Category Archives: Overwatch

Can men and women be just friends?

Can men and women be just friends?

Watson and Holmes

I was watching the latest episode of Elementary, the newest Sherlock Homes incarnation, and the “ship” didn’t just graze me, but hit me square on. The boat t-boned me, listed to the side and grounded like a Italian cruise liner in the Med, or the Gulf (anyone else afraid to take a cruise lately?). Let me refresh your  memory or explain for those who haven’t watched this episode. Oh and BTW, it took place on Valentine’s Day so read into that however your little shipper heart desires. Watson has been lying to Sherlock and pretending she is still under the employ of Sherlock’s father as his sober-companion. Well, Sherlock found out. Was she foolish enough to think the master investigator wasn’t going to? Dumbass. But what she doesn’t get is that the truth is: he doesn’t want her to go. So he’s challenged her with staying on as his partner, his companion, as his protégé of sorts. It was a scene full of subtle, raw emotion excellently played by both Lucy Liu and Johnny Lee Miller. Fantastic and it got my heart a twitter. Who knows if it was intentional, it probably is, because as we all know there can never be a purely platonic friendship between a man and a woman on a television show. And not like I’m really going out on a limb here, but there can never be a purely platonic friendship between a man and a woman in real life either. Unless one is gay or ugly. Can I get an Amen?

Shipper Royalty: Scully and Mulder

Shipper Royalty: Scully and Mulder

This is a theme that has fascinated me forever. Friendship between men and women. And more specifically love that grows from a deep friendship and understanding between men and women. I’ve loved it in numerous television shows over the last twenty years and it’s what I explore in my own writing. It’s the foundation of the ‘ship’ for me, more so than the unresolved sexual tension. Carter and O’Neill–Stargate, Mac and Harm–Jag, Picard and Dr. Crusher, Star Trek: TNG, and let us not forget the king of them all, Scully and Mulder–The X-files. Even more recent: Mary and Marshall, In Plain Sight. They however  didn’t fall prey to the trope. But there’s been a trend of late––the ‘Hey, let’s fight the Moonlighting curse and actually get them together’: Brennan and Boothe–Bones, Olivia and Peter–Fringe, Annie and Auggie–Covert Affairs (I don’t agree with that one. I ship for Eyal, so I’m really pissed that she left him in Amsterdam to go home and kiss Auggie because she’s a big fat chicken and needs a security blanket, but I digress.) There are tons more that I’m forgetting and you get the idea. One of the things that drove many episodes and story arcs of those great shows revolved around the sexual tension between the Male and Female leads. It is an epidemic.

Why?

Because it’s interesting and titillating and we can’t help but feel the same way or wish that it was happening to us. Fiction needs to reflect life for it to be relevant  I would venture to say that most people have at some point or another been friends with a member of the opposite sex and had some kind of tingle in the heart and/or nether regions for them. It’s nature, an unwritten law of the universe, there is no way around it. Because it comes down to psychology (emotions) and science (pheromones). Friendships are based on common ground, a sense of camaraderie  and above all trust. Good love relationships are also based on those same principles with the complication of sex thrown in. When we have trust, we feel close to that person and when we feel close to that person we share things that are intimate and private, whether it’s secrets, feelings, truths or sex.

Now, I am no pyschologist, just an observer and explorer of the human condition. But I extrapolate a lot from my own life experience  I have had no less than 5 best friends who are male through the course of my adult life, not including the two men that I married. I have had sex with none of them, but I loved 3 of them, one of which was gay so that statement above of one being ugly or gay doesn’t always apply. (That’s a whole other psychology). One of them, no, not the gay one, I completely misread the signals and had my heart broken. Though I still would bet even odds that he was full of shit and just freaked out that the situation actually presented itself and just couldn’t handle it. He made me unable to read any kind of signal from a man. Radar is broken.

O'Neill and Carter

O’Neill and Carter

So why then does this intrigue me? I’ve tried to look at the answers over the course of my life and the mistakes that I’ve made. And boy I’ve made a few. But, through analyzing my past friendships, I think it comes down to one thing. I think women just want men to talk with them as equals and understand them. We feel empowered when a man understands us––like we’ve been privy to the key to a really secret club. We should hope that this comes from our spouse or significant other. But sometimes it doesn’t. Me, I’ve been very lucky. This time around the marriage arena, I’ve struck gold and he understands me perfectly clear. However, doesn’t mean that I still don’t relish in the understanding I get from my significant male friends.

