I think anyone who has read Thrice Burned by now knows that even our favourite detective gets jealous.
The truth is that despite her attempts to embrace her introverted nature, Portia manages to surround herself with people worthy of being jealous of.
Annie Coleson for example is a petite gorgeous fashionable blonde who has capture the attention of Brian … Portia’s best friend. Not only that but Annie seems to have this innate quality of making everyone who meets her LOVE her. Who wouldn’t be jealous of such a bundle of happy?
And then there’s Gavin Whitaker, a brilliant medical examiner who has worked his entire life to raise himself up from his poor orphan beginnings with none of the help that Portia has benefited from in her life. Neither the loving mother nor the rich grandmother were in his corner. No, Whitaker is a self-made man who on several occasions will show-up the young detective with his superior skills around death.
Oooh, this is a good daily prompt because I’ve been thinking about this a lot. As I get into my final edits with Jewel of the Thames, one of the scenes that became a sticking point between my editor and I brought up the startling idea in my mind: do they know that Portia is not ‘nice?’
The scene (without giving too much away) was meant to show how Portia figures out the methodology used by the jewel thief in her first case. It requires that she do some research on death and dead bodies.
When my editor pointed out that the scene was needed, I agreed right away, and I even had an idea in my head as to what I wanted to happen.
Problem is that when I delivered the scene, everyone, from my editor to my publishers, felt it was too macabre. Yes, some mice got killed, but it was off-camera and I swear, in the name of science!
This brings me back to the point of the daily post: Portia is NOT nice. She is actually far too analytical to be considered nice, and will often do and say things that are seen by the general public as cruel or unemotional.
That is who she is, and I had to call my publisher in a bit of a panic to make sure that they KNEW that. Because if they didn’t… whoo boy were they in for a surprise in book 2!
Turns out they were aware of it, loved Portia for that facet of her personality, but encouraged me to find a less-PETA-opposing way of demonstrating her science over sentiment personality.
Phew! Someday, after publication in March I think, I will post the original scene and see what you guys think (and hope that PETA doesn’t notice).
This meant that poor Portia lost her hearing and her ability to speak in an explosion (wrote that scene last week – very fun to write!).
What this also means is that Portia no longer stands out in a crowd… or at least not the way she likes to.
Growing up, my protagonist was an introvert; a girl who preferred reading a book in a corner to socializing with friends. Upon arriving in London and taking up the mantle of Consulting Detective from her grandparents, she begins to step out from the crowd and discovers she likes being seen as special. She develops relationships and starts up a business based on her special abilities that do set her apart from the crowd.
But in this latest casebook, I have taken away two of the abilities that (obviously) contribute to her detective skills, and she is struggling to compensate for them. In the meantime, her business is falling down around her ears, she has withdrawn from College and she is again retreating into herself and trying to back away from people and society.
It’s going to be a fight (my detective is stubborn, much like me) but I am going to find a way to bring her back out in front.
So as you might know, I only take on a Daily Prompt for this blog when I think it pertains to my characters and because of the last casebook I just finished writing, and am now transcribing, I can participate in this one!
The Prompt: Think of a topic or issue about which you’ve switched your opinion. Why the change?
In ‘No Matter how Improbable‘ I introduced a new character named Dr. Heather Olsen — she will turn out to be significant to the case Portia is struggling through, and not to spoil anything, but to Portia’s life.
But the reason I want to talk about her for this daily prompt is that Portia does a complete 180 in her opinion of the woman. Our detective starts from a place of suspicion and curiosity, moves quickly to resentment and anger and finally, to understanding and appreciation.
How does Portia change her mind so dramatically?
I would hope in the same way most of us do when we start a relationship on the wrong foot, or by elevating first impressions and sometimes misconceptions above experience with the person. I have always been a person who believed in first impressions, but only in the most positive sense.
I like it when I ‘hit it off’ with someone right away, I do take that to mean we have a connection that can grow into a friendship. But as we all know, the opposite can happen – you can meet someone and something about them that first time just rubs you the wrong way. Or you hear people talking about that person before you even meet them and that sours your first actual chat with them.
It is only in getting to know the doctor, in seeing her in action, and in finally admitting the value she brings to the investigation that Portia changes her mind. Portia is a stubborn character, who relies so much on her logic and inductive skills that she doesn’t easily move past them or change her mind about the first data she is presented. It is a testament to Olsen as a character (and I better make sure it’s written that way) that she is able to move Portia and become an ally.
As always, I only take on a Daily Prompt for this blog when I think it pertains to my characters, and in this case, it very much does.
Portia Adams is not what you would consider normal, except in the most visual sense. She looks normal, she dresses ‘normal’ for her time, and she doesn’t seek to stand-out in any way (as to do so would be detrimental to her chosen profession).
Her mother Marie was normal in every way, and tried hard to make her daughter ‘normal’ in San Francisco for almost two decades. Their relationship was strong despite this struggle, both understanding that the other acted out of love, and their closeness was the only true friendship Portia experienced while living in the States.
Now, living in England, Portia has new friends (which is a new normal for her) and her best friend Annie has taken her mother’s place in the quest for making Portia more normal.
So here is Portia’s take on ‘Normal’ – a necessary marker from which to measure the scenes around her, but in no way important on a personal level. She doesn’t actively fight being normal, and will on occasion disguise herself to ‘fit in’ for her own purposes, but being part of the crowd will always be driven by a case rather than a feeling of security for Portia Adams.
As probably best evidenced by when I am writing this, I do my best work in the mornings. But like a few other of the respondents to this Daily Post (I read all your posts my friends, another thing I like to do on Saturday mornings) I often get some fantastic ideas in the middle of the night, which I scribble down blindly in the notebook I keep beside my bed.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say parents especially crave those few minutes in the morning when the house is slightly quieter… slightly less chaotic to get their thoughts in order and perhaps hammer out another scene that has been bouncing around in their heads.
For example, I return forthwith to my friend Portia, and regroup with her at King’s College where I last left her. Have a great day my friends!
Today, I choose to point out someone whom I don’t think gets enough attention, and who is in my mind when I write scenes for Mrs. Jones, grandmother to my protagonist Portia Adams.
That person is Dame Maggie Smith.
Dame Smith is one of those people who is best known for probably the least of her accomplishments – that of playing Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter series.
But in addition to that, this fine woman has won two Academy Awards, a Tony Award, SAG awards, and has performed on-stage for over 60 years.
Add to that her numerous charitable works, the fact that she defeated breast cancer, creates her own art work and you have an incredibly well-rounded role-model for women everywhere.
Despite all her accomplishments in the 77 years she has been on this earth, she manages to be (by all accounts) humble, down-to-earth, and open to learning. So there you are, my hero Dame Maggie Smith.