Tricks and Treats: A Writer’s Toolkit


Sorry, this post has nothing to do with Halloween or candy. Instead, I have some great tidbits for your writer’s tool belt. We have this great thing called the Internet that puts a world of knowledge at our fingertips with little effort and with the Internet, comes a whole host of new ways to research things for a story.

No matter how weird or controversial your search history, these sorts of things can make or break your story. I like to joke that I’m probably on some NSA or drug watch list because of all the opium Internet research I did while planning The Green Lady. In the end, I didn’t  even end up using opium in the tale, turning to absinthe instead as my hero’s vice of choice. But still, the research was important and it helped me gain a greater understanding of the Victorian perspective on drugs and drug use.

Today I thought I would share with you some tricks and treats of the writer’s trade. These are really great resources I’ve come across along my writer’s path that I have found to be particularly helpful in the story development process. Stick these in your back pocket and pull them out when needed. I think they can make a difference in the accuracy of your fiction!

  1. Baby Name Genie (http://www.babynamegenie.com/)
    Naming your characters is a really important and sometimes agonizing process. I’ve been using this tool for years, though I’ve never really been sure if the people behind this website made it up as a joke or not. Sometimes you get really weird combinations. I like this tool better than others because you can input a last name and get ideas for both a first and a middle name.
  2. Fantasy Name Generators (http://fantasynamegenerators.com/)
    If Fantasy is more your game, this website is a godsend. Not only can you get ideas for first and last names, but you can get ideas for different classes of people and creatures. Got an Orc you want to name? No problem. An angel? A demon? They’ve got you covered. You can also do fun things like get ideas for name for weapons, places and more. This is your one-stop shop for everything you might need for Fantasy world-building!
  3. NukeMap (http://nuclearsecrecy.com/nukemap/)
    Does your story have nuclear weapons or an explosion in it? Inject a little science into your fiction with this handy little web link I received from friend and fellow author Dayton Ward (he was using it for a “24” book project recently and shared this tidbit with me! Check out his blog.) and learn about a weapon’s blast radius and more.
  4. Comparing Heights (http://www.mrinitialman.com/OddsEnds/Sizes/sizes.html?base_ft=&base_in=&comp_ft=0&comp_in=0)
    So I’ve never really thought about comparing the heights of my characters. But it actually seems like a good idea. In thinking about my own life, I’ve dated really tall guys and guys who are more my height and the way they each kiss you is very different. I’ve had tall guys who force my head back uncomfortably because they don’t want to bend down or were just plain inconsiderate. Not fun and not very comfortable. Others were a bit more thoughtful. And there’s something to be said for being kissed near eye level that is quite comfortable, I should add. When creating characters and depicting their interactions, whether that’s through kissing or hand-to-hand combat, height might be a good thing to consider!
  5. God Checker (http://www.godchecker.com/pantheon/index.php?search)
    With the tagline “Search the holy database”, you just can’t go wrong. I came across this little gem just this week. You can look up just about any god or goddess you can think of in seconds. It also has the family tree, facts and figures, alternative names and what aspect of life he/she oversaw. Very handy!

These are just a few of the myriad of tools out there. I am a huge believer in libraries, but I truly don’t know how people researched before the Internet. They make it so easy! Do you have any tools that you rely on when you’re researching for a new story? Please share in the comments!

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