The Dear Husband jokes that I have a stable of men. And maybe I do, some infinitely more important than others. Would any of them lead to an affair? Hah, in a perfect world with no consequences… where jealousy and territorial boundaries didn’t exist… then it wouldn’t be an affair, more a simple understanding that fundamentally human beings don’t mate for life. Yes, I wholeheartedly believe this.

Humans do not mate for life.

The idea of soul mates is fantastic and romantic. And yes we can meet our perfect other half. However, what is never discussed is that as we grow and change through our life, we often take a different shape and need a different perfect other half. Why? Because we don’t mate for life. Why else do you think that Ménage à trois books and the alternative lifestyle of swinging is coming to the forefront? It’s not just about sex with someone else. It’s about loving more than one person, sometimes at the same time.

Their heads make a heart. Seriously? Stop mocking us.

We are not swans, gibbons, wolves, bald eagles, turtle doves or albatrosses. What is it with birds and the pledge of undying love, huh? Do they understand something that we don’t? Not really. They are animals that aren’t driven by emotional connections. We try to be dedicated to our one and only. But, in my whole life, I have only ever met one couple who were in complete and everlasting love until one of them died after nearly forty years together. And I’ll give you a hint––they never had children. It was just them. (Again, a whole other psychology to explain that one). More than fifteen years after her death, he was still deeply in love with her. Like George Burns and Gracie Allen. It was sweet. And completely unnatural.

George and Gracie

George and Gracie

Now that doesn’t make me a cynic, just a realist. I am a dyed in the wool romantic. I love the idea of deep, soul crushing love. It’s why I write romances. But I do believe that we can find that love multiple times in our life, if we’re lucky and connect with the right people. Different people come into our life at times for different reasons. If we think of life as a predestined path, we meet people along that path who are there for certain reasons, many of which are unknown to us at the time. They are there to help us, guide us, teach us, and share parts of ourselves that others don’t have the wherewithal, means or connection to do so.

How does this relate to the concept that men and women cannot be platonic friends? Well, if there is truth to the fact that we don’t mate for life, we seek out or discover connections to others to fill something in ourselves. Sometimes is starts as a friendship and then it morphs into something deeper. Sometimes it starts as an attraction and then morphs into a friendship.  Depends on the pheromones and the boundaries or emotional state/needs of those involved. The pure fact that we can’t have a television show where the male and female lead aren’t flirting gratuitously, the sexual tension crackling on the screen is testament to that. We are excited by emotional connection. We love the build up and the evolution of a relationship, that ebb and flow of tension and release, the dreaded ‘C’ word–– Conflict. Relationships in books and television/movies without conflict, that fundamental something that keeps them apart, lack sizzle and the taboo of the ‘want’ and the ‘need’. We strive for the ease of connection in our own lives because living in a state of continuous conflict is tiring and stressful. But we crave it in our entertainment because it’s exciting and we flirt with it in our daily lives to make ourselves feel alive.

Mary and Marshall, BFFs for life

Mary and Marshall, BFFs for life

Do I want Sherlock and Watson to get naked and bump uglies? The jury is still out on that for me. He’s a tough character to fall in love with. Yeah, I fell head of heals in love with House because of his complexities and vulnerabilities that he denied,  no doubt. He had infinite depth. Sherlock, the template for House, even in this modern incarnation, is fundamentally the same. Is he capable of loving someone who doesn’t fill some sort of purpose for him? Is Watson his other half? She certainly balances him and like all good functional/dysfunctional relationships, they feed off of each other’s needs. I’d love it if they explored it. But I’d also be thrilled if they took the trope and spun it on its head like they did in In Plain Sight with Mary and Marshall. Have the balls to do it differently. But then again, my little shipper heart wanted Marshall to pledge his undying love for her too and for her to accept it. He ultimately did, but not in the romantic way. It was quite beautiful.  It’s still early for Sherlock and Watson. Elementary is sowing the seeds, that fabulous awkward confession was perfect fertilizer. The rest remains to be seen. 

In the meantime, I will continue to explore this concept with my own characters. The Overwatch series is steeped in the idea of a man and a woman as best friends who fall in love. Their issues keeping them apart stem from the concept of ‘duty over self’. In my upcoming sci-fi romance series, I will examine the concept again between a man and a woman who’ve fought a war together for years when suddenly they realize the other person is and has been their significant other the entire time, that their strength comes from within themselves, but is compounded by the support and love from the other. And in the continuation of the Overwatch series, I’m going to flip the concept inside out and take a look at what happens when you can’t be with the one you love most. How do you reconcile that your other half has found their other half and it isn’t you?

