I spent last weekend at the first SoCal RWA California Dreamin’ writers’ conference – and conferences are quite the place for inspiration! In between the seeing old friends and making new ones, the speeches, the workshops and the discussion groups… they feed us a decent lunch. And it was at one of these decent lunches, that The Ballroom’s own Tessa Dare spouted this bit of infallible wisdom:
“If you ever need to punch up a scene, make one or both of your characters wet. It automatically makes them vulnerable.”
(Tessa, you’ll have to forgive me for paraphrasing, but I think I remembered the gist of it.)
And as by the clips below you’ll see it’s true! Water has the most amazing way of forcing characters to be looser, or to be more open, or to be sillier.*
*note: I’m excluding hanky-panky-in-the-pool scenes from this list. Yes, I know Neve Campbell and Denise Richards making out is hot, but there are a million of those types of scenes and rarely do they expose anything about character except use of silicone as a flotation device.
For instance, perennial holiday favorite It’s a Wonderful Life –
Now, after Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed fall into the pool, they walk home entirely disheveled and lasso the moon, and Donna Reed gets stuck naked in some shrubbery. Do you think their walk home would have been so filled with laughter if they hadn’t been messy and damp? Do you think those first few moments of falling in love would have happened? Or would Jimmy Stewart have just dropped her off on her doorstep with a handshake and gone back to college?
But what about something that’s not a first act integral plot moment? What about a moment that would occur, wet or not?
At the end Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly is in an alley calling for the cat she just tried to give up, because she’s not tied to things or people except she is tied to things and people and she just realized it. She wants her cat back, and George Peppard is there and they make out. And find the cat.
Now, imagine this scene without the rain. Completely different tone for the characters, right?
And of course, there is the classic example we all watched and rewatched… and rewatched. And rewatched. Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy meeting Elizabeth Bennet on the grounds of Pemberley after he happened to take a little non-skinny dip in his personal pond.
But it didn’t happen that way in the book. When Darcy comes across Elizabeth, he’s disheveled from his ride, but nowhere does Jane Austen write the words “He emerged dripping wet, droplets glistening off his thick dark hair…” (and trust me, I looked.)
However, the idea of Darcy being wet (aka, being put in a position of vulnerability) in this scene obviously struck a chord, so much so that the most inspired moment in Lost In Austen is a parody of it, of sorts.
I too, have fallen prey to the lure of character and physique-revealing water — one of my novels The Summer of You takes place in England’s Lake District — and plenty happens in, around, and because of water.
So what do you think? What’s your favorite wet-scene? And how is it improved by water?