Fiction Research Tips
DETERMINING YOUR RESEARCH NEEDS
Before you begin compiling information, try to pinpoint your research needs. Start with what you know and develop questions to look into from there. As you begin to research, new questions may arise. Try to keep the original questions at the forefront of your research to avoid distraction. However, do not let them hinder discovery of new information. One of those new questions could lead you to an exciting path for your characters.
Now that you know what you are looking for, figure out the best places to find it.
Start with the internet, looking for answers to your questions .
Try to find primary, well-documented, or reputable sources. However, we often research information that is not going to have scholarly sources. Therefore, you must think outside the box.
- Search forums on your topic, time period or writing forums or groups. Other writers can often quickly point you to a website or resource they have used in the past.
- Do multi-sensory research to lend depth to your work.
- Search YouTube, Pinterest, and other visual social media sites.
- Visit locations. Take notes on the setting, but also the customs, history, people, and other facts particular to your setting.
- Talk to local people and listen to their stories.
- Interview people or observe. If you are interviewing someone, come prepared with questions.
- Also take the time to sit back and observe when possible and appropriate. Again, think outside the box. For instance, mystery/crime writers can go to court and observe cases.
- Do not neglect the library.
- Check the archives for old photographs and materials.
- Look for odd details or information that can lead to inspiration in old news stories or historical facts.
- Author, Mary C. Findley suggests reading what was written near the time period you are researching.
- Novels written during the time period you are researching will give you a feel for the time period, including dress, language, customs, and social norms.
- Newspapers and magazines of the time period will include current events and issues, advertisements, and other relevant information that will allow you to build a historically accurate novel.
EVALUATING AND CREDITING SOURCES
Evaluate your sources carefully. While a wealth of information can be found on the internet, all information is not valuable.
Check for more than one source.
Find ways of speaking with content matter experts to verify information.
Ensure that your sources are not pushing a certain view-point over deliver facts.
Crediting your sources is usually not done in the traditional academic format. However, it is recommended you acknowledge your sources in the front matter section, especially interviews or other in person research.
A SHORT LIST OF HELPFUL SOURCES
Below is a short list of sources that either offer topical information, or information about researching your novel. This is a short list, but you can use it to kickstart your own. Have a site you think we should add to this list? Add it to the comments below!
Fashion History at Fashion-era.com .
Western Slang, Lingo, and Phrases – A Writer’s Guide to the Old West.
History by Decades. In Writer's Dream Tools
Science Fiction & Fantasy: A Research Guide from Cornell University Library.
Vintage Facts on Facebook
Historical Photos on Facebook
About the Author
Michelle Lynn Brown
Michelle Lynn Brown is a best-selling Christian romance author, Webmaster for the Christian Women Writers Club, and owner of Psalm 40 Publishing Services. This company was founded on the desire to assist authors with all of their design needs. From book covers to web design, Michelle seeks to help authors sing their song of praise.
Psalm 40:3 says "He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord." (New Living Translation)