1. Published on Amazon? If you have a book, e-book, or audiobook available on Amazon.com, we'll promote it on WritingForums.org for free. Simply add your book to our Member Publications section. Add your book here or read the full announcement.
    Dismiss Notice
  2. Dismiss Notice
  1. Mental Landscaper

    Mental Landscaper New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2017
    Messages:
    12
    Likes Received:
    19

    Subtle ways to convey the fragile state of a society?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Mental Landscaper, Feb 5, 2017.

    What are some subtle ways to describe a fragile, recovering society?

    My setting is a decade or so after an enormous, continent-spanning war that left millions dead. It's based around an academy beside a town.
    How do you convey the feeling of shaky unease mixed with cautious optimism that follows such a devastating war?
    Even better, how do you subtly imply that despite the post-war propaganda, the winners were certainly not good people?

    In short, what does society-wide denial look like?
     
  2. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale "Cue the artillery" Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2015
    Messages:
    2,548
    Likes Received:
    2,716
    Location:
    Second Turtle from the Bottom
    Welcome aboard!

    My first thought is to have dialogue reminiscent of Watership Down, where characters react twitchily or not at all to mentions of certain things.

    Now we know that something bad happened either in or to Lawrenceville, and mentioning its name is a taboo, and a pretty serious one at that. Tuck a few things like that in there, and you've got a recipe for non-persons, non-towns, non-Aktions, and the like.

    While you're at it, you might want to pop over here and make an introduction thread so that we can get to know you a little better.
     
  3. pyroglyphian

    pyroglyphian Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2015
    Messages:
    112
    Likes Received:
    85
    Hi ML. I can't recall an indicative quote, but The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick might offer some inspiration.
     
  4. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2015
    Messages:
    2,428
    Likes Received:
    1,622
    Location:
    [unspecified]
    I read the first in a series called School's Out Forever which seems to be along the lines of what you're going for. It, like so many other post-apocalyptic novels, has the world divided into rival gangs who vie for control, enslave and/or kill each other, and ignore things like farming in favour of raiding shops. IMHO, stories like these ignore the fact that humans tend to pull together in hard times and so get it all wrong.

    But they do it for a reason: to maximize conflict. So in a way, that's fair from a literary point of view. But anyone who wants to write a story that's going to be closer to what would actually happen, they would have to ignore dystopian stories as well as anything claiming humanity will descend into chaos the moment disaster strikes... including the nightly news.

    One place you might start is magazine articles, newspaper stories and essays written about the rebuilding of England after WWII (or any other place where war destroyed infrastructure). You'll have to decide for yourself how much of these writings are factual (no news story has ever been 100% true) but if you read enough of them, you should start to see a clear-ish picture of how people comported themselves.
     
    Mental Landscaper likes this.
  5. Mental Landscaper

    Mental Landscaper New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2017
    Messages:
    12
    Likes Received:
    19
    Thank you Iain, that's an excellent idea. There's a character with a nickname they got in the war that nobody dares to say in public, so that could work very well. I like the idea of stressing what isn't being said rather than just explaining it outright.

    Thanks Pyroglyphian, I've heard of The Man in the High Castle but never looked into it. Seems like I'll need to head to the library.

    Great suggestion, Sack-a-Doo! I just realised how similar my setting is to post-WW2 Britain, and your idea of reading things written in that time period is brilliant. Why try and imagine what a society would be like after such a horrible war when we already know? I think this could add a nice layer of realism to the story, so thank you for that.
     
    Sack-a-Doo! likes this.
  6. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    20,471
    Likes Received:
    12,143
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    I concur with @Iain Aschendale. As another example, I'm currently re-reading The Handmaid's Tale. The MC is old enough, and the event that caused a massive shift in the remains of American society was recent enough, that she can't help but remember the forbidden things from her past, like her original name, the way she has learned to "unsee" the vestiges of old advertising and marketing, the way Japanese tourists dressed in what we would consider unremarkable attire seem almost pornographic to her with their bare calves and high heels. High Heels! She is both repelled and also deeply covetous because she remembers their feel.

    Now, in Atwood's example, the change is one of a theocratic nature, so the evidence of the change answers to related dynamics. Your evidence would need to be related to the manner and mode of the propaganda in play in your story. What is your propaganda selling as evil? What is it selling as righteous? How do these two sales pitches compare and contrast with the way we currently engage those dynamics? How do you think people would canalize and direct these sales pitches? How would it distort our memory of the way things were?
     
