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Insert Break – when to start a new paragraph, scene, or chapter

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

When I first started writing seriously, I was surprised at how I suddenly started to second-guess myself about the most basic things. I found myself googling “What is a sentence?” and “When should you start a new chapter?” I was worried that the chunks of text that made up my story were too long, or too brief, or too convoluted, or too sparse.

Breaks are important. They create ‘white space’ – breathing points for the brain that reduce cognitive load.

There’s a lot of great stuff out there on the internet on cognitive load if you want more detail, but – to put it simply – cognitive load is the equivalent of asking you to carry 100kg in one trip or 10kg in ten trips. It’s the reason long number sequences, like phone numbers or credit card numbers, are written as smaller groups of numbers with spaces. Or why you can’t remember the order of the planets but can remember ‘My very educated mother just showed us nine planets’ (back in the day when there were nine planets…Ah, good times).

So, yes, breaks are important. But, just as important, is where you put those breaks.

You don’t want to just go

ahead and p

ut them anywhere.

(See what I did there?:) )

Jamming some white space in a block of text just to free it up is a bad idea. At best, it’s mildly irritating, at worst it is confusing and exasperating. That’s because white space lessens cognitive load by separating and grouping elements into things that belong together and things that don’t.

Categorising is something we humans learn as early as eight months old. It is something we are conditioned to do – forks go together in that space, cutlery goes in that drawer, pants get hanged, jumpers get folded, white wine goes in the fridge, red wine goes in my glass, thank you very much:)

Humans love to categorise – we categorise everything from the smallest atom to the largest solar system. It can help us (when understanding why that crocodile is laying an egg instead of giving birth to live young) or can hinder us (when making us racist bigots because all we see is how that person or group of persons is different to us). We do it, because it helps us to identify and focus on something, it gives that element clear dimensions, which in turn allows us to understand how it is related to other elements.

Take the work of Ursus Wehrli, who ‘tidies up’ things:

Ursus Wehril

The picture of the left is chaotic with no white-space (because the textural depiction of the sand makes it a dynamic element of the picture, not just a passive background). Where do you focus? What is the story?

Now look at the picture on the right. It amazes me the physiological sigh of relief my eyes and brain take when I look at that picture. My whole body seems to relax when I move from the one on the left to the one on the right. Because I get it. I understand it. I can move my attention to parts of the picture and study each element in turn. Because the elements have been separated and grouped.

In the picture on the right, they have been grouped by function/shape. They could have just as easily been grouped into colour and I would have the same reaction.

What’s interesting about the picture on the right (to me at least), is that not everything has been tidied up. While the elements have been separated into columns based on function/shape, and the columns themselves are arranged from top to bottom in increasing size, there is still some ‘creative chaos’ in play. All the yellow buckets haven’t been grouped together. All the spades with circular/closed handles haven’t been grouped together. The columns aren’t arranged from tallest to smallest.

The marriage of structure and creativity is important – because as writers or artists, we need to be creative. As I’ve written before, the relationship between art and science doesn’t have to be antagonist. It can be symbiotic. The maths behind the music. The chemistry behind the colours. The structure behind the words.

So, for me, ‘tidying up’ a written work is all about introducing white space or breaks that separate out particular elements to increase reader focus on them.

Instead of a wall of text, I choose to insert breaks between sentences, paragraphs, scenes, chapters, and acts to ensure they contain one single element of focus:

  • One idea per sentence; e.g. Joan walked the dog around the block. (Joan is walking a dog)
  • Once concept per paragraph; e.g.Joan walked the dog around the block. The terrier was massive, its muscular body taut and heaving with barely-restrained energy. It occasionally growled, a low guttural sound that left Joan shivering despite the afternoon heat. (The dog is big and scary)
  • One situation per scene; e.g. (The dog bites a small child)
  • One conflict & consequence per chapter; e.g. (Joan is ordered to destroy the dog, the last link she has with her long-estranged and now deceased father)
  • One value transition per act; e.g. (Joan loses all tangible connection with her deceased father, goes from saddened at his loss to distraught that she has nothing that links him to her).

I’ll go into more detail about these breaks in future blog posts, but, for now, it is enough to recognise they each contain just one element and that each element is more complex than the one preceding it.

