Follow the Chaos
Quick. What is the absolute worst place in this Valley one could go? The most insanely suicidal place to be found? The place where only a great fool would venture--and only an insane fool would follow?
—How the final battle of the Codex Alera is located
Alice can't find Bob, where could he have gone?
Oh, there he is.
This trope centers on finding a character by the fact that they have a tendency to cause destruction wherever they go. So if you can't find them, just look for the nearest explosion. Or, if no explosions are imminent, do as the quote above and think of the place where the most potential trouble could occur and you'll end up with much the same result.
Such characters tend to be Chaotic in nature. They may be heroes who frequently use plans that are Crazy Enough to Work, or just have the plain rotten luck to always cause collateral damage wherever they go no matter what they do to avoid it. Alternatively, you may have a Mad Scientist or Bungling Inventor whose creations always blow up, letting you know if they're in their lab or not.
The intent behind this trope is that chaos they cause will give you an almost immediate idea of where to locate them. Finding a site of destruction and knowing that they've been there is separate idea which involves a more protracted hunt.
Anime and Manga
- In the Red Riding Hood chapters of Skip Beat!, Kyouko ends up alone with a stalker in the forest, and Fuwa Sho runs around trying to figure out where she could be. He figures it out when part of the forest explodes with her psychic energy/inner demons/hatred.
- During the Enies Lobby arc of One Piece, the crew is trying to locate Luffy, who charged in ahead of them. When a building nowhere near them suddenly starts to collapse, they know exactly which direction to head in.
- Variant: In Lost Universe, the characters know that dinner is done when they hear an explosion coming from the kitchen.
- Inuyasha: Naraku not only has a distinctive demonic aura (that the titular Inu Yasha calls a "stink"), he also tends to leave behind trails of dead bodies everywhere he goes.
- Lampshaded in X-Men. Sort of a running gag, except they don't find it funny.
- In Marvel Comics' short-lived series The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones, Marion finds Indy in the middle of a foreign city. When he asks how she found him, she responds "Simple. I just followed the trail of cops and unconscious bodies."
- Tavi, the protagonist of the Codex Alera, has such a tendency for plans that are Crazy Enough to Work that the question asked in the page quote is enough for two people to simultaneously work out where he's gone less than a second after the question is asked.
- Also, in the Discworld book Sourcery, minor character Nijel is once described as the kind of person who, if he was lost in a trackless desert, could be located by leaving out some valuable old heirloom and then hurrying back as soon as you heard it smash.
- Matthew Reilly's Shane Schofield is a variation—he isn't tracked by the chaos, but a few allies come by the area afterwards and conclude that he's been there from all the horribly destroyed vehicles, bridges, and chunks of road.
- The Lost World: Jurassic Park. A T. Rex is rampaging through San Diego and the protagonists have to capture it. Ian Malcolm's advice? "Follow the screams."
Live Action TV
- This is one reliable method of finding the Doctor from Doctor Who in a hurry, as Martha points out in "The Lazarus Experiment".
- The Seventh Doctor had a companion named Ace, who was fond of incendiaries. Upon being captured, a large explosion rocked the building the villain had him in. "That sounds like my friend Ace. It has all of her subtle undertones."
- In Castle, Alexis lets Ashley's rat escape. After she apologizes to him for losing his beloved pet and he forgives her, Martha's shriek is heard offscreen. Alexis and Ashley look alarmed, but Castle merely says, "Found him!"
- In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles newspaper comic the turtles have several (mis)adventures end on space bus station after closing hour. In the darkness Raphael gets separated from the others, and Leonardo think they should better search for him:
Leonardo: Since it's Raph, we should head in the direction of trouble.
- Implied in the "Scotland The Brave" level in Timesplitters Future Perfect. When you get to a lift, Captain Ash looks down from the top and invokes this trope before winching you up.
Captain Ash: Hello down there? Oh, I heard gunfire a knew it had to be you.
- A quest chain in World of Warcraft's Western Plaguelands has you helping to train a new druid. When you speak to the quest giver for the second quest in the chain, she mentions that the student's spells were so out of control she not only could see them from where she was, but she was using them as a marker to track your progress.
- Meta example in co-operative games where one player is more skilled/familiar with the game than another. "Follow the dead bodies." is common advice to help the other player find his way to catch up with the first.
- If you fall behind and lose track of your teammates in City of Heroes, just listen for explosions, gunfire, and Kinetic Melee.
- In Tim Buckley's spin off superhero comic, Analog & D-Pad Ethan/Analog asks how to find the Frag shortly before a building collapses behind him.
- Looking for Group has Richard, who is easily tracked by a trail of "littered corpses" according to acquaintance Maikos.
- Early on in El Goonish Shive, Elliot visits Tedd's house, and Tedd's dad answers the door. When Elliot asks where Tedd is, Mr. Verres admits that he's not entirely sure, and lists a number of possibilities. An explosion and scream follows. "Basement it is, then."
- In Girl Genius, that's how Adam and Lilith locate Agatha aboard the Castle Wulfenbach.
- Gilgamesh easily determines where's the real Heterodyne.
Gil: making coffee--
- Most of Megatokyo's cast falls under this. However with all the random property destruction going around by monsters of the day it could count as a subversion too.
- In one Evil Diva comic, Michelle is wondering where Diva and Loki have gotten to when people come running by screaming "They're headed for the gym! Run for your lives!"
- Subverted in The Simpsons, where Homer tries to find Bart and his pet elephant via a train of destruction...only to discover that the trail of damaged houses he'd been following was caused by a twister.
- Batman and Robin are looking for The Creeper...
Robin: Which way did he go?