So may ideas, so many men, so little time…
Story of my life.
Namaste,
~Indigo

**All images are not mine and belong to others.

Advertisements

Overwatch Update

For like the two of you who have been waiting with bated breath about the status of Overwatch, you’re gonna have to wait a little while longer. Book 1: Proving Ground is essentially done. Yay, but Book 2: Exfil Point, ooofah… It’s in a major rewrite.

Nooooo!

Yup.

Exfil Point, after the mandatory fermenting period, SUCKS FESTERING MONEKY ASS. It needs a complete overhaul. I guess that’s what happens when you try to splice two attempts to start a book into one mash-up and fingers crossed, hope it works out. The only, and I mean ONLY, people who are good at mash-ups are the song stylists at Glee. They are the masters of it. Me? Not so much. While it seemed like it was a good plan and that things flowed while in the midst of a summer induced haze of long days of just writing and drinking and more writing, it didn’t fit together as much as I had thought. So it’s back to the drawing board for me.

I axed almost 10k words from the end. Shaved it off like a Russian woman’s armpits. The emotional content was limp, trite and I had already addressed the issues in it with a whole chapter insert about 6k words before. So chop went the blade. Then I reread it again from the beginning. And started hacking away at the stuff that sounded good but again wound up being forced and trite. Chop, chop. Pretty soon this thing started to look like an anorexic supermodel with a bad hair day. Good thing though? It had a great bone structure. The elements were there. Girl’s living in Boy’s house, pretending they don’t want to just sleep with each other and abstaining for the greater good of the world. They have a deep understanding and friendship that gets tested when they open Pandora’s box. (That Bitch Pandora should just keep her damn legs closed and save everyone from the trouble of her minefield of a box! and if you’re not getting the box reference, please go check it out at urbandictionary.com) Things gets dicey in relation to their relations and decisions are made that effect the incidents in Book 3: Cold War. The romance stuff I had all down. I knew where I wanted to go, knew how I wanted it to end, shocked myself a little bit with how far I went with it, but it’s good. Now that it’s bald and a skeleton.

What it needs is some meat. The meat of the Mission that is – they are Spec Ops soldiers and spies after all. Enter the action plot. Oh the goddamn mission… Bane of my existence. And I kick myself all the time for wanting to write love stories about awesome action figure super spies and soldiers because seriously, who gives a shit about them if we never see them at work? Otherwise they should be dog groomers and let call it a day. So I struggle…

I’m not sure if it’s because I live a ‘do unto others’ kind of existence. I try to live fair and equitable and don’t treat people cruelly  but I have a really hard time coming up with motives for bad guys to do bad things with. If I have a beef with someone who wronged me, I cut you off my Christmas card list and de-friend you on Facebook while you’re not looking. I don’t plot world domination and human traffic your sister and her best-friend’s cousin to get back at you. Therefore, I struggle with believable plots that would bring my sexy heroes and heroines out into the big bad world. Because again, who wants to read about kick ass spies if we neve see them at work?

How have a I fixed this problem? Ugh. I’m reading news articles and blogs from around the troubled hotspots of the world. Very depressing, man’s inhumanity to man. We are a disgusting species. The Earth has every right to rebel and get us fuckers off the planet. I’ve found some pretty disturbing things with regards to the undercurrent of terrorism and the battle to establish a foothold in Africa.

But you know what else this whole devastation of the horrid mash-up has done to me? I’ve become a plotster. Gasp! Swoon and sigh. I never used to have to plan. WTF? I used to pull rainbows and sunshine out of my ass and it was fabulous. Yeah, well that was fanfiction. And fanfiction while a great proving ground for confidence that maybe your ability to write doesn’t suck that bad after all, it’s not all that intolerant of dangling plot threads and meandering experiments with slice of life prose. It’s shit we wish we saw on our favorite television shows, but just didn’t make the cannon cut. In publishable fiction, it’s unacceptable to not have a plan. To not have a mid-point that doesn’t sag, and a dark moment that doesn’t actually give you the feeling that all will never be right again. Who am I using these terms? It’s like the moment you realize you have to actually send 95% of your paycheck to pay bills and that you’ve become a grown up. For the most part I’ve done this instinctually. But now, with these freaking missions… instinct isn’t going to cut it anymore.

