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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Character Clinic: Jane Johnson

I've got JM's character Jane on the couch today. Jane is a fiery-tempered 23-year-old pirate in a historical action-adventure. She was found when she was 3 years old in the ruins of her hometown. Her father, a ship's captain, took her in and raised her as his own. He was often distant with her, with occasional bouts of indulgent moments. The first mate of the ship, Katherine, took Jane's maidenhead when she was 14, and Jane considers herself a ladies' girl. When she was 12, a shipmate cornered her in the hold and his intent was to rape her. Jane and her best friend end up murdering him and throwing him overboard.

JM wants to know: Would a youngster who's received a little pull but a lot of push from a parent still be so eager for that parent's attention? Could her temper and lack of patience be a symptom of that? Is her violent reaction to male attention consistent with her age 12 experience?

In all my work with foster children, one thing I've discovered truly baffles me. How can a child still cling to the hope and ideal that they will return to their biological parent(s) who beat them, didn't feed them, didn't clean them, didn't talk to them, and abandoned them?

To that end, all I can say is that this desire to receive attention is inbred in all of us. If we can't receive positive attention (in the form of hugs, verbal affirmation, etc), then we try to receive negative attention (which would be where her lack of patience and temper comes in to play). If she's doing these impulsive things, including sleeping with Katherine when she knows her dad doesn't want her to, then no doubt she receives negative attention when she does.

The adage in my field is "Negative attention is better than no attention at all." So to answer your first question, a resounding YES. And you can see where your second question might come in to play.

Your last question, about her violent reaction to male attention, is a bit more complicated. It's feasible for her to respond to all men in the same fashion. I'd consider it a form of PTSD, as she would be transported back to that helpless feeling she had moments before thinking she was going to be raped whenever a guy might touch her in that manner or toward that end. But to think she might respond that way to all men who ever touch her might be pushing it a bit. Plus, there is the consideration of her violent reaction of slitting his throat afterward...which not only shows mastery over him but also shows a ruthlessness and courage that I'd think she'd be able to draw upon if needed in the future.

So yes, it's realistic, but could do with some tweaking to make it less stereotypical, I think.

Hope this helps, and thanks for writing in!

Let's Analyze:  Have any personal reflections about negative attention being better than no attention at all?