Monosyllabic Eccentricity

Oz Speak
by Angel Jade


Wit, popularity, comic genius and the most articulate member of the scoobies. All this and he speaks less than any other main character. His lines are short, his meaning is powerful. So how do you create the essence that we’ve all come to know and love as Oz?
Xander describes him best in Season 3 ‘The Zeppo’, "you tend to express yourself in short, noncommittal phrases". That is exactly how Oz does express himself. And is the reason he’s a popular guy in school and such a fun character to watch. But writing him this way can be very difficult. How do you express so much in such a small sentence or two?

Oz and emotions

Oz shows very little emotion through out the series. In fact, two episodes come to mind where we really see Oz lose that cool. When Oz returns to Sunnydale, the control he’s built to hold back his werewolf self is shattered when he learns Willow is in love with another. A season before that, Oz becomes angry at the gang’s talk of leaving Willow in the arms of the enemy after she has been kidnapped. This emotion is not expressed through words, but through actions. Oz is a great communicator and can convey a complex meaning just with a few words. But it’s rare to see him express an emotion. And perhaps there are reasons unknown for why this is, but what we do know is, when things get bad, he can express himself through violence. Whether it’s on a small object or crossing over into the wolf side of his self...it’s something you can work with. But these of course are only the negative emotions. Oz shows great dedication and love to Willow through the time he is with her and although he doesn’t show it to an extreme, it is obvious by his actions and his words that there is love there. This kind of positive emotion is shown, though perhaps not as much as any one else would. But it doesn’t induce violence, a sudden change to werewolf or anything special. It’s just there. And that is the distinction you need to make. Jealousy, fear and anger, all over the girl he loves is all we know that have made him show a noticeable amount of emotion. Whether you decide to use that for Oz’s love for Giles or his love for Fred, the same will ring true. That Oz’s emotions, if they become too powerful, are shown through actions. Otherwise they are kept behind his cool exterior and hard-to-figure-out smile.

Oz and the art of being cool

Oz (reading): "Dingoes Ate My Baby play their instruments as if they have plump polish sausages taped to their fingers."
Freddy: "Sorry man."
Oz (shrugs): "No, it's fair."

He’s got a presence that most people would love to achieve at some point in their life. Cool, calm, collected. He’s confident within himself and not at all shy. Unless, of course, confronted by someone he has a crush on. Even then, Oz is not the type of guy to hide. When he notices Willow, he can talk with her, albeit quite nervously. He still manages to retain his cool through out and of course, wins the girl. When meeting new people, he’s polite and remains the same. He doesn’t put on an act and he doesn’t try and impress anyone. (Season 1 Ats, ‘In the Dark’).

Oz and saying stupid things

While Xander, Willow...and most of the other characters we know, could easily start babbling at any moment, it’s very rare to hear Oz stutter or say anything without meaning. 99% of the time, he knows what he’s saying and he says it in the shortest and clearest way possible, usually through a witty comment using the same teen language we’ve seen from most of the cast seasons 1-3. Although this mustn’t be mistaken for a ‘robot’ style that can come from this kind of talk. He does, at times, say things that are cute and unimportant and even funny. "I mock you with my monkey pants." He’s a teenage boy growing up in the same way as everyone else. He’s human; he has real problems and a real life. He just chooses to say what he wants to say. He’s not a blurter and he’s not a bumbling idiot. When Oz talks, he keeps calm and says what he means.

Oz and clever words

Oz, as Willow so loves to remind everyone, is very clever. He knows his stuff, but he’s very laid back and doesn’t always show us how clever he can be. We get a short insight into Oz’s mind in season 3, ‘Earshot’ when Buffy hears him say, "I am my thoughts. If they exist in her, Buffy contains everything that is me and she becomes me. I cease to exist." "No one else exists either. Buffy is all of us. We think, therefore, she is." He is a philosopher at heart, but you never hear him speak this way to other people. When writing a fic in Oz’s perspective, you must keep in mind his thoughts are much more complex and insightful. He verbalises very little of what goes on in his head, which is a shame because what is going on is something worth hearing. But to get the right degree of intelligence into his spoken words, you just need to remember these three words of advice. Clear, insightful, witty. Depending on situations and who he’s in a conversation with, different measures of those three in the speech should have you characterizing Oz perfectly.