Writing with a Tide

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When some people describe life, they go with the old cliché of life being a roller coaster ride or in many cases “like a tidal wave”.  A tide is described aptly as “a rising and falling in sea level”.  And for most of us, that’s how life really is.  I can recall many times in my own life where a bad moment in my life is immediately followed by a good moment, where tragedy is triumphed by hope and jubilation.  Plots in writing take the same form and is probably why we can use another cliché in “art imitates life”.

If you take a classic film like 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, the plot point shifts quickly from good to bad to good to bad.  Dorothy is at home on her farm in Kansas, bemoaning the fact that Mrs. Gulch is a mean-spirited witch that angers her and her dog, Toto.  Like most teenagers, the world is falling apart around them and all they look for is some attention and appreciation.  And so, Dorothy decides to run away.  Then, the weather changes from dreary to stormy and a tornado leads to Dorothy’s bedroom window ripping apart and knocking her silly.

This is where the tide of the film and the plot (and if Dorothy Gale was a real person, also her life) changes.  The world around Dorothy becomes more enhanced with jolly munchkins, beautiful witches, and a sparkling yellow brick road.  (On a side note, does anyone ever wonder what the RED brick road next to it led to?  I always thought that it would have been cool to let the viewer decide which road she takes and have the movie split in two depending on….you know what…it’s 1939…never you mind that…)  Moving on, for a few minutes, there’s a happy song with munchkins celebrating the death of the “Wicked Witch of the East” until her sister shows up and warns Dorothy that she’s coming for her.

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One of the things I always notice in the film is that the mood is mimicked by the setting.  When the film starts, the skies become darker and when Dorothy is “somewhere over the rainbow”, the colorful scene also brings out joy and happiness.  There’s a vivacious feeling when Dorothy first meets the Scarecrow, but it gets darker and windier as they meet the Tin Man and Cowardly Lion.  All this goes along with the plot shifting up and down, from light to dark moments.

Plot points in writing and scripts should take the same form, in my eyes, leaving the audience always guessing what’s going to happen next.  Are we supposed to feel happy, sad, anguished, shocked?  When the main characters achieve triumph, we achieve it with them and when they feel at their lowest point, so do we.

In my own writing, I always try to give the audience a sense of the lowest points of each character’s life and a struggle to maintain a normal journey.  Just like us, the characters I portray go through heartbreak, loss, and affliction, but they’re balanced with triumph and a sense of a road that will lead to optimism in their future.

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy needed a Scarecrow, a Tin Man and a Lion to complete her journey.  She needed to gain knowledge, a heart and a loss of her own fear to keep her on a journey of hope and so that she could hopefully return home.

“Tidal” writing is what allows the audience to identify with each character.  If each character goes through their own ups and downs, the audience will identify with them as well.  Plot structure and characterization leads to realism and allows audience expectations to rise and fall with the characters.  And that’s where the writer’s next journey begins.

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What other films or books illustrate “tidal writing”?  Have you used it in your writing as well?  Reach out and comment on what you think.  For more on the daily prompt, visit here: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/tide/.