Pocket Prompt Expansion: Something Explodes #4 – Cause & Effect

So far, we’ve looked at types of explosions and how to use them in a story, and a disastrous (or hyperbolic) consequence of the explosion. Now it’s time to look a little further back: cause.

Every story has a beginning, middle and end, and even if we begin with the explosion, the root explanation for it can – and should – inspire a lot more to come later.

We’ll be spending more time on this in the coming posts, but for now we’re going to look at Cause & Effect.

Both the name of an okay movie and an element of quantum theory, the Butterfly Effect suggests that one tiny action can have huge consequences given enough time. Writers shouldn’t consider themselves trapped by genre when it comes to science.

A small action can roll forward in any story. In Stranger Than Fiction, Will Ferrell’s life is changed because he resets his watch to just a few seconds behind his schedule. In How I Met Your Mother, Ted only meets the Mother because, one day long before, he found her umbrella and was using it as his own. In Game of Thrones, the Stark children are only separated because Ned decided to pursue the idea that the king might have an illegitimate heir.

You don’t need to look so close at the finer details, of course. You could seek to explain your explosion as either an action or a response.

As an action, your explosion is a result of a decision or something out of the control of those in the story. A bomb could explode – or a person, depending on your genre – or a pipe could burst. Someone could be looking for a fight, and so begin shouting.

As a response, your explosion is a consequence of an action. A gas leak combined with a lit match, a man grieving for his late mother, or any number of things that can cause a literal or emotional explosion in the aftermath. (Including, of course, a literal explosion resulting in an emotional one.)

Some questions for your consideration:

  • Is the explosion natural or man-made?
  • If it is natural, is it a result of weather, or was it like a volcano, waiting to blow?
  • If it is man-made, who is responsible?
  • If it is emotional, who is reacting to what?
  • How much of a build up to the explosion was there, either within your story or before it begins?

We’ll continue our exploration of explosions in your writing in the next post, as we get down and dirty with that most difficult of topics: politics.

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