Sunday, 11 October 2015
Thirteen days ago, on the 29th of September, I started up a new story from a little idea. I had just watched “Kingsman - the Secret Service” (a great spy movie, in my humble opinion) and thought about writing a little story about a female version of James Bond - a strong, independent female agent. As usually, it didn’t go according to plan.
Why do I give a date here? Because in thirteen days, I wrote over 56,000 words, an average of little under two chapters of about 3,000 words each a day. That’s about twice the length of anything I’ve successfully written so far. The muse grabbed me by the scruff of my neck, threw me over her horse, and galloped who-knew-where.
In the beginning, Jane complied well enough. For a very short time, she even was Jane Bond in my head, but then I decided that would be too obvious and changed her last name to Browne. Steven Quinn came in as replacement for ‘Q’ - hence his last name. But Steven complied less than Jane and she decided to go along with his lead. They handed me their own life stories, they handed me their abilities, they handed me their emotions. And the story turned. A little heist for the beginning, just to warm up. An agent specialised on breaking and entering with a front as rich heiress and a handler who did research and plotting in the background. A girl disappearing from foster care at the age of ten, after going through twenty foster homes in the course of seven years. A man who, albeit old by now, once rightfully earned the nickname ‘Reaper’ from his peers in secret service. An old villain, created long ago, waved her hand, bangles clinking, and demanded to be put on stage. Buried ideas for the story around her came along as well.
I forgot about James Bond, because Jane became a person of her own right. A woman who definitely didn’t fit the mould of female leads in the world of Hollywood. A woman who wouldn’t cry over a broken heart, but spread the ex-boyfriend’s brain generously over a nearby wall. A woman with a hidden power which was both a little super and a lot terrifying. Not ‘shaken, not stirred,’ but never broken, never bent. No waif, but an athletic woman keeping fit with kickboxing and parcours. No long waves of hair, but a practical pixie cut. Good for her interest in sports and an advantage in close-quarter fighting. No high heels, but sneakers, unless heels are a necessary part of the whole package.
Everyone else had to keep up with that. The handler who also is mentor and father figure to her, yet a man who can still scare people with a glare, if he desires. The organisation which is so secret even the MI6 doesn’t know about it. The fellow agents, especially the elite soldier. And, most of all, the enemy. I played that card carefully, as not to over-expose her. I gave her an army of henchmen, I gave her confidantes to act in her name.
Ideas and scenes flooded my mind and I started putting them in order. One heist, a second heist, a first meeting with the villain, some hard action, a little time lying low, more action - the story unravelled faster than I could write. It kept me working deep into the night, then pushed me out of bed again early in the morning. The moment my mind was awake enough to think about the story, it continued to write itself, reworking scenes I had not yet written, adding new scenes to the mix. My outline of 8 chapters (estimated at 2,500 words each) was completely eradicated. I kept adding chapters, pushing back scenes to make part for other stuff I absolutely needed. Chapters more often scraped 3,000 words than staying around 2,500. Agents designed as helpmates for one heist became a team for later in the game.
It was glorious and horrifying at the same time. I wrote a story more than twice as long as my usual work. Now I have to prepare it and to send it out into the world. And I think reading it again will be just as breathtaking as writing it was.