December 2022 – Jericho Writers
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Flash Fiction Prompts To Spark Inspiration

Not having enough time for all the things we want to do and write is probably the single feeling writers relate to most. We all have those strewn around notes of new ideas and unfinished scenes that get tucked into a drawer for later. And they all go to live in the “unfinished” corner of your mind palace. But sometimes, you’re feeling inspired to write but you want a final result that same day, with some closure. If you want to be able to practice your craft and have something to show for it relatively quickly, why not write flash fiction.  Maybe you can experiment, and write about an alternate universe or a post-apocalyptic future. In this article, you’re going to familiarise yourself with the nature of flash fiction, and you’ll get more flash fiction writing prompts than you\'ll know what to do with. What Is Flash Fiction?   Flash fiction is a very short story with a word count of approximately 100 to 1000 words. (Unless, of course, you\'re writing a story of just six words, like the one often attributed to Hemingway.) These short stories usually start right in the thick of the action, at a dramatic moment, since there isn’t a lot of time to warm up. But the short nature of this sudden fiction form is also what makes it so exciting. Flash fiction needs to feature some form of growth or development for the main character, as it\'s still a complete story, which can be challenging given the constraints of its length. You can also play with different perspectives, from that of your best friend, to an evil wizard, or the young boy next door. To make things easy on you here are some prompts for your great flash fiction story, separated by genre:   Flash Fiction Prompts General Prompts  He stood outside the Chinese restaurant on 5th street a little too long to appear as someone contemplating the menu. But it was now or never. He had to tell her. The door swung open and he took his chance.   “This is not what I had in mind,” she said to her sister, as she picked the lock to the local metaphysical store. A moment later it gave a satisfying click.  She felt disappointment spread through her. “These experimental drugs don’t even work. What are they supposed to do again?”  Pushing a pram through the mall made shoplifting easy. \'The Christmas rush\', James observed, as he walked slowly through carol-filled Westfield, \'only made it easier\'.   She took one look at her new roommate, and realised she had made the biggest mistake of her life.  “Why are you wearing a wedding dress to the office?” she asked incredulously. I looked in the mirror, at the sea of diamantes and lace. “I have my reasons.”  “You look exactly like someone I used to know,” she said to the barista. The woman was trying her to best to ignore her, but Liz pressed on. “Where do I know you from?”  She opened her husband\'s text messages, even though she knew she shouldn’t. He was in the shower and she only had ten minutes maximum to prove her wild theory right.  I wasn’t supposed to speak at the wedding, and yet there I was, microphone in hand. 160 or so faces looking at me with concern.  “Why are you wearing Mum’s boots? You know it’s forbidden.”  She pointed at the cupboard and smiled, “The treasure is in there.”  “The code is 2412, but hurry we are running out of time.”  He had crashed his car and knew he would have to do the rest of the journey on foot.  The green dress was waiting for her in her hotel room.  “I can’t believe you brought me here,” she said to her husband. “You said that was the last time.”  Fantasy Prompts  One thing I didn’t expect was for there to be goblins in the world. And I really didn’t expect them be chewing on my furniture in the middle of the night.  She should never have cast a spell in the garden centre.   “When I said elves are good creatures,” her father thundered through the living room, “I didn’t mean bring one as a date to Thanksgiving!”  “Get the hell out of my way.” Suzy blinked in horror; not just because that was a rude way to start the day, but also because that was the first thing her cat had ever said to her.  Eliza always thought that vampires were supposed to be sexy. The man currently gulfing down Greek yoghurt from her fridge, fangs barred and creamy white for everyone to see, was decidedly not sexy at all.   As the beast soared into the sky, Kiera realised this was going to be the last time she would ever ride a dragon.   “Here you go,” the yellow-eyed mermaid said as she returned my mother’s locket to me. “And next time you scuba dive, don’t be so sloppy.”  She wasn’t like other girls... She could smell people’s emotions from miles away.   He downed the sweet potion and felt the spell spread through him. This was going to be one Bowling State Championship no one was likely to forget.  Eliza touched the flowers on the grave and they came back to life. “Being an elemental has its perks,” she said to her sister. “Now let’s get what we came for.”  The werewolf was waiting for her in the alleyway, artefact in hand.  She ran her hand against the merman’s scales, and smiled.   Romance Prompts  The last person you want to run into when you’re buying Ben and Jerry’s in bulk in your hometown’s Costco is your ex-boyfriend. The second is his mother.   “I’m pretty sure you are not supposed to find your divorce lawyer cute!” she whispered so he wouldn’t hear.  He had walked me home. The entire 6 miles, through the city and in the rain. It was time to tell him the truth.  “From the first time I saw you dancing on stage, I knew there would be no one else.”  His lips were inches from mine, his breathing heavy. “Say that to my face,” he growled.  He pointed up at the ceiling and grinned. “What about the mistletoe?”  “If you walk out that door, don’t bother coming back.” She took a step back and closed it.  1333 roses were waiting in her living room that morning, just like he had promised. She kicked one of the vases in anger.   “How dare you? After everything you’ve done, how dare you come back to this bakery?”  “Just shut up and follow directions,” she said, guiding his hands through the pizza dough.   He checked his pocket. There it was, a phone number with a little heart next to it.  “Who is your date?” her boss asked. “I’m not sure. I just met him on the bus ride over here.”  He kissed him beneath the cherry blossom tree. Just in time for the festival to begin.  Thriller Prompts  She looked down at the latest case file and took a bite of her cinnamon swirl. You would think looking at this kind of stuff would rob someone of their appetite, but double homicides only made Jennifer hungrier.   Her dog whined and pawed at the door, just as the outside sensors went off and a stranger became drenched in light.   “There’s something really wrong with this innkeeper,” I whispered to my wife as we took turns looking through the peep hole. The innkeeper knocked again as I shuddered. “Why is he holding a candelabra?”  Lucas was the first patient to ever tell me they had killed someone. As I sat there, facing him across my fancy office furniture, I wasn’t sure what my next move should be.  “Stop looking at me like I killed my husband,” Clara laughed that tinkling laugh of hers. “Here, try a cookie instead. Oatmeal raisin, my mother’s recipe.”  It was a very strange party. For one, all the drinks were mocktails. And two, there was a body in the living room.  He was standing right in the middle of the driveway, wet and angry. So, she pressed on the gas pedal.  “Open the garage door,” she screeched, clawing at the metal. “Open it!”  A shadow moved between the trees. Bruce tucked his camera away.  The precinct was a lot smaller and a lot quainter than she had imagined.  It was a good day to identify a body. She took a step forward.  Holiday Prompts  I held on to the stair railing for dear life, and looked down at the party. There was only one face I recognised, and it was the last one I wanted to see on Christmas day.  Suddenly, there he was... Santa Claus in the flesh, hovering over my mince pies. I said the first thing that came to my mind. “You don’t look anything like the Coca Cola adverts…”  Everyone at the party was staring at her Halloween costume in horror.  She squeezed it tight. It was the weirdest Christmas present she had ever received.  It was really hot inside the Easter Bunny outfit, but it was the only way to avoid him.  He was the last person she ever expected to see at her Chanukah dinner table.   \'Thanksgiving was supposed to be fun. Not dangerous.\' He thought, as he tucked the knives away into the safe.  The birthday clown had arrived 45 minutes late to the birthday party and smelling of rum.  