Golden Shears has been giving me grief but I’m getting closer to the end… however I’m really excited about my next three projects, which are all dystopians.
Taste: kind of Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Hunger Games…
Selfie: an apocalyptic thriller where an smart phone app can alter our appearance (and melt flesh off bones)
Prescient: a time travel, post apocalyptic adventure… with zombies (part one is out already but I need to finish it).
Those will all be series, and I actually have THREE MORE dystopian series mapped out for later. I also want to write some more mainstream vampire/werewolf stuff… but I think all my stories will have world-ending consequences, so maybe that’s why this genre appeals to me most (plus, revolution!).
Anyway, in the meantime, I made a list of 14 other dystopian novels from friends of mine – a bunch of them are on sale for 99cents today, so check them out!
“Exciting! Captivating! Couldn’t put it down!” ★★★★★
If you could manipulate reality, would you?
Seventeen-year-old Kaylin has been on the run, hiding her untapped abilities for six years, but rescuing a mysterious guy risks exposing the depths of her power. The manipulative sector groups hunt her kind. Life has never been easy, but resisting is even harder. This harsh, new world will no longer allow her to remain hidden.
In a future where greed and corruption has torn society apart; these relentless sector groups prey on powerful youths to mold the populace to expand their reach. Young people with the ability to shift the mindset of others are high-value targets. War is waging to expand and control this new world. Influencers, as they’re called, hold the key to humanity’s future.
Will fighting back cost Kaylin everything?
On the brink of extinction, being human means more than just surviving.
In Lib’s world, it’s dangerous to deviate from the norm. In fact, for someone who doesn’t live up to the Artificial Intelligence’s standards, it’s practically a death sentence. Lib learns this the hard way when she wakes up in a barren wasteland, with her memories erased, and only one thought lodged in her mind:
“It’s all my fault.”
Lib is a Glitch—an imperfect human component of the utopian world called the Norm. Now she’s thrown out, Lib will be forced to team up with another Glitch, Raj, and the mysterious Rogue Wolf and his clan to survive. Wolf only cares about the survival of his group, but Raj thinks they can hack the A.I. and change the Norm for the better.
Now, Lib will have to decide which path to choose—whether to go with striking loner Raj or stay with Wolf and his tight-knit group. Her heart is drawn to both, but she’s carrying a deadly secret that could jeopardize them all. Will she be able to sa
Block out thoughts.
Talia Lyons has one goal at the McDonough School for the Talented: learn to use her Talent as a Mental Manipulator to kill the man who murdered her parents.
Block out pain.
She’ll deal with anything. The brutal physical demands. The emotional toll. Whatever it takes to reach her objective.
Block out friendship.
With only one year left in the program, though, seventeen-year-old Talia is suddenly finding it harder than ever to ignore the rest of her life.
Block out love.
Even worse, she can’t seem to turn off her psychic connection to her first love…or quit thinking about her fascinating new teammate.
Feel only vengeance.
Ian Crane. The man who destroyed Talia’s life. The one she’s determined to eradicate.
It’s time to kill.
There will come a day… when love will mark you as a traitor.
In a society where emotions are nothing and function is everything, Avlyn Lark is just trying to blend in. She’s lucky to be alive, unlike her twin brother Ben who died when they were four. And she’s lucky to have been taken from her biological parents and assigned to a Level Two family. But mastering her emotions? That’s a problem, especially when a rebel bomb blows up a building right in front of her.
Then on Configuration Day, Avlyn’s official transition to adulthood, she starts seeing strange visions. And instead of being placed with a low-level tech company where she could hide away, she’s hired by Genesis Technologies the government firm that monitors every citizen. Now, instead of blending in, Avlyn fears she’ll be exposed for what she really is. If Gen Tech finds out how deeply she feels, it will ruin her life. And if they find out about her secret meetings with a mysterious but handsome member of the rebel forces, her life will be more than ruined. It will be over.
Fans of Divergent, Matched, and the Maze Runner will love this world of dark secrets, intrigue and thirst for a better tomorrow.
War is coming between humans and Arvies, leaving me trapped between two enemies. This time, I don’t think I’ll survive.
The government will stop at nothing to get me back in their clutches. They want what’s inside me—a power I call Venge—and will use my greatest weakness to bring me to my knees.
The Arvies know of my gift, and use my telepathy and their numbers, in an effort to take me out.
