Monday, February 22, 2010

Can We Talk Wizard of Oz?

So I'm writing a story in which my main character is a girl who basically thinks her life sucks. Her parents are extremely overprotective. She's friendless. Boys show no interest in her (she's in eighth grade). And then she's transported to another world through a toilet drain.

To make the story work, she has to want to get home. It is this desire that causes conflict.

So I was thinking, Nope, that won't work. Because if she hates her old life and this new place offers not only excitement (it does) and a boy she likes (who likes her back) then why would she want to return home?

And then I got to thinking about The Wizard of Oz. I found the script online and reread the beginning and it's not a lot different than mine. We have Dorothy who dreams of "somewhere over the rainbow" and thinks Kansas farm life sucks and her dog's about be euthanized. But when she tells her aunt and uncle they ignore her, dismiss her concerns, and basically tell her to keep out of the way.*

Eventually she ends up in Oz where, because she kills the Wicked Witch of the East, she's treated as a hero by the Munchkins. There's also Technicolor in Oz, which is pretty cool. And she makes friends, something she didn't have before.

So why would she want to go home?

You might think she wants to go home because she's in danger; the Wicked Witch of the West wants her dead. But even after the witch is vanquished, Dorothy desires to return to Kansas.

So my question is this: Given that The Wizard of Oz gets away with it, can I? Or maybe you're cool with it. An argument can be made (The Wife made it, in fact) that all kids this age (I'd argue especially eighth grade girls) think their parents are idiots and want more excitement. There's the notion of the grass being greener (literally, in Oz's case) on the other side. So maybe I'm worried about something I shouldn't be too concerned with. You tell me, is this or is this not a plot problem?**

*She's also taunted by the farmhands, who tell her to use her brains, have a heart, and find some courage. And her aunt and uncle don't put up much of a fight when Ms. Gulch comes to take Toto. Nice people.

**For a real plot problem, consider the unresolved case of Ms. Gulch and Toto. As far as I can tell, Toto's still a goner at the end of the movie. Maybe Dorothy should have stayed in Oz.


Jonathon Arntson said...

I think Toto and all dogs his size should go.

Also, Dorothy murdered the Wicked Witch of the West. It's true, Broadway told me so.

Your story is intriguing, but you got me hung up with the "So why would she want to go home?" I'll be lurking to see what the smart people (Anita and Crew) say.

Tracy Edward Wymer said...

Yes, I think you do have a problem. If it's not feeling right to you, then change it. So why does Dorothy want to go home? Is that question answered in the movie? The question needs to be answered: Why would your MC want to go home?

Dorothy's question seems to never be answered, unless there is a part when she verbalizes it to Toto, the lion, or tin man. Why does she want to leave Oz?

You bring up some good questions, Murph. MC motivation is key, otherwise the story falls flat and the wheels stop turning.

And... you don't suck, I've read so.

Anita said...

I'll run this by Oldest Daughter and get back to you. Also, guess what I'm reading to the kiddos right now.

Anonymous said...

Dorothy obviously was brainwashed by someone. "There's no place like home. There's no place like home..."

Jonathon Arntson said...

Does anyone else watch, rewind, watch, rewind, watch, rewind the hanging?

Blame it on my History teacher.

I seriously apologize for always detracting from your blog.

Anita said...

OK. OD, to your ? about whether it's a plot problem:
No!! This is like a moral-of-the-story thing. The girl learns that there are people who love her back home and that she doesn't belong in this world.

Also, OD does not want the love interest to use overly big words...apparently this is happening a lot in teen books now and OD says it is "Not attractive."

Finally, she says:
This appeals to me as an eighth grade girl!!

Kelly said...

1. Even though the parents are overprotective, does she still like them? (asks the overprotective mother...), if so, no problem. Also, most kids deep down love their parents whether they admit it or not.
2. I've watched that part many times, Jonathan!
3. Anita, OD needs to set up a critique service. She can use the $ for bubble gum and books.
4. My 7 yo daughter is in the Land of Oz play this year. She wanted to be a flying monkey, but she's a munchkin/poppy.

Paul Michael Murphy said...

Anita, please pass along my gratitude to OD. I was thinking along those same lines regarding the potential plot problem.

Also tell her that I will attempt to suppress my propensity for sesquipedalian excess by expunging my manuscript of all magniloquent verbosity in an attempt to achieve verisimilitude.

(That took me ten minutes to write.)

Diane said...

PMM - I can't read that.

Anita - think OD is taking queries???

Rena said...

A movie that comes to mind after reading your post is "City Slickers" when the MC discovers (through Curly) that he has to find his "one thing" that makes him happy. For each person, that one thing is different.

Great post and good luck with your story, Paul.

MG Higgins said...

Oz was not a "homey" place. Even without the wicked witch, it was weird and creepy (I mean, all of that horrid color). We're never given the impression it's a good place to LIVE. So even Dorothy's icky life in Kansas seems preferable. At least she has a home and bedroom and people who look and act like her.

I'm with Tracy; I think you've got to address this, especially if your MC finds a boy in this other world that she likes (Dorothy didn't find anyone her age to befriend--that might have made a difference in her wanting to stay, too.)

Tracy Edward Wymer said...

Somehow my comment fell under "Diane" my wife's google account. Strange. And don't start calling me Diane, I already have a girl's name.

Tina Laurel Lee said...

Maybe this is essentially what the brilliant OD said. You said it yourself all kids think the grass is greener on the other side, but does the other side end up being so great? There's conflict in having your expectations not met. Also, there's that coming of age thing where the girl realizes that the things that are hardest, the stupid things that our parents want us to do, may actually be best for us. Or we learn how to tell them to shove it. Depending if we write MG or YA.

Anita said...

I will pass your comments to OD, everyone. She reads as much as me and has a realistic perspective of what would sell to girls her age, so if anyone wants to run things by her, let me know. She does not like saccharin (fake sweet) or adult writers attempting to write the jargon of teens.

Jonathon Arntson said...

Jigga what Anita?

Anita said...


wv: wishi
I wishi you all a great day.

Laura Pauling said...

I don't think Dorothy's home life was that bad. Even in the shiny new world of Oz, which was wonderful at first, she ended up missing her family - even if it wasn't perfect.

I think it depends on if in the real world your character's take on it was "this sucks" or if she was just looking at all the negative.

By being in Oz, Dorothy experienced character growth and came to the realization that even though home wasn't perfect, it was her home. that's why it worked. But she also didn't fall in love in Oz - that might have changed the whole story.

Rena said...

LMAO Tracy!