1. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Specific question: mechanics behind a cataclytic event

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Mallory, Jul 22, 2010.

    Hi,

    Let me preface this by saying that this is not intended to be a "please help me think of plot ideas" post that I've seen people get slammed for. I do know what I'm doing with my plot and storyline, I just need help with the mechanics of one particular scene.

    Those who have seen my other question posts know that I'm writing a dystopian novel about a fascist gov.t. I'm in chapter 2 right now, and I'm deciding that I need to switch around and recreate some huge aspects of the story.

    I did some research on how martial law could be put into place, and on how Hitler rose to power in a place that was a Democratic Republic at the time of his election.

    I decided to begin my story with a giant, cataclyst event that will lead to all kinds of new controls, similar to the Reichstag Fire that the Hitler admin used to implement "safety measures" and grab power. (Or the school shooting in Francine Prose's "After," if any of you have read that.)

    My disaster is going to be something that my fictional administration dupes someone into doing without that person's knowledge. In other words, a character who is hard-working, good-hearted and well-intentioned, but a bit simple-minded--members of the admin (who are the villains) convince this person that what he or she is doing is beneficial and the individual believes it due to his or her innocent simple-mindedness, while the readers can tell that it's all part of a really bad plan. The reason why I'm doing it this way instead of just having a terrorist attack or something is because the character who gets "tricked" so to speak is affiliated with a political ideolgy that my fictional administration wants to control/stifle/get rid of, and this will be my administration's excuse to paint an entire group in a really bad light and convince people that their "enemies" need to be controlled. Again, kind of like how Hitler used the Reichstag Fire to his advantage.

    When I say "disaster," I mean something on the level of the Gulf Oil Spill. Some kind of industrial/technological catastrophe that could endanger a lot of people, or that could at least be portrayed that way.

    Okay, so here is my actual question. For something like an industrial/technological crash to occur, it seems like lots of safeguards would be in place to prevent such a catastrophe from happening in case someone made an error.

    How would someone with a lot of power be able to persuade and actually get someone else (even someone who doesn't know what's going on) to commit such a grave error without it being caught by a bunch of safety-net committees?

    Sorry if this is something I shouldn't be asking on here -- I'm not trying to get anyone to do my work for me, but any suggestions or knowledge as to how this might work out would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It could be that the administration doesn't know a disaster will occur, but has ignored warnings from experts, and prevented those warning from being made public.

    Most major disasters involve a source of high energy for which inadequate safeguards are in place to prevent a release of that energy. In the case of the Gulf oil spill, the pressure in the deep petroleum reserves exceeded the capacity of the control mechanisms that were in place to halt, and the conditions (high ocean pressure due to depth, low temperature conditions) made various backup plans useless. Furthermore, cost-cutting measures reduced the effectiveness of the primary safeguards to the point that failure could not be guaranteed, but was still very likely.

    Similar pattrens are behind nearly all disaster with a human element present. The Challenger disaster, for example.

    Research the causes behind these and other man-made acidental disasters, you'll find similar causes - cost-cutting, experts silenced and ignored, pressure to produce more with dangers understated and safety measures overadvertised.

    Look for the energy source that control will be lost from - volatile fuels, natural forces played with without adequate safeguards, etc.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    btw, the word i think you're trying for is 'cataclysmic'... the adjective form of 'cataclysm'...
     
  4. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not to be confused with "catalytic", i.e something which makes a process easier or faster.
     
  5. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Cog, thanks for the help. I do want to have the government deliberately create the catastrophe, or at least be able to see it coming and push it in the right direction because it's advantageous them.

    I'm definitely going to use the "see which type of catastrophe would allow them to take most control" advice. :) It'll be a fuel/resource disaster of some kind. Most likely something environmental.

    That makes a lot of sense, and helps a lot. Thank you.

    Yes, I figured I probably got the wrong word. Thanks for setting it straight. :cool:
     

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