We all end in the ocean
We all start in the streams
We’re all carried along
By the river of dreams
In the middle of the night
~Billy Joel, River of Dreams~
In classical Greek thought and other ancient world philosophies, it was believed that the simplest parts that made up the world were the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Each of these four elements was believed to have certain qualities and characteristics associated with it. This post and three future posts look at these elements and how you as a writer can use your awareness of the element when developing characters, setting, conflicts, and themes in your stories. And how they are represented in your creative process.
These four elements are present and represented in each of the four suits of the Minor Arcana of the tarot. Water is represented by the suit of Cups and is associated with three of the 12 signs of the zodiac, Pisces, Scorpio and Cancer, all Water signs. Water is also associated in the Northern Hemisphere with the direction, West.
Like your body and your continued life on Earth, Water is an element to the makeup of a story. You can’t have a good story without emotions. Emotions drive your story. And your characters.
Desire, lust, love, hate, greed, ambition, revenge, fear, anger…
Water as emotions is the river that runs through your story, sometimes slowly and peacefully as a summer stream, other times, frothing and dangerous like a spring river in full flood.
Water in nature and in your story has the power to cleanse, to nurture, to heal, to soothe, to dilute and to drown.
Strong or overwhelming emotions for your characters can lead them into bad decisions and choices, inappropriate or even lethal action, or transformations that redeem them and bring them that happily ever after ending. Their emotional responses to situations and the resulting actions keep your reader turning the pages.
Is your character ruled by the element of Water, by their emotions? Is your hero or heroine, adaptable, able to go with the flow, sensitive, intuitive, dreamy, compassionate? Or perhaps, he or she is at the mercy of their emotions, unable to control quick storms of anger or tears? Or, have they frozen off that part of themselves, leaving them like the Snow Queen, cold and unmoving? Does your character have too much Water in them so they are depressed, hypersensitive, or moody, someone who really dampens others enthusiasm or excitement? Are they having nightmares?
Some examples of jobs or careers for your characters with strong Water aspects would be healers and nurses, therapists, sailors, actors, social workers, mediators, and psychics and intuitives.
Water in your story would show up as having a powerful emotional impact of one kind or another. A romance is a great example of this. Go watch Dirty Dancing and see how many places water in one form or another shows up…like that scene where the hero and heroine are in the water while he tries to teach her the lift in a dance routine.
But the emotional impact could also come in a comedy or a disaster movie like Castaway with Tom Hanks.
And when it comes to your writing process, Water shows up in the flow of words or not…hence, the words drying up.
Sometimes we get caught up in the tide of the story and we can’t write or type quickly enough, and then, other times we are left high and dry, watching the tide go out and wondering when it will be back. And then we are thrown into our own maelstrom of emotions of fear and frustration.
So where is Water in your characters? In your story? And in your writing process?
How can you use Water as a metaphor for theme or symbol in your writing?
What emotions are predominant in your current work?