
    Military dictatorship
    Military Junta
    meritocracy
    some type of democratic or republic where Tyrina ends up in charge
     
  4. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    It depends on what you're trying to accomplish. I'm not subtle about setting up my world as a galactic version of the US vs Nazi Germany vs Imperial Japanese Empire. So you don't necessarily have to be subtle. Plus, unless you've taking a class that goes into in depth at college, like myself, then there's things the Nazi's did that most people don't know.

    As for your government, repressive government use secret police, fear and intimidation, along with work and prison camps. The government can be made well rounded by how they behave, and the mannerisms of the leader (who in your case I'd combine Hitler/Stalin/Mussolini to get the leader you want-or some of the current dictators like Assyd in Syria or Saddam) can make it more rounded.

    Most governments like you're describing aren't very sympathetic to people outside of the territory, so you do not necessarily have to make them like able. The important thing will be to try to make it realistic, which is done by some of the things above.
     
  5. Aeschylus
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    Aeschylus Contributing Member

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    ...So you're telling me that evil empires are overdone but oppressive regimes based on Nazi Germany are not?
     
  6. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Good idea! I always did wonder how the average citizens of these regimes felt. Why didn't they do anything? What do they feel about outsiders? How do they cope with being trapped in this environment?

    And I agree. I also don't want my book's government to be a carbon-copy of Nazi Germany and/or Stalin's Russia. If I use bits and peices of it, I'll put my own spin on it so it won't be so obvious.

    I have to give the government a purpose. What is it doing, and why is it doing this? What does Tyrina want? Every dictator did their thing because they believed they were fighting for (what they thought) a righteous, just cause. Why is Tyrina trying to enslave the Devonians? What is her purpose? Since she's the leader of the government, she's the face of the ideals she's trying to uphold, the beliefs she's trying to put upon her subjects.

    All I got were...
    -- She feels the Devonians are beneath her and her people, since the Altrans are humans, and the Devonians are pretty much noseless, horned elves with paws and tails. They're more animal than human. So, I guess there's a 'superiority' complex there.

    -- Personal revenge? A Devonian once killed someone she loved, and she wants to persecute the entire race because of that?

    -- I dunno. I feel like my big-bad here is really underdeveloped. She's at Galbatorix (from Eragon) level. Why is she evil? She just is.

    EDIT: Be honest, 'Tyrina' is a bad name for my character. It's pretty much 'TYRANT'. Kinda obvious to the readers.

    EDIT II: Hmm..A military dictatorship? Interesting. Pardon my ignorance, but isn't that the same as a military junta? The military is in control with the commander of the army as the leader?

    EDIT III: Aeschylus, you make a good point. I guess I need to just not catagorize my big-bad's type of government. Figure out how she's going to assert control, how she'll use fear and intimidation to get what she wants, and go all out on it.
     
  7. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    I'm not sure who the response is directed at..

    But me? I've never said they're overdone at all. When done historically accurate, then nothing's wrong with using them to be honest. Link, check your box, got a lot of info for you.

    If not referring to me, please ignore, can't tell who the response is directed to. :/
     
  8. Aeschylus
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    Aeschylus Contributing Member

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    Sorry for the confusion, Kate, that post was directed at Link.

    I don't think empires or oppressive regimes are overdone necessarily, though it really depends how they are approached. But you can't say that empires are overdone and oppressive regimes are not (once again, not just talking to you, Kate :p). Also keep in mind that evil empires count as oppressive regimes/governments.
     
  9. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that this type of story is more interesting when the "evil" empire aren't just simply evil, but perhaps believe that they're in the right. Or that the evil is not just the simple result of an evil leader, but something that happened over time. Perhaps a slippery slope from idealism into tyranny.

    In any case, it might be interesting to let us know how the government and society came to be. Even if this is just the occasional hint rather than a lengthy history.
     
  10. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Tyrinia could be a fanatic follower of a fictional religion that's powerful in your story. Or it could be that she has political motivations and needs a scapegoat.
     
  11. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    a military junta can become a dictatorship. a junta is a group or committee of military leaders that rule the country. a dictatorship is smaller and is often just one man in charge of the military.
     
  12. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Hm...That could work. Leader of a powerful fictional religion, and she has political motivations to boot and uses a scapegoat?

    The basic background? Well, in the core, the story focuses on two countries. Karita (her country) and Glenoria. They're the same people, capable of weilding weapons and magic, except the Glenorians profess magic over the sword, and the Altrans does the reverse. They're so rigid in their cultural differences that they can almost be understood as two totally different people. You wouldn't imagine that at one point, the Altrans were once Glenorians who had long since migrated to Karita, the bigger landmass. (Glenoria is a small island just off of Karita)

    The Devonians were the original magical users and they taught the first Glenorians how to use magic, and large populations of Devonians went with the Glenorians who migrated to Karita.

    That was almost a thousand years previous. (story is set in 1241 AVE)

    The Devonians were enslaved 200 years ago, in the year 1041 AVE. About the same time the Glenorians and the Altrans had their first war that seperated them into two different countries, and the Devonians in Karita were enslaved.

    So...maybe Tyrina's motivation is to continue the age long grudge and superiority?
     
  13. Aeschylus
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    Aeschylus Contributing Member

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    Or you could have both at once ;)

    Maybe the fictional religion is intertwined with the government and they live in a theocracy. Tyrinia's political and religious motivations would then overlap, because as the head of a theocracy (if she's either some kind of head priest or regarded as a deity herself) she has religious responsibilities that directly translate into policy. Fascist states are often religiously driven, and generally also come with a sense of national/racial supremacy. Same with totalitarian states - even though communist nations generally consider themselves to be atheist and anti-religion, the cults of personality surrounding their leaders definitely mimic a theocracy. And look at North Korea, where people are supposed to believe that Kim Il-Sung created the world and controlled the weather.

