The world of spies is full of intrigue, and as curious beings, craving and driven to know the world’s unknowns, people bite into the genre.
Spy thrillers are literature materials centering around secret agents or spies working in espionage. These stories typically follow agents working against time to prevent national attacks or expose the enemy’s harmful plans against humanity to save them. Spies are characterized as highly intellectual critical thinkers who can remain calm under demanding situations. They are very adaptable, having the ability to stay hidden or blend in whatever environment they are exposed to.
When one thinks of spies, one thinks of James Bond or Jason Bourne. They think about the exciting infiltration of heavily guarded buildings without anyone noticing, naturally changing outfits to avoid getting caught, and most importantly, the cool gadgets agents use during their missions. Picturing these characteristics and scenarios is easy when people have long been exposed to spies. However, putting them into narratives is an entirely different story. Writers need long hours of consideration when it comes to spy novels. They need heavy planning regarding the details.
1. Identify the Storyline
Readers and the general audience alike have been exposed to spy novels. Hence, they already know what to expect and might even be able to predict the natural progression of these stories. Someone gets a mission, faces all these challenges, reaches a defeating point, yet still succeeds – it’s a never-ending predictable cycle.
For plotlines to work, writers must add twists to their stories, just as Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity tweaked the spy format by making the main character forget his identity – a small change yet significant to the story’s plot.
2. A Plausible Main Character
Spy thrillers are different from fantasy novels. This means writers need to make their characters as normal as they can. They are spies for a reason – nobody should know that they’re spies. They should have a plausible background and life outside their job. They face the same problems ordinary people face, no matter how great they are as spies. For instance, the CIA field agent on The Secret Empress by Frank Heller, who now works as an entrepreneur, faces bankruptcy problems. It’s something one can’t associate with great spies, but it works as a plot point.
3. Consider the Overall Environment
The environment plays a massive part in the thrill or mystery of spy stories. Believability is essential for these novels. Writers need to research what they are writing about, especially if they include or draw inspiration from real government agencies. One wrong detail can throw readers off the story.
4. Construct Equipment
Additionally, when one speaks of the environment in these novels, it doesn’t only include their setting. The construction of tools is essential in these stories since spies mainly depend on them to succeed in their missions. Writers can base on existing equipment or create their own. But when creating one, they must ensure its believability concerning the story’s timeline. Writers can also read news about espionage or get inspiration from earlier spy novels.
5. Create a Killing Protagonist
A good spy story is as only good as its villain. If stories don’t provide highly challenging antagonists, then the story won’t be able to progress any more significantly than its starting point. Antagonists create excitement and an edge to the story. They also give protagonists their depth and possibly even pain.
Given the spies’ background and wit, spy novels must have an equally incredible protagonist – someone able to predict the main character’s moves. From Richmond Valentine to Le Chiffre, these characters get engrained in the readers’ minds as the protagonists do. Hence, plotting and planning their story in equal detail with the main character is essential.
6. Utilize Literary Device
One of the best ways to ensure that readers remain glued to the book is by keeping them on edge. Writers should use devices such as cliffhangers, plot twists, or dramatic irony – characters’ actions have different meanings for the audience and among themselves – to keep readers’ attention drawn to their story.
7. Visualize Action Scenes
What’s the use of excellent spy equipment and an intelligent spy if the writer won’t put them to good use through their narratives? When thinking about the story, writers need to start thinking in pictures – as if they’re watching a movie they’re directing. This can help them narrate and describe the imagery better, thus helping their readers picture the scenes better.