Can Vince Flynn Make You a Better Writer?

Can Vince Flynn help you become a stronger writer?Can Vince Flynn help you become a stronger writer?

The movie American Assassin debuts this week. That got me thinking about Vince Flynn.  We were a kindred spirits. He reminded me of many I know who serve our country. I was introduced to Vince Flynn’s writing when I went to work in Washington DC, after 9/11.

Several of the military officers I worked with suggested that I might enjoy reading his writing as I prepared for my presentation at National Defense University. Vince spent his time writing political thrillers and was one of the best people I know at understanding how politics and intrigue go together in Washington. Many of the relationships that developed seem stranger than the fiction Vince loved to write about.

I’ve read and listened to his books several times since he’s died. He still challenges me to take my writing to a different level. I believe Vince Flynn would have loved to see his characters come to life on the big screen. As with many extraordinary writers, his characters will continue to thrill his readers under new writers and different media.

I shared the thoughts below on Vince Flynn when he died. They still resonate with many of his friends and readers. Occasionally, I will hear from someone who ran across this blog and how it moved them to act. This is all a writer can hope for. I hope you enjoy American Assassin as much as I did. See you at the movies.

He was an unapologetic American.  He was a man’s man. He reminded me of many of the men I worked with over the years from the military. His fictional characters could come right out of today’s Washington.

When you lose someone, you look up to and he’s the same age, I find that it makes me look at my life and the progress I’ve made with my life. In Vince’s case, it’s because I so admire the way he wrote and the beliefs that he shared with his readers.  To tell you the impact of Vince’s writing on both sides of the aisle, two of his most visible fans were former President Bill Clinton and former President George W. Bush. His last several novels were vetted by the Department of Defense under the past several Presidents.

Storytelling is such a critical element in the way we communicate I thought I might share several secrets that Vince employed to tell such great stories.  I think it can help you be a better storyteller and, ultimately, connect with your audience in a different way.

The first secret is to be willing to share yourself with your audience. If you have a particular point of view, share it with others. In Vince’s writing, you had no question where he stood on the big issues challenging our country and the world. In his character, Mitch Rapp, he created a man others could respect, even if they had differing points of view.

I believe good writers move you emotionally. In a world of political correctness, Vince took great joy in shaking things up. An author must be willing to leave certain readers behind to connect with their core audience.  I believe it was Bill Cosby who once said “I don’t know what the secret of success is, I can tell you what it’s not, trying to please everyone. “

The second secret of great writing is that it must be simple, but not too simple. Vince used a number of tools to enhance his stories. He told his stories from both the hero’s and the villain’s perspective. He helped you get inside his characters’ heads. You could feel why a terrorist might see things differently than we do.

His characters’ motivations were simple, but his stories were complex and kept you hanging on the edge of your seat. You could actually feel the anger when Mitch Rapp pursued a cold blooded killer. Knowing how to use emotions can take your writing and connection to a whole different level.

The final secret was Vince Flynn was a very curious person and his research was very complete. Maybe sometimes too complete. He was called to Washington DC to explain where his information came from, and how he got it. Tom Clancy had similar challenges in his early writing during the Cold War.

Vince’s thrillers were set in current times. Vince Flynn was a voracious researcher for his novels. The amount of detail he would be able to include would make the reader feel what his characters felt, from the thrill of chasing someone down an alley or being launched out of a nuclear sub. His research was so accurate that people who had actually done these things couldn’t believe how close he came to describing their feelings and emotions.

Vince Flynn was extraordinary at reading people and sorting through the facts of any given situation. Many of his novels foretold of situations that later came to pass. He would have been an incredible asset to our country if he would have chosen that life path.  The path he chose helped many understand the threat of global terrorism.  He was one of the first to understand that we must be willing to stand up for what made our country so exceptional. For this reason his stories will always be timeless. You can learn more about Vince Flynn’s writing at his home page

When I think of Vince Flynn, I think of one more thought he would share with his fans. He died as a young man from prostate cancer. He left behind a wonderful family. He got it a little over two years ago and was doing everything possible to defeat the disease. He was a fighter until the end. But like great military minds, he would tell you the best battle to have with cancer is to avoid it all together. His father also died of cancer as a young man, but like so many men, Vince chose not to take a more proactive role in preventing prostate cancer until it was too late.

For many men, we just don’t want to deal with or get involved in routine examinations. When we discover we have cancer, it’s frequently too late. So, if you have a man in your life, he may be a father, a brother, a husband, an uncle, a cousin, or a friend, take time today to remind them they need to keep up with their prostate health. It’s so simple and easy today; there are no reasons not to.  Let’s honor Vince Flynn’s memory by beating cancer before it arrives.

See you next week.

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