Creating a Dystopian Government that isn't Cliche.

Forums Fiction Research and Worldbuilding Creating a Dystopian Government that isn't Cliche.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 22 total)
  • Author
  • #67054

    Welcome to ROBIN.

    A continent, divided into five countries, named after the man who ended all War. The countries are: Ra’al, Ollistiria, Bakzi, Isrege, and Nerrym.

    Our main focus is Nerrym, a dystopian modernized version of England in the 1100s. The story taking place in this country is a futuristic dystopian Robin Hood retelling.

    In this story, King John is the true and rightful king of Nerrym. His son Richard wants to right the ways of the kingdom, so he dons a disguise and the name of the Hero of Old to become a vigilante. Stealing from the Rich to aid the Poor with his band of merry men.

    I’ve modernized almost everything from Robin Hood, but the Stealing from the Rich to aid the Poor….

    It seems like an easy factor, but it also is a big cliche I see in dystopians. Big Evil Government keeps people in poverty while feasting on their stolen wealth. I want to change this.

    I’d like a government that seems “good enough” that the people don’t really realize its bad…I’ve thought about Socialism?

    So any suggestions?

    Gonna tag my favorites, aka the ones I can remember their tagging info….

    @scribbles @parker @kari-karast *sweats as my memory fails me* @i-david @ashira @everyone

    “Scarlet, What are you eating?” ~ “Ghost peppers...” ~ Robin sighed.

    Ariel Ashira

    @scarletimmortalized I feel terrible… *facepalms* …you tagged me and I have no ideas…

    "No matter how much it hurts, how dark it gets, or how hard you fall, you are never out of the fight."


    @ashira But I remembered your tagging info so it is a great day.

    “Scarlet, What are you eating?” ~ “Ghost peppers...” ~ Robin sighed.

    Ariel Ashira

    @scarletimmortalized 😀

    "No matter how much it hurts, how dark it gets, or how hard you fall, you are never out of the fight."

    Chelsea R.H.


    The first thing I think of is…what if they had everything they need physically (so there’s no actual “poor” in the normal sense of the word), but “Robin Hood” could be stealing something else, such as art, or education…or memories. Like in The Giver.

    Ceud mile failte

    Veraza Winterknight


    -winces- I’m sorry. Governments and worldbuilding aren’t my strong point. (I actually had to look up what socialism meant. XD And from the Google definition I think it’d work. Maybe. I honestly have no clue.) Do you want me to tag some more people who might have better suggestions?

    "You can dance with my henchman."


    @kari-karast That would be great! Thanks for helping!

    “Scarlet, What are you eating?” ~ “Ghost peppers...” ~ Robin sighed.

    Veraza Winterknight


    No problem! -takes deep breath- -hopes these people know about these things-

    @k-a-grey @wordsmith @ericawordsmith @selah-chelyah @the-fledgling-artist @theinconceivable1 @evelyn

    Okay. There ya go. Hopefully that’s enough and one or more of the above people know about… governments and stuff.

    "You can dance with my henchman."

    I, David




    Selah CJW


    Thanks for tagging me! 😛


    Great ideas, great questions! 🙂

    So basically I have LOTS of ideas, and no time to write them all down on here right now. I would say that to begin with, I would say that socialism would be a good idea…great, actually. Communism would also be something to consider. Both have a lot of similarities, and differences. See what you think…!

    Assistant Guildmaster of the Phantom Awesome Meraki
    ~ Created to create ~

    Sarah Inkdragon


    *cracks knuckles*

    Alright, let’s get down to business. Governments aren’t exactly my strongest points, but I’ve read enough and written enough dystopian and studied enough history/culture that I can say I have a fairly decent understanding of why some work and why some don’t. Also, worldbuilding is my jam so I’m budging in here whether you like it or not. XD

    Let’s start off with you basic dystopian government–something that would be perfectly at home in novels like The Hunger Games or Divergent–this government is restricting, demanding, and seems to take everything from it’s citizens while… not really giving anything back. In benefits the higher ups, while keeping one class/race/section/country/etc. separate and in poverty/trouble, usually. Most of the time, you dystopian MC will end up joining a revolution fighting against said government. The most common examples of real-life governments that are often found in dystopian novels are usually a dictatorship, totalitarian, authoritative, socialism, communism, etc. Governments that seem to benefit everyone or most of everyone but really don’t benefit anyone or hurt everyone/most of everyone.

