The kind of world you imagine shapes the kind of story you can tell. This is an important consideration when writing, but it’s also true in everyday life. The way we imagine the world affects the kinds of stories we can tell, and the kinds of lives we can lead. The person who believes that this world is grim, vicious and that people are awful will make a very different story of their life from the person who believes in cooperation and kindness. The fiction we create contributes to how the people who encounter it imagine the real world to be. This is why I want to work in hopeful genres, not dystopian ones.
When Dr Abbey first started drawing pieces for our joint project, I saw deserts, ruins, haunted people, and a lot that was troubled. This was our shared starting point. It struck me that it would be an interesting thing to write a story in the aftermath of disaster, where people are trying to rebuild. It’s the rebuilding that I’m interested in, and the idea of what it means to be restorative. If we can imagine being restorative, it will be easier to achieve it.
A world in ruins could very easily be the setting for grim and dystopian fiction. This is a scenario where everyone is damaged in some way – bodily, emotionally or both. Everyone has seen horrors. Everyone has experienced the kinds of things that make it really hard to trust other people. However, there are people who have set their hearts on rebuilding and re-greening. The key characters will either be people who are already working on that, or people drawn into it.
It struck me that there are other implications to a traumatised society. Mostly the characters aren’t going to talk about it. Everyone knows that everyone else has seen terrible things. If you’re going to work with people, it may be better not to know what terrible things they did in the past, and just go with whatever they are doing now. If you’re trying to atone for what you did, it may be better not to have to speak of it. How do we forgive each other? How do we forgive ourselves? These may be important and relevant questions to ask as countries around the world seem ever more divided and people become polarised. How can we be kind, when there has been only cruelty?
So, I won’t be telling the stories about the terrible things that happened. I will allude to them, but no more. The question will be how to move past those wounds and conflicts, to make something better. How to build hope when it is almost impossible to imagine anything good. How to rebuild trust, and faith in humanity.