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  1. #1
    Wirt's Fourth Leg Cirias's Avatar
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    Time Interval Between Devastating Events?

    I just wanted to see what people thought on this one. If a world consistently experiences natural disasters what would be a better gap in time between these events occurring, from a storytelling point of view?

    I originally thought ~30 years, which gives people time to recover and rebuild and also time for politics and social issues to gestate. But now I am wondering if a shorter gap would be more effective, say about 10 years. The afflicted individuals from the previous disaster play a fundamental role in my story, but I want them to be a variety of ages, and 30 years on from the event they would all have to be at least older than 30, so no children etc. Somehow that feels less impactful from a storytelling angle.

    Sorry if this is a bit of an abstract topic. I'm basically asking if it serves the story better to give society more time between devastating events so that each generation experiences it at least once, or make it occur more frequently, which might lessen the impact of it.

  2. #2
    Formerly imaster
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    I think that with some more information about the society, especially technology level and economic status, it's easier to visualise. If the natural disasters occur in a high technology, high socioeconomic status area, chances are that they can rebuild quickly and move on faster than if it happens in a low tech, low economy area. Chances of lost lives are also a lot lower in the former area since they probably have adapted and constructed defenses and monitoring systems.

    10-15 years would probably be interesting in an area where few(er) people die but the material damage is high. If your idea is that the disaster kills big parts of the population, then a 30-year span sounds more doable, even though it only gives you people over 30 remembering last time it occurred. Those are my thoughts, at least.

  3. #3
    It could be worse. ~tmso Moderator N. E. White's Avatar
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    I take it these devastating events are impacting the entire world? Or, at least, where the entire population lives?

    Just pointing out that natural disasters happen multiple times every year on good old Earth, they're just not very widespread. You could have your events occurring in different places on your planet with greater frequency - if that would help the story.

  4. #4
    KMTolan kmtolan's Avatar
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    Working the situation right now with my WIP, and for me, I set things around three to four hundred years. Enough to properly alter the indigenous life forms via evolution to cope with the catastrophe (in this case, the world being seared). Thirty years, IMHO, doesn't allow for the evolutionary changes as well as a few centuries worth of adjustment might. Of course, when I talk about evolution, I'm looking at major alterations to both the alien physiology as well as cultural mindsets, to include specialized lifeforms meant to harbor populations through the harsh period.

    Kerry

  5. #5
    Wirt's Fourth Leg Cirias's Avatar
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    It's a relatively traditional fantasy setting, but the region that the story focuses on is high tech/economy. The disasters do minimal damage to buildings/infrastructure but they are very dangerous to people and spread an illness, so it's somewhat like a disease, but cannot be transmitted between people.

  6. #6
    It could be worse. ~tmso Moderator N. E. White's Avatar
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    Hmmmm, I would argue that your population is adapting to the *conditions* after the event and not the event itself (too infrequent).

  7. #7
    Wirt's Fourth Leg Cirias's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by N. E. White View Post
    Hmmmm, I would argue that your population is adapting to the *conditions* after the event and not the event itself (too infrequent).
    Definitely. The fallout of the event causes ongoing issues for various reasons, including the formation of cults following the event, those who became "diseased" during the event and society overcoming these issues, as well as trying to determine the cause of the events.

    And fyi, it's not a zombie apocalypse situation, in case you got that vibe

  8. #8
    and Noumenon was his name Andrew Leon Hudson's Avatar
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    A few questions to consider:

    1) Is the nature of disaster two the same as disaster one? A common real world occurrence is geological disaster, followed by disease epidemic in the aftermath, as people struggle to cope with many dead and a disrupted infrastructure. Reversing this could be an interesting take: a disease-reduced population enjoying the abundance of resources that once served millions could become quite complacent - earthquakes destroying much of that inherited wealth is righteous punishment...

    2) Are these two instances in a larger pattern of disasters - ie: are we talking about an X-yearly cycle? If the nature of both disasters is the same - disease - then cyclical outbreaks are more than just plausible, that's how these things work. And leaping on from that--

    3) Is the 2nd disaster/disaster cycle predictable by your characters? There could be useful mileage in your characters having good reason to believe that it will be 30 years before the next outbreak, planning their strategies on that assumption, only for the second instance to arrive in only 10 years instead. Animal level evolution isn't going to happen on that time scale, but a sudden variation in a disease could emerge within a much shorter period and take everyone by surprise.

    If you like the idea in 3, then you might want to establish at the beginning that disaster "one" isn't actually the first, but is merely the most recent outbreak of the regular, 30 year cycle. The survivors of that may well be the wise old birds of this culture, but suddenly having all their wisdom undermined by the unexpected 10 year outbreak adds an extra layer of conflict for your characters.

  9. #9
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    It all sounds a bit too vague to me, but I fear you might be putting the cart before the horse. That is, it sounds like you're tyring to structure the story around the disaster cycle, rather than designing the disaster cycle to fit your story. The needs of the story outweigh the needs of these disasters repeating.

    In any case, I'm not sure setting a regular N number of years between disasters is the way to go. Unless the periodicity of the disasters is a significant plot point, I'd say that the disasters should probably be paced a bit more randomly. So maybe the first one happens, then there's a long period before the second. This trend may be an accepted norm for a long time...then suddenly a cluster of them happen in a short period making people sit up and realize their understanding of the disaster cycle is all wrong.

    In any case, it must not be allowed to interfere with the pacing of the story. It could be a nice device to manage pacing...A long lull may make the story's pace slow down. Tossing in a rapid succession of smaller disasters might be a good way to kick it up a notch.

    Being an old D&D player, I'd be tempted to grab the dice and start rolling random encounters.
    Last edited by Micah R Sisk; January 9th, 2015 at 11:17 AM.

  10. #10
    Dreamer and Author K.S. Crooks's Avatar
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    disaster time frame

    I think you need to decide what the main reason you have the disasters. Is it to cause devastation and thin the population, then making the two close together serves this better. If it is to present a challenge to your characters then spacing them farther apart may be better as they can learn from the first and apply some of their new knowledge towards the second. If the time is appropriate their status may have also changed (married, children) to give them greater concerns beside their own well-being.
    The types of disasters used is also crucial. An earthquake can be used anywhere and does immediate damage with no warning, tornadoes and hurricanes only work in certain physical environments and provide some warning. They go on to destroy buildings and roads. A disease does not hurt infrastructure but it will have a greater change on the population since many who survive will be resistant and make it harder for the same outbreak to take place again. Also consider that for any society fighting a natural disaster is not possible, aside from immunization against infection. All that can be done is cleaning up after.
    I would decide what I want the characters to be challenged by then add the disasters to fit the story...make when they happen a surprise to me as well as the characters. Hope this helps.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by K.S. Crooks View Post
    Also consider that for any society fighting a natural disaster is not possible, aside from immunization against infection. All that can be done is cleaning up after.
    Well...there are also proactive steps one can take to avoid damage/harm in the event of disasters...not building in flood plains, building out of nonflammable materials, building structures capable of withstanding some disasters, all the way out to (in SF) utilizing metamaterials that allow seismic waves to pass around a building. All depends on the awareness of the population, and their understanding/technology level.

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