Positive Stories

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    There are two movies with the same basic theme, 1984 and Brazil. 1984 is filmed in monotone, voices, colors, etc. I can’t say much for the whole thing because after the third time I fell asleep while watching it (in public theaters at least twice :p) I gave up. Brazil uses contrasts and moments of positive, but the theme is the same and the message is clear. I loved that movie. To me, that’s the difference between a dystopia I want to read and one that I don’t. Like Hunger Games. It’s the most horrific concept ever. Why did I enjoy the book? Because it had moments of connection, of people recognizing the horror and deciding not to play that way. It was working to make things better, maybe not the big things, but little things.

    She remakes mechanical devices, and he dreams of becoming a steamship captain in The Steamship Chronicles. Book 1 is free in eBook.

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    Interesting thread. I’ve noticed a lot of dystopian in the past few years, and of course psychos/criminals have always been popular.

    I stay away from them myself, but I can appreciate how some people would like the “against all odds” kind of characters and plot twists. Still, words have power, as we know, and cause us to build pictures in our minds. So when you read this dark stuff, you can’t help but build dark pictures in your mind. I personally get a bad vibe from that.

    I see so many young adult dystopian stories nowadays, too, and that worries me a little bit. So OK, kids know it’s just a story, but they’re still building pictures of it in their minds, and their minds are still developing. That’s got to have some negative influence. :ohmy:


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    You said: I see so many young adult dystopian stories nowadays, too, and that worries me a little bit.

    I think it’s more than that. These stories are hopeless, but popular, because life for the kids these days is often so grim. It’s not easy to get a job and if you go to college, you rack up a ton of debt on top of not finding a job.

    Still, last year had the fewest car fatalities EVER – since they’ve been keeping track. Diseases are being erradicated around the world. There’s bright to go along with the dark, still.

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    The deeper the dark, the brighter the lights. The darker the sky, the clearer the stars. And if there were but one? Watch it grow brighter still! :cheer:

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    I think that the popularity of YA dystopias does have to do with the current political, social, environmental, and economic situations, often taken to an extreme level. Many teenagers are very interested in the world around them, but because they are not yet old enough to even vote, they feel very powerless to make a difference, and adults fail to take them seriously. But in these dystopian novels, the adults have helped to destroy their society, and the teen protagonist is the one that is going to stand up and make the world a better place again. I imagine that sort of story would be very empowering for a teen who feels disenfranchised and unhappy with the way things currently are.

    Wandering Author
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    Dystopias do happen (just look at the Third Reich) and we all too often repeat the mistakes of history because we refuse to learn from them. But, unless a dystopian story warns of a clear danger (in which case, it serves too useful a purpose to object to) or the story ends with at least some hope the dystopia can be defeated, it will frustrate me. I don’t enjoy stories that simply revel in the darkness. However careful the speculation and well thought out the extrapolation, for example, stories that assume the Axis won World War Two leave me feeling like I just ate a mouthful of particularly nasty ashes.

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    I wonder if one reason (and possibly a minor one) is that in a dark background, you don’t have your characters do as much to call it hopeful.

    That is, if everyone is up to their lower lip in sewage, the one who finds a footstool has improved his situation. If everyone is over in Happyland, it’s harder to get so thrilled about a footstool.

    I think that, in a sense, that’s lazy writing: you have to work to establish the world no matter what, and the validity of the problem to the character. Sure, if the world is bleak and depressing, you can just say, “Oh, on Thursdays, everyone’s youngest sibling is shot,” and readers go, “That’s awful! It should be changed!” so you don’t have to do much work in the stakes-setting. However, if all your material needs are met, some readers are going to look at your work about ennui and a sense of purpose and say, “Show me someone with real problems.”

    (In fact, that’s what they’re going to say no matter what you provide as the problem, except for the very basest problems down at the bottom of Maslov’s hierarchy–if I’m not mangling the name.)

    Great at theory, terrible at practice.

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    Lazy writing is lazy writing and no setting exists that can disguise it. In a place where terrible is the standard, to even think of anything better is a challenge because it forces one to begin to accept the depth of one’s own suffering, rather than just saying “this is the way it’s always been, it’s the same for everyone, it’s just the way life is”. It means abandoning what little comfort has been attained with no reason to believe something better will replace it, and it is an act of extraordinary courage or soul-searing desperation. Neither is easy to write well and both are extremely powerful in story when they are handled well.

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