Purple Inked

Editing for Authors, Individuals, & Businesses

Steps to creating dystopia

The challenge began last summer at the Utopia conference in Nashville, Tennessee. My roommate and friend, author KT Webb, came up with the idea of publishing an anthology of short stories each ending with the same line. Immediately, I was game, and several months later, nine other authors were on board. 

"From now on, I'll save myself" was selected as the final line and dystopian the genre.

Dystopian? It's defined as relating to or denoting an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one. I'd never thought of writing in this genre before and didn't know where to begin. I almost bowed out, but I decided to step up. And before I knew it, I had a whole trilogy outlined in my spiral notebook.

Here are the steps I took that you can easily replicate to create your own dystopian world:

1. Ask the "What if" question
My question was taken from my favorite John Lennon song: "Imagine." In his imagining, Lennon's world would live as one in utopia. But what if a world without race or religion was instead dystopia?

2. Build a world that answers that question
For pages and pages, I scribbled out a world of no race and religion. I mapped out what the people would look like, how they'd work, how they'd live, how they'd interact, how they'd love.

3. Establish a history
This dystopian world didn't just come into being. There had to be something or someone who served as a catalyst. This new society had to be the answer to a historical problem. And what was initially a solution has now gone all wrong.

4. Birth a character who suddenly questions status quo
My heroine, Hope, is fine maintaining status quo until something happens to disrupt her thinking and motivates her to bring about change.

5. Identify an adversary in a leadership position over this character
There must be opposition. Typically in dystopian stories, the villain is the government or someone or something in power.

After doing all of this, let the writing begin.

Check out the beginning to my dystopian journey in the story "Something Old" in From Now On: The Last Words Anthology.


Grammar in the News: Even toddlers know basic grammar

According to new research at Stanford University, children as young as 24 months pick up a lot of grammar basics. Previous research has shown they are able to use articles, such as "a" and "the," early and correctly. But it's not certain whether toddlers are imitating adults are truly understand the differences. Researchers argue whether such grammar development is innate or learned. More research is needed.

There will be an app for that. Matthew Frank, associate professor of psychology at Stanford University, and his colleagues are developing an online database, Wordbank, to gather data on children's vocabulary and early language development. Frank is also collaborating on a smartphone app to collect early vocabulary data from parents.

“It’s going to take a tremendous amount of data to study this problem and build enough evidence for how children learn language,” Frank is reported as saying in a recent Stanford University article. “We’re hoping that once we have those data, we can get a clearer picture of children’s early learning.”

Is he just not that into you or punctuation?

For eons, editors have told cautionary tales of missing and misused punctuation to an undaunted public. Examples of how omitting commas can turn one toward cannibalism and threaten the lives of grandmothers throughout the nation have made the rounds on Facebook. Yet while many have liked and laughed at such memes, very few have taken action.

And now, it's come to this: Television is imitating life with a simply text:

While watching this season's first episode of TV Land's Younger, we all wondered its meaning along with Liza  (Sutton Foster). Was Josh (Nico Tortorella) breaking up with her because of their age difference? Could he just no longer canoodle with a woman who is old enough to have birthed him in her early teens? Or did he feel inadequate because even washboard abs and mad inking skills don't come close to the talent that is Sutton Foster? (OK. So, Nico is pretty darn talented in his own right.)

Naw. He apparently had just missed a few language arts classes in middle school and was stuck at work, (spoiler alert) tattooing Liza's daughter.

Confused? Check out the show, and it will all make sense. Pick up a punctuation book, such as Eats, Shoots & Leaves, and you'll never confuse others with poorly punctuated texts and messages. And who knows, we may be able to save a few grandmas in the process.