Deepening Story Conflict With a Clash of Values: A Lesson from The Wizard of Oz

Savvy Writer Article #1101  By DENISE MILLER HOLMES

Most writers know that a good story has a clash between the main character and someone or something that comes against the hero. Conflict is usually thought of as two pitted against each other to achieve either the same or conflicting goals.

But, Stanley D. Williams, in his book The Moral Premise, says that the real story isn’t the external conflict. Instead, the real story is a clash of values.

We see an example of what Williams is talking about in the movie The Wizard of Oz.  In the movie, the external battle between the wicked witch and Dorothy is about who owns the ruby slippers.

Legally, the ruby slippers belong to the witch. They were her sister’s after all. But Dorothy owns them now and the witch is after Dorothy to get them.

The audience neither sympathizes with the witch (even though something rightfully hers was taken), nor do they root for her to regain possession of the slippers. Why? Because the witch is evil, the slippers are power, and no good person wants evil to gain more power.

That’s the external conflict. The internal conflict is about the lesson, the moral premise, the characters are supposed to learn—there’s no place like home. The slippers are Dorothy’s way home, and the witch is trying everything to prevent Dorothy from getting home. What’s great about home? The people are what’s great, specifically, the people you love.

From the beginning of the film, the script writers show Dorothy’s values.  We see that Dorothy truly loves her family when she meets the traveling wizard. The way he tricks her into going home is to tell her that Aunt Em is sick. She immediately forgets her fear of Toto being taken, and rushes home!

Contrast this with the scene where the witch finds her sister dead—crushed beneath Dorothy’s house. There are no tears. All the witch wants are the ruby slippers.

This scene shows us that the only thing the witch cares about is power.  People don’t matter to her. That’s what makes her scary.

So in The Wizard of Oz, a set of opposite values is presented—the belief that happiness is found through loving and attaching to people versus the opposite belief that happiness is found through shunning any attachment or love. These worldviews are shown often throughout the film in various ways and are the real conflict of the story. The external conflicts are only a result of those values.

Following The Moral Premise’s main point, there is a depth that is added to your story when, savvy Christian writer, you make sure the gold or the love interest or exposing/hiding the truth isn’t the only clash between your good guy and bad guy. Make the underlying conflict a clash of worldview—a clash of values.

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7 responses to “Deepening Story Conflict With a Clash of Values: A Lesson from The Wizard of Oz

  1. I have never seen The Wizard of Oz explained like this.
    Clash of Values – another thing you expect me to incorporate into my writing. Does it never end? 🙂
    Thanks for the writing tip.
    Glad to see you back.

  2. Thought provoking.

  3. This is very good. Got me thinking.
    I’m going to start looking for this in stories. Especially mine.

  4. Very thought provoking. I can see how this would bring depth.

  5. Great perspective!!! I appreciate your insight. This tip will definitely become a part of my writing. Thanks! 🙂

  6. This is a keeper. You have made many teachable points through a well known story.

  7. Thanks to all of you for such positive comments! No matter how old this film is, the story still fascinates and teaches us storytelling at its finest.

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