Location, Location, Location: Researching Place - Part 2

by Suzanne Lieurance

In my post last month, I presented several ways to find information about any location.

It’s important to research location because even if you’re writing a novel that takes place in Maine (and not a true story) you still have to get the facts correct about Maine.

One of the ways to research location is to obtain materials about a specific location online (read last month’s post here to see what I mean).

But don’t forget about the resources at libraries.

Besides local public libraries, college and university libraries offer a wealth of materials.

Many have extensive archives of national magazines that include articles about locations all over the world.

These magazines, old and new, often contain detailed photographs that can be immeasurably helpful for writers who need to see what a city or town looked like years ago or how it appears today.

“I can’t emphasize enough the value of a good reference librarian,” says author Jane Buchanan, who writes historical fiction for kids. “It’s amazing, the things librarians can find that the average person simply wouldn’t know existed. Never be afraid to ask for help. The librarian who is good won’t give up until a source to answer your questions is found. It’s amazing what you find in a library if you know, or have help finding out, where to look!”

Other sources at your fingertips are the videos you can find at your library and even online at youtube, netflix or Prime Video, etc.

The libraries and many online sites have countless documentary videos that can provide writers with facts and tidbits about areas all over the world.

Most larger cities have their own magazines that can give writers a glimpse of what goes on there.

San Diego, Santa Fe, Kansas City, Boston, New York, Atlanta, and many, many other cities publish magazines that contain a variety of articles about local spots writers can include in their fiction, or use as background information for their nonfiction.

Many of these magazines have websites where writers can find articles from current and back issues.

Other publications, like Southern Living, Midwest Living, and Sunset Magazine offer articles and advertisements about broader sections of the United States.

Large bookstore chains like Barnes and Noble carry European magazines that cover topics like fashion, home furnishing and architecture.

These are sometimes helpful for getting a feel for a country the writer hasn’t visited.

In next month’s post (Location, Location, Location: Researching Place - Part 3), you’ll learn how to travel to locations in the past and how to capture the essence of a specific location even if you have never been there.

For more writing tips, be sure to visit writebythesea.com and get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge. Once you're a subscriber, you'll also have access to a Private Resource Library for Writers.

Suzanne Lieurance is the author of over 35 published books, a freelance writer, and a writing coach.


Karen Cioffi said...

Suzanne, these are great tips on researching location for your fiction story. I did a lot of research for my middle grade fantasy, Walking Through Walls, set in 16th century China. I even asked a Chinese writer I new at the time for tips. It's important to get location details right.

Terry Whalin said...


Using good reasearch is important for every writer whether you are writing nonfiction or fiction. The details matter and you've given us terrific insights in this article. Tnank you.


Suzanne Lieurance said...

Thanks, Terry and Karen, for your comments. Actually, I love researching locations! Hope you do, too.


lastpg said...

Great article, Suzanne. It is now saved in my files. Even though my Abi Wunder books are set in my old neighborhood in Purcellville, VA, I researched the area and learned a lot about Quakers who settled there from the 1600s and later. I used what I learned in Secret in the Mist, Book 2 of the Abi Wunder Mysteries, and I think the story is greatly enriched.

deborah lyn said...

Wonderful tips for resources and love your reference list! Thanks much Suzanne!

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