As I was crossing a bridge earlier this week, my ADD briefly kicked in, and I was staring out at the sparkling river surrounding my car. Along with the luminous glow that struck my eye, an idea popped into my head. How versatile is water? It has the power to transform the atmosphere of a story or become a character itself. Besides the obvious thoughts, such as humans are 80% water or the various adjectives to describe rain, I searched further. Let’s use the rain to start us off and dig deeper than just description. The sky is littering tiny droplets of water, although not enough to hinder our outside adventures of grocery shopping or stopping by the bank. Maybe we bring an umbrella or put on a hat. It is like a gnat, a small annoyance. The sky has shifted, and the clouds angrily unleash its contents. An umbrella becomes a necessity; however, if you forgot to bring one, you make a mad dash to the store and back to your car. Perhaps you were prepared and had a waterproof jacket and rain boots covering your feet. Now not only is it a dreary day but it may also be a hindrance. The soaked through paper grocery bag has a high chance of ripping. Or if you were the prepared individual in this scenario, you only had one hand free to carry groceries, and the other reluctantly gripped the handle of your umbrella. Torrential downpours begin, and little could motivate you to leave the couch. You make a hot beverage, snuggle under a blanket, and pull up a good blog. The rain has become an integral part of the story and is no longer setting a mood. It is preventing you from leaving. Though, it is not all bad. The pitter-pat sound has a soothing sensation and finally gives you the push to sit down and read that blog you could not previously find time for. Rain can be an excellent tool when used appropriately in a story, but water is no one-trick pony.
You want to write a romance piece. What better cliché scene is there than the happy couple isolated on a lake sharing sweet nothings bobbing along to wherever the wind takes them? Maybe romance is too sappy for you, and mystery is what sets your heart thumping and encourages your fingers to turn pages eagerly. A shadowy figure emerges from the fog, but you still can’t make out their face. The movies love fog, and our eyes are glued to the screen in anticipation. Maybe this is a slice of life story, and the main characters need to playfully bond. Jumping into the cold water is a fun way to go. Maybe it’s even colder, and the main characters are building forts and throwing snowballs at each other.
More than setting a mood, how about if we use it to express emotion. It’s a hot summer’s day and the two glasses facing each other periodically clink as the ice inside them shift positions. The son is telling the dad he dropped out of school to pursue his dream of writing. A bead of water slowly makes its way down the side of the glass. In perfect harmony to the scene, you can feel the stress and the mimicry of the water expressing it.
I said earlier that water could be a character in your story. Now, that sounds silly. For everyone out there with little kids or young nieces or nephews who had the pleasure of seeing Disney’s Moana, they use water as a character guiding and protecting Moana towards her destiny. How about a non-Disney example? In similar fashion, the rising waves toss the surfers from their boards, or the raging river throws the kayak off its path. The water steals the last breath from the man, and he sinks to the bottom of the ocean.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. How many other ways can you think of to use water? What emotion does it illicit?