More Thoughts on “The Disruptors”: Characters, Relationships, Terrorism, False Flags and Art

teamnonviolencelogo_cI haven’t done much on my “The Disruptors” story idea for a while. This week I had a few ideas on how to overcome some of barriers I face.

Characters and Their Relationships

One mistake I’ve made with some of the stories I’ve worked on was not to put enough thought into the characters and their relationships. This is something I’ve been aware of for some time, but It has risen up in my consciousness in the last few weeks.

I think the work I did on my Doc Savage story, “The 89th Key” helped me realize that.  (see

What drove it home for me this week, was a comment in an interview about the Doc Savage convention. Jay Ryan, one of the event’s original organizers, says that what attracted to him to the stories was that the stories, while adventure stories, were really about the characters and their friendship.

When I wrote my Doc Savage story, I found it much easier to write than many of my other stories, because the characters helped write the story. I hadn’t thought of the characters in these stories as having much depth or reality. In some ways they are superficial. Never the less, they are distinct characters whose behaviour is predictable and consistent.

What is more important, as Jay Ryan points out in his interview, it is the relationships between the characters that make the story come alive. While I have tried to create characters for my stories, I usually make no effort to develop the relationships between the characters.

With my “The Disruptors” story idea, the plot I started to sketch out doesn’t give much opportunity for relationships between the characters. I’m a little unsure about how I fix that. My initial feeling is that I should develop the characters and their relationships before I try to develop a plot.

Terrorism, False Flags and Performance Art

In my story, the protagonists’ primary objective is to disrupt terrorist groups. I’ve struggled with just how the would do that. I know there are techniques to influence people to change their views, but I have trouble understanding them well enough to depict them in a way that makes a good story.

I’ve read several articles that ask the question: Does terrorism work?” Here’s one of them:

The bottom line is that terrorism rarely, if ever, a successful tactic. This must be apparent to the terrorists; so why do they take this route? As I see it, terrorism is an act of desperation. It is the only tool a small group, with no broad support, have available. Small is a relative measure; a thousand terrorists is a big group, but on the world stage, that is a very small group.

Many conspiracy theorists claim that some terrorist attacks are “false flag” operations by the secret government to manipulate the population. I feel that terrorism is, in essence, always a false flag operation. Since these are small groups with little support, their objective is to appear to be larger, more effective and have broader support than they actually have.

In this view, terrorism is a kind of performance art. The objective is to provoke a response. They need to have their enemy over react to their threat. If the dominant power does what the terrorists want, they will attack the broader group the terrorists claim to represent and drive them to side with the terrorists. This, they hope, will eventually allow them to adopt tactics that are effective.

How does this help me develop the methods that my protagonists need to disrupt the terrorists? The most obvious objective would be to convince the terrorists that terrorism is unlikely to help them achieve their goals. I think it doesn’t make sense to try to get them to give up their goals. Rather, we want them to find less violent ways they can work toward their goals. If their goals have broad appeal, they may succeed. If not, they won’t.


I think these ideas are very helpful to me. There still remains a lot of effort to convert them into a workable basis for the stories. That is still intimidating.



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