a paranormal blog
When a writer, or a director, puts together a story they make promises to their audience. They layer story questions, create familiar patterns, and use story structure to lure us into their world. When you take a common story it’s even more important to stay true to your promises. Why? Because you have chosen to present a story that people think they know.
That’s right. We think we know Snow White.
Ask most people and they will respond that Snow White is a romance. It’s not. Oh, it has all the elements. Young beautiful girl, handsome prince, the kiss. Oh, and the happy ending. We all know that there should be a HEA. Right? Maybe. In the original Snow White the happy ending is not when the prince, (who by the way has never seen Snow White before) kisses her dead lips and wakes her from her sleep. It’s not when he marries her and sweeps her off to live in the castle. The actual ending is when the Evil Queen is danced to death in her red hot iron shoes. That’s a Grimm HEA.
(I’m choosing to insert my spoiler alert here. By now, I hope most of you have seen this movie or chosen not to, so if you are planning on still seeing it, watch out!)
But what’s important is that we all think Snow White is a romance. Why? It’s what we want from fairy tales. They make a promise. Snow White and the Huntsman made promises. And all the way through the movie they are left broken. From the outset we expect a HEA. That promise is made by twisting Snow White, a romance, so if you are making the decision not to give the audience the big HEA, you had better give them a satisfying movie. But all the way through there are moments where the audience says, wait, she was supposed to…
For example, when Gus the dwarf dies (I did post the spoiler alert!) Snow rushes to his side and comforts him. For some reason I expected her to sing to him. I don’t know why, I just did. But she didn’t. Okay, no problem. But I also expect her to kiss his forehead. Why? Once again I can’t tell you why. Something about the direction of the scene felt like she should kiss him. As an author I can say that it would foreshadow the kiss at the end that wakes up Snow from her own pseudo-death, but as a movie goer, I just wanted the kiss. And I felt let down when it didn’t happen. What’s more, my daughter sitting next to me said out loud, “She should have kissed him. This is one of the moments in the movie, Mom, where you think something should happen and it doesn’t. It’s one of the reasons I felt let down when I left the movie.”
I sat there thinking it (we rented it, the girls had already seen it) and my daughter (seventeen, and the target audience for this movie) said it. We felt let down. And it was only the middle of the movie.
I’ll skip the small let down moments throughout the film. Let’s just say that there were several points where I just felt something should happen, and it didn’t. And all of us agreed on those points. (Yes, we talk about the movie and analyze it as we watch. That’s what happens in a writing family.) But the worst was the ending. There was no HEA!
Wait a minute! Was the Evil Queen killed? Yes, she was. Was Snow White restored to her throne? Yes, she was. Did she avoid the secondary romance to the guy who looked like he should be the romantic interest, but really wasn’t? (ie, the stand in for the prince, William) Yes, she did. Or wait. We don’t know. We think she did, but I suspect that after the movie she succumbed to political pressure and married him.
Okay, so the title led me to believe that this was a romance between, you guessed it, Snow White and the Huntsman. That’s the movie title. They didn’t call it, Snow White and the Queen. They didn’t title it Snow White Kicks Ass. They didn’t title it, Come See This Romance and Get Let Down. It was supposed to be about Snow White, the Huntsman, and their romance. We all knew it. The title told us so. A big promise made.
And that was the build up within the movie. All through the movie you can see, yes, she should be in love with William, her child hood friend and social equal. But she’s not. She falls in love with the rough edged (and very hot) Chris Hemsworth. The director took two very popular leading stars and put them together, showed them falling in love, and then at the end. Nada.
William (the prince stand-in) kisses her dead lips, and she’s still dead. The Huntsman kisses her, and she wakes up! True love, right? That’s what we expect. But at the end, when she becomes queen, he’s lurking in the background of the court, and William is up front, waiting to step in and marry her. That’s the end. NO HEA FOR ME! Or my teen age daughters. We, all of us romantics, were let down.
Why would the director make this decision? Why promise us the HEA all the way through the movie, then leave
Bella (ooops, sorry) Snow up on the dias alone?
I don’t know.
All I can think of is he (I have to check, it was a male director, right? Yes, of course it was.) thought there were too many barriers between a Princess and a low-born huntsman to marry. So what? YOU PROMISED!
We believed you when Snow (who has been locked in the same cell since she was a child) escapes. We accepted (okay, we all questioned it, but moved on) when there was a pure white horse waiting for her on the beach. And even though she’s never exercised, ridden a horse, or wielded a sword, we let it go when she dons mail and leads the army to the castle. Why? Because the HEA would be coming and we would feel satisfied. All the broken promises and leaps of faith would be forgiven. But that didn’t happen.
Don’t do this with your book. If you promise your readers a certain action, then deliver. You can twist the action. Snow White could have abdicated the throne and run off with the Huntsman. William could have spoke up and fought for her to marry whomever she pleased. It doesn’t matter how you do it. If you’ve promised it to us, we will believe you when you deliver. So deliver.
Deliver on the small promises too. Not kissing Gus, or singing to him was a let-down, right when we should be immersed in the world of the movie. These small let-downs are why readers (and movie goers) say, “I just didn’t love it.” That’s the way I felt after the movie. I liked it. The special effects were amazing. The right pieces were there, but it missed. Many times.
Make those story promises. Make them with your title, your cover, your small and large choices throughout the book. Leave them unanswered for a little while. Make us turn pages fast, looking for those answers. Layer them throughout your book or movie, but fulfill each and every one, big and small, or you’ll find your block buster, busted.
Did you see Snow White and the Huntsman? Did you enjoy it? Were there other moments you picked out as being let-downs? Leave me a comment and let me know.
Click HERE to see how badly I’m doing at NANOWRIMO. Click HERE to discover Little Red Riding Wolf on sale for $3.99 on Passion in Print’s website. (I promise I fulfilled my story promises.)
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