Research is a fundamental part of writing. There is an old saying that goes, “Write what you know.”
While writing only what I know would give me a book or three, that would be the end of my career. You can only get so much entertainment out of one person’s experiences and then the well runs dry.
So, when I write anything other than an administrative assistant or a homemaker, I have to research. I have to contact people who have worked the jobs I’m writing about, who have experienced the things I’m having my characters experience, and who have lived lives similar to the lives my characters are living.
When I started writing Valerie’s Verdict, I needed to research a couple of things. She is an architect with a focus on interior design. That is not the same as an interior designer. So I had to research architects who focus on interior design. She was severely beaten by an ex-boyfriend. I had to research what her injuries would look like, what the scars would look like, how a shattered hip that lead to a hip replacement would affect future pregnancies and childbirth, and what kind of prison sentence her abuser would receive because he threw her from a second-story window.
I also had to research the perspective of a black woman in America dating and falling in love with a white man in America. I had to learn what her inner dialogue would sound like, what her feelings might feel like, and what her perspective would be, what the reactions and actions of the people around her would be like.
I took that research as seriously as I take everything I research. I interviewed black women married to white men. I read every single Christian romance I could find that was written by a black woman with a black female character in love with a white man. And I did it that way, so that I could get actual thoughts and feelings that might be present versus my projection of what they may be. I ended up reading 6 or 7 books.
And when I was finished with Valerie’s Verdict, I gave it to all those women I interviewed and asked them to read it, to correct me, to fix any kind of projections I got wrong (and was thrilled to find out that I’d gotten them right!)
And the result was, it became something that I know. I was able to “write what I know”.
In all of my books, I include discussion questions that apply biblical truths to the situations in the book and encourage the reader to apply their lives to those truths and to consider the application. There were a lot of spiritual truths that could be uncovered through Valerie’s verdict because of the faith journey of the character, the background of her childhood through adulthood, and the life experiences she had. But among the discussion questions I was able to come up with, here are three of them.
Acts 17:26 says: “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth….”
Because all human beings have common ancestors in first Adam then in Noah, is it right to make decisions about people based on skin pigmentation or socio-economic status?
Phillip worried Buddy might have some personal issues with Brad and Valerie’s relationship. Do you think those issues might be well-founded?
Women in the bathroom distinguished Valerie by her skin color in a derogatory manner. People often flippantly gossip like that. Have you ever been compelled to correct them? What kind of outcome has resulted from taking a stance?
I often receive emails from readers with the discussion questions answered — which is thrilling for me as someone who writes with the mission statement, “To create modern-day parables that uplift fellow believers and minister to seekers in our fallen world.” And this book generated so much discussion! I wish I could be in a room with book clubs as they read the book and talk about the issues raised, as people think about hard questions and try to discover the truth in their hearts and align it with the truth in God’s word.
I am so broken by the state of the hearts of people in America and around right now. It’s become so fatiguing. But, as a faithful follower of Christ and a believer in the omniscience and omnipresence of Jehovah God, I know that HE knew this was coming and already prepared people to be ministers to the broken and suffering at this time, to be truth-speakers, to be the light. In the meantime, I can pray for those people, stand up for my brothers and sisters in Christ, and teach my children God’s truths.
What can you do in these times? Are you actively involved anywhere?
One commenter will receive an autographed paperback of Valerie’s Verdict. International readers are more than welcome. Giveaway ends June 24th at 5pm EST. I will email the winner.