My name is Abigail Park, and I promise retribution against those who’ve wronged me, even if it’s the last thing I do.
Sixteen year-old Jinxy James spends her days trapped at home – immersed in virtual reality, worrying about the plague and longing for freedom. Then she wins a war simulation game and is recruited into a top-secret organisation where talented teenagers are trained to become agents in the war on terror. Eager to escape her mother’s over-protectiveness and to serve her country, Jinxy enlists and becomes an expert sniper of infected mutant rats.
She’s immediately drawn to Quinn O’Riley, a charming and subversive intelligence analyst who knows more about the new order of government and society than he is telling. Then a shocking revelation forces Jinxy to make an impossible decision, and she risks losing everything.
2081 and England is broken.
Civil society has collapsed and in the place of government, wannabe warlords and criminal gangs are taking control.
Among the few survivors, Edie and Robin live within a tiny community at the edges of a dying town, struggling to survive, desperate to stay hidden from prying eyes.
Edie’s determination to provide for her family takes her deep inside the forbidden parts of town where disease still lingers and the Snatchers sit in wait.
What she discovers there is a threat far worse. One that will rob her of freedom and the man she loves.
You’d think time-travel would be a useful gift. For cheating on tests and winning the lottery – stuff like that. I might have even enjoyed it… if I hadn’t discovered humanity only had a few more years on earth. Now I’m torn between my present-day crush, whose father might accidentally destroy civilization, and my mysterious savior from the future, who won’t exist if I succeed in saving the world from a zombie apocalypse.
Only I have the power to stop what’s going to happen. But I might need to kill someone to do it. Can I do what it takes to save the world… and do I even want to, if it means losing the one thing I want most?
In a world where addiction is encouraged, one girl must fight to stay clean…
As one of the last Untamed humans left in the world, Seven’s life has always been controlled by tight rules. Stay away from the Enhanced. Don’t question your leader. And, most importantly, never switch sides–because once you’re Enhanced there’s no going back. Even if you have become the perfect human being.
But after a disastrous raid on an Enhanced city, Seven soon finds herself in her enemy’s power. Realizing it’s only a matter of time before she too develops a taste for the chemical augmenters responsible for the erosion of humanity, Seven knows she must act quickly if she’s to escape and save her family from the same fate.
ORIGIN. DESTINY. FATE. How far would you go to unravel the truth?
Trattora is the adopted daughter of the Chieftain on a primitive frontier planet. Velkan is an indentured serf who has never known a day of freedom. Forced to flee a terrifying invasion by Galactic Pirates, they find themselves thrown together on a ramshackle mining vessel that harbors more than one dark secret. Fate and chemistry combine when the pair’s matching birth bracelets lead them to a shocking discovery about their true lineage. Stakes rise when they uncover the classified Expulsion Project, and the devastating sacrifice their birth families made to spare their lives. Determined to save them from liquidation, Trattora and Velkan plunge headlong into a frantic race against time and space to take down the genocidal self-actualizing software that now controls large swathes of their home planet.
But will they navigate the treacherous dealings of the seedy Galactic underworld in time to rescue the families who loved them enough to let them go?
200 years after the world ends, their future begins.
In 2157, a mysterious gas known as Variant spreads across the globe, killing or mutating most organic life. The surviving humans take refuge in an underground city, determined to return home. But after generations of failures and botched attempts, hope is beginning to dwindle. That is, until a young scientist makes a unique discovery–and everything changes. Suddenly, there’s reason to hope again, and it rests within a group of genetically engineered children that are both human and Variant.
Terry is one of these children, modified and trained to endure the harsh conditions of a planet he cannot begin to understand. After years of preparation, Terry thinks he knows what to expect. But the reality is far stranger than anything he can imagine–and what he will become is far more dangerous.
Get The Amber Project on Amazon!
Not Every Girl Can Be Katniss Everdeen
Her father never taught her to hunt or survive in the wild.
No. Her dad was a scientist.
Her battle is with a parasitic virus and it’s good that she knows a thing or two about labs.
The world needs her data before it’s too late. There’s just one problem…
…she’s three hundred miles away from the people that can do something about it and in the post-crisis world getting there is harder than you’d think.
How far would you go to save your friends?
When Chase finds survival gear hidden in the attic of his boarding school, he realizes Ashwood Prep isn’t what it seems. Thrust into a conspiracy that is centuries old, he can choose to run or stand up and fight.
