3 of My Best Thriller Tips for the Dystopian Rookie

Ever wanted to write a sci-fi thriller but didn’t quite know where to start? Never fear, I’ll share one option below to help get your creative juices flowing. This isn’t necessarily something I do for my stories, but I used this originally as a writing exercise while visiting a high school class, and it seemed to generally go over pretty well with the students. Try these steps, and by the end, you must just have a dystopian concept that you can run with – you’ve got nothing to lose!

Step 1: What is your biggest fear?

Simple question, with a potentially hard answer. Dig deeper than just saying “spiders” or “snakes”. Try things like “heights”, ” large empty spaces”, “being alone”, “being rejected”, etc. You need something with enough emotional nuance to draw the reader in right away, and get them where they’re most vulnerable.

Example: Divergent seems to emphasize the fear of not fitting in as its central thematic concept, while Hunger Games places more emphasis on war and combat.

Step 2: How can a government system or people in power potentially abuse this fear to control its citizens?

Dystopia is all about control – so how can this government use fear as a tactic to monitor (and punish) every misstep of their people? This is where things can get pretty dark, but don’t worry about that – just let the concept flow freely, you can always adjust the brightness (or lack thereof) later.

Example: Divergent features characters who must choose a faction to work in for the rest of their lives once they reach adulthood, and not fitting into one is unacceptable. Hunger Games involves a food ration lottery where children from each district are chosen to fight to the death as a means of entertainment for the entire known world.

Step 3: What sort of characters might live in this toxic environment? You don’t have to name them yet, but if it helps, go for it.

Adding a face to your story is the final step in getting your concept ironed out. What does your protagonist eat for lunch? What’s their family like, and what do they do for fun? What are they afraid of? The list of possible questions you could ask yourself would go on for miles, but at this point, you’ll start to see a story take shape!

I hope these ideas helped you a bit, feel free to reach out to me if you’d like to talk about your story concepts from this step-by-step process. And, if you’d like to check out my science fiction dystopian trilogy, The Upperworld Series, it’s available on Amazon HERE.

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Author: Angelina Singer

Magna Cum Laude graduate who studied English, Music, and of course, Creative writing. For me, writing is an escape as well as a coping mechanism.

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