Research: The Inspired Prompt Way

Research. We’ve spent the month of March dissecting this topic from all angles. From how to start, to research on the road, and current events research, a way to gather information should be coming clear.

I’ve asked the Crew to share their go-to source when it comes to research. Here’s what they said:

Harriet Michael: As a Christian nonfiction writer who writes a lot of Biblical pieces—devotions and essays to a Biblical theme, my go-to resource is Bible Gateway where I can look up passages, do word searches, find commentaries, and find passages in all translations. Here is their link: https://www.biblegateway.com/

Jennifer Hallmark: Sometimes when I write, I just can’t think of the right word so I use an online thesaurus. Even if I don’t find what I need, it often gets my creativity flowing so I can move forward in my writing. Their link is http://www.thesaurus.com/

Kristy Horine: I find the Blue Letter Bible www.blueletterbible.org to be a great resource due to its interlinear concordance, cross references, language explanations, and access to commentaries. It has an app that is free that can be downloaded to your phone.  In addition, www.biblestudytools.com is helpful in the commentary area.

Another source is www.thoughtco.com. This is not a Christian-based resource, but it sure is fun for those strange and unusual questions like if brain cells regenerate, or the difference between racism and prejudice. It is based on the idea that we should be lifelong learners and seeks to teach just that. Plus, it has a really neat daily email you can sign up for. And, for numbers: www.barna.com and www.pewresearch.org

Betty Thomason Owens: I attended a class on researching at the Mid South Conference. The instructor gave us the Library of Congress website. It’s huge. You can find articles, photos, and lots of other interesting studies and stories and books. https://www.loc.gov/  I also love History.com  https://www.history.com/ and the Smithsonian.com https://www.smithsonianmag.com/.

Gail Johnson: I use the Bible, Webster’s dictionary, and the Strong’s Concordance. Also Bible Gateway and the online versions of the dictionary and thesaurus.

Bonita McCoy: I love  Biblehub.com because it gives you the verse in several translations. I use it for my Beautiful Pieces of Grace blog. Also the good old library for articles for the Inspired Prompt site and my Courageous Writers blog.

Fay Lamb: My research varies on what the subject happens to be. If it is medical, I will look up medical research on various sites, but I also look for journals of people who have undergone medical procedures. I also use slang dictionaries for slang for certain times. I even have a surfers’ slang dictionary.

Tammy Trail:  I tend to look for historical societies. There is a blog I like to catch up with too, Colonial Quills. Lots of historical information there for me. I use the Colonial Williamsburg website also. For writing related information, I love Seekerville.

Carlton Hughes:  Like others, my research varies depending on the subject. I’m mostly writing devotionals now, so usually I’m searching for a specific scripture on Bible Gateway. Blogs like Novel Rocket are good for general advice on fiction writing.

Shirley Crowder:  I use Blue Letter Bible — lots of commentaries, words studies, etc. https://www.blueletterbible.org/

Karen Jurgens: I use Google for whatever I need to know when I’m writing about Paris and other parts of the world. I study maps of the city, and I use reference books I’ve purchased while visiting. For example, I bought lots of historical books and maps of Cayman Island when I vacationed there a couple years ago. I always write about settings I know personally or have visited.

Cammi Woodall: Started in September of 1998, Google is the world’s largest search engine. You know how I know that? I googled it! When you can use your search engine name as a verb, you know you are doing something right. I love other sites like AskJeeves.com or Yahoo.com, but I always come back to Google. In one research session, l learned that the world’s oldest church is the Dura-Europos house church in Syria, arsenic poison will still show up in your fingernails 6 to 12 months after ingestion, and a ten-gallon hat really only holds three-quarters of a gallon. Who knew? Google did! And now I do, too.

Thank you, Inspired Prompt Crew! As you can see, there are research sites galore for the fiction and non-fiction writer. Do you have a go-to site that’s not listed above? In lieu of a writing prompt, we’re asking you to share that in the comments below…

Click to tweet: The Inspired Prompt Crew shares their go-to source when it comes to research for writers. #research #Google

Research: Where to Start

You want to write a story, but don’t know where to begin. The setting is current, your idea is for the main character to be a firefighter. Problem is, you’ve never even known a firefighter—you’ve only watched a movie about one.

Or, maybe your story is set in Boston, in the early 1900’s. You’ve never even been to Boston.

You need to research, but where do you begin? How do you find the information you need?

My first works of fiction were historical, and at the time, I had no home computer and no access to internet. Yes, I know—ancient days. We still had an antennae connected to our television, and the phone was on the wall.

I drove to the library, and returned home with a stack of books. These included a book that gave the reasons behind the stock market crash. Another book about the famous cruise lines of the day, a pictorial history of the Great Depression, and a couple of well-known novels set in the 1920s.

