Category Archives: Character Review

Once Upon A Time Character Review: Prince Charming

*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.

Prince Charming has been a stock character since the beginning of storytelling. He is there to rescue the heroine (presumably a princess in her own right or a soon to be princess), sweep her off her feet and live happily ever after with her. The problem is that this character has become such a staple of our stories to the point where we expect nothing more of this character than the standard narrative and character arc.

The writers of Once Upon A Time, have cleverly found a way to flip this stock character on his head, as they do with all of their characters. In Prince Charming’s case, he is not what he seems to be. Charming, as his wife, Snow White, calls him, was born to a poor family. Until he was an adult, he was not aware of the fact that he had a twin. This twin, James, was raised in the palace as the King’s son. When James was killed, Charming took his brother’s place and was nearly forced to marry a princess whom he did not love or care for until fate and Snow White stepped into his path.

In Storybrooke, Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) is known as David Nolan. Like his fairy tale land alter ego, David was not only unaware of the woman whom his heart belonged to, but also of his identity. Even after the curse was broken, it was not always sunshine and rainbows for David and Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin), Snow White’s Storybrooke alter ego. There were both internal and external forces trying to pulling them apart.  But no matter what, David/Prince Charming and Mary Margaret/Snow White always found their way back to each other.

To sum it up: There is nothing wrong with writing a fairy tale style romance. But, the issue that the writer must contend is that that the romance and the relationship has to feel real and human. The characters must be imperfect and face challenges. If the writer sticks to the standard and predictable narrative and character arc, the reader or audience, will see both a mile away. Unpredictability makes life interesting and makes a story interesting. Interesting stories=interested readers. And interested readers always come back for more.

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Filed under Character Review, Fairy Tales, Once Upon A Time, Television

Once Upon A Time Character Review: Snow White/ Mary Margaret Blanchard

*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.

Snow White is one of the quintessential fairy tales. The jealous stepmother, the poison apple, the handsome prince are all part of the basic narrative and character makeup of the fairy tale genre. But that does not mean that every writer has to stick to the same basic narrative and character arc.

In Once Upon A Time, there are two versions of Snow White  (played by Ginnifer Goodwin). In fairy tale land, Snow White is for the most part, the same character that audiences have come to know, with a few minor and important updates. In Storybrooke, she is Mary Margaret Blanchard, a teacher who in the beginning of the first season, like of most of the characters, were unaware of their true identities due to the curse that brought them to Storybrooke in the first place.

When the curse was lifted at the end of the first season, Snow White and Mary Margaret merged into one character. While she has her true love, Prince Charming/David Nolan (Josh Dallas, Goodwin’s real life husband), she also continually in the cross-hairs of her stepmother, The Evil Queen/Regina Mills).

This Snow White is an interesting mix of the traditional Snow White and characteristics of a modern, independent woman who audiences have come to expect.  She has a good heart and takes care of those around her, but also has no problem being a bad-ass when circumstances arise.

To sum it up: While traditional fairy tale characters (especially female characters) are great, they have been done to death. What the writers Of Once Upon A Time have very smartly done is taking the basic characters and narratives that exist with the fairy tale world and twisted them into new characters and narratives that audiences have not seen before. With Snow White, they have retained the skeleton of the character, but have made her human.

As writers, our job is not to create stock characters, but to use those stock characteristics as a building block for the character arc.  Stock characters are great, but if a writer just uses that stock character without building it up, the reader may feel like they have seen the story before and walk away. We don’t want the reader to walk away, so we must make sure that our characters are built up enough to stand on their own two feet and not rely on the standard stock character that has been seen for far too long.

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Filed under Character Review, Fairy Tales, Feminism, Once Upon A Time, Television

Once Upon A Time Character Review: Mr. Gold/ Rumpelstiltskin

*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.