She looked outside at the blanket of white. Finally, her first snowy Christmas!   She was the meanest carol singer in the province…  Science Fiction Prompts  I frowned at the sales person. “You’re telling me you sold me an AI that is meant to clean my home but instead just makes a mess and I… can’t even return him?”  The doctor smiled at me warmly. “Don’t be nervous, many people are interested in cloning themselves. Why don’t you take a seat and tell me your concerns?”  Tears streamed down her face as she stared at her husband. “I don’t want a robot son. I want a real child. I told you that before and you just don’t listen to me.”  This was her first time in a coffee shop on another planet and she hoped they did lattes the right way.  The suit melted directly into her skin. She looked at her new reflection in the mirror.  She turned to her 3D printer. It was time for some breakfast.   He avoided eye contact with the machine next to him. She gave him the creeps.  “I can’t leave the spaceship right now, I’m waiting for an important delivery.”  “You’ve been to the edge of the galaxy,” she said, twirling her wine. “Describe it to me.”  Frequently Asked Questions   What Are The Best Prompts For Flash Fiction?    The best prompts are the ones that leave something to the imagination and make us want to put pen to paper straight away. They should instantly make you think \'Who? What? Where?\' and fill you with a desire to fill in those blanks.  How Do Flash Fiction Stories End?   Flash fiction should end with a problem being resolved and with the main character transformed in some way (however small). Writing Flash Fiction All of us writers have to hone our craft, and as we well know nothing works better than practice. Flash fiction is a great way to strengthen your writing because it’s quick, makes you think, and it’s a way to get feedback regularly. These prompts will challenge your imagination due to the nature of flash fiction, and lead you to new ideas. Who knows, one of your flash fictions could end up being the seed for your next novel.   Happy writing! 

Dialogue Prompts To Kickstart Your Creativity

Dialogue prompts, and writing exercises in general, are an excellent way for writers to get their creative juices flowing.  They provide a starting point and inspiration for writing conversational dialogue between two or more characters in your novel or short story.  In this article, we will discuss 45 dialogue writing prompts that you can use in your story; whether you\'ve just started writing or don\'t know how to start your final scene. What Are Dialogue Prompts?  Dialogue prompts are excellent for writers looking to improve their dialogue skills. With dialogue prompts, writers are given a specific situation or scenario to write about, helping them to focus their dialogue and create more natural speech.  Additionally, dialogue prompts can help writers to practice different dialogue styles and experiment with different voices for their characters. They can consist of a single line, or contain the opening of a conversation, and each provides a strong idea that will spark inspiration. Whether you\'re a beginner or a seasoned pro, dialogue prompts are a great way to improve your dialogue writing!  Tips For Using Dialogue Prompts  Writing dialogue can be one of the most challenging aspects of creating a short story or novel. After all, how do you capture the way people actually speak?  You can quickly improve your dialogue-writing skills with a few simple tips: Pay Attention To The Way People Talk In Real Life Notice the rhythm of their speech and how they use inflection to emphasise specific words. Then, when it\'s time to write dialogue, try to capture that same natural rhythm.  Keep Your Dialogue Brief And To The Point People rarely speak in long, drawn-out speeches, so avoid writing dialogue that sounds unnatural.  Make Sure Your Dialogue Matches Your Genre If you\'re writing a romance, for example, your dialogue should contain some love and passion. On the other hand, if you\'re writing a thriller, your dialogue should be full of tension and suspense. Matching your dialogue to your story\'s genre helps set the tone for your story and engages your readers. Many writers find that trying dialogue exercises, such as using writing prompts, helps them write a new story. Experiment with them - there\'s no wrong way to use a prompt! 45 Dialogue Prompts To Jumpstart Your Writing  \"I\'m going to give you ten seconds to pick that shirt up off the floor.\"  \"How did you last only five days at that job?\"  \"I\'ve had it with this guinea pig! Greg, get over here!\"  \"Things haven\'t been right between us since Thailand. You can\'t say you haven\'t felt the same.\"  \"I\'ve said it before, and I\'ll say it again: This isn\'t what I signed up for!\"  \"You\'re not listening to me. Did you ever really care?\"  \"It\'s time you loosen up and have some fun for once! Let\'s go roller skating!\"  \"I don\'t know why you keep on denying that we need help with this project.\"  \"You are supposed to be my best friend, but you\'re not holding up your end of the bargain.\"  \"You don\'t think I know what you\'re doing? I see you sneak out at night.\"  \"I\'m tired of being the only one who takes this seriously. Is everything a joke?\"  \"You think I\'m being unreasonable? You should listen to yourself some time!\"  \"What makes you think I don\'t understand what\'s happening here?\"  \"The dog or me. Your choice.\"  \"It\'s time for a change - and it needs to start with our family.\"  \"I can\'t believe we made it. What were we thinking?\"  \"It feels like I\'ve been waiting my whole life for this moment.\"  \"I don\'t think I can ever get enough of you, no matter how much time we spend together.\"  \"Don\'t turn around - I\'m warning you!\"  \"It\'s too late for us now. We\'re all going to die.\"  \"My world changed when you walked into it - and I\'ll never be the same again.\"  \"Don\'t move... I can feel your fear from here.\"  \"I can\'t do that! It\'d be like trying to say \'supercalifragilisticexpialidocious\' three times fast!\"  \"I know what you did. And you won\'t go unpunished.\"  \"I\'m surrounded by the most ridiculous people in the world. What am I going to do with all of you?\"  \"The only way out is through me...\"  \"Didn\'t I tell you not to touch that button? Now, look what you\'ve done!\"  \"I bet you I can get to the top of this mountain before you can - what do ya say?\"  \"Let\'s all take a break and come back to this later. Agreed?\"  \"This isn\'t the world I remember. What happened here?\"  \"And this is where they found the body? That can\'t be right!\"  \"We don\'t have much time. We need to get out of here now!\"  \"We\'ve been searching for this land for so long - but now that we\'re here, what do we do next?\"  \"Do you think we\'ll ever make it out of this forest alive?\"  \"The fate of our kingdom rests on that diamond. Where did you hide it?\" \"We\'re in over our heads - but it\'s okay, I have a plan!\"  \"I can\'t believe we have to stay late! How are we supposed to get out of here?\"  \"Well, here’s the bad news. We need to find £1000, and fast. Any ideas?\"  \"Is anyone else as bored as I am?... Ooh, I know! Let\'s get the Ouija board.\"  \"I\'m so sick of being cooped up. Want to take a drive?\"  \"You won\'t believe what happened to me today.\"  \"Did you hear that strange noise? We should check it out.\"  \"Let\'s make a pact - no matter what happens, we\'ll always be there for each other.\"  \"You will not believe the dream I had last night! You were in it, but it was terrifying.\"  \"Words cannot describe the beauty of this place. I\'ve never seen anything like it!\"  Frequently Asked Questions  What Are The 5 Elements Of Dialogue?  Dialogue includes the following elements: the speaker (who is speaking?); tone & mood (how does the speaker sound when they\'re speaking?); content (what is the dialogue about?); interaction: (how do other characters respond to the dialogue?); and setting (where does the dialogue take place, and what environment is it taking place in?) How Do You Write Compelling Dialogue?  You can write great dialogue by avoiding long speeches, using dialogue to reveal character and advance the story\'s plot, and using it to create tension and conflict in your story. And by using these prompts, of course! Using Dialogue Writing Prompts  Creative dialogue writing prompts are a great way to jumpstart your story ideas and your writing. They can help you get out of a rut and start writing, push through writer\'s block, or provide a new challenge to keep your creative writing fresh.  By mixing up your dialogue, you can also create more engaging and believable characters. So, why wait? Try some dialogue prompts and get writing! 