Yes, it is a hierarchy – the values range from basic to complicated and are interrelated: Every sentence in a paragraph must work to generate or clarify the concept of that paragraph; each paragraph must give colour and meaning to the scene’s situation; each scene must trigger and rationalise the chapter’s conflict and consequence; and each chapter must set up the various stages of the act’s transition.

What about you? Does a bit of structure help you to draft or edit your WIPs?

Insert Break – when to start a new paragraph, scene, or chapter

Plotting to the Midpoint: Why you need a half-time plan

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

With Divided Elements in the hands of my copy-editor, I’ve been using July to get some new writing done. Having signed up for both #JulyWritingChallenge and Camp NaNoWriMo, I was worried that my efforts would falter the way my first attempt at NaNoWriMo did – a lot of angst and procrastination, not much writing. Pleasantly enough, I am slaying it! (Already at 12,000 words (I set my target at 15,000))

The two secrets to my success?

  1. Detailed and logically-structured plotting – thanks to my awesome plot roadmap
  2. Detailed and logically-structured plotting only up to the midpoint

The second secret is the important one (at least, for the purposes of this post).

I’m not sure whether it is pure genius or a product of my creative limitations, but it seems to be working. The thing is – when I get an idea for a story, it usually goes like this:

  • Thematic image and general premise – aka A visual and a one-liner ‘this is a story about…’

    Since I don’t want to give away the juicy details of the new WIP just yet, let me show how this would work if I was writing Sons of Anarchy … (bear with me, it’s been a while since I’ve watched it and the memory may be rusty…)

    Jax and Tara

    I would picture that moment where Jax takes on the Presidency and Tara stands behind him as his Old Lady, a corruption of two individuals who had the potential to escape a violent and toxic environment but have ended up as the next generation of everything they didn’t want to be – Clay and Jemma.
    That image also gives me my premise – the story of a son who seeks to escape the corrupted legacy of his father, who finds that escape in the return of an old girlfriend, but who ends up corrupted and corrupting her in his efforts to escape. Like struggling in quicksand – it only conspires to work against you.

  • That image and one-liner (okay, okay – one paragraph) give me everything I need up to the Midpoint – I get the status quo (Jax in the MC, Tara at the hospital), the hook (Jax finding his Dad’s journals), the inciting incident (reconnecting with Tara), the first plot point (going after Clay), the Midpoint (Jax and Tara as the new Clay and Jemma).

And that’s usually where the ideas run out – not because I can’t think of what happens next, but because there are so MANY paths this story can take. I generally know where I want it to end. I just don’t know how to get to that end.

This is why the first half of my plot outline for the new WIP is pages long and full of cool details. And the second half is … um, well… it’s blank.

I was kind of worried about this, but then I figured it could be a good thing. And I figured this while watching my beloved Wests Tigers play (and lose) another game (don’t get me started…).

A book, much like a game of football, is a tale of two halves. Every team goes into a game knowing the starting point (kick-off) and the end goal (walking away with a win, preferably a crushing defeat, that supplies two points on the ladder and a fantastic points differential). There will also be a detailed game plan – based on last week’s performance, where they are on the ladder, what current issues/injuries are affecting them, players playing out of position, whether it’s a home game, what they focused on in training, etc, etc.

But that game plan is only good up to the half time siren.

You walk into the sheds at half time with a 20 point deficit, you shake things up. You end the first forty minutes with three major injuries and a player sent off, and you start thinking twice about your earlier plan of putting on early points.

What it boils down to is this:

You can’t plan your second half until you know what position your first half has put you in. 

Same goes for stories. I’ve spoken about this before – sometimes the little details you use to fill in your plot outlining can introduce a range of subtleties and nuances that shift the direction of your story. In the beginning the shift is negligible – but as it continues on that same trajectory, the difference becomes more and more noticeable.

Tangent

It was the same with Divided Elements – what I had planned for my second half and what I executed were wildly different. In a good way. If I had stubbornly kept to the original game plan, I would have ended up with a incoherent, disjointed story with a lot of loose ends and an unsatisfying ending.

Which is why I am blissfully writing my way through the first half of this WIP without having a game plan for the second half. That can wait. I figure I will use the Midpoint as my new status quo and plot from there once I know my backstory (the first half).

What about you? If you are a plotter, do you plot the entire novel? And if so, do you ever allow yourself to change the plan late in the game?

