The Scoop on Research

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DiAnn MillsDiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than fifty-five books published. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Visit her website and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

puzzleWriting romantic suspense is my passion. I stay awake at night planning a story in which a strong and vibrant heroine attempts the impossible, the forbidden, or the dangerous for the good of others. She meets a hero who compliments her strengths and challenges her weaknesses. Together they take the writer and the reader on an adventure.

However, research can be difficult, especially if I’m not familiar with the character’s profession and its rules of conduct. I educate myself through online research and the library until I have accumulated enough knowledge to contact a real person who has this profession. My goal is to pose questions during the interview that are realistic for the character in my book. Sometimes I must preface my inquiry with, “I need to know if this situation could happen, not if it has.”The answer allows me freedom to create plot twists and circumstances that add tension and conflict to my story while staying true to the character’s profession.

Some professions are easier to research than others. The FBI and Border Patrol want public support, and they were not only willing to help me write a credible book but patient in responding to questions. Both agencies allowed me to tour their facilities.

For my FBI novels, an agent reads every word to ensure accuracy and protocol. That doesn’t mean my book is endorsed, but it does mean the FBI offers solutions. I’m grateful for their assistance.

Other professions involved in national security are required to keep their techniques secret. Makes sense to me. If we are to be protected from those who seek us harm, then methods must be hidden from the public. The CIA and Secret Service are two agencies that can’t reveal how we are to be kept safe. The writer is on her own to figure out how crimes are prevented and stopped. Sometimes a person in one of these fields will tell me what I’ve written is wrong. On those occasions, I become more creative in addressing a situation in my story.Firewall copy

The romance portion of romantic suspense has to be accurate. Some agencies frown on their employees fraternizing within their ranks. The reasons are sound. Think about a man or woman in a high-risk situation in which their priorities might be another person instead of his/her responsibilities. For a man and woman who are attracted to each other, employer guidelines might mean hiding their relationship. More juicy conflict.

Writing romantic suspense is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. The pieces have to fit in a way that are credible and in character. Every scene of the novel has to add conflict while the plot adds layers to the story problem. I encourage writers who are fascinated by romantic suspense to conduct realistic research. Book sales will grow!


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  1. Thanks. Valuable info.

  2. Thanks for the insights on researching romantic suspense. Are there any particular books or sites you’ve found to be especially good starting points for some of the professions you’ve researched?

  3. Your research sounds fascinating, DiAnn. I appreciate the fact that you strive to present accurate portrayals of those in L.E. and related fields.

  4. Research is my favorite part, DiAnn. I’m slowly writing a Bible study on Revelation’s letters to the seven churches. I find it hard to put down the fascinating research and to pick up my pen. I have to remind myself that God can’t bless anyone with my research unless I stop to write, using what I’ve learned.

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