1. Philliggi

    Philliggi Member

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    How to put in words a nuclear explosion

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Philliggi, Mar 7, 2019.

    So every power plant in the UK simultaneously explodes in my story. How do you put into words the sound, the horror, the fire, the sheer panic.

    Obviously this would be huge, and I need to make the reader visualise what is happening, and experience the adrenaline rush the characters have, but after three attempts it seems dull, and doesn't really capture the moment.

    Are there any tips or techniques you use to put excitement into your writing for these big explosive moments in your story? It's not so much the characters reactions I'm struggling with, more describing the scene, and the magnitude of it all.
     
  2. DK3654

    DK3654 Almost a Productive Member of Society Contributor

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    Why do you wanna know, huh?
    I recommend short sentences, concise description that lets the reader fill in the gaps with their imagination. Focus more on the detail of the explosion and the impact rather than the sequence of events.
     
  3. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I would like some clarification. Are you talking about a nuclear explosion or a nuclear meltdown? An explosion implies a themonuclear event, which is a bomb. Nuclear reactors are not atomic bombs, they are more like dirty bombs. The explosion that happens when a nuclear power plant melts down is a steam explosion, which would not even be big enough to destroy the plant itself. The danger from this type of disaster is that the steam explosion spews out the radioactive fuel, which goes all over the ground, water, and in the air, bathing the area all around it in lethal levels of radiation. Take a look at Chernobyl, it's still there, the town, the plant, everything. It's current state is simply the result of human abandonment because of the radiation levels, not the 1986 event itself.
     
  4. Philliggi

    Philliggi Member

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    The actual event itself isn't detailed in the book, only affecting my characters from a distance.
    It would have to be big enough to notice from a distance of around 50 miles.
    It is a chain of events set into motion by the enemy, so it doesn't actually matter if they bomb them, set it off using the instruments on site, or whatever, just that it's noticeable, and the radiation spread far and wide
     
  5. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    50 miles is pretty far, about a third of Americans live within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant.

    In order for you to knock out all of the UK's seven nuclear power plants at the same time, obviously something sinister had to have happened for multiple reasons. The most obvious is timing, nuclear power is ridiculously safe and so many things all have to go wrong for a meltdown to happen and nuclear plants in 1st world countries are designed to remain safe even if they melt down. The technology of Chernobyl is decades old and we've gotten a lot better since then.

    I'm not sure what you mean by noticable. Do you mean by someone with a Geiger counter? That would depend on the wind, I imagine most of the fallout would head west towards Europe and how quickly it was detectable would depend on the wind. Like I said, the explosion itself is minimal, to anyone not in direct visual range of the station, they probably wouldn't notice anything. It took several days for anyone to really realize that the USSR had had a serious accident, but after radioactive fallout made i'ts way around the world, the cat was out of the bad. It'd look like a massive column of steam, but nuclear power plants create those anyway, the only difference between the column of steam produced by a meltdown and the steam coming from the chimneys is that the meltdown steam is actually the cooling water and is very radioactive.

    Some workers will die within a few hours, but beyond the plant walls, any radiation sickness would be a slow process.
     
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  6. Philliggi

    Philliggi Member

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    That's why I'll probably just say it's a bomb. Or multiple bombs dropped by planes. It doesn't have to be an actual meltdown, just the destruction of the plant.

    Getting off track slightly though, I'm more interested in the word mechanics of creating excitement in my writing, talking about the explosion, rather than the explosion itself. As I say the actual technicalities of the explosion are insignificant to the story
     
  7. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    From that distance, it'd probably look like a bright light and not much more until the mushroom cloud got to a significant altitude. You could use language that one would normally reserve for a sunset or sunrise. I would personally try to invoke an emotional response from whoever witnessed it. If they didn't know what's happening, you could describe it as an awe-inspiring light. Any description your could make of the northern lights would probably work here. If they knew what was going on, you'd go the other way and invoke thoughts of Hell and Death, fire and brimstone. Use apocalyptic language the way that Heisenburg himself did after the Trinity test, you may want to do research about how they described it: they were all very well educated, articular people. A nuclear bomb would produce a glow in the sky so bright you'd be able to read a book at midnight. This effect would last for a few minutes, then fade as the mushroom cloud rises and cools and then you'd see an eerie red along the horizon from the firestorms it would produce. At 50 miles, you would not be able to see the fires as they'd be about a thousand feet below the horizon, but you'd definitely see their glow. Use words attributed to Armageddon, the existential threat. Maybe find some words written by people who lived through the Bombing of London (or Berlin)
     
  8. Storysmith

    Storysmith Active Member

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    Did you mean east? West is Ireland and then the Atlantic.
     
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  9. captain kate

    captain kate Senior Member

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    Let's break it down into it's components. First, you have the initial explosion, which releases a blinding burst of light. Then there's a shock wave and a cloud created. Those are pretty much concurrent. Third, you have the firestorm in the areas outside ground zero. Fourth, the fallout-which works two ways. There's the close in fallout, which is in a certain distance from ground zero. Then you have the long range fallout, which is contingent on the wind. If you want to get an idea how far fallout will fall from a nuke, there's a nuke bomb simulator online that will show you all the damage areas.

    https://nuclearsecrecy.com/nukemap/
     
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  10. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    Yours is an interesting question, and the answer could be this: pick one or two characters, and simply describe what the characters are seeing and feeling. They would have no idea of the scale of the disaster, only what they are immediately experiencing.

    The most devastating movie about a nuclear disaster was one that didn't show the event at all, only the after-effects and repercussions of it. That movie was Testament, and it's not an easy movie to find.

    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086429/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

    It's not an easy movie to watch, either. I would put it in the category of films like The Diving Bell and the Butterfly or Away From Her ... movies that I'm glad I saw, but would never see a second time.
     
  11. The Piper

    The Piper Contributor Contributor

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    Worth reading the first couple of pages of James Herbert's Domain. Good example of indirectly showing the event and focusing on the reaction of a character (although I think he dies, can't remember).
     
  12. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Banned Contributor

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    50 miles? That is about 80km.

    You need nuclear explosions to make that kind of effect. And it means nuclear war.

    How big? 20kt? 1Mt? 50Mt?
     

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