Thursday, June 9, 2011

Research Tools For Writers

First some cool news. This blog is now available in a mobile version, so don't hesitate to drop by on your cell phone or tablet. It looks good and loads fast!

Today I wanted to share some cool resources I've found for research. How did writers manage before the Internet?

Since I am writing about vampires (and werewolves in the latest book), sunrise and sunset times are obviously important. Did you know there's a site that lists those? I can search for the times on a particular day, and not just in DC. I can find that information for anywhere.

Moon phases have also been important for this book. I wanted to set the book in roughly the fall time frame, during a relatively recent year, and I really wanted the full moon to fall on a Friday. Pretty specific, huh? Well, I was able to search for moon phases on the same site, and I discovered that September 2009 fit all the criteria. So if you were wondering when I set the book and why, now you know!

What about historical weather? This one took me a bit longer to track down. I don't want to pay for the information if I can avoid it, and until this week, the only sites I found charged subscription fees. Then I found Weather Underground. Mouse over the "Local Weather" tab, and you'll find the option to search for History Data. It's free, and they give you an hour by hour recap. Now I know that it was overcast with light wind during my final fight scene. No rain at the time of the scene, but it had rained a few hours earlier, so there might be some slick spots. Bet I can use that to build some tension.

Wikipedia is, naturally, one of my go-to sites. Just a couple of days ago, I was describing my werewolves, and I needed to know how big to make them. A quick Wikipedia search on "gray wolves" gave me what I needed. I wanted them just a big bigger than gray wolves, so now my werewolves are about 6 feet long and 3 1/2 feet tall at the shoulder.

But the coolest resource so far has been Google Maps. Want to see where my final climactic battle is held? Follow this link and click on Satellite view. Cool, isn't it? While I'm writing the scene, I've got this map open, and I use it to storyboard the action.

Of course, great resources can't substitute for a good story and well-crafted writing. A writer could overdo references to time, place and weather. But having an idea of the exact time in which to place the story has given me some good ideas. And I think they've made the story better.

What about you? Any writing resources to share?

No comments:

Post a Comment