Spy Novel Plots - Four Great Spy Story Ideas

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Archetypes

  Protagonist   – Protagonists are responsible for most of the action in a story.

Antagonist   – The Antagonist is the primary obstacle to the Protagonist.

Mentor   – The person who helps, advises or trains the protagonist.

Prize   – Whatever the Protagonist wants to win, achieve, find or defeat.

The Big Four

  The Mission  

  The Mystery  

  On The Run  

  Playing Defence  


The Mission

This plot is a straightforward one but it's also one of the best. The Protagonist is simply given a 'mission'  and attempts to carry it out. The Protagonist often works for an espionage agency or a covert military unit and their Prize is successfully achieving the mission.

The 'Mission' Plot

The Protagonist:

Is given a mission to carry out by their Mentor.  Will be opposed by the Antagonist as they try to complete the mission.  Makes a plan to complete the Mission.  Trains and gathers resources for the Mission.  Involves one or more Allies in their Mission (Optionally, there is a romance sub-plot with one of the Allies).  Attempts to carry out the Mission, dealing with further Allies and Enemies as they meet them.  Is betrayed by an Ally or the Mentor (optionally).  Narrowly avoids capture by the Antagonist (or is captured and escapes).  Has a final confrontation with the Antagonist and completes (or fails to complete) the Mission.


The Mystery

In the Mystery plot the protagonist investigates a disaster attempting to discover who was responsible. The Protagonist often works for a counter-intelligence or counter-terrorism agency and their Prize is unmasking the Antagonist.

The 'Mystery' Plot

The Protagonist:

Discovers a disaster perpetrated by an unknown Antagonist for unknown reasons (or is assigned to investigate by their Mentor).  Makes a plan to investigate the tragedy and discover who the Antagonist is.  Investigates and gathers clues suggesting who the Antagonist is.  Is impeded by the Antagonist.  Involves one or more Allies in their investigation (Optionally, there is a romance sub-plot with one of the Allies).  Attempts to discover further clues to the identity of the Antagonist, dealing with further Allies and Enemies as they meet them.  Is betrayed by an Ally or the Mentor (optionally).  Discovers the identity of the Antagonist and the reasons for their actions and any wider plan.  Is involved in a final confrontation with the Antagonist and stops (or fails to stop) them carrying out their plan.


On The Run

The On The Run plot is the basis of many spy thrillers. The Protagonist stumbles on something vital to the Antagonist and has to run for their life with the Antagonist in pursuit. In the On the Run plot, the Protagonist is often an a reluctant amateur caught up in events they don't understand, and their Prize is survival.

The 'Straight Run' Plot

The Protagonist:

Is involved in an Inciting Incident with a group of Antagonists.  Realises they are not safe from the Antagonists.  Is also not safe from the authorities, as they are tricked or controlled by the Antagonists.  Goes on the run, pursued by both the Antagonists and the authorities.  Involves one or more Allies in their escape (Optionally, there is a romance sub-plot with one of the Allies).  Narrowly avoids capture and death (or is captured and escapes) by both the Antagonists and the authorities.  Persuades the authorities they should work together to stop the Antagonists.  Confronts the Antagonists and stops (or fails to stop) them.  The 'Conspiracy' Plot

The Protagonist:

Witnesses an Inciting Incident with a group of Antagonists.  Realises they are not safe from the Antagonists.  Is also not safe from the authorities, as they are tricked or infiltrated by the Antagonists.  Goes on the run, pursued by both the Antagonists and the authorities.  Involves one or more Allies in their escape (Optionally, there is a romance sub-plot with one of the Allies).  Narrowly avoids capture and death (or is captured and escapes) by both the Antagonists and the authorities.  Discovers who the Antagonists are.  Persuades the authorities they should work together to stop the Antagonists.  Confronts the Antagonists and stops (or fails to stop) them.


Playing Defense

In the Playing Defence spy novel plot, the Antagonist attacks someone  or something important to the Protagonist and the Protagonist tries to  defend it. Often the Protagonist works in counter-intelligence or  counter-terrorism, and the Protagonist's Prize is elimination of the  threat.

The Playing Defence Plot

The Protagonist:

Is involved in an Inciting Incident caused by the Antagonist.  Makes a plan to stop the Antagonist.  Trains and gathers resources to stop the antagonist.  Involves one or more Allies in their defence (Optionally, there is a romance sub-plot with one of the Allies).  Attempts to prevent the Antagonist's attack, dealing with further Allies and Enemies as they meet them.  Has their plan undercut by the Antagonist attacking differently.  Narrowly fails to stop the Antagonist (or stops the Antagonist who then escapes)  Has a final confrontation with the Antagonist and stops (or fails to stop) them carrying out their plan.





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