D.E. Haworth

Writing my first dystopian themed novel (1st of a trilogy). Write/read fantasy and science fiction with a sweet spot for dystopian and post apocalyptic fiction.

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I am in the midst of working through character sketches and outlining for my first novel. I would describe the story as a dystopian/survival/alt reality. The common thread I have noticed in reading/listening to other books in this genre (sub-genre) is that a good number of them are cut from the same cloth. Often there has been a terrorist or EMP strike, and Mr. Prepper has to get home to his family. The main character lacks a character arc, and he knows exactly how to survive the situation, with the obligatory minor setbacks squeezed in here and there.

I realize that sounds arrogant, but that is what I have come across so far. There are some good examples of this genre, such as Year One by Nora Roberts, it is a fantastic example. Though many other books I have read fit the first scenario. Maybe I am looking in the wrong places, but if you know of more good, contemporary examples, please pass it on.

Early in the process, I developed a sketch of the antagonist and the antagonistic forces in play, including the character arc of the antagonist. Next, I started the same process for the protagonist, developing a sketch of who the protagonist is as a person and what their character arc would be through the story. Development was moving along nicely, and I was happy with what I was creating in this process. I was getting a real good feel for who the protagonist was and how they would react in various situations.

As I moved to the next phase of collecting and developing the ideas floating around in my head into an outline, I hit my first stumbling block. The protagonist that I had created was a CIS white male, and while there is absolutely no issue with that in general (after all, that would describe me) when I looked at that in context of my story it eroded much of my desired conflict and tension. Without giving too much away, a CIS white male would have the benefit of white male privilege in my setting, which is close to our current modern day situation in America. Now I have to admit, while I get the concept of ‘white privilege’ and I recognize the benefits that it affords people like myself; every time I hear that phrase I get an uneasy stirring from within that urges me to be defensive. That is my issue, and it is an issue I need to get over.

Back to the story at hand. At the beginning of my story, if the protagonist were to remain as is, a CIS white male, the reader would most likely be thinking, “That guy would not have that much of a problem getting through that situation.” Whereas, if the protagonist is a person of color, an immigrant, female, LGBTQ, etc., then that ups the stakes of the danger they would be facing in the early chaos of the story. Sadly in our world and the setting of my story, the people in these communities are at greater risk. Coming to this realization, I have decided to go back to the drawing board and start over in developing the protagonist for my first novel.

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