I have to admit something to you…I actually am a spy. I have actually chased bad guys through the streets of Calais, Bruges, Istanbul, Aleppo, etc, etc and I know what it feels like to be tortured for days on end. The life of a spy is a combination of adrenaline and boredom mixed in ridiculously lopsided measures depending on the day.
I remember this one time when I was in Monaco–in fact, it may have been the first time I was there. I was drunk and I mean seriously, falling down, shit faced drunk. This created a complication for me as I was supposed to be tracer tagging the western mistress of a certain prince from a certain royal family from a certain Persian Gulf nation. It wasn’t until I was following said mistress down the streets of Monaco that I said to myself, Self, you didn’t drink enough to be this drunk…you’ve been poisoned!
Imagine my distress. Suddenly western mistresses seemed insignificant compared to the soon to be late S.L. Shelton. Unlike Scott Wolfe, dedication to the mission has varying qualifiers:
Is someone in danger who might be important to the US and or an ally? Yes? then it’s a top priority.
Is some bleach blonde California escort going to spend the night with a Prince we want dirt on? That’s a tougher call, but much easier when my blood is getting thicker by the second.
Have you ever been so absorbed by a conversation or the sexy flirt across the bar that you weren’t paying attention to how much liquor you imbibed? Only to discover when you stood that, holy shit…I’m drunk! Yes? Then you know exactly how I felt–exactly–how–I–felt. That’s the basis of the fiction I just told you.
Writing what you know doesn’t mean you had to have flown space fighters through a worm hole, or had to snap the neck of a sentry (a very difficult thing to do by the way). Writing what you know simply means you apply your life experiences to the fiction you are weaving.
As a spy, lying was never difficult for me. I don’t ever remember being as deceptive in my life before being a spy (wink), but once I became one, I slipped into my sophistic skin as if I had been born to it…I was a born manipulator.
I’m not actually a spy (or am I?), but I’ve been drunk before. I’ve chased someone before (figuratively and literally). I’ve fired weapons, real ones…lots of different kinds, but even if I hadn’t, I’ve seen them fired, had toys, played paintball or shot a rubber-band across the office. The rest is just research.
I know what it feels like to want someone so bad that I can’t sleep at night, wondering if they are thinking of me. I know what that panicked moment of letting out all my air underwater feels like because I’ve been in swimming pools before (I’ve actually also been dropped into the water with combat gear weighing me down, leaving me wondering if I could hold on to it all and still take another breath eventually.)
My life has been pretty interesting so I have some insights into things most people haven’t, but then again, so have you. Writing is about conveying what you have felt in the format of an interesting story and doing it descriptively enough to draw your reader in.
He hit the water hard. It had been higher than he thought. As the air in his clothes began to press out at the edges, he sank faster. What was I thinking? he wondered as the weight of the water pressed his chest, realigning his focus on the seemingly simple task of holding his breath. I’m still sinking! How far is the bottom? But as his lake heavy jacket began tugging downward as if it had, of its own volition, decided it longed to be at the bottom, his focus began to wander. Do I have time to push off?
The slowly growing burn in his lungs and the strain on his chest muscles shifted his attention again. Am I past the half way point? Should I try swimming up? His breath caught in his throat, aching to be released. What if I’m already too far down?
When his feet touched the soft, silty bottom, its rotting branches and decaying leaves giving way to his weight and opening like a slimy maw around his shoes, he abruptly coughed out his dead air–I don’t have enough to go back up!
Tell the truth…you were holding your breath. 😉
No, I’m not a spy (or am I?), but I know things that spies know. I know enough of the feelings that a spy knows to tell the story. I know how powerful I feel when I’m standing above a foe, pointing a high powered weapon at his chest…and so do you. You just need to unleash it–let that dog off the chain. Don’t worry, it’s yours to command–at first, anyway.
The words are easy when you have the feeling…if not, there’s always a thesaurus close by. But the feeling…THAT is the real secret for writers and actors (and spies). Focus on the feeling. Close your eyes and feel it, and then open them and write. Follow your outline–close your eyes–feel it–then write; the secret to a great story.
S.L. Shelton is the author of an Amazon Bestselling Political Thriller Action Espionage Series, (The Scott Wolfe Series). Follow him on Twitter @SLSheltonAuthor or Facebook. He will love you for it. And if you like the posts, click like (Clicks are the secret way to get authors to write more.)