After my Christian suspense novel, Undaunted Valor, released in April this year, people asked me if I had actually visited the parts of Europe where Alessandro’s Grandmother Luciana was kidnapped and held for ransom. My response always feels humbling, because I consider having gone to the Savoy region of France to do research on the book an enormous privilege. Yet the experience enabled me to write with an authenticity I would not have otherwise had.
Research has been the backbone of much of my writing. I can’t imagine writing any piece–fiction or nonfiction–without a sense of having a more intimate knowledge of the circumstance or place. In the beginning stages of outlining, I find the research fun, my mind stimulated by the possibilities for how the story can develop. What began as a foray into the unknown becomes a treasure trove of tenable opportunities for story and character.
|The Glorious Return Trail coming down into Les Chapieux
Halfway through Undaunted Valor, Alessandro has obtained intel that Luciana has been sequestered in a stone cottage in the mountains, but the exact location is unknown. Jamie and Alessandro have to hike a portion of the Glorious Return trail to find her, running into all sorts of snags they don’t anticipate. Since I had followed portions of the ancient trail, I knew where I wanted to place the ruined stone cottage, and I added a rainstorm immediately upon their find of the hideout to add ambiance to the mood.
|A Stone Cottage near the Glorious Return trail, Les Chapieux
Throughout the process of writing, many things came up I needed to research–the kind of gun appropriate for a situation, the wild animals common to the region, a 1940s style European kitchen. I didn’t always know or remember the information I needed for a particular scene, but I could always research the virtual world and information on my computer. In fact, my car chase scene in the iconic ski village of Megève, France came from utilizing a satellite image of Google Maps.
If you’re a writer, reading this and feeling discouraged because you don’t have the funds to travel, I encourage you. Your research is literally a click away. It’s fun, stirs the imagination, and often provides just the right impetus to get you started.
I know many people don’t like to do the work of research, but I’ve discovered sometimes even the bunny trails lead to something I can use. If you’re a writer and have been hit by writer’s block or you’re at a place where you need a new idea, move your computer mouse right now and click on Google. You’ll be surprised by what you find. It might even be your own treasure trove of tenable opportunities!
Donna Wichelman was a communications professional before writing full-time. She has authored short stories, essays and articles in various inspirational publications and lives her dream writing novels and screenplays. She and her husband work with teens at their local church in Fort Collins, Colorado. They travel, bike and kayak whenever their schedules allow.