I was scrolling down my Twitter timeline last week and I came across a tweet from the Washington Post with a link to an article headlined, “Does ‘Divergent: Allegiant’s’ flop mean we’re finally sick of young-adult dystopian movies?”. As someone who read the series and as a writer who’s currently writing a YA dystopian-esque book, I decided to read the article.
The article was what I expected; talk about the less than stellar amount Allegiant made during it’s opening weekend, comparisons between Shailene Woodley and Jennifer Lawrence, and the recommendation that the world take a break from dystopian storylines or at least movies about them.
The article did little to dissuade my story outline. It was the comment section that made me pause and really think about why I write and why I choose to undertake this project. It’s a well-known fact that people can get pretty nasty and negative in comment sections online and this one was nothing new. There were a few downing the dystopian genre as a whole, others simply bashing the Divergent Series’ author Veronica Roth and her writing.
All this has made me think about what my professors always told me; you can’t write for everyone because not everyone likes the same thing. Not everyone is going to like your writing. As all published writers or anyone who’s let a group read your writing knows, you’ll get some people who love your work and others who will turn their nose up at it.
I’m forever reminded of an in-class critique where my teacher, as well as most of my classmates, gave positive comments about the dialogue in a piece for workshop. I heard how natural it was, that the flow was great and they loved the tension it brought to the scene (my character ended up arguing with her sister after they had little communication for months due to the character’s career decision and her sister’s pride).
The only critique that stood out though was a negative one. A classmate said that my dialogue felt like a TV script and that it didn’t feel realistic. I smiled and asked her to explain more but inside I was pissed. I adopted a “how dare she” mindset for the rest of the day. I told myself that sounding like a TV script wasn’t always a bad thing. Screenwriters have written some great things. Some scenes in both television and movies have brought me to tears.
After some consideration, I made edits. I realized that she was one out of the twenty-one people who had read my work. One person. It was later when she and I had another class together that I got to know her. She was nice! She loved English and she gave everyone’s work the same level or criticism. It wasn’t just me. I was relieved.
Writers put long hours, sore fingers, rounds of edits, and just general hard work into poems, novels, novelettes, articles, short stories, etc. It takes a lot to put that final project out. While Roth’s writing isn’t perfect and I had some conflicting feelings about the Allegiant film due to changes from the book, I know that hard work and long hours went into creating it. I know the fandom who loves YA dystopian books, Veronica Roth, and her characters will see it despite the negative commentary.
Writers and anyone who creates things for others to consume, whether it be visually or audibly, can only hope their work will overcome in the same way.