What Is A Psychological Thriller? A Full Guide

Do you love reading about the dark depths of the human soul? Do you want to create characters who are drawn into worlds of evil serial killers? Do stories where the human mind is put to the test entice you? Then you might be a fan of psychological thrillers! This guide will explain just what a psychological thriller is, equip you with some top tips for writing your own, and give you some fantastic recommendations from the genre.  What Is A Psychological Thriller? So what is a psychological thriller? Well, while the wider thriller genre is characterised by suspense, action and darkness, psychological thrillers focus on the element of darkness. Action adventure thrillers are often pacy and events progress with a breakneck speed, while many psychological thrillers are likely to be ‘quieter’ and more focused on the inner life of their protagonist(s).   It is likely in a psychological thriller that external events will prompt an inner crisis, where perhaps a protagonist investigating a crime finds themselves with a dissolving sense of reality due to the investigation’s impact on them. A suspicion about a loved one might prompt our main character to spiral, questioning what they truly know about others around them – and themselves.   Psychological thrillers have obvious associations with the crime genre, but a less well-known aspect is how strongly they are related to the gothic genre. The tension between appearance and reality, a preoccupation with altered or disturbed mental states, and isolation of their protagonists are all common features of both the gothic and psychological thrillers.  Types Of Psychological Thriller There are a number of types of psychological thrillers, which all share the key element of a preoccupation with darkness and the inner life of their protagonist(s).   Domestic  These stories will often have ordinary characters living mundane lives that are disrupted by an inciting incident. This incident prompts a crisis for the main character, who becomes more isolated as they struggle with an external mystery and an internal conflict.   Supernatural  Supernatural psychological thrillers often incorporate elements of the paranormal and occult, which intertwine with the protagonist’s perception of reality and may be a factor in the balance of their mind becoming disturbed.   Revenge  In these types of stories, protagonists are driven by vengeance. Perhaps they are the one who is wronged, or someone important to them was. Either way, the desire for revenge at all costs takes a toll on their life, relationships, and ultimately their sanity.   Workplace  The workplace is a perfect setting for a psychological thriller – the possibilities for stressful situations, life-defining events, and toxic relationships are endless. Workplace psychological thrillers will centre around a sudden change in someone’s working life with ever-increasing fallout, threatening the protagonist’s career, relationships, and perhaps even their sense of identity.   Cuckoos  Cuckoos lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, to be raised as their own. The fear of an interloper stealing your very identity – while no one else seems to even notice anything is amiss – is a key feature of the gothic genre with the archetypical doppelgänger: a chilling and unnatural double. Psychological thrillers featuring the fear of replacement play on this trope, and can cross over with the ‘domestic’ subgenre – someone being replaced in a relationship – or ‘workplace’ – being usurped in their career.  The Key Elements Of A Psychological Thriller From the types outlined above, it is clear to see that a psychological thriller will likely feature a protagonist who experiences an inner crisis due to external events. That crisis will often cause the protagonist to question their understanding of reality and truth, especially if they experience an altered state of mind. This also links to one of the most enjoyable elements of a psychological thriller – the unreliable narrator. The reliability of other characters around your protagonist is also brought into question. Who is telling the truth? Who thinks they are telling the truth, but actually is not? Who can be trusted?   All of these aspects of a psychological thriller play out in the genre’s exploration of the darkness in humanity – the capacity for evil in an individual or societal group. The more familiar the settings, individuals, or groups, the more chilling the exploration of the potential for evil can be.   Familiarity provides excellent opportunities for twists – play with your reader’s expectations of families, colleagues and social groups so that you can pull the rug out for them at the opportune moment.   Ultimately, the best psychological thrillers live and die on the authenticity of their protagonists. Providing a backstory that explains who your character is and why they act in the way they do is a key element in creating an authentic and compelling character – but you may want to hold elements of that context back, so that the character’s history forms part of the twists and turns of your plot.   Examples Of Psychological Thrillers The Last House On Needless Street By Catriona Ward Catriona Ward’s gripping psychological thriller fits well within the ‘revenge’ subgenre, as one of the main protagonists, Dee, is engaged on a years-long crusade to find out what happened to her sister. Convinced that the reclusive Ted is the prime suspect in her kidnapping, Dee sets up in the house opposite his to watch him and wait for her chance to prove his guilt. However, nothing in this story is quite what it seems – including the characters themselves. Ward’s gradual revelation of her characters’ backstories is a masterclass in building a compelling and shocking plot that keeps readers engaged until the last page.   The Talented Mr Ripley By Patricia Highsmith A classic of the genre, Highsmith’s Ripley stories show him inveigling his way into the lives of others – making it an excellent example of the ‘cuckoo’ subgenre. The tension in the plot is driven largely by Ripley striving to replace others in his quest for acceptance and affection, and the lengths that he is willing to go to in order to achieve this. As a result of his subterfuge, even the most innocuous scenes and events are dripping with tension.  OldBoy By Park Chan-wook Another classic in the ‘revenge’ subgenre, Park’s stylish and disturbing film follows Dae-su, a businessman who is inexplicably kept prisoner in an apartment for years. Swearing revenge on his mysterious captors, Dae-su embarks on a mission to discover who they are once he is released, and to take his revenge. Twists and turns follow, including who is actually taking revenge on whom.   