*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Once Upon A Time. I am only writing up to the end of season 6. Read at your own risk if you have still not seen the previous seasons.
There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.
In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Once Upon A Time to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.
For many female movie fans (especially those of a certain age), Belle from Beauty And The Beast is and will always be a revelation. Unlike her predecessors, her end goal was not finding a man and living happily ever after. She was more concerned with her books and taking care of her widowed father.
Halfway through the first season of Once Upon A Time, Belle (Emilie de Raven) was introduced to the world of OUAT via the episode Skin Deep. This Belle is similar to the animated Belle in that she is smart, kind, loves books and agreed to go with the Beast aka, Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) in return for sparing her father’s life. But while the animated Belle has almost a simple, almost predictable character arc, the OUAT Belle has a much more complex character arc.
For most of the series, Belle and Rumple have an up and down relationship. Their mutual love is obvious, but so is her will to completely change him that she ignores the fact that he and will forever be The Dark One. This roller coaster, is of course, not helped by Rumple’s addiction to magic, but that will be discussed in detail next week.
Their relationship is only truly healed when Belle realizes that as much as she loves him, Rumple will never change completely. After their son, Gideon is kidnapped and raised by the Black Fairy (who also happens to be Rumple’s mother), Belle realizes that the Beast and the man are one and the same. She cannot love one or the other. She has to love both.
To sum it up: Romantic love is not as simple as the fairy tales make them out to be. Even the best of couples have their moments and their disagreements. The key to writing a romance is balancing the reality of being in a relationship with someone while including the expected plot points of the narrative. The OUAT version of Belle is both the traditional romantic heroine, but her relationship with Rumple, as it often is in real life is complicated and sometimes difficult. This version of Belle stands out because the writers successfully walked the very thin line of writing a romance, but with the real life pitfalls of romance. It’s not easy, but when it is done well, the audience or the reader truly appreciates the romance and the romantic heroine.