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Jadie's Nexus > Writing: Inspiration or Obsession > Spi's Random Fic Advice: Lesson Four:


Posted by: Spiletta42 Apr 23 2005, 11:05 PM
Avoiding wimpy!Janeway: Characterization Tips

When I sit down to read fanfic, the one thing that will always make me close a link in disgust is poor characterization. Fanfic readers are looking to read about their favorite characters, not pod people with similiar names.

In canon, Captain Janeway is brave to the point of reckless, strong-willed, determined, sometimes stubborn, hard on herself, but reasonable towards others, and a very capable leader under extreme circumstances.

She is not a wimp. Do not write her as a wimp. If you should discover wimpy!Janeway lurking about in your fic, get to a qualified beta immediately.

Janeway doesn't like threats. She responds to them with decisive action. She does not respond to them with begging, pleading, tears, or hysterics of any kind. While she's willing to compromise, and always seeks a diplomatic solution to a problem first, a threat is a good way to shut down any negotiation with Janeway. She'll blow them out of the sky, or die trying.

Sometimes you just have to punch your way through.

Janeway knows how to defend herself. She's trained in hand-to-hand combat. She works out against Kllingons on the holodeck. She's not going to let anyone get away with hitting her. She can defend herself against alien bad guy of the week quite well, and if a lover hit her, that would be the end of the relationship. Immediately. Not three years later after she failed to change him. All Cheb did was speak unkindly to her, and she dumped him, and that was before she even started at the Academy.

When sick or injured, Janeway does not become helpless. Remember Killing Game? She got shot in the thigh and still kept running around the ship fighting the Hirogens. She's perfectly capable of putting pain out of her mind when necessary.

Still, Janeway is human. She does have some weak spots. In canon, she has trouble sleeping, and sometimes has nightmares. She carries around guilt for a number of things. She loves her crew, and worries about their safety. She can do all of these things, have all of these emotional responses, and still not be a wimp.

Despite what your uncle the football coach once said, emotions aren't for wusses.

Janeway, however, is unlikely to show those emotions in front of her crew. She might let one of her senior officers see her emotional reaction to a situation, but only on her terms. Watch Muse. She thought Harry and B'Elanna were dead, but she wasn't in the mood to let Chakotay see her reaction. She kept it together until he left the room.

Janeway keeps tight control on her outward display of emotion, and she has the ability to compartmentalize emotions during a crisis. She's thought that one or more of her senior officers was dead many times over, but she always held it together until the crisis ended.

When you write Janeway under stress, keep her emotional reactions subtle. She doesn't sob hysterically, or go catatonic, or scream and wail. Her voice drops when she's angry. She doesn't get all nasal and squeaky and start cursing.

Likewise, her voice softens when she's worried or being empathetic. When she does cry in canon, it's very subtle. A few tears (The Gift) maybe, never sobbing.

I'm guessing that if life does throw her something bad enough to induce sobbing, she'll hide out in the shower to do her crying, and I'd rather allow her the privacy. I'm not a fan of character death fics, and I can't imagine much else that would do it. Using character death as a vehicle for cheap emotion is lazy writing. (You remember Friendship One, don't you? Don't write like that.)

As for the theory that she's bottled everything up for too long, and when she finally lets go she's going to sob for a week, I'm not buying it. Janeway shares warm friendships with Chakotay, Tuvok, and the rest of the senior staff. When something's bothering her, she always eventually talks to one of them. She knows the value of working through an emotion. Watch Memorial, or Extreme Risk, or Nemesis.

Read through your fic, and make sure that Janeway's reactions to situations are realistic. She's dealt with plenty of tough stuff in canon, so she can probably deal with anything you hand her. If she acts helpless, then you have a rewrite to do.
You might not know how to respond to a situation, but Janeway does. Open up your Trek reference books, or visit one of the excellent websites available, and find a solution to that problem.

Stick with it until you have a fic that belongs in the Star Trek universe, even if you have to rewrite it twelve times. That's what Janeway would do.

Posted by: Jade Apr 24 2005, 07:53 PM
When you said, you were going to write on this subject I wasn't sure what to expect. I'm impressed with the points you have made. You know your Janeway which is why your fic works so well.

Thanks for the advice.

Jadie pc4.gif

Posted by: anne3rose Apr 25 2005, 10:17 PM
It's a really fine line. Fic is about things that we wanted to see in canon, so there is a very good argument for changing things, but certain things have to be retained or a story becomes original fic instead of fan fic. Original fic is fine, but you don't want your fic to look like a bad fiddled pick with Janeway and Chakotay's head pasted onto *obviously* different bodies - horses maybe, or fish.

I have read some ubers in Buffy fandom, and some are quite good. It's basically original fic with the characters we know. BUT, to be done well, the characters have to be recognizable. They need to share the same traits as their canon counterparts.

Also, I don't understand why people would want wimpy!Janeway. She's not any fun. I know in later seasons Chakotay is rather spineless, but I blame TIIC for that, just like I blame Janeway's bi-polar disorder on them.

I find Chakotay completely in character when he's got a backbone. And I think he can handle an interdependant relationship with a strong woman like Janeway.

And now, even farther into left field. I think the basic problem is in our society's ideas of a strong woman. Society says people have to be totally independant to be "strong". Popular culture glorifies the image of the person who doesn't need anyone. And that's ridiculous. Humans are at their best when they are interdpentant. Not codependant, or weak and clingy, or dependant with no spine or brain.

We see over and over that Janeway and her crew are interdependant, they support each other, and they do not become weak and dependant. The kick the Borg's butt when they work together.

It's a cheap way out to cut Janeway down to make Chakotay look like a manly man, but it's not true to the characters and it's not something I like to read.

I loved how you beefed up Chakotay in that one story (help me here), when Kim beta'd and said Chak was too wimpy. The soup thing was particularly subtle and showed he had a backbone.

wimpy!Janeway must die!!! And now, I shall stop rambling.

- Anne Rose

Posted by: Spiletta42 Apr 25 2005, 10:51 PM
QUOTE (anne3rose @ Apr 25 2005, 10:17 PM)
I loved how you beefed up Chakotay in that one story (help me here), when Kim beta'd and said Chak was too wimpy. The soup thing was particularly subtle and showed he had a backbone.

QUOTE
"Dinner tonight, Kathryn?"

"I'm working late," she answered. "I'm behind on a dozen things."

"You still need to eat."

"I'll eat at my desk." She focused on the PADD in her hand.

"Kathryn." He used that gentle voice he saved just for this situation. "What's bothering you?"

"My headache is my own concern, Commander. I'd suggest you pay more attention to the problems in environmental control and less attention to my eating habits."

He moved over to the replicator, and a moment later set a bowl of soup in front of her. A few drops splattered across her desk. "Eat, Captain, or I'll take it up with the Doctor."


That's the scene. It's from The Hard Choices, a J&P friendship fic, and Chakotay had hardly appeared. Kim was right. When he did show up, I needed to show him as a strong character and let him show his concern for Janeway, but quickly, because the fic was more about Janeway and Paris.

Before I added that scene, he appeared flat and therefore passive, since he didn't have much to say before the final scene. Sometimes a very small change can make a big difference.

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