Pocket Prompt Expansion: Something Explodes #7 – Prevention

Something explodes, a bomb, a volcano, emotional tension…but can it be prevented?

So far we’ve looked at Cause & Effect in the sense that it’s a set thing, but is there something your characters could have done to prevent it from happening altogether? In this post, we’re going to look at the magical time travel of hindsight.

As with previous posts in this series, we’ll look at the literal explosions first, and ask a few choice questions to help uncover what could have been changed to affect the story in different ways.

  • If a bomb exploded, could they have caught the person or people responsible beforehand? Were there warning signs?
  • If there is an infrastructural cause to an explosion, such as a gas leak, could inspections have prevented it? Is there a reason why there weren’t inspections in the past?
  • Were warning signs ignored by the people with any authority to do anything about it?
  • If the explosion isn’t a once-off event, what can be done by your characters to prevent a repeat?

As far as human actions are concerned, there are things we can do to make changes to prevent an incident. When it comes to nature, we need to look at things a little differently.

  • Does the technology exist to predict the explosion?
  • Was anything done to alleviate the fallout of the explosion? (e.g. a volcano erupting)
  • Did anyone warn about impending disaster?
  • Were they ignored? If yes, why?
  • Is the character unreliable? Do they have a backstory that marred their reputation?
  • Are those with the power to act unwilling to put resources into making change?

When it comes to genre fiction, we can see a lot of opportunity for predicting disasters and making changes. Whether you want to introduce time travel into your narrative, or substitute ‘something explodes’ for ‘a kaiju arrives at Tokyo’, we can examine a growing number of ways to turn the card into more than just an explosion, and treat prevention as a matter of changing the past instead of the future.

How about emotional explosions? Most arguments are avoidable. Answer the questions below to explore how an emotional explosion might be prevented.

  • Is someone overstepping boundaries?
  • Are people purposely using language that they know will be hurtful?
  • Are people putting their own needs ahead of the other characters?
  • If both characters know the intent of the other involved, does that make things better or worse?
  • How much of what your characters are arguing about is a result of something that happened recently, and how much is a result of long-term tension building?
  • Is there a dominant person in the relationship? Have they used their position in the relationship to overshadow the other person?

There are many more ways to look at this, from positive and negatives points of view. Emotional explosions are often the result of someone containing something for too long, whether it’s hope or sadness, regret, expectation or a grudge.

The key thing to look at it is how to use the long-term relationship between characters, and individuals’ personal histories, to influence how a narrative plays out. This can also affect man-made explosions, and cases of people ignoring the evidence in front of them that would otherwise prevent an explosion. Personal biases and undisclosed histories from before a story begins can be used to alter the plot of your story, and help determine whether something could have been avoided.

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