*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.