Character Building: My Spies

Like many characters, mine started to form after observing real people. In the case of my Korean spies, the characters formed after I watched several episodes of South Korea’s “Idol Army.” It takes a special kind of humor to get that show, and it cracked me up. The people on the show made a huge lasting impression with me, and introduced me to Korean customs and views I was unfamiliar with. With fresh inspiration in my head, I took to writing.

The biggest issue with my spies was to make them unique to each other. It’s easy to do this with, say, two characters. I like to make things difficult for myself. Luckily, characterization saved the day.

Each of the spies developed a pretty distinct viewpoint and personality, which is one of the reasons their team works as well as it does. These differences started emerging in a way I didn’t expect…through the dialogue. The guys’ personalities are showing through what they say and how they say it. The distinctions are also clear in how they each interact with the point of view character, Mysty, and their habits and vehicles of choice:

The trend-setter of the group, nicknamed Talkers by Mysty, is the only male spy with a sports car (a red one at that) and constantly chews gum and uses American slang. He is always looking to prove to Mysty how “Americanized” he can be. Talkers and Kind Eyes bump heads often.

Tall, a former gang member, talks very properly and quietly, but is known to be “trigger-happy” and loses his temper at times. He is nice to Mysty but rejects most of American culture. He is also the most sympathetic to Kind Eyes. Tall is very loyal to those he deems trustworthy. He has a motorcycle.

Kind Eyes is a former feral child. He is 20 but often looks at the world in child-like wonder. He distrusts most people, but bonds immediately to Mysty and becomes her “spy shadow.” A few of the other spies suggest that he may be slightly mentally or emotionally handicapped. He doesn’t have a vehicle.

Dark Circles is the leader of the team. He is very no-nonsense, but Mysty feels that it may be a front. He rarely speaks and tends to keep to himself. He is not very accepting of Mysty, or any Westerners, but tries to at least be polite and assist her. He is seen as cold and distant, but fair. Dark Circles has a black Mazda 6.

Gi captures Mysty’s heart from the beginning. He is a balance between the over-eager Kind Eyes and the cold Dark Circles. Gi prides himself on not getting emotionally connected, and this is crucial for their mission. Gi is not overly eager to learn western ways, but he is curious about Mysty and her views. He has a motorcycle.

Every aspect of these characters was selected to further reveal their personalities and set them apart from each other.

Look at your own characters in this light. Can they be interchanged easily? If you leave just the dialogue, can you tell who is speaking? Make character profiles; are they distinct enough? The hardest question of all: if the characters are not distinct enough, are you willing to sacrifice one (or more) of them for the good of your story?

I’m examining my five spies just as closely. 😉

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