Thank you so much for all of the positive feedback in the comments and on twitter! I love all of you so much for the support and words of wisdom. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve not felt like writing a post and then read what you wrote and it helped me to keep going.
Laziness is hard.
Also, fellow blogger Jim Vines interviewed me for his blog! I know, it’s crazy. I’ll have the post linked at the end and might even post the actual interview on my blog for everyone, too.
Today’s book is Divergent by Veronica Roth. This book needs no introduction, but I’ll give one anyway. That’s what I’m here for. Honestly, this book captivated me from the very beginning and I just fell in love with the idea. I read it… three years ago? Somewhere around there. It was great. I distinctly remember reading under my desk in English… Goodreads links at the end.
Divergent takes place in a dystopian world that is separated into different factions based on what people think society should be like. There’s abnegation, those who help others before themselves. There are the dauntless, those who protect the factions and learn to be fearless. Of course there are other factions, like intelligence, honesty and peace. The children grow up in there own faction, but get the option to switch when they come of age, after being tested for their perfect faction.
The story follows Tris, who takes the test and gets an unusual and dangerous result. She ends up switching out of her home faction to be dauntless, trying to hide the fact that she is different. They call it divergent, when the test doesn’t work right on someone. The government (or the people taking it over, anyway) don’t just want you to act like your faction. They want to think like them. Anyone who doesn’t meet those standards, who qualifies for multiple factions, is to be taken care of, if you know what I mean.
This book is awesome for so many things in writing. Not just because of the storyline or the way it keeps us readers hooked all the way to the end, but because it is such a good literary example. Actually, I had to read it in school last year.
Here’s the first reason that this book is so great. It uses something called the hero’s journey archetype. The hero’s journey is basically a set of stages in creating heroism that can be used in a story, and Divergent follows it to the very last detail. I recommend looking it up, but I also wrote a whole post about it a while back and I explain it with examples. You can read that here. It really is a great tool to use.
Second, the entire story is kind of a metaphor for our own society. The real world isn’t as much divided into factions as it is divided into cliques and groups and opposing opinions always at odds with each other. If you think about the whole idea of the reaction to divergence, it is showing the world’s reaction to people who are different or don’t follow our society’s idea of what people should be like.
Of course, being different is supposed to be a good thing these days, but it is still criticized. It’s the reason that bullying is so serious and kids are starving themselves or doing drugs– it all seems to start with wanting to fit in. To not stand out from the crowd so they aren’t socially attacked.
No us writers, duh. We are too many people inside that are trying to get onto the paper. Caring about what people think about us is the last thing on our minds. We embrace what we can do.
That’s the beauty of writing.
The factions in the book actually have a catch phrase: “Faction before blood”. After you switch factions, you aren’t even supposed to see your family ever again and just let yourself mold into the group you are in now. If that doesn’t give you chills, I don’t know what does.
If you are having a hard time coming up with an idea for your story, think about a real world problem or something that you see happening around you. Find a way to add a deeper meaning to your writing, something else to take away from a story. Some sort of latent content, if you will.
Another tip that I can pull from this story is the subplots. There is the whole hero’s journey plot line, but the subplots are pretty good too. Tris falls in love with a dauntless trainer, and she has this whole thing about not giving up while fighting for her spot in the faction–literally fighting.
The love story part of the book isn’t the main thing the readers are looking at to begin with, but it just adds to the story. And these sublots show these differing views of love and friendship and fear that we don’t see as much in our society. You don’t even realize it, but Roth is showing you more about this society and ours than you see through Tris’s eyes.
Finally, the story is easy to relate to, as silly as that sounds. You may be thinking about how it takes place in the future, in a place we don’t live in, but that’s not the point. The fact that there are five different factions make it that much more relatable. You can understands all sides of the conflict, and the whole teenage development thought of “Who am I?” You can understand the pressure of being forced into one clique or another, peer pressure.
This book is kind of really genius, if you think about it.
So here is my challenge for you: Look into the Hero’s Journey. It’s really useful and it might spark an idea for your story. I’ll link the post about it at the end, too. Maybe try to add some kind of underlying meaning to get to your readers. It will help you get into the story more, too. I tried that with my most recent book and I’m more excited about this one than anything else I’ve written.
Take a look at your subplots. Are there just to fill in space or are they there for a reason? Maybe they contribute to the underlying meaning. Maybe it’s symbolic. Maybe they are there because they will tie back into the main plot towards the end.
Finally, think about how to make your story relatable. Think about what people experience in real life, the emotions they feel, and try to tie it into your story so those emotions come back when they are reading. I think it’s called an allegory: a piece of writing that reminds someone of something else.
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Thank you for reading, and don’t stop writing!