I presented an interesting writing prompt to my Creative Writing class Thursday. It stated, "You have just received a message from the future. This message affects you (maybe the world) greatly. What is the message?"
The prompt is one of my favorites because the fictitious scenario creates an opportunity for my writers to make predictions about society while still having some fun, plus it tugs at the wonderful genre of dystopian literature.
Over the years, their answers have been thought provoking. As well, there is a definite reoccurring tone: The future is dark.
As my students present their messages from the future, I find most of them are warnings, urgent pleas begging for a change in our current world. In some of the messages, the world is on fire or on some pivotal brink that is determined by a protagonist's actions.
Some of the future messages are very clever. One involved the fictitious message falling on the ears of a child character who is ironically too young to do anything about the message. This particular response struck me as tragic, because teenagers are currently staring into a tumultuous future, and I am sure they are questioning their ability to do anything about it.
Another student response was that the message was coming to someone who is the cause of the very destruction they try to prevent. Sounds like a Greek drama to me.
In a bizarre way, if a person thinks about it, while the students are imagining someone from the future is writing to them, in a sense, they are actually writing to themselves in the future. I always tell them to keep their journals and one day look back at their frame of mind or how creative they were: turning mirrors into windows.
Reflectively, one of the most popular genres today is dystopian literature. I think this has been true for a while. The premise of so many dystopian stories involves the society attempting to create a better world, and more often than not, implementing more rules and restrictions that infringe on the freedoms of the individual. During this societal evolution, usually someone with a prejudice against a certain type of people comes to power. This prejudice can be against the poor, another country, immigrants, even the general populace. However, people think he or she is great (just great, really great), and when they find out the truth, it is too late -the world is a dystopia.
Interestingly enough, I had a student take a different approach this year. His answer to the prompt was unique and inviting. Upon hearing it, one felt a longing for the reprieve it invites.
He stated, "Hello to whomever I have successfully contacted. I am from the future and I am talking to you now with the purpose of letting you know something important. Now, I know what you're thinking: The future? It seems impossible . . . What I need to tell you is that the future is great. Like, it is truly fantastic, but I'm not trying to brag. I simply want to let you all know to keep doing what you're doing. You don't have to second-guess yourselves because it all turns out great anyways. Now, I must be going. Bye!"
I thought this student's response was inspirational, even more so because of the fact that it came from the mind of a young person. Looking forward, this young man imagined a good future, despite the world around him that is sometimes immersed in antagonistic mayhem. In fact, his response completely made me want to stop hoarding toilet paper.
Brian Theodore is a language arts teacher at Corbin High School and lives in Corbin with his wife, who is also a teacher at CHS. He can be contacted at Theteachersdesk.firstname.lastname@example.org.