This stretches my timeline out exponentially. I’ve got other series in the works that are begging to be written, one of which is a sequel series to Overwatch, another is a Sci-Fi Romance series. Not that I want to say goodbye to David and Jillie, but I want to publish this bitch and move on. Patience is not always my strong suit.

Alas, I will endeavor to try.

~Indigo

WIP: Proving Ground Update

Proving Ground is close, oh so very close, to being ready to e-format and publish on Amazon. It has been scoured and polished by my fantastic critique partners, Karen and Amy and beta read by Jes and Stella. (They totally get my vision!!) I’ve had nothing but good constructive criticism and positive responses. Dearest Stella said she even had some tears in her eyes, in a good way of course, and that just makes me want to get drunk on mojitos and dance on tables. No, not really, I want to be badass, but I’m so not! But it does mean a lot that both Jes and Stella have had such an emotional response to Jillie and David. My book is way better because of these ladies and I owe them tremendous thanks for their efforts.

It’s been a long road for this book in it’s various incarnations but I have a clear plan in sight now. It’s an epic love story now that will span five books. I’m currently in Book 2: Exfil Point and working diligently to beef up and clean up the plot. Yeah it seems long. Five books you say? Well… Look at it this way––How many times have you watched a movie or been involved in a book and want to know what happens after the book ends? How many of you want to see how after all their stuggles to get together they actually ARE together? What happens when the lights go out and everyone goes home? Well, that’s what will happen in the Overwatch Series. Each book is another episode into Jillie and David’s relationship and their evolution from colleagues to friends to deep and ever-lasting love.
So I need a blurb. One that lets you know it’s the never-ending story, but also gets you intrigued by Jillie and David enough to follow them into the great unknown.
Here’s what I have come up with so far:
The last thing Colonel David Vaughn needed on his anti-terrorist task force was another beautiful badass woman. They were his weakness. He had a job to do.
Burned CIA agent, Jillian Craig didn’t want back into the game. But there was only so much sun, designer shoes and hunky Mediterranean men a girl could take.
When a mutual interest brings them together to fight the war on terror, it’s no surprise––sparks fly. Can the two ignore their attraction or is the personal sacrifice too much?
The Overwatch Series follows the epic love story of David and Jillian as they try to balance duty, desire and self-sacrifice to protect the world from terror.
Book One: Proving Ground. See how it all begins.

Feel free to chime in and let me know what you think. Too much? Too little? Too cheesy? Never want to be cheesy… Discuss.

I’m going to post an excerpt of Proving Ground, Chapter 1 soon. I’m also putting my actual professional skills to use and working on a cover(s). I’m torn between paying for the royalty-free image rights for some images, which is a couple hundred dollars vs. working in Poser (a 3D art program where I can make Jillie and David actually look like I see them in my head) Too cool, but WAY more time consuming, considering I’m still learning how to use the program. But, that could also be a couple hundred dollars if I want to use pre-existing morphs to build my characters because that wold make them look badass. And you know me and badass. Since my wallet is decidedly NOT badass, I’m waiting on that issue until the cover is the very last thing that needs to be done.

See you soon,
~Indigo

Pocket Guide Cnt’d, Inside the Colonel’s Trousers

Last time we looked at what was inside Jillian’s pockets/purse/tactical gear. It was an strange amalgamation of girlie things, useful trade craft and incendiary devices. It spoke to her dual personality and double life. The two women inside that make up her whole. Warrior and woman.

This time, we’ll stick our hand into Colonel David Vaughn’s pants… ahem, I mean pockets. Go ahead, give his ass a quick squeeze and move on….

He’s an Air Force Colonel who’s spent the majority of his life in uniform, in the field. He has very little need for extras. So when David empties his pockets on the nightstand at the end of the day, he takes out a slim black leather wallet. Not too old, not too new, softly worn in. Inside he has his Air Force ID, his driver’s license, his debit card, and American Express. He carries $100 in cash, in twenties and he will empty his coins into a large glass mug every day. He keeps his keys on a simple ring, silver metal with a plain tab. One for his house, one for his truck, one for Ops – it also has a punch-in code – and later on in the series, one for Jillian’s house. He does not carry one for the other team members, Marcus or Bobby D. Hmm… Just sayin’.

