Okay since I probably ruined a good thing by trying this. Try not to hate me OUAT fans, there also be sarcasm and Virgina Woolf style of writing ahead forgive. Plus not so pop but cultural references.
Fandom: Once Upon A Time
Pairing(s): Belle/Rumpelstiltskin, Snow White/Prince Charming, Emma Swan/Captain Hook, Emma Swan/August Booth, Emma Swan/Mad Hatter, Emma Swan/The Huntsman, Daniel/The Evil Queen, Mulan/Phillip, Aurora/Hook, Aurora/Phillip, Dr. Whale/Ruby
Spoilers: Most recent... so beware people behind the curve.
***Warning show is still in progress so if you aren't up to date some of this might be considered spoilerish***
Just wanted to point that out before going further.
Blurb: Once Upon a Time not to be confused with Once Upon a Time in America or Once Upon a Time in Mexico... is a television show not a movie. There's no gangsters from early crime driven New York and they aren't searching for a fight in Mexico with Johnny Depp** (had to fix that).
The title obviously comes from the beginning of a story. Which is essentially the entire essence of the show, stories. Fantasy, Science Fiction... fairy-tales (mostly) brought to a fictional town called Storybrooke (not to be confused with Stony Brook or Stoneybrook which is an actual place in New York and a fictional town in a book series).
In this the character's previously had no memory of their former lives as fairytale characters. Emma and Henry fixed that but then there was way to undo it by leaving town which is what happened to Belle who now she thinks she's in crazy town with no knowledge of her origins. In short, it's complicated. Think of it as Men in Black, we'd call it the show where people are frequent having their memories wiped and un-wiped without the use of that white stick thing that J was so fond of.
In this we welcome the important people:
The Family Tree of Awkwardness (and Awesomeness)
Snow White/Mary Margaret Blanchard- French and White or bordering upon white (Blanchard) if we want to get literal. Mary Margaret or Snow is the favourite Disney Princess of Disney (I was always more team Cinderella but hey she's a good Hollywood standard) so she is of course the most important fairytale character. Snow White is the prettiest grandmother EVER. So pretty that Bella Swan will be jealous forever. Snow is a little country and a little bit rock'n'roll... there's Elvis in her veins. I know that probably makes little sense but it's the truth, she's got some of the 2012 year of the arrow users in her and the I sing to birds like in 1937 as well. It's a decent mix. And she has amazing but odd fashion sense. It's a match made in heaven.
Prince Charming/David Nolan- We didn't actually know his real name but found it in Tiny (see comments). But we can call him James (that was actually his twin), David is fictional name from Story Brook where he had no memory, and Charming because apparently Snow thinks he's charming (insert sarcastic drum sound here). Charming is best described as the noble knight with a tendency for the dramatic and the over kill flair. Sometimes he's tries a little too hard to seem threatening other times, he seriously looks harmless but he's a good person with a sound head about him. He is the 3D model that Disney could never quite make in 1937 or in 1951 hence is almost absolute perfection brought to life.
The Evil Stepmother/Evil Queen/Regina Mills- Henry's mother and step-great-grandmother, Snow White's stepmother... Emma's step-grandmother and co-parent, the origin queen of mirror mirror on the wall whose the fairest of them all. Kind of crazy and often in a good way. Sometimes not so much and a little too obsessive about Snow White. In a way that's probably uncomfortable, thank god there's no thanksgiving in the enchanted forest. She doesn't turn into an old lady with an apple but she does like apples.
Henry Mills*- not a story character just a kid, if this was a fanfic not a tv show, haters might refer to him as a gary stu but this is canon and so he's just a cute little kid. Emma and Neal Cassidy's kid; Snow and Prince Charmings Grandson as well as Rumplestiltskin's grandson... ***recent spoiler*** (but one many saw coming so I've been told).
Emma Swan**- The Lead Character and my big manifesto character. Not entirely based on nothing aka the writers imagination... more like a mesh up of fantasy characters mixed with the mary sue again if this wasn't canon but it is so it doesn't count. She's my personal favourite character basically because she's a person. A flawed human being with no fantasy ties that make her look way too perfect or oddly evil for no reason. She is tough but weak, a little cheesy and sometimes crazy paranoid, struggling as a parent (something I totally get), but also inherently good and not as righteous as her father as narrow as her mother.
Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold- not to be confused with the Mr. Gold that Scrooge McDuck would also be if he was in Storybrooke too. I know the references never end. He's the all mighty OZ if this was the Wizard of Oz. The all powerful, all knowing, oracle, eye in the sky-- insert more seer like sayings here of the characters. If Regina is Harry Potter then Mr. Gold is Dumbledore. Magical with a purpose... he's a little in grey. Sometimes he's insane, other times mean, and often playing both sides. He's madness without reason but always with purpose. He's driven by his over powering grip and love on Belle and his son, Bae. He doubles as the Beast from Beauty and the Beast and the Crocodile from Peter Pan. Next he'll be the Scar to Simba's story too but you know baby steps and all of that. Mr. Gold strongly reminds me of a wannabe 1920's gangster ala nice guy Nucky Thompson but in a way more G rated world (meaning he teeters toward bad guy we root for, bad guy we love to hate, and good guy with some bad intentions).
Most important stories revolve around them (the family tree characters) as do ships. There's a whole string of other important characters... Belle (from Beauty and the Beast), Red Riding Hood/Ruby, Archie/the Cricket of moral guidance, Dr. Whale/Victor Frankenstein, The Red Queen/Cora... the list goes on. They all make up this fantasy town and/or in some cases got held back in what was left of the enchanted forest/neverland/other places around the kingdom of wherever these characters come from. They are also in the rec list but I figure to understand the story, really you only need to know the key players.
For the purpose of this also important is Captain Hook, Ruby Lucas aka Red Riding Hood and Princess Aurora but I won't do profiles just know that Hook and Aurora weren't cursed, they were in Neverland and the Enchanted Forest when the curse sent everyone to Storybrooke, Maine. Hook also is bad guy that hates Regina and Rumple but mostly Rumple is prepared to do whatever to make sure he pays for his crimes. Ruby is Snow's best friend and also a wolf (because red hiding hood, seriously).
Little different since it's a manifesto, I tackled it as 10 different ships, why each was picked and why each fic should be read.
Fic Rec #1: Plain Jane
Pairing: Belle/Rumpelstiltskin aka Mr. Gold
Link: Feels like the very first time
Rating/Warning(s): Not really
Why This Must Be Read: It's an AU that's very interesting. Belle/Rumple is like a standard ship in the OUAT universe and mostly canon. Therefore, it already gets plenty of recs, this one I picked out because it's fairly recent and slightly different.
As to why this ship was picked first... In canon, Belle was trapped by Regina in a hospital ward with no memory of anything-- it takes her until the end of season 1 to find Rumple and discover who they are and where they come from. In season 2, she loses her memory again (the MIB complex thing). We find out in season 1 that Mr. Gold is the beast to her beauty. So naturally with the popularity of the 90s' movie behind the ship it's one of the centre focuses of the OUAT world. Belle is popular, Gold is oddly loved for his less than perfect ways and they work well together based on their lines. It's not a fairytale romance, it's a doomed one but with a slow burn that carries on.
Fic Rec #2 shake it like a ladder to the sun
Pairing: Snow/Charming, Emma and her mother (Gen)
Link: There's only we two left on the planet
Why This Must Be Read: Either I really like short fics or AU's... probably the short fic business. It's pleasant. It's not overly romantic but not entirely gen either. It's the family Emma always wanted with hints of the canon reality of them all being trapped (minus Snow) with the no aging parent element. There's harmony to it.
As to why this ship second... well Snow White and Prince Charming. Seriously Disney loved Prince Charming they named him twice with different leading ladies. Second, there's no Storybrooke canon romances without them. So they were an important pick. If there's a true OTP for each show and movie out there, then this is it. They are the Ron/Hermione... Eric/Shelly... Han/Leia... etc etc etc of this fandom.