Plotting to the Midpoint: Why you need a half-time plan

Gonzalez @ Berlin Graphic Days

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

For those of you that have been following along, you’ll remember that my debut novel Divided Elements is soon to be published. I am so excited to announce that Leonardo Gonzalez, Grammy Award winning and multi-­laureate art director, is designing the cover – stay tuned for the cover reveal later this year.

I selected Leo, a  Berlin-­based Venezuelan artist, to do the cover because he is a master at rendering (in his words): “beautifully-drawn-­yet-­fucked-­up characters” – which is exactly what my lead character is – a beautiful and tortured soul.

While you’re waiting for the cover reveal, you can catch his work online or at the Berlin Graphic Days.

Berlin Graphic Days – a three-day arts festival running from 1 – 3 July 2016 – will feature  around 100 national and international graphic artists, illustrators, street artists and screen printers, who will converge on Urban Spree Gallery in Revaler Street, Berlin, to create, display and offer works of art for sale.

Leo will be offering some silkscreen prints, including the awesome one below, as well as risographs and his comic book. Go check him out and tell him I said hello:)

Gonzalez - Know your place, shut your face

Gonzalez @ Berlin Graphic Days

Critique Enlightenment – What you can learn from critiques of your creative work

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

My debut adult sci-fi novel, Divided Elements, is currently going through its final pass by my critique partners before it gets shipped off to the copyeditor. (Yes, it turns out that I still love this manuscript and we are finally ‘tying the knot’). Getting your creative work critiqued by an objective outsider, while crucial for elevating the work to its maximum potential, is never easy. For insecure writers, critiques can lead to wholesale changes. For stubborn writers, critiques can trigger lots of defensive replies about why their work doesn’t need changes. So, which response is the correct one?

A recent blog post by a fellow CP, Angela Sylvia, got me thinking about this and here is what I have come up with:

For every critique I receive, I have one of three reactions:

  • The lightbulb moment, where I say to myself “How did I miss that? (despite the seven times I’ve already re-read it!)”
  • The dig my heels in moment, where I say to myself “Nope, you just don’t get it”.
  • The let’s agree to disagree moment, where I say to myself “This is more about you as a reader, than the writing itself”.

The lightbulb moments are great – they are an immediate call to action to fix something you can see is broken (even if it took a critique to reveal it as broken). I tend to find lightbulb moments gravitate towards:

  • Areas I know that I am weak in (e.g. overcomplicated sentences, dialogue tags, adverbs)
  • Areas I have a limited grasp of/exposure to (e.g. dangling modifiers)

When you can recognise your weaknesses, it’s easy to be grateful to critiques that point them out and offer solutions.

The dig my heels in moments usually fit into two categories:

  • Stubborn, obstinate author ego (e.g. “That’s my darling, how dare you demand that I kill it!”
  • Confident author authority (e.g. “I can see this objectively and know that it is right for this scene/chapter/story”)

Correction - Dave Mathis

That being said, it’s hard to know at the time which category my response falls into, which is why I employ these two methods for finding out:

  • Look at other reviews by the critiquer – do you agree with them? do they seem reasonable?
  • Review the critique again in time (usually on the next edit pass) – does it seem more relevant/necessary now?

If the answer is ‘yes’, I then have a begrudging acceptance moment (“Okay, you may have a point”) and enact the required changes – sometimes as suggested, sometimes with my own spin.

If the answer is ‘no’, then I sit back and try to understand the motivation of the critiquer – which inevitably ends up at the let’s agree to disagree moment. I find there are generally three reasons why a person is critical of something:

  1. It legitimately doesn’t work – in which case, you fix it.
  2. They don’t have the skills/expertise to offer accurate critiques (e.g. someone telling you that you need more adverbs in your dialogue tags) – in which case, you run a mile! (Or maybe just ignore that criticism)
  3. They are projecting their preferences, rather than pointing out an issue – in which case, you politely thank them for their suggestion and move on.

The third reason is an interesting one. It reminds me of a point made in the writer’s manifesto of Joanne Harris (author of Chocolat):

… most writers value feedback and dialogue with their readers. But ultimately, a reader’s role is different to that of a writer. And a writer’s role is to try to convey a series of ideas as honestly and as well as we possibly can, with minimal interference, and most of all, without being distracted by heckling from the audience.

