Research And Fiction Writing

Time Spent Researching is an Investment

Research? No way. I’d rather have my wisdom teeth pulled. The word research brings back memories of school and homework. Studying dates and events in history, names of people long dead, and spending hours in the library writing a boring paper. That was then. This is now. Researching for fiction writing isn’t like doing research for school, it’s a fun investment in your own story.

The Journey

My favorite place to find the facts is the Internet. The moment I find the perfect information, I’m hooked and time stands still. I sit down at the computer to look up one little thing, and hours later I’m still reading and clicking links, lost in the journey. Every fact I can find about the history brings ideas for character development, setting description, and conflict. Now, I set a timer.

Research Builds Credibility

Writing fiction means I get to make everything up, right? Yes, and no. You create the story from your imagination, but nothing ruins it faster than little or no research. True life details give the story credibility. A historical romance with a young girl of noble birth, sipping wine at White’s. The doctor who throws his needles into the trashcan. A dry-cleaner in New York City on the corner of 45th and 3rd. These small details are incorrect and will push the reader out of the world you are trying to build. Your readers will know if you did your research. Your credibility is everything.

Don't be this guy.
Don’t be this guy.

6 Tips to Get Organized

Finding a place to start can be overwhelming. Don’t let the mountains of material scare you. These are a jumping-off point for some of the details I like to research before I start my story. They help me stay organized and save time. I use this list of facts throughout the entire story.

  • Time – Chose a year you want for the story. Past, present, or future.
  • Characters – Give them good names. A character in 1650 will not feel real if his name is Fred. People are basically the same everywhere, throughout time. We have fears, egos, jealousies, pride, and we fall in love. The experiences and conversations with the people around you every day can be used as research for building more realistic characters.
  • Setting – Historical London, anywhere today, or five hundred years in the future on a planet of your creation, the more realistic facts, the more real the story feels.
  • Clothing – The clothes your character’s wear can show the era, their social status, the season, give insights into their personality, and much more.
  • Transportation – How your characters travel is another way to add realism.
  • Housing – From a grass hut to a three-bedroom brick home, or a castle you can create a real-world with small details.

Weaving the facts into the story, a bit here a tad there, are what gives it life, capturing the reader and bringing them back for more of your writing.

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Find the Facts Here

I have scoured the Internet and gathered some interesting and useful websites to help you find answers and ideas for your stories. The more familiar you are with your era, setting, daily lives, and careers of your characters, the easier it is to pull your reader into the story without a history lesson, or an info-dump lecture.

If you didn’t enjoy writing fiction with the desire to become better, you wouldn’t be here. Turn your research into a fun experience. Grab a beverage, a snack, put your feet up, and check out my links. Let me know if any of the links are broken and I will fix the problem. Please share some of your favorite research links.

Have fun!

Everything historical I could find about America is here.

You need world history? It’s here.

Helpful links for genre writing. Links for writing in the present and the future. Links for writing tips and other odds and ends like tracking your submissions, cover art, and sites that let you know if a publisher or agent is a scam can be found here.

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How to Create Memorable Fictional Characters

1-1Have you heard of Huckleberry Finn? He’s been an unforgettable character since 1884. Memorable characters are what make stories great. They feel like real people, making the reader care about what happens to them.

You can have an engaging plot, cool stuff that happens, and tons of conflict, but if you don’t have a great character the readers can care about, your story is lacking. Love them or hate them, readers want to care about your characters. Continue reading “How to Create Memorable Fictional Characters”

American Historical Research Links

American History

Click picture for a link with labels
Click picture for a link with labels

Before Columbus and Beyond                          USA Time Line With Maps
The Search For a Different Life                         American History
The Mayflower                                                          Pilgrims
Sail on the Mayflower                                       Colonial History
The Trip                                                         Daily Life, 1600’s America
Sailing Time Line With Maps                        First Guns in America
Colonial Food

Growing Pains

French and Indian War                            Revolutionary War
The French and Indian War                           The War for Independence Military                                                            Winning Independence
Time Line                                           Declaration of Independence Document Resource Guide                                               Weapons              Daily Life

War of 1812                                              Mexican American War History                                                                 Texas Independence
Major Battles                                                            The Conflict

Civil War
The American Civil War
101 Interesting Tidbits                                        Time Line
Civilian Life                                                      Battles and Maps

Go West Young Man

Westward Bound

Westward Expansion                           The Overland Trail
The Oregon Trail                                    Oregon Trail Tribulations
Map and Stops                                               The Trek West
Everything Old West                        Women in the Wild West
The Pioneers                                                  Gunfighters
Deadliest Gunslingers

Travel                                           The Railroad’s a-Comin’
Covered Wagon                                                 Early American Railroads
Stagecoach                                                             The Railroad
Steamboats                                                  Traveling an Emigrant Train

There’s Gold in Them There Hills
The Gold Rush                                                                     Time Line
Getting Rich Quick Has a Price                       Mountain Men and the Fur Trade

Communications
The Pony Express                                       The Telephone
Life of a Rider                                           The Telegraph
Rider’s Map

Native Americans

Click on image for a map
Click on image for a map

Tribes
This and That
More Interesting Information

American Slavery
Overall information                                              Origins
Time Line                                        Slavery and the Making of America

The States
Interactive Map of America
The United States Flag
The American States and their history

Law and Order

law men, law enforcement

History of law enforcement                                                  The Police
Law Enforcement Time Line                                       Gun Control Time line
Prohibition                                                                   Gambling History in America
History of Gaming Laws