Fic Rec #3: Like Whiskey (Somewhere a Clock is Ticking)
Pairing: Emma Swan/Captain Hook | Killian Jones
Link: My love has flown away (Hey)
Rating/Warning(s): Little bit of sexual innuendo not much
Why This Must Be Read: Okay, I was torn here between this fic I LOVE at ff.net which is really long and this one. I don't want to do two shipper fics so that's why I didn't go with both. So in the end I went with the shorter one because A: it is shorter and B: it fits the AU theme I've accidentally been doing. It's fun, kind of edgy but not really and it's not overly romantic (which is always my preference when it comes to fic, sappiness and me aren't very tight). Plus this one has not so straight forward ending.
Why this ship? It's the first not canon ship. My personal favourite by accident. He's/Hook not a good guy. He's basically evil, think he has heart but more or less doesn't. He's shockingly charming and pretty which is why fans LOVE him. I personally loved the tudors and so I kind of have he was Duke of Bavaria moment every time I see him... don't ask. And also I semi ship him with Aurora too but I picked Emma because she's more of a main character this route. Ultimately, I wanted to showcase ships around key people and Emma and various ships are a big part of the fandom. They work because of the slimy way Hook flirts with Emma in early season two and how he tries again at the hospital later when he comes to Storybrooke. It's not probably ever going to go anywhere in canon but it is a fun ride.
Fic Rec #4: Atonement
Pairing: Emma Swan/Jefferson aka the Mad Hatter
Link: And you've just had some kind of mushroom
Rating/Warning(s): spoilers for the end of season 1
Why This Must Be Read: This is also an AU BUT not of the entire show, just the ending of season 1. It's a nice one, so kind of canon but not really. It's quick and a joy to read, honest. Not overly romantic but gets to the root of a feeling in parents missing their kids everywhere.
Why this ship? For a short while it had some popularity after Graham died... (more on that shortly) but it kind of died off when Killian Jones aka Hook came around and Neal Cassidy was introduced further. So this kind of like Graham/Emma a retro ship in the fandom. Why I personally like it (the ship and the characters) is because I'm a sucker for Jefferson Airplane and so clearly this version of the Mad Hatter is inspired by it (Grace Slick, Jefferson... seriously). There's this element because Emma was kidnapped by Jefferson of this dark wandering world which in my head fits the song so well. Jefferson is not quite Johnny Depp Hatter crazy nor is he quite the charming man that David Hatter was in the Syfy version, he's somewhere in-between. He's got grey in his magic usage and alliance with Regina, it's refreshing not to seem him as mad or entirely too good whether he wants to be or not. And Emma and him can relate to each other through their children.
Fic Rec #5: Hitting the Snooze
Pairing: Emma Swan/Huntsman | Sheriff Graham
Link: Now I've seen the way it's got to end
Why This Must Be Read: I like things with plot, story... not overly sexual unless it's extremely well written. But every once in a while sometimes it's just nice to read something short with no real purpose a PWP without sex. Not really meaning something but could have been canon.
Why this ship? It was really the first Emma Swan ship. It was also doomed from the beginning. I'm not sure anyone really saw Graham dying as early as he did but he was the huntsman so it was expected that some point he would. They had some kind of odd tension thing going on in the show for whatever the reason. It worked. It's one of those what could have been ships. There's also a bit in pleasant irony in that Graham could fall in love with the daughter of the woman he was supposed to kill that he spared which allowed for her existence. Always gotta love those kind of ships, the ones where against all logic and strange circumstance could bring two people together.
Fic Rec #6: Drowning On Dry Land
Pairing: Emma Swan/Pinocchio | August Booth
Link: Our time is running out
Rating/Warning(s): Coda to season 1 but nothing
Why This Must Be Read: I felt there needed to be some coda and most of the August/Emma fics I find out there are AU or holiday themed. So this one that isn't totally happy and has some moments related to season 1 in it. August tries true loves kiss and it fails. It's a small sadness in the mix of all these kind of happy ending fics. It reminds us about how far Emma came from season 1 and 2 with acceptance of this forgive me for saying fucked up scenario. Plus the opening Star Wars line... what?