After an earthquake cuts the school off from the rest of the world, Chase has to figure out who’s a friend, who’s an enemy, and if there’s really any difference at all. As the world starts to collapse, trusting the wrong person can have deadly consequences. Caught between his classmates and the professors’ schemes, he can’t afford to choose wrong. It would all be a lot easier if Taylor and Maya weren’t pulling him in opposite directions.
Is it really the apocalypse? Or is it something much worse?
A sensible young nobleman, Leaf Watson, and his sister, Willow Oak, live a rustic medieval life rich in traditions and chivalry. Sealed inside an experimental biodome since infancy, they have been groomed by The Code to build a sustainable community devoid of Outsider interference.
They are unwitting pioneers on a path toward confined interplanetary homesteading.
Life within their walled garden is predictable and peaceful until the unthinkable happens. With his dying breath, Leaf and Willow’s noble father bequeaths a family secret, placing an invisible crown of power on Leaf’s head. Grief-stricken and afraid for their lives, the siblings defy their upbringing by connecting with Fillion Nichols, a punk hacker who, unbeknownst to them, is linked to their lives in shocking ways. Their encounter launches Fillion into a battle with his turbulent past as he urgently decodes the many secrets that bind them together, a necessity for each to survive.
“Stay on guard. Be aware of your surroundings. Notice the nuances. Cover your tracks. Always be prepared. Question everything. This is how you stay alive, Joy. This is how you keep the ones you love alive.”
The words of sixteen-year-old Joy Montgomery’s late father, Zephyr the Magnificent, urge her onward in this quest for truth and freedom, with the allusion that all is not as it seems in Bygonne.
Faced with the exhausting task of building mechanical trees that produce the precious oxygen they breathe, the Greenleigh orphan slaves piece together clues about the existence of a possible forbidden paradise beyond The Wall. To find the truth, shatter the illusions, and free the children, Joy must entrust the aid of an unlikely ally who harbors dangerous secrets.
Eighteen-year-old Blanca has lived a sheltered life. Her entire childhood has been spent at Tabula Rasa School where she’s been protected from the Internet. Blanca has never been online and doesn’t even know how to text. Her lack of a virtual footprint has made her extremely valuable and upon graduation Blanca, and those like her, are sold to the highest bidders.
Blanca is purchased by Cal McNeal, who uses her to achieve personal gain. But the McNeal’s are soon horrified by just how obedient and non-defiant Blanca is. All those mind-numbing years locked away from society have made her mind almost impenetrable. By the time Blanca is ready to think for herself, she is trapped. Her only chance of escape is to go online.
For the last few days I’ve been hitting 5000+ words a day writing fiction. It’s exciting to think what that kind of habit will mean if I keep it up for a few months. But there are times my brain hits a wall and I get stuck. This is probably especially true because the book I’m focusing on right now is about time travel (well, sort of; more like prophecy or seeing the future).
So I got distracted and started watching Tomorrowland, which seemed like a cool sci/fi fantasy with YA dystopian elements. Some friends had warned me off, saying it was a dumb kid’s movie.
But I disagree. There are elements in it that deserve consideration. And I had no idea how much it would help my fiction writing.
Imagine if all the creative, genius, brilliant, artistic people got together and actually decided to CHANGE the world? Where could they even do something like that? They’d need a secret place, free from politics, bureaucracy, greed… a place where they could build anything they were crazy enough to dream up.
That’s the premise behind Tomorrowland.
But they were too brilliant: they built a machine that could tell the future, and it foretold destruction, with 100% probability.
Until a robot programmed to find genius discovers one special girl, who looks at all the proof and decides she doesn’t care.
“If you could know the time of your death, would you want to know?”
“Yes. But… believing in it may cause it to happen…”
So she changes her answer.
“I would want you to tell me, but I wouldn’t believe you.”
“You have to believe me.”
“Why – can’t we change our own destiny and stuff?”
Bam! Probability drops to less than 100%. She has changed the fate of the world – by choosing NOT to believe in the imminent destruction.
Why her? Because she hasn’t given up. So the movie is about hope in the face of impossible odds. And this micro-scene is a mirror for the whole story: the prediction of the apocalypse is actually causing people to give up and lose hope, thus causing it. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. So they decide to blow up the machine.
But then there’s the bad guy speech.
And he’s not exactly wrong either.
He tried to warn everyone.