    Now, the genre of dystopia generally has a man vs. government plot, and for a very good reason. This genre was founded by and is known for by famous dystopian works like George Orwell’s 1984 or Fahrenheit 451, both of which basically carry a man vs. society/the government theme. And that’s perfectly alright. That’s all what dystopia is about–the depravity of humanity and the erosion of the government. It’s meant to symbolize what could happen, if we’re not careful. Written well, it’s haunting, beautiful, and a painful reminder of just what this world is like.

    So, in retrospect, the genre of dystopia is characterized by this man vs. society/the government theme. That’s what it is. If you look up dystopian, it literally says:

    “relating to or denoting an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.”

    I’m not saying you can’t change this. I’m saying that you should learn to use the constraints and expectations of the dystopian genre to turn those said tropes on their heads and leave readers intrigued or shocked. You’ve already mentioned you want a sort of “good” government rather than a bad one. You want one that seems good, but really isn’t I’m guessing.

    First off, let’s take into account propaganda and the effects is has on people/society.  Think about it this way–in our culture, there are two main views of drug use–that of the government, and that of those who use them. (Yeah, I know, but it’s a good example.) The government says that drugs are bad for you, and they are. They cause major, long-term health problems and might even kill you. Now, those who use drugs have the exact opposite opinion–they think they’re great. They give euphoria.

    Now, I’m guessing you were raised in an environment that probably does approve of drugs, so neither do you. But if you were raised in an environment where drugs were commonly used, and legal, wouldn’t your opinion be different? You wouldn’t consider them bad unless you’d been through the effects first hand or had a close loved one go through them.

    What I’m trying to say is that under the right circumstances, anything can seem “good” or “bad”. Take the slave trade as another example–for hundreds of years, white children were taught that black people were lesser than them. And in turn, they went and taught their children this. So the cycle went on and on, until finally it was broken. But the effects didn’t stop there. It still took decades for whites and blacks to learn to live together peacefully, and it’s still a struggle to this very day. Why? All because someone, a long time ago, decided they thought black people were less than white people. And look what happened because of that.

    So what I’m saying is that if there’s enough influence, enough teachings, enough propaganda, you could make your government say bread was evil and the source of all problems, and some people would believe them. So use this to your advantage when creating a government. There will always be people who rebel against the government, no matter what. Even in Lois Lowery’s The Giver, Jonas is a rebel. In the sequels, he basically leads a rebellion away from his community. No matter what, someone will always find a problem with the government. But for the most part, if your government seems reasonable, safe, and calm, people will believe anything it says.

    You don’t have to beat the citizens into submission or fear with guns and massacres. Some of the most devious people are the most quiet. (*cough* I really shouldn’t be talking, then.) Those who know how to manipulate others into submission without violence, in my opinion, are far more dangerous than those who do it guns blazing. A person who can make an entire nation fall on it’s knees through sheer wit and strategy alone is far more terrifying than he who struggles for decades to force one into defeat. Use this to your advantage. Make your government seem like home, safe and warm–then have it feeding lies down your citizens throats.

    I know this is an insanely long post, but there’s one last thing I want to address here–your MC. Initially, you MC will believe the government the same as everyone else, until something happens to make him/her change their mind. Don’t make your MC start questioning the government for no reason, and don’t make them decide to fight the government because–hmm, why can’t I read a book? If the government is as powerful and controlling as it could be, it will have an easy, reasonable explanation to give to anyone who asks such questions. Otherwise, it would not have been as powerful as it was.

