Readers, I’m proud today to be kicking off this month’s Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain. Honoring Valentine’s Day and Cupid and whatnot, this time around the theme is:
I’m not sure if I really have a typical genre, but I suppose lately the majority of what I’ve been writing is dystopian (yes, technically a subgenre, but you can’t expect me to simply call it sci-fi when dystopia is barely that). Ah, yes, Dystopia, Land of the Love Triangles. With such hits as The Hunger Games and Matched featuring this particular shape, it’s no wonder I’m perfectly okay with a bit of romance in my reading. Even novels in this category that don’t favor three sides to their relationships have some sort of love story mixed into the plot.
Love is sort of hard to avoid in the future, it seems.
Writing is much the same. When I write something like this, sure, I’ll have some romance here and there. It’s my opinion that every great book has at least some such aspect to it. However, just as The Hunger Games leaves its share of infatuations in the background in order to focus on the larger plot at hand, a dystopia shouldn’t just be about the kissing. A dystopian novel, almost by definition, is about a group of oppressed people making a stand against a corrupt and unlawful society. It’s about fighting back and being strong in the face of adversity. It does not leave room for the main characters to be obsessing over whether their crush is going to call them or not.
Readers, this is something that must be kept in the right balance in order for it to work. I understand that in stories, people do find each other, and yes, maybe they fall in love. That’s okay. A lot of times it might even be better for the overall arc of the story to put that in there. In dystopia, though, the romance angle must be kept backseat to the larger plot, which is of course fighting aforementioned corruption. That’s how I try to write my dystopias.
Of course, that being said, I should probably address the preferred geometric state of my characters’ love lives. As attractive as it may seem to include one to mix up the plot a little, love triangles are a bit overdone in my opinion. I mean, essentially they were run into the ground by the whole Twilight/Teams thing, and although that’s not even in the same genre as dystopia, it seems to me that any book today featuring a triangle will inevitably be compared with the Saga. (For more of my opinion on love triangles and Teams, see this post.) Sure, I’ve considered a love triangle, but to actually put one in my writing would require a lot more thought and planning in order to make it seem somehow different from all the other ones out there.
In the end, though, this post isn’t about triangles. This is about how much love and romance and such I like in my dystopian writing in general. My verdict is this: it’s all right when doled out in small portions. Even in a terrifying future, people can get together and break up and marry each other. However, dystopia should very rarely, if ever, feature this in the forefront. That’s the job of the action and politics that form the core of this genre.
Most of that isn’t a problem for me, since I’m not what you’d call a romantic type. I’m in no way a poster child (poster writer?) for a Valentine’s Day-type novel. I do find it interesting, though, that our society seems to think that romance must be in any book that’s halfway good. What if writers of this genre moved away from the relationships? I’d like to see a dystopian series that has none of that kind of love in it, just to see if the story by itself can still be just as good. Say, that gives me an idea…