Tag Archives: research setting

Friday Links for Writers: 19 Dark and Quirky Research Sources for Writers No. 4

 

Listen, I’ve seen some gory things in all the research I’ve done for writing, so don’t go blaming me that this week’s Friday Links for Writers: Quirky Research Sources #4  goes a little dark. Fact is, most writers joke that they’d get more than a raised eyebrow if anyone caught a peek at the things googled in the name of research. And this week’s collection of odd sources I’ve come across in my reading goes just that dark.

Whether you need to know the actual metabolism of an overdose, or the bureaucratic processes a body goes through after death, there’s a link here for you. Half a dozen relate to journalism in conflict zones. And, if you’re squeamish, no worries: there’s one on art restoration and a couple on our community connection to the bodega, and one to help you track extreme weather happening at the time your story takes place. None of that fits the focus of your work? Find links to the last 3 Quirky Resource posts at the foot of this article, for more.

As you jump in, feel free to share your own favorite research links, or let us know what you’re working on this week, so we can cheer each other on. Have a great writing week, all.

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Often, Writing Requires Knowing Processes That Happen After Death:

192 Days as John Doe

Deborah Halber writes about a campaign to use current forensic processes to identify bodies that have remained John/Jane Does for decades. Interesting details of the processes and obstacles.

Learning to Speak for the Dead

Journalist Winnie Hu writes about the training and process of forensic pathologists in this 2016 piece on the Forensic Pathology Fellows Program, which she says “helped resurrect a long-troubled agency, the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner.”

Silent Witness: What Human Remains Can Tell Us

It’s a shame that this article by the Irish Times was triggered by the discovery of dismembered remains in the Wicklow Mountains. For anyone writing crime or mystery in the Irish Republic, it traces some of the bureaucratic and forensic processes that follow to resolve the crime.

Crematory is Booked? Japan Offers Corpse Hotels

Motoko Rich’s New York Times article reveals a funeral trend in Japan, provoked by changes in community lifestyles and a cremation industry unable to keep up with demand. Well-researched, it is interesting in revealing funereal traditions of a crowded island nation, Buddhist burial traditions, and demographic trends.

Sure, Setting’s Great, But What Drought, Fire or Storm of the Century Was Going On?

Global Hazards – NOAA

Reading Tana French, I noticed the million different ways she describes rain in Ireland. Living in Florida, I know how extreme weather is a part of seasonal culture. Visiting a friend overseas, I remember the drama of hiking through acres of trees blown flat by a hundred-year storm, climbing thick trunks suspended 10 and 20 feet off the ground… Got me thinking: what major weather events were taking place the year or months surrounding my novel? Sure enough, there’s a site for that. The “Global Hazards” page of NOAA allows you to search major weather events worldwide, by year and month. When reduced to simple ledes, I could quickly see how NOAA’s brief reports of massive weather events — from a tornado wiping out Happy, TX, to droughts, wildfires and monsoons — could inspire story ideas.

For Writing Authentically About Resistance, Reporting & Conflict Zones:

CJ Chivers' article is accompanied by stunning photography by NYT's Devin Yalkin

CJ Chivers’ article is accompanied by stunning photography by NYT’s Devin Yalkin @dedecim

The Fighter

I was gripped by this long read by war journalist C.J. Chivers in New York Times Magazine, which peels back layers to the story of the service, crime, PTSD and substance abuse treatment, and sentencing of Marine Corps veteran Sam Siatta. Chivers’ research is eye opening into training, engagement, battlefield protocol, citizens vs. targets, returning to civilian life, subtle development of PTSD (and alcohol dependency), as well as phases of trial, sentencing, prison and appeal. It’s an interesting read for anyone whose writing encompasses military life or veterans, an increasingly common detail even in non-military writing.

2017 Resistance Actions – Week One

How do you grab hold of issues that are unfolding as we speak? This post by Maud Newton is an example of some of the concrete daily actions people began undertaking in response to threats against human rights since the start of 2017. A couple other sources of info (or to support) include the ACLU (e.g., filing cases against unconstitutional legislation, lawyers manning airports during travel bans) and Women’s March.

“Experts in authoritarianism advise you keep a list of subtle changes”

Want one source for tracking the societal changes that have taken place, week by week, 2016-17? Amy Siskind has achieved near-legendary status for having started this weekly list. The link above takes you to a cumulative list, searchable by topic. You can also receive Amy’s updates by following her on Twitter or Facebook

CPJ Journalist Security Guide

I’ve followed the Committee to Protect Journalists in the (unfortunately) nearly 5 years since journalist Austin Tice went missing in Syria. The CPJ is admirable in providing a voice and conduit for information related to persecution of journalists around the world. This link takes you to a collection of 55 guides and checklists for safety and survival for journalists and photographers working in heated environments.

Turkey’s Crackdown Propels Number of Journalists in Jail Worldwide to Record High

This article and others on the website for the Committee to Protect Journalists provides statistics, profiles,  to the capture, release, and deaths of journalists, worldwide. Overall, the CPJ has been one of my leading sources for events and resources impacting journalists in the last decade. On Twitter: @pressfreedom

Drugs & Forensics:

Best Websites for Writers – Guns, Polices, Forensics & More

I’ve shared a link from this blogger before. This post includes links to multiple resources for researching forensics and more.

Everytown for Gun Safety

While writing has occasionally had me researching weaponry or forensics, I am in fact a strong advocate for gun safety and antiproliferation, so should provide a source for that as well.. Everytown is one source of information regarding the escalation in gun deaths in the U.S., particularly since the end of the ban on assault weapons in 2005.

The Opioid Epidemic:

This is Exactly What Happens When You Overdose

While it’s not a topic I’m interested in writing about, I’m sure the current opioid epidemic has some writers interested to write authentically about drug risks. In clear terms, this post walks through the exact bodily processes from drug ingestion through the ways it can go wrong. All the details you’d need to know that get your character calling 911.

Latest Harrowing Statistics of American Opioid Epidemic

If you didn’t know there was an opioid epidemic or wanted further statistics, this recent Vox post suggests that, “in 2016, drug overdoses likely killed more Americans than the entire wars of Vietnam and Iraq.”

Quirks and Specificity – Getting Your Cultures Right:

15 Behind the Scenes Secrets of Art Restorers

I loved the details of this piece on art restoration by Jane Rose at Mental Floss, which connected to my artist in Breathing Water and my museum display expert in “Jar of Teeth.” I can see writers riffing on these processes for characters in the arts, quirky concerns about a setting, or, dare we say, solving a crime.

Secret History of Victorian London’s Dirty Book Trade

In old cities and cultures, it can be hard to see beneath contemporary gloss and acknowledged history to find those remnants of more… textural elements of the past. This article is intriguing, that way. Victorian London your focus (it’s not mine)? Look for more on the site, as The Public Domain Review is a not-for-profit project “dedicated to the exploration of curious and compelling works from the history of art, literature, and ideas.”

What do You Call the Corner Store?

In a year I spent focusing on subtle ticks of spoken language between characters moving through foreign countries, I found Dan Nosowitz’s piece at Atlas Obscura as a great springboard for noticing specific character linguistics. “In many places, you’d be laughed out of the building for calling it a ‘convenience store’. It’s a bodega. It’s a packie. It’s a party store. What you call the store on the corner says a lot about where you live.” He may be talking corner stores, but it’s great prod to work more specifically toward character linguistics.

Earning a Spot in the Neighborhood

Continuing on that thread, Kristen Radke’s piece at Electric Lit had me thinking about the way community stores, pubs, and other locals are such a key identifier for the characters we write. Kristen captures the nuance of this relationship, specific to identifying with one’s bodega, neighborhood to neighborhood, in NYC: “Bodegas represent so much a neighborhood’s mood and energy… They also become beacons of safety, sometimes the only place open and brightly lit late at night, and makeshift meeting places in a city with such limited community space. It’s a mark of belonging… ‘that place is going to see you through some shit.” Beyond literal insight to NYC, it had me wondering: what locals would my characters trust to ‘see them through some shit’?

In the Ashes of the USSR: 5 Books to Understand Russia

In reading Anthony Marra’s Tsar of Love and Techno, I was impressed with his subtle and deep understanding of Russia’s evolution, which went way beyond my views, even having been a huge fan of Eastern European and Russian lit from the 80s on. So, this list by Matt Staggs struck me as that kind of insight.

 

Want more?

Here are the first 3 posts from this series:

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At work on novel revisions. c. Elissa Field

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Filed under Culture + World, Friday Links, Research

Friday Links for Writers 07.04.14 – Quirky Research Sources for Writers #2

 

Dublin from World Bar. c Elissa Field.

Dublin from World Bar. c Elissa Field.

One of our favorite editions of Friday Links for Writers was the 3.14.14 edition that shared Quirky Research Sources for Writers. Whether writing a novel, a short story or researching a memoir or long form journalism, any of us who do research for our writing have a particular affection for the fascinating rabbit holes research leads us down.

You know what? A long holiday weekend (here in the States, at least) seems like a good day for Quirky Research Sources for Writers – Round 2.

Thatcher Wine of Juniper Books at http://juniperbooks.com/

Thatcher Wine of Juniper Books at http://juniperbooks.com/

If you’re celebrating the 4th of July, enjoy this, my favorite clip from HBO’s John Adams: the vote and reading of the Declaration of Independence.

And then make the most of this quirky set of research resources for writers. As always, share in the comments to let us know which links resounded for you, what kind of information you wish you could find more of, or share your own favorite links, including your own posts.

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Last Name Meanings in English

I took particular satisfaction in stumbling on this article as I’ve always had a linguistic curiosity in the origin of last names. My dad’s family name (Field) ironically has nearly the same meaning as my mom’s family name, Aho, which means “glade” or “forest clearing” in Finnish. Her mother’s maiden name, la Tendresse, is French for “a wave of affection.” For historic writers, the article touches on the history of when last names first arrived; for any writer, it’s creative fodder for character naming.

Thrill Writing

Fiona Quinn’s Thrill Writing site is about the most comprehensive blog I’ve seen, sharing the ins and outs of forensic detail specifically for writers. Individual posts give everything from detecting trace evidence in fur or hair, to surviving in a desert.

The Final Trip Home of Pfc. Aaron Toppen

Sad but true: war has touched many of our characters in current times, and begs to be portrayed with accuracy. Need to describe the path a fallen soldier takes, in being returned for burial? This Atlantic photo story documents the dignified transfer of Pfc. Aaron Toppen, killed this month by friendly fire in Afghanistan, from soldiers in mourning on his FOB to graveside. Shared in all respect for the soldier lost, as I feel some hesitation in photographing private grief.

Journalists Killed in 2014

Conflict around the world — possibly in your setting — has created significant dangers for journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists centralizes information on journalists missing or killed, and advocacy. This page: those killed in 2014.

SkyVector: Flight Planning – Aeronautical Charts

While writing Breathing Water, we had a pilot-friend staying with us, and I couldn’t help but find the aeronautical maps he spread across the coffee table fascinating. Cuban MiGs had shot down civilian planes that flew out of Miami on a humanitarian (some say “spy”) mission and, as I followed the trail of stories, his aeronautical maps assigned different names to air space than land maps, and identified legal borders set by international treaties. Whatever your research motive, SkyVector is an interactive site for flight plotting.

Audubon: View All Species

While we’re on the subject of flight… Growing up in Michigan, even as a little kid, I recognized and knew the names of all our local birds, including the seasons they were present and absent. Huh. Would that be a detail of setting your character noticed? Here’s a central resource from the Audubon Society, with facts about bird species. Some include sound recordings.

copyright Elissa Field; repro w written permission only

copyright Elissa Field; repro w written permission only

Birdwatch Ireland

And, because one of my novel settings is in Ireland, here is a resource for native birds in Ireland. (More about my story line’s Irish roots here: Celebrating my Irish by Writing)

Spice World

Now that you’ve stocked the skies of your setting, how about the smells? In 3 manuscripts, I’ve found myself writing a foreign culture and one of the first things I turned to was cookbooks, to know the tastes and smells of native cuisine. Knowing the spices used in native cooking can give you a quick resource to adding scent details, as you can raid your grocer’s spice aisle and get samples firsthand. This link gives you a simple listing that groups spices for several national cuisines.

Want more?

Elissa Field fiction Jar of Teeth

c Elissa Field

Here is the link to the prior Quirky Research Sources for Writers.

Overall, what is Friday Links for Writers? In my near-weekly column, I share the best links I’ve found with every range of writing and publishing advice, great reads and tools. For more, here are 3 ways to read more:

  • Most recent post: Friday Links for Writers 06.20.14
  • You can read all Friday Links for Writers – this link will load all current posts, including those posted after this one.
  • But… that loads dozens of posts. Here’s the best trick to search contents of all Friday Links: within the Links & Where to Find Me tab, there is a listing of Friday Links. As you hover over the title of any post, the topics of included articles will display so you can select posts that interest you.

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How About You?

What are you working on this week? Does it have you following quirky research trail down the rabbit hole?

Share any questions you have, or advice and favorite links in the comments below.

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Celebrating the first days of summer writing at a French café. c. Elissa Field

Celebrating the first days of summer writing at a French café. c. Elissa Field

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