In the tradition telling of Rumpelstiltskin, he is a magical imp who spins straw into gold for a young woman in return for something she will give him. One of the catchphrases of Once Upon A Time is “magic comes with a price”. The character of Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold is initially introduced to the audience as the show’s male villain. He loved nothing more than trading favors with mortals in return for something precious to them.

Then the characters of Belle (Emilie de Raven), his second wife and Neal/Baelfire (Michael-Raymond James), his first-born son were introduced. Both Belle and Neal/Baelfire forced Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold to face his own demons, his choices and his past.

To sum it up: A few years ago, when asked to describe where his character was at, in terms of the character arc, Robert Carlyle described Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold as having an addiction to magic. Like any addiction, it often superseded his relationships with his loved ones. Addiction can often break relationships, but if the person addicted is willing to do the work, the addiction can be conquered.

When writing about characters wrestling with addiction issues, it is our job to explore how addiction can potentially break families and destroy lives. If the addiction is written either lightly or over-dramatically, the audience will not believe that the character has their addiction. Written about an addicted characters is not easy, but if it is done right, the audience will follow along on the character’s journey.

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Filed under Beauty And The Beast, Character Review, Fairy Tales, Once Upon A Time, Television

Once Upon A Time Character Review: Belle

*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.

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Filed under Beauty And The Beast, Books, Character Review, Fairy Tales, Feminism, Once Upon A Time, Television

Once Upon A Time Character Review: Zelena

*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.

In 1939’s The Wizard Of Oz, Margaret Hamilton’s The Wicked Witch Of The West left an indomitable mark on our culture. She was the ultimate baddy, taking Toto from Dorothy and using her monkeys to terrorize the residents of the land of Oz.  In Once Upon A Time, the character of Zelena (Rebecca Mader) appeared to be a direct cut from that same cloth. But in usual Once Upon A Time fashion, there is a twist to the character and the narrative.

Zelena is Regina/The Evil Queen’s (Lana Parilla) older half-sister. Abandoned by their mother and raised without the luxury or the access to the magic that was part and parcel of Regina’s childhood, Zelena grew up to be spiteful and angry. Arriving in Storybrooke, Zelena made it her goal to get back at Regina for everything she never had. She also manipulated Robin Hood to believe that she was his late wife and became pregnant by him.

Giving birth to their daughter (also named Robin) changed Zelena. No longer seeing life in terms of black and white,Zelena  started to change. She became close to her sister, but she fell in love with Hades (Greg Germann), who also fell in love with her, but she chose her sister over Hades. Unfortunately, Robin was lost in the battle.

To sum it up: When a character is written properly, her or she can easily transcend the archetype that is the skeleton of that character. A good writer is able to flesh out a character, giving them dimensions, failings and complications. Zelena may have started out as the archetypal Wicked Witch Of The West, but she grew into a woman who was more than her archetype. As writers, we have to remember that archetypes are fine,  just as long as we remember that the archetype is only the skeleton of the character. We need to add more to the character than just what is expected. If we don’t do that, then the character is just an archetype and frankly, who wants to read about an archetype? I don’t and I’m sure there are other readers who feel the same.

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Filed under Character Review, Fairy Tales, Once Upon A Time, Television

Once Upon A Time Character Review: Robin Hood

*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 not seen the previous seasons.

*I am choosing, for the purpose of this post, to only focus on FTL/Storybrooke Robin, not the AU Robin that appears in the 6th season.

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.

Robin Hood is one of the noblest characters in our culture. He is the selfless hero who takes from the rich and gives to the poor. He always does what is right, without question.

But what if doing what is right was not so easy? This was the question posed by the Once Upon A Time version of Robin Hood. Played briefly by Tom Ellis and then played by Sean Maguire for the remaining seasons, Robin is the soul mate of Regina Mills/ The Evil Queen, teaching her how to love again years after the death of her childhood sweetheart. But there is a catch.  Up until a certain point in the narrative, Robin was presented as a single father grieving the loss of his wife, Marian (Christie Lang). It took some time, but Robin broke down Regina’s walls and it seemed like they were headed for their own happily ever after.

