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Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Underdog Story, A Guest Post by Katie Clark

Who doesn’t love an underdog story? Think of guys like quarterback Tom Brady, and let’s not forget Cinderella. Underdogs are easy to root for because humans are equipped with compassion, and it’s easy to have compassion on the person everyone is stepping all over.

For readers, connecting with a character on a visceral level is vital to their enjoyment of a book. That’s why the underdog is so popular in books, and really in all of life.

The dystopian genre is ripe with underdogs. The definition of dystopia states, “a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.” A character who lives in this environment, but who ultimately strives to overcome it, is certainly facing an uphill battle. They are, with all certainty, an underdog.

The dystopian genre was something I’d never read until the Hunger Games hit the shelves. Even then, I only read these books because I’d heard so much about them. Little did I know it would quickly become my favorite type of book. Conflict? Check. Mystery? Got it! Romance? Yep, that too (often times though not always).

When it came time to write Vanquished, book one in my Enslaved series, I had studied the genre well. However, the seeds for this story started long before I’d read my first dystopian story. I’d had an idea for years—an idea for a character. She was strong yet vulnerable. She wanted to follow the rules, but for some reason couldn’t. I didn’t understand her, who she was, or where she was coming from; but I knew she was there. I’d also been given the challenge to write a story set in a world where there was no Bible. No “last word” or “final authority”, so to speak. Again, this idea sat in the back of my brain, but I didn’t know what to do with it.

It wasn’t until after I’d read the Hunger Games that I finally understood that this female character I’d been thinking about belonged in the Bible-devoid story I’d been challenged to write. The pieces came together at last, and Vanquished, Deliverance, and Redeemer were born.

My main character, Hana, lives in a future society where poverty and sickness are rampant, but medication and other resources are limited. When she learns that the society leaders are withholding the medicines needed to save her dying mother, she wants to know what other secrets they’re keeping. It sets her on a path of discovery, including the fact that the God she’d been told was myth might not be myth at all. Hana faces normal life challenges along the way, making new friends and tough choices, but in the end she must choose—keep the leaders’ secrets, or take a stand.

Still not sure about the dystopian genre? I encourage you to give it a try. You’ll most likely find all of your favorite story elements, and honestly, who doesn’t love an underdog?

KATIE CLARK writes young adult speculative fiction, including her dystopian Enslaved Series, made up of Vanquished, Deliverance, and Redeemer. Paperbacks are available now, and ebooks release on November 22, 2014. You can connect with Katie at her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.