Inconsitencies I have known.

Consistency.

It’s something writers strive for in their work, especially with respect to setting and character descriptions. For many, an error in consistency can break the narrative flow, reminding the reader s/he is immersed in a construct of reality and not the real thing.

On film, errors in consistency are typically referred to as bloopers. And though they can be fun to spot, if you’re like me, and the gaffes are serious enough, they can also be maddening. Minor consistency problems are artifacts of the way television and movies are filmed, a result of the final product being an amalgam of various takes and camera angles.  This is the shirt that mysteriously buttons and unbuttons or the strand of hair that magically tucks and untucks itself from behind an actress’ ear as the scene plays out. In a recent episode of Cult, it was the level of water in Skye’s bottle that randomly rises and falls.

Errors like these are more amusing than annoying.  The inconsistencies prompting me to write this blog are much more serious than that. The ones I’m talking about are due to errors in the writing and/or interpretation of the script, errors that should have been caught and edited out long before production began. Take, for example, the Once Upon A Time episode in which Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin is led to believe August is his son. This correlates with an hour of my yelling at the screen that August couldn’t possibility be Baelfire because August has blue eyes and Bae has brown. And while it turned out August wasn’t Bae, I don’t know how I noticed this and the boy’s own father didn’t.

Another issue arose watching this week’s Hannibal.  The police assert that their murderer was killing girls of the same age, height, weight and with the same hair and eye colour as his daughter. They show a series of victim photos, and I swear the last girl has brown eyes. Trouble is, when they show the daughter in the next scene, her eyes are decidedly blue.

Perhaps the biggest gaffe I’ve noticed was in this week’s Orphan Black. I remember being told via subtitle in the premiere episode that the story takes place in New York. Wikipedia observes the police used NYPD coffee mugs and drove NYPD cars in that episode. But this week they drove to a building I recognize as being on the U of T campus driving cars with Ontario plates. To make matters worse, Sarah/Beth drove through Chinatown to get to a Kensington Avenue address and walked into The Waverly Hotel (it said so on the door as she entered). While I love that shows (like Rookie Blue or Bomb Girls) use Toronto as a backdrop for stories told in Toronto, I need a show to pick a location and stick to it so that I forget I’m watching a construct and not actual people’s lives.

In other words, do the viewers a favour and make the effort to remain consistent.

graphic from:http://escapepod.org/2013/04/02/tv-review-orphan-black/

About the Author

Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!

Rumplestiltskin as a Tragic Hero

The classic definition of a tragic hero according to Arisotle is that he must be of noble birth, has a tragic flaw which leads to his downfall, suffers a reversal of fortune, his actions bring about an increased sense of self-awareness and self-knowledge and the audience must feel pity and fear for the character(1).  I submit that Rumplestiltskin, aka Mr. Gold on ABC’s Once Upon A Time (OUAT) is a tragic figure. While he is not of noble birth, he does have a tragic flaw (cowardess) which leads to his downfall, he suffers numerous reversals of fortune (the loss of his son, wife, and lover), his actions bring about an ongoing increased sense of self-awareness (recent confessions made by the character), and the audience feels both pity and fear for the character.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with OUAT, the show is about storybook characters coming from their familiar storybook existence in Fairytaleland (FTL) to our world and settling in Storybrooke, Maine (SB).  Robert Carlyle plays Rumplestiltskin in FTL and Mr. Gold in SB with menacing relish. In the original tale, Rumplestiltskin is an impish character that is able to spin straw to gold. He agrees to teach the miller’s daughter the trick, provided she pay the sum of her first born to him. The miller’s daughter marries the king and has a child but does not want to give it up. Unable to resist a deal, Rumplestiltskin agrees to let her keep the child, provided the (now) queen can guess his name. After the second try, certain that he would receive the child, he was praising himself by the fire when someone heard and reported his name to the queen. Upon hearing  his name come from the queen’s lips,  Rumple got so angry he tore himself in two (2). In OUAT’s version, Rumple is the village coward. Shunned by others in his village because he ran when the ogres attacked rather than fight, his wife (Milha) has run off with Killian Jones (aka Captain Hook). Determined to become powerful and earn the trust of everyone including his son, he kills The Dark One and assumes his powers. Shunned by others because they fear him, he saves his son from fighting in The Ogre Wars only to lose him when he falls into a portal to another land and closes before he can follow. Alone, he finds his wife and kills her by literally taking and destroying her heart. Lonely, he makes a deal with a king to save his subjects from the ogres in exchange for his daughter, Belle, with whom he falls in love. Believing himself unworthy of being loved, he banishes Belle from his castle and Regina, The Evil Queen, convinces him she returned to her village despondent and  ostracized for her involvement with him and she kills herself. After Regina enacts The Curse causing FTL characters to be transported to SB, he finds Belle when the curse is more changed than broken and reunites with her, but finds it hard to shake his beastly ways.

