July 09, 2013

Writing About: Fictional Terrorism

Author’s Note: This post is for literature purposes only! It is meant to instruct writers on how to write about a fictional act of terror, or other such tragic event, in their book.
Chapter Thirteen in WIP is about a devastating event that kills countless people. It is an attack that cripples my fictional world and leaves the protagonist in shambles. Writing this chapter was difficult for many reasons, but I will share how I accomplished it.
First, you have to know what you’re going to write and it has to make sense to your story. That is always key!
·  What is the event? A bombing? A massacre? A fire? 
·  Who are the victims and who are the enemies? 
·  What does your protagonist do? Does he/she witness it happening? See it on the news? Or does he/she respond to it as a firefighter, police officer, or medic?
Photo by Chrys Fey
Next, you have to plan out everything that you want to happen during that tragic event. If you are writing the event as it happens, you will want to reveal the enemies point -of-view and every hideous thing they do.
TIP: Watching war movies can help you to figure this out.
You don’t have to describe the event as it happens though, but once your characters and readers are made aware of it, it is your duty to describe the aftermath.
How much you reveal depends on your protagonists’ role. If your protagonist finds out about it on the news, the details will be coming to them secondhand. There have been many tragic events we have watched unfold on our television screens . . . recall what ran through your head and how you reacted during those moments to capture your character’s feelings.
If your protagonist is in the midst of the chaos, you really have to dive into the action. Use descriptions to bring destruction and death to the page, and make your readers feel as though they are standing right next to your protagonist while everything is happening.
· Sight: Is smoke blackening the sky? Are buildings ruined? Are bullets on the ground? 
· Smell: The arsenic burn of fire? The stench of death? 
· Hear:  Are there sirens? Are survivors screaming? 
· Taste: Is smoke on their tongue? Or bile from their fear? 
·  Feel: Do they have blood on their hands?
Photo by Chrys Fey
Use every sense possible and go with your protagonist every step of the way from the second they arrive on the scene to when they leave.
Finally, you must bring the event full circle by writing about how it ends. This task took me a few chapters to write because there are several stages. First, what does your protagonist feel afterward? What is their emotional state? How does it directly impact their life? How does he/she move on? In my book, I give details to the search and recovery process, the cleanup, as well as the memorial service for all those lost.
The very last thing you have to consider is how this event works into the rest of your story. In my book, it causes a war.

SHARE: Your tips for writing about a tragic event.

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