Writing Disaster Stories

by Rebecca
(Sri Lanka)

Hi. I am writing a novel about a disaster. There's chaos worldwide and people have nowhere to go. It's all about natural disaster, but I can't bring in the emotions of loss and sadness into the story, I want my protagonist to feel these emotions when she sees people dying, people lose their loved ones and having her homeland destroyed.

Also, I need help with getting all the suspense and tension together to give a thriller effect, for example: how a tsunami gives it's warnings and suddenly a huge wave strikes and destroys everything.
Help please?

Response: One secret to disaster stories is that they aren't actually about the disaster. They're about the relationships between the characters. The disaster is just a vehicle that puts pressure on those relationships so we can see how the characters react under pressure.

For instance, does the disaster bring out the best or the worst in the characters? Do some relationships grow closer or break apart?

So one way to bring out your main character's emotions is to give her some a web of personal relationships that are affected. For example, it's one thing to react to the horror of seeing a lot of people killed. It's another to see the body of the little boy who sold you your daily newspaper and who you felt like a big sister towards. Ideally, you want the reader to care about a characters such as the little boy too, so introduce them early and make them sympathetic.

In other words, make the costs personal.

Generally, the first part of a disaster story involves establishing the web of relationships around the main character while the forewarnings -- the little signs that the tsunami is coming -- happen in the background. But what draws the reader into the story is the characters. Work on making these interesting, so the reader cares about the main character and the various relationship arcs.

Act two is the place where the tsunami becomes a real threat and starts to disrupt the world around your main character so that everything starts to get complicated.

Best of luck.

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