Monosyllabic Eccentricity

On Writing Oz
by Dolores of Incredibly Pale

For many authors Oz is an enigma. He's regarded as one of the most difficult characters to get write in fanfiction, and many writers prefer to ignore him or (not unlike the writers on the show) leave him sitting in the corner being quiet, occasionally mentioning monkey pants. This is perhaps because, in contrast to many of the other characters, Oz's motivations and speech patterns are not as easily identifiable as, for example, Faith or Xander. He is a much more opaque and complicated personality than most we have met.

This makes him challenging, but also one of the most rewarding characters to write - if you can get a handle on him. This guide doesn't pretend to be definitive, but it should hopefully help you with some of the basic principles of Oz's character.

Motivation and Personality
In canon, Oz was established as being very intelligent but without focus; famously, his main ambition was to master E flat, diminished ninth, on the guitar. Even then, Oz played down his musical talents, accepting completely Freddie Iverson's criticisms of the Dingoes' performance in the High School newspaper. He had no qualms about failing his exams so he could repeat his senior year with Willow and the gang (and/or perhaps to make use of the library's book cage). We're not even entirely sure what Oz was studying in college, other than the Psychology class the entire school seemed to take let alone what he wanted to do afterwards, and his future career (or lack thereof) seemed to be the last consideration on his mind when he left Sunnydale after killing Veruca. In other words, then, Oz is not moved by ambition or material or financial benefit.

He also isn't concerned with sex for the sake of sex either; even Devon couldn't work out what a girl had to do to impress him (we slashers smirked at that comment and came up with our own conclusions, but I digress). On several occasions he had the chance to get physical to some extent with Willow but declined the opportunity until he felt the time was right - until it was about the two of them expressing their feelings for each other, not to prove something to themselves or anybody else. That it seems, was Oz's main goal. He was at his happiest in a relationship with someone he loved and who loved him, at his most distraught when that was taken away from him. He showed uncharacteristic emotion when Willow was in danger in Enemies, ending the argument about potentially sacrificing her in order to destroy the Box of Gavrok (rather than give it back to the Mayor) by destroying the apparatus that was needed to do so in sheer anger. Similarly, he found he couldn't control his change into a werewolf (once he had removed himself from the moon's control) when he thought he had a rival for Willow's affections or, indeed when Willow made him upset. Oz needs love to be perfect, and he seemed to prefer to be the one who set the pace. And, when he couldn't control it and things weren't perfect he didn't seem to be able to find any other solution but to withdraw and hope that when the dust settled he could rebuild things. With Willow, that worked once.

Which leads us to the last primary motivation of Oz's existence: control. Although not explicitly shown on the show until Wild At Heart, Oz's desire to be in control of his own destiny - even if the grand plan was a mystery to everyone but himself, and perhaps even himself too - was paramount. This was alluded to, and perhaps brought nearer to the surface by, Oz's continuing battle with his lycanthropy. Even had Giles and the rest not been around to make sure he spent the full moon in the book cage you suspect Oz would have made alternative arrangements - and undoubtedly did so in the period between leaving Sunnydale and finding his 'cure'. The primal nature that attracted him to Veruca was countered by his own shock that she might not spend her nights held back by a cage. Of course, he was even more shocked to find that his human side wasn't always entirely in control of his actions; he was still powerfully drawn to Veruca as a fellow werewolf, and his wolfself still thought of Willow as mate, and easily slid to the fore when Tara became a rival.

As with several characters on the show, the writers used a supernatural element to illustrate that people are a mixture of good and evil; Oz's kind, loving, calm nature the exact opposite of the wolf he would become - so that the mixture was more polarized. The werewolf did bring its benefits - a better sense of smell for certain, and fanon (i.e. widely accepted in fanfiction almost as if it were canon) has it that his hearing was improved too - but ultimately it was a totem to all the things Oz did not want to be.

The big question is how much of that was there in Oz before Jordy bit his finger.

Ultimately of course, Oz's motivation will depend on your plot, but it goes without saying (I'll say it anyway) that any change to the established personality or motivations will have to come with some explanation.

Hobbies and Interests

Playing bass for Dingoes Ate My Baby seems to be Oz's main preoccupation. It's been fanon for a long time now to say that Oz wrote or helped write their songs, but there was no actual indication on the show that this was true. Nevertheless the band practised fairly often and was obviously good enough to get some gigs as far afield as LA. He was also involved in the Jazz Band at High School, although he didn't have much commitment to it (he didn't enjoy the marching), but this would suggest he plays some other instrument than just guitar.

Up to a point Oz is still a typical guy. He can hold in depth arguments with Xander over the properties of Kryptonite and other such geeky things - check out his enthusiasm for the idea Angel is a Private Eye in In the Dark for instance. Indeed, like all Buffy characters Oz is incredibly well versed in pop culture. He seems to have a particular liking for some classic rock bands, as his admiration for Giles' record collection shows, not to mention many of his t-shirts.

Speaking of which, he also has a seriously huge collection of offbeat t-shirts, and he must spend plenty of time in odd markets and shops to get all of those. Finally, he also spends a great deal of time it seems dying his hair all sorts of colours and painting his nails, so he is evidently no stranger to drugstores.

Speech Patterns and Mannerisms

However true to his character his motivations are in your fic, one of the best ways to make your Oz believable is to get his speech right. Unfortunately it's also one of the hardest things to do correctly. That Oz isn't exactly talkative is the subject of much parody, but often people take it as standard that Oz never speaks at all beyond the occasional four-word sentence.

Oz can and does speak at length when it is appropriate or necessary to do so. He doesn't speak just to fill a gap, but to make a point. That said, he doesn't always - if ever - make that point obvious. On of the few time he does explains things is during Graduation Day II when he comes up with the insane plan of attacking the Mayor with hummus; with that he was "just keeping things in perspective."

Otherwise he can express things with the lift of an eyebrow or the corners of his mouth - but be careful not to overuse these mannerisms as Oz is sparing in all forms of expression. Sometimes Oz will use purely physical means to make his point - shattering Wesley's spell equipment, or kissing Willow, or standing up to make a dramatic movement - actions are often louder than words for Oz.

All in all Oz won't ever be one for monologues of five pages' length. But he communicates more and better than many people think. Whatever methods you use it's important to note that when Oz is silent his inner monologue probably isn't; Oz isn't vacant, he's just quiet.

Writing Oz isn't easy, but then that shouldn't be true of any character. Hopefully this will help with you with some of the main points, but practice makes perfect and you always have beta readers 'til then!