Today The Bookshelf Muse is sharing real estate with a YA Rock Star–debut author and self-professed Bacon Aficionado Elana Johnson!
Elana’s Book POSSESSION is a technology-driven action ride following Vi, a headstrong and resilient teen as she faces the ultimate choice: control, or be controlled? Officially a week old and being devoured by readers across North America, the futuristic POSSESSION gives readers a 3D view of a world enveloped by technology and mind control.
We absolutely had to snag Elana for a post on how to create a compelling Dystopian Setting that engages the reader’s imagination while conveying authentic realism.
ELANA: So creating a whole new world for the future sounds like a daunting job. And it is. Here’s my advice: Don’t do it.
I know, counter-intuitive, right? Right. I think the smarter thing to do is use what you’ve already got. Take a location in the world right now, and reshape that into your dystopian setting.
Here’s why this works better than completely creating something from nothing:
Familiarity. When we read, we want to be able to imagine the scene. If you write about a forest, chances are every reader is going to picture something different based on their experiences in forests.
You can use the familiar locations that exist in today’s world, and build your world from something people can easily imagine and relate to. And that’s already better than anything we don’t already know, no matter how richly described.
Think of your dystopian world as this one made of clay. And then mold and form and pinch and push it into something different. Some tips on how to do this:
1. Technology. Think of the films you watch. Things like GATTACA and THE FIFTH ELEMENT and MINORITY REPORT. Those movies almost always have advanced technology that we don’t. You can put some in your world too, and then use appropriate vocabulary to describe it so we can relate it to something we’re familiar with.
2. Language. Every new world has to have it’s own unique language. And I don’t mean like, French or anything. I mean the way things are described. I think a great example of this is in BIRTHMARKED by Caraugh M. O’Brien. She calls what once was a lake, an “unlake.” So much description rides in that one word.
Another example is MEMENTO NORA by Angie Smibert. She uses the word “glossy” to describe a feeling or if something is popular. It’s a familiar term, but new at the same time, and unique to the society she built.
I think every good world-builder considers the language they use that goes toward establishing their world.
3. Senses. These should not be neglected in your dystopian world. Are things clean or dirty? Can you describe it with sight and smell? Are things straight and angular or bent? Can you use touch to say so? Or perhaps the emotion that stems from seeing something twisted as compared to having everything in it’s place.
Senses are always important in all settings, but can really be utilized to help establish your world.
Basically, you’re going to take your good writing skills and put them to use in building a world. Do more with them than simply tell the story.
Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.