While chatting with Ruthy, Audra, and Tina at the ACFW conference in Denver, the subject of NCIS came up. Crazy, I know! However, my enthusiasm for the show may have bubbled over a tiny bit. Tina invited me to be a guest blogger at Seekerville, so here I am. Thanks, Tina, for the fun opportunity!
So, yes, I have a need-to-watch-it-daily-so-I-don’t-have-a-meltdown kind of NCIS addiction. For those of you who don’t know (gasp) what NCIS stands for, it’s Naval Criminal Investigative Service—a federal organization that investigates crimes with Navy and Marine personnel.
How many times have you had critique partners, contest judges, agents, and editors say your characters all sound the same? Well, my friend, NCIS shines because of the incredible characters and can provide a solution. Watch the show. Listen to the dialogue. Study the team dynamic and the way they interact with each other.
What makes the team so unique?
Special Agent in Charge Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon)
- Team leader
- Father figure on the team
- Drinks only Starbucks coffee
- Gruff exterior, soft heart
- Says little, but one look can speak volumes
- Loves children (his only child was murdered by a drug lord)
- Has a thing for red heads
- Cynical about marriage
- Married 4x—widowed once, divorced 3x
- Had only one true love in his life
- Builds boats in his basement—how he gets them out is still a mystery
Special Agent Anthony “Tony” DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly)
- Comes from wealthy family
- Overgrown frat boy
- Quotes lines from movies
- Does voice impressions
- Team PITA (pain in the a—behind)
Agent Ziva David (Cote de Pablo)
- Former Israeli Mossad officer
- Trained killer
- Tough exterior
- Seldom shows her vulnerable side
- Killed her half-brother to save Gibbs’ life
- Goofs up common American idioms & colloquialisms
Special Agent Timothy “Tim” McGee (Sean Murray)
- Computer guru
- Plays online role playing games—Elf Lord
- Degrees from MIT and Johns Hopkins
- Close to Abby
- Former Team “Probie”—Ziva now has that honor
- Writes under nom de plume Tommy Gemcity
- Allergic to cats
Forensic Specialist Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette)
- Forensic scientist
- From Louisiana
- Addicted to Caf Pow
- Sleeps in a coffin
- Deaf parents
- Stuffed fluctuating hippo
Medical Examiner Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard (David McCallum)
- Lives at home with his elderly, yet very wealthy mother
- Talks to his patients while he autopsies them
- Often shares his long-winded life experiences and keeps talking even after people walk away
Even with their differences, the team work so well together and creates a vibe that has kept the show on the air for going on seven seasons
Since characters are the backbones of your stories, what unique quirks can you add to make them more well-rounded and set apart from one another?
- Study your characters’ histories and pull out bits of backstory to add to their make-up. Why does Gibbs go for redheads? Maybe they remind him of his deceased wife and by dating redheads, he has a tiny reminder of her?
- Take those stereotypes and twist them up. In the seventh season premiere, Tony described Abby as the “happiest Goth you’ll ever meet.”
- Give your characters language and dialogue that fit their personalities. A computer geek will talk about packets and bytes, but an overgrown frat boy will crack crud jokes and ogle hot chicks.
- Give your character endearing habits. Gibbs’ kissing Abby’s cheek shows his softer side. Ducky’s rambles make you say “that’s so ducky.” Ziva keeps a picture of her siblings with her when she goes on missions. Tony hides his emotions behind jokes and movie quotes.
Writers are told to create unique, three-dimensional characters. Static characters with the personality of cardboard will give your reader a great reason to set your book aside and not pick it up again. So, in the infamous words of Special Agent Jethro Gibbs, grab your gear and create memorable characters who will stay with your readers long after the last sentence has been read.
Lisa Jordan has been writing for a decade, taking a hiatus to earn her degree in early childhood education. When she isn’t writing, she is busy running an in-home early learning program, raising a husband, who decided it was his turn to finish his college education, and two teenage boys—one of whom who had the audacity to leave the family nest for his freshman year in college, and directing her church’s children’s ministry program. In addition to writing Christian fiction, she is a bi-monthly contributor to PG (Parental Guidance) Magazine, bi-monthly My First Sale columnist for ACFW’s Afictionado ezine, and the Forum Coordinator for Susan May Warren’s ever-expanding My Book Therapy storycrafting site. Her novel, Draw Me Close, placed second in the contemporary romance category of the 2009 Genesis contest. Visit her website at www.lisajordanbooks.com