Quick and Dirty Guides, Writing

A Quick and Dirty Guide to Writing Epic Secret Agent Characters

Does this sound familiar? The new Jason Bourne movie just came out. Some TV channel I don’t get because we only get 10 channels is playing all of the other Bourne movies to get you in the mood. You’re sitting on the couch with your  laptop in your lap (because you can totally write your novel and watch a movie at the same time) and the thought strikes: I want to write a secret agent novel! I want to be the next Richard Castle!


…you’re right, he’s fictional. Okay, I want to be the next James Patterson!

So you close that file you’re working on and start a Brand New Scrivener Project (pause to take in that New Project scent–it’s your hard drive melting, by the way) and start thinking about your Hero. The guy or girl who’s gonna get all the cool gadgets, and drive the awesome Ducati, and shoot stuff with that gun he just pulled from, wait, where?

And then you realize you have no idea how to write a crime novel and know next to nothing about secret agents.

Now, you could do some research, but that takes time and effort when you could be deciding where and what your Hero’s tattoo is, and whether a Ducati’s too impractical when he probably needs a Porsche or maybe the new Ford GT.

via http://www.caranddriver.com/ford/gt
via http://www.caranddriver.com/ford/gt


…sorry, where were we? Oh yes!

The Quick and Dirty Guide to Creating Epic Secret Agent Characters

Ready? Grab your pens-that-are-actually-cool-gadgets-but-they-still-write and here we go!

  1. Is your hero’s first name either 1 or 2 syllables?
  2. Is his surname either 1 or 2 syllables?
  3. Does the total number of syllables equal 3?

If you answered yes to these questions, plan no further! You already have the perfect secret agent! Don’t believe me?

  • Ethan Hunt
  • Aaron Cross
  • Jason Bourne
  • Nick Fury
  • Jack Bauer
  • Jack Ryan
  • Jack Reacher (note to self: consider adding “Just name him Jack” as item 4)
  • Alex Cross
  • Maxwell Smart
  • George Smiley
  • Cody Banks
  • Cathy Gale
  • Emma Peel
  • Tara King
  • Penelope St. John-Orsini

…er, scratch that last one.

You’ll note that James Bond, perhaps the most famous secret agent of all, is not on this list. This is because Mr. Bond, being, as just mentioned, the most famous secret agent of all, does not have to conform to the rules set for mere mortals. Or maybe it’s because he drives an Aston Martin.

via astonmartin.com
This post may have just been an excuse to look at cars (via astonmartin.com)

And there you have it! Simply give your character a short, punchy name that’s easy to shout during fight scenes but also sounds good when his handler snaps at him in frustration, and you’re set!

So tell me–what are you going to name your secret agent?


This Quick and Dirty Guide brought to you by too much caffeine and cherry-picking the evidence to suit the needs of this very silly post. Carry on!



6 thoughts on “A Quick and Dirty Guide to Writing Epic Secret Agent Characters”

  1. The fact that you have included Maxwell Smart, Emma Peel, and — and! — Cathy Gale make very happy.

    I cosplayed Cathy Gale along with her more famous companions, all in a group, and not one person recognized me. It was hilarious.


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