One of the things you learn as a writer is that it is always better to show your readers something rather than tell them about something. I never really give a clear physical description of Pieter van der Donk. He has a big role to play in Book Zero: Crabbit House, and is one of the first characters we meet in the opening chapter of Book One: Blackhope Scar. He is described as “The Dutchman” and he whines and cowers and complains beside “The Dark Watcher.” We learn that he is a “mommy’s boy” and that he doesn’t like to feel uncomfortable. When Finnley and Hadley see him at the Seattle Center from a distance he is slouching and shuffling behind Marie-Claire. She is clearly the boss and she treats him with disdain. He shares a hotel room with Marie-Claire. In Chapter XIV How to Annoy a French Poodle, in Blackhope Scar Wullie remarks that:
There were two beds in the room. Her side was all neat and tidy with clothes folded on the bed and perfume in the air. But his side of the room smelled like the inside of a rugby player’s oxter after a long afternoon sprachling around in a muddy scrum. The man’s a slob. There were socks and towels lying on top of pizza boxes, ketchup stains on the pillows, and a crumpled pile of receipts on his bedside table.
So we learn that he is a slob, eats junk food, and that he is a coward. He is a reluctant “bad guy.” He has a curious interest in things around him and is hard to dislike entirely. We learn that he wears oversized boxer shorts which Wullie uses as a parachute. When we meet him again at Kirkwall House in Edinburgh, in Chapter XXVIII, Den of Snakes, Marie-Claire gives us more background information:
Pieter van der Donk was a flabby, whining lump of jelly with no backbone. But his connection to the diamond centers in Amsterdam, Antwerp, and Johannesburg had been a great help in getting their jewelry business going. And it was van der Donk who had discovered the existence of these strange living rock-creatures in a South African diamond mine. They were unpleasant things to deal with but many of them held grudges against humans, and Marie-Claire had used that to her advantage. Besides, they could do some amazing things that humans couldn’t. On balance van der Donk had proved to be useful, and he was easy to dominate to her advantage.
I hope that by showing you how Pieter acts, what he says, what he likes to eat, and how other people describe him that you can make the rest up in your mind so that you have your own picture of what he is like. He is a rather hapless crook. I find it hard to really dislike him entirely. Here is how our talented artist, Brianna Osaseri, thinks he looks like.