It Was All a Dream
By Amber McCuen
No single piece of media has done more damage to writers than The Wizard of Oz. Since its theatrical release in 1939, countless novels, movies, short stories, and narrative school projects have ended with the words and then I woke up. While the trope itself originated from the Spanish Baroque period around 1600 A.D., I blame The Wizard of Oz entirely for popularizing its use. Among the fake snow made from asbestos and the pure aluminum in the Tin Man’s makeup, this trope was simply another poison to be found over the rainbow.
My single biggest pet peeve in writing is a story that undercuts itself in its last moments. If you are searching for a way to free your story of any tension and weight it might’ve held, the perfect way to do so is to reveal that all of the events transpired within the confines of someone’s head. It’s a grab at a reader reaction that I personally believe is only used by those who are unwilling to obtain significant reactions through actual effort.
This isn’t to say that dreams can't have a place within stories. I think that they can be a fantastic device. They reveal characters’ fears and desires, and the shock of waking up from them is a fun breath for the reader that also allows them to see their main character disoriented. They should just never overhaul the entire story itself. If you are writing fiction, allow it to remain fiction.
It’s easy to say that it never happened. It’s hard to let yourself accept a world where it did.