Researching ‘Conviction’

Part of me just wants to start writing Conviction but I did promise to blog as-I-went-along and I made my writing goal to be following the writing process. (Whatever that is… now in hindsight maybe ‘the writing process’ is whatever works for you, and I’m still in the midst of finding mine).

Fair warning: Conviction is a story about the Islamic State. It will be a faith-based story. (Oh, and this contains SPOILERS to the story).

The three key aspects of any story are Setting, Characters and Plot. All three of these elements have a symbiotic relationship in the story.


Let’s address briefly the plot first, because that impacts Setting and Characters.

As yet, I haven’t defined much of the plot. I know I want my main protagonist to be a Christian, captured by IS. That’s the sum total of what I have so far; I need to do more work on plot.

But I needed to know that much in order to be able to pick a setting.


The setting (or location) for the story will be Karamlish, Iraq. (Note there’s alternative spellings of the town’s name).

via Google Maps

In finding a location I didn’t want it to be a major city, but preferably close by. I know that I wanted some Western military personnel in the story, so I have to give them plausible access. It is also quite close to non-IS controlled areas (as shown by the green shading below), where I can base them.

From Institute for the Study of War
From Institute for the Study of War

When you’re writing a ‘real life’ fiction, it is much harder to do setting than writing a fantasy story: the settings should be as authentic as you can get it. By choosing a near-to capital city it should be easier to do further research than choosing some town out in the middle of nowhere.

The town is currently under the control of IS and has an incredibly rich Assyrian history, being conquered by numerous empires. It also has (had?) a large christian population, which fits the bill.


One of the articles or books that I read (and now can’t find) mentioned that naming characters because of the meaning of the name was not wise. The premise was that chances are the meaning of the name will not be mentioned in the book, so it’s something only the author can appreciate.

I did this in Vengeance Will Come for two of my antagonists.Regent Menas Senay is a ruler so his name Menas (‘A Great King to which the horizon bows down) and Senay (‘Gift from Above’) fits his role. His number one (somewhat psychopathic) henchmen is named Terefi (…which I now discover I transposed…) Teferi ‘Is Feared By His Rivals or One Who Is Ferocious’.

Perhaps naming characters this way is considered wrong by some, but it works for me… so for Conviction:

The protagonist’s family

  • Amir (main protagonist, major character) whose name is Arabic meaning “prince”. Amir will be 17 and a Christian.
  • Oda (grandfather of Amir, medium character). Oda is a Christian and his name means “servant of God”. He is 68 years old, infirm. He was previously an archaeologist and worked for the previously famous Mosul museum (which has been destroyed by IS), after being educated in England. He is the patriarch of the family.
  • Laleh (Amir’s mother, minor character). Aged 47, her name means “Tulip flower.” She wasn’t a Christian when she married Amir’s father, but has become one since. (Amir’s father is deceased).
  • Istir (Amir’s sister, minor character). Aged 14, her name relates to the biblical Esther.

The French journalist

  • Henri, aged 43. He will either be a prisoner of IS, or embedded as a reporter with them – I haven’t decided yet.

The Western Military – I haven’t identified these yet, but there will probably be two: a Private Military Contractor and his friend, a base commander.

That’s it for today’s post.

A few sources I have found helpful so far have been:


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