Split World


I am currently working on a story of indeterminate length, set in a universe I have already created. I wanted to write a story that was a phyrric victory (not one of the 'supporting protagonist died' kind, I mean the 'cataclysmic/world-shattering event that wipes out millions'), so I decided to have the protagonists fail to disarm the superweapon they were sent to deactivate, but instead cause it to misfire, splitting the world in half. What do you think of this idea? Is there anything I can do (in your opinion) to improve it?


Its a good idea having a Phyrric ending to your story, I haven't seen it done very often and I assume that is because it is difficult to accomplish. I think you need to put more information in the thread to get suggestions on improvement though.
Hard to decide what I think without more info - is this science fiction - and the world splits (literally) or Fantasy and the split metaphorical? But the idea of the protagonists not succeeding is a sound one. The only potential problem is will it be a disappointment to the reader? Although I can see this working if the reader is given something else in recompense - such as some sort of massive (but could have been seen coming had the signs been read correctly) reversal or reveal.

I particularly liked the end of Terminator 3 for that - but I don't want to give spoilers.

I like the idea of the heroes failing at what they are meant to do, it could be much more satisfying than the 'just manage to grab the dagger while the bad guy is throttling you' ending or 'haha we've found a trick to outwit you' ending. But I agree that a downer ending is risky, it can make your reader feel terrible and as if they were left with nothing - unless there is something to give a cathartic release or philosophical justification.

What is the overall theme of your story? What do you want to say that requires the splitting of the world and so much destruction and loss? Is it needed for the character's development? It may be that the world, as it was, was doomed to conflict and needed to be split? Or did it allow something better to rise up out of the ashes? Was a 'cleansing' in order? I am reminded of the ending of Watchmen, where Ozymandius has implemented his plan before the heroes come to stop him. Millions of innocents die but its set against the situation where the world is on the knife edge of nuclear war and Ozymandius thinks this is the only way to save the world. He saves billions by sacrificing millions, or so he reasons. Its tragic and evil but you can understand the statement being made.

If its purely a chance mistake that they fail at their task (someone trips over, as opposed to some greater reason why, which expresses the story's theme) then I'm not sure it would work. I'd feel like the theme was 'shit happens' and I don't think I'd be satisfied with that. Anyone read this in a story?


Sorry for not explaining further, the split was a victory, in a way, as the superweapon was designed to completely destroy the entire world. The world does actually split (giant bottomless chasm formed). I like your idea for a reveal, and I have an idea for one that I could work in pretty easily (I thought of it earlier in design process).


I don't know. Sounds more like a story premise than a story ending to me. If a book ended on that note I'd probably start yelling at it "BUT WHAT HAPPENS NOW???!?!?!"


Good point. Hmmm... let's see... I guess it could happen early in the story. Luckily, I have only written the first bit so I can change it with no effort. In theory, I could do it in two+ parts and link them together (perspective changes every so often). Actually, it solves a problem I was having, so thanks! The plot of the rest of it would probably have something to do with the war that was between the two countries (now conveniently separated by chasm) on either side of the territory where the weapon used to be.