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Write Like A Spy

The Right Guard is a very realistic spy thriller, and this is, in part, due to writing style. Writing like a spy may seem like a simple task, simply report on your activities and send off the report to your boss, right? However, the CIA has a Style Manual & Writer’s Guide for Intelligence Communications in which they outline exactly what they want in communications between CIA officers. Familiarizing yourself with this guide will help your book take on a more realistic tone because the voice of your character will be more authentically spy-like.

Fran Moore, the Director of Intelligence in 2011, wrote, “Good intelligence depends in large measure on clear, concise writing. The information CIA gathers and the analysis it produces mean little if we cannot convey them effectively. The Directorate of Intelligence and the Agency as a whole have always understood that.” The document is over 150 pages long and outlines the Agency’s requirements for spelling, capitalization, and where commas should be placed.

Don’t fret if it seems like you’re just not able to get a handle on what a CIA agent sounds like. David Cariens, a 31-year career CIA officer, held classes for agents that weren’t up to par when it came to writing reports. Of the agents in his writing “boot camp” class, he said, “Many of them just needed that extra help and attention. And, in many cases, they needed to be retaught how to write.” He goes on to explain that educated communicators can often be forced into a wordy writing style, but that analysts must be succinct and direct.

Cariens has also written several books to help civilians understand what it takes to be an analyst: Intelligence And Crime Analysis: Critical Thinking Through Writing and Intelligence and Crime Terminology: A Glossary of Terms and Acronyms.

If you are writing a spy thriller like The Right Guard, reading the CIA style manual and Cariens books may help you create more realistic scenes. Reading spy thrillers like The Right Guard will inspire you as well!

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