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  1. This is a looping-day time-travel plot akin to Groundhog's Day.
  2. There is a sudden global cataclysmic disaster taking place.
  3. This doomsday disaster is almost impossible to survive.
  4. Those who died during the day of the disaster are forced to reset/restart this day again from about a minute before the disaster occurred.
  5. Those who did not die during that day are not present at the reset, as they have survived and moved on to the next day.
  6. Those who have died all restart the day again together, with the exception of those who have survived the day.
  7. A reset cycle is one stellar rotation of the earth (23 hours and 56 minutes). If you live past that time, you will no longer reset back to day one.

THE QUESTION:

What sudden global disaster would best fit this looping-day plot?

(I just don't want it to be similar to 2012 at all or a natural disaster.)

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    $\begingroup$ What's the end state you desire? $\endgroup$ – user535733 Jun 10 '18 at 1:55
  • $\begingroup$ I am looking for a story about a person who keeps sacrificing their life fo save people during the disaster. And the loneliness they deal with after saving a life and resetting is a major plot point. I don't know if the protagonist ever makes it past the first day. It's really the sad tale about a suffering hero and their development, So my end state is not so easy at this moment to define. $\endgroup$ – Pecos Jun 10 '18 at 3:15
  • $\begingroup$ Pecos, this question is too story-based and therefore off-topic. It's asking us to come up with ideas that are central and intrinsic to the plot. In other words, you're not asking us to help you define consistent rules for a world wherein you could tell many stories - you're asking us for a plot device that's only useful for this story. Please read Why is my question "too story-based” and how do I get it opened? to learn more about the problem. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jun 10 '18 at 7:00
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From what you've written, you want it to be potentially survivable by everyone. Those that live make it out. Those that die, repeat until they live.

From this, you don't want anything that's utterly impossible for some people to survive. Say, Yellowstone erupting. A great many people would have no chance to survive, regardless of what they do.

What also adds to this is the fact that very few disasters would even affect the world within such a short time period. An asteroid impact in the middle of the Pacific would take hours for the waves to reach shores, and (Speculating here) potentially days for earthquakes to happen - or even finish.

Pretty much any natural disaster isn't going to work here. You need something artificial.

Global nuclear war is definitely on the table. It has a very clear start - It'd happen probably within a matter of minutes. People would have warning before they died - Alarms, etc. Normally, I would say news reports, but with people surviving not coming back, these would quickly vanish after the first few cycles. There's also more sci-fi things that could tie into the time loop. Some crazy superweapon has it as a side effect.

Additionally, this is a situation where fewer people can actually be helpful. You'll want to evacuate cities. As each cycle goes, you'll have fewer cars, fewer people, etc getting in the way.

This would require a slight change to how things function. It would have to reset to just after all of the launch codes were implemented.

With it being such a short period, you also have some neat things that would otherwise be problematic. If you're in a passenger plane, and the pilot manages to land you safely somewhere, you just have to live the day. The whole plane is likely to live or die as one. You don't have to worry as much about the pilot living (And not coming back) while the passengers don't, at least not as much.

There's also the potential for people to realize what is going on. They die a time or two, and notice the people who live don't come back. They make a few assumptions, and decide to ensure they die each day so that they can go back and help others. They can take their knowledge of concrete events to help people. That is, something along the lines of the orbital laser that blows up their city leaves these four buildings in good condition, and this subway station is a good hiding space.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes! Glad to be steered from natural disasters. Sounds like something really outside of the box is the solution. $\endgroup$ – Pecos Jun 10 '18 at 2:26
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    $\begingroup$ Natural Disasters take too long and are largely too localized. A super-mega solar flare might do the trick, but most other things don't fit into 24 hours. $\endgroup$ – Andon Jun 10 '18 at 2:28
  • $\begingroup$ It doesn't have to fit in ths 24 hours i suppose. It could be shorter or longer. Longer paving the way to further stories of day 2. Also, the solar flare in Knowing did not seem survivable at all. I like the far fetchedness of it though! $\endgroup$ – Pecos Jun 10 '18 at 2:35
  • $\begingroup$ I like the 24-hour limit, since longer ones make the odds of survival much lower for people. All people have to do is survive one day - Which is reasonable for most people to do. $\endgroup$ – Andon Jun 10 '18 at 2:39
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    $\begingroup$ A slightly darker implication has just occurred based on this scenario: The old, or ill, or in general those who would die on that day (possibly without doctors and nurses there to help them?). Would these people end up in an endless loop of living their final day, dying of a stroke, or tumour, or something similar for a day long eternity? $\endgroup$ – Fifth_H0r5eman Jun 14 '18 at 15:40

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