Chris Cooper, who I see as Craig Firenze

Character Review — Craig Firenze

Consider Craig Firenze, One of My Original Characters

Who is Craig Firenze?

For Mettle, the first character I came up with was the anchor. Craig is the linchpin of the piece and of the group.

Where Did Craig Firenze Come From?

I had way too many proper-ish characters. Craig, and really everyone in Mettle, has a potty mouth. And, in fact, the first word he says (the first word anyone in the book says) is an f-bomb.

He’s sarcastic and smart. Much like Trixie LaRue, his Southern accent may fool some into thinking he’s just a good ol’ boy. But Craig is far more than that.

The Past is Prologue — Backstory for Craig Firenze

The head of communications at NASA is a veteran, who attained the rank of Colonel. But he’s also got two degrees in civil engineering, and a Professional Engineering license. A PE license is hard to get, so it should be obvious: Craig is no dope.

This combination of qualifications makes him uniquely suited to talk to the press about the astronauts on the International Space Station. But he’s also the one who has to report the negatives with the positives. And the negatives are really bad.


Chris Cooper in American Beauty (who I see as Craig Firenze) Craig’s look is essentially Chris Cooper in American Beauty. I have always intended for him to be and look a lot like a middle manager or midlevel military guy.

He’s the short, almost Napoleon-like guy who people underestimate, but who quietly and purposefully gets things done.

But I do have an alternative, as Cooper is currently a bit too old for what I am looking for.

I also like Gary Sinise, but only a bit. Essentially, I only see Sinise when he is in a skeptical or frowning kind of pose.
Gary Sinise, who I sometimes see as Craig Firenze
But either way you slice it, Craig is not meant to have movie star good looks. And I never mean for him to have the classic look of a hero. Yet he is one anyway.

With an accent that’s Texas by way of Georgia, he sounds like he’d be sitting on a porch and dispensing homespun wisdom. But he’s a city guy with two difficult-to-get degrees and a major role in perhaps the most well-known government agency: NASA.


The chief motivator for everyone in the Mettle Universe is survival. But before we get there, we have about nine or ten chapters of preliminaries.

For the preliminary chapters, Craig has the most screen time and you get the most detail about him.

He is essentially trying to keep above water in his personal life, and cover everyone’s tail (Craig would say something far earthier) at work.

Quotes (Craig Reads the Riot Act to Dez and Nell)

Dez and Nell got their coats and followed Craig out. “What the fuck do you want?” she asked as they walked.

“Just hold your horses.” Craig got them inside the front room. The room was cold, and the shadows had lengthened. He fumbled around for candles and matches while the kids waited. Finding them, he lit one and used it to scour the room. He pointed. “There’s a sofa. Now sit.”

Grumbling and still in their jackets, they sat down. “This blows,” Nell complained.

“Shut up,” Craig barked. “And listen, both of you. Now I know this isn’t a great situation.”

“Right, yeah,” she said. “Get to the fucking point.”

“You interrupt your pappy when he does this?”

“I don’t even know who my father is, so fuck you on that account.”

“Right, sorry. I didn’t know that. But honestly, kids. This is not a fucking country club we got goin’ on here. You gotta pull your weight.”

“What are you gonna do about it?” Dez cracked.

Craig ran a hand through his hair. “I won’t starve y’all, and I can’t ground you in any way. But you gotta understand. This power outage has gone on for, I don’t even know what fucking day it is anymore.”

“It’s June first,” Dez said. “Mink had a calendar and I’m still crossing off the days.”

“So, it’s been a good ten days. We’ve gotten nothing from nobody. No communications, no planes flying and dropping supplies, no tests of power, nothing. That tells me this power outage won’t go away any time soon. And those people who left—including your parents, Dez—are probably not coming back for a while, if ever. That means you’ve both gotta step up.”

“I’m only fucking fourteen,” Nell complained.

“Well, I’m sorry that’s so, Missy, but we can’t just wait around for you to grow up.” Craig paused. “There are only eight of us. Mrs. Braverman can’t help, and Olga is pretty much giving all of her time to her care. So, it’s more like there’s only six of us. You back out and you’re not only hurting yourself.”

“Don’t fucking call me Missy. I hate it.”

“I don’t give a flying shit what you like.”


Craig has a relationship of some sort with all the major characters. But these four are the most significant.

Jeannie Scutter Firenze

At the start of Mettle, Craig and his wife, Jeannie, are moving from a relatively even keel to rocky, roiling waters. Craig and Jeannie have known each other since high school. She’s a former beauty queen—and he was just some guy.

But her parents in particular pushed for the union, because Jeannie isn’t what she seems on the surface. The gorgeous Alabama cheerleader has bipolar disorder. As a result, the Scutters did everything in their power to keep the marriage together. They hid the worst of Jeannie’s episodes.

But when they’ve both passed on, the truth comes out. And it is not pretty.

At the Start of Mettle

When Mettle starts, Jeannie is heading right into a manic phase, like a speeding train in the process of derailing. And Craig is finding out that he doesn’t want to tolerate it any longer.

Noah Braverman

I don’t write Craig with any siblings. But Noah is as close to a brother as I’ve got for him. Even though Noah barely knows him, he takes Craig in, all the same. While they aren’t exactly partners in crime (Noah and Elise are), they both get ‘er done.

Nell Murphy

When Craig and Nell start off, they get off on the wrong foot. Nell and Dez abandon the others to follow childish pursuits. This leaves Craig and Mei-Lin lost in Brighton. Dez leaves Elise and Noah when they’re foraging for food. Nell takes a nap and Dez does ollies on his skateboard.

Craig reads them both the Riot Act (see above).

But Nell warms up to him, and comes to realize that he is pretty much the only person standing between the group and utter starvation and despair. The no-nonsense middle manager gets things done.

Mei-Lin Quan, MD

With Jeannie, everything is a difficult slog. But with Mei-Lin, everything is easy. Although some of that may come from sharing experiences in a disaster.

She chooses him, and decides he will be the reason she goes on. But when she first comes onto him, he’s like a deer caught in the headlights. It takes him a bit to come around.

Conflict and Turning Point

Like with the other major characters, and really the book itself, the turning point is when they set off the fireworks. Until then, it feels as if Craig will be the strongest one. But he’s not. That honor, rather, falls to Dez.

Continuity/Easter Eggs

Craig is one of the most easily funny characters I have ever written. He makes pop culture references effortlessly. But I don’t have a real continuity for him across the other universes.

Future Plans for Craig Firenze

There is no question that Craig will appear in the Mettle prequel story. That story will be a bunch of loosely-gathered vignettes, but they will all show foreshadowing of the main book.

Craig Firenze: Takeaways

Before the disaster, he’s a mid-level government functionary. But afterwards? He’s the key to the group’s survival.

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Want More of Craig and the Rest of Mettle?

If the Mettle resonates with you, then check out my other articles about how changes in the periodic table nearly kill us all.

Character Reviews: Mettle

The Mettle Universe

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