A little from here, a little from there

Mrs. Clara Schott
Mrs. Clara Schott

One of the characters in book 4 is a Canadian lawyer who has become disillusioned with the law only a few years after taking the bar. I’m in the midst of creating this woman’s back-story, but as I do I am reading about the true histories of some ground-breaking women like Tmima Cohn of Toronto (1907-1989).

Here’s a bit about her from the Law Society of Upper Canada’s website:

Tmima Cohn was inspired to go into law by her father, a Romanian-born Orthodox Jew who marched in a suffragist parade in Toronto, and by her mother, who was a teacher, Bible scholar, and early advocate of women’s rights. After graduating from the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall Law School, she was called to the bar in 1932. She found the profession unwelcoming to a Jewish woman lawyer and like other women of the period, she stopped practising when she had children. As a lay person, she actively promoted environmental issues and the rights of women in the United States where she lived most of her life, by offering her services at free legal clinics, giving talks on women’s rights, and writing a handbook of legal rights for women in Florida in 1976.

She sounds amazing doesn’t she? My own lawyer, who I am naming Clara Schott (after the first female lawyer in Ontario AND the Commonwealth – Clara Brett Martin) is going to be older, and will add some gravitas to the work Annie and Portia must do to free Mr. Coleson from jail.

In my head she looks a bit like Susan Sarandon in The Lovely Bones.

Damaged Characters need not apply!

A post I’ve been thinking about for a while based on some advice from potential agents is a trend towards creating damaged characters in order to somehow justify their actions.

This happens in all kinds of genres, from comedy to tragedy to yes, detective fiction.

For example:

Show Damaged Character
The Pretender The
Oh Jarod, you damaged genius you… kidnapped from his parents as a child and raised in an evil secret lab, this man solves crimes and saves people by using his brilliant ‘mind’ to pretend to be whomever and whatever the situation requires.
The Mentalist The
I never watched this show because of its stupid stupid name, but according to IMDB, Patrick, the lead character, is a very damaged soul – having lost his wife and daughter to a ‘madman.’ Ya. Cause you can’t pursue justice unless you’re a damaged man.
The Finder The
I only got introduced to the finder in an episode of Bones (coming up, don’t you worry!) – and discovered that the detective known as The Finder was ‘damaged’ by the wars in Iraq. It is this damage that allows him to miraculously see connections between seemingly unrelated things and solve crimes! Well thank God the man is a veteran!

At some point we need to talk about why so many shows are named by the adjective that most simply describes the activity of the lead, including ‘The Closer,’ and ‘The Ghost Whisperer,’  [Honestly, as an audience, I can take a little more depth of thinking ok Fox?]  but that is a whole other blog post.

Back to the point at hand – the predilection to create characters who have gone through something horrible in order to become the amazing detectives they now are. I touched on this a bit in my post about creating villains here, and the concept is the same – it’s ok to be motivated by something OTHER than trauma.

It’s why Bones is not on the list – despite having childhood trauma (Brennan was abandoned in her teens by her parents who turned out to be running from their criminal friends) – she actually earned the abilities that she uses to solve crimes by going to school and become the best Forensic Anthropologist in the country. So yes, her past does drive some of her passion, but her skills are something she nurtured over decades of schooling and experience.

I think that is a fair mix – everyone has baggage, some more than others, but for the love of God, it has to be ok to be a talented person in your field without the damage.

What do you guys think?

Changing relationships: How did Lestrade really feel about Holmes?

Holmes and Lestrad (from the BBC series)
Lestrade and Holmes (from the BBC series)

Interesting how writing about relationships between characters can feel so personal, and yet at the same time make me feel insecure. I think by Book 5 of course the relationship between Sergeant Michaels and Portia will have had to change. I mean, the girl has solved 3 cases that he has been involved in, and she has to have at least gained his grudging respect if not a tiny amount of admiration, but when can it move into reliance?

That might not even be the right word. What would you call the relationship between Holmes and Lestrade? Inspector Lestrade came to Holmes on cases that he found impossible to solve right? So that is a dependence of some kind. And Holmes relied on Lestrade for some of his more interesting cases, and access to mysteries that he might not otherwise have been allowed access to.

Up till now, the relationship between Portia and Michaels has been one of requirement for Portia and one of annoyance for Michaels. I think for her to truly become a consulting detective, she now has to become sought after by the Yard.

I think the best way to unite these two so Portia can get past her arrogance and Michaels can get past his disdain for someone pursuing a Holmesian-career is to give them a common enemy. Someone like Mycroft perhaps?