His tact-vest is another story. He lives in that vest, survives by it. The site I gave last time:

http://thedonovan.com/archives/modernwarriorload/ModernWarriorsCombatLoadReport.pdf

It lists what soldiers of different unit designations would need. David’s would be the Rifle Squad Leader. He would have the standard fare of grenades, extra ammo, tools, goggles, strobe lights, GPS and SAT phone to connect back to Ops. He packs a Leatherman tool, which is like a Swiss Army knife on steroids and a Maglite flashlight, crazy bright. Get one. The small one still casts a ton of light. (They’re the ones the Scully and Mulder used to hold in their hands when entering all of those dark rooms.) He maintains a small amount a non-tactical items in his crowded yet, available pouches. A deck of cards, wooden matches, and American gum – he was the one that gave Jillian the idea because the local children would always ask. He carries extra tablets of Vicodin that he keeps secret from Bobby D, the team medic, for his creaky aching knees. He used to carry a chocolate bar for Jillian, but it gets too hot and melts so he now carries a few packets of dry hot cocoa. It’s a survival tactic – when the woman needs chocolate, no one is safe.

He also keeps a bandana tied to his strap and a roll of duct tape in his pack. He wears a dingy old khaki baseball cap when on missions and not in regulation Air Force uniform (Spec Ops soldiers often wear non-standard cammo and foreign guns to perpetuate their “non-allegiance” with the US Forces – sometimes called False-Flag operations.) He wears a pair of dark square, aviator shades, with a strap around back to keep from losing them when it gets physical. Jillian loves them because they’re sexy but hates them because she can’t see his eyes.

BTW, Vaughn doesn’t look like Joshua Dumel

Special Operators don’t carry identification or any type of personal trinkets and memorabilia. One, they are ‘invisible’ and work in non-sanctioned missions. Two, those items can be traced back to their families. And three, it creates ‘bad juju’.  While some may think of it as a good luck token, for them it creates bad luck. (I got this off of an episode of the Unit. It may be fictionalized, but it made sense to me). The premise being that the item reminds them of their family back home, makes them careful and therefore unfocused. None of Vaughn’s stuff can help identify him, but it’s personal nonetheless.

So, what does his stuff say about him? Well, he’s a pretty simple guy. Doesn’t need a lot of things to add style or flare – plain wallet, plain keychain. He likes to be nondescript, professionally and personally. He’s practical. The items in his pack are for use. They all have a purpose. When carrying a 50lb rucksack through the rough terrain of Afghanistan or the jungles of South America, you need only the bare essentials to keep you alive. There is no room for amenities. It’s all about what the job needs, survival and life or death.

There a two things there that have to do with Jillian. One is her key on his key chain. They are not lovers at the point in which she gives him a key but, it means that he has free access to her home. She trusts him and he has an open invitation. The other is the hot cocoa. Why would the Colonel, the team leader, carry sustenance for a team member? My point exactly. She’s more than just a team member to him. He sees her differently, despite his denials to the contrary. He cares for her and comforts her. There’s always a small percentage of his brainpower focused on her and her needs. Why? Because he’s in love with her of course!

Each and every person has quirks about what they carry with them. Some more telling than others. It’s our job as authors and observers of human behavior to recognize those small details. They are clues to personality, to our character development. They add nuances and depth. Of course, use these snippets wisely. Never be contrived when frosting your character cake. Be subtle. Like a good perfume, a little goes a LONG way!

Happy observing!
~Indigo Grace

The Pocket Guide to Characters

No, this isn’t a small, tidy little how-to for character development booklet. It’s literally: “What’s in side your character’s pockets?”

Pockets?

My “Soul Mate Critique Partner” asked me a few weeks ago what was in David and Jillian’s pockets? She wanted to get to know them more. I thought about it for a minute and things started to pop into my head. It was freakin’ brilliant! What a fun way to delve deeper into your characters and come up with  more than just lint!

How can the items in your character’s pockets, or let’s say purse or satchel or even tactical gear, in the case of my characters, tell you about who you’re character is? Well, those items give you insight in to the small details, the everyday needs to organizational skills. Are the items handy, decorative, personal tokens? Do the items serve a generic purpose, or are they there for sentimental value?

