On Writing ‘Witty’ Spies

On Writing ‘Witty’ Spies

I remember watching the trailer for that last Bourne movie, Jason Bourne. Do you? There was a line in it that super bugged me, and at the time I didn’t think about why:

“Could be worse than Snowden.”

Okay, so the movie is being timely. A professional spook makes a colloquial comparison to a big thing that happened in the real world. Why would that bug me?

It’s even an obvious storytelling tool because:

  1. You want the audience to have some stakes in mind.
  2. You want your professionals to appear professional.

So what’s the deal?

I think this trope irks me for two reasons:

  1. Normal people shouldn’t be able to understand colloquialisms in a specialized world like that. If we did we’d all be spies. We’re not spies. We’re watching a movie with fast karate action and motorcycles.
  2. The lack of emotion that come with blasé readings is dull. This is, yes, once again, proof that when characters act blasé (or professional, which is even less interesting), it is easy for the moment to read as boring.

Incidentally, I can think of one colloquial spy line in a movie that I still think is good, and that’s this bit from Goldeneye.

So why this one and not the other? Can you hear it? See how it’s used in the scene?

  1. It’s a quip – an answer to a question from an underline. No one is talking to their boss.
  2. It’s funny.
  3. And the great big one: The colloquialism we relate to is a huge dig to the Americans. We only get it because we are normal people. Oh, M is saying the Americans are so dumb that we the audience can actually understand the joke.

Words last week: 0/5,000

Holy smokes, what happened? Honestly, I got waylaid by life and outlining. Good things came out of it though. New projects, renewed focus.

Goal words for year: 18/120k

Blog posts this year: 10/52

Newsletters this year: 0/24 

Books read: 2/20 

Workouts last week: 3/4

I’m being a little gracious and giving myself a hotel room workout that was fairly light. But I did work on pullup progressions, so. Also, finished off the Open with a workout where I was doing the wrong number of reps. Ah, well, I’m back. What’s next?