4 Sept 2013

NaNo Prep 2013 - The Urban Fantasy Spy Thriller

Now that the Traveller cast is finally out of the way, time to move on.  NaNoWriMo is only two months away and I need to work out a couple more ideas to see which one has the promise to get me through November and leave me with a story that I think will carry me through the month with something to polish and, maybe, hopefully, submit.for publication somewhere.

This time around, the idea is an urban fantasy.  Inspired by the Grigori Legacy series by Linda Poitevin, the story revolves around two characters.  One is a spy working for, as of right now, the British Secret Service, formerly known as MI-6.  The other is a demon.  Let the wacky hijinks ensue!

Well, maybe not.  If I'm going to cross urban fantasy with spy thrillers, then turning the work into a comedy isn't going to be a good idea.  There may be humour, but that humour will flow naturally from the characters and situation.  The story should be remind people of the more serious 007 stories and of Bourne.  Fortunately, I've read and watched serious spy thrillers, so I can work in the atmosphere.  Another issue, though, is that the Cold War is over.  Espionage has changed greatly since the Eighties.  The traditional boogeymen, the Soviet Union and China, aren't the threats they used to be.  The focus is now on terrorism and organized crime, not foreign agents trying to steal state secrets.

This is where my spy comes in.  She works for an agency, charged with gathering information.  Anyone who has watched Burn Notice will happily point out that most of the info gathering is done by cut-outs*, not by actual agents.  Even the people processing the signal and Internet intelligence are more likely to be contractors* instead of agents in the employ of the agency**.  Corporations are more likely to have employees doing "market research" than governments are right now.***  Despite all that, I need my agent working for the agency; freelancers don't have to deal with the paperwork or the supervisor asking difficult questions.

The agent is professional.  She worked her way up from entry level to a position of responsibility.  She started in signal intelligence (SIGINT) and expanded to using the Internet to intercept data.  Over her career, she gained responsibilities and managed to get assigned to missions and investigations that required getting out of her office.  She even has her own stable of cut-outs that she uses to build data models.  As far as she's concerned, the supernatural is a fiction to scare off the superstitious.

Over on the supernatural side, the demon.  Some time ago, I mentioned that he said I could call him "Jack".  Obviously, that's not his real name.  Names have power.  Nicknames don't.  Jack is a big believer in letting others do his work for him.  All he needs to do is nudge at the right moment.  Jack is going to be an enigma in the story, but I do need to work out his motive.  He has one, and it's a biggie; Jack has sympathy for the creatures on Earth.  Someone has to take their side, and he has yet to meet anyone on his or his opposition's that does.  Besides, humans are so amusing, and if they're destroyed, how is he going to keep watching Supernatural?  The only thing I know for sure about Jack is that he lies.  He lies convincingly.  There's no power behind it; he uses sheer charm.  What would be the more dangerous demon, the four-metre tall red-skinned horror with a flaming glaive spitting acid, or the one that looks like an average person telling you that if you just trust him, everything will work out?

The two lead characters, Jack and the spy, will have conflicts.  Jack doesn't care about the agent or her people; he has a bigger problem and, at best, they're useful only if they help him in his mission.  The spy feels the same way, but Jack is underfoot, in the way, and completely unreadable.  The question remains - do I hook them up, or do I just tease the reader?

Meanwhile, the antagonist is busy.  The villain of the story is the catalyst.  All three will appear in the opening act of the story, but it is the villain who forces Jack and the spy to get involved.  The leads have to work together to try to stop the dastard.  The villain?

An angel.

Let's go back a bit, to the Nativity.  The Archangel Gabriel appeared before Mary and said, "Fear not."  Odd thing for someone to say to people he's appearing before.  Except that angels are scary beings.  If one gets it into his head that humanity is a danger and goes rogue, what can stop him?

Hopefully, a spy and a demon.

I now have my key characters, and supporting characters can be determined as needed.  The setting is now.  But, well, where?  I could use Ottawa, but the city really doesn't have the levels of organized crime I need for the first chapter, and the presence of embassies from around the globe would add an extra element of complexity that isn't needed.  (An Angel storming through the American embassy would involve a response that makes overkill look lenient.)  If I move the setting over to Europe, there's an added flair of exotic destinations being menaced.  The agent's home country will determine her name; even limiting her to an English speaking country like the UK, the US, or Canada, the feel of her name would change to reflect her nationality.  If she's from the UK, Gemma; from the US and she becomes Stephanie; and as a Canuck, she becomes Sarah.  Nationality would then factor into personality to a degree.

So, I have my characters, a rough setting, a good idea of the first chapter, a rough idea of the plot, a mix of investigation and action, and this may be ready to go for November.

* For those familiar with Burn Notice, what Michael did for the CIA before being burned.  Long answer, people who are willing to provide information and do legwork but don't work for the agency.  They may not necessarily know who they are working for, depending on how the handler chooses to work with the cut-outs.
** I hearty wave to those of you doing your jobs right now reading this blog post.  I'm sure my browsing history makes for an odd read.
*** And the ads Google will give me just from the research for this post will be interesting.

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