Women take a look in your purse. Guys, look in your pants pocket, or even the console of your car. How much of that stuff do you REALLY need? How much of it is stuff you keep because you think you might need it? Aside from my orange leather wallet, my Oakley X-metal Juliet glasses, a little notebook for jotting down ideas and my real glasses for driving, I have tons of receipts in my bag, some with used gum in them. Eww. And a ziplock bag of coupons. Yeah, I’m exciting, I know. I have a small bottle of antibacterial gel I never use, un-chewed gum, Chapstick and a Vera Bradley case to hold tampons and some ibuprofen for a headache.  My big secret? I have some borrowed Xanax wrapped in a reindeer Christmas napkin stashed in a small ziplock bag that I got from a friend, just in case I’m at my in-laws for a holiday and I’m about to have a meltdown because my sister-in-law’s demon spawn are crawling the walls. It’s a dicey prospect.

What does all of this stuff say about me? I like bold colors – the orange wallet, but never on my body. I spend good money on things that I know are going to last – the -metals. I try to be good about using coupons, but don’t always get to it . The rest is all practical needs for when out of the house. There’s nothing worse than needing a tampon when your out and you don’t have one. The receipts, I try not to think about, but if I’m honest they’re from too much fast food. I could lie and say it’s just to wrap up my gum but…

So let’s play the game: What’s inside ex-CIA agent, Jillian Craig’s purse? Well first of all, it’s an expensive leather and aligator skin black hobo bag. Just like she doesn’t scrimp on shoes, neither does she scrimp on bags. However, the bag will change to accent her outfit. But this is her favorite one. Inside, she has her make-up bag (hi-end cosmetics, a lot from Europe – bought when traveling), a large wallet with credit cards under an alias. Of course, tampons and condoms for that impromptu liaison because you just never know when a hot Italian man will take you to Milan. In case she needs to skip town on a second’s notice, inside the lining she has an alternate id and passport under a different alias. She has a lock picking set and smaller blade stiletto knife.

What does this say about Jillian? In her personal life, or rather when she’s not on the job, she’s still always on the job. She needs to have items that keep her identity a secret and allow her protection and a means of escape if the situation arises. She loves the finer things in life. She will spend a lot of money for good fabrics, well made accessories and accouterments. She likes sexy men and is no stranger to the occasional fling. While she’ll commit to a life of self-sacrifice for the greater good and a $1000 pair of shoes, she’s less likely to commit to a man for more than a few hours and sexual romp.

How about her tactical vest when she’s on a mission with the Colonel? Well, it’s got lots of little pockets and a backpack for supplies. A kit will normally contain MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), a canteen, 25 grenades and frag grenades. Packs of C4 explosive, detonators, wire, wire cutters, needle nose pliers plus a variety of other tactical gear. Personal hygiene stuff: OB tampons (small and no waste), yeast infection pills and extra elastic hair ties. She carries gum and an iPod, which she’ll often give away to children in foreign countries. The local kids love American gum.
Check out this extensive site for the combat load carried by soliders in Afghanistan. Jillian would be the Grenadier.

http://thedonovan.com/archives/modernwarriorload/ModernWarriorsCombatLoadReport.pdf

The coolest part about Jillian is that she’s a glamor puss AND a warrior. I like the juxtaposition of those two personalities because they’re so incongruous.

Next time we’ll take a look at David’s pockets and see what that says about him. In the meantime, check out your character’s pockets. Or, have fun and take a guess at what your favorite character has in hers. It’s work that feel like play and there isn’t anything that’s better than that!

Dig up some lint!
~Indigo Grace

David’s Proust Questionnaire

Colonel David Vaughn, USAF Spec Ops,  Counter-terrorism Joint Task Force, Classified.
Last time, we looked at Jillian’s Proust Questionnaire to give a little back history on who she was and how she came to be. While I had difficultly with Jillian, I had a much better handle on our hero, Vaughn. Maybe it’s because I based him off of two amazing male characters: Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs of NCIS and Colonel Jack O’Neill of Stargate. He’s sort of an amalgamation of both of them however, without the angst of losing a child. Their honor, loyalty, determination and vigilance for what’s right. Of course, Vaughn’s morphed into his own man, but as a die to cast from, those two are incredible heroes. 
So Vaughn was easy. I got him. His motivations are pure: do the job and do it well, no matter the cost. He has a quiet sensitive side,  a sarcastic side and a creative side. He has a weakness for younger, beautiful badass women (psht, would I love him if he didn’t?) and it has gotten him into trouble in the past. His body is starting betray him and he has a tendency to mix his painkillers with alcohol, but that’s in his blood. Apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, if you know what I mean. Dad was an alcoholic and abusive. And in that vein there is a darkness inside of him, one that he suppresses, but comes out sometimes when he makes the decisions that no one else wants to make. He’s a trained killer and he lives by a code of violence, even if it is for the greater good. His personal life is about sacrifice and he’s no stranger to living alone.

