- When it’s a scientific field. If you want to include lots of biology in your book, you’d better know more than ninth grade biology.
- When it’s another culture, or even your own culture in the past. If you rely on only prior knowledge and you get something laughably wrong, you can offend a lot of people.
- When you want to include the best item in a large category, such as dog breeds or guns, for a specific job.
- When you’re making an allusion to a book you haven’t read (not a good idea in the first place).
- When you’re talking about the human body in extreme conditions
you’d better know more than ninth grade biology.
you’d better know more than ninth grade biology.
you’d better know more than ninth grade biology.
Study guides, quick reference charts, history timelines, photocopiable PDF handouts, classroom posters, and more. Great for visual learners.
sunshineboi94 asked: How important is location to a story? I’m asking about specific location, not setting. I know landscape, climate, and environment can all be important details but is it necessary to give an exact location to your story? Personally, I feel like it makes it less relatable, but I could benefit from some outside opinion. Also, if you are to give it a location does it have to be a real place? Not a fantasyland but a fake place such as Mayberry?
Figuring out your setting is a little frightening; it can often feel like you’re locking yourself into a decision. Location details are important as they often inform your plot and characters and create the story’s backdrop, so it’s worth it to explore this topic.
Whether or not you decide to use a “real place” (such as New York City) or a fictional place (such as Fictionville) is a complicated decision, so here are a few things to keep in mind.
First, let’s talk about the advantages of real locations.
Now that we’ve gone over some of the more general advantages to working with a real location, here are a few things to keep in mind while doing so:
Now that we’ve explored real settings in some depth, let’s take a look at fictional settings. First: why use one?
There are a few things to focus on while developing Fictionville:
Finally, some general remarks about writing any kind of setting.
And so, which one should you pick? Like always, there is no single, correct way to write something. Hopefully this article explained some of the advantages and requirements of either writing about a real place or a fictional one. At the end, the reader should not be able to tell.
Favorite Books for Real Settings:
Favorite Books for Fictional Settings:
We appreciate the question; if you have any queries, comments, or concerns about this post or writing in general, please send us a message via our ask box!
alekpixi asked: Hey, I have a research question: I’m writing that a character lives close to Times Square, but I have no idea if there are apartments there - it’s big, since her parents are very wealthy. Most importantly, I want to be able to say that she lives on “x avenue” or “y street”. I’ve tried googling it, but it’s a jungle. Can you help me, point me in the right direction, or signal boost this for others to see and possibly help? Thanks in advance!
So, I just realized that I’ve wasted about an hour trying to look up something that 99.99% of everyone who will ever read my work will simply not care about. Yeah, I want to get it right. But seriously, how much writing could I have done in that time? Now you could argue, well I should have known better than to look it up if it is so miniscule but to steal a phrase: it’s all small stuff. This is one of the reasons I love the advice to portion off your research, do it before you write or do it after you are done with a draft.
Admittedly I say I love that advice and then I go right ahead and look things up whenever I need something. Yesterday it was Clozapine vs. Respiridone. Which is vitally important in my mind. And you know, most people just aren’t even going to care. I’m going to say a pill name, I’m going to say what it is for, and unless they deal regularly with Schizophrenia they’re just going to take my explanation. Still that was a short look up since I had looked up Clozapine and Respiridone before and I just couldn’t remember which one Zephyr was on before and which he was on now. Today though I was trying to find the tax dates of the Song Dynasty. <_< I’m relatively certain that the number of schizophrenics vastly dwarfs the number of people, even Chinese people, who would know when tax day was in the late 12th century. And why the hell do I need this?? Just so I can have JJ say how long it is until she has to pay her taxes. >_<
>_< Wow what a waste of time and I’m no closer to answering the question than when I started. Not to mention that she’s dead. It’s the tax code for the world of the dead, no one is going to call bullshit on me for making it up whole cloth. Ugh. So please let me be a valuable counter example to you, segregate your research or at least don’t let it take too long when you are actually writing. You are probably wasting your time to avoid writing (Because writing is hard). Though if anyone does randomly happen to know when tax days were in either the Song or Yuan Dynasties, would you be so kind as to tell me?
Hello fellow writers!
WriteWorld has a new policy on questions about research that we would like to share with you:
WriteWorld reserves the right to decline to do research (especially basic, single-search research) for fellow writers.
Questions posed to WriteWorld regarding research topics that appear to be unique to the writer (i.e., research required not for writers or writing generally, but for a particular story or on a specific non-writing related topic) may be answered by directing the writer to a page on how to do research.
