Last week I talked briefly about a new project from Pro Se Productions called Covert Ops: Gemini, which is fashioned on the sixties and seventies TV series, Mission Impossible. The anthology contains three stories, The Havana Protocol, by J. Walt Layne – Romanoff and Juliet, by Tim Lasiuta – and “Tear Down This Wall!” by Wesley Smith.
Recently, I asked Smith about how he approached his contribution to the project.
It’s difficult to explain why I approached this project in the way that I did. Coming up with ideas from scratch is difficult for me. There are infinite directions in which to go, and I can never choose just one. Throwing in random elements requires more creativity. Tell me to write any kind of story that I want and I’ll lock up. But if you tell me to write a western that includes the USS Constellation, Jefferson City, Missouri and the Monkees… Now that’s a challenge.
That’s how I started “Tear Down This Wall!” I pulled out 1,000 Places to See Before You Die and landed on the entry for The Brandenburg Gate. If my finger had fallen on The Blarney Stone or the Drakensberg Mountains, the story would be unrecognizably different.
Once I saw the picture of the Brandenburg Gate, I knew that the story I would write would be named “Tear Down This Wall!” (taken from Ronald Reagan’s speech in the shadow of the Berlin Wall itself) and that the climax would be on top of the gate itself. The basic plot came together from there.
Outside of the basic plot, what was eventually published beared almost no resemblance to the story I had intended to write. Since I had never attempted a 10,000 word story before, I grossly over-plotted it. My original vision could easily have been 50,000-60,000 words longer. It included a team twice the size of the one that saw publication, had subplots about human trafficking and blackmail. Like William Goldman’s / S. Morgenstern’s classic The Princess Bride, what you read in “Tear Down This Wall!” is truly the good parts version.
One of the things I enjoy most when writing is when the characters take the story in an unexpected direction. Furman Valero was like that. Before I started writing the scene where he was introduced, he was simply “Thug #1.” Again, I chose his name from a couple names list websites and was immediately had vision of who Valero would be: a brooding, somber, former Mexican wrestler who had fallen on hard times and was trapped in Germany with no easy way out. And instead of being a minor character, he suddenly became the emotional center of the story.
Things came quickly after that. I already had the climax of the story, but I wanted scenes worthy of an action movie. Since “Tear Down This Wall!” is set in Germany, a car chase on the Autobahn was required, and the fight in the meat packing plant was built around a couple specific images that came to me.
I am extremely proud of “Tear Down This Wall!” I always try to create something I’d enjoy reading. “Tear Down This Wall!” certainly succeeds on that level. This may sound corny, but if the readers enjoy “Tear Down This Wall” half as much as I enjoyed writing it, I’ll be happy.
Wesley Smith started creating stories when he was five,and hasn’t stopped since. He has lived in St. Louis, Omaha, California wine country and Memphis before settling in the central Ohio area, with each city bringing a new set of experiences to draw from. He and his beautiful wife/editor live in a 120-year-old farmhouse with three wonderful girls and a boy. When he’s not losing sleep over his next story, he’s losing sleep while taking care of his new baby girl.
Covert Ops: Gemini is available from Amazon.