    Here's a good one - have you heard of Turkmenistan? Now that's a crazy country. Saparmurat Türkmenbaşy (Turkmenbashi) has a building-sized copy of his book in the middle of the capital, which opens mechanically and residents must flock to it to read it when it does. Also, huge gold statue. And everything is named after him. And he banned smoking cause he quit. And he banned dogs cause he doesn't like the way they smell. And also ballet. And opera. And also makeup for newscasters. http://www.neatorama.com/2007/06/11/craziest-dictator-ever-turkmenbashi/
     
  14. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    I don't know if you've ever played video games much, but in Fable 3, the ruler of the kingdom is super oppressive, levying heavy taxes and forcing people into labor, basically all the cliched bad king stuff. Except that, once you overthrow him, you find out that he was doing all that to prepare the kingdom for an attack by an ancient evil and if you don't rule similar to how he did, your kingdom will fall and everyone will die.

    I thought that was an interesting twist on the evil dictator ship. If you give them a valid reason for being the way they are, or at least some justification, that they believe in, it would make the classic formula a little more interesting.
     
  15. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I did play Fable 3! Yes, that was an interesting twist in the whole thing, and it...kinda made the first king somewhat less dickish in nature to me.

    And that's my problem with the Empress. How do I give her a valid reason?

    I guess, given the brief history I posted on this thread, maybe she herself is the victim of the brainwashing that had been going on throughout the centuries? Or, maybe a loved one/relative was murdered, and all her actions are based on revenge? "You hurt me, took what was mine, so now this is what I will do to you!" kinda thing? Perhaps a bit of both, as Aeschylus said? Leader of the fictional religion, she uses this and her own experiences as her political engine?

    But...doesn't that kinda make her weak? "Ooooh, poor little me, I'm a brainwashed little queen and I'm going to overreact and continue what my forefathers have done to these filthy horned creatures!" While that may be one side of it, perhaps there's another aim? A quest to prove superiority over the others?
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You might want to take a look at Ben Bova's novels of the past few years. His New Morality government is not really evil (although anyone who appreciates science and independent thinking will hate them). It is full of corruption (what government isn't?), but you can sympathize with the forces that brought it into power.
     
  17. mywrittentruth
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    mywrittentruth New Member

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    Think 1984 I mean originality is important when writing but it is one of my favorite books and to do a totalitarian government well and not cliche, is stay to the truths of an all powerful government, there can not be any form of unity between people so say like the recent hunger games trilogy, districts is not a bad idea but not realistic in terms of a government that can stay in power. Building your character to connect to the reader and then introduce the more liberal interpretations of the affects it has on him or her negatively, or bring the negativity of the government in almost as its own character in a sense that oppression and so forth has kind of taken a life of its own feed by the people that are oppressed and controlled by the government, its become a monster giving it human attributes can give the reader a broader grasp of the severity but to make something like this work and work well you cannot tell a reader you have to show them, their own ideas and attributes of an overly powerful government is something that you can weave into the story as you build upon your characters.
    1984 over all was great and a lot can be learned from the book as you make it believable and more detrimental as time goes on, you start hating the government more as you see more, build the characters strengths slowly using a positive and negative symbiosis not everything is going to be good but keep little things in there because with hope you see more of the image you are trying to portray but at the same time adding layers of suspense as readers know OK this has to happen, let them believe it wont and then strip it away. Such a strong emotion entices readers and turns your written world into something they cannot forget about or put down.
    I hate to use this example again but Hunger games for instance was written very well in my opinion but the whole time you know during these games that people are going to die, Katniss builds a relationship with Rue to the point you do to as a reader. for her to be killed like you knew all along had to happen, this was great you show the monstrosities of the tyrannical government and the turning point in a rebellion, you make the reader want revenge.
    Best of luck to you, I know its long winded but i just got of work and just had this discussion with someone, these story lines are some of favorite when done well I hope you the best.
     
  18. Vsevolod
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    Never blend Stalin and Gitler's nazism, it is strongly not recommended.
    It is not urging you to write something you don't want or I want, it is about cultural aspects of your writing. It's about historical aspects and knowledges about these facts, absolute knowledges about these facts.
     
  19. Mikewritesfic
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    Mikewritesfic Senior Member

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    I agree with some of the comments here. Do your research and do it well if you want to make this oppressive government the least bit interesting. Stay away from the stereotypes even if they ring true. In that case minimize it. There are plenty of research resources out there. Trust me, I'm a PhD candidate :)
     
  20. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    You are outsourcing an element that you believe will make your story interesting...does anyone see something wrong here?
     
  21. Mikewritesfic
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    Mikewritesfic Senior Member

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    He's stuck and is reaching out for some help. How is that wrong?
     
  22. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    Stuck? Sounds to me like he hasn't even started.
     
  23. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I am a thousand words into it, as of now, and I'm going to stick to the empire thing, with secret polices, terrifying cells that prisoners don't want to go, etc., the whole nine yards. Chapter One ends with the protagonist's dad being hauled off by the secret police.
     
  24. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    How did the government form?
    Why does it fear the people?
     
  25. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    well considering the number of things that get deleted when posted in this forum, it works as something to make the place interesting. plus the people that want something to post in the critic section now have something to post on to get the 20 or so they need.

    shouldn't any dictatorship fear its people?

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,--That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness"
     

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