If a WriteWorld admin would like to create a post addressing a question about non-writing related research, that admin is welcome to do so, but they are not obliged to research any topic except writing.
Thank you very much for your understanding!
welcome to being a future librarian
(I hope you don’t mind my posting this publicly.)
First of all, thank you for your message. I really appreciate you coming to us with your thoughts on this post. I knew when I posted it that it would be bound to catch some flack, so I’m glad to have the opportunity to explain my reasons for posting it in the first place.
Speaking as someone who has some experience creating a pantheon of Gods for a story as well as someone who owns bookshelves full of reference books on mythology, folklore, and religion, I completely understand your concern.
In the interest of being thorough, I agree that we could have included something to the effect of, “This information can be wildly inaccurate, sometimes to the point of silliness, so make sure you use GodChecker as a launch pad for your research rather than as your sole source” to the end of the post. But, and this might seem totally naive, we kind of feel that goes without saying.
Of course you don’t use one website as your only source of information on a subject. Of course you don’t. In case anyone reading this didn’t know that already, now you do.
I think GodChecker is a great way to get people interested in pantheons they may never have heard of before. It’s an awesome site to just browse and enjoy for the labor of love it is. I’m not overly worried about people going gunge-ho over a God or Goddess with only GodChecker’s source material in mind.
It’s true, though, that writers using the site as a quick reference might come upon a few not-so-great entries. I think that’s also true of WriteWorld. And pretty much every website and book and person and other source of knowledge in the world.
If you truly believe in being part of the solution to this problem, I suggest that you do as I did and contact GodChecker to recommend improvements to their content. It would be wonderful if we could all help them improve their website as a resource.
Mostly, I think that this information is a great wellspring of ideas. Ideas for stories, characters, settings, and themes. To talk of mythology is to talk of humanity, and even if the finer points are fudged a little, well, isn’t that just like humans? Always fudging the details.
That’s alright. I’m sure the Gods won’t mind. :)
We understand that trying to do research on something for your writing may be daunting. Here is a simple way to start doing research on a topic.
First, what do you want to learn about? Let’s choose three examples:
I want to point out that Google will define words for you automatically if you just type in the word like I did. You don’t even have to leave the search results page to get a definition if you don’t want to.
Anyway, it looks like the top three searches for each topic have yielded worthwhile results. I’m glad “Japanese Evil Spirits” and “Medieval Battles” pulled up Wikipedia articles in their results, because that’s an awesome place to head to next.
To be clear: We do not advocate using only Wikipedia as a research tool. Rather, we think that if you know basically nothing about a subject, Wikipedia is a great place to go get yourself an overview. It is a springboard, very much like Google, but it might not be the best final destination on your search for information.
Yes, reading Wikipedia articles will enrich your understanding of the topic, but where do you go after that? Well, as you read the Wikipedia article, you can take notes on some key words to search on Google next and/or you can click the links in the article itself to learn more about the key words right on Wikipedia and/or you can scroll down to the bottom of the Wikipedia entry and look at their References section.
Bibliography [for the article]
Further reading [on the topic]
- Archdeacon, Thomas of Split (2006) (in Latin and English). History of the Bishops of Salona and Split – Historia Salonitanorum atque Spalatinorum pontificum. Budapest: Central European University Press. ISBN 963-7326-59-6, 9789637326592.
- DeVries, Kelly (1992), Military Medieval Technology, Broadview Press, ISBN 0-921149-74-3
- Fernández-Armesto, Felipe (1999), “Naval Warfare after the Viking Age, c.1100–1500”, in Keen, Maurice, Medieval Warfare: A History, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 230–252, ISBN 0-19-820639-9
- Gillingham, John (1992), “William the Bastard at War”, in Strickland, Matthew, Anglo-Norman warfare: Studies in Late Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman Military Organization and Warfare, Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, pp. 143–160, ISBN 0-85115-327-5
- Goffart, Walter (1977), “The date and purpose of Vegetius’ De Re Militari”, Traditio xxxiii: 65–100, JSTOR 27831025
- Liddiard, Robert (2005), Castles in Context: Power, Symbolism and Landscape, 1066 to 1500, Macclesfield: Windgather Press Ltd, ISBN 0-9545575-2-2
- Nicholson, Helen (2004), Medieval Warfare: Theory and Practice of War in Europe, 300–1500, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 0-333-76330-0
- Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus (1996), Milner, N. P., ed., Vegetius: epitome of military science, Translated Texts for Historians, xvi, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press
- Contamine, Philippe. War in the Middle Ages. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984.
