Is Your Story a Disaster? Should it be?

Something you don’t want to see out your window!

Well, not that I mean your story should be a disaster but maybe it can include one! I’m writing a class for the Kiss of Death chapter of RWA and thought it might be fun to share some of the intro with you.

Disasters come in all sizes, from the personal issue of losing a loved one to an event that gets worldwide attention. How would your characters respond to being in the middle of a disastrous event? A story with the backdrop of a natural disaster or (gasp) even a terrorist event can show what your characters are made of. Heroes are born from ordinary people in the midst of chaos. Like any complex story backdrop, the scenario and the facts within must be realistic.

In my twenty years with the American Red Cross Disaster Services in Southern California, we responded to house fires, earthquakes, floods and other events that displaced people from their homes. As a member of a federal medical disaster team, we deployed to tornados, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, ice storms and heat events. In September, 2011, our country was rocked with the terrorist event at the World Trade Center that changed all our lives. Our Disaster Medical Assistance Team was one of many federal assets assigned to do patient care for the responders at Ground Zero. It was a life changing experience. Today, man-made disasters like active shooter scenarios, apocalyptic human-caused wildfires and national security threats are almost as common as acts of nature. On that note, acts of nature have become record-setting in magnitude and damage to human lives.

Who responds to these incidents? Who are the agencies that respond on a local, regional, state and national level? Who’s in charge and how does it change if more agencies are added to an event? How well do they work together? Does the role of law enforcement and other emergency services change during disaster? Under what circumstances does the National Guard get involved? What’s the role of Homeland Security? What are the roles of nonprofit and volunteer agencies? Do the role of universities and hospitals change during disaster?

The main goal of all involved agencies is to prepare, save lives, mitigate the disaster as quickly as possible, then help with recovery efforts. There are also other issues that no one wants to think about: Who manages the dead? What happens to vandals and looters? What is the personal cost to the responders?

As you can see, there are countless opportunities to include a disaster in your story – as the main theme, a backdrop, or an opportunity for a hero to be born. Could your story include a grocery store clerk at a concert who foils an active shooter attempt? An off-duty firefighter trapped in a gas station when a tornado hits and needs to rescue a number of terrified people? An introverted teenager on her post-graduate vacation when a tsunami hits and she must choose to help the injured people around her. A new EMT is sent on a post-hurricane disaster response with her ambulance company. A nurse in the ER is faced with having to move and manage patients when flood waters overtake her hospital.

Is there opportunity for romance? Absolutely. What if a librarian (whose only adventures come only from books) is trapped after a tornado with a number of frightened children and a gorgeous off duty cop? What if a paramedic suffering from PTSD is suddenly faced with a number of injured people after a hurricane? What if your young lovers are separated after an earthquake and are trying to find their way back to each other? Then again, what if your protagonist (or antagonist) is a looter, arsonist or terrorist?

Just for fun … maybe add a little disaster to your book!

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Sneak Off and Read: Lines all about TAKE #RSsos #RomSuspense

#OneLineSunday by #RSsos Lines all about TAKE

Interested in reading more? Click on the book covers below for information about the novel and the author.


A budding artist, she would take out her sketch pad and draw whenever she finished her work or needed to separate herself from the others.

Joanne Guidoccio


The boy buttoned his lip and appeared to reconsider an eye roll halfway through. Which made his expression darned comedic, but didn’t take away from the seriousness of the situation.

Kathryn Jane


He loved his rescue pup. It hadn’t taken long for them to bond when he first laid his eyes on Brigh, shaking in the corner of the vet’s office, afraid of the world as she scrunched down to make herself invisible.

Marian Lanouette


“I’m putting a bandage on it now, Kim, but I’ll be more comfortable if Jennifer takes a look. It appears you will require stitches.”

Marsha West


He ached to go to her, to take her in his arms, but she had to decide on her own if she trusted him. The next move had to be hers.

Sharon Wray


“That’ll take too long. I need to meet really, really new people now. I’ve rounded the bend and am headed over the hill.”

Vicki Batman


There was something eerie about watching a person take their last breath.

Jacquie Biggar


Sex for him had always been hard and fast – a means to an end – but Quin deserved so much more. Mostly, she deserved his respect,

Sam Bradley w/a McKenna Sinclair


“You’re testing my control, Ms. Larson,” he rasped into my ear. He apparently had no intention to take this to the bedroom just yet.

Claire Gem