Poking and Prying with a Purpose (Penny Rader)

Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. – Zora Neale Hurston

I enjoy research; in fact research is so engaging that it would be easy to go on for years, and never write the novel at all. – Helen Dunmore

I’m one of those people who loves, loves, LOVES to do research. I played online…uh, I mean I researched online how to do research for fiction writing. Here’s a smattering of info I found about researching all sorts of fiction, including contemporary, historical, crime, sci-fi, along with snippets from the articles. This is just a small portion of what’s out there – I could so easily fill an entire month’s worth of posts.

10 Research Resources for Fiction Writers (Tina Hunter)
  • Google Scholar: This is a specialized search engine from Google that will spit out only get academic results (and therefore more reliable?) for your searches.
  • Scirus: A search engine just for scientific articles and publications.
  • Encylcopedia.com: I know there is wikipedia but you have to remember that ANYONE can edit a wiki, where as the encyclopedia is the place to go for fact checked data.
  • Library of Congress: Science Reference Services: Need I say more?
  • PubGene: A database of genes, biological terms and organisms.
  • GoPubMd: Science and medical search results can be found here.
  • Godchecker: A neat tool that can help you keep your gods and goddess’ straight.
  • Sci-Fi Search: A customized google search that will bring back results relevant to Science Fiction.
  • Sacred Text Archive: An archive of free books on religion, mythology, folklore and more.
  • Any of the SpaceRef Websites: SpaceRef has “21 news and reference web sites are designed to allow both the novice and specialist alike to explore outer space and Earth observation.”

10 Research Tips for Fiction Writers (Sheryl Clark)
  • no matter what information you find or where it is, record the source
  • don't rely on the internet for everything
  • even books can be wrong
  • interview people, if you can, and if it's relevant
  • collect anything and everything
  • go to the places you are writing about, or something similar
  • use the libraries all around you
  • don't think that if you're not writing historical fiction then you don't need to research
  • don't forget movies
  • you can also read published novels set in your era

Fiction Writing: Research is Just a Road Trip (Harry McLeod )
One of the 7 Deadly Fears of Writing is the fear of research. Either you love researching or you hate it, but a realistic novel can’t avoid it. The details you add to your novel are what make the story credible and help suspend disbelief. …
Put yourself in your character’s shoes while you read the web pages, examine the pictures, talk to a local or visit a new city. Observe the people who live there. Wander the streets and see the setting through your character’s eyes.
And when you write, write what your character sees – not what you see.

Law and Fiction: Getting the Facts Straight (Columns by Leslie Budewitz)
Here are a few of the topics covered in her columns:
  • Federal and State Court Terminology
  • Overview of a Trial
  • Spousal Privilege
  • Search Warrants
  • Criminal Sentencing
  • Lawyers and New Technology
  • Domestic Abuse
  • Stolen Evidence

Historical Research for Fiction Writers (Catherine Lundoff)
  • Learn to love the learning process that comes with it. Think of yourself as a detective or an archaeologist sifting through clues and analyzing data.
  • Use a good mix of primary and secondary sources for both perspective and immediacy.
  • Double-check everything. Mistakes will reflect on your work even if it is the fault of your source.
  • Hand in hand with double-checking comes evaluating your sources. If something seems a bit improbable or sketchy, it probably is. Look for another source to back it up.
  • Use archaeological records, art, music and alternative resources to round out your research.

Research a Contemporary Novel? (Sandra Leesmith)
  • Research setting, careers, social conditions, and events to deepen plot and characters.
  • Find people with experience in career or situations you are portraying. Interview them and/or have them proof your wip.
  • Visit sites similar to your settings.
  • Use the Internet, university and library.
  • Authenticate your information.

Research for Fiction Writing (Apryl Duncan)
Beginning your research can feel overwhelming. Start with these basics:
  • Character Names
  • City
  • Careers
  • Language

Research Method for Crime Fiction Writing (Rachel Shirley)
Books can be found on all matters of crime issues, including:
  • The workings of the forensics procedures
  • Psychology of the criminal mind
  • Books about real life serial killers
  • Demographics of crime, such as incidents of burglary crime, theft crime, murder crime and youth crime.
  • Historical crime
  • Motives for committing a crime
  • Studies into how crime affects families and children
  • Counseling services for victims and their families (not forgetting the criminal)

note from Penny: I clicked on one of the research links and found this on the U.S. Department of Justice blog: Celebrating National Crime Victims’ Rights Week . There’s also a Careers link. All sorts of info available for creating characters and plots.

