Wednesday, April 17, 2013

O Is For...Oz

We went and saw Oz The Great and Powerful yesterday, and I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe that's because I hadn't heard anything great about it. Most of the reviews I read focussed on the cleavage issue--which really wasn't bad, IMO. I was sitting next to my 14 year old son, and really, after everything I'd read, I expected to squirm a little, and I didn't.

Instead, I really loved it. It was the first 3D movie I ever saw that didn't leave me feeling like I needed to vomit and take migraine medicine at the same time. Whether that's because they are getting better at 3D or because my eyes are adapting is a topic worth studying more in depth. But not now.

Instead, I want to discuss world building. What is it about a world that leaves it open to inifinite storytelling possibilities?

Everyone knows about The Wizard of Oz, but it doesn't stop there...As a child, I used to love reading Frank L. Baum's series of books about Oz. There are 14. There's The Wiz, starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, (which I never saw, actually). And of course there is Wicked, both the book and the Broadway play. I didn't enjoy the book, but Wicked the broadway play is lots of fun (at least the music is.)

I love Tortall, the world Tamora Pierce spins most of her magical stories in. Her stories span the centuries and travel across the world. Star Trek, Star Wars...what is it about all of these worlds that lends itself to page after page of storytelling?

I'm sure there's a more definitive list somewhere, but here's what I've got:

  •  a simple and relatively fluid magical system--yes, there are rules, and some of the rules are definitive. But some of the rules can be broken from one story to another. On the one hand, this bothers me terribly. On the other hand, it seems to work.
  • A story line that focuses on exploration. When merging with rule 1, you get characters that don't quite know what they will find around the corner--for example, the rules governing each world on Star Trek are different.
  • Rich, complex characters--Did you ever wonder why Oz seemed like such a recluse and yet was revered as a great wizard? When you read the Wild Magic series (What? You haven't??? You should. Immediately!) did you ever wonder about Alanna? Lucky for you, there's a whole series about her. Every character has a story, and one story can't go into all of them. When characters are interesting enough that we want to know stories are born.


  1. In teaching first grade, I used books to start them story writing, using the book as a model for how a story "goes" and to do rewrites. It's fun to keep a story going or see a new story in a part of the old. Interesting!
    BTW, thanks for leaving some breadcrumbs at

  2. Haven't seen it, or read most of the books you mentioned, so am clueless on that. But, I've never been to a 3D movie. I know the imagines would bother me.


  3. The last 3D movie I saw was the re-release of Jurassic Park. I'm a dinosaur nerd. What can I say :)

    Great list of world-building techniques! I love being swept away in an author's make-believe world. When I come away from reading a book and honestly hate returning to the "real" world, I know the author has done a terrific job of building their world for their readers.

    Nice to "meet" you! Enjoy the rest of the alphabet!