Here is Vaughn’s questionnaire:

·  Your most marked characteristic? Work and duty always come first, self-sacrifice.

·  The quality you most like in a man? Can take it on the chin and then ask for more.

·  The quality you most like in a woman? The real answer or the politically correct answer? (Real one: Young, beautiful, can kick your ass with a pair of high heels on and shoot you between the eyes from a hundred yards away) (Politically correct: A woman who can do her job effectively).

·  What do you most value in your friends? Loyalty.

·  What is your principle defect? Work-a-holic.

·  What is your favorite occupation? Like to remodel my house.

·  What is your dream of happiness? I don’t know, I don’t really look toward the future.

·  What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes? To lose a member of my team on my watch.

·  What would you like to be? A small-town handyman, no pressure.

·  In what country would you like to live? I’ve been all over the world. Every place has some good and something bad about it, even the shitholes of the world, but none of it really compares to here.

·  What is your favorite color? Hmm, that shade of mahogany that’s almost brown, but has red inside of it… it’s great on wood and even better on Jillie when she’s standing in the sunlight. Ahem… yeah, don’t tell her I said that. Strictly need-to-know…

·  What is your favorite flower? Syrian Jasmine, smells incredible when it’s mixed with spice. Shit, that woman is way too imbedded in my head. Also, need-to-know….

·  What is your favorite bird? Birds are a pain in the ass… they always get in the way and give away our position.

·  Who are your favorite prose writers? I used to read Tom Clancy when we were holed up in a room waiting to do a drop but I lost interest. Clive Cussler can be fun.

·  Who are your favorite poets? Dr. Seuss

·  Who is your favorite hero of fiction? Silver Surfer, Batman

·  Who are your favorite heroines of fiction? Lara Croft, Tomb Raider. Man, if a woman actually ran around a jungle in tight little shorts like that, I’d have had my head blown off a long time ago.

·  Who are your favorite composers? I usually tend to go for classic 70s rock… but on the rare, and I mean rare occasion… I put on some Opera – Puccini. That’s also need-to-know.

·  Who are your favorite painters? Painters no, but I loved the Silver Surfer comics when I was a kid.

·  Who are your heroes in real life? General Burt Cole, best damn soldier, mentor I’ve ever worked with. He’s a great man.

·  Who are your favorite heroines of history? The one I’m working with right now… I’d want her watching my six any day of the week.

·  What are your favorite names? That’s an odd question. I have a favorite alias, but that too is need-to-know.

·  What is it you most dislike? Men who are cowards.  (My son of bitch old man).

·  What historical figures do you most despise? Too many to recall, nameless men I’ve killed for crimes against humanity.

·  What event in military history do you most admire? Classified.

·  What reform do you most admire? The Homeland Security terrorist mandates.

·  What natural gift would you most like to possess? Toss-up: the ability to read women’s minds… or special vision that identified who was a terrorist and who was an ordinary civilian.

·  How would you like to die? With my boots on.

·  What is your present state of mind? My shelves are calling me… they need to be sanded.

·  To what faults do you feel most indulgent? Heh, my taste for younger women, I guess I’m a dirty old bastard.

·  What is your motto? Air Force Spec Ops motto: First There

·   What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? SERE training… simulates being captured by terrorists, they use your darkest weakness against you to break you and everyone breaks… it’s only a matter of time.

So, what did this tell me about Vaughn that I didn’t already know? It gave me things to put into his history, stuff that may never come out in the books, but help me to identify the major themes in his life. It was easy to answer his questions. It was easy to hear his tone and the cadence of his voice when he spoke. Little exercises like this can only help to breathe more life into your characters. If it’s not easy then maybe you need to go back to the drawing board and really look at who your character is. Maybe the questions you can’t answer are the aspects of that character that need to be examined and filled in. Look closely at them, peer into their darkest secrets; they will tell you what they need.


Happy crafting!
~Indigo Grace

Jillian’s Proust Questionnaire

Jillian Craig, ex-CIA agent, burned spy

I made a cardinal mistake when I first started writing the Overwatch series a year and a half ago. My lead female, suposed badass heroine, former CIA agent and munitions expert, Jillian Craig, was tragically boring.

