Hope lives in dystopia

I’ve always liked dystopias. Partly because I like sci-fi and horror, and dark future fiction often has features of both. Most of all, however, I am fascinated by the hope that lives in every dystopia.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines dystopia as a very bad and unfair society or a future society after something terrible has happened.

Heroes are born in dystopia

Dystopia is the opposite of a utopia, an ideal perfect society. However, it is not always so black and white. Sometimes in fiction utopia may be just a cover for a totalitarian society or a dystopia could be an impulse for better tomorrow. Dystopia as an environment motivates people to become heroes.

If you think of The Burning Squid stories, Syd (from the Chronicles of Salaboa) would be a typical dystopian hero. Syd’s world is under a threat and even he is not the most heroic type of a character; he acts on that threat and tries to save the world.

In dark futures, I am drawn by hope. When the story world is gloomy and its social structures are cruel to the people a lot of opportunities open up for the story. Hope creates rebellion and gives the people courage to act.

Future fiction creates a framework for future action

I participated in a seminar about imaginary cities. It was held by a research network called KULTVA at the University of Turku. Among other things, we were discussing future cities in literature and films. What lies behind the visions of the future and what the imaginary futures tell about us and our time.

There was also discussion about how fictive futures could be used, for example, in urban planning or when we try to solve possible future problems. Literature researcher Lieven Ameel‘s (PhD) also spoke of hope and activity. Fiction can create a framework for future action and through it we can research the impact of personal choices in a complex world.

According to Ameel, through fiction we can safely deal with different conceptions of the future. Because dystopia does not actually describe society, but how the humans see the society, the activity generated by dystopia can be positive.

What fascinates about the dystopias?

Few years ago the grim science fiction was more popular than ever. But what will happen next? In a world of climate crisis, the corona pandemic, the rise of the extreme right, and political contradictions, it would be logical to want to escape more into pink dreams and funny moments.

But perhaps what draws us to dystopias is that they are even worse than our own reality. Perhaps real life feels more tolerable after you immerse yourself in even darker worlds for a moment. Or maybe we all just love the idea of an ordinary person’s possibilities to make a difference. Maybe we need dystopias to find that person inside of us.

Picture: Carroll MacDonald, Pixabay

You can read this article in Finnish from The Friday Press blog.

Meet the Main Characters of our stories

Last time we wrote a guide how to build characters in your story or game. Today we thought we could tell you a little more about how our main characters were built and who they are.

Last time we wrote a guide how to build characters in your story or game. Today we thought we could tell you a little more about how our main characters were built and who they are.

Characters in Adventures of Wilhelmina

It all began with the airship. I said I wanted one and Andy asked what kind. Small and a bit homemade sounded good. So we started to build the imaginary airship and collecting cats and zombies on the crew. I named the airship loosely after the actor Bill Skarsgård.

One day I told Andy we should write a children’s book around Wilhelmina and here we are now. We decided there should be 2 kids that are very different from each other.


Because I am a fan of Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking, I wanted to bring something similar to Lila’s character. Lila is a wild child with untamed curls and grass stains on her jeans. Lila gets easily animated and she is a kind and warm spirit, always ready for an adventure. She tries to remember how to be polite and more subtle around people, as her aunt Belinda tells her to be, but she usually just can’t contain herself and ends up speaking her mind. She gets often distracted and always loves a good goofy laugh.


Lila needed a friend who would balance her out, so we came up with Robin, a boy next door. As more quiet and prudent, he gives perspective to Lila’s wild ideas. Though on the other hand Lila also helps him to be more brave and spontaneous. Robin is a caring and very thoughtful kid but still might need some help with his sometimes arrogant attitude and short temper.

Organic Characters

Lila and Robin are what we like to call organic characters. We never made a sheet or a list of their features. We talk about them and write them in different situations to see how they would react. They also mirror how we were as children.

We want Lila and Robin to show the readers that there is no one right way to be, think or feel. And that you can value and cherish people that are different from you.

Characters in Chronicles of Salaboa

Chronicles of Salaboa started out with the little Pub called The Burning Squid (we have an odd way of starting with a place even when we think character is the main element). We already knew that this story would be more youth/young adult and that pretty much guided the age of the characters. At the same time we wanted the MCs to be independent so sadly we had to kill their parents.


