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  • Writer's pictureDiane Currie Sam

"It's like Oliver Meets West Side Story" - Story Patterns

Updated: Aug 1, 2020

The inspiration behind this story comes from me watching a news story about the family separations at the US border. It was this news clip that broke my heart:

It's hard to listen to the children crying. I have so many feelings around this, but the foremost one is a sense of hopeless fury. Separating a child from her parents is abuse. We know that. It infuriates me. I remember thinking ‘when will they ever learn? How could they do this again? It’s like something out of a Dickens novel'.

Then I thought of Oliver Twist, the child lost in corrupt and heartless system, trying to find a home, a family. From the poor houses on the London streets in the 1870s, to the residential school system, the Sixties Scoop, the Doukhobor childen in BC taken from their families in the 1950s - it's all one sad, infuriating cycle of power and abuse.

What if Oliver Twist in 1870's London could become Olivia Ortiz in 2019 USA?

The Lost Child & The Hero's Journey

At the same time, I was following a story about a guy in Texas who was on trial for aiding refugees, facing twenty years in prison for leaving water for people in the desert. Here's that inspiration:

I'm not a politically powerful person, and most times I feel overwhelmed and feel I can't do much about it. But the story was really gripping me. I started to think about what it means to be a writer and storyteller, and started to obsess about characters, ideas, images. Patterns.

What if the lost child story could intertwine with the hero’s journey of a man who makes a decision to put his neck on the line for others? How could that be told? Could a story make a difference?

And of course, we need a love story ...

That's where the "West Side Story" angle comes in. What if our hero falls in love as he tries to keep it all together and what if his story intersects with Olivia's? West Side Story, itself inspired by Romeo and Juliet, is about a couple falling in love in a time of community tension and divided families. So that theme works its way into the story as well.

As a storyteller, I want to weave in interesting characters, raise the stakes, allow the audience to feel rising tensions, to create a story with complexity and depth. A story with emotion, with music that ties it all together and creates a moving experience for the audience.

So that's how it all started. With a feeling of helpless fury. With reading about an inspiring man who risked it all, and an obsessive thought that maybe I could write a story that might make a difference.

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