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Five Favorite Online Resources For Historical Fiction Writers

Writers are known for being secretive. There's often a plot twist up our sleeve or a soon-to-be-favorite character waiting in the wings with an author merch-worthy snippet of dialogue simmering on the tip of their tongue. Some things, however, are best when shared with others.


Research often involves hunkering down with texts and hours spent scrolling through website after website on the hunt for the tidbits we need, seemingly a solo venture of sorts. However, it can be a collaborative undertaking. Think about the people who wrote the materials you're poring through and how much research they did, and those before them! It's a chain.


That's one of the reasons I enjoy sharing my resources with other writers, whether it's craft-related or pertaining to the Regency Era backdrop of my stories.

This week, I'm sharing some online resources historical fiction writers may find beneficial (though writers of any genre can certainly use them, too!).


Etymonline

One of the things that makes historical fiction so much fun is bringing the setting to life, and a key component of that is the language used in the narration and dialogue.

Chances are, a character living in the past won't be "yeeting" things out of windows, describing someone a "chad," or saying someone "unalived" themselves.


But what if your character is eating ice cream in the 1720s?


Well, according to the entry for ice cream on Entymonline, they would more likely be eating iced-cream, as that was the term used from about the 1680s on; "ice cream" came into use around 1744.


Etymonline will go into the history of a word's origins and prior iterations. If you're questioning the likelihood a particular word would be found in your character's lexicon, popping it into the Etymonline.com search bar is a great place to start.


Pascal Bonenfant

This next resource is more Regency-specific and one I rely on heavily in my writing.


Writing dialogue spoken in historical fiction is not just singular words, but the slang and cant used in everyday conversation.


How often do we hear kids say something is "lit" or "dope" when just a decade ago we would as frequently take on a Paris Hilton impersonation and say "That's hot" to mean the same thing?


Slang is the spice of conversation and can often be the telling feature of a story's time period. A character saying something is "the bee's knees" might be in a different time period than the character saying something is "Gucci."


Pascal Bonenfant is basically a database for Regency Era slang taken from Nathan Bailey's 1737 The New Canting Dictionary, Francis Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, and the glossary found in the 1819's Memoirs of James Hardy Vaux.


The entries are broken down into categories such as Money and Violence, and then broken down further into subcategories. Each inclusion is given a definition and assigned a year based on the three aforementioned resources. So if you're writing a story set in 1779, you might choose to refrain from using phrases not recorded in the 1819 material (though in all fairness, phrases can take a bit to catch on and become more mainstream s a character using those terms wouldn't be too far-fetched).


Mapco.net

Now that we've spent some time on what one might say in a historical setting, let's shift gears and talk about where things might be found.


With Bound to the Heart set entirely in London and part of Against His Vows taking place in the city, having a good sense of its layout and landmarks is important to keep everything straightespecially since this is a real-life setting set in stone and not fictitious where I can move something a few streets over should the need arise.


Mapco has an abundance of antique maps to examine, but my favorite and frequented is Darton's New Plan Of The Cities Of London & Westminster, & Borough Of Southwark, 1817.


Finding this was such a game-changer. You're really able to zoom in and get into the details of sidestreets.


This way I'm not only able to gauge how long it would take Zach to walk from the bookshop in Orchard Street to his home in Brown Street, but have a general sense of where that is in relation to other landmarks.


And it pairs well with my book of London walking tours that was printed in 1817!


London Post Office Directory For 1807

I cannot recall how I happened upon this one, but it quickly became a staple in my writing process.

The directory is exactly as the title states: a database of addresses and businesses spread throughout London.


However, I primarily use it as a record of names that were in use back in the day.


If I remember correctly, this is where I settled on Pembroke and Fenton's names in Bound to the Heart. It's my go-to for surnames, especially.


Additionally, it's got a fair bit of information regarding daily newspapers, stagecoach routes and costs, local banksyou name it!


It's worth taking a peek at.


Just a quick note: keep in mind that you'll often see the lowercase s written as an f instead. It can make browser searches tricky