The end of the world was coming. Nobody would believe him. So he started broadcasting it, thinking that fear of the end of the world would make people change their ways.
“How do you think they responded to the prospect of imminent doom? They gobbled it up. It could be repackaged and enjoyed as video games or TV shows or books, movies; the entire world wholeheartedly embraced the apocalpyse and sprinted towards it with gleeful abandon. Everything is going to shit but you won’t do anything about it; you dwell on this terrible future, you resign yourself to it, for one reason, because that future doesn’t ask anything of you today.”
What I learned about writing time travel books
These are the same problems and frustrations I was dealing with. But actually, it gets more complicated, if you think about it. Why didn’t the characters see themselves destroying the machine? In fact, why did they have to do anything at all – rather than just looking at what they’d already done… and copying their own actions? How could there really be any conflict or plot at all?
Here’s the book I’m working on, Prescient. And I was stuck because, once your characters get to the point where they know the world is ending, how do they respond? Obviously, with doom and gloom, and feelings of hopelessness and loss. But then what?
One: Hope for Change
You need one character who is blissfully irrational, like Casey in Tomorrowland. Who knows the world is ending but chooses to totally suspend reason and decide it isn’t happening. The trick is spinning her as hopeful rather than stupid.
Two: Don’t Give Away Everything
There has to be the possibility to change the future; even if it’s a hail mary. In my story, the problem was – if she went into the future and really looked around (not just flashes or images from a crystal ball, but old newspaper clippings, talking to people about what really happened) then she’d soon discover exactly what went wrong.
And then, the book is kind of over, because she knows exactly what to do or who to kill. So I’m going to have to modify my story, so that she doesn’t have all the answers right away, so that the plot can be extended. The end of the world is coming, but the first step should be trying to figure out how it happens, and how to stop it. There’s a good 5 chapters in there, which can be beefed up with character development, action, relationships, minor high school drama, etc.
A book can’t just start with a vision of the future and the protagonist knowing exactly how to stop it.
Three: The Choice to Believe
Plots go quickly if everybody is smart and rational and they work well together. But that usually doesn’t happen in real life, or in good fiction. So even among friends, there must be division. Just because she can see the future, doesn’t mean anybody believes her. Just because she knows what she needs to do, doesn’t mean everybody agrees with her. Many chapters can be filled with her trying to prove that her visions are real to her friends; and then also with their gang trying to make the rest of the world listen to them.
Even if you know what’s going to happen, how can you stop it if nobody will listen to you? And then what: do you blow something up? Assassinate someone? Try to force answers out of the CEO of a company (when you’re a 16 year old high school kid?) How do you do all of that when you’re juggling homework and volleyball practice?
What if your boyfriend’s dad is the CEO you need to kill? What if killing him means that your best friend will die? You need to tie everything together, and give every action consequences. There can be no easy choices.
Four: The Resolute Antagonist
In the real world, if you could prove the world was going to end because some CEO did something stupid (like genetically modifying human beings to make them resilient to a future calamity) you might think you could just talk him out of it.
But what if he’s seen the future too? What if he needed to do it so that the human race would survive? You corner him and tell him “the truth” – but he won’t change his actions. He knows you’re right; you both have all the information, but you disagree about the moral implications.
You think you should “save the world” now even though it will lead to total annihilation in a few years. He thinks it’s better the majority of the human race become monsters if it means a few survivors will be preserved to continue the human race.
In other words, you need the antagonist to have solid reasons for opposing the protagonist. He has to really believe in what he’s after, not just be a stupid douchebag. So in the final conflict, the fight is real and the stakes are high. It probably won’t end without somebody dying. It’s nothing a conversation or argument will fix; it has to be the clash between competing (but equally valid) worldviews.
Five: Untruths and HalfTruths
The other thing you need to consider, is that not everybody has to tell each other the whole truth all the time. The people the protagonist meets in the future, or in the present, might be lying to her. Maybe they knew she’s come visit and they fed her false information, so she’d go back with the wrong mission (and of course they would!). Maybe she doesn’t tell everything to her friends, wanting to protect them. Maybe she thinks she’s doing it for the right reasons (and maybe her friends pay her back, in the future, but not telling her the truth). Different characters can have different personal motivations for lying to each other, even those they care about. This will stretch the novel out and add intrigue.
