Sunday, May 15, 2016
The "I Wish" Song
It is common and important in movie and play musicals to start with the I Wish song by the protagonist.
The hero or heroine doesn’t have to know how they’ll achieve it and all the better.
Eliza Doolittle wishes for a warm room away from the cold streets.
The Little Mermaid wishes to be with humans.
Quasimodo wishes he could be with instead of high up over the people, to share their stories and lives.
Dorothy wises to be somewhere over the rainbow.
Writing prose need not resort to song or poetry, although it has been done (The Jungle Book and help me here with other examples).
However, some statement of goal (even if it changes) is valuable to writing good prose.
In all cases, the audience/readers can begin to empathize with the protagonist and invest in the story. Empathy up front can be delivered with an inciting incident, a come-to-Jesus request from a friend, an awakening. It can be subtle or blunt. The one thing it shouldn’t be is misleading, unless there are clues for the audience/readers that the protagonist has a little growing up to do and will face an unexpected outcome. Then we cheer for a different reason. Rick pretends not to be interested in the war or any dame but will soon be asked to choose between a woman and the fight for freedom. We all know he’ll change.
In Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips a star quarterback who has all the gorgeous women he’d ever need or want, slams on the brakes of his Aston Martin Vanquish to pull in front of a girl in a beaver suit in the middle of nowhere (all this in the first paragraph). The reader interprets this as his unknowing wish for change and commitment. The story never varies from his unknowing quest until he knows.
Here’s the great Judy Garland singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow, 1939. What does Dorothy really want?