One of the common problems with developing a character is the temptation to be make someone, especially someone a central character is involved with, perfect.
That’s something I’m having to fight with Jewell. Because she is based on a the woman I love more than life itself, it’s tempting to look at her through rose colored glasses. In the first three novels, we see her as having a few small chinks in her armor, but not many.
Well, one way to overcome that is mess with the character.
One of the rules of giving a character depth is simple. Give them pain.
Everyone has some pain in their life. It could be physical pain, it could be emotional pain. It could be both.
Pain shapes how we think and react. What that pain does to us oftentimes tosses in contradictions to how we think and view the universe, as well as how we react to it. Hang onto that for minute.
In On a Pale Horse, her armor has a big stain on it. One of the things Will has always admired about her is she has things so together. She’s organized to the umpteenth degree and as he starts to pick up the mantle of command at the sheriff’s office, he calls on that strength to help him do so.
Its while they’re headed for lunch that we start to see that this degree of organization is in response to something from years before. While in route to lunch, Will is called on to back up his new under-sheriff Pam Harmon and detective Tom Sowards on a domestic.
Upon arrival, a man outside orders the law enforcement officers off his property. Will says they’ll leave only after he sees the man’s wife. Realizing that he’s been caught, the man reacts by attacking. He charges not Will or Tom, but Pam. Thinking that she’s a woman, she’s therefore the weakest link (not to mention this man hates women).
Pam takes him down easily, but Jewell jumps into the fray. Despite Will’s instructions to stay in the car, she jumps into the fight and helps keep the man down till he can be handcuffed.
Only afterwards does Will see her trembling. Not in fear of what she’d done, but from barely controlled rage. We begin to get backstory which will slowly come out over the course of the next several novels. Having been an abused wife, and sexually assaulted as a child, she clung to her faith to get her through it all. She also developed her “organizational mania” as a means to have some control over a world she saw as absolute chaos.
Jewell also counsels people. Here she helps people find clarity, and is missing the point that she herself has some issues she needs to sort out.
She has also felt cheated of a justice she feels she deserves, and hence her involvement in her husband’s department.
In the coming books, that will at once be a blessing and a curse as she becomes a part of the events to find justice and help confront an organization that views people as little more than resources to be used. She’ll confront her own demons, and discover how to use them to survive.