Two Reasons Why Developing Structural Entropy Is Disastrous For Reader Empathy (And What To Do Instead)

Overuse of developmental entropy leads to a feeling of inescapable malaise in many readers, and hurts your lasting narrative style.

Post-apocalyptic and uber-dark fiction is all the rage right now. You don’t want to spread the societal entropy into the structural form of your novel, though; readers find this style of writing off-putting, chaotic, and emotionally disturbing.

One: Your goal is to develop a strong rapport between your characters and the reader, and entropic forces within the narrative form prevent the reader from opening and allowing their inner-self to co-mingle with the reading experience. This is bad.

Two: Well-written post-apocalyptic or dark fiction rests on a sturdy internal structure, while the surface events and actions are written in a wild and destroyed style. Make your deep structure safe, secure, and solid; chew the overlaying action all to pieces.

Structural Entropy:

Gorb hit his fist against the console. Thwang! Streams of colored lights flickered through the arched room, and Fianna jumped to her feet, exclaiming as she gripped several of the holographic numbers in her hands.

“This is what they’ve been sending! These are the mission codes, Gorb!” Fianna cried. She thrust handfuls of the barely-flickering symbols into Gorb’s face. Gorb’s mechanized nostrils flared.

“We’ll win now,” Gorb said. Fianna let out a wild laugh.

Ordered Structure with Surface Entropy:

The great chamber was in the shape of a hollow sun; dusty cables and menacing shadows hung like thick feathers over the inside of the room.

Gorb strode to a tiny console that was partially concealed behind a pair of heavy slabs of metal; his mechanized arms creaked and groaned as he heaved aside the fallen debris.

“I thought they’d hide it,” Gorb said, coughing and waving cobwebs away from the controls.

“Is there power?” Fianna asked. She settled her long laser rifle against her hip, and examined the deep shadows in the farthest rims of the room.

“Hang on,” Gorb said. He knelt on the filthy floor, and thrust himself under the console. A series of violent rattles and snaps echoed around the room before he pushed himself out, and stood up. Gorb raised a massive fist, and let it fall with a crash against a panel of the console.


Vivid green strings of numbers and letters, shimmering in the dusty air, rose up from slits in the floor, and twisted towards the ceiling.

“This is it,” Fianna exclaimed. The nose of her rifle dropped to the floor as she stepped to the nearest stream of symbols, and held out her hand. A flashing cortex of shining numbers gathered around her fingers; Fianna laughed, and carried the shimmering symbols towards Gorb.

“That’s how they’ve been carrying them behind our backs,” Gorb said, his mechanized nostrils flaring. Fianna nodded, her expression grim.

“We’ll win now,” Fianna observed. She and Gorb locked eyes, and the hint of a smile creased the corners of the great man’s mouth.

Darkness and chaos are excellent subjects for fiction, but they are not excellent structural styles. Remember, your reader wants to hear a story, and no one likes a story they can’t participate in. : )