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Writer Commentary: heroes between the action

Hello friends! Hope you and yours are doing okay and not being stupid and running around without a mask. Now’s the time to do cosplay all day (as long as you cover your mouth!)

No fanfiction this week; devoted my time to the prequel to my two other “Shadowdance” urban fantasy novels. More on that another time.

Time for more writer commentary!

The following excerpt is Chapter Five of my first fanfiction, Doppelganger. I used the Mutants and Masterminds, Third Edition role-playing game from Green Ronin Publishing as a base. Wanting to focus on learning their rules, I used a module from the game for my plot.

Art by Joelle Jones with color by Rochelle Rosenberg

When I wrote Doppelganger, I’d recently read Chelsea Cain’s run on “Mockingbird” and wanted to jump in with that character. I made it a full-on SHIELD party, adding Black Widow and Hawkeye. Threw in Grifter from DC Comics’ Wildstorm Universe for good measure.

The included chapter details the cleanup from a previous battle scene. My commentary notes are in the gray boxes.


“Agent Morse! Sitrep!” the image of General Nick Fury demanded over the tablet computer in Bobbi’s hand. The man looked more haggard than usual, though Bobbi couldn’t remember him not looking haggard. Came with the responsibility of running the world’s largest spy factory.

Almost made her forgive him those nasty-smelling cigars he was always chomping on.

Almost.

Bobbi stood in the lab where she and her fellow agents had held off the set of green-suited intruders and their exploding robots. Unfortunately for their investigation, the second robot had also exploded, but without the gray cloud. There wasn’t enough of either robot to salvage.

They didn’t fare any better with the human intruders.

The ones who’d watched the doors had bitten down on cyanide capsules hidden in their teeth. Deader than Julius Caesar.

Parts of pop culture — the good stuff, anyway — always stick in your mind. The “deader than Julius Caesar” is a throwaway line from Sean Connery’s Oscar-winning performance in The Untouchables.

The one in the bolas snare did the same.

Ugh! Fairly sure that should be “had done” as it’s past tense. I pretty much suck at the grammar thing but thank Batman for editors! However, I chose not to use a pro editor for the fanfiction. I can’t make money off it so no point in spending money. Guess I wasn’t using Grammarly back then either.

They got a med team in for the last guy. Here’s to hoping Natasha hadn’t shot anything too vital.

“The perps got in via an explosion to one of the walls,” Bobbi told her superior. “There was one of those burrowing machines on the other side. Looks like they’ve been digging a tunnel for a few days now.”

“Shit security for a high-end firm,” Fury said.

Bobbi cast an eye over at the suit she and Clint had encountered earlier. He didn’t look at all pleased with Fury’s comment, but what was he gonna do after Fury’s team effectively saved his ass?

Part of the fun in writing is developing the world around the characters. I’d developed the archetypal corporate suit as the emotional foil for the heroes. This gave the ensuing fight scene weight as they protected the suit all while he did everything he could to stop them from helping.

Clint came over and joined Bobbi in staring at the tablet.

“Did a closer look at the digger,” he began. “Belongs to a local construction company. Grifter’s working on tracking them down now.”

Terrorists using a local digger? That’s stupid, right? More on that later.

“That’ll be your next stop,” Fury snapped. “Anything from the suits at Stane? What was so important in there?”

Dropping the name “Stane” is a subtle nod to opening the world. Don’t need a full descriptor but now I have a thread I can pull in another story.

“Nothing that he wants to tell us,” Natasha chimed in, approaching Bobbi and Clint. Looking at Fury, she added, “And if I can’t get him to talk…”

“I and the full power of the intelligence community will,” Fury finished. “Anything else I should know immediately?”

“There is the matter of that cloud coming from the robot,” Bobbi said. Off Fury’s look of concern (if that’s what it was and not just a reaction to his eye patch being too tight), she added, “Prelim health checks are fine, thanks for asking.”

Here is a bit of characterization for Fury through the other characters. As the leader of “the world’s largest spy factory,” Fury chooses to learn of any potential threats over the safety of his troops. It’s not that he doesn’t care about them, it’s that he’s a remarkably busy man and priority is with the potential for danger.

Fury asking if there’s anything he immediately needs to know drives home his need for expediency.

“Swing by medical on your way back from that construction site,” Fury ordered. “If that’s our only lead, we have to hit it hard and fast.”

See? Fury cares.

Clint let out a giggle. Bobbi elbowed him in the side.

“Something funny, agent?” Fury asked.

“No sir!” Clint quickly replied.

Natasha also gave Clint a dirty look.

Bobbi took a few steps away from Clint and Natasha, turning the tablet so that Fury only saw her.

“We’re on it, general,” she assured him.

“Keep me, or Agent Hill informed. Fury out.”

The tablet’s screen went blank.

Bobbi turned to Clint. “You know that man has no sense of humor!”

“Or sex life,” Clint replied.

“I don’t know,” Natasha said.

Clint and Bobbi looked at her suspiciously. Natasha didn’t think anything of it. At first. She put her hands on her hips in an indignant pose. “You don’t think —”

“Well, it’s not like you to say no to —”

“Not me,” Natasha insisted. “But I’ve known others.”

Clint looked intrigued. “Nick Fury is a playa?”

“Christ!”

The others turned to admit Grifter into their circle. He still wore the red bandana-looking mask he wore as some tactical advantage in combat. His blonde surfer-styled haircut jutted out from the tie around his head. It all played well with the trench coat covering his standard SHIELD combat uniform.

Note how I call Hawkeye, Mockingbird and Black Widow by their real names and not their more familiar code names. This was to show they are in their civilian identities. When Grifter arrives, he’s in costume and is appropriately identified by his code name.

It’s a subtle thing, but it helps to keep things separate. Just be sure when you first introduce the characters to mention both names so the reader can identify. I’m sure I did that… right?

“I swear you people pay more attention to sexcapades than spycraft,” he said.

The schtick of sophomoric sex jokes between Hawkeye, Mockingbird and Black Widow stems from the idea that both women had dated/ had sex with Hawkeye. Now they had to set those relationships aside to continue a working relationship. Yet, that sexual tension is there, often released via the jokes.

“Said the man who hasn’t had a date in… how long?” Clint asked.

“My business, Barton,” Grifter said. He held up a tablet. “I’ve got the address on that construction company. Better do as the general said.”

A trick in the action genre is the connective tissue that leads the heroes from one action set piece to another. Realistically, why would a terrorist organization use a local digger to break into a hi-tech firm? But if I didn’t make it something so obvious, the heroes would have to do some investigating and that adds to the space between fight scenes.

If the audience wanted an investigation, they’d go read Sherlock Holmes or some other detective. They want to see the heroes using all their over-the-top powers. Move it along, writer.

Bobbi looked around the room. SHIELD crime scene investigators were scraping up parts of the robots and scanning the place for any other clues. Stane’s suit and a few security guards looked on but were about as important as the furniture.

“Well we’re done here,” she said.

“Got your uniforms in the car,” Grifter said.

Bobbi nodded.

Grifter headed out. The others followed.


That’s all for now. I’ll hit you up next week with another writer commentary. Click here for my previous writer commentary.

You can read the entire “Doppelganger” story or any of my fanfiction by choosing a story from the menu below.

Check out the preview of my urban fantasy novel, By Virtue Fall too! Great for quarantine reading!

‘Til next week, stay safe!

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