Pocket Prompt Expansion: Something Explodes #5 – Getting Political

In previous posts, we’ve explored literal and emotional explosions, dire consequences and Cause & Effect, and I promised we’d explore that more as the expansion of the ‘Something Explodes’ card continues.

When discussing Cause & Effect, and specifically when focusing on something so charged as an explosion, one question must be asked that, unfortunately, rings through the news on a regular basis: is it political?

Without getting too deep into current affairs, the political nature of an explosion, literal or emotional, can have a rolling effect on the entire story, and can inspire the origins of a much wider plot than you originally attempted to write about.

In this post, we’ll look at the multiple ways of writing politics.

The first thing most people might think of is extremism, so we’ll start there, and ask a few keys questions:

  • Is the political position in opposition to how your protagonist feels?
  • Is your protagonist affected by the explosion?
  • Does the explosion take place near your protagonist (e.g. in their hometown, or the place they’re living) or is it a faraway experience that drives conversation and controversy?
  • Is the political movement old, or is it a new level of extremism?

Answering those questions can help uncover a number of major plot points for your story, and guide the emotional fallout of the explosion for the rest of the narrative arc.

Another point you might want to look at with regards to politics and explosions: is there a political rally occurring in your story? If the plot, or a subplot, centres around an election or a dictatorship, how would an explosion disrupt one side’s attempts to gain popularity, or increase the notoriety of the marginalised position? Further questions you might want to ask:

  • Is your protagonist on the marginalised side of the political debate?
  • Is the explosion designed to injure or to inspire terror?
  • Who orchestrated the explosion?
  • Who benefits from the explosion?
  • What does the fallout of the explosion look like for all parties involved?

With those questions asked, we can move on from the literal explosions that centre around politics, and move onto emotional explosions.

During elections, emotions are raised. Families can argue. Neighbours can fight. Use the following questions to help guide the emotional stakes of a political event in your story:

  • Is your protagonist at odds with their family, friends, neighbours or co-workers?
  • How is the general public acting against controversy? Are there protests? Are they peaceful?
  • How is your protagonist involved in the politics?
  • What is on the line that has caused emotions to get raised? (Some examples from recent history: voting rights, abortion, divorce, legalising drugs, marriage rights.)
  • What can your protagonist do to escape the political drama?

Whether we like it or not, politics are a major aspects of our daily lives. We don’t need literal explosions in faraway regions of the world to inspire debate and discussion, and we don’t always need controversy to get riled up. Remembering to write about the political background of your story can be a game changer in making your world-building more believable and engaging.

And, if you really need the push, a political event can shift the entire focus of your story and raise the stakes of your plot from something that affects your protagonist to something that affects their entire city, country, or world.

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