A Dystopian Winter Workshop with the Young Writers

by Casey Bottono

We’ve explored dystopian fiction with the Young Writers before during a Zoom workshop over lockdown. The participants took this demanding theme in their stride, and when asked last month what they wanted to look at during December’s workshop, decided they wanted another dystopian fiction workshop.

This time, we changed the premise slightly. We conjured a world for the writers in which there were limits on the amount of words that could be read, spoken or written per day. One hundred words per day in each category on weekdays, and on Sundays (now known as Reflections) just 50 words.

We began by discussing the five characteristics of dystopian fiction:

  1. Environmental destruction
  2. Government control
  3. Loss of individualism
  4. Survival
  5. Technological control

In a world where government control led to loss of individualism, we first invited the writers to make a list of aspects of life that would be affected by strict word limits. They then had to decide how the rules were enforced and monitored, and what the punishment would be for breaking them.

For the next exercise, we asked the writers to imagine that it was between two and five years into the new regime and write as though they were looking back on a time before it began.

They then used their 50-word Sunday limit to write a letter to silence, before deciding on three new laws that had been created in this dystopian world. Imagining the moment they found out about the laws that had been enacted, we asked the writers to tell us about where they were, how they heard about the changes and how they felt.

Finally, the reckoning. We told the writers that it was now Monday, and they had decided to flee the regime or rise up and fight. They had to write a piece about their decision to flee or fight and its impact on those around them.  Their final task – to write a piece of dialogue between themselves and a friend, family member or crush about their decision.

When we invited the writers to tell us about themes they wanted to explore in the new year, they had plenty of ideas. Bearing those in mind, our January workshop will focus on the theme of Myths and Legends. This will take place on Zoom on Saturday 7th January from 10:00am to 12:00pm. Booking information can be found here.