Personhood   4 comments

January 13, 2020

Your characters have been placed in Witness Protection. What three truths about themselves do they want to keep?

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Boomerang Ideas

This is an interesting topic. Someone else sent it to me and I submitted it to our fearless leader PJ MacLayne, not expecting her to decide to use it immediately. YIKES!

Transformation Project

I can’t think of any of my characters who would enter the actual Witness Protection program because most of the people entering that are criminals who have rolled over on other criminals. Some of my characters aren’t as pure as the fresh-driven snow, but none of them are rolling over on the Bononno family. I really had to think long about this question.

Spies Live a Similar Life

I have characters who have changed their identities to go undercover working for the government. Shane Delaney is also Eric Faraday and Joel Rhys. He lived for four years as Eric “Ric” Faraday while Joel Rhys was a paper identity to hide his assets. As “Eric”, Shane kept a lot of his past identity. He was vague about what state he grew up in (somewhere in the Midwest to explain his accent) and he just didn’t say the names of family. But he kept that he’d graduated from Embry-Riddle with a degree in aeronautical engineering. His name was a compilation of his real middle name and his mother’s maiden name, chosen for the ease of remembering them. Shane explains to someone who was a friend during his undercover days who has discovered his real identity “I didn’t lie much beyond my name because the more lies you tell, the harder it is to keep it all straight.”

Returning to Real Life

Javier Chavez is also Francis Xavier and Martin Pulgarin. Javi was much further undercover with some really dangerous people. Francis Xavier was technically a terrorist because terrorists only allow other terrorists to get close enough to collect information on their terrorist activities. Javier kept almost none of his identity for that role — his age and his gender — because those are hard to change and fairly intrinsic to who most people are.

His next identity of Martin Pulgarin didn’t last long and he added being a Spanish speaker. Now that he’s decided to be Javier Chavez (his real name) it is a bit like being in Witness Protection because he hasn’t been Javier Chavez in more than a decade and even that identity is pretty thin. He grew up with no family, an orphan in foster care with a string of custodians. He barely remembers his parents and has had limited romantic relationships. He isn’t sure what he values now that his job as a spy is over. He’s building a brand-new identity, made more poignant because he’s going blind and he may have found a woman who seems to accept him for who he has never had a chance to be.

Currently, he’s keeping a few things. He’s a male in his early-to-mid thirties. He’s keeping his name because he’s come to realize that living lies has negative consequences. Speaking Spanish is the one thing he got from his parents and it’s a valuable skill he can still use when he can’t see. Another tenuous connection he’s keeping is Ami, his lover. Is he keeping her because he loves her or because he’s going to need her help when he can’t see at all? Well, we’ll find out when the time comes. And because I am a discovery writer, I don’t actually know that answer. I’m not even sure why he’s going blind. I know the science behind his medical condition, but I don’t yet know the story purpose behind his blindness. I’m pretty sure if Javi could vote on it, it wouldn’t be his choice to give up his eyesight to become a new person.

Asking Myself

This topic forced me to ask questions of myself — what would I keep if I were forced to forge a new identity. My answers are different from what my characters answered and that’s important because my characters aren’t me. They’re merely the voices in my head that want their stories told.

4 responses to “Personhood

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  1. Great post. A new identity probably comes with having to learn how to keep track of a lot of lies.


    • I would think it’s akin to us trying to keep track of all of our characters’ traits, but without having a manuscript to go from. It’s probably why most people in Witness Protection eventually get found out.


  2. I can’t imagine adapting to the rules you would need to follow to be in Witness Protection. Living a falsehood would drive me nuts.


    • Yeah, my feeling too. I chose Javi because he doesn’t have family and at this point, Shane’s about to come unraveled, so depriving him of his parents and siblings would not turn out well for him.

      And, then there’s all the lies and falsehoods. It’s not a good way to live a life. Survival, not really living.


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