The Development of Character – A Case Study from ‘The Bluebell Informant’

Clever, loyal and moral. Vicious, arrogant and consistently haunted by her past.

These are the words I tend to use when describing the character of Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles, the main character of my upcoming novella, ‘The Bluebell Informant’. A detective with a sharp mind who relies heavily on her instinct to read a crime scene. One of the most successful detectives in the Police Service. And yet, for all of her brilliance in the field of crime, Giles is plagued by her past, forever at odds with the world around her. Her desire to always do what is right, frequently brings her at odds with her own superiors and has led this promising detective to start turning down the dark path of failure and ridicule.

But this picture of a detective simply caught in the wrong time, fighting against oppression and corruption against a world full of it, was not how I imagined Giles when I first put pen to paper. In many ways, in fact, the Giles that exists now is almost unrecognisable from the original Giles and, as I have continually drafted and redrafted, Giles has slowly turned from a name on a page to a fully-fledged character that I can quite believe is out there somewhere.

Giles

The character of Evelyn Giles was originally conceived for my first attempt at a crime novella over two years ago. In many ways, the character has always had the whiter-than-white moral code and the story of pitting the detective against a corrupt world is very much there in my original drafts. However, a couple of major differences exist between that version and the Giles that exists today – most notably the gender of the character.

In the novella, titled but never retitled ‘Giles’, David Giles was not only a man but was also of a higher rank than the current character. As a Detective Inspector, Giles had a certain amount of autonomy, but his team were largely part of corrupted world that he was trying to take down. Whilst this gave Giles a great deal of power to make his own decisions, it did make him somewhat boring to read about. There was little conflict, except with the officers that he knew to be corrupt, as he never found himself in a situation where he had to report on his activities or was ordered to stop what he was doing.

Needless to say, the novella never really got past the first few chapters and has languished ever since in the Box File of Woe.

But that was not to be the end of Giles as a character.

Obsession

A year later, and appearing this time as a woman and at the rank of Detective Sergeant, Evelyn Giles leapt on to the page, once more attempting to bring an end to corruption. But this time, the character found herself at odds with her superior, Detective Inspector Bolton, who has Giles on a tight leash following a botched operation. Forced to investigate domestic murders instead of pursuing those she really seeks to bring down, Giles finds herself investigating a murder where the chief suspect has the ability to bring down the corrupt officials that she is working against.

Although the character had returned, this version of Giles was not the focus of the story but was more of a sideshow to the character that she was chasing, known only as Adam. However, as I progressed further through the story, I began to realise that I was more interested in Giles’ plight rather than that of the man she was chasing and, in future drafts, Giles became the centre of the story with Adam dropping in and out of the narrative.

After several drafts, though, I found myself struggling to get to grips with the character. Even though her actions in the story were solid, I had little idea about what it really was that was driving her forward. At this point, Giles was still very much a name on a page and, without a more detailed backstory I had no way of understanding her.

The Bluebell Informant

The novella, ‘The Bluebell Informant’, was very much a product of my desire to work on Giles’ past. I wanted to explain her and the world around her, not only how she came to be watched so carefully by her superiors, but also how her environment came to be so corrupt.

The British General Elections gave me the basis of the plot of my story, and keeping a careful eye on the political back-and-forths appearing on my Facebook page provided me with the substance. I created a new story; a story of a failed politician who is accused of murder and a detective (Giles) who feels compelled to help him regardless of her ill-feelings towards the man.

It was only after I had finished the second draft that I began to get a real handle on the character, creating the detective that I described earlier. But it was at the beginning of the third draft that I finally made a decision that would completely alter the tone of the story.

Up until this point, ignoring the fact that I had already changed her name, I had always envisaged Giles as a British, middle-class, white woman. But with the development of The Bluebell Informant, I found myself at a crossroads where I could begin to question what I had always assumed about my character. I wanted to explain why my character had such hatred for the politician and yet would want to help him. The answer to second lay in the familiar trait of morality that had been present in the character from the off. But the first, I discovered, lay in her ethnicity.

And thus David Giles, the white, middle-class, male Detective Inspector, turned in to Evelyn Giles, the female Detective Sergeant whose mother was an asylum seeker who later married a British labourer. Over the course of nine drafts from three different stories, Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles has become a delight to write about.

And I hope you will have just as much pleasure reading about her.

To keep up to date on the progress of ‘The Bluebell Informant’, please subscribe to this blog for the latest news and articles about DS Giles and her world.

Advertisements

One thought on “The Development of Character – A Case Study from ‘The Bluebell Informant’”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s