NWP Writing Challenge!
Intro to the challenge from "Hugh Manatee's" author Andy Myer
Hugh Manatee's Last Stand began with a short blog I wrote in May, 2014. I wanted to have some fun with dystopian literature and movies, taking the dark visions of this genre to the silliest extremes I could imagine. Here's that blog entry that started all this nonsense...
The Last YA Dystopian Novel
Greg woke up half submerged in quicksand. And it wasn’t regular quicksand. It was quicksand mixed with molasses to attract ants. And not regular ants. Mutant ants the size of bricks, that particularly liked to eat brains.
“Damn the Imperial Council,” Greg muttered. The Imperial Council randomly plucked teens from their miserable hovels and placed them in absurdly cruel situations, just for sport. These were broadcast deep below the surface of the earth, in the Fourth Realm, to entertain the few remaining humans during their shift break at the sewage treatment plant, on Level Z-4. There was a Level Z-5, but that was only for treating the excrement of the people on Z-4. You really had to piss someone off to be placed on Z-5.
“At least I have three fingers left,” Greg mused. “I can still use my slingshot.” He’d lost four fingers wrestling the flying alligator-squirrels, one in the joust with Spingle, the unbelievably fit dwarf who looks a lot like Peter Dinklage, and two more not paying attention using one of those mandolin thingies while slicing cucumbers for a salad.
A giant zombie land eel slithered up, and was sizing up the exposed human for a mid-afternoon snack. Zombie land eels arrived after the Second Great Plague, the Mutant Lemming Syndrome, that made infected organisms jump off the nearest cliff. Zombie land eels were immune from the disease, already being dead, and pretty much had the entire Sector to themselves for awhile.
Greg groped for his slingshot, which was somewhere in the muck, but found nothing. The zombie land eel widened its enormous jaws to devour the exposed half of Greg’s body when it was turned to a bloody mist with a blast from a Klivor. The 52 foot, 24 ton Cyber-droid and its clones stalked the earth, under the direct control of Julic Rendor, the demented ex-physicist and rejected contestant from The Bachelorette (Season 3,548).
The Klivor waited three seconds for his plasma cannon to re-arm, and took aim at Greg, when a bright fireball tore through the sky. And not just any fireball. A Zenuthian Intergalactic Higgs-Boson Hyper-Incendiary Collider. Everyone in the Northern Sectors would be instantly turned to a charred lump of greasy carbon. The kind of charred greasy carbon you have on your barbecue after cheese from a cheeseburger melts all over the grate, and you have to scrub with a wire brush for 20 minutes to get it off.
Inside was an indestructible chromium tablet etched with an inscription...“Lighten up for Pete’s sake! - Thanks, the Zenuthian School Library Association.”
So what's YOUR Dystopian Vision???
My "Last YA Dystopian Novel" concept was a funny one. Your idea could be amusing too, but it certainly doesn't have to be. Let your imagination go, and come up with your own vision.
However, to successfully take on this challenge, you'll have to answer some questions first...
- What has created your dystopian world? What's gone wrong that's resulted in the situation your characters are facing? Disease? The environment? A tyrannical government? Bad tech support?
- Who is your protagonist (the main character, like Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games)?
- Who is your antagonist — the character(s) acting against your hero (you know, like President Snow in The Hunger Games, or Maximus Nyl in Hugh Manatee)?
- What specific challenge is your protagonist facing? What action(s) does your hero have to take to solve the problem he/she is facing?
- What's the setting for your concept? How does it convey your dystopian world? The setting can be the entire earth, another planet, a spaceship, or just one room in a house. Remember that your setting can be an important "character" in your story.
- What "voice" are you using (is the story told in the first person, or by a narrator)
You have many resources that you can use to create your "Last YA Dystopian Novel." The internet is certainly a powerful tool, which you can use in multiple ways...
- Look at different news feeds, looking for possible new topics that might spark your new vision.
- Of course, explore other dystopian, sci-fi, and other literary websites to see how other authors addressed (or are still thinking about) the bullet points listed above.
- Network with other student authors to brainstorm ideas and work out the details of your vision (you can generate your ideas alone, or by collaborating with others).
However, also remember that your dystopian vision can be deeply personal, created out of your own experiences!
Don't feel you have to create an entire novel. Your submission can be described in a small scene, a journal entry, or simply a "treatment" (a short sample of the idea you've imagined).
Keep your submission somewhere between XXX and XXXX words.
If you don't know how to get started, just sit down with a pad of paper, or tablet, or computer, and start writing. Don't judge your first ideas (actually, don't judge any ideas, at least at first). Most of your best ideas will come from the part of your brain that isn't the voice in your head that talks to you all the time. It's the part that takes over at night when you're asleep, or daydreaming. So just get going, and that creative part of your mind will show up when you least expect it!
PS. Some of you might be thinking, "Dystopian literature is usually SO depressing. Can I create a Utopia (perfectly happy place)?" Well, it's hard to create drama in a happy place, but perhaps you can imagine a happy place that's threatened, or some other way to create intriguing conflict. Go for it!