My Sister The Serial Killer By Oyinkan Braithwaite Korede has a quiet and ordered life – except for when it comes to clearing up her sister Ayoola’s messes. Braithwaite’s examination of Korede’s relationship with her sister, how it developed and what it implicates her in, is the backbone of this darkly hilarious domestic psychological thriller. The juxtaposition of the mundanity of Korede’s life and the brutality of the murders Ayoola blithely commits provides a gradually escalating conflict – especially when Ayoola sets her sights on the man Korede is secretly in love with.   #Fashion Victim By Amina Akhtar Akhtar’s darkly comedic take on the – literally – cutthroat fashion industry has elements of the ‘workplace’ and ‘cuckoo’ psychological thriller subgenres. Anya St. Clair has fought her way up the fashion world totem pole, and her main rival is also the woman she most desires a friendship with – the beautiful and privileged Sarah Taft.  An entertainingly unreliable narrator, the increasingly unhinged Anya will do anything to get to where she wants to be, providing much of the dark humour of this novel.   How To Write A Psychological Thriller Include An Unreliable Narrator A psychological thriller features a protagonist whose perspective is or becomes compromised in some way – perhaps they are gaslit, or deceived, or suspect they are. They may be under the influence of mind-altering substances, or in the grip of an addition or condition that affects the balance of their mind. Whatever the reason is, your protagonist’s reliability being in question will provide much of the tension inherent in a psychological thriller’s plot. Playing with your readers\' expectations of who can be trusted makes for an enjoyably twisty plot as you gradually reveal what is really going on, and what the truth really is.   Steadily Build Tension In all thrillers, steadily increasing tension is a must. Lacking the sudden ‘jump scares’ notable to the wider thriller genre, the best psychological thrillers will gradually ramp up the tension to make an unputdownable read. But how to do this? Incorporating the key elements outlined above, such as twists, unreliable narrators, the exploration of darkness, and drip-feeding the reader key backstory information can all be utilised to increase tension. Also consider continually raising the stakes – what begins as a small, seemingly innocuous change in the protagonist’s life should snowball, widening the impact out to all corners of their life.   Give Your Characters Limitations Psychological thrillers often have a mystery at their centre, which is not resolved until the end. This mystery might be a large, external one – \'who was responsible for my loved one’s death?\' – or it might be internal and personal – \'am I going mad?\' In order to effectively build tension, introduce limitations to your character’s quest for the truth. Perhaps key evidence is missing, or other characters act as obstacles. Increasing the limitations (is their freedom restricted? Have all their friends/family/colleagues turned against them?) will work to increase the stakes as well, as solving the (murder) mystery becomes intertwined with vindicating themselves as well.  Create Plot Twists In Aristotle’s ‘Poetics’, he wrote: “tragedy represents not only a complete action but also incidents that cause fear and pity, and this happens most of all when the incidents are unexpected and yet one is a consequence of the other.” This is often paraphrased as the advice that plot twists should be ‘surprising yet inevitable’. Basically, you should not ‘cheat’ at plot twists by introducing something so out of left field that the reader could not possibly have seen it coming. Although a twist should be a shock, it should also retrospectively make complete sense. Developing such a twist is where your editing and revising skills come in – adding details in subsequent drafts once you’ve come up with your big twist enables you to lay a trail that, though hidden when first travelled, is obvious when your reader looks back.   Withhold Information This step comes in handy with other elements of writing a psychological thriller, such as having unreliable narrators, twists, and backstories. Holding back key information allows you to misdirect your reader, leading them to believe – or suspect – one thing is true, while in fact something else entirely is. Key information might include details about a character’s history, but might also take the form of what really happened during significant events, which is revealed as the plot progresses and the protagonist’s investigation takes them further towards the truth.   Frequently Asked Questions Is A Psychological Thriller A Horror? While a psychological thriller contains some aspects of horror, it is distinct in key ways. Horror stories have supernatural or occult elements, which are integral aspects of the genre, while not all psychological thrillers do. A horror is also more likely to have sudden, shocking events – also known as ‘jump scares’. Due to the focus on an internal conflict in psychological thrillers, jump scares are not often key features of the genre.  Some horror stories do have a strong psychological element to them, while other horror stories do not. The psychological horror genre consists of stories which contain elements of both the psychological thriller genre and the horror genre. Why Are Psychological Thrillers So Popular? There are a number of theories as to why psychological thrillers are so popular. Some psychologists suggest that people are drawn to stories which examine the awful things humans are capable of as a kind of preventative action – raising their awareness of these things so that they can recognise and avoid them in real life. Others have theorised that stories where things are initially strange and inexplicable, but where the truth is ultimately revealed, are cathartic and satisfying to consume – no matter how disturbing that truth may be.   What Are The Main Elements Of A Psychological Thriller? A psychological thriller will feature a protagonist who experiences an inner conflict prompted by external events. There will be a focus on the dark side of life, and gradually increasing tension. Often, protagonists will be unreliable – this can be due to having their perception affected by paranoia, substances, or obsession. The plot will feature twists; sometimes linked to the revelation of their characters’ backstories.   Writing Psychological Thrillers Making psychological thrillers allows us to plunge into the depths of darkness that people are capable of, but also provides us with an opportunity to shine a light on how humanity can survive – and even emerge triumphant – in the face of such darkness. Stories which show us a mind creaking under strain can also show us how terrible events can be overcome.   For all their grim and grit, psychological thrillers can ultimately be hopeful and inspiring stories, showing how resilience is possible even when things seem hopeless.  

