If you are a big fan of dystopias, then you will have come up with your own dystopian story ideas at one point during your lifetime. But in this process you have probably come to realise that it isn’t as easy as it may first seem; especially when you need to start world building. Creative writing is challenging in any medium, but there’s something about a dystopian world that can be uniquely challenging.
RELATED: 3 Simple Dystopian Writing Prompts
While many equate a dystopia to a post-apocalyptic world this doesn’t always need to be the case. Two good examples of a non-apocalyptic dystopias could be science fictional worlds such as the one featured in Upgrade by Leigh Whennell or District 9 by Neill Blomkamp.
In any case, it is clear that there is ample opportunity to explore dystopian story ideas and that’s what we are going to be doing today.
Historical Dystopian Story Ideas
History is full of injustice and, unfortunely, it always has been. Be it the division of wealth between the peasents and kings of 16th century Europe, or the apartheid of South Africa in the 20th century, analysing these historical events can help inform your ideas.
Here are just some story ideas you could develop:
- Imagine a world where the slave trade was still permitted in modern times. Without straying too far into politics, try and imagine how this would impact our day to day life. How would it impact how our nations of the world are governed? What kind of system would be in place to even facilitate such a horror in the first place?
- Open up your browser and start researching the Ancient Egyptians. Their culture has some very questionable practices in it but, again, slavery was rampant in their era. From the eyes of a slave or worker, their society would have absloutely qualified as a dystopia. Why not try writing a story from the perspective of a slave in Ancient Egypt?
- Another dystopian idea I want to suggest is writing about the Black Plague. We know ourselves from recent times how much a virus can impact the world and society. Now, just imagine how back the Black Death must have been wtihout modern medicine. You could easily explore a multitude of stories based in this era such as a drama about a Nurse, or about a household trying to survive. Get creative!
- Finally, a last idea has already been mentioned; the world wars. And that doesn’t necessarily mean World War One and Two. History is rife with conflicts and the more you look into it, the more you can educate yourself about dystopian times that have already come and gone. One particular war I want to draw attention to is the on-going struggle between the British Empire and India before India’s independence. This often resulted in skirmishes throughout the occupation but do some research into the Jallianwala Bagh massacre – and try and write from a protesters perspective.
Sci Fi Dystopias
Usually when people think of dystopias they think of the future. In particular, people often think about our current world and how it could turn even more dystopian than it already can be. This is a natural thought process to have, especially as a writer.
So, let’s take a look at some sci fi concepts you could develop for a dystopian story idea:
- Imagine you live in a world that exists in the not too distant future. The only difference is aliens have taken over our civilisation and societies, imposing their own moral beliefs on us. One such belief is that procreation is only allowed for the purpose of child rearing. How do you think people would cope? What would they do? To make this interesting for you – the act of physical rebellion is not an option. Now, let’s see what you come up with!
- I have a very simple concept for this next entry; imagine a world where fiction is outlawed and enforced by regional governments across the globe. Now write as story as you. What do you do? Why?
- For this dystopian story idea I want to ground it in real, current science to give it a more visceral feeling. We all know that climate change is a huge problem. For this dystopia you will write within, imagine that climate change could not be slowed down but we are hundreds of years in the future. What does this future look like after teh food shortages, flooding, and extreme weather becomes the norm? How does one go about their day to day life and what does that look like?
Some Resources To Help You develop your dystopian story idea
In addition to the ideas themselves, I decided to collect some resources and links that you could use to help you out when it comes to developing your ideas.
To begin with, here are relevant links for researching the historical ideas proposed earlier in the article:
- United Nations Slave Trade Information
- National Archives Educator Resources For Information on The Slave Trade
- A free acadmic paper about slaves in Egypt
- A website with information of slave in Egypt
- An article by History.com about the Black Plague
- A webpage by National Geographic about the Black Plague
- A web page provided by the Indian government about the Jallianwala Bagh massacre
- A site for educators with information about the Jallianwala Bagh massacre
Why Are Dystopias Important?
Without going into too much depth with social theory, I felt it was appropriately to lightly explore why I think dystopias are important. For context, my final year dissertation was a Diachronic Study of Dystopian Science Fiction (in cinema), so I believe deeply in the role of dystopias in our current societal climate.
For me, dystopias are crucial because they can bring to the forefront atrocities that have happened in the past and remind us of atrocities that could happen again.
Just as it is important to study history and learn from our mistakes as a species, I feel that studying dystopias of the past can help us accomplish the same goal. Equally, I feel that projecting our minds foward into dystopian science fiction can help us assess what could go wrong with our current world affairs. Nuclear weapons are a good example of this.
In the end, it is all about learning from them to ensure they never happen.
Here on Lore we love to shower you with informational articles about the craft of writing but we also love to share poetry and fiction. So, do feel free to read a selection of our published content below:
- Fiction Directory
- Lore’s Blog
- Child’s Play – A Sci Fi story by Stewart Storrar (with dystopian themes)
- How To Write A Redemption Arc
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