- Creveld, Martin Van. Technology and War: From 2000 BC to present, 1989.
- France, John, Western Warfare in the Age of the Crusades, 1000–1300, London: Cornell University Press, ISBN 978-0-8014-8607-4
- Keegan, John. The face of battle: a study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme. London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1988.
- Keen, Maurice. Medieval Warfare: A History. Oxford University Press, 1999.
- H. W. Koch: Medieval Warfare. Bison Books Limited, London, 1978, ISBN 978-0-86124-008-1
- McNeill, William Hardy. The pursuit of power: technology, armed force, and society since A.D. 1000. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.
- Oman, Charles William Chadwick. A history of the art of war in the Middle Ages. London: Greenhill Books; Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 1998.
- De Re Militari: The Society for Medieval Military History
- Kosztolnyik, Z.J. Hungary in the thirteenth century. New York: Columbia University Press: Stackpole Books, 1996. (Parts of which are available online)
- Parker, Geoffrey. The Military Revolution: Military innovation and the Rise of The West, 1988.
That’s a pretty awesome list of book recommendations related to your chosen topic. Again, there are lots of links to redirect you to websites in these lists were you can learn more about the book or its subject matter.
So, here’s that step-by-step process again:
If you like, you can keep track of the route you take through the internet as you do research so that you can easily find information again, or even bookmark helpful websites for later use!
We hope that you found these examples useful for doing your own research!
There’s no shame in sitting down, wanting to write your story, and not knowing where to start when it comes to research. Even if you have experience in doing research for school or work, researching your story can seem like a whole other realm of ‘omg what am I doing.’ I gave this more thought after the last anon questions, and thought I’d compile a better list.IN GENERAL
- Your library. I was quite fortunate to have an excellent library system to choose from, but not everybody has the same chance. Still, libraries are worth checking out. Many now have ebooks and audiobooks, and librarians themselves are experts at helping you get a start.
- Wikipedia. Don’t use wiki as your final source don’t use wiki as your final source. It’s great, though, for a general start, and the source links will help you move on to other places to look.
- Google. Never be afraid to google something, no matter how stupid it might sound. Try a few different phrases. I think we live in an age where it’s more common to use google as a first step, but it’s still easy to forget.
- Little Details. This is a great resource for those specific, non-googleable (that is so not a word) questions. Scroll through their archives before diving in, and make sure you follow the format when asking any questions.
- Read books from people writing for the location, genre, or job field you want to write about. You don’t have to read everything in a particular genre, but it’s nice to be familiar with what’s been done before. You can also try free epub websites like Project Gutenberg, or check Amazon’s free selection, or try any place from here.
- Google Street Maps is a dream for anyone writing about a location they haven’t been to or cannot go so easily. Many of my stories are based in the city I grew up by and - being shit at description from memory - checking the street map helps me clarify colors, locations, almost anything!
- Business Websites (and their reviews!). You need a shady hotel, a kitschy diner, or a laundromat stat. To the internet! Many businesses post pictures (and can be found on street view!), but if you want the real dirt, read the reviews. You’ll find the complaints will give you all sorts of ideas. LEGAL NOTE if you are basing your shady underground gambling den in the back of a real life business, change details to avoid being sued. Don’t be shitty to somebody’s real business (no matter how bad their reviews are).
- Tourist blogs, city websites, and urban photographers. Again, if you need go get that ‘actually there’ feel, check as many of first hand accounts as you can. City websites can range from decent resource to horrible - but make sure you check them!
- Blogs. HUGE CAVEAT: Someone’s personal blog is not ‘free’ for you to take material from or base your story on. This is someone else’s work. DO NOT TAKE ANYONE’S WORK WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION. Don’t base events around other peoples’ stories! Also, take care to check a range of blogs, especially about jobs that are frequently misrepresented (such as sexwork) or unique. Now that I’ve scared the hell out of you, the reason I’m recommending blogs of people who work in the field you’re interested in so that you can get a general idea of process, daily activities, and frustrations. You can also directly contact bloggers to ask about specific information.
- Actual for serious Real People. Talk to somebody! Be they a blogger, a friend of a friend, or a journalist you admire, sometimes it’s best to just talk directly to someone about their job. E-mail them and be honest and polite. Most people would like to be helpful. Make sure you have specific questions, especially about things you can’t find out about anywhere else.