I could write a book on how to research for fiction and where to find information. Books have been written on that topic. In this post, I’m going to outline some of the sources that are most useful to me. Keep in mind that most of my research is of a historical nature, as my interest is mainly in historical fiction. However, if you are, for example, writing in the fantasy genre, learning about certain periods of history never hurts. These are in no particular order.
1. The Internet – A great place to start gathering info. Be careful what you trust, though. Wikipedia, while great in giving you general, overview type information, is an encyclopedia written by the community. However, the references that are listed at the bottom of each article are usually worth peeking at and can yield some trustworthy information.
2. The library – Yes, they still exist. Even more exciting, they’re filled with books. Remember books? Researching at the library these days is easier than it used to be. Card catalogs have long since been replaced with electronic versions that allow you to find the location of the information you seek quickly. If you need help, most libraries still have a reference desk–don’t be afraid to ask. Just make sure that you write down the copyright information of each book you use.
3. Museums – My entire book, Out of the Sea was originally inspired by numerous visits to Mystic Seaport: Museum of America and the Sea. I find living history museums to be immensely helpful as they are staffed with knowledgeable persons. Another museum that’s helped me along with this book is Old Sturbridge Village.
4. Documentaries – My favorites are those aired on the History channel. Like the internet, these are great for giving you a general understanding.
5. Scholarly journals – Okay, this one is a little less easily found than the others, unless you have rights to use a university library. Even then, you may only be able to read articles on site (unless you are currently enrolled at that school). However, if you really want to get into the details, and your town library isn’t providing well enough by way of books, then scholarly journals will be a rich source of information.
There are other places to research of course. There are also a number of methods by which to conduct, track and best implement research, but that’s for another day. I hope this list helps you on your way to developing a rich story.