The Tragic Hero is of Noble Birth

Granted, Rumple himself is not of noble birth, but he does become elevated to the status of nobles when he becomes The Dark One. He has the same powers and wields them to his advantage as do the other royals in FTL. Take, for example, King George, who takes a peasant boy to replace his son when he dies only to threaten his mother and his twin brother’s life if he does not do the same when the replacement dies. Or Belle’s father, Sir Maurice, who is willing to trade his daughter for peace in his kingdom (granted Belle decides to go on her own, but in the long run, Maurice remains passive when his daughter leaved). Then there’s Regina who pushed her mother into a portal and has made her life’s mission to wreak havoc in Snow White’s life for a transgression occurring in her childhood. Like the other royals, Rumple is feared for his power and revered by those who come in contact with him by people who offer (as Macbeth, another royal and tragic hero laments) “mouth-honour”. As the owner and benefactor of SB, Rumple, aka Gold, maintains his power over the characters and seems to enjoy that they fear him. He is the proprietor of the local pawn shop which houses many of the character’s prized possessions with which they made deals with Rumple back in FTL.

The Tragic Hero has a Tragic Flaw Which Leads to His Downfall

As far as personality flaws go, Rumple has many. The story begins with him as a coward, then becoming addicted to and drunk with power as The Dark One. He clings to this power, valuing it even over the love he seeks. This is demonstrated when, after his magic seems threatened by Belle’s love for him, he sends her away rather than explore his heart’s deepest desire.  Betrayed by many including his wife, his apprentice (Regina) and many of the townspeople when they try to get out of the bargains he strikes, Rumple trusts no one. Rumple’s biggest flaw is his desire for acceptance and love. He places himself in a vulnerable position when he allows himself to mistake August (aka Pinocchio) for his son, and again when he prostrates himself to Belle in the library after admitting to her he is still a coward.  It is this flaw more than the others that will ultimately lead to his downfall, as a man as powerful as RumpleGold cannot afford to wear his hat on his sleeve in such a manner.

The Tragic Hero Suffers a Reversal of Fortune

When Rumple agrees to kill The Dark One in order to release him from his misery and gain his power, he thinks life can only get better. Rather than ostracize and ridicule him as being the village coward, the villagers will be forced to revere him or he will turn them into a snail and crush them like the bugs they are. Instead, people ostracize him further. Instead of their disgust, he garners their fear. If he is The Dark One, he surmises, his wife will beg to come back to him and he will win back his son’s respect. Instead, he loses them both. Perhaps worse, he loses himself in the bargain. As we have seen with Regina, magic is addictive. In a brilliant turn of events, Regina runs to psychiatrist Archie Hopper (aka Jiminy Cricket) when she falls off the magic wagon. Like Regina, Rumple is addicted to magic. He does not know how to interact with others without offering them some sort of magical deal and, as previously stated, he chooses magic over securing his deepest heart’s desire. It seems to me that there is no lower ground to which a man who kisses a soldier’s boot in front of his son can stoop, but Rumple seems to do it. At times I am left to wonder, which is better—being ridiculed for cowardess but still having my son, or having all the power in the world at my fingertips and being utterly alone in, not one, but two, worlds.

The Tragic Hero’s Actions Bring About an Increased Sense of Self-awareness and Self-knowledge and the Audience Must Feel Pity and Fear for the Character

As writers continue to flesh out Rumple’s character, we learn he is very much self aware. The mystery in season one questioned who, out of all of the characters, remembered their FTL past. I love the scenes in which Rumple and Regina verbally spar. In one of these scenes, Rumple is in SB’s jail and Regina is compelled to sit and talk to him (she must do whatever Rumple says when he says “please” as a part of the original curse). The moment where he reveals he remembers his FTL name is an incredible step toward his admitting he is still The Dark One and the audience can’t help but fear what will happen to him if the others regain their memory and learn of his name. In season two, the Rumbelle ship continues to sail on very choppy waters. As they battled a wave that threatened to sink their ship, Rumple admitted to Belle that he is still a coward. What a brilliant moment toward Rumple’s self-awareness of the man behind the beast. At that moment, I felt nothing but pity for the character played to expertly by Robert Carlyle. He still loves her. And in admitting that he needed her, he revealed a vulnerability that instilled fear in audience members such as myself who watch the show primarily for this character. Many in the blogosphere believe that Hook will seek revenge for Rumple’s killing Milha on Belle. Having begun his descent out of the pit that is his addiction to magic, I can’t help but fear that without Belle he will fall back to magic to seek his own retribution, and thus descend into madness as well.

