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Old July 16 2011, 07:48 AM   #74
Kirsten Beyer
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Location: Los Angeles
Re: Questions for Bring Back Janeway Panel

Again, from Melissa...

Question 4: In many of the Voyager novels/stories that I have read, Janeway appears as a much simpler version of the character I knew on screen. In the PB books, she is almost always distant from her crew, totally obsessed with getting home, insensitive to the needs of the people around her, arrogant about always being right, unwilling to listen to advice, lacking a sense of humor, and (probably) frigid. Many of the other characters are similarly simplified into “angry” B’Elanna, “playful” Tom Paris, etc., making me wonder if the writers are as familiar with them as they should be. I find Janeway to be the most complex, human, deliciously flawed, and compelling of all the captains in the franchise, which is one reason I was so dismayed with her disappearance from the novels. What is your assessment of Janeway? Do you find her as complex as I do? Do you agree that her characterization in the novels has been less complex than it should have been, at the expense of making her more “interesting”?
I tend to agree about all of the characterizations if we're talking about the novels that were written while the show was still being produced, apart from those written by Jeri Taylor, where I found the character work to be fascinating, even if the overall plots were a little meh...But I think a lot of that was a function of how little information about the characters the authors had when those works were written. I believe the first couple were written only from the series bible and without even having seen the first few episodes. So those authors have nothing by my sympathies.

As for what came later, I see a bit of both going on. I think there are some writers, particularly some who had pieces in the "Distant Shores" anthology, who really had a good sense of the characters. Some..less so for me.

Sadly, I think your description of Janeway as you have found her in many of the books may be as much a result of her writing on the show as anything else. At one time or another she was each of the things you listed. For an author to choose only one of those does a disservice to the character, and that's not a road I've ever chosen. I've watched the entire series multiple times now and agree that Janeway, and all of the characters, for me anyway, are incredibly complex. There are moments for every character that speak volumes, usually when they aren't even talking in a scene, and reveal character more fully than the writing of any given episode. But I'm also an actor. I've spent my entire life trying to understand how behavior reveals character as much as words. So either I have a very vivid imagination, or what I have seen has informed my view of all of the characters in a way that someone without my experience and training might miss.

I don't believe any author has made Janeway less complex to make her more "interesting." I think each of us approach the task at hand with our own perspectives and that sometimes authors fall into the very easy trap of forcing the characters to serve the story they are trying to tell rather than allowing the story to evolve organically based upon the most fully realized version of the character they can possibly imagine.

This is always a good test for me when I'm writing. If I'm in a scene and I need something to happen because I've already decided that it has to, but the characters aren't coming with me...their dialoge isn't flowing, or they start saying things that make the story unravel...that tells me I'm imposing stuff on them that isn't going to work and it's time to go back and look at my story choice. It's an incredibly frustrating experience. You keep thinking...I'm the author, damn it...just do what I need you to do. But when they don't...they're usually right and I'm usually wrong.

I hope that makes sense. I also hope that if you have read any of my novels featuring Janeway, and everyone else, that you don't believe I have presented an overly simplistic view of any of them. As I said, for me they are all incredibly complex. That's what makes this work fun.

KB
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