One of the things I like about Once Upon a Time is that, so far, they are keeping Emma the empiricist and the skeptic who won’t believe the stories people tell her about the reality of the “fairytale world(s)” just because they say so. She is the sort of person who requires compelling evidence to be convinced, which so far, no one has provided.
This sort of character in a fantasy/sci fi story, however, often ends up looking like a stubborn fool even when they’re not, simply because they aren’t privy to the information the viewers/readers are provided with episode after episode. But I like the Scullies and Emma Swans of the world who aren’t going to have that cliche’ fantasy-genre “leap of faith” moment and just suddenly “believe” because they now realize FaithIsSoWonderfulAndMagicOMG. Don’t get me wrong–at some point in the story, they will come to believe–they’re not close-minded. But just f***ing prove it: that’s all they’re asking.
I am having a similar struggle with the main character of my current story. She is a scientifically-minded archeologist who has stumbled into this subculture of people who believe in spirits. And since I write my stories from multiple points of view, the reader gets to be in the head of the people who believe, and experience the things they experience, and witness that there is a reality behind these experiences. But so far, my protagonist hasn’t had these experiences. So she continues to be cautiously skeptical of her friends and acquaintances who believe.
And that’s not foolish, IMO, yet she has already started to appear stubbornly close-minded. And that’s not the story I want to tell. I want to tell a story about fantastic and wonderful things far beyond our current worldview, and how a rational person comes to know them.
Because far too often, the “rational” character in a fantasy story is either truly rational and ridiculed by the (sub)text of the story for demanding evidence, or they are a Straw-Man character who isn’t rational at all. Which brings me to that other cliche’ of the fantasy/sci-fi genre: the character who demands a “rational” explanation for everything and refuses to believe in things which in the world of the story are quite real, simply because they fall out of his/her narrowly-defined collection of allowable physical explanations. This sort of character drives me crazy because what is truly rational is to believe the evidence of your senses, even if it disproves your pet explanation. Yet somehow, “rational” gets redefined, and these arguably irrational characters, who have forgotten the first principles of science and logic, are supposed to represent all that science and logic have to offer.
So, OUAT writers: be nice to Emma Swan. I know these writers have a faith/science duality Thing which they handled with a certain amount of complexity in Lost (not making John Locke or Jack Shepherd appear too foolish or outright wrong). Hopefully, they can walk that line here.