Thursday, September 1, 2011

Natural Disaster as Plot

Hurricane Irene had me thinking how as writers we use natural disasters as plot for our stories. Allison Brennan used an earthquake to engineer a San Quentin prison break in her series that had Killing Fear as the first book. Nora Roberts had wildfires and smoke jumpers in Chasing Fire. Jennifer Blake wrote of the real hurricane that took out Isle Diernere in Midnight Waltz.

Why choose what is a tragedy to many as a plotline for a book? Disasters bring out the best in people and the worst in people. To show that in a book is to touch on true human nature. The danger of the situation strips people of pretensions. It shows them in all their glory, for who they truly are.

Does your character loot the store? If he loots the store, is it for money and big items, or for diapers and baby food for the child in the upstairs apartment? Does he leave a note for the owner that he will pay later? With his address and phone number.

Does your villain use the storm and chaos to try to do in the hero? Is the hero more vulnerable because the heroine is somewhere in danger and he must get to her?

Man against nature is the oldest conflict in the world. How we deal with it says so much about us as people. Do you pound the steering wheel of the stalled car and curse the heavens or do you get out and push the car to dry land?

What ways have you used nature or natural disasters in your writing? Do you enjoy disasters in your reading or is it too real?

Jill James


Josie said...

Hi Jill,
I've never used natural disasters in my manuscripts, but in the book I'm currently reading, The Dirty Secrets Club, a California earthquake plays a key part in the plot.

Jill James said...

Josie, I haven't used a natural disaster either, but after Hurricane Irene I wondered how it is to read about such events when they are common in your area.

Denise Pattison said...

I've used the heat and humidity in Texas in my historical western. My characters came from the cool mountains of Kentucky and the Texas heat and humidity was a huge shock for them.

Weather plays a key factor for many books. I remember reading somewhere that some writers even consider it as a character.