Picking up from the last post, here’s the first of my Ecotopia storytelling principles: highlight the positive. Let’s create Green Heroes, Climate Warriors, who our audience will root for and will want to emulate. And let’s make it fun and exciting.
Have your heroes kick dystopia in the butt!
Apart from the fact that we now actually live in a fairly dystopian world, as a genre dystopia has become incredibly popular over the last ten years or so. Especially - but not only - in YA literature and films or TV shows: the Hunger Games or Divergent series, The Handmaid’s Tale, much of the Black Mirror anthology, to name just a few.
But is it really the dystopian world that attracts so many readers and viewers? I posit that rather, it is the hero who fights (and preferably vanquishes) the oppressive system. We identify with Katniss and June/Offred rather than with President Snow and the leaders of Gilead.
So let’s create heroes who actively fight oppressive systems a.k.a. the fossil fuel industry and the politicians under their sway (or in their pockets). Make them attractive, make people want to follow their lead.
How about taking a favourite film or book hero of yours and put an ‘eco twist’ on her or him. Just for fun, write a spin-off or a piece of fan-fiction where s/he is an eco-warrior taking down a fossil fuel company. Try it and let me know what happens!
Make them diverse ...
Make these heroes diverse. Having said that, diversity requires a proper discussion, lest it become just another buzzword. I would love to feature a guest post on this - or three - by people better equipped to write about this than I.
So if you are, or you know of, a writer who’d be willing to contribute to this, please get in touch!
... make them normal ...
Did I suggest you write green super heroes? Well… also make them normal people. Few in your audience will have it in them to actually copy heroes with super-heroic capabilities. But create an every-day protagonist who puts some effort into a ‘green change’ and is rewarded for that - and some of your readers or viewers will think, ‘hmm, I could do that too.’
... and make ‘em laugh!
And of course, humour is powerful. So make your audience laugh. Have a character do something environmentally stupid and keep stumbling over the consequences until they change their behaviour and all goes well: lesson learnt.
The darker version of this would be to expose and humiliate the character in his or her eco-harmful behaviour. I’ll tackle that in the upcoming post, about my next principle: ‘Eco villains, change or die - or worse, be humiliated!’