I hoped these would help me work up a timeline and get into the mindset. They did, to a degree. But my resources were limited.

These days, it’s a lot easier and so much more convenient. You can Google whatever you need to research. You don’t even have to leave home. Here are a few things you may not have considered:

  1. You Tube videos from the 1920s and ‘30s – even one that shows a family on a cruise ship. You can also find newsreel videos on a variety of subjects. Very interesting!
  2. Don’t forget the popular songs of the day, which will add depth and atmosphere. Listen to them, as you construct scenes.
  3. Current events – these can add reality to your conversations, fill a quiet moment of contemplation. Troubling events often occupy our thoughts. Your character would react in much the same way.
  4. Google locations can take us to the very spot. Select “street view” and voila! You’re looking at houses and images that will add definite reality to your writing. The earth is at your fingertips. Choose a location and go there. It’s not quite as good as actually being there, but it’s better than nothing.
  5. Make the trip. Even a short day trip or over-niter is often enough to inspire your writing.
  6. Antique shops and cemeteries! If your story is historical, visit local antique shops. Look for interesting ordinary objects that would populate a home from your particular era. Sometimes, the shop owners/clerks can help you. We have a number of antique shops near my home, along with a cemetery dating back to the early 1700s. What a wealth of information can be gained, just walking around in there.

Current interests, like the firefighter, can be easily researched on the internet. You’ll find numerous blog posts, news stories, television shows, movies. After you’ve read enough to get a good background, I suggest you call a local fire department and see what’s available to you. In some cases, a writer can tour the department, and interview actual firefighters.

Today, if we can imagine it, we can find it on the internet. Your setting is in the Antarctic? Or, your main character is a science officer on a space station? No problem.

Stay tuned all month for more articles from our contributors on research, how-to, and why. We’ll give you tools to make your writing pop.

Click to Tweet: #Research is the key that will unlock all the information you need. Sometimes, we are only limited by our imagination via @InspiredPrompt #amwriting

Writing Prompt: Arlene knelt in front of the tombstone. Weather had etched it until she could barely make out the dates 1652 – 1717. There was only one name—Corley—was it the surname? And beneath it, three words…

What Has Happened Within the Last Twenty Years?

By Jennifer Hallmark

Twenty years. A long time?

It depends how you look at it. To a ten-year-old, it’s forever. To a mother with four  children, it flies by. Think perspective. In today’s world, a LOT has occurred within a twenty-year span.

So much that it boggles the mind. We, here at the blog, are going to discuss the subject in depth. Some will look at inventions or products that have changed our lives. Others will talk about the path their own journey has taken them. Either way, we’ll get some interesting posts we’re sure you’ll enjoy.

Two things came to my mind when we decided on October’s topic. The search engine, Google, and cell phones. Here’s my take on them.

Google. The Google story begins in 1995 at Stanford University, the brainchild of research students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The project was incorporated in 1998 and now has 60,000 employees in 50 different countries.

The positive? Google has made information universally available. If I wonder how many calories are in the sandwich I’m eating, I Google it. Need to find a new nail salon? Google can point the way. Lost in Dallas? Google Maps can direct you to where you need to go.

The negative? Too much information can be crippling. News is instantly available, especially bad news. Tragedy. Devastation. Catastrophe. Complete with photos. And some information doesn’t need to be easily accessed. Want to stalk someone, build a bomb, or disable a motor in someone’s car? You can also Google it. In years to come, we’ll see if the good outweighs the bad with all search engines.

Cell phones. Could we live life today without them? I guess we’ll never know since people from five to ninety-five years old have them. The Motorola StarTAC was billed as a personal cellular phone and put phones in the hands of ordinary people. If you could afford the $1000 price tag, that is. A flip phone,  the StarTAC was one of the first cell phones with vibrate alert and featured a flashing green indicator to show if you had network connection. Later models featured texting.

The positive? Cell phones can go anywhere you can manage a signal, from mountain tops to beach-side to jungles. They are less expensive, depending on what kind you buy, and can act as a mini-computer.

The negative? With cell phones came distracted driving, especially when texting became so easy to do. Medical Daily gives five reasons why cell phones can be harmful.

  • Negatively affects emotions.
  • Increases stress levels.
  • Increases risk of illnesses.
  • Increases chronic pain.
  • Increases risk of vision problems.

As with most things, moderation and wisdom are the key. Use Google and cell phones with this in mind, and they can make life more enjoyable.


Check out our Monday and Friday posts throughout October for more about our last twenty years.

Click to tweet: What has happened within the last twenty years? A lot. #technology #Google http://wp.me/p2YFil-3bD

Writing Prompt: Jill grabbed her cell phone and began to Google the recipe before she…

And stay tuned. In November, we’ll share information about our big Once Upon a Christmas giveaway. You won’t want to miss your chance to win…

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