The Peace Button – A Writing Exercise

David BallA few weeks ago at my local writing group, we did a short exercise to challenge each other to write something new. This is something I definitely recommend, as it can give you some great new story ideas.

So here’s how it worked, we each had to think up the name of a gadget, then write it on a card. The cards were shuffled and given to everyone else at random, who had to write a short story about the gadget. That’s as simple as the brief was, and we came up with some interesting pieces of flash fiction.

Here’s a story written by Sue Wilson after being given “a peace button” as her starting point:

The Peace Button

By S.A.Wilson

It started with a case of unfair dismissal. A worker issued a complaint against her supervisor. She said all the woman ever did was complain, and never gave her any positive feed back. Faced with this demoralising atmosphere, she had become demotivated, which in turn lead to her dismissal for failing to reach the targets set by her supervisor.

The court found in her favour, saying she had not been given sufficient support. The pay out was substantive and all across the country HR departments went into melt down. Advice was issued but proved impossible to implement. People used sarcasm to get round the rule. The words used may fit the requirements, but every one knew the intent. The problem was not just in supervisions and appraisals. Any comment to any other worker left the company open to being sued.

Then the Peace Button hit the market. It sensed the intent of the speaker then using advanced noise cancelling technology negated any sound waves produced by any one with negative thoughts. Business went mad for it. All over the country companies snapped it up, incorporating the technology into ID cards, name plates and anything else that would ensure its wide distribution.Soon it’s use became compulsory.

The problem was solved. Now all any one would ever hear would be positive comments and feedback. The workplace became a happier environment as people could be sure any complement was genuine and not sarcasm. People smiled more and greeted each other without the fear that the comment would be taken the wrong way, and result in a complaint.

The Peace Button was well named; the world was at peace.

And then people started to die.

It was subtle at first, a rise in the accident figures, a blip in the cases of heart attacks and strokes, an almost unnoticed upwards shift in domestic violence reports. Initially these were thought to be random spikes, but the figures kept going up. News reports on the problem were of course, impossible, as to suggests a problem with the Peace Button was the very negative thoughts it was designed to negate.

A few isolated surveys and analysis of figures were carried out; the rise in accidents was found to be down to substandard parts or incorrect behaviour, but without the ‘negative’ opportunity to point out the faults, those making the mistakes carried on regardless, unaware of the chaos they were causing. The rise in physical violence was highlighted as, the in hind sight all too obvious, out come of removing the opertunity for cathartic arguement and disagreement. Heart attacks and strokes proved to be linked to the rising blood pressure. The effect of the stress of living in a world where unhappiness was effectively illegal.

But as important as these findings were, they were lost in under-read journals. the unintended impact undiscussed due to the Button’s effect.

A few broke away. Individuals at first but later small communities. They destroyed the personal Peace Buttons they were meant to wear and sort out places where they could meet and talk honestly. The new speak-easy generation was born. Eventually these groups found others with like minds and an underground network developed using secret signs to communicate in silence and so avoid the dumbing effect of the technology. Eventually, once they were confident of success they rose up, destroying all the buttons they could find in a riotous rampage that would later be called The Night Of Rage.

So the reign of the button of peace was over. But it was not the end. Under the yolk of the button mankind had lost the skill of tact and diplomacy, forgotten the subtleties of language and negotiation. The repressed hatred, anger and upset flowed out in millions of tear filled voices. Neighbour turned on neighbour, Relationships broke down. Society collapsed.

It would take a long time, and a lot of counselling, before it would rise again.

Sue is a member of Derby Scribes. She has been writing PBeM’s and RPG support material since 1987. Her current ongoing fiction is slowly appearing on her Watt Pad site. She doesn’t do happy endings.

Would you write this differently?

There’s obviously no explanation about how this “peace button” works, but there doesn’t really need to be of course, this is a cautionary tale about controlling people’s basic emotions. But would you have written this story differently? If so let us know in the comments below, and if you feel inspired, you can even write your own short story based around a “peace button”.

Oh, and definitely try doing this writing exercise with any writer-friends you have. If you don’t have any writers to turn to, there’s a bunch of really creative people in the Sci Fi Writers group on Facebook.

Another story written using the same writing excercise was “Looking for gravitation in all the wrong places” by Jenn Brown.

  • DurdyDawg

    Okay, I copied this from a friend:

    The Peace Button:

    I call it the peace button but in reality it’s a universal interpreter created by a group of well intended atheist scientists.. I emphasize atheists because that’s where the peace button became a hated instrument. Initially the button was created for communication, a sort of universal language communicator.. that it was meant to be imbedded into the inner ear caused all the problems and the company that had won the manufacturing bid was the launched fear of this ‘button’ .. The company, S.S.S. Ltd was a conglomeration of many investors throughout the world (each member representing it’s own country and the major language spoken).. With the improvement of information being placed into smaller and smaller smart cards, what developed was a card no larger than a pin head that could hold billions and billions of single words and each investor (country) was allowed millions of space to enter their common words in their language. The innovation was the breakthrough in a responder perfected by these scientists within the button that picked up any word or sentence heard and generate them into a sentence suited for the wearer in their chosen language thus the universal language. What had been discovered either by chance or conspired mythology was the extremists who either discovered or conjured up the belief that S.S.S. Ltd was short for ‘Six-Sixty-Six’ and as this myth spread within the religious community an unofficial ‘war’ erupted in the use of what they called an abomination.. It was written in their own book about such evil where within the end of days a universal language would arise as it had during Babel and they both feared and rejoiced in realizing that the time is now very near but instead of accepting this prophetic fate, they fought hard both religiously and politically to keep this innovation from coming into effect and as a result attempted to keep us all in the dark ages. True, the exact number of investor representatives were compiled from six major, sixty average and six third world countries.. A coincidence or a prophesy come true? You be the judge. (anothernonymous)

  • Thomas Thorne

    In an Orwellian dystopia, the peace button would be the big red button that launches all the nukes.