I'm writing a sci-fi novel set on Earth in the recent past. In the novel, an alien giant robot destroys numerous cities in North America.

The first such occurrence, New York City, receives a lot of attention in the text. It hasn't happened before, people are surprised, lots of people are killed, the military tries unsuccessfully to counterattack, and so on.

The next occurrence, Boston, receives less attention. The giant robot now has a name (Jormungandr), and its arrival is anticipated hours in advance, allowing most of the inhabitants to be evacuated. The military doesn't have the time to set up an ambush yet.

A number of other cities in North America are also destroyed before US government agencies predict that the next target will be Miami far enough in advance to prepare a trap for Jormungandr (that doesn't work).

After that, yet more cities are destroyed, before the US government works out a way to defeat Jormungandr as it attempts to cross the Pacific to Japan.

My problem is that Jormungandr is destroying city after city in much the same way, without the governments in charge of those cities being able to do anything about it. People are being evacuated, so it's really only property that's being destroyed. I'm not taking much text to describe all of this because I don't want these necessary but repetitive events to become tedious, but I also feel that the destruction of a whole city should somehow not become so trivial. I can't just not mention the destroyed cities either, since which cities are destroyed form a significant clue as to Jormungandr's future actions.

How can I balance the necessity of repeated major events in my story without trivializing them or making them seem tedious?

1 Answer 1


You use the power of narrative description.

To maintain an interesting story, you want to focus on what is new and interesting. By the 55th city that the Big J has destroyed it is pretty much a lot like the 2nd city it destroyed.

So after showing the first city destroyed in an exciting and horrifically engaging way — complete with flaming orphans and suiciding priests — you tell your audience about the next dozen cities JJ Slaybrahms crushes in a single sentence. Your are lowering the resolution of the events to encapsulate are great span of time and/or geography. First streets are destroyed, then cities, then metropolitan area, then entire states are the level of the resolution you are describing.

While you are doing the telling of the monstrous mechanized menaces malevolence, you do so that shows other elements of the story — people’s angry or fear. If your narrator says that effing J chewed up Dallas and puked it all over Houston it connotes angry and hatred.

Resolution of events is in your control. You raise or lower the resolution to keep the story moving and engaging and not boring. When you tell stuff, do it in a way that shows other elements of the story — that keeps it engaging and interesting

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