Links for the fiction writer

Sooner or later, almost everyone who reads a lot wonders if they could write a book too.  I’m no exception. I’m not sure I’ll ever finish my novel, but here are some handy websites I’ve found while trying.

Sunrise/Sunset: If you’re going to have your character driving east at 6:30 a.m., it might help to know if she’s squinting into the rising sun or yawning in the predawn blackness. Find out at Sunrise Sunset Calendars and Local Time. It calculates sunrise and sunset by algorithm for a wide selection of cities all over the world, and covers the years from 1901 to 2099.

Temperature: It’s 82 degrees in your character’s home town that first week in September. Unseasonably warm, or just what he expected? Average Temperature will help you get the facts straight. It provides average temperatures by month for many cities in the United States and all over the world.

Character names: For some reason, beginning writers seem disproportionately worried about character name selection, but there are ways to make it easier:

  • MongaBay.com can help in more ways than one. It lists the most common surnames in groups of 1000, or by the first letter. It also provides the most common male and female names, boy and girl names, and one of my favorites, historic names.
  • You can also get the most popular first names (by decade from 1880 to 2000) from Social Security Online – Popular Baby Names.  If you’re writing about a great aunt who’s 82 years old, you can find a name for her that was popular when she was born.
  • If you’re a fantasy writer, don’t neglect the Fantasy Name Generator. I write mysteries, but I’m thinking of setting one in a kindgom far, far away in a land from long ago and possibly tossing in a dragon, just so I can name my princess Yworadyne.

Character descriptions: Can’t decide how to describe that waitress or bank teller you need for the next scene? Having a photograph would make it so simple! Go to Google Images and type in the age and gender of your character. “50 year old man“, for instance, or “35 year old woman“. You’ll get a raft of pictures of all types, everything from fashion models to tatooed convicts, but the pictures will include a surprising number of just plain “normal” looking people. Surely one of them will get your creative juices flowing.

Plots: I’m not sure how much help this site could actually be in coming up with new plots, since a “trope” is a common or overused theme or device; a cliche, but TVTropes.com is such fun to scoot around in that it’s worth the time. I suggest clicking the “random” button on the home page and following your inclination. This site will allow you to put off the heavy work of actually writing for hours!

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