Storytelling Lessons from Oz

by Mandy Boyle November 17th, 2011 

oz

I've always been a fan of the Wizard of Oz. It was one of the first movies I can ever remember watching and since that time, I've read many of L. Frank Baum's adventures. But the 1939 film tells us so much more than where to look for home. In fact, this classic children's tale can offer quite a bit for writers.

Not only is The Wizard of Oz an example of great storytelling, it's a reminder of what makes a great story.

Good Stories Take Brains

scarecrow

"The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isoceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side. Oh joy, rapture! I've got a brain!"
- The Scarecrow, The Wizard of Oz (1939)

We know that authority means a lot when it comes to writing. When you're a thought leader in the industry, people tend to listen to what you have to say. But backing up your story – or any piece that you write – with research is a great way to build credibility and reinforce trust. Before writing any piece, make sure to do your research on the subject. Having information that is correct and at the same time valuable not only makes sense, but also ensures the success of what you're writing.

You also need to write intelligently and consciously to reach your audience. Grammar and spelling is a must, but try to be concise. Challenge yourself to communicate clearly (the Scarecrow did that wonderfully, despite his supposed lack of brain power). Even the best stories because useless when they can't convey their point.

But you can't rely on intelligence and research alone. Writing that captures the reader's attention has imagination behind it. Storytelling is powerful. It motivates, inspires, and persuades. What better way to actually make the reader connect with what you're writing about than by using language that allows for him or her to develop a vision of the subject? Think about every time you've read a book. It revs up the imagination. Just like when Dorothy enters Oz.

And Heart

tinman

"Just to register emotion, jealousy, devotion/ And really feel the part/ I could stay young and chipper/ And I'd lock it with a zipper/ If I only had a heart."
- The Tin Man, The Wizard of Oz, 1939

Passion comes through loud and clear in a well-written piece. Just take a look at some of the world's most memorable speeches or just about any quotation. There is emotion behind each and every word and when it comes to persuading and informing, emotion can make the writing stick with your reader.

Don't be afraid to put a little heart and soul into what you're creating. Those who write from the heart can often reach us in a way that logic can't. Play with poetry. Indulge your creativity. Get in touch with your inner Tin Man and be a little sentimental. Not only will it make the writing better, but it makes it more fun too!

And Courage

lion

"Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the "ape" in apricot? What have they got that I ain't got?"
- The Cowardly Lion, The Wizard of Oz (1939)

We all have fears. For writers, the internal fear monologue goes something like this:

  • OMG – This is terrible. I'm never going to be good at this.
  • Will people like this? Will they hate it? Will they feel ANYTHING?
  • Will anyone actually read this? You know, besides my mom?
  • Do they get my point?
  • Am I making an impact?
  • Is the writing good?

If you've ever written anything at any point in your life, it's likely you've run a thought or two like this through your mind. Fear is natural and can sometimes be useful, but when it comes to your writing, you need to have courage. When you feel confident in what you're writing about, sure in your command of language, and strengthened by your good ideas, every word seems possible. The writing comes easy when you keep your fear in check.

The key thing is to remember that you have the courage within you all along. Having the desire to write is a courageous thing, even if you might not think so. Not everyone out there is brave enough to attach his or her name to something he or she wrote. Not to mention, it takes guts to try to put thoughts and feelings into words. Not everyone can do that. But you can.

And A Sense Of Home

dorothy

"Well, I… I think that it… that it wasn't enough to just want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em… and it's that if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard; because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with." – Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz (1939)

It's often that the best writing comes from those who are familiar and passionate about a subject. No matter what the piece, a writer who feels at home with what he or she is doing makes all the difference in the outcome. If you feel that your place is at a keyboard, typewriter, or notebook, you're at home as a writer. Embrace it. Remember it the next time you feel discouraged about your work. If you feel at home writing, you're writer. It's really that simple.

Now, the challenge is to be a good one.

Mandy Boyle

Mandy Boyle gets her daily fix of copywriting as the SEO Team Leader at Solid Cactus. She is also a published freelance writer , co-founder of NEPA BlogCon and was probably a baker in another life. Cupcakes, anyone?

Mandy Boyle

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2 Responses to “Storytelling Lessons from Oz”

  1. Vicki M. says:

    It would have been nice to see the good witch (her beautiful blonde hair), the bad witch (we only saw her feet as she laid under the house), and Oz- who was hiding behind a stage.

    The images here of the movie brought back memories of when I watched it as a child. Funny, it was a child's movie but I found it to be so scary! The little people running around, Dorothy being lost from everyone and trying to find her way home.

    You uses good analogy with writing in relationship to the movie.
    Thanks for bringing back my childhood again :)

  2. Mandy says:

    My pleasure! It's definitely an amazing world for a child to step into :)