Partridge India Writing Tips| 5 Tips for Writing Spies and Secret Agents Part 2

Jan 23

Partridge India returns with Tips 3 to 5 for Writing Spies and Secret Agents.


Tip #3- Beneath the Lie is… Another Lie!!!
Spies and Secret Agents
During WWII, the French Resistance spied on and sabotaged the Nazis in France.

The world of intelligence and espionage is a world filled with lies, double-talk, proxies, deception, half-truths, shifting or even hidden loyalties. For spies, their world is one where nothing should be judged as it seems on the surface. A series of suspicious shipping data could be a part of larger plot or it could be a ploy to distract and lure away investigators. Information could be leaked to give the impression that an agency is targeting one enemy, when in fact they are moving against another enemy. During the height of the Cold War, it was not unheard for Western or Soviet spies to defect or turn traitor. But are they really turning? Or are they situating themselves as a double-agent, a mole for their home country? Or is there a third party involved? The world of spies and secret agents is one filled with paranoia, where every word and action needs to be studied, and motivations need to be constantly questioned.


Tip #4- Kinds of Spy Writing

Something you as an author will need to ask yourself is, ‘what kind of spy book are you writing?’ Ultimately spy writing tend to fall into one of two broad categories, realistic and sensational. Realistic spy writing draws upon political and socio-economic factors contemporary to your spy book’s setting. Realistic spy stories tend to be low ‘action,’ relying less on high speed chases and combat and more on political and investigative thrills. This does not mean there is no action, rather action has to be condensed or used in sparing amounts. Le Carre exemplifies this kind of spy writing, emphasizing geo-political climate and the prominence of administrative organization over the motivations of the individuals.


At the other end of the spectrum include the likes of Ian Fleming and Tom Clancy. Whereas in realistic spy writing where politics and bureaucracy drive the plot, in sensational spy writing personalities and individuals’ actions drive the plot. These are the James Bond and Indiana Jones stories, with larger than life personalities navigating politically charged backgrounds to combat the machinations of villains who are equally larger than life. Sensational spy writing includes equal parts intrigue and action, evoking the old adventure comics and serial novels


Tip #5- Eras of Espionage

Finally, when writing about spies, espionage, and the intelligence field, it is important to consider what time period within which you are writing. This is more than about what events are taking place or what technologies agents can access, vital as they are to shaping your writing. Different eras of espionage have different themes and movements that play prominent roles in shaping the world. These eras include the World War II Era, both before and after the war, The Cold War Era, and the Modern Era. While not the only time periods one can write the spy genre, the above three are the most prominent. The years before, during, and just after World War II saw burgeoning globalization, the death knell of some empires, the rise of the USA and the Soviet Union, and the birth of new nation-states. Spies and spy agencies will often find themselves plotting and acting against the Nazi regime, fascist sympathizers, and other Axis agencies.


Spies and Secret Agents
Surveillance Satellites are a powerful tool for the modern spy.


The Cold War has been especially popular as a setting for spy writing, as Le Carre, Fleming, and Robert Ludlum can attest with their works. Cold War set spy writing tend emphasize the quiet, behind-the-scenes conflict between Western allied powers and the Soviet Union. The closest conflict comes to being ‘open’ is often through proxy factions in other countries. Cold War spy stories work under nuclear fear, so spies, saboteurs, and assassins are the alternative to world-ending, open nuclear war. Modern Age spy writing often takes advantage of the newest forms of surveillance, hacking, a data analysis, making spy work both easier and harder. Modern spy writing is often about combating the efforts of terrorist organizations or rogue states, usually raising questions about ethics and personal freedoms.



Partridge India trusts this helps

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By Ian Smith

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