Then Marian returned and Robin had to choose between his family and the woman he loved. But Marian was not Marian, she was Zelena (Rebecca Mader) and she was also pregnant by Robin. In the end, Robin gave his life to save Regina, proving that it is possible to do what is right and follow your heart.

To sum it up: sometimes a character’s journey can be boiled down to the question of what is right or what the heart wants. In life, this is often a murky question. The best writers are able to manipulate this question into a narrative that forces the character to go on the journey to answer that question. That journey, when presented properly to the audience, can not only take them on a ride, but also teach them how to answer what can be a very delicate question.

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Filed under Character Review, Fairy Tales, Once Upon A Time, Television

Once Upon A Time Character Review: Regina Mills/The Evil Queen

*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 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.

No one goes through life without heartache.  The question is, do we let the heartache consume us or do we let it fade into memory? In the world of fairy tales and Snow White in particular, The Evil Queen is the female villain we love to hate. Her main goal is to kill Snow White, she will stop at nothing to see Snow White dead. On Once Upon A Time, The Evil Queen or Regina Mills as she is known in Storybrooke, is played by Lana Parilla.

As with the original fairy tale, The Evil Queen hates her stepdaughter, Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and will like nothing more than see Snow White in the ground permanently.  But in this version, The Evil Queen/Regina Mills goes beyond the 2D character we think we know.

Regina does not hate Snow for her youth or her beauty, but blames Snow for the death of her first love and her forced marriage to Snow’s widowed father. We are introduced to Regina as she interrupts Snow’s wedding to Charming (Josh Dallas) and curses all of the inhabitants of the realm. Their memories are wiped clean, they remember nothing of their lives before the curse.

But as everyone who watches Once Upon A Time knows, “magic comes with a price”. The price, for Regina is her inability to move forward with her life and not let the past hold her back. She will eventually find love again, with Robin Hood (Sean Maguire), but not before facing her demons and confronting her past. She will also become the mother to Henry (Jared Gilmore) that she was unable to be when she was consumed by anger and grief.

 

 

To sum it up:  The reason that fans have latched onto Regina’s character arc over the first six seasons is because despite the world she lives in, we can relate to her. No one is all good or all bad. A good writer is able to flesh out a character in such a way that both the good parts and the bad parts of the character’s makeup are given the chance to be in the spotlight. While Regina has done some bad things in her life and made some mistakes (and truth be told, haven’t we all?), she has proved to be loyal and loving to those who knew her best. That is why we love her and that is why we remember her.

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Filed under Character Review, Fairy Tales, Life, Once Upon A Time, Television

Wuthering Heights Character Review: Catherine Linton

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Emily Bronte’s classic novel, Wuthering Heights. Read at your own risk if you are unfamiliar with the either book or the various adaptations.

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 Wuthering Heights to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Whether or not they are aware of it, parents will sometimes pass on their emotional scars to their children. The question is, if and when the child becomes aware that their parents emotional scar has become their scar, do they find a way to heal or let the scar remain open?

Catherine Linton is the living embodiment of emotional scars that are passed from one generation to the next. Her mother, also Catherine Linton (née Earnshaw), died soon after the birth of her daughter, torn between her husband and her soulmate/adopted brother, Heathcliff.  Raised by her indulgent father and Nelly, her late mother’s housekeeper, Catherine is protected from the world.

Then Heathcliff enters Catherine’s life and the emotional scars from the previous generation are brought into the light. Still resenting the loss of his true love to Edgar Linton, Heathcliff (who is also Catherine’s uncle), kidnaps the girl, knowing full well that she is her father’s heir. Catherine is forced to marry her cousin, Linton and watch Heathcliff take Thruthcross Grange as his own after the death of her father.

