Today we’re featuring author Renee-Ann Giggie as she talks about research. And for those of you who aren’t history buffs, don’t worry. Research isn’t only about history. As you can see, she writes contemporary suspense, and she needed to do a pile of research to make certain she had the details correct. Readers look at the details, and they judge whether they will trust us to tell them a story that could have happened by our details. If they don’t trust us, they won’t read our stories.
It would be so easy to write only about the topics we know. Probably boring too.
British writer Benjamin Disraeli once said: The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write about it.
I love this quote because I love to learn. I’ve always said if I’d love to make a living out of being a student. I’m like a sponge. I absorb everything I can and then yearn for more.
My new release deals with adoption. I started it in 2009 with one goal in mind: to write a strong and powerful story in the form of a court drama; a battle between birth mother and adoptive parents. I had one major problem, though: I lacked knowledge of court proceedings, the kinds of questions they’d ask, and so on. Friends told me I should watch more CSI-type dramas. I don’t watch much TV so that didn’t help. I even contacted lawyers left, right, and centre to see if they could help me develop the court case. I had a slew of questions that needed answered. None of them would help. I became discouraged, set that novel aside and started another. Once I’d published it, I dug out my so-called court drama “flop” and decided to give it another go. This time, though, I approached the story from a different angle: I wrote it outside the court room.
You see, as writers, whether plotter or pantser, we all need to research what we write. Big time. I’ve been involved with the deaf community since 1990, and though I know a lot about them, but I don’t know everything. Having deaf characters in my novels, I had to make sure everything I said was accurate. I still needed to go to and check my sources. Google’s a great tool, but you and I both know it’s not always 100% accurate. I went to reputable deaf organizations’ websites and even emailed them when I had specific questions for which I had no answers. Often, the best answers came from deaf people themselves.
I still wanted to write a court drama, but needed a lawyer to help me, or at least someone who was well-versed in court procedures. One day, I got the break I needed. A lawyer moved his office into the small building where I worked. On my break I dropped in to see him, and was pleasantly surprised with his willingness to help me. He even invited me to come back if I had more questions. His secretary kindly replied to my email when I had what I called quick questions.
I also contacted the department of community services, adoption division, where a social worker answered my umpteenth questions about what would happen if… or how would this play out when…etc…
I’m thankful for all the help I’ve received and I can’t stress this enough:
Research is key. Don’t leave it to your readers to tell you: “That’s not how things would happen when...”
Renee-Ann’s a member of several writing groups and is no stranger to Christian writers’ conferences. Her latest novel, Emma’s Prayer (Feb 2016), is the story of a teen mom who puts her son up for adoption, but soon misses him, changes her mind, and sets out to get him back. Is she too late? Click HERE for Emma’s Prayer.
She’s now working on a third novel. She and her husband live in New Brunswick, Canada.