Test your characters' undercover mettle
Published: August 29, 2003
|If you're thinking of putting an FBI agent in your next story, make sure you paint an accurate picture of your character. According to Alicia Hilton, a former FBI special undercover agent, that image should not include "fast cars, hot sex, flashy designer clothing and mingling with the rich and famous." |
Hilton explains in this article that while FBI agents are often portrayed glamorously on television and in books, a real agent's life is very different. However, she points out that there is exciting drama in every agent's life. In her article, she recalls her life as an agent to help writers tap into that excitement, to shape believable characters readers will embrace and to develop plot points.
Take your character through these actual undercover maneuvers and see how he or she fares.
Scenario 1: Your protagonist is an undercover agent (UCA). Subjects of her investigation have paid her to enter a government building and bribe several officials. The subjects insist that she bribe all the clerks on the same day, but the UCA is concerned about being caught by the clerks' supervisor. What does she do?
Scenario 2: Your protagonists are two UCAs. They have been asked to take an agent on a cameo, or initial meeting with the target or targets of an investigation. The agent, a member of a narcotics squad the UCAs have never worked with, is supposed to portray a heroin dealer during his cameo. The UCAs' objective is to order a false passport from a group of terrorists. The passport is supposed to be for the heroin dealer, a false identity that will enable him to facilitate his enterprise. Shortly before the meeting is to take place, the agent who is supposed to do the cameo starts sweating profusely and becomes so nervous he cannot speak. It is too late to abort the meeting. What do the UCAs do?
What the real agents did
Scenario 1: I brought along several changes of clothing. Between meetings, I returned to my vehicle (parked in the government lot), altered my hairstyle and changed my clothes. I was able to successfully complete all my meetings that day, paying cash bribes to all the corrupt clerks the subjects had asked me to approach. The subjects of my undercover investigation complimented my ingenuity and conducted further business with me.
Scenario 2: My partner and I, the UCAs, ordered the nervous agent who was supposed to do the cameo to stay in the car. We exited the vehicle, met with the terrorists and told them "Mr. Big" did not talk to outsiders. We said we would act as intermediaries, returned to the car, communicated the terrorists' terms to "Mr. Big" and consummated the deal. The terrorists never questioned our actions and we successfully completed a number of subsequent transactions with their organization.
--Posted Aug. 29, 2003