The fact is that the writer cannot please everyone all of the time. We shouldn’t even try – fiction, by its nature, should present a challenge. Books allow us to see the world in different ways; to experience things we might never encounter – or wish to – outside the world of fiction… Fiction is often uncomfortable; often unexpected.  Most importantly, fiction is not democratic. It is, at best, a benign dictatorship, in which there can be an infinite number of followers with any number of different ideas, but only ever one leader. Like all good leaders, the writer can (and should) take advice from time to time, but where the actual work is concerned, they, and no-one else, must take final responsibility.

The manifesto was most likely penned after this incident, where Joanne responded to a critical review of her book – labelling it as a “Terrific example of the “if I’d written this book I would have done it differently” review”. Now, I’m not going to get into that whole ‘authors behaving badly’ debacle, because that is just a nuclear bomb waiting to go off (everyone gets so twitchy around that button…) – but I agree with her point – “A review should be about the book you’ve actually read, not the one you wanted to read, or worse, the one you wanted to write.”

Same goes for critiques. Sometimes a reviewer will have an issue with your protagonist’s characterisation, or the tone of your opening chapters, or your word selection, or the pacing, or… (you get my drift). Sometimes these can be legitimate, objective concerns rooted in a solid understanding of best practice. But, sometimes, it can just be what they like as a reader OR how they write as an author.

If they are your target audience, you may wish to listen to them a bit closer,  but never forget that there are two goals in writing a book:

  1. Engaging the reader
  2. Creating something in your unique voice from your unique perspective

Long live the benign dictatorship!

How do you respond to critiques and/or deal with ones you disagree with?

 

Image courtesy of Dave Mathis via Flickr Creative Commons.

 

Critique Enlightenment – What you can learn from critiques of your creative work

Show, don’t Tell – What it really means

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

I have to admit, I’ve always been a little confused by the old adage ‘show, don’t tell’ – I mean, we’re authors, we work in a written (not visual) medium; the whole point of storytelling, is to to tell (see? it’s right there in the name).

But, then again, I do like Chekhov’s call to arms:

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass

Okay, so say I do as you ask, Anton, and instead of writing:

It was a full moon.

I write:

A silver light glinted off broken glass.

It’s still telling, isn’t it? I’m still verbalising a visualisation, still passing on information as a seeing woman would to a blind man.

So what, reallyis the difference?

moonlight

One definitely has a more engaging voice – a poetic sensibility and sense of storytelling rather than mere telling. 

But, how far can we (should we) take it. What if, instead of writing:

She smiled.

I write:

The corners of her mouth twitched upwards.

Seems a little overdone, no? Like I’m now turning my back on my other literary hero, Hemingway, and using seven words when two would suffice.

Which bring us back to the original question: What really is the difference? What does ‘showing’ really mean?

My answer, after much consideration and consternation (and rewrites after rewrites of telling drafts and over-written drafts), is this:

It is not the poetry of description that identifies ‘showing’, it is the dominance of the active verb.

Telling uses passive verbs. Showing uses active verbs.

Passive verbs are those that are static and/or exist solely inside one’s head. The ‘to be’ verbs. The ‘thought’ (liked, remembered, desired, wished, despised, etc) verbs. (Chuck Palahniuk has a great post on eliminating thought verbs here).

Active verbs are dynamic, the ones you can actually observe and engage with.

Let’s look at the examples again and throw some more in for fun:

  • It was a full moon VS a silver light glinted off broken glass
  • She smiled VS the corners of her mouth twitched upwards
  • The box felt heavy VS the box settled in her arms like lead
  • She detested the zombie VS she aimed the rifle at the space between the zombie’s dead eyes
  • She ran to her mentor VS her feet thundered along the road to her mentor
  • Jasper was tired VS Jasper rubbed the sleep from his eyes with a weary hand.

 

If you’re up for it- why not join me in responding to Chuck’s challenge and start the process of eliminating passive verbs from your writing? Let me know how you’re going with it in the comments!

