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Cultivating your Craft in the Digital Age: Writing Fiction

Published on Friday, September 17, 2010 by

so09_net_neutrality_internet_mapWriting fiction means anything goes?  You can be creative, innovative and think outside the box, anything goes right?  Well not exactly good fiction still requires that the writer demonstrates some degree of authenticity, some measure of accuracy in fact, and does his/her research.   What does research in fiction writing mean?  What and how can the writer do his/her research?

Of course if you are writing fiction in an historical setting, such as an historical romance or steampunk, paying attention to historical detail is essential…however you can always use those facts of history with a twist.  The Internet has a plethora of resources available on the web you can even find museums with archived information on the web. Let’s start with a large library, the Library of Congress and investigate the resources they have available.

I will start with the Library of Congress’s (LOC)Flickr collection of archived photos.  This large collection, over 45,000 photos, provides a large database of photos that will illustrate history.  The LOC has, available on their wesite, the American Folklife Collection. In a nutshell the LOC provides..”The collections in the Center’s Archive of Folk Culture include folk cultural material from all fifty states, as well as United States trusts, territories, and the District of Columbia.” On their website they also provide a vast collection for researchers. From this site you will find a guide to the research area in the library itself as well as links to the following:

  • Addresses and Telephone Numbers
  • Arts, Fine and Decorative
  • Arts, Performing
  • Biography
  • Books and Booksellers
  • Classical and Medieval History
  • Computers and the Internet
  • Education
  • Geography, Weather, Time
  • Humanities and Social Sciences (General)
  • Indians of North America
  • International Relations
  • Journalism and Media
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Libraries, Archives, and Consortia
  • Literatures in English
  • Maritime History
  • Psychology
  • Religion
  • Sociology
  • Sports and Recreation
  • Statistical Databases and Data Sets
  • Military History and Military Science
  • U.S. Government, Law, and Politics
  • U.S. History
  • Women’s Studies

While I was somewhat familiar with the LOC I was not familiar with Portals of the World, a link I found on the LOC website. The website is also a repository for materials such as this poetry site for Whitman.  This site includes:  access to the four Walt Whitman Notebooks, Thomas B. Harned collection of the Walt Whitman papers,  and the library collection from other authors.  While the LOC provides access to a wide array of documents, library information, and resource materials it does not have a presence in Second Life®.

If you are writing history you may find The History Guide of help to your research.   The links from this site are many – especially interesting to me is the Digital History link. An example of the resources from this site include:Primary Source Documents from The Boisterous Sea of Liberty. You can search for information from primary source documents from the Gilder Lehrman Collection. Browse more than 600 annotated documents from the Collection written by George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and many others dealing with American politics, diplomacy, and social history. The site also hosts podcasts or lectures on various historical events.

Another fabulous website is the Internet Resources library.   Examples of what this site provides is below:

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Research can encompass many things ..for the writer who needs to research on how to write, there are plenty of “Writing Center” type websites. One of these is the popular Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL).

A writer has no problem gaining access to a wealth of information, history and other aids for their writing right on the Internet. Of course there are some things a writer should see, do and experience in their research. In that case he/she needs to step out of the box and do the appropriate interactive research.

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