The Internet and Background Research for Writing

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marilyn peake
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The Internet and Background Research for Writing

Post by marilyn peake » December 10th, 2009, 12:55 am

Do you conduct background research for your writing on the Internet? If so, what are some of the most interesting sites you’ve visited?

I do a lot of background research on the Internet when I’m writing. One of my favorite sites - because it’s so unique – is the one for the International UFO Museum and Research Center http://www.roswellufomuseum.com in Roswell, New Mexico. And my favorite part of that site is definitely their Virtual Tour http://www.roswellufomuseum.com/Tour/~1st-index.html because I’m able to virtually walk around, explore, and then describe the details in my fiction. It worked out really well for both a short story and novel I wrote.

For my most recent novel, I also wanted to include a group of people both isolated from and involved with the modern world, and I remembered that there was a group of Native Americans living at the bottom of the Grand Canyon that tourists can visit. Online, I discovered that they are the Havasupai Tribe http://www.havasupaitribe.com. Through Google, I was able to find blogs and photographs by people who had actually taken the trek down to Havasupai country. Here’s a link to some gorgeous pictures of the Havasu Falls: http://www.havasupaitribe.com/havasu.html. I also discovered several books advertised online about the Havasupai people. I purchased them and got even more information from the books, including a great deal of historical and anthropological information about the tribe.
Marilyn Peake

Novels: THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and GODS IN THE MACHINE. Numerous short stories. Contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL. Editor of several additional books. Awards include Silver Award, 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.

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Scott
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Re: The Internet and Background Research for Writing

Post by Scott » December 10th, 2009, 9:30 am

I research always and extensively. I've set things in places I've never been and sometimes find that images from a particular area, for example, get me going better than straight info. I research names, the specifics of mechanical objects, terrains, weather patterns, and other assorted "arcanity". What's important to me is letting the story drive my research. I only include what I need to satisfy the narrative. That way, I don't have to be an expert or James Michener, and I can bring a reader up to a speed that keeps the story moving forward.

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Re: The Internet and Background Research for Writing

Post by shadow » December 10th, 2009, 10:07 am

ow those are great links Scott! Personaly since I write Fantasy I don't do an overely amount of research because I create a world that I imagine, but things like natural elements I always research.
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Re: The Internet and Background Research for Writing

Post by goldchevy » December 10th, 2009, 11:44 am

Since my books are set in places I have never been, I use travel websites and blogs to give me a picture of what the place is like. I love reading first-hand accounts. Often they are funny and give me ideas for scenes in my books. I also love visiting the library at the local university. First it brings back good memories of being a young college student. Second, I like to read books written about different cultures by ethnographers and cultural anthropologists. They have generally spent a lot of time in a place and give me an in-depth view I feel I can trust.

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Re: The Internet and Background Research for Writing

Post by danielguiteras » December 10th, 2009, 2:44 pm

Marilyn-

I've taken the trip down to havasupai 4 times, twice by foot, twice by horse. It's an amazing place to visit.

As far as research goes, I couldn't do it without the internet. In my first novel I needed to place a character in an airport that I had never visited. A quick visit to the airport's website yielded gates, shops, restaurants, etc. Immediately my character was immersed in the detailed world of that airport. I also spent a vast amount of time on NASA's assorted websites. They have detailed documents like you've never seen. Without the internet, I'd quite.

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Re: The Internet and Background Research for Writing

Post by kristi » December 10th, 2009, 3:12 pm

My current ms partly takes place in a country I've never seen - so I've done a ton of research on it through Google. I took a break a few months back to write another novel that takes place somewhere I used to live so I didn't need to do much research at all and finished it in 6 weeks. Now I'm back to the other one but it definitely takes a lot more time when you don't have all the details - and I'm a detail-oriented person so I like to make sure everything is correct. Thanks goodness for google!

