Humans are Humans...Right?

This week, I blogged on YAHighway about creating a dystopian society. I wanted to expand a little, but I think you need a tiny bit of background in case you didn't read that post (gasp!).

Here's what I said about creating futures: Creating futures for young adults in a novel is a challenging task. I mean, no one knows what life will be like. And the future has to stem from something that does exist in this time, something that teens are familiar enough with that they can envision your future evolving from their present.

So with that in mind, how do we shape the characters that are living in that futuristic society? Will they feel the same things? Love? Abandonment? Will teens struggle with the same issues they do now?

That's what I'm going to explore a bit today.

I think the human need for love remains constant no matter what world you live in. Sure, the teens living in my brainwashed society may not have the same hopes and desires as the teens today (I mean, when someone else tells you want to wear and what to eat, your hopes are skewed a little), but they still crave acceptance. They still have to carve their own way in life. Those fundamentals don’t change too much. The road toward love, happiness and success might look different, but the desire to achieve those things is deeply rooted in humanness.

I believe that young adults like stories where they can see themselves. Their own struggles. Be that a coming-of-age story, or a battle with addictions, or a need to thrash their own path. In a dystopian society, these themes can still be explored. And, I believe, in a "safe" way, in a society that is clearly not real. I think those same things that we struggle with as humans now, should be present in humans then.

And that’s why all stories are born with believable, likeable, three-dimensional characters. Someone who could be us, living in a future we can imagine, fighting similar battles we've fought.

After all, humans are going to continue to be human.

Do you agree? Disagree? If so, what do you think humans will be like in the future?


Matthew Delman said...

I think humans will continue to be humans no matter what. Unless we become living computers, then all bets are off.

Your concerns with writing dystopian characters are similar to mine with writing fantasy/sci-fi characters. I need to craft a link between the character in the story and the person reading the story, so they can believe it might happen to them if they were in that situation.

Christine Fonseca said...

Yep - The human condition is a constant!

Mandy P.S. said...

I feel like this almost goes back to the Singularity we were talking about earlier this week. As it was pointed out in the post, something on the other side of the Singularity would seem completely alien to us. I believe its possible that humans of the future could be completely alien from us.

However, for the sake of writing, there has to be some connection to our present condition (that and its practically impossible to imagine a completely alien society). I seem to recall one writer saying something along the lines of "Elves and aliens are nice - but at some point a human has to come into the story so we can connect". I don't think that human has to be an actual homo sapien, but it has to be someone who has human feelings and emotions we can relate to. A person needs to be able to relate to the characters they're reading about.

Jeff Hirsch said...

Yeah, this is such a key question for us. What is it to be human? What is it to be a teen?

Love is a good pick. I think a desire for connection and community is probably key as well.

It's also interesting to think about what negative aspects of humanity will stay intact no matter the circumstances. Shortsightedness? Aggression? Xenophobia?

Tere Kirkland said...

I'm not sure that human nature will always be the same, because I'm not sure if it always has been the same.

Historically, humans have lived in family groups more for protection than out of love or affection. I think this might be something we modern day humans can't understand. Of course, the past isn't the point here, it's the future.

I can see human connections becoming less of a necessity in an increasingly digital world where everyone's plugged into their own virtual reality and doing their jobs online (I understand some jobs will never be able to be done via the internet, but just play along).

Interaction with people online makes it easier to pretend they're not really people, this is something we're already seeing with the way some people act online today. How is that going to be different in a century? Two centuries?

This sort of scenario might eventually decrease desire for the messiness of human interactions.

So I'm not ruling out the theory that people's basic wants and desires might become much more self-absorbed than the are today.


Jen said...

I believe human nature will always be just that. Of course, with differing circumstances and technological advancements, our natures will have to adapt. Thus the challenges we get to write about.

Elana Johnson said...

Bittersweet Fountain, the idea that humans could be completely alien from us is so interesting. I agree, in many ways. We just have to find that one connection that we can make with them.

Tere, yeah, the whole online/digital age is super-scary. As someone who spends a lot of time online and has many virtual friends, I can see how easy it is to be one person online and a different person in person. I do still think that we go online to fulfill a need though. A need for friendship or acceptance.

Jeff, you're awesome to bring up the other side of the coin as well. I hadn't even addressed that! Thanks. :)

Angie said...

Yes, this is THE key question. And, whether we're writing about life on the other side chasm of a years or a singularity or even about alien or artificial life, we are still writing about what it means to be human. We don't have any other point of reference.

Julia said...

Great post! And, I think Angie said it very succinctly - we, being humans, don't have any other point of reference!

Liz @ Cleverly Inked said...

Great post, but it's Friday night and my brain doesn't want to think.