During one of our recent conversations, I shared with my son the beginnings of a new story I’m writing. The main character is a young girl who is punished with life underground after she refuses to honor her mother’s death in the religious order’s prescribed way.
After I described a few scenes and characters, my son said, “That sounds dystopian, Mom.”
“Excuse me,” I said. “I don’t write dystopia.”
He smiled like a winner. “It sounds like The Hunger Games. That’s dystopia.” Dan knows the story horrified me. He loved it.
Here’s the definition of dystopia, taken from the Oxford Dictionary: “An imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.”
The opposite of utopia.
“Can’t I write a story about a young girl in a bad situation rebelling against the system, without it being compared to The Hunger Games”? I asked him.
It’s not like I need to look anywhere for story material. I lived through an extremely unpleasant and often violent childhood long before Suzanne Collins wrote her book.
“Yeah, but you’re using all those Gaelic words and names. And it’s depressing.”
My defense mechanism kicked in. “But I’m just starting! Of course it won’t be depressing by the end.”
Dan and I went back and forth for a while, laughing together as we both made our points. We finally concluded that the story sounds dystopian, could be considered dystopian, but it isn’t dystopian.
It’s a story I made up after seeing an illustration of a young girl in a dark place.
My girl (Chanadh is her name), living in her sad state, is going to live it differently than Ms. Collins’ girl. That’s because my girl is going to have me breathing life into her.
And that is what I hope comes through as readers enjoy my fiction stories: my life-take on the common storyline — a person is this, experiences that, falls down, gets up, makes mistakes, has success, and, in the end, is a different and wiser person.
Dystopian? Well, it’s really just another Darla story.
Call it what you’d like. I just hope that you enjoy it.
Read a short excerpt here.