Deep Cover


A friend of mine and I were emailing about Robin Hobb’s Six Duchies books, and she wrote about why she liked them:

Heroes aren’t all good. Love alone doesn’t conquer all. Women don’t pine away and die. Even the annoying characters can grow up and become really interesting.

This is why I read. This is what I’m looking for. One of my favorite techniques used by writers to create this depth is what I’m calling “deep cover,” after the Lawrence Fishburne movie where he went undercover to bust a drug ring and ends up so deep that he becomes one of them. He loses his old identity completely.

I love to see characters do this–pretend to be something they’re not in order to achieve a goal, but by the time the goal has been achieved they’ve completely sold out and have turned inside out. Hopefully they come back to themselves, but sometimes they don’t. Hobb and George RR Martin do this very well. I think it’s a good story technique for achieving peripety–that hinge moment where a character stands or dies. When you’ve turned inside out, that can give you the perspective to see what was wrong with you all along, if that makes sense.

This post is being put up in honor the 525-page book I read for work this morning. It represented everything that is wrong with both publishing and the world today. I have one more to go for my weekend stack, another 500 pager that looks much more promising.


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