Four Spies that Every Writer Needs and Why

ACFW Authors and writing, Friends of ACFW, tips, writing Leave a Comment

by Sandra Orchard

“Spies?” you say. “But I don’t write suspense.”
I’m talking about spies that will give you the inside scoop on the things you don’t know, and on the things that you don’t know that you don’t know.


So you can write believable fiction, and give readers unexpected insider details.

SciFi and Spec writers don’t stop reading. This applies to you, too.

Best of all, some of our spies need never know they’re working for us.

1) You need a spy of the opposite sex. Why?
Guys don’t know how women think. Women don’t know how guys think. Admittedly, romance readers probably want to read about heroes that are their idea of an ideal guy. And as Michael Hyatt, so eloquently admitted in his ACFW address, some guys, like himself, really are estrogen poisoned.

But unless your hero grew up in a house full of women, his thoughts and actions may be much different than you think or want them to be.

The same goes for men writing female characters.

2) You need a spy in the age range of your character.


Kids don’t think the way you remember thinking about the world. I am continually stunned by the weird perceptions my kids share about things.

The same goes for any character that’s much older or younger than you. Seniors look at life a lot differently than thirty-somethings. A talented writer will hone those differences for added depth and conflict.

3) You need spies who have worked in the various occupations of your characters, and spies who have experienced their life situations (ex. widowed, lost a child, lost a job, divorced, single, married). Why?

Because if you want your reader to walk in your character’s shoes, you need to “experience” the terrain first.

Generally speaking, people love to talk to writers for nothing more than an acknowledgement in your book. But if you can’t connect with a living spy, check out books on the profession or life situation. Explore blogs written by professionals or by those who’ve experienced what you’re writing about.

4) You need spies who have lived where your story is set.

If you’re writing historical fiction, these “spies” will be books and museums and photographs and such. Fantasy and SciFi writers have lots of leeway here, but contemporary writers, creating fictional towns, do not. You still need to be aware of climate, vegetation, types of houses, types of social services etc. for the region in which you choose to plop that town.

For my newest romantic suspense, Critical Condition, I interviewed nurses, doctors, police officers, IT consultants, divorcees, a critically ill friend who’d tried many alternative treatments, and that friend’s husband who’d steadfastly supported her. And I grieved alongside him when she died.

My “spies” were indispensible in creating a story Romantic Times described as: “Well-developed characters and fast-paced action will keep readers fully engaged in this wonderful tribute to spouses struggling with a loved one’s illness.”

Your Turn: Please share your favorite “spies” (resources) in the comments section.

Sandra Orchard is a multi-published Canadian author writing for Love Inspired Suspense and Revell (June 2013). Her debut novel won the 2012 Canadian Christian Writing Award for romance. Critical Condition is the third book in her Undercover Cops series. Connect with Sandra at her author Facebook page.

Comments 0

  1. Yes, yes and yes! How many good books have I read that were runined by a minor, irritating detail that simply did not work? So easily solved by having spies.
    It may be a matter of praying and believing, too, that God will bring the right person accross your path to help you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *