Pocket Prompt Expansion: Something Explodes #4

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.

Have you got your deck of Pocket Prompts yet? Order a set today!

Pocket Prompt Expansion: Something Explodes #3

Something Explodes - Literal or Emotional

In my last post, I explores the concept of an emotional explosion, to pair up with the idea of a literal explosion. Today, we’re going to look at a different way of using the ‘Something explodes’ card: it’s time to look at dire consequences.

One question comes to mind every time the news channel plays a story about an explosion in a major city: Does someone die?

Pocket Prompts being what they are – non-specific but useful tools for creative writing – I’ve looked at this point in a number of ways. We have a few paths to take with this expansion, which takes into account literal deaths and metaphorical deaths through the use of hyperbole.

  • If the explosion is literal, does someone die?
  • How do they die? In the explosion, or by being trapped in the rubble?
  • How many people die?
  • If it is an emotional explosion, is the death still literal?
  • Who dies? How?
  • If it is an emotional explosion, is the death hyperbolic? (e.g. dying of embarrassment)

With every question and every additional prompt on the back of a Pocket Prompt card, ask yourself these two questions:

  • How does this affect my protagonist(s)?
  • How does this move the plot forward?

By having an answer to both questions, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about where your story is going, and how to move forward from this point.

Have you got your deck of Pocket Prompts yet? Order a set today!

Pocket Prompt Expansion: Something Explodes #1

One of the first cards I decided upon for the first deck of Pocket Prompts was ‘Something explodes’. It’s bold, dramatic, and can stir a story.

In this series of posts, I’m going to show you how this one card can be used to tell many different types of stories, and affect much more change than you might imagine.

Creative thinking is all about asking the right questions. We’ll address many more of the specifics for an explosion as the month progresses, but for now: will you take the prompt literally, or metaphorically?

If it’s a literal explosion, you then have a number of other questions to deal with:

  • Is there fire?
  • Is it an underwater explosion?
  • Is the explosion a result of a bomb or just a change in pressure?
  • Could it be natural?
  • What sort of consequences are there to a literal explosion?

Some genres don’t loan themselves well to literal explosions, and that’s okay. There’s plenty more to come with just this card.

Have you got your deck of Pocket Prompts yet? Order a set today!

Pocket Prompt Expansion: Something Explodes #2

Previously, we looked at the ‘Something explodes’ card from the point of view of taking it literally. Now it’s time to step it up a notch.

In this series of posts, I’m going to show you how this one card can be used to tell many different types of stories, and affect much more change than you might imagine.

Something Explodes - Literal or Emotional

The natural follow-up to a literal explosion is a metaphorical explosion. In this case, one small plot point can have a knock-on effect for your characters: an emotional reaction.

Emotions are complicated and varied, which makes this a useful reminder that your characters should feel more than one thing and at more than one level. How a character feels affects how they act, and how they act affects the plot.

Some things to consider:

  • Is it a happy reaction? (e.g. cheering)
  • Is it an angry reaction? (e.g. shouting)
  • Is it a sad reaction? (e.g. crying)
  • Is it a fearful reaction? (e.g. screaming)

The Pixar movie Inside Out explores this concept of emotion well, and demonstrates an important fact to remember: emotional reactions are rarely just one thing.

As we grow older, and develop more intimate relationships, an explosion of emotion can come from a place of anger and sadness, happiness and fear, or any other combination of the above at different levels of potency – an unpredictable emotional cocktail that you wouldn’t order at the bar.

Have you got your deck of Pocket Prompts yet? Order a set today!

Introducing: Pocket Prompts

Launched on October 12th and 13th between the Dublin Comic Arts Festival (DCAF) and Octocon, Pocket Prompts are decks of double-sided cards that provide prompts in three categories:

Each deck comes with 25 cards, totalling 50 prompts, packed snugly to fit in your pocket, in your backpack, or in your handbag, so you can take them with you anywhere you go.

With 15 years of writing experience behind me, and a secondary school teaching degree in English, my focus when designing the cards was on creating something that can be used by anyone regardless of how much they’ve written, without restriction on genre.

Stay tuned for more posts on how I use the cards, and to explore how even the most specific of cards can be expanded for multiple uses.

Bulk discounts (10+ decks) are available for schools or writing groups – simply contact me and I’ll provide a quote.