By Joe Moore
At least for me, that’s the fun part. Like digging for buried treasure, it's the excitement of uncovering those tidbits and morsels of fact that add seasoning and spice to the story. Over the years, I’ve accumulated a list of tricks and techniques to do my research. And I’ve placed the info in one location so you can use it, too. But before I reveal the location of the treasure, here’s a sampling of what you'll find.
How do you come up with names for your characters, especially the minor and walk-on characters? Pop in a DVD of any movie and skip to the credit roll. There’s hundreds of mix and match names to choose from. And if you need foreign names, just pick a movie that was shot in a particular country. Even the major Hollywood studies use local crews when they're on location and list their names in the credits.
Don't want to watch a movie? There's even fake name generators online.
How about background info on your characters? Easy. Just check the obituaries in a local or national paper. You’re sure to find biographies you can modify for your needs. There’s even a national obituary website where you can find thousands to review. And don’t forget searching the faculty bios at hundreds of colleges and universities for background info.
What about creating a sense of place? This one is really fun. Let’s say you need to describe a house where your character lives in a particular town. Start with one of the many a real estate websites. A quick search will show you what the houses look like in a particular neighborhood or area, many with virtual tours. Google maps gives you the names of the surrounding streets, highways and landmarks. And Google Earth shows you the surrounding territory in detail.
Your hero is in Mexico City reading the morning news. What’s the name of the leading Mexican newspaper? There are websites that list and monitor thousands of newspapers from around the world.
You need statistics? Visit the CIA World Factbook or the Bureau of Justice Statistics websites. Need info on the global terrorists attacks that happed this morning? How about military terms and technology? Or how stuff works? What about access to over 39,000 public record databases? Or finding out what time it is right now in Nigeria or Singapore? There are websites for these and so many more for writer’s research resources.
And the most intriguing treasure of all: The Hidden Web. It’s over 500 times larger than the Internet and hardly anyone knows about it or how to access it. Now you will.
As promised, here’s the location of my treasure trove, no digging needed. It's my present to all my writer friends. Enjoy!