Time, of course, will tell, and I don’t mean time on the clock swallowed by the crocodile in the original Peter Pan tale because in OUAT’s version, Rumple is the famed crock as well. As I write this, Hook and Emma, still trapped in the ruined FTL are about to discover Jack’s beanstalk in their quest to find a portal to SB so Emma and Snow can be reunited with their family and Hook can “skin” the crock that took his hand and his love. My hope for Rumple is that he remains intact for the balance of the series, however long that may be, and not fall prey to the death visited on most other  tragic heroes at the end of the tale.

(1)    http://shakespeare.nuvvo.com/lesson/4435-elements-of-a-tragic-hero-in-literature

(2)    http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/Rum.shtml

Mr. Gold and the Five Facts of Fiction

Believe it or not, I return to teaching less than two weeks from now. I am currently spending my days modifying last year’s lesson plans, working on my latest manuscript, and re-watching season 1 of Once Upon a Time.

The lesson I am currently revising is on character. I found this amazing worksheet online by Steve Peha (http://www.ttms.org) that I use in class called “Five Facts of Fiction” in which students brainstorm the physical, emotional, social, philosophical and intellectual traits of a character, explore what the character wants and whether or not s/he gets it, how the character changes throughout the story and the world in which the story takes place. The task is to complete this worksheet for a character with whom the students are already familiar, either from fiction or the popular media (i.e., television or movies). So of course, I chose Robert Carlyle’s excellent portrayal of Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin with which to complete an exemplar. I won’t bore you with the worksheet notes, but here is the character sketch I wrote as a result of the exercise.

Gold dusted the holdings of his pawn shop tenderly, memories of days gone by, each of them reminiscent of a deal he’d made in that other place. It was cold there, metaphorically speaking, had become so the day he abandoned the army and returned to his village the only survivor of his troop. Fools. They’d dubbed him the resident coward then, but no one could have understood his fear, not unless they’d been there. Back then only the men went to fight in The Ogre Wars and few returned from battle. Then they took the women as well. Then the children.

                Bae.

                His mind returned to his own son whom he’d help escape that world. Better separate and reunited somewhere and somewhen than send him like a lamb to the slaughter.

              That reunion was still forthcoming.

                Gold sighed. He laid the feather duster down and retreated to the back room where his spinning wheel resided and began to spin. Here, in this place without magic, even his spinning was impotent. Here he spun sheep’s wool to yarn; back home he spun straw to gold. Spinning helped to calm his nerves and made him a rich man, but he was nevertheless very lonely.

He’d been happy once. Looking for someone to tend his castle, he’d taken Belle, saving her from enlisting in a loveless marriage, only to find he had feelings for her. When she kissed him, he felt his power threatened and believed her to be an emissary of the Evil Queen and sent her out. He’d heard she returned to her father’s home where she’d been shunned and eventually taken her own life. Here, in Storybrooke, Gold had beaten the man, hoping to hear the truth from his own lips, that Belle was still alive and, like Bae, out there somewhere, somewhen, but to no avail.

               The wheel stopped momentarily as Gold closed his eyes and tried to visualize her face. She was beautiful. Too beautiful to fall for the likes of him without an ulterior motive, he felt sure. Yet he still held onto a strand of hope, a strand as thin and delicate as the gold he favoured spinning from straw. He resumed his spinning. In Fairytaleland, after accepting the power of The Dark One, he was a powerful man, both feared and respected. It was the same in Storybrooke as well. He had fear and respect. What he didn’t have was love, but it was coming, of that he was sure. One day, he would bring magic to Storybrooke and then, when he had regained the power of The Dark One, he would show them all, Regina, her “Royal” majesty, most of all. When that day came, he would find Bae and Belle, and the three of them would live their lives out as the resident royals of Storybrooke, Maine.

                One day he would find his own happy ending.

                One day soon.