    Lastly, think about what scares you when it comes to governments. Many people fear death–but what is something that truly terrifies you to think about living through? Most people wish for peace–but what happens when peace is not actually peace but false comfort? People fear insecurity, chaos, poverty, and diversity(Though it may not seem so, they do. they appear to embrace and welcome it, but by doing so they also destroy it.). Use these fears to turn your government into something truly terrifying–remember, dystopia is about what could happen. What if all the trees died? What if we ran out of water? What if the seas rose? Use those fears to define your government and why it works. For it to be in place, it must be offering some sort of security to the citizens. What is it that has happened in your world to make it have to offer this security? (For example–our government offers the promise of equality for everyone, this is in place because the segregation and persecution of the church and other people by those in England/etc.)

    *wipes forehead*

    Alright, that’s all I have for now. If you have any questions or are confused(I can be a bit confusing sometimes) please let me know!

    "A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."

    - C. S. Lewis

    Taylor Clogston

    @scarletimmortalized It’s been a long time since I’ve read any dystopian, but it was one of the first loves of my more mature reading life (my first NaNo attempt was dystopian, after reading Republic and 1984 and Brave New World and Animal Farm in philosophy class… it was a poor attempt =P ) and I would love to help.

    gave an amazing rundown. Take close notes from her post. In addition:

    Read The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin. It’s sort of halfway between Utopian and Dystopian, and provides a very nuanced look at a socialistic government, from the perspective of someone in favor of it. Also just an amazing book in general. Great prose, powerful themes, believable characters.

    In my experience (though it’s fairly limited and not recent, so take with a few grains of salt!), non-YA Dystopian has tended to be criticism of social or otherwise real-world trends, rather than direct criticism of styles of government. YA does this too, but I think it tends to be focused on the characters’ relationships in an oppressive society rather than on the “themes” and message.

    I think this is important from a Christian perspective, as the problem with many sorts of governments are the people driving them, not the ideologies themselves. Some political ideologies, like fascism, are based on Biblically evil ideas. Others, like communism, have problems because people are not good and selfless at heart.

    In Federalist #51, Madison said “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. … A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” (emphasis mine)

    If you are writing Dystopian, reflection of human nature in the evil of the government is a trope to embrace rather than a cliche to avoid. You’re already doing this with “government takes from the poor to line their own pockets,” so good job!

    But I’d advise you think carefully about how you’ll implement it. If you use philosophy that emphasizes this behavior to begin with (like Randian Objectivism), you are criticizing the philosophy itself.

    If you use Socialism or Communism and assign them this behavior, you are playing into popular perception of these (these dang commies taking my hard-earned money and giving it to freeloaders) and criticising real world attempts to implement a philosophy that is not actually about this at all, and so lose the ability to critique human nature rather than political philosophy, unless you make deliberate points to contrast them.

    If you use another form of government, one in which people have rights to property, you are still making statements when the government violates those rights. Taking peoples’ stuff through official taxation is very different to a corrupt tax collector taking more than he should, and that is very different to an all-powerful police force storming into peoples’ houses and taking whatever they want, and that’s very different to a travelling army with a writ from the king saying everyone must give them food and berth as they pass, regardless of how poor they are.

    So, the government must reflect human nature, but it also depends on the people. Sarah already touched on “the people might not think it’s bad,” but there’s another angle you might consider. Maybe the people think some aspects of it are bad, but don’t see the big picture and so don’t realize the level of corruption and depravity at play. “Yeah, this thing needs to change. Good thing our beloved king has a suggestion box to which I can send a stern letter.” Or maybe they are willing to put up with evil because they believe an alternative is worse. “Yes, I may have had to give half my hay, three quarters of my food, and all my sons to the military, but at least we won’t have to deal with this fool revolution for much longer!”