I had no idea who Jillian Craig really was!

Sure, when I started, I had a glimmer, an idea of who/what I wanted but I really didn’t know her. Everything that came out on the page felt hollow. She had no drive or motivations. She was going through the motions. And I hated her. Because I had no reason to like her. Or root for her. She was a badass shell with no soul. Who the hell wants to read about that?!

One day, I had a flash of inspiration. Not sure where it came from, but it was a cool, blue miracle. I decided that she needed to be likably unlikable. She needed to be a little vain, sleep around with rich Mediterranean men, and have PTSD because she did something REALLY bad that got her burned from the CIA. Oh, and she has an unquenchable shoe obsession.

A friend of mine had done a Proust-like questionnaire for her characters in her current WIP. Ding, ding… I decided to do one for Jillian… and then for David.

The Proust Questionnaire is a nineteenth century personality test developed by French novelist and essay writer, Marcel Proust. They didn’t have a Cosmo Quiz back then to figure out what their thoughts and feelings were about life, so Proust made his own. It has stood the test of time and is still used today. My personal favorite is the slimmed down version on Inside the Actor’s Studio that James Lipton asks his guests at the end of the interview. My favorite word in the English language is Fuck. It can be verb, noun, adjective, adverb etc… Again I digress…

So. This is Jillian’s questionnaire:

·  Your most marked characteristic? I can be selfish and self-indulgent.

·  The quality you most like in a man? Loyalty, but if we’re talking just sex? Then tall, dark, rich and Mediterranean – French, Italian, Spanish, Greek – take your pick.

·  The quality you most like in a woman? I don’t have many women friends, I do much better with men.

·  What do you most value in your friends? Comfort.

·  What is your principle defect? That I’m searching for love and acceptance, serious Daddy issues.

·  What is your favorite occupation(way to spend time)? Shopping for shoes… it’s a pacifier/addiction. In that case, so is sex.

·  What is your dream of happiness? To be loved for who I am, evil parts and all.

·  What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes? To never had had the opportunity to get to know my father again, even though I hate him for abandoning my mother and me.

·  What would you like to be? Sometimes, anyone but me; or Katherine Hepburn, she was a ballsy woman.

·  In what country would you like to live? France, Italy, Spain, seeing a trend here?

·  What is your favorite color? Pink, don’t tell anyone.

·  What is your favorite flower? The little blue flowers on the side of the road, ironically they’re weeds.

·  What is your favorite bird? Birds annoy me.

·  Who are your favorite prose writers? It’s shameful… I don’t have the patience to read.

·  Who are your favorite poets? Same as above.

·  Who is your favorite hero of fiction? Han Solo, hot and rakish, boyish smirk with a swagger and a sense of humor. Reminds me a little of someone I know.

·  Who are your favorite heroines of fiction? Wow, I really need to hand in my feminist membership card… is it wrong to not be able to think of a single one?

·  Who are your favorite composers? Once I heard David listen to Turandot, it freakin’ made me cry. I think I was premenstrual.

·  Who are your favorite painters? A saw little painting done by a street vendor once in Cairo, simple and elegant, but I couldn’t buy it because I was undercover.

·  Who are your heroes in real life? Colonel Vaughn and the guys on my team.

·  Who are your favorite heroines of history? Women of the Isreali army, those women are fearless.

·  What are your favorite names? Fifi LaFlame, its has a je ne sais qua…

·  What is it you most dislike? Men who abuse women and children.

·  What historical figures do you most despise? Hitler, Hussein, Quadafi

·  What event in military history do you most admire? When women were given the right to fly in combat missions.

·  What reform do you most admire? Women who are standing up against female circumcision in Africa.

·  What natural gift would you most like to possess? The ability to lift a man over my shoulder.

·  How would you like to die? Saving someone’s life.

·  What is your present state of mind? I’m bored.

·  To what faults do you feel most indulgent? My weakness for shoes.

·  What is your motto? When sad, buy shoes.


After doing this, with my new knowledge of the PTSD and the tendency toward self-indulgence, the answers came out fast. She became more well-rounded. She had depth. I finally felt like I had an idea of who this woman was. And the story grew in richness because of it.

If you’re struggling with who your character is personality wise, try this. And don’t be afraid to go to a place that you think people might not like. People have flaws and weaknesses and do bad things, sometimes with good intentions. Badass females have these in spades.

Go forth and question!
~Indigo