I’ve been working on the character building theme for several months now and decided it’s time to take a quick break. But I don’t want to go too far off-topic. I’ve decided to use this post to analyze a character from another novel. She is Eve Dallas, the protagonist from JD Robb’s fabulous In Death series.
**spoiler alert** If you haven’t read the series but plan on doing so, do not read this post, as it will reveal too many secrets that Robb doles out over the course of the series.
JD Robb (aka Nora Roberts) created a magnificent character for the In Death series. It’s a cop procedural set in 2058 in New York City. Eve Dallas is a Lieutenant in the Homicide Division, and utterly driven to bring justice to anyone within her sphere of influence. As with all great characters, Eve has a unique personality, a backstory, and a character flaw that she must work through.
From the Myers-Briggs temperance types, Eve would be an ISTJ (introvert, sensing, thinking, judging), or The Inspector. She re-energizes with alone time, preferring her small apartment to a night-club when it’s time to unwind. That’s the introvert part of her. She’s not shy, though. She has no problem speaking to witnesses, suspects, or other cops. When dealing with incoming information, she relies on her senses: what she can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell She’s concerned with what is current and real. She remembers facts and details. For decision making, Eve is tough-minded, objective, and logical. She’s got to be impersonal when working on cases, because if she gets too close, she might lose her objectivity and fail. She desires order in her life, and likes things settled and organized. A murder board is one of her best tools for solving hard cases. To-do lists, forward momentum, and deadlines bring out the best in Eve. She always finishes her work before she plays (which is seldom).
Eve is driven to succeed, to “stand up” for the victim. Her demeanor is tough. She fears no one. She’s been trained in hand-to-hand combat and can handle her department issued service weapon, so she’s not afraid to walk into criminal-infested alleys to go after the guy she needs to interview. She keeps her body in top physical shape because her body is yet another tool to help her find justice, and it would be foolish to get fat and not be able to chase perps. In her personal life, she’s practical to an extreme. Her clothing is functional but not flashy or fashionable. Her apartment is no-frills but secure. Her vehicle is department issue and a beater that even the street punks wouldn’t try to steal. Her personal relationships are few, but she’s extremely loyal to these individuals and cherishes her time with them.
Her backstory is awesome and scary and completely logical, considering her career choice. She was born to a drug-addicted mother who didn’t want a child and a scam-artist father who wanted to use his daughter to make prostitution money. The mom took off shortly after giving birth. To get his daughter “ready” for her future career, her father abused her verbally, physically, and sexually. By the age of eight, the child feared everyone in authority, especially her father. One night, cold and hungry, Eve found a small piece of moldy cheese. She got a knife, cut off the mold, and ate the cheese. Her father came in and attacked her for eating without permission. He broke her arm, beat her bloody, then attempted to rape her. She grabbed that small knife and stabbed him to death. Then she walked several miles through the dark streets of Dallas, TX, where a policeman found her early the next morning. She refused to speak to anyone, so they gave her the name Eve Dallas. (She later learned that she’d never been given a name – her father called her “little girl”). She was shuffled from foster home to foster home until she reached legal age and attended the police academy.
With a backstory like this, it’s no wonder the adult Eve Dallas has such a zeal for justice and a deep desire to stand for the victim. She has several inner flaws, but they come out one at a time throughout the series. The first is an extreme form of isolationism. Eve gets up early every morning, works until late in the evening, then collapses when she’s too exhausted to continue. She has only one close friend: Captain Feeney, the man who trained her to be a great cop. He’s a father figure to her, but she doesn’t let him get too close. He doesn’t know everything about her past, just enough to understand why she makes such a great cop. Eve doesn’t let anyone get close to her. When finally forced to deal with this inner flaw, Eve allows herself to be vulnerable and opens up to another human. Another flaw she deals with is her past. She’d repressed most of what happened, and when book 1 opens, Eve remembers very little of her childhood. She has debilitating nightmares that bring some of it back, but she fights to keep these memories repressed. Over the course of the series, more and more of her past comes back to her and she’s got to deal with what was done to her and the fact that she killed her father.
With a character as realistic and sympathetic as Eve Dallas, it’s no wonder that the In Death series is wildly popular. To date, there are 35 novels, 8 short stories, and no end in sight for this spectacular series. That’s just my biased opinion, of course.