  7. big soft moose

    big soft moose Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    3,890
    Likes Received:
    3,339
    Location:
    Driving a tractuur in ciduur countree
    George Orwells 1984 is another classic for this sort of thing - look at how newspeak is constructed so that sentiments such as 'big brother is ungood' would be perceived as actually not making sense.
     
    Iain Aschendale likes this.
  8. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2015
    Messages:
    2,428
    Likes Received:
    1,622
    Location:
    [unspecified]
    You're welcome, but I hope you plan to use this as a jumping off point rather than a sub for your own imagined contributions. :)
     
  9. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Dark, is it not? Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    5,863
    Likes Received:
    3,638
    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    Life is good. The great dear leader has come to our block. His men clad in black carrying their 'happy or not sticks',
    coming from the large government truck. Entering the building, greeting them on the third floor with their happy
    faced masks. Welcomed in, they decline offer of stove-top coffee. Instead happily beating us with their 'happy or
    not sticks' until we are barely conscious.
    Carried by the arms out into the street by the dear leaders men, we smile at the many cameras with our bloody
    mouths missing teeth from the beating. The nice men stuff us into the truck. Shackled to the dark metal wall
    for our safety. Always thinking about our safety first. Such nice fellows.
    Cruising down the road, overhearing the lead man of our acquisition.
    "Yes, we have them. On our way to Joy Facility 3, in district 1-8A."
    Oh good, the one with the view of a tree! Though the road is bumpy and the hard metal bench is unpleasant
    on our backsides bouncing off it. We fight a bit to hold our content expressions. The nice gate man at the
    Joy Facility 3 sure is happy to see us. Even told us to enjoy our stay. What a nice fellow.
    The high walls and thorny wire is too keep the downers out for our protection. Silly downers need to come
    to one of these places. Might do them some good.
    The nice men move us along inside the Joy Facility. The men at the door are so nice to get the door for us,
    giving a us a wonderful greeting. Then some other nice people come and separate us for intake. Clad in soft
    white and masked to hide their faces. We each get a pair of these new persons to get us ready for our stay.
    Seemingly satisfied with our transition from our old look and in good order they lead us to another place
    in the facility called the Happy Room. Not to complain, but the room is cold. They firmly bind us down
    to the hard metal bed in the middle of the room. Double checking to make sure I can't fall off. So good of
    them to make sure we will not be able to roll onto the floor. They leave us alone as their jovial laughter
    echoes in the hollow air. How reassuring.
    Waiting for a about an hour in the cold room, unable to move. We peer about the Happy Room, so many
    shiny toys and things to look at. They look most fun to play with, as we wait for our play mate.
    They arrive some time later, most pleased to see us. We are pleased too, to see them. Too bad we cannot
    greet them properly since our hands are immobile. They forgive us for this, patting us on the shoulder.
    They take a place on a squeaky seat that we had not seen, and begin asking us questions and taking notes
    on a clipboard. We do like the conversation, as the men in the truck were not as chatty. At least our play
    mate is more than happy to speak with us. Their voice so soft and gentle.
    After being informed of our being here. It makes little sense to us, but we accept the explanation. Dear
    leader has most sound reasoning. After a brief time of silence the play begins.

    (I just had a random inspiration to riff out a dystopian flash-fic) :supergrin:
     
    Sack-a-Doo! likes this.
  10. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2015
    Messages:
    2,428
    Likes Received:
    1,622
    Location:
    [unspecified]
    This sounds like the Guy Fawkes masks in 'V for Vendetta.' :)
     
    Cave Troll likes this.
  11. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Dark, is it not? Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    5,863
    Likes Received:
    3,638
    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    Actually I kinda used the video game We Happy Few as the inspiration for that little short. :p
    Wehappyfew.jpg
     
    Sack-a-Doo! likes this.
  12. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    8,876
    Likes Received:
    8,557
    Location:
    Scotland
    What is the general attitude toward the future? What about people's individual attitudes towards their future? Are they complacent? Cautious? Optimistic? Pessimistic? Resigned?

    I was noting in myself, recently, a lack of confidence in my own future, due to the political shenanigans going on in the world at the moment. Nobody's jobs are secure. I'm retired, and thought I had a good retirement set up, but now I'm not sure. If the economy tanks, and it's already beginning to tank, will my savings and foreward planning be enough? Sure hope so, because there is nothing I can do about it now, if it's not.

    I think a lack of confidence in the future is definitely a sign of a society that's on a shaky nail. You don't have to be afraid of it, just not confident about it.
     

Share This Page