We planned our most recent Young Writers workshop in response to a request from a student. They wanted to understand what goes into writing dystopian fiction. Breaking down a dystopian world is an exhilarating way to spend a sunny Saturday morning.
We began with a discussion on the five characteristics of dystopian fiction. The Young Writers drew parallels between these and the dystopian fiction they read at an impressive pace.
Our writers then began making a series of lists. The initial prompts asked them to consider five rules they found pointless, and five memories or current affairs they found scary. The final prompt: list five things you couldn’t live without. After we had clarified that these were intended to be comforts rather than things that would threaten your life, the participants had some interesting ideas. Suddenly we had a world without music, and a world without pets amongst other things.
We then asked the students to make a list of the most important values and ideals that a society should have, as though they were bestowing these qualities.
The Young Writers then had to imagine a world in which the things they could not live without had suddenly been banned, and write a diary entry detailing how they would feel.
The final challenge of this workshop was to write a blurb or the first page of your dystopian fiction piece. Our group drew on their knowledge of the Hero’s Journey to create characters and worlds that were at once fantastical and familiar, just hinting at something darker beneath the surface.
We hoped that the workshop, though fast-paced, would provide a sufficient basis for the writers to craft their dystopian worlds and stories. One young writer described the session as “Really challenging, but really good”, which would indicate that we accomplished our mission.