Literary Tropes: How To Use Them In Your Writing

When the word ‘trope’ comes to mind, we tend to think of something overused or reductive, as in recent years, tropes have been perceived as negative. But in this article, we\'re going to dig a little deeper. We\'ll look at some examples of tropes and how we can use them in literature, as we demystify literary tropes and answer some pressing questions regarding their function and use.   What Is A Trope?  A trope can either be a figure of speech or a recurrent theme or storyline, that a reader can relate to, but one that runs the danger of becoming a cliché if overused. ‘The chosen one’ is a popular trope in young adult and fantasy novels and basically explores how a character goes from being ordinary to extraordinary, case in point being Harry Potter. When used effectively, tropes can help writers craft stories that resonate with their readers. They can add perspective, meaning and freshness to our writing.   Today, tropes can be divided in to classic and modern. Literary critics have a lot to say about common tropes, so it is pertinent that we look at what the purpose of a literary trope might be.  The Purpose Of Literary Tropes When used properly, tropes can immediately elevate your writing, and also make your story more relatable. If the reader senses that your story is veering towards a theme that they\'re familiar with and enjoy reading, they know they\'re likely to enjoy it. While tropes are in constant danger of becoming clichés, which is probably why they get a lot of negative press, the fact remains that they can make our writing memorable.   Examples Of Literary Tropes  There are countless examples of classic and modern literary devices and tropes, and while it would obviously be impossible to list them all, we can at least discuss a few popular ones. There are some that have become clichés like the wicked stepmother and the damsel in distress, but there remain plenty that can add to the story:  Metaphors A metaphor is the art of describing one thing in terms of another for which it cannot be literally applicable. ‘He spoke to me with a wooden face’ means something else, but the implication in the figurative language is that the person was expressionless.  \'The tip of the iceberg\' is a well-known metaphor and trope. Hyperbole  Hyperbole is when we exaggerate for effect. It’s a very popular trope and used quite effectively in satire and humour.   Irony Irony is when the literal meaning and expression is the opposite of its underlying meaning. It is a very useful technique that has been employed to great effect by writers across the world. For example, a hypocrite preaching about the disadvantages of hypocrisy would be ironic. Similarly, if you\'re feeling very ill and respond with ‘I’ve never felt better’ to someone asking about your health, you’re being ironic.   Litotes Litotes is when two negatives are used to express a positive, like responding with ‘I’ve not been unwell’ instead of ‘I’m doing well.’   Love Triangles The love triangle is a common trope in literature wherein two people are in love with the same person. Often overused, this is a very popular romance trope that adds an extra layer of tension.   The Twilight Saga The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer is an excellent example of the love triangle trope. Bella falls in love with Edward, but also finds herself drawn to Jacob. Throughout the saga, there is an undercurrent of jealousy and competition as Edward and Jacob try to win her over. While we know deep down that Bella will probably choose Edward, Jacob’s love for her provides a lot of tension and keeps us turning the pages.    The Chosen One The \'chosen one\' trope is a staple in YA, science fiction, and fantasy novels (fantasy has lots of genre tropes), wherein a character - often the reluctant hero - goes from being ordinary to extraordinary.   The Hunger Games In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen goes from being an ordinary girl from District 12 to taking the place of her sister Primrose to compete in the Hunger Games. All of a sudden she’s gone from being an ordinary girl watching the new players being chosen to being ‘the chosen one’ herself. This trope is very useful in setting the tone of the story.   The Ticking Clock/Time Bomb The ticking time bomb trope is used effectively in TV series, movies, and other forms of pop culture. In this trope, there is usually a race against time where the characters need to fix a problem or everything will go up in flames.   24 and 2012 The television drama 24 made full use of this trope with each season spread over 24 hours, with the main protagonist having to solve a problem with a literal clock counting down the minutes. Similarly, the popular film 2012 also uses this trope. In the film, it is estimated that the world as we know it will cease to exist in a matter on months and in order to save a portion of the human race, special ships are being made. Not only does this kind of trope make everything more compelling, the sense of impending doom also prompts readers to keep turning the pages and causes viewers to stay glued to the screen.  Using Cities As Characters Using a city as a character is a trope that can be found in many literary genres. In this trope, the city is another character in the story. The city may be personified and given its own POV, or it may be a strong influential force. The Bastard Of Istanbul  This trope is used to by Elif Shafak in her novel, where Istanbul is brought to life and portrayed as an ever-changing creature. It grows and shrinks, all the while taking on the feelings and emotions of the protagonist.   How To Use Tropes In Your Own Writing Tropes can add a lot of depth and texture to our writing. However, it is essential that they\'re used properly.   The first step is to make sure the trope fits the story. Just because you\'re writing a romance novel doesn’t mean you have to add a love triangle. Romance novels work just as well without them. The point is to use a trope that gives the reader some sense of familiarity, but only do so if the trope fits the story.   Giving a twist to a familiar trope is an excellent way of infusing new life into a story. Psychological thrillers like Better Confess by Alan Gorevan and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn turn the ‘the man did it’ trope on its head to give us a fresh and compelling perspective. This showcases their mastery over storytelling and helps elevate them in the eyes of readers as excellent writers.   Fully understanding tropes is equally important. Instead of shying away from them because they\'re sometimes considered to be lazy writing, we need to understand tropes and use them to make our writing immense. Not all tropes are clichés.   Frequently Asked Questions   What Are Literary Trope Examples?  There are various kinds of tropes, some classic and others modern. Metaphors, litotes, irony and hyperbole are some examples of classic tropes; while love triangles, ‘the chosen one’, ‘the wise old man’, and ‘the damsel in distress’ are examples of more modern tropes.   What Is The Purpose Of Tropes In Literature?  Tropes can get a lot of negative press, as they can easily become clichés, but they can also be used to elevate your writing and make it more compelling. A trope establishes familiar territory for a reader, but we can just as easily twist the trope on its head and create a fresh reading experience.   Using Tropes There is no easy way to avoid tropes in creative writing. As a matter of fact, they shouldn’t be avoided at all, rather embraced. Not only can they help set the scene for the overall story, but they can also make the story more compelling, tense and readable. Hopefully this article will help you use tropes effectively in your own writing. Happy writing!

