For a “fire sign,” I sure do like water. The way it flows, shimmers in the light, refreshes when it is cold, comforts when it is warm. Water is amazing to me.
I enjoy stories with water in them or with water as a setting. Water as a setting could give you a new world to explore that’s not through a magic portal, yet is very magical. For example, the movie The Abyss. All of the action takes place under the ocean, which adds a sense of danger. Will the characters drown? The alien investigates the ship in the form of a column of water.
I guess one of the conflicts inherent in water as a setting is the breathing aspect. In Roger Zelazny’s first Amber book, the hero has to travel down into the ocean on a stairway, which allowed him to breathe the water, to get to Remba, a reflection of Amber. He hoped to get his memory back there by walking the Pattern.
To get around that, you could have your characters breathe water naturally. I read a fantasy story (which I don’t remember the name of) that took place underwater. I think the heroine was a mermaid of some sort, and the bad guys were kind of shark like.
So, the shark or other water predators could bring conflict to the story. It’s Shark Week on the Discovery Channel right now. And there’s a terrible shark movie in theaters at the moment (Sharknado II).
Or you could have a character who breathes water and air. There’s Waterworld and, of course, Disney’s The Little Mermaid.
I toyed with the “stuck out of water” (not the “fish out of water” although that could be an angle as well) theme in a previous post (somewhere in the archives on this site). The mermaid needed to get her cup back in order to return to her world. So in a way, that’s sort of the “fish out of water” idea – stranger in a strange land, just wanting to go home.
Another thought – not really related to the water theme, but one that could tie in, is the stranger in a strange land from the other perspective. Instead of Joe being the stranger and the story happening from Joe’s perspective – what if Joe was the local and he had to deal with the stranger. The stranger, being foreign, automatically brings complications to Joe’s life – whether he’s friendly or not. I think that Tom Hank’s character in Splash’s life was complicated by the mermaid.
I can feel my creative back-brain bubbling away…