Friday, January 15, 2010

Deet, Deets, and more Deets!

Ronie Kendig has a BS in Psychology, is a wife, mother of four, and avid writer. Her espionage thriller, Dead Reckoning, will release March 1, 2010 through Abingdon Press. The first book in her military thriller series, Nightshade, will hit shelves July 2010 (Barbour Publishing). An active member of ACFW, Ronie volunteers as the assistant to the conference appointment coordinator, and she also does speaking engagements.

Visit Ronie at her website or her blog.

Deets. Deets. Deets.

For those not up on cyber talk, that’s short for details. And they’ve become the bane of my existence as I write and craft compelling stories with foreign settings. Yet, they are the very lifeblood of any story world, the difference between ho-hum and WOWZERS!

My espionage thriller DEAD RECKONING (releases March 01, 2010) is set completely in India. I’ve never been to India, although I sincerely hope to visit some day. A friend asked me once why I chose India—and to be honest, it was because I needed the Arabian Ocean as the key backdrop. So I spent several weeks researching the surrounding countries. Some were too conservative. Others were simply too far away. And that’s how I settled on India.

I am now so in love with the country (yes, I know it has its thousands of gods) and the people. Although I have yet to travel there, it’s by far one of my favorite countries in the world now.

But researching a country goes beyond internet research if you want to lend vitality and life to the setting. The smells—curried chicken, rancid ditches. The feels—dirt roads, palm fronds, arid, brutal heat . . . Are the streets crowded? Littered?

So, I found books, videos, contacted people online who’d lived there. Spent countless hours perusing images and forums to learn more about the customs and experiences of those who’d been there.

This research has stirred a big desire in me to see the world. I don’t know how that will happen since I’m homeschooling my four children and writing, but I am praying God will provide a way. Right now, I’m begging him for a trip to Israel because the book I’m working on, Digitalis, Book #2 in the Discarded Heroes series, is partially set there.

Nightshade, book #1 in the Discarded Heroes, explores the Philippines. I used two missionaries who’d lived there to incorporate elements of the islands into my story. Some say that you cannot write about a place you haven’t been to. I see their point. I honestly do. But I also believe you can “piggyback” the experiences of those who have been there and bring some of the flavor of the culture and setting to your story.

So, I’d love to hear from other writers and even readers for ideas on how to authenticate international settings that you cannot or have not visited.
What makes a story real to you? Or what brings it to life in ways other things can't?


  1. I'm with you, Ronie. I think you can certainly write about a country you have never been to. It does take a lot of work though! I hope you get to go to Israel. My hubby would love to go there, I'm not so sure. I actually don't like flying very much, so all these far away lands, although enticing, seem a little out of my comfort zone. But you never know!

  2. Every place has it's own smells and sounds. Even the air feels unique and lends it's own taste to everything you eat. Fortunately these details are not always necessary to the story.

  3. Great, Ronie. I like your idea of 'piggybacking' on those who have been there. Good luck picking their minds. India makes a marvelous setting.

  4. Hello Ronnie,

    Thanks for your interesting post.

    My current WIP is set in Uganda. Apart from talking to others who've been there and reading books and internet, I also read the local newspaper online while I'm writing the book. Although some of the newspaper stories may be sensationalised I get an of understanding of what's happening in that area while I'm writing and this 'places' me there in real time.

    I hope you are able to get to Israel.