 

Image courtesy of Abbyladybug via Flickr Creative Commons

Show, don’t Tell – What it really means

Writing for your readers…and yourself

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

During the initial drafting of Divided Elements, I realised that I needed more eyes on it than just mine. As an untested author, I was unsure whether I was on the right track, whether the story idea was genuinely interesting, whether I had the chops to pull it off. To that end, I joined two online critique groups and found a local critique partner with whom I could exchange ideas and chapters. Feedback is critical for any writer, but sometimes reviews and critiques can seem like a version of ‘how I would write this book’, rather than ‘this is a problem for your story’. In this post, I talk about how to manage reader expectations to avoid the former criticism…

Getting feeback

Honest feedback and constructive criticism from other writers and readers can be incredibly useful in identifying technical areas for improvement, such as:

  • plot holes
  • crutch words
  • writing flaws (spelling, grammar, punctuation,etc)

Feedback, especially when critique partners are also assessing your WIP as readers, can also become more subjective. Personalities, reading preferences (genre, style, audience, etc), and whether they are in a good or bad mood when it comes time to reading that particular chapter, can all impact on how these readers assess:

  • Your characters – are they likable, sympathetic, competent, intriguing?
  • Your world – is it believable, over the top, too dominant, too generic?
  • Your plot lines – is the midpoint what they expected/wanted, does the ending satisfy their need for a perfect resolution of plot?

This is where the subjectivity of reviews and critiques becomes tricky. Yes, you need to write for your readers. But you also need to write for yourself.

This is your project, your creativity on a page, your piece of soul and worldview in ink.

Your responsibility as an author

That being said, you also have a responsibility as a writer to not mislead your readers. Readers may not like your characters or enjoy your world, but that is something that will become apparent early on in the story. It’s okay for this to happen, because at the beginning of the story, the reader’s investment in the book is still low. They may have only spent half an hour reading your novel before realising it is not for them.

No harm, no foul.

But what happens when a reader gets halfway through the book, or worse – to the climax, and their expectations or desires for the story are thwarted? They’ve been rooting for the protagonist to enter into an epic sword fight with her arch nemesis, but at the final moments she is disfigured and loses all of her strength and sword-wielding abilities, ruling out this plot line…

Or they’ve been reading eagerly through the chapters, enthralled by the developing attraction between the two main characters and awaiting that moment in the climax when they just know the two are going to finally put aside their resistance and actually admit they love the other, but just before the peak of this build up, one of the characters dies…

These are the sort of things that can send Goodreads review into vitriol territory – Hell hath no fury like a reader scorned.

Ned Stark - Brace Yourselves

Now, while it is not the author’s job to pander to reader desires – it is the author’s job to manage reader expectations. That is the whole purpose of a story – to take a reader on a journey with the author (and the characters) – and to set parameters within which plot twists and key events will be surprising, but in a way that enhances the reader’s appreciation of the story.

Managing reader expectations

The key to this is managing reader expectations from the start.

This is why the start of a book is so critical – it not only establishes the characters and the world – it should also establish the style, tone and theme. In a way, the start of your book is its constitution – the set of rules and laws by which your book will abide from beginning to end.

George R.R. Martin did this expertly in “A Song of Ice and Fire” – *** WARNING – Spoilers for those who have been hiding under a rock, living in another universe, living a life without television or internet and do not know about GAME OF THRONES ***

– when he killed off Ned Stark early on in the piece he illustrated his story’s constitution – indicating that killing off beloved characters was not something he would shy away from. Because it happened early in the piece, readers and fans were able to forgive him this (they were still orienting themselves to the story), and future instances of untimely deaths (they were, by then, used to his sadism).

So, dear authors, by all means introduce plot twists and intense character arcs and story surprises in your novel – just ensure that you have adequately prepared readers for the possibility of these things by successfully establishing your story’s constitution in the opening chapters where you introduce style, tone and theme.

 

Have you ever been disappointed or infuriated by a story plot point later in the piece? Has an ending ever made you regret picking up the book in the first place? Tell me about it in the comments section! 

 

Writing for your readers…and yourself

Dystopian Archetypes – 2. Divided Population

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

One of the recurring plot devices in dystopian literature is the ‘Divided Population’. This is to be expected, given that dystopian stories (and their more up-beat counterpart, utopian stories) are, at their heart, socio-political narratives. Population structures and methods of control are, therefore, a key aspect of many dystopian stories.

We see this archetype in classic dystopias, such as 1984, Brave New World and Divided Kingdom, as well as in modern dystopias, like Hunger Games and Divergent. My WIP, Divided Elements, also draws heavily on this archetype in its exploration of identity, loyalty and rebellion.

