I think Jareth’s key characteristic is his arrogance – as he’s so self-assured, he fails to view Sarah as a sufficient threat. I’m interested in why he’s so arrogant – is it a trait born of circumstance (centuries of interrupted victory) or is it somehow hard-wired into his psyche? I’m relaxed as to how people write Jareth’s origins (if at all – sometimes it’s best if things are left mysterious or implied) – I think having him as a human who assumed a niche, supernatural office is just as good a concept as characterizing him as a proud but fading god. I like Jareth best when he’s dangerous – though he’s multi-faceted in the film, he is clearly delineated as the villain. I like to ask questions about his motivations. Why does he take children? Is he limited to his world or can he enter ours? Perhaps of most interest to the core fanbase of Labyrinth, why is he so interested in Sarah?
Oh, and don’t forget that Jareth has a sense of humour. A sarcastic, often spiteful sense of humour, but a sense of humour all the same.
Sarah is a far more interesting character than she is normally given credit for. Though she is somewhat whiny and spoilt in the film she’s also in possession of many admirable traits – she’s smart, inquisitive and single-minded. Her good qualities become more apparent as the film develops, and its shame that she’s often reduced to the status of a passive, simpering love interest. When Sarah is put in a difficult or awkward situation, I think that should be viewed as an opportunity to bring out her strengths. Sarah may be foolish sometimes but she’s also courageous, and I like to see that played up in stories.
Also important – being brave doesn't necessarily entail kicking butt. Bravery can involve dealing with a stressful, borderline overwhelming experience without completely falling to pieces. While Sarah is brave, she isn’t superhuman – it’s okay for her to show a vulnerable side and to struggle.
I find the brother/sister dynamic quite interesting, and like to see Toby feature in stories as long as he doesn’t feel like an irrelevance or – far worse – a plot device. If he’s being written as a young child, make sure to consider how a young child would talk and behave – they rarely demonstrate consistent behaviour and will talk and behave very differently from an adult in most situations. Ditto if you’re writing a teenage Toby – is he isolated and vulnerable, or bullish and self-assured? For excellent characterizations of Toby, check out Toby’s Wish by HyborianQueen and Advent by Subtilior.
To be blunt, the other characters in Labyrinth are of limited interest to me. While I love Hoggle, Ludo, Sir Didymus and all the rest none of them really linger in the mind as characters.* Feel free to use them, though I've got to be honest and say that a story chronicling Sir Didymus’s work in keeping the bog free of goblin miscreants would be unlikely to capture my interest.
*Though, having said that, I have seen some stories where the side characters in Labyrinth are written so brilliantly they become positively magnetic. See Silk below to get a feel for what I mean.
Fics to aspire to
I consider these stories the best of the best, so if you want to get a good feel for my taste in Labyrinth fics I recommend checking a few of them out if you haven’t already.
- Persephone by Xaviere Jade
- Erlkonig by Subtilior
- Escapist by glasshibou
- Time in a Bottle by Icklekins
- Sleepwalker by stress
- Silk by moonlover68
Jareth becomes human to win Sarah’s love/The Labyrinth is dying and Sarah must return to save it/Sarah is pining away for Jareth and wishes for him to take her away/Anything overly saccharine or fluffy/Anything pointlessly sadistic or brutal/Sarah’s child wishes her away to the Labyrinth when they realize she is pining away for Jareth
Essentially, avoid pining at all costs. While I'm a mad J/S shipper, I don't view either of them as the pining type (pining=passive) and I certainly don't think they'd have a conventional 'romance.' I think both characters are far too active to pine - Jareth would be seeking her out, Sarah would be focusing on forging her own path in life.
Right, I think that’s more than enough for now! If you are reading this, good luck – I can’t wait to see what you come up with!