Syd, the one running The Burning Squid, is 19 years old. He is a little scruffy, red haired boy who just doesn’t care about things like grooming or fashion. Syd is very much of a people’s person. He loves to service the customers and get to know them. He is witty but a great listener and because he seems mostly harmless he is an excellent double, triple or even quadruple agent when the war is near.


Syd’s older step sister Cordelia is the so-called mystery character. No one knows much about her but slowly as the story goes on we will reveal more and more about her and her past. With this kind of character we, as authors, need to know a lot of her background and features so we know how to give readers some hints to keep them on their toes.

In game worlds these kind of characters could give more excitement in the game. Maybe the GM could know more about your character than the other players and use that as a plot device too.


The third MC of the Chronicles of Salaboa is Grond who was actually a surprise for me. We were writing the intro of the story when he all the sudden knocked at the door. When Andy introduced him to me out of the blue in the middle of writing the scene he right away found his important place in the story.

This is one great thing about writing together. Two heads come up with so much more than just one.

If you like to know more about the main characters of our stories, please feel free to ask.

And if you want to hear more about how we feel about writing together, we are writing about that soon too.

Picture: Karolina Grabowska Pixabay

Get in Character – How to build the most important element of your story

One of the most important things in any storytelling, whether it is an RPG or literature, is the character.

You might have heard the saying “Show, don’t tell”. It means your story should be told via action and not explaining things. And that is exactly what your characters will do in your story.

We wanted to give you few tips how to build a good character.

About characters:

What is a character and why do we need them in a story?
A character is a person of interest and a plot device to express the story via feelings, thoughts and actions that the reader or gamer can identify with. The story can unfold through the characters eyes or point of view. Sometimes the reader can only experience the universe the way the character experiences it. 

What makes a character interesting? 

Characters help the story change through different perspectives. This is represented  by the reader’s interpretation. Readers use their imagination and see themselves how the characters interact. When the character is not too one dimensional readers can identify with them and feel as they feel. The character can also have secrets and the creator can hide in little hints before revealing it all.

What elements characters build from?

Characters have personality, background, looks, voice and the way they present themselves. Creator sets the basic, the reader fills the gaps as they read. Sometimes you can leave whole elements out, like the looks. Then the reader can imagine the character looking the way they want.

How to build a character

When building a character you can use for example a back story or a character sheet. Back story that isn’t part of your final text but explains your character to you as a writer. Character forms and sheets are lists of character’s features that can go from looks to face expression, style in clothes to political views and dislikes to fears. Whatever you need to know to really know your character. You don’t have to use or reveal it all in the story but it helps you to know how the character acts, reacts and makes choices in the story.

Things to consider when building a character:

  • Backstory of the character (life before the events of the actual story) 
  • Description of the character when first introduced (how you want them to appear to the reader)
  • Aims of the character in conjunction with the story and the plot 
  • Relationships, how they feel about the other characters
  • How many characters you need to make the story
  • The Environment the character is set in 
  • Is there people in the characters life that you don’t see in the story but affects on the character
  • What world events the story is centered on and how do they affect on the character or does the character affect on them
  • What the character brings to the story, what is their mission in the story
  • How does the character develop during the story, what they learn

A few tips:

  • Keep the character in character. If he hates meatballs, don’t make him devour them later.
  • Remember how your character looks. If they have short hair they can’t tangle in tree branches. If you don’t tell anything about your character’s looks, the reader will imagine it. Remember not to spoil it by saying at the end of the story something like “by the way that MC had a black hair”.
  • Give your character a voice. You don’t have to overdo their accent or the way they speak but use some details to separate them from other characters and use them consistently throughout the story.
  • When first describing the character, cover as much ground as needed to be familiar with the character as later on you want to keep the descriptions of what they do short to keep the story flowing. You can reveal more details throughout the story but you need a solid base so readers know and recognise the character.
  • Give your character some features that don’t fit in the overall picture.  Maybe some unique trait or a quirk – like a sweet rich lady who might pickpocket for fun. That will make the character more lively. We all got flaws and we love them.

We hope you got some good material to help you build your characters.

Picture: Colin Behrens / Pixabay