The prevalence of the ‘Divided Population’ archetype is arguably due to the fact that it draws on two long-established and fundamental philosophies:

  • Divide and Rule (politics)

[The] gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy. The concept refers to a strategy that breaks up existing power structures, and especially prevents smaller power groups from linking up, causing rivalries and fomenting discord among the people. (wikipedia)

  • Self vs Other (sociology/psychology)

…when individuals that identify closely with their own ethnic or religious beliefs begin to gain the mentality that those who are different from them are problematic. This can lead to extreme separation, alienation, and exclusion of the person or of people that is seen as different or unusual to the typical lens of one’s societal views. Othering can be described as discrimination of people or a population that is different than the collective social norm; since they are different they are also seen as deviant or in need of being cultured by the group that is othering them. (wikipedia)

 

Despite the common reference to these philosophies, many dystopian stories present the archetype differently. The main axes along which these stories differ are:

  • The basis on which the population is divided
  • Whether the division is reinforced by a geographic divide
  • Whether the division is static or dynamic (i.e. whether people can change which division they belong to)
  • Whether the division is absolute or imperfect (i.e. whether there is opportunity for inconsistencies within the divide)
  • Whether an additional class or group exists outside the division

 

1984

In 1984, the divide is socio-political – with the population generally inhabiting the same space (albeit in separate (yet, accessible) neighbourhoods) but divided into three hierarchical classes: The proles (proletariat), outer party (bureaucracy) and inner party (oligarchy). The divide is maintained organically – with each new generation born into the class of their parents. No additional class or group exists outside these divisions – rebellion comes from within the structure.

In Hunger Games, the divide is predominantly geographic and labour-based. The population is divided into 12 districts and each district is responsible for fulfilling a mandated role in resource production – District 12’s core industry is mining, District 4’s core industry is fishing. Like 1984, the divide is maintained organically with each new generation born into their district and, therefore, role. Unlike 1984, however, the Districts are equal in power/standing, with the true political divide presented between the Districts and the Capitol. A 13th district is later discovered existing outside the core division, and it from within this district that the rebellion is built and sustained.

brave new world

In Brave New World, the divide is biological – the population ‘hatched’ into a hierarchy of five castes of different intellectual magnitude. Stemming from this biological divide is the division of labour – whereby members of each caste are conditioned for roles appropriate to their level of (manipulated) competence. Like 1984, their is no geographical divide – but the strict hierarchical model means that interactions between castes is distasteful at best, social suicide at worst.

As a counterpoint to this manipulated world, there exists a more organic world – the ‘savage reservation’ –  where the population is not divided. This world (and its inhabitants) serve as a the key narrative device to illustrate the differences between the two ways of living.

In Divided Kingdom, the divide is based on personality types – the population divided into four types (represented by a different humor: blood (red), phlegm (blue), black bile (green) and yellow bile (yellow)). This divide is also geographic, with each type occupying a designated quarter that is quarantined from the others by security walls. There is no hierarchy – all types are equal in power and standing.

Unlike the above examples, the division is not static, but continually manipulated – with children born into a type (and quarter) and then taken for assessment and re-assignment (if necessary) at a predetermined age. A fifth group, not sanctioned by the state or part of the greater population structure, is known as the White – consisting of people who embody all four personality types and none of them, they are able to roam freely between the four quarters, reviled in some, revered in others.

divergent

In Divergent the divide is also personality-based and geographic. The population is divided into five factions based on personality types (Abnegation, Dauntless, Candour, Erudite and Amity) and each faction occupies its own part of the city. Movement between the different parts is allowed (although, seemingly uncommon?). While there is no specific hierarchy, in that each group is equal in general power and standing, one faction is given responsibility for leadership (the pivot on which much of the action in the story turns).

The division is not static – with children born into a type and then taken for assessment when they reach a predetermined age in their teenage years. Unlike Divided Kingdom, where membership is mandated by the state, in Divergent, the assessment is used as guidance only – with candidates allowed to choose which faction they wish to join (or remain in). The divisions are largely imperfect: A candidate more suited to one faction can nonetheless choose membership in another;  A candidate who fails their faction initiation test ultimately becomes ‘factionless’, joining a loosely-organised group occupying their own part of the city; A candidate who is predisposed to more than one faction is labelled ‘divergent’.

 

So, as you can see, despite the common theme of a ‘divided population’, each of these stories is able to present a unique narrative by mixing up the other key considerations. I’m hoping to do the same with my own novel, Divided Elements. 

 

Find this post useful? Let me know in the comments!

Dystopian Archetypes – 2. Divided Population