news-category: Summer Undergraduate Research Scholars Program

Scholar Completes First Draft of Novel During Summer Undergraduate Research Experience

Brandon Richmond Discovers Value of Research When Writing a Story and Creating Unique Characters

Written by Ashley Rich, ’26

Undergraduate students at Gardner-Webb University have a unique opportunity to explore their academic interest and aid their professional development through the Summer Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Looking for the chance to learn about novel writing without the conflicts of a full-time college student, Brandon Richmond found a creative outlet in the program and received a grant to participate. “I had started a novel in November, National Novel Writing Month, the November before I did Summer Scholars. And when I was offered the opportunity of Summer Scholars and they said it can be a research project or a creative project, I decided it was best to take that time to work on my novel,” Richmond said.

The Summer Scholars Program allows undergraduate students to spend five weeks working with a Gardner-Webb faculty mentor on a research or creative project of their choice. Students like Richmond have the chance to stay on campus and take part in an enriching educational experience that allows them to develop their skills and knowledge.

Mentored by former Professor Matthew Duffus, Richmond spent his time in the Summer Scholars Program writing a first draft of a high fantasy novel. The draft at the beginning of the program sat under 200 pages and reached 669 pages by the end of the experience. He was surprised to find, however, that writing a novel involved more than simply tapping away at a keyboard.

“There is, in my opinion, a lot of research that goes into writing,” Richmond explained. “There’s also just an experience element to writing.”

Four members of the Ethics Bowl Team pose
Brandon Richmond, second from left, recently competed with a team from Gardner-Webb in the NCICU Ethics Bowl. Other team members , from left, were Weston Pratt, Micah Moulder and Rebecca Majorel.

Richmond’s majors in both English and philosophy and theology impacted both the development and writing of his novel. “I’m trying to incorporate a lot of what I learned in my writing courses. I mean, before I started this novel, I had just learned how to write dialogue. As a philosophy major, I’ve been more into existentialist philosophy,” Richmond expressed. “My philosophy major played a large part in creating a novel that’s unique and explores unique characters, but also characters that feel comfortable being themselves.”

 It was also important that his novel included representation of groups that rarely receive attention in fantasy literature. “Personally, growing up and reading fantasy, there weren’t many Black characters. There weren’t many queer characters. There aren’t even that many women, and so I wanted to make fully fleshed out, diverse characters while seeing what they would look like in a fantasy world,” Richmond said.

The first draft of Richmond’s novel was completed by the end of the program, and he aims to edit the second draft and submit it to test readers before sending it to a publisher.

Through the Summer Scholars Program, Richmond gained valuable experience in creating large written products under time constraints and was able to get an idea of what work as a full-time writer might be like should he pursue it as a career.

“For anyone who wants to do a creative writing project for summer scholars, know that you’re going to do a lot more than just write,” Richmond noted. “Some of my time during Summer Scholars was writing, but some of it was reading. Some of it was just walking around Lake Hollifield and thinking about plot points and where the plot could go. Drawing from your own experience also takes a lot.”

Ashley Rich is a Gardner-Webb English major from Etowah, N.C.; Ashley likes to play piano, read, drink tea, and go for walks in the woods.

About Summer Undergraduate Research Scholars

The Gardner-Webb University Summer Undergraduate Research Scholars program is an opportunity for students to participate in a focused research or creative project during a summer term. Guided by a faculty mentor, students work on their project for 40 hours weekly for five weeks. After the experience, students are required to present their research at a scholarly forum.

About Gardner-Webb

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at

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