    If the people don’t realise it’s bad, then an arc of the story needs to be “protagonist tries to convince society that government is bad.” If they then end up believing, you need to either provide an alternative (and then show it as either better or worse) or leave an ambiguous ending to poke the question “was the revolution worth it?” If they don’t end up believing, your message becomes “people are more concerned with supposed comfort than with real freedom, and we will never change that/we must change ourselves to change that.” This is all very in keeping with Dystopian tropes, but without being cliche.

    I’m not a fan of Save the Cat in general, but here’s an article on a relevant bit that might get you structurally thinking about how to write the government.

    Sorry that this all completely missed the point of what you asked. I hope it was at least somewhat helpful!

    "...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and Margarita



    Ooh thanks! Communism is another nice choice!

    Wow you are amazing. That was beautiful to read. Any recommendations on how my MC should find out?

    Oh I was thinking really hard after reading this. One of the big things I see in my life is Safety vs Freedom.

    What do you think of a world where it is totally peaceful? No stress, no bad guys. However Freedom is totally eliminated?

    No that was really helpful! I might read the Federalist papers again!

    “Scarlet, What are you eating?” ~ “Ghost peppers...” ~ Robin sighed.



    Did a great job there explaining a lot, so I’m going to try to focus on your one question: “I’d like a government that seems “good enough” that the people don’t really realize its bad… Any suggestions?”

    So, here are a couple ideas I’m going to throw out there, take them, leave them, cook them, or stomp of them. Take your pick. 😉

    1. They have everything they need, but freedom.

    Maybe a situation where the government perfect distributes food and clothing and desires of the flesh, how can someone not be grateful or happy? But the government also controls jobs and education, scheduling every single person’s work and school. Maybe the government only allows a certain amount of people to invest time in arts… they don’t want too many people to uselessly spend time writing or drawing when they could be building new tech and growing food, right? 😉

    The government would have to still appoint some artists/actors/writers though, to keep to consumerism there and to keep the public majority happy.

    2. The government removes things that make people’s lives hard in order to make their lives more enjoyable, happy, easy…

    This is one that I’ve played around with since it’s close to home. Basically it’s world wide enforced abortion of children with disabilities. Because… they are too much work to take care of… we don’t want them.

    No. 😛 Not true.

    Anyways, the government could enforce the hospitals to kill any children with disabilities and then lie to the parents about it.

    Overall, the public wouldn’t know about the whole behind the scenes thing, and they would think that nothing was going on and so it would play into your want that the government seems good enough, but then everyone begins to realize what they are doing.

    Or, on the other hand, you could write it where the government proudly boasts of their ways to make life easier and more enjoyable for the public and where it does make it easier and such, but a character struggles with whether it’s right or good.

    3. Start on a personal level

    So maybe the government is thought to be good by everyone to start off with… maybe it’s not even thought to be good by a huge majority.

    One way to make it look perfect and then grow away from it is to start from the perspective of one character just going about life and thinking how well the government works and how much he benefits and think about what has changed and grown better in his life from it. And then gradually show the life of those who were effect for worse or realize the corruption.

    That’s more of a method of writing a dystopian than a plotline though.


    So, I hope this has been helpful one way or another. If you have any questions to clarify I’ll answer them and I’ll keep brainstorming and share if I think of anything more. 🙂


    • This reply was modified 2 years, 11 months ago by Evelyn.

    @scarletimmortalized I forgot to mention, that I’m not very good at avoiding clichés… which is hard especially for me with dystopian because it’s such a small little genre with a specific: government is bad and there’s a revolution.

    I guess just make it your own. Create a unique feel to the system and world perhaps. Maybe write from the villain’s POV to mix it up, and show their side of the argument. Make it hard to decide who’s right, on the issue.

    In fact, if you haven’t read the latest article on the blog here I would really suggest it. One thing about Dystopian is you don’t want to make the villain/government/ruler stereotypical or unsympathetic.


Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 22 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.

Pin It on Pinterest