NaNoWriMo 2007: Drawing Back the Curtain, Part 2 – Characters

How Not To Grow A Beard: Day 04
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Though the cast of my novel-in-progress is incomplete (Emma didn’t have a name, a personality or defined relationship with any of the characters but Bannister Proulx until this afternoon), I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the cast so far. The only character who had a name (or even a role) before I began writing is Bannister Proulx, and although he is mentioned by name in the first line I wrote, he does not appear until three or four scenes later. Some of the details about these characters could be considered spoilers.

Bannister Proulx is a detective who is respected for his ability to bring a fresh, if somewhat unusual perspective to cases that have proven troublesome for the Cleveland police. Proulx has only resided in the city for a handful of years, and details about his life prior taking residence at Number Eleven Wilmonton Boulevard are few and far between. I tend to think of Proulx as a hybrid of Sherlock Holmes and Fox Mulder (or perhaps Carl Kolchak); although he uses observation, logic and deductive reasoning to solve crimes, he is no stranger to mysticism, the occult and the supernatural. In addition to being a professional detective, Bannister is an amateur magician; he is particularly fond of so-called parlor tricks and quite adept at sleight-of-hand.

Proulx is the only character whose name I don’t plan on changing at some point. Most, if not all of the remaining characters have placeholder names while I’m writing the first draft.

Chief Inspector Timothy Remington ((For the moment, I’m utilizing the British system of police ranks, which may or may not have been used in Cleveland in the mid-nineteenth century. I don’t really plan on changing this; if I discover that it wasn’t common to use the British ranks, I’ll chalk it up to artistic license. It is possible that Remington’s rank may change in future drafts.)) is investigating a series of murders when the novel begins. He has enlisted the aid of Bannister Proulx in the hopes of solving the homicides before the killer strikes again. In the two years since Proulx arrived in Cleveland, Remington has employed the detective as a consultant on a number of investigations, each time with very good results.

Sergeant Michael Shaughnessey is a friend and subordinate of Chief Inspector Remington.

Thaddeus von Braunhoffen III is the newly-elected mayor of Cleveland. A man of considerable appetites and questionable allegiences, von Braunhoffer gained the office of the mayor under what many feel were extremely dubious circumstances. The mayor has recently begun pressuring the police to discontinue using Bannister Proulx as a consultant on murder investigations.

Emma Caldwell is Bannister Proulx’s assistant, protégé and partner. Someone (and I’m afraid I don’t recall who at the moment; probably Mick Bradley) requested that the “Scully” to my “Mulder” be a red-headed woman, so that’s how I’m writing her. I haven’t really decided whether she’ll be the skeptic or whether she’ll be as fascinated by all things supernatural as Proulx is. In an interesting development, it does seem that something about Miss Caldwell agitates Chief Inspector Remington, and not in an entirely unpleasant manner.

In addition to the named characters, there are a number of bit players, including Remington’s coachman, two constables who guard the house on Ridgebury Lane and the two murdered women in the house. The cast will be growing considerably in the days to come.

Tomorrow: Plot and background stuff.

7 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo 2007: Drawing Back the Curtain, Part 2 – Characters”

  1. I like the characters. I would advise you to be very careful in writing the Emma Caldwell character. It would be tempting to make her quite smart and have fun with the Mulder-Scully interplay aspect but I imagine women didn’t have as much education in the early part of that century. Not to say there weren’t any smart women, I’m just worried you’ll give her qualities that might have been in short supply in that day and age.

    I don’t think you have to worry too much about the police ranks and such. If you decide to be historically accurate at some later date, you can always do the research and find out how Cleveland police forces did their ranks. Gotta love the Internet. I’m sure the information is out there somewhere.

    Sounds like you’re on quite a roll! Keep it up.

  2. Emma Caldwell is, indeed, going to be a tricky character to write. She definitely has those qualities that might have been in short supply in the mid-nineteenth century, which provides no end of vexation where some of the male characters are concerned, especially on the part of Sergeant Shaughnessey, who strongly disapproves of not only the idea that Proulx apparently considers Miss Caldwell his peer, but of the fact that an unmarried woman lives in the same house as a just-as-unmarried man. In fact, Proulx admits early on that Emma’s knowledge of all things anatomical is superior to his own.

    Emma’s first name, by the way, was borrowed from one Emma Wallace, a pianist and singer who just happens to have red hair.

  3. Interesting. Perhaps there’s an fascinating little backstory to how Emma gained her anatomical knowledge. Stuff like that usually takes up a few pages and can be good for really bringing a character to life.

  4. Scandal and naughtiness!!

    Unmarried people, living together in the same home?!? Shocking!

    I’ll echo Rob’s sentiment about putting the pages in to help give Emma more depth as a character. The concept of “sexy redhead partner who’s smart” could potentially be tweaked with “partner who’s actually more observant than protagonist, but is in denial”. Why not take the Scully-meme and crack it over your knee? She wasn’t stupid, she just didn’t seem to notice anything that Mulder saw.

    Emma can be exposed to these otherworldly things and come up with her own explanations for them.

    Just some further fuel for your writing-fire. Take it or leave it.

    -more words, better sentences-

  5. I’ll be digging into both Emma’s and Bannister’s backgrounds at some point during the story, as the new mayor of Cleveland has a bug up his backside about Proulx and has already requested whatever files Remington may have regarding the detective. The mayor isn’t going to be happy about what Remington has (which isn’t a lot), so he’s going to launch his own investigation into where Proulx came from, etc. That will logically extend to Emma.

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