CyberPunk Genre: A Novice’s Guide for Writers

Posted on Oct 3, 2023

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Written by Zara Choudhry

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Whether you’re a newbie exploring the Cyberpunk genre, or a seasoned writer well aware of augmented reality narratives and rebellion, this guide is for you!

The chaotic universe of the cyberpunk genre is all about dystopian cityscapes and futuristic technology, and it’s no doubt a cool genre to dip your toes into to add some neon flair to your writing.

Amidst the complexities of technology, this guide is here to give you the full breakdown on cyberpunk genre writing, how to carefully craft the perfect story for this style, and also some mistakes you’ll want to avoid along the way .

Let’s dive straight in…

Defining Cyberpunk

Cyberpunk is a sub genre of science fiction which emerged in the early 1980s – think Blade Runner and Johny Mnemonic.

It’s focus on high-tech and futuristic settings, and its relation to to society is what shapes the narratives and characters within. You’ll find cyberpunk novels to be based in dystopian futures where artificial intelligence and advanced tech, and virtual reality all coexist with ‘normal’ society that is breaking down.

Humans and machines are intertwining , and the consequences of technology on personal identity is the key issue throughout the narrative.

Common themes you’ll notice throughout this genre include; lack of privacy, ethical guidelines distorted, government surveillance and human body modifications.

Later in this guide, we’ll explore more of the genre’s features and famous examples in literature.

Famous Authors and Books in the Cyberpunk Genre

Spanning across various types of media, Cyberpunk has made its mark in not only literature, but also film and video games. Here are renowned examples of Cyberpunk in the world of writing:

  1. “Neuromancer” (1984) by William Gibson
    • Often credited with pioneering the cyberpunk genre, this novel introduced the concept of “the Matrix” and won the Nebula, the Hugo, and the Philip K. Dick Award.
  2. “Snow Crash” (1992) by Neal Stephenson
    • This novel blends satire, post-cyberpunk, and a collection of sub-genres, offering a unique take on the government-influenced way of life and the blend of the virtual world with reality.
  3. “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” (1968) by Philip K. Dick
    • This novel laid much of the groundwork for the cyberpunk genre. It was later adapted into the worldwide film “Blade Runner.”
  4. “Altered Carbon” (2002) by Richard K. Morgan
    • Set in a future where consciousness can be transferred to different bodies, this novel explores themes of identity, morality, and society.

And, in terms of film, here are a few famous examples to note:

  1. “Blade Runner” (1982) directed by Ridley Scott
    • Based on Philip K. Dick’s novel, this film is a cornerstone of cyberpunk cinema, exploring themes of identity, and the impact of technology of human life.
  2. “Ghost in the Shell” (1995) by Mamoru Oshii
    • This animated film, based on Masamune Shirow’s manga, delves into questions of identity, and the integration of technology and humanity.
  3. “The Matrix” series (1999–2003) by the Wachowskis
    • Influenced by various cyberpunk works, this film series explores a dystopian world where humanity is trapped in a simulated reality.

Step by Step Writing Guide for Cyberpunk

With all the futuristic, complex elements and themes that come with Cyberpunk, it can be tough to know where to start when trying to put pen to paper.

We’ve laid out a guide to ease you through the process and get you on your way to writing one compelling Cyberpunk themed story:

Step 1: Research & Understand the Genre

Understanding the world of Cyberpunk is crucial before getting stuck into your own writing. Getting familiar with the core themes of technology, dystopia, human identity, and corporate control can be done by reading the likes of Neuromancer and Snow Crash.

Step 2: Build a Cyberpunk World

Create your own futuristic setting and consider how virtual reality and advanced tech could distort and negatively impact everyday human life.

Take your time with designing your dystopian society before writing as this will allow you to immerse into this universe and really empathize with the characters who feel powerless.

Not only will this excel your writing, it will also help you build better visual descriptions as you’ve mapped out this world, its environments and the gritty urban cultures within.

Step 3: Develop Complex Characters

Your cyberpunk story will have most likely have a mix of anti-heroes and rebels that have more complex identities. These characters are determined to fight the oppressive, government-based system that wants to control them and distort human life.

Consider how their backstories make them so passionate to defend their people, and what personal weaknesses could end up making their fight a little harder against the establishment.

Be sure to throw in hackers and tech geniuses, too! These characters are there to support your protagonist by helping them navigate the digital world and break every code possible.

Step 4: Craft a Compelling Plot

Cyberpunk narratives revolve around rebellion. It’s all about how the protagonist fights off the establishing, allowing human life to continue as it naturally was in the first place.

It’s a quest to break free of advanced technology that is rapidly taking over so elements of suspense and mystery are expected by readers. Focus on how you can incorporate all the dark sides of tech and how damaging it can really be to individual identities in the modern world.

Step 5: Address Themes and Morality

The best stories are the ones that make a lasting impact on the reader about their current world.

As we know it, technology is advancing at the speed of lightening and has all sorts of implications on human life, so use your story as a way to make commentary on current trends and ethical questions.

Cyberpunk Genre: Summary

And there we have it, fellow writers!

We’ve journeyed through the world of Cyberpunk as a subgenre of science fiction. Through its mixture of high-tech advancements, effects on human life, and dystopian futures – there’s just so much to unpack with this genre.

Based in urban landscapes, this genre is where the lines between physical life and virtual reality blur and poses heavy questions on ethics, privacy, control and corporate dominance.

When tackling this neon-lit style of writing, its important to get clued up on how technology is advancing individuals and what the consequences can become in the future to really bring your story to life.

Happy writing!

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