There are a number of resources to use when you’re writing, but they’re often dependant on your genre. Even after deciding a genre, the sub-genres can be exacting, requiring meticulous research.
If you write historicals the dates and history have to be correct. While Regency is considered historical, you craft stories in a finite time period with particular dress, furnishings, class and demeanor. And the Regency Police are waiting in the wings to pounce!
A few books I use regularly are for names. Sherrilyn Kenyon has done CHARACTER NAMING, a beautiful sourcebook for African, Anglo-Saxon, American, Celtic, German, Teutonic and too many others to list, of surnames with brief histories about each one. It helps keep surnames true to storyline or region. For first names I have an assortment of baby name books, and on-line sources to ensure the names stay true to the period. (I cite the Regency Police again. Yes, they are that persnickety!) I even picked up a Cajun French phrase book since all the Cajun French I learned in the oilfield is generally non-repeatable in polite company, and I love the cadence of the language as well as the realism it lends to a story.
I love the psychology of a character and I use resource books to tweak them into shape using books such as Rachel Ballon’s BREATHING LIFE INTO YOUR CHARACTERS. I also love the perfect word, which means J.I. Rodale’s THE SYNONYM FINDER gets a real workout. The spine is broken, the pages bent and curled, and the cover damaged past hope. I included the first photo of the Rodale to show just how well used it is. I can literally wave hello through the cover. I said it was well used! It’s such a favorite of mine it’s included in every writing raffle or gift basket I make.
For my stories based in New Orleans I’ve done quite a bit of Voodoo research. I’ve been given voodoo dolls, gris-gris, mojos and numerous books. Papa Legba, a voodoo Loa (or demi-god) is the guardian to the gate of the Spirit World. He’s often represented as a skull wearing sunglasses with one lens missing; the missing lens signifies he sees into both worlds.
A good book for accurate local haunted history is NEW ORLEANS GHOSTS AND VAMPIRES, JOURNEY INTO DARKNESS… Take a New Orleans Haunted History tour if you ever have the opportunity. You’ll remember it for the rest of your life! If nothing else, arm yourself with a Place Map and spend the day on a walking tour. Good sources for books while there are Reverend Zombie’s and Esoterica.
For centuries there has been a failure to make the distinction between healers and witches. I have a number of research books for both those areas. Though I love to share, I’m squeamish about lending one particular book out. It has White Magick in it, but it also has some pretty horrific Black Magick spells in it as well. And yes, that book in the left forefront does say The Supermarket Sorceress!
For Werewolf stories I have a few histories on Werewolves. I was really surprised to find their presence recognized in a large number of countries, on equal footing with Vampires! I’m particularly fascinated with their connection to Native American cultures.
I’ve shared a few resources from my genre, the paranormal. I’d really like to hear which resources you use for writing in your genre. Hope we have a really good exchange here to share with visitors! Thanks!