Soon Catherine becomes a widow herself. Her only consolation is Nelly, who is once more the housekeeper at Wuthering Heights and her other cousin, Hareton Earnshaw. Abused and imprisoned by Heathcliff, Catherine is no shrinking violet. She is her mother’s child and uses every ounce of her energy to hold onto her dignity and self respect. In the end, it is Catherine and Hareton who will walk away from the tragedy that is Wuthering Heights, finally healing the scars of the previous generation.

 

To sum it up: Scars can heal, if we let them. Or we can let them fester. Catherine chooses to let the scars heal. In doing so, the ghosts of the past are finally able to rest and Catherine and Hareton are able to walk off into the sunset together. As writers, we have a choice on how to end our stories. More important than the choice of ending, it has to feel right for the narrative and the characters. In choosing her own version of a happy ending for her novel, Emily Bronte is able to successfully end her narrative with a closing feels natural. If the ending of war is peace, than the ending of Wuthering Heights is as it ought to be.

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Filed under Books, Character Review, Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights Character Review: Linton Heathcliff

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Emily Bronte’s classic novel, Wuthering Heights. Read at your own risk if you are unfamiliar with the either book or the various adaptations.

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 Wuthering Heights to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Some characters are unfortunately fated to die young. As much as the writer or the audience would like see the character live into their golden years,  for some it is not simply meant to be.

In Wuthering Heights, this is the fate of Linton Heathcliff. The son of Isabella Linton and Heathcliff, the reader meets Linton as a young man. Hidden in London by his mother, Linton only returns to Thrushcross Grange (the Linton family estate) after his mother’s death. At first, Linton is safe with his uncle Edgar Linton and his cousin, Catherine. Then Heathcliff hears that his boy is back in the neighborhood and demands that Edgar hand over the boy.

Linton is a sickly young man who sometime comes off as spoiled. He is forced to marry his cousin Catherine by his father and dies soon after. The last victim of the emotional turmoil that stretches over the entire narrative, his death marks a turning point that will finally heal the wounds that have remained open for two generations.

To sum it up: As sad as the death of a character can be, it can also represent change and new opportunities. While Linton’s death is indeed sad, it also closes the door on the past and paves the way for Hareton and Catherine to start a new life elsewhere. As writers, we have to remember that death is more than the physical being dying. It can be representative of change, new opportunities and the closing of the door of what was.

 

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Filed under Books, Character Review, Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights Character Review: Hareton Earnshaw

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Emily Bronte’s classic novel, Wuthering Heights. Read at your own risk if you are unfamiliar with the either book or the various adaptations.

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 Wuthering Heights to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

When we are children, the only environment we know is our family and our small world. The problem is that sometimes, when we grow up, we don’t grow out of the scars that we receive either consciously or unconsciously from our families and the world of our childhoods.

Hareton Earnshaw is the only child and heir to the Earnshaw name and estate. The problem is his father, Hindley Earnshaw drank and gambled away the family fortune after the death of his wife. After his father passes, Hareton is taken in (if you want to call it that) by Heathcliff to be used as a means of revenge.

As an adult, Hareton is treated as a servant in his ancestral home and treated poorly by Heathcliff. His only solace is his cousin, Catherine Linton, who is as imprisoned by Heathcliff as Hareton is.

To sum it up: The thing that always strikes me about Hareton is that despite the fact that is being degraded day after day by Heathcliff, he has a sense of pride. He takes pride in being an Earnshaw, and is not willing to completely bow to his captor. He is also sees an opportunity when Catherine also imprisoned in Wuthering Heights. She teaches him to read and they eventually get together, healing the wounds of the previous generation. When a character has enough pride and enough sense of self, despite a crappy childhood, to find peace within themselves, readers remember that. If a reader can finish a book, feel satisfied and feel like they have learned something about themselves because of a particular character’s journey, then the writer has done his or her job.

 

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Filed under Books, Character Review, Emily Bronte, Writing, Wuthering Heights