Monday, September 23, 2019

On Balancing Characters (Too Secret Service)

Too Secret Service
Part 1
Twenty years ago (give or take a few months) I had heard that there was an operations department that investigated threats against the President. Wouldn't it be interesting to have a Secret Service agent as an action hero? (Trust me, I was not a fan of Brad Thor at first. There are days I'm still not).

The personality came easy. The Secret Service always struck me as more straight-laced and uptight than old school FBI (when Hoover had his agents as largely lawyers and accountants). I gave him a backstory that made him even more tightly wound. Though that would be cut out in further edits.

Just to make his life growing up more difficult, I gave him the name of the Atlanta Kidnapper, serial killer Wayne Williams.

The personality of his family came easier. Basically, my hero would be the most uptight, tense fellow of a fairly calm family. His father, an army Ranger, is far more laid back. His brother was a Catholic priest. You may remember them from A Pius Man. They were ... around.

But in all things, there must be balance. I wanted someone who was his personal equal and opposite. Wayne was a male Secret Service agent, therefore she had to be an assassin (she had to be CIA, I figured it was the most likely agency to have assassins). She would be relaxed and casual about her job. 

She would be named Catherine Miller.

Catherine came from Catherine Bell (pictured right), an actress I had a crush on at the time (please recall, I was a teenager at the time), from a TV show called JAG. (Oh Lord, I can't imagine the flak that show would get today.)

The last name of Miller ... was grabbed at random. My family insisted I must have stolen it from David Niven's explosive expert in The Guns of Navarone. I can't say that I recall it. But I will highly recommend the film (preferably on a double bill with Where Eagles Dare).

Too Secret Service
Part 2
Much to my surprise, as I reread them recently, I never made either of them a Mary Sue. (I was surprised because I was a teenager, and the books still held up). When I put Catherine up against someone twice her size, she either killed them from behind, shot them in the head, or spent a lot of time dodging. When Wayne was being shot at, he had body armor. 

I wanted both to be athletic. I had been impressed with ballerinas who made action stars, because I liked a lot of the moves that I thought of as "double jump kicks" were just tour jete (you do not want to know how much research I had to do to work back to the actual name). I wanted Wayne to do a lot of impressive melee, so he had taken ballet -- Mikhail Baryshnikov's was the definitive Nutcracker in my household. With Catherine, I made her a gymnast so I could have her do utterly insane things as well. 

He came up to people and confronted them directly. She was a bit of a shape shifter who liked her disguises.

She liked guns, he liked knives.

And damn, these two just kinda fit.

Yes, I was a romantic idiot even then.

But it was fun balancing the two characters, and making sure one didn't top the other. They each had different skill sets and made up for each other's deficiencies. 
Anyway, I had a great time writing this books. I suspect you'll enjoy them, too.

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