First of all, I would like to thank everyone for the support they have given me on my last two videos. Your comments have been great to read and I am happy that so many of you enjoyed those videos/articles. This toolkit will be the last bit on cyberpunk for a while, but it’s a big piece to leave it off on.
Welcome to the cyberpunk toolkit, which includes ideas, facts, tips, and advice for writing your cyberpunk story!
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1. Types of Cyberpunk Stories!
You can create any story you want and fit it into any genre. If you have a good idea for a story and want to pursue it, then check out the next point in this blog post.
However, if you are interested in writing a gripping cyberpunk story, but just need some idea of a plot that works well in this genre, stick around. There are a few to choose from and I am sure you will find one that is to your liking.
First, we have the ‘Underworld Plot’.
It is a story that follows a character’s rising through the underworld and encountering all manner of seedy individuals in a cyberpunk dystopia. It could mean they join the criminal underworld, building their own faction or working their way up the food chain in an established gang, or it could mean approaching the underworld with a different objective in mind, such as bringing down the criminal underworld or seeking justice/answers for an earlier scene in the story.
In average fiction, this is usually a revenge arc.
In this plot you have the opportunity to present a down-to-earth world space, showing the reader the poorer and dirtier side of a cyberpunk world. You deal with the criminal element that is present in a cyberpunk world and there are plenty of chances to write a gritty or action-packed scene.
Second, we have the ‘Transcendence Plot’.
In this plot, we approach the more philosophical side of cyberpunk stories. The transcendence plot is about becoming more than human, usually a transfer of consciousness into some cloud storage or a robot body.
It could be the protagonist has their mind transferred as punishment, or to save their life. It could be the antagonist has their mind transferred in order to preserve themselves or attain greater power or influence. There are many possible reasons for one to turn themselves into a digital consciousness, the most common one being immortality.
These kinds of stories can take place in any level of social hierarchy in your cyberpunk world and they can be more thoughtful or just as action-packed as an ‘underworld plot’. Typically, these kinds of plots give you an opportunity to address the different viewpoints on storing one’s consciousness.
Third, we have the ‘I, Robot Plot’.
I call it the ‘I, Robot plot’ because it’s my first encounter with the idea of synthetic life vs natural life. I talk more about this topic in my previous cyberpunk video, which I recommend you check out if you haven’t already.
These kinds of stories give you an opportunity to talk about what makes up humanity. You can challenge the biological aspects and the metaphysical aspects of what makes someone a human. You can take this discussion further when you approach synthetic life and whether it should be considered equal to natural life.
There are many ways to approach the subject and many have their valid points, depending on your religious beliefs and/or personal values. At the end of the day, it is your plot and your conclusion will be just as valid as any other, whether synthetic life and natural life learn to co-exist or battle it out for control of the earth.
2. Putting the ‘Punk’ in Cyberpunk!
What makes cyberpunk…punkish, is the nihilistic approach to many situations, the deconstruction of society, and the dystopian feeling that is created by the shocking difference in classes. The average masses are made more punkish to underline the rebellious nature that is building, or has built, in the classes below that of the rich and powerful.
Those who have the money and connections to live in luxury at every given moment often see themselves as higher beings above those that struggle to find two credits to rub together.
If you plan on writing a cyberpunk story, you need to talk about these social issues, this hierarchy that is established in your world space. You need to talk about those who envy the higher classes and those who look down on the lower classes. Typically, these situations are powder kegs waiting for a spark.
The rebellious lower classes are waiting for that one last push to make them fight against their tyrannical overlords or the wealthy established families and corporations. The higher classes are looking for ways to ensure their power over the lower classes in order to maintain the status quo.
Throughout this world space, people in both classes generally have a nihilistic view of the world. It is most likely this view that resulted in so many immoral decisions that led to this dystopia. If one finds life meaningless it is very easy to take steps down a path that is easier, more selfish, destructive, or chaotic. Those smart enough know how to take advantage and those apathetic enough will let them.
Of course, punk can also relate to the style of the world. It could be the shocking colors, the weird hairstyles, or the 80s nightmare of their wardrobe.
In most cases, a writer will take both the style and philosophy that makes something ‘punkish’ to establish their world and the general feeling that people have while living in it.
Hopefully, this brief talk gives you an idea of how things end up so cruel and hedonistic in a cyberpunk world. Perhaps it also gives you inspiration on how to establish punk in your cyberpunk world.