Festival Success: Sally-Anne Martyn’s Dark Thriller Debut

Debut author Sally-Anne Martyn first encountered us at the Festival of Writing in 2019. Her dark thriller, \'The Clinic\', was published in October 2022 by Joffe Books. We caught up with Sally-Anne about finding a community, and the resources she used to learn about publishing and eventually land her deal. JW: Tell us a little about you – when did you start writing? What are the main themes of your book? I started writing adult fiction in early 2018, and before then I had several articles printed in magazines and newspapers. I have always enjoyed darker stories, so it was no surprise to me (or anybody that knows me!) that my book was going to be a dark and creeping thriller. The themes of the book are about body image, the pressure of fitting in - and, ultimately, trying to fight against that. JW: When you realised you wanted to write a publishable novel, what kinds of resources did you seek out to help you? I read ‘how to’ books and listened to writing podcasts. My favourites were (and still are!) Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ and Will Storr’s ‘The Science of Storytelling.’ My first serious step was to find myself a mentor (the author, Sarah May) I saw this as my training in writing, so I was prepared to invest financially and really focus on the work. Once I had a book I went to the Festival of Writing in 2019 and spoke to agents there through the Jericho Writer\'s one-to-one service. This was a huge boost to my morale - I\'d worked hard and got very positive feedback from two agents (I have their words framed on my office wall to remind me!). I also went to writing and querying workshops, gathering as much information as I could on the publishing industry and the realities of getting an agent and/or published. Right before lockdown I also went to the Jericho Writers ‘Self-Publishing Day’ in London. This was really encouraging as provided a viable and exciting alternative if the traditional route didn’t work out. Once I had a book I went to the Festival of Writing in 2019 and spoke to agents there through the Jericho Writer\'s one-to-one service. This was a huge boost to my morale - I\'d worked hard and got very positive feedback from two agents (I have their words framed on my office wall to remind me!) JW: You’ve attended the Festival of Writing in York and are also very active as an author on social media. Do you have any advice for writers who are hoping to find a supportive writing community? It’s important to have people to speak to throughout the writing / querying and submission process. It can be tough, and knowing you’re not alone and not the first to go through it is extremely important. I am naturally introverted, so attending the festival was a nerve-wracking experience! I needn’t have worried though - you soon chat to people and create friendships. It’s easy to believe that everyone else is experienced and rallying along in their writing career, but that’s not the case. There is something for everyone to learn at the festival. If you can’t make a live event or don’t feel comfortable, go online and join writer’s communities like Jericho’s. Join Twitter, which is hugely populated by the publishing industry. Be authentic, follow writers you like and look out for agent wish lists (which are based on what they know publishers are looking for!). Engage with fellow writers and before you know it you will have a virtual community around you. It’s important to have people to speak to throughout the writing / querying and submission process. It can be tough, and knowing you’re not alone and not the first to go through it is extremely important. JW: How did you hone your feedback and eventually start querying agents? I always listen to feedback from my mentor and act on it, as she knows much more than me about the industry and the craft of writing. If you don’t have a mentor then I’d suggest finding a trusted source (not partner or parent!) who understands your genre and reads widely. I would wait until you have completed a draft first though. Too much opinion before then could derail your confidence and you’ll never finish. Regarding agents: Because of the positive experience I’d had with the Jericho one-to-ones when my manuscript was ready to go out, I did a couple more of those. These are a great opportunity to see how you get on with agents, find out if they like what you do, and if you gel with them. Just because somebody is a well-known, successful agent, doesn’t mean they are the best for you. I always listen to feedback from my mentor and act on it, as she knows much more than me about the industry and the craft of writing. I researched agents on their websites and found out the agents of writers that I enjoyed. Once I had a wish list based on all of the above, I prepared my submission package ready to send. Make sure you have a brilliant cover letter. There are many resources for doing this - read them first! It is the first thing agents look at and if doesn’t pull them in, they have a whole pile of others eagerly waiting. Think about when you go into a bookshop and can just pick one - you’ll be relying on the ‘blurb’ to draw you in. If you don’t like it, you’ll move on quickly, and it\'s the same for agents reading your cover letter. Also, the main point of your cover letter is to sell the book you are submitting, to make them believe that it will sell and belongs on the bookshelf - that’s why having recent comps is so important. JW: Do you have any advice for the querying writer reading this piece? At the Festival of Writing I attended a talk with James Law who suggested submitting to twelve agents at a time in three-week intervals. Given that some advice says only approach a handful I first thought this seemed excessive, but it works really well. As rejections come in (they will!) you always have more in the bag to wait for and, as it can a mentally draining process, you need all the positivity you can get. Start a spreadsheet so you can track any requests for full MS or straight rejections. I also had a column for their communication, tone of rejection and comments. This meant that if I was going to submit another book, I already had a shortened list of agents that were positive about my work and / or wanted to see anything else I did. Always be courteous, do your research and remember your comps. These are so important in selling your work, which is exactly what you should be doing when approaching agents / publishers. My biggest piece of advice is to start writing the next book as soon as you have submitted to agents. Not only is this the best way to take your mind off the book you’ve just sent, but you will have another book ready to go. The process can take a long time and you don’t want to waste that time checking emails for replies. Resilience is the most important part of being a writer, and keeping going no matter what. Only then will you succeed. About Sally-Anne Sally-Anne is a writer of dark thrillers in creepy settings. She loves to write female led stories and to create very bad women! Her debut novel ‘The Clinic’ is out now and inspired by her time working in one of the last Victorian asylums in England. Find out more on her website, or follow her on: Facebook: @sallyannemartynbooks Twitter: @sallyannemartyn Instagram: @sallyannemartyn

How To Write A Dystopian Story: Our Guide

Writing dystopian stories can be one of the most valuable things you can do. Dystopian fiction is famous for its big, bold themes and the ground-breaking ways in which they’re conveyed. So, if you’re looking for a fiction project, and you want a meaty challenge, look no further than writing the next great dystopian story.   In this article, we’ll cover how to write a dystopian story, as well as:   What is a dystopian story?  Key elements of a good dystopian story  Dystopian story examples  Our tips and tricks for how to write dystopian fiction  Frequently asked questions  Read on to learn how to write a dystopian story.   What Is A Dystopian Story?  Dystopian stories are a subgenre of speculative fiction focused on the destruction of society. This can be due to totalitarian rule, international or civil war, apocalyptic events (and their post-apocalyptic effects), or injustice and suffering.   Often associated with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s 1984, dystopian fiction as a literary genre began with Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin and his book My — published in the US as We in 1924. Works like Zamyatin’s follow in the footsteps of fellow Russian Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s explorations of evil and freedom, setting the scene for what we know as dystopian stories today.   Dystopian novels cover topics like climate disaster, tyranny, nuclear war, anarchy, pandemic disease, extra-terrestrials, artificial intelligence (AI), and even zombies. If a story is set in a dystopian future, it may also take on elements of science fiction e.g. technology and its implications.   