Road Trip Research (Glynna Kaye)
(A few examples of questions she writes in a 5x7 inch notebook):
  • What’s it smell like?
  • What businesses line the streets?
  • What endangers the area besides snowstorms and fire?
  • What’s on people’s porches and decks? In yards?
  • What’s the “feel” of the area?
  • What am I seeing/feeling in person that I DIDN’T expect to see/feel?
  • What am I NOT seeing/feeling in person that I DID expect to see/feel?

…consider doing a few of these on your research road trip:
  • Tour businesses.
  • Attend fairs and festivals.
  • Get out of the car and walk.
  • Periodically jot down 1-word/1-line impressions.
  • Stop by the Chamber of Commerce for maps, guide books, real estate guides.
  • Turn on the radio and TV to find out what locals are hearing & watching.
  • Open up the yellow pages in your hotel room; use your camera’s macro lens to take close-ups of particularly interesting ads.
  • Pick up illustrated flora & fauna guide books of the area.
Do you have favorite research sources or methods? How do you organize your research so you can find it when you need it? Please share!


Kathy Otten said...

Hi Penny,
Wow, that was a lot of info. Thanks for sharing. I jotted down some of your search engines and sites. I love research too!

Penny Rader said...

Thanks for stopping by, Kathy!

I find it quite easy to get lost in research, whether it's for an historical story or a contemporary one. If I were writing a sci-fi story I'd still have to research to make sure I had the science right.

Tanya Hanson said...

Awesome post, Penny. I made it a favorite for future reference. What terrific links. I love research in the historical vein...and also present-day. But my editor is WAY too anal about letting me use any kind of trademark or brand name. Grrrrrrrrr. Dang it, cowboys wear WRANGLERS.


Anonymous said...

Oh, my gosh what a FAB post. Where's the print button.I NEED this information in my hands. Thanks for sharing all this work.

Penny Rader said...

LOL, Tanya. Do you have to say jeans or blue jeans or denim trousers instead Wranglers? ;D

I enjoyed your blog post about Mrs. Surrat. (Hope I spelled her name correctly. Are there two 't's?)

Penny Rader said...

Liz, you made my day. I'm delighted you found it helpful. The authors have so much helpful information in their posts -- it was really hard choosing which bits and pieces to highlight.

Penny Rader said...

totally off topic: Blogger doesn't like me much and keeps messing up the formatting of my posts. Anyone have suggestions for what I'm doing wrong? Is it because I'm copying and pasting from a Word doc?

Rox Delaney said...

Penny, it isn't you that Blogger doesn't like. Or even Word, because the formatting has messed up when I've written it from scratch. There are a few correction tricks, and I can teach you, but it takes some patience. I'll have to go see if there's some of that on sale somewhere. ;)

Leigh D'Ansey said...

Hey, thanks for all this information. I get bogged down in research sometimes - it's just so much more interesting than what I'm usually doing! I've added to my favourites because I know I'll be coming back.

Penny Rader said...

So glad you like us, Leigh. :D And that you'll be back! I'm always tickled when someone else finds my sharing helpful.

Reese Mobley said...

Holy cow, Penny. How do you find such wonderful resources? These are going into the keeper file! Thanks for all your hard work.

Penny Rader said...

LOL, Reece. I find these resources by waving my fingers at my computer and whispering "Abracadabra" and "Bibbity-bobbity-boo," then voila, there they are. ;D Glad you found the post helpful.

Penny Rader said...

Did you find patience on sale, Rox? I often find myself in dire need of it. And an anti-procrastination potion. [I know, I know. Bic-hok]

Looking forward to learning the correction tips for Blogger 'cause it's mighty frustrating to have my posts going every which way but how I want them. Wish I were better at this techy stuff.

Rox Delaney said...

Ha! I bookmarked the page for future research reference. Thanks, Penny! You're always a fount of info.

No, I have no patience. I ran out long, long ago. We'll talk about the coding stuff soon. :)

snwriter52 said...

Penny I like your research
Thank you for sharing.