Why this ship? Okay, we're from Emma Swan club after this. I just wanted to say that I used all the big popular ones of hers. For the record, typically not a fan of this ship. However, I will saw August is an interesting guy. Let it be known that he's Pinocchio and not cursed. He can travel freely and got himself into trouble with his freedom. Emma and him come from the same scenario much like Emma and Neal (a couple I won't address in this manifesto not because it isn't popular but due to the fact that their story is still being written in season 2); there's UNDERSTANDING.
Fic Rec #7: A Broken Crown
Pairing: Regina Mills/Daniel
Link: Bye Bye Love
Rating/Warning(s): Waring abortion is glazed over
Why This Must Be Read: Regina doesn't get enough love in this fandom unless she's being paired with Emma Swan. This is heartbreaking story that makes Snow look like the bad guy and Regina the sympathetic heroine victim of her mother and the death of her love.
Why this ship? Well it's canon and it's like one of the few non-femslash that we have of Regina. Regina is an excellent character in season 1, the right kind of evil with some personal struggles that make her human. Season 2 went a little too far in humanizing her to the point she almost became a parody of herself. It also made it painfully obvious that she was a little obsessed with Snow because of Daniel. In season 2 we have this heartbreaking moment between them involving Victor Frankenstein. This is just as sad because of that. And thus why I picked it.
Fic Rec #8: Tradition
Pairing: Aurora/Hook; some Phillip/Mulan
Link: And if you can't be with the one you love, honey
Rating/Warning(s): Eh spoilers for season 2
Why This Must Be Read: Sometimes you just need a fic that's not canon but covers pieces of it. Aurora ends up in Storybrooke and Hook is looking to start over without ever saying it. It's one of those seasonal type fics so you gotta be in a mood for it but it holds the promise of starting over. Of turning over a new leaf and a new love especially the one you thought was yours is gone to another.
Why this ship? see the tudors and the fandom complex for details. It's amazingly popular for two very short term characters. Well Hook is a regular now but we haven't seen Aurora since December. They had a painful moment in season 2 when Hook took her heart and then gave it back. It wasn't sweet but it wasn't dark either, it was kind of tragic in a good way. It said Hook somewhere has one but it won't ever stop him from being the bad guy he always was. It's not as sparking as Emma/Hook since they've had more time together but it has the same chemistry set.
Fic Rec #9: Easy Decision
Pairing(s): Aurora/Phillip and Mulan/Phillip
Link: It's so hard to believe that love will prevail
Rating/Warning(s): not really
Why This Must Be Read: I picked this entirely because these two are equal shipping foots with me. I loved Mulan/Phillip meeting in the Belle centered ep, and I divinely enjoy canon like Aurora/Phillip. It's very short and to the point but it gets in his head in the first ep of season 2. We know how it ends and we know from later in the series that he's not actually "dead"/dead... so it might end up not as a canon depending on if we ever go back to the enchanted forest.
Why these ships? Aurora/Phillip is like canon and frankly Mulan and him hit it off well too. Neither are extremely popular but they remind me of why I love the disney princesses and these tales. Sometimes the show is a little cheesy and I don't like the pretty packages or how the stories are twisted. But sometimes they get it so RIGHT and Mulan and Aurora's friendship with Phillip in the middle was one of those OH THAT IS SO COOL THEY THOUGHT OF THAT things that made me want to include it.
Fic Rec #10: The Path Is Steep
Pairing: Victor Frankenstein | Dr. Whale/Red Riding Hood |Ruby
Link: I saw a werewolf drinkin' a pina colada at Trader Vic's
Rating/Warning(s): Spoilers for Season 2 ep: "In The Name of the Brother"
Why This Must Be Read: This rec is purely selfish. It's a coda canon but it's not un-canon pairing. It's an idea I love, the monster creator and the "monster". Anyway, Ruby is just awesome and she saves his life at the end of the ep and gets him to move forward from his grief and horror. It's fantastic and the piece highlights what was awesome about the ep itself.
Why this ship? It's not exactly popular or big but they have such chemistry in the one key ep they have together. It's not quite monster understanding monster. It's more like two souls that can relate because of their demons. Which is more of poetic thing really.