Too Perfect For Fiction

When writing mysteries or thrillers, one of the biggest challenges is to come up with that literary black swan: The Original Protagonist.

We all try. Almost none of us succeed.

Lee Child’s Jack Reacher reaches so many of us because he was sui generis: One of a kind. Bigger than everyone else in the room. Tougher. Smarter. Off-the-charts good with romance (he never leaves any town without having made some leggy lawyer tumble into his motel room bed). Not enough? Oh, he’s a math prodigy.

Of course I read everything Child writes! Who doesn’t want to spend their days with Reacher?

I write about a strong female protagonist, Daria, is an ex Israeli soldier and spy, who likes to brawl with the big boys and whose idea of strategy is: Leap toward trouble, then see what happens. (Oh, and I’ll match her rating against Major Reacher’s any day of the week, thank you very much.) (Full discloser: She doesn’t do math.)

So that’s our grail quest: To come up with absolutely smashing, original, likable, lovable, adorable, unkillable, unbeatable, unbelievable-in-a-good-way and absolutely believable protagonists, whom you, dear reader, will swoon over.

Thriller writers of America: Please meet Tess Bridgeman and Elizabeth George.

Now, please get thee hence to the nearest tavern and order a double. Stat. And keep ’em coming.

Dr. Bridgeman and Ms. George are the subject of a wedding engagement announcement on Aug. 31 in The New York Times. And all across the nation, thriller writers shook their fists at the gods of character development and sobbed mightily.

None of us – not a one of us – coulda thunk up a better couple as protagonists than this.

Doctor Tess, 33, is a deputy legal adviser to the National Security Council, on assignment from the State Department. Ms. Elizabeth, 33, is a legal counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and is on assignment from the National Security Division of the Justice Department.

(“How was your day, sweetie?” “… Oh, you know, same-old…”)

Wait, it gets better. (Lee Child, call your bartender.)

They are – or so the black-and-white mug in the Times tells us – adorable. Plus, the words “sume cum laude” and “magna cum laude” are sprinkled throughout the announcement like the trendiest of sea salts.

Wait. It gets even better.

What Justice of the Peace did they dig up to perform the wedding? How about Theo McKee, Chief Judge of the U.S. Third Circuit. (“Is there anyone present who believes these two should not be wed? Delaware? Siddown, I’ll deal with you later.”)

Wait. It gets even freaking better! (I’m now sitting next to Lee Child, and we’re both making the universal sign for a double.)

Elizabeth George (yes, that is the same name as a wildly popular mystery writer; because, you know, synchronicity…) came to this lofty career and swoony romance having been raised by her mom, a second-grade school teacher at La France Elementary in Pendleton, S.C., and her dad, owner of the Rapid Lube outlet over in Anderson, S.C.

That’s it: Gay, gorgeous, gifted, over-achieving, overly intelligence, overtly adorable … and the most wonderfully, flat-out American success story I’ve read in ages!

Lee? Pass the pretzels, mate.


(Note: Thanks to my friend, Hank Phillippi Ryan, for letting me share this column on the FEMMES FATALE blog.)

About danahaynes

Dana Haynes is the author of ICE COLD KILL (2013), BREAKING POINT (2011) and CRASHERS (2010) from Minotaur and St. Martin's Press.

Posted on September 26, 2014, in Blog and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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