Adwoa Badoe is the author of the novel Between Sisters, as well as a professional storyteller and African dance instructor. You can begin reading Between Sisters for a limited time on Figment here–it’s about Gloria, a poor teenager from Ghana, who wonders what her future will be like after failing most of her school exams. When a distant relative offers to move Gloria to the city to serve as a nanny and go to dressmaking school, Gloria thinks it might be her big break–but in the bright lights of Kumasi, Gloria finds she has a hard time remembering who she is and what she stands for.
But Adwoa herself lives in Canada, not Ghana, so she had to do some research in order to write accurately from Gloria’s perspective. Read on to learn how she developed a convincing voice.
I write as I live, very organically, from the gut! Does that make sense? To me it does. I like to write what I know because I am immersed in it, and everything flows from a deep-seated place. I decided to write Between Sisters because it is a story I know well, in its different parts. It isn’t one person’s story; it is quite simply an African story that I feel many Africans will know and recognize in their own lives, those of their relatives, and in the lives of the many people they interact with daily. It is a story that arose out of my concern for the people of our cities and countries; I merely allowed my writing and Gloria’s voice to speak for the many.
Although the story flowed from my soul and despite the fact that I knew the terrain well, there was a lot of reading that I needed to do to create Between Sisters, as I have lived in Canada and not Ghana for many years. I needed to research the politics of the period, the fashion, and the new and emerging trends, such as the use of cell phones. I even needed to research the voice of my character, as such a story arises in the vernacular before it translates to English. (Note: I wrote the entire story in English, not in my vernacular.)
This is how I approach research in my writing: Once I know the character well enough, I write the narrative as it comes to me around the outline of a plot. But I allow the characters to lead me through the story, deferring often to them instead of to my preconceived plot. The draft narrative soon reveals to me what I still need to discover about my characters and setting. As questions arise, I focus my research to answer them. In Between Sisters there was much to discover about dates, seasons, the school calendar, the national currency, and the social and economic concerns of the period. Research helped me to paint the scenery of the story. Most of this knowledge I found on the Internet. I also consulted people who knew the answers to my questions through personal experience, and I found answers in other books, both fiction and nonfiction.
Want to put Adwoa’s advice to use? Do a Google search for a topic you’re thinking of writing on and post one interesting fact about it in the comments.
Girls with grit are fierce, independent, strong young women. They’re girls who face tough situations and sometimes don’t come out on top. They’re girls who work hard, who believe in themselves, and who try to follow their principles.
Groundwood Books’ Girls With Grit series is on Figment because each of these books is about a girl like you, or your sister, or your best friend. We’ll be featuring different books every week, so be sure to check the Figment Features page often!