lookingforoctober: (Default)
I caught up with Once Upon a Time and I have two comments...

1) They have made Peter Pan not fun.

Whyyyyyyy?

I am not by any means against dark Peter Pan, and as for villainous Peter Pan, the story I heard is that Barrie wrote the first draft without Hook, because he thought Peter Pan was a sufficient villain for the story. And I can see that. So I'm all for Peter the villain as well. But when you make Peter Pan boring, and even boring in an adult way...

2) Stories are about questions, so it's a good idea to make your questions interesting. If the main question is "Do these characters have brains, yes or no?" then you have problems. There's only one good answer to that question, and it's usually better if it's quickly settled, not drawn out.

On the other hand, if the answer actually is "They were handing out brains, but they thought they said trains. They said, 'Give us little ones with lots of steam.'"

...

Truthfully, I'm not sure I'm going to be watching this show any more. I sort of hate to say it, because I like the fairy tales, but...

On the other hand, I've been enjoying the new one, the Wonderland one. I figure there ought to be at least a season of seeming like it's going somewhere before it bogs down.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
In the tv series Once Upon a Time, there is a character known as Regina Mills, also known as the Evil Queen. Sometimes she's very good, and sometimes she's very bad. She's pretty much never in between, and yet for me, the overall effect of all her back and forthing to date is that while I still find the character somewhat interesting, I'm finding her a lot less interesting recently than I did when she first started to seem like she wasn't just pure evil.

I suspect part of this is because Once Upon a Time as a whole lacks subtlety, so the promise of depth that was given early on isn't being fulfilled.

But I also suspect that part of it is a failure to time their zigzags effectively. An effective zigzag pattern in character relationships is described in this post by Nathan Bransford, author and former literary agent. (I haven't read the book in question, so I'm taking his word on it, but it seems reasonable to me.)

Unlike the pattern described, the zigzags in Regina's character arc aren't getting stronger over time (and in an ongoing serial, it would be pretty hard to keep escalating indefinitely, unlike a finite book). There was also a lot of muddle rather than clarity in Regina's character development this season, ambiguities that didn't turn out to be there for a reason, things she did where the motivation didn't seem sufficiently clear... So that's one possible reason the zig zags that are there are not all that effective.

Another reason is the structure of Once Upon a Time, where they frequently (almost every episode) show things that happened in the past as well as things that happen in the present. At this point, we know a lot about the past of most of the main characters. The things we find out in the past aren't actually changing anything about how the characters are perceived, so a zig zag in the past isn't doing anything. A zig zag in the past can be very effective (and it was more effective at first, when we were finding out about Regina's history for the first time) but at some point, it loses its impact.

(Of course, perhaps they weren't trying to do zig zags, but rather trying to muddle things and make Regina a less clear cut character. In which case, yes, they succeeded in muddling things...but not in a good way in terms of storytelling. It may be realistic to have a muddled view of a character, but I agree with Nathan Bransford when he says "For the most part our interactions with the people we care about don't tend to end on a definitively positive or definitively negative moments...And yet, on the page (or screen) it works beautifully."

In conclusion, I believe that even when you're writing ambiguous, you have to present the concept of ambiguous unambiguously.)

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