3. Putting the ‘Cyber’ in Cyberpunk!
And having talked about the second half, it’s only right I talk about the first half!
While the punk part is more about the general theme that makes up these kinds of stories and worlds, the cyber part establishes the setting and time period. Cyberpunks are generally set in a classic-futuristic space, where the cars fly, robots do most of the heavy lifting and everything has lights on it for added style.
Cyber comes from ‘cybernetics’, so there is a lot of focus on cybernetic augmentations in cyberpunk stories. This means parts of the character’s body are replaced or improved with machinery.
It could be their eye is replaced with a cybernetic one in order for them to see further away, or just see at all. It could be that there is a chunk of metal attached to their arm that makes them shoot with a steady hand and robotic accuracy. Their skin might be replaced with a metal shell, making them shiny and a little bulletproof.
There isn’t any real limit to the cybernetic augmentations you come up with. Generally speaking, cybernetics are voluntary improvements or replacements of certain parts of the body in a cyberpunk world. Whether characters have a problem with removing healthy parts of their body in exchange for machinery and other synthetic materials is up to you.
That is another part of this world space where conflict can be created. The conflict between those who are cybernetically augmented and those who aren’t is another example of a cyberpunk story that borders on synthetic life vs natural life.
Yet, the point of this section is that if you want your cyberpunk world feel a bit more cyberpunk, you are going to need part-human-part-robot characters to really emphasize that part of the genre.
4. Popular Cyberpunk Media to Research
It doesn’t hurt to do a little research, especially if you are unfamiliar with the genre and have only just taken an interest in writing it.
Of course, these are only the books that make for good cyberpunk research, there are a few movies and series out there if you are looking for visual inspiration and not just literature inspiration.
Those are just some of the examples of cyberpunk media that you can check out anytime you wish. Whether you find inspiration in books, movies, or series, there are plenty of great examples to browse.
5. Tips for Writing Cyberpunk Stories
The first tip I have already mentioned in every blog post on a science fiction genre, but I will go through it again quickly here.
When describing advanced technology, you don’t have to explain how it all works, you compare its form and function to examples that the reader might be familiar with. For example, it was the size of a refrigerator and it made a similar humming.
The second tip would be to concern yourself with the average lifestyle of your characters. What machines do they encounter on any given day, and what habits do they have? Let the reader know that this world is different by showing them the differences. If you focus your attention only on the extremes they will have trouble picturing the scenes the way you want them to. It would be easy to assume that such a future is no different from the present for the average person.
The third tip is more of a suggestion; try to include a character in your story that is sure of their goals in the beginning, but as they encounter various events throughout the story their views are challenged. It could be they are of a certain class and they learn more about the life of another class. It could be their values are challenged by the people they encounter and they find the logic in their values lacking.
Cyberpunk tends to include these characters who learn to examine themselves and their beliefs, learning more and ultimately redefining themselves by the end. These characters are usually present for the reader’s benefit, giving the reader’s thoughts direction, and helping them feel the right emotions when a certain scene transpires.
The fourth tip is to take your time in the slow moments. Cyberpunk novels are notable for having impactful scenes focused on the meaning of life, the value of human life, our place in the universe, and all manner of philosophical questions that help the characters realize how far morality has declined for such a dystopia to exist.
Action scenes are easier to write because they are so fast-paced, the slower moments in the average novel tend to just be breaks between the action. In cyberpunk, these slower moments are of greater importance than the action itself. Take your time in these moments and try to answer these questions for yourself before you answer them for your characters.
It can make the writing process a lot more interesting and the writing a lot more realistic.
And with that, the toolkit talk has come to an end!
Of course, that’s not the end of cyberpunk discussions. I have already started work on a full cyberpunk story writing course. In that course, we will address many of the topics I have already talked about and a lot more. If you are interested in writing a cyberpunk novel but feel like you need a bit more guidance, I recommend signing up for my Writer’s Workshop!
Every tier gives you lifetime access to all of my courses, past, present, and future. You can sign up today or when I release the course, either way, you will receive hundreds of hours of premium content to check out at your leisure.
If you are an experienced writer, I would love to hear your thoughts on the cyberpunk genre and what advice you would give beginner writers. If you have any other questions, be sure to let me know in the comments as well.
Thank you for reading and as always,
Good day, goodnight and happy writing!