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Re: The Internet and Background Research for Writing

Post by maybegenius » December 10th, 2009, 5:51 pm

I found this site while doing some recon for my NaNo project: http://chicago.urban-history.org/mainmenu.shtml

It's an interesting and in-depth look at what Chicago entertainment was like from the 1880's to 1945. It definitely helped me get a better feel for the city during that time period. I found it while doing research on the El - I wanted to make sure it existed during the time period I wanted to write in. It did :)

I found myself hopping onto Wikipedia all the time for a quick fact-check while I was writing this same project, but obviously I'd recommend double or triple-checking any information you get there. I get hung up easily while writing and feel like I *have* to check to make sure what I just wrote down is accurate, so Wiki gave me a little boost to keep going. Still going to have to recheck everything when going through edits, but it helped me get it down, at least.
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Re: The Internet and Background Research for Writing

Post by polymath » December 10th, 2009, 6:29 pm

I read the Internet from cover to cover and find lots of useful infomation on a variety of topics, including but not limited to the arena of rhetoric concerned with creative writing and literature study. Lately, I've been reading up on the aesthetics of rhetoric as pertains to voice, exotic species of irony in particular. A la Mr. Bransford's advice noting voice as an important feature of openings, re: the recent Opening Paragraph Competition. More than irony, tone, mood, tenor, and register as well. Amazing what a difference a fresh and original voice makes of a story, and how subtle, manifold in variety and species the aesthetic qualities of voice are.
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marilyn peake
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Re: The Internet and Background Research for Writing

Post by marilyn peake » December 10th, 2009, 6:48 pm

Daniel – That’s so cool that you made it down to the Havasupai area four times. It sounds like an extremely rugged trek! Did you meet with the Havasupai Indians? After reading about their culture, I would love to visit them sometime. And the scenery, especially the Havasu Falls and the blue water, looks absolutely breathtaking from the photos I’ve seen. Do you have a blog or website with information about your trips?

Daniel, Scott, goldchevy, Kristi, and maybegenius – I enjoyed reading about the types of research you do. It’s amazing how closely an author can replicate a setting in their book after researching it extensively on the Internet, especially by looking at maps, photographs and videos in addition to the available written information.
Marilyn Peake

Novels: THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and GODS IN THE MACHINE. Numerous short stories. Contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL. Editor of several additional books. Awards include Silver Award, 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.

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Re: The Internet and Background Research for Writing

Post by danielguiteras » December 10th, 2009, 10:34 pm

Marilyn,

Unfortunately I don't have a website and all my photos were taken with film (remember that stuff?)

As far as the indians go, I'm sure their history is rich with detail. However I did not experience it while visiting. Instead I found a rundown town that seemed quite poor. The Indians that run the mule trains up and down the nine mile (one way) trip from the south rim of the Grand Canyon to havasupai village, were friendly but reserved.

The mineral travertine makes the water blue. The pools you see in the foreground of Havasupai and Mooney falls, are constantly changing and are formed by mineral deposits. If you visited two years in a row, the pools would look quite different the second year.

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Re: The Internet and Background Research for Writing

Post by Calliopenjo » December 11th, 2009, 12:23 am

I use the internet for research. I write fantasy so it's not a lot. At least I don't think. But enough so that it feels real.

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marilyn peake
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Re: The Internet and Background Research for Writing

Post by marilyn peake » December 11th, 2009, 2:03 am

Daniel – Ahhhh, film. Yes, I remember film. I took thousands of photos with film before finally buying a digital camera. Someday, I need to scan them into my computer; some are beginning to fade already. Sad about the rundown town. Unfortunately, I think that's how many Native Americans end up. Fascinating about the changing color of the blue water – interesting detail. Thanks!
Marilyn Peake

Novels: THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and GODS IN THE MACHINE. Numerous short stories. Contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL. Editor of several additional books. Awards include Silver Award, 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.

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Re: The Internet and Background Research for Writing

Post by Kaitlyne » December 13th, 2009, 7:09 am

I researched everything for my last novel. Not kidding. Even these random details you wouldn't necessarily think about. There's a part where they're searching through government earmarks for things linking to the case they're working on, and I actually went and looked up what some bills were at the time. I don't think anyone would even care and they're kind of vague, but I still did it. Otherwise hm...I looked up quite a lot of information on illegal things like breaking into buildings, bypassing certain types of security, etc. :P I also had to research medical issues, legal issues, jokes in Chinese, and security stuff, but I actually found real people to ask about all of that. :)

I guess the most interesting website I found off the top of my head was a list of Arabic insults. Those were um...colorful. :)

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