Six: A Big Revelation
Sometime toward the end, probably in the final conflict with the antagonist, the protagonist is going to learn something big. That she’s been wrong the whole time; that she isn’t who she thinks she is; what really happened to her missing father or mother. She’s going to be beaten. The antagonist is smarter than she is. He played her. All her friends are dead or captured. There’s no hope in a successful “victory” – at least not that she can see right now. But she sums up the strength to fight anyway. To resist, anyway. Even if it’s futile, pointless, and can’t possibly make a difference… she fights on, even if it’s a marginal symbolic gesture of defiance.
And that’s usually when she gets unlikely help, turns the tables, and wins the day.
I’m in the process of writing 5 YA (young adult) novels. As young adult novels, the protagonist in all of these novels are teenage girls. There may or may not also be some teenage guys involved. Well – there definitely are some of course as romantic interest, but I haven’t decided if they will get their own voice or if I stay with only one narrator for each book.
But I’m also currently reading some dystopian/postapocalyptic novels, like Wayward Pines and Dust and The 5th Wave. And I’m making some notes about how elements I need to include in my novels. And I got a little confused, because while most of my novels play with Armageddon settings (the stakes are high enough that failure could mean the end of civilization), my novels all start from the Ordinary World. So they are actually more paranormal romance than they are dystopian.
And I’m almost bummed out, because it would be so much easier to start after the end of the world. Everybody died. The lead characters are already dead and broken and hopeless, just trying to survive. But they find hope and meaning in their love for each other. That’s a simple plot. And it’s exciting. Start with the action. The first scenes can be gore and violence.
In my books, the first scenes are boring high school stuff. A call to adventure, sure… but I’m showing the ordinary world as a foil; so that eventually the heroine will look back and see how far she’s come. She’ll have something to miss.
That means my books are going to be a little bit slower. I’ll have to work harder to add in some early intrigue. I’ll have to work harder to establish the narrator’s voice and personality. And also show her develop in a satisfying way. In dystopian/postapocalyptic, the character can start out broken. The author doesn’t need to show heartbreak. In my novels, I’ll have to introduce a current or past event that makes them afraid, distrustful, uncertain… afraid to love.
I’ll have to throw a lot of shit their way, to force them to become the strong characters I need them to be by the end. This might not all be able to happen in the first book. Maybe the first book is just about survival. They just have to not die.
There are also some elements of dystopian fiction, however, I’ll see if I can work into my stories. I’ve made a convenient list for you.
A dystopian needs a tyrant, an oppressive government/society without freedom. A place with no hope. Cruel and unjust. A secret conspiracy.
Nobody is happy… but they don’t rebel. They walk the line. They don’t have a leader.
Probably involving teens and kids with guns, and death and gore.
The protagonist gets forced onto a path of action that’s impossible for her to refuse. She does the best she can. It may involve sacrificing herself to save someone she loves (a family member).
Love interest (x2)
There’s usually at least 2 main love interests.
There’s a lost guy, she gives him meaning and purpose.
He wants to save/protect her.
She wants to be strong and pushes him away. They fight because she refuses to accept help. He can be controlling and overprotective. He’s dark and secretive.
The other guy is happy, confident, funny and friendly. She should like him. He likes her. But she doesn’t feel that way about him. This other guy may turn out to be the bad guy. She has mixed feelings; because she does like him a little. Maybe they kiss. Maybe she’s attracted to him.
She becomes a revolutionary hero, and leads an uprising. Her role is more important than sorting out her relationships, so she stalls on that front and ignores her feelings. She won’t let herself be happy until her people are free.
She feels bad about killing, at first, but gets better at it.
YA paranormal romance/urban fantasy
If you took out the “dystopian” part, but kept the YA – you’d still get the love interests. Instead of a tyrant, you’d have an evil force or power – she has something he wants. She’s the only one who can stop him. She discovers she has powers; powers that are mysteriously and abnormally strong.
She has a best friend who’s ordinary (and might have a crush on her… but she doesn’t feel that way about him/her).
In any kind of YA, parentage is important. Usually one or both parents are missing – assumed dead. Later we may discover they aren’t really dead. They are in prison; or they are the enemy; or something else happened. The protagonist finds out that through her parents she is irrevocably tied to the core plot. Her father started this. Her mother is the villain. She inherited powers through one of them. Maybe we find out that her parents aren’t really her parents, and her new boyfriend is actually her brother.
Dealing with these revelations is part of the character coming to grips with her new self.
What else am I missing? Tell me in the comments!