Thursday, May 21, 2015

For The Sake of Research by Heidi Chiavaroli

Heidi Chiavaroli
Last month, I walked into a bank an hour north of my house, iPhone in hand—discreetly, of course—at my waist. I tried to ignore the half dozen security cameras on me as I entered the foyer with my son, mobile device filming. I encouraged my accomplice—ahem, I mean my son—to take a lollipop in a jar on the far counter. This would give me a good opportunity to video tape the rest of the inside of the bank. My skin grew clammy as a teller glanced my way. If there happened to be a robbery later, I would be Suspect Number One. I pictured myself in an interrogation room, trying to explain to a hardened officer that I in fact had no intention of robbing the bank, that my heroine worked there, that I wanted to make my story as true-to-life as possible by noting the placement of the management offices.

Of course he wouldn’t believe me. But hey, I’d risk it. I could use the arrest experience in a story later.

This isn’t the first time I endangered my reputation for research. How many times had I “forgotten” a pair of sunglasses at a restaurant just to go back for a second look? How many nuns and dock workers and teachers and nurses had I irritated with my annoyingly detailed questions? How many Bostonites had mumbled, “tourist” as they scrambled around me and my oversized map?

All for the sake of research.

I know I can say these things freely here, because you all get me. You’re writers—a special group of people who will go to great lengths to get your facts right. Because if our details aren’t straight, we risk losing credibility with our readers. That may not be such a big deal if we weren’t trying to convey eternal truth and eternal hope, but we are. If anyone should have their research right on, it’s inspirational writers. Sure, we know when to take liberties—we write fiction, after all. But go to the trouble first. Know what you’re writing about. Get the facts. Then, be free to write.

Heidi Chiavaroli is a writer, runner, wife, mother, and grace-clinger—not necessarily in that order. Ever since taking her first trip to Plimoth Plantation with her sister, mother, and grandmother at the age of nine, she has been fascinated with history and its significance to today’s people and culture. Heidi is the winner of ACFW’s 2014 Genesis Contest, Historical Category. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, two sons, and Howie, her standard poodle.