So, what makes a good dystopian story?   Key Elements Of A Dystopian Story  This is where we get into the paradox of dystopian stories: that despite their weighty subjects, they can make for grippingly good reads. Let’s dive in.   Worst-Case Scenarios  The key to great dystopian stories is that they don\'t tread lightly. Instead, they take our fears and anxieties and turn them up to eleven. Worried about climate change? Here’s a thinly-veiled conceit that ends in disaster thanks to humanity’s morally apathetic, egocentric leaders (the film Don’t Look Up). What about technological progress and the future of AI? Have some time-travelling cyborg assassins (The Terminator series). These are film-based examples, as we’ll cover books below, but the point is that a powerful dystopian story doesn’t shy away from its premise — it pulls the problem apart like an onion to get readers thinking about complexities from differing angles and points of view.   And if we know anything about differing points of view, it’s what they can lead to.   Dramatic Conflict   But first, let’s take a step back. As I’ve covered in this guide to central conflict, a story’s conflict is the result of a protagonist’s want vs. obstacle. Due to the nature of dystopian fiction, you can bet any obstacle is going to be huge, with life or death stakes. This makes such conflicts strong, which is a major part of successful storytelling. Now, if we think back to our definition of dystopian stories, in stories with themes about power structures, which create external conflict, anti-establishment characters will layer their own internal conflicts on top of that. This is where characterising different points of view can ground philosophical stances in reality, with clear choices for characters that readers can identify with.   Inventive World-building  It’s not all about concept, conflict and characters, though. Dystopian stories go big to convey big messages, so when you’ve got an apocalyptic scenario, it needs to be reflected in your dystopian world. As a result, world-building is where premise and conflict come together for effect; it’s also useful for characterisation. Got a dystopian story based on a totalitarian government? How is that reflected in the way civil servants look, dress and live? What do they eat? Where do they sleep? How is this different to the general public — are they poor, or homeless by contrast?   Well-crated dystopian settings help stories feel authentic in fictional worlds.   As a writer, you can use this world-building to also build on a story’s themes.   Thematic Resonance  The way dystopian themes resonate can take on significance during periods of relevant upheaval. In 2017, George Orwell’s 1984 became a sudden bestseller after Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration; a big deal for a book published in 1949. The broadest dystopian themes revolve around destruction, the abuse of power, and survival, and, depending on what’s top of mind in the cultural consciousness, such stories can galvanise people’s real-world opinions, which can impact future decisions and behaviour (as we saw in the US 2020 election).   Humanity As Good Or Evil (Or Both)  One of the fascinating things about dystopian fiction is who the author chooses to be on the side of good, or evil (or neither, in true ‘grey’ character style). Is the protagonist a hero, an anti-hero or a closet villain? What about the supporting cast? Who is making the right choices, or the wrong choices, and why? Human beings are complex, fuelled by emotion but capable of rational thought, and dystopian stories are an excellent vehicle for making the pitfalls of that duality scarily clear.   Yet dystopian novels can be uplifting, too. Of those that don’t end in tragedy as a cautionary tale against their themes, many strive to show the power of the human spirit and its enduring potential. Characters in these tales often labour through long, painful journeys to reach their goals, but that struggle is what makes their eventual success so fulfilling. We can’t help but find triumphing over adversity inspirational, and these dystopian books tend to stay with us long after we’ve finished reading.  Dystopian Story Examples  So, now that we know what makes a good dystopian story, let’s take a look at some dystopian books that do it well.   The Hunger Games Series By Suzanne Collins  The biggest entry to reignite interest in dystopian stories, The Hunger Games trilogy (and subsequent films) kick-started a movement in young adult (YA) fiction that paved the way for dystopian novels like Divergent and The Maze Runner.   Teenage protagonist Katniss Everdeen lives in Panem’s impoverished District 12, where she hunts to provide for her family. When her little sister is selected for the annual reality TV battle royale known as The Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to take her place alongside other teens who will fight to the death in the Capitol — including a fellow District 12 boy who once saved her life. Being YA, there’s also a love triangle, and happily, the seeds of rebellion.   Remember what I said about worst-case scenarios, dramatic conflict and inventive world-building? This book’s got all three in spades, with a focus on youth leading the way in a hopeless situation.   1984 By George Orwell  Speaking of reality TV, the only ‘Big Brother’ we’re here to talk about is the original, chilling government version. Orwell’s dystopian story, written after the end of World War II, is a modern classic and a warning against totalitarianism.   Winston Smith lives under the watchful eye of the Party and its leader Big Brother, rewriting history in the Ministry of Truth. In defiance, Winston starts a diary, a capital offence given what he does for a living — the risk compounded by telescreens that watch and listen 24 hours a day. He also starts dating a female colleague, which is forbidden as only loyalty to the Party must exist.   What makes 1984 such potent dystopian fiction isn’t that the Party oppresses all the way down to love and sex, or that Winston is eventually found out, or that he’s tortured and reconditioned... it’s the ominous ending.   The Handmaid’s Tale By Margaret Atwood  After that last example, you may be wondering how much darker things can get. Answer? A lot. Welcome to Gilead.   June, who\'s now known as Offred (a patronym for the man she’s assigned to), lives in the Republic of Gilead, previously the US, which is now controlled by right-wing extremists as a totalitarian, theocratic state. Offred is a Handmaid to her Commander Fred, and assigned to bear his children in monthly sex rituals witnessed by Fred’s wife, as infertility is the norm thanks to chemical warfare. With no freedom, and the Eyes (the secret police) everywhere, Offred has no real options — or so she thinks.   According to Atwood: “When I wrote The Handmaid\'s Tale, nothing went into it that had not happened in real life somewhere at some time.” That’s a big statement, and a testament not only to her research, but also her commitment to authenticity. Next time you’re watching the TV show, keep that in mind.   Brave New World By Aldous Huxley  And the darkness keeps on coming, though it’s cloaked in Huxley’s wit and irony. Despite being a decade short of its 100th anniversary, Brave New World is a brave iconic take on dystopian writing, with lots still left to offer readers.   Bernard Marx lives 600 years \'after Ford\' in the dystopian future World State, where people, like cars, are mass-produced with individualism conditioned out. Yet Bernard\'s not the real hero of this story — John ‘the savage’ is, who Bernard meets on a trip to the wild Savage Reservation, and brings home. But when Bernard is eventually banished, how will babe in the woods John cope with civilisation?   This dystopian novel is high-concept, so there’s a lot to unpack (e.g. social norms like promiscuity and Valium-like ‘soma’), and John’s ending is achingly poignant. With a theme like truth over happiness, it’s not hard to see why.   Lord Of The Flies By William Golding  We started this section with characters aged 12-18 in The Hunger Games — now we turn to characters aged 6-12 in Golding’s story about the surprisingly few steps between civilisation and a dystopian society.   Ralph and a group of British schoolboys crash-land on a deserted island during a nuclear war; the group voting Ralph as their chief, with Piggy advising him. But hunter Jack wants to lead too, recruiting other boys with his barbarous violence; soon, most of the boys have joined Jack. Things turn ugly when Piggy’s glasses, used to make fire and smoke signals, are stolen and boys are killed. Ralph escapes and lives, saved by a British naval officer, but it’s too late for Piggy.   Despite the idyllic tropical island, this dystopian story’s main theme is that humanity is essentially evil (yes, even kids). Another post–World War II novel, it’s also an allegory for war and leadership.   Fight Club By Chuck Palahniuk  For our last example, say hello to Palahniuk’s short story turned novel (and two comic book sequels), which disappointingly, isn’t on popular dystopian fiction lists. The book presents modern life and consumerism as a dystopian regime that needs blowing up, and certainly tries to — succeeding in the 1999 film adaptation. Yes, it’s satire and a damning social critique, but it’s also anarchic at heart and that’s a fundamental source of its conflict, with the twisty alter ego conflict layered on top. I’d say more, but you know the first rule of Fight Club…   Now, onto what we’re here for (and what we can talk about) — how to write a dystopian story.   How To Write A Dystopian Story  Given the calibre of examples covered, writing a dystopian story might feel like an insurmountable task — but in practice, the steps aren’t dissimilar to ordinary fiction. So, how do you do it? For ease of use, I’ve broken it down into 5 key steps.  Here’s how to write a dystopian story:   Choose Your Problem  This is where you choose the issue (or theme, then brainstorm from there) that you want to explore. For many dystopian authors, and those in other speculative fiction subgenres with a dystopian society, the first nugget of an idea often arises from real life. Atwood’s idea for The Handmaid’s Tale came to her after a conversation during the 1980s about women outside the home, and what would force them back. Tomi Adeyemi’s award-winning YA fantasy series Children of Blood and Bone was inspired by racism and extreme police brutality. Both are powerful examples of taking a real-world issue and expanding it into a successful dystopian premise, which brings us to our next step.   Make It A Premise  You’ve chosen your problem, and now you want to flesh it out into a full concept. Excellent! This is where more brainstorming helps. So does an example.   Say you’re looking at the government and wondering how they get things so wrong (a little meta, but let’s go with it). Make a list of what they’re mismanaging right now, and pick what you see as the biggest issue. Electricity and gas? Inflation and the cost of living? Or something else? Now, what’s the absolute worst thing that could happen from this problem? Got it? Great. Then multiply it by ten. If it’s electricity and gas, maybe your premise is that they no longer exist; or maybe they only exist for certain people. Tease out the how and why. What happened for some people to lose these utilities, or keep them? What does this difference look like — do the have-nots use fire to cook and heat instead, and what does this mean for the environment? These knock-on effects will make your premise all the more real.   Choose Your Protagonist  For some writers, you’ll arrive at your premise with a character in hand. For the rest of us, you need to think about what you want from your dystopian story, and what kind of protagonist works best. Do you want your main character to win, or is your aim an exercise in caution (see 1984)? The answer will determine what traits and skills should be inherent to your character, or learned throughout the story. And while we’re here, don’t forget your supporting characters. With the weight of the dystopian world on your protagonist’s shoulders, they’ll need help and support, not to mention people that challenge them, along the way.   Check Your Conflict  Now that you’ve selected your problem, expanded it into a compelling premise, and have a protagonist in mind, it’s a good time to confirm that your conflict is strong enough to carry your story. Dystopian novels tend to fall into the category of external conflicts: character vs. society, technology, nature, the supernatural etc. With a strong central conflict, your main character is forced to reveal themselves through action and the decisions they continue to make as the plot advances. Remember: your character’s want + its obstacle = conflict.    Build Your World  If you’re like me, you’ll have been making notes as you go, but for those new to world-building, it’s completely fine to start once you’ve gotten your head around the steps above. Bringing your story to life involves building on earlier questions to craft your dystopian world and its people i.e. nature and geography, and people and governance (as well as various cultures). This not only means the physical landscape, climate and seasons, resources, and plants and animals, but also a population’s races, genders, sexualities and classes, plus language and religion, norms, values and economic systems.   Tips For Writing Dystopian Fiction  Okay, you know how to write a dystopian story in theory — but you want a few more tips and tricks. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.   Here are five tips for writing dystopian fiction:  Pick an Issue You’re Passionate About: Circling back to our 5 steps for how to write a dystopian story, if you’re stuck on choosing your problem, what issues happening around the world get you angry? What matters to you? Scour news and current affairs for meaningful inspiration. Having own-voice experiences can be beneficial here, too.   Bring the Catastrophe: Alternatively, if translating your problem into a premise is the sticking point, you may be thinking too small. Now is not the time to round down — don’t just go big, go gargantuan! Think of the most extreme outcome and explore that.   Nail Your Main Character’s Backstory: If you’ve followed the first five steps but are stumbling over your protagonist, maybe a character profile will help. You can use everything you’ve noted about your dystopian setting to flesh out your protagonist’s background, role and goals, characteristics, and personal conflicts to layer accordingly.   Research, Research, Research: While much of your research will go into world-building, you’ll still need to fact-find for your premise. If your story is based on large-scale war, authentic specifics are crucial, whether that’s reading up on World War II or going down the science fiction path of something like H. G. Wells\' War of the Worlds.   Read the Dystopian Greats: Speaking of which, if you want inspiration, read dystopian stories like the examples listed in this guide, but also read other dystopian writing widely. This will help you learn the ropes (and tropes), as well as any pitfalls you’d like to avoid in your work.   Frequently Asked Questions  How Do You Start A Dystopian Fiction Story?  You start a dystopian fiction story like you would any other: with a hook and inciting incident. For dystopian stories, that hook is your unique premise and what it means for your dystopian world. You also need to introduce your protagonist and how they fit (or don’t fit) into the world, which the inciting incident makes clear. The best dystopian fiction stories do this in the first few chapters, then further the plot while deep-diving into character, the world and the central conflict.   What Are 3 Common Themes In A Dystopian Story?  The 3 most common themes in a dystopian story are destruction, the abuse of power, and survival. Destruction can be technological, nuclear or environmental, even apocalyptic, with mass poverty and violence as outcomes. Abuse of power, often governmental, can include censorship, extreme oppression, and loss of personal or cultural identity. Survival then becomes the goal, whether it’s physiological as in air, food, water and shelter, or psychological like mental health.   What Are The 5 Elements Of Dystopia?  The 5 key elements of great dystopian stories include: worst-case scenarios, dramatic conflict, inventive world-building, thematic resonance, and depicting human beings as good or evil. For a dystopian premise to be successful, it requires a significant potential for harm, a strong external conflict, a fully realised, authentic-feeling world, big themes with broad appeal, and an answer to the question of whether humanity is the problem or the solution.   What Is The Opposite Of Dystopian?  At the opposite end of the dystopian spectrum is utopian fiction, which depicts an ideal or utopian society. English philosopher Sir Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) coined the term with his perfect island society that cut itself off from the world. Utopian fiction is around 500 years older than the dystopian genre, and in it, authors invert problems to show what could be, rather than what is; ecological sustainability might be explored by depicting a human society in harmony with its natural environment, for example.   Writing Dystopian Fiction Stories  There’s a lot to love about dystopian fiction. Yes, it can be dark. It can be harrowing. But from darkness comes enlightenment, and thankfully, we can experience these dystopian stories from the safety of our homes. Dystopian novels guide us and teach us where to do better in the hope of a better future. Sometimes they’re bitter pills to swallow, but nothing truly worth it is easy. That’s where doing the work comes in.   If this line of thinking appeals, now that you know how to write a dystopian story, it may just be your time to begin.  
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