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The Evolution of Book Research (or Get Your Facts Straight!)

While you have all kinds of creative license in writing fiction, you may still have to be concerned about basic facts. And that means one thing: Doing your research. That is more true now than is was years ago.

Back when I was writing Flagrant Foul, research wasn’t that much of an issue. 99.5 percent of the book contained places and people who was entirely made up out of the thin air. However, there were some instances where facts were needed. For example, I had a scene where two of the main characters were watching a basketball game on television. One of the teams was fictional Forest State University. The other team was the University of Cincinnati.

Since the story took place in 2002, the Bearcats coach at that time was Bob Huggins, not Mick Cronin, as it is today. Getting that wrong would have been pretty bad. However, being the college basketball fan, that was pretty common knowledge.

Even if I hadn’t known this, finding out would have been very easy. And this is where the power of the Internet comes in.

It wasn’t as easy as it is now, as we all know. Pre-Internet, research could involve hours of time looking things up at the library and, depending on the library, you may still not find what you’re looking for. With the Internet, of course, it’s much faster and much simpler.

Of course, that all depends on where you look. As I mentioned in Resurrecting The Gray Summer, I’ve been having to look up things like academic calendars and the weather patterns in 1995 of Northwest Indiana, where the primary setting of the story, fictional Rock Hill Amusement Park, is located.

Not everything, such as finding historical theme park attendance figures, was a simple as a Google search. I’ve found the following sites to be the most useful.

Wikipedia: I know what you’re going to say. Not everything is Wikipedia is backed up by attributions. That’s why when I look things up, I make sure there’s a credit to a legitimate site or article. That saves a lot of aggravation.

Internet Archive: I consider myself pretty tech-savvy, so I was a little disappointed in myself when I realized I had never knew this site existed, prior to about two or three years ago. Not only have they have a number of digital exhibits, they’ve also got the Internet Wayback Machine, which provides cached sites from as far back as the mid-1990s, which, of course, can be extremely useful.

The Farmer’s Almanac: While weather information may not be relevant to some stories, ones set at, I don’t know, an amusement park, might be a little more important. Good thing this site keeps weather going back to 1945.

All in all, the message here is that these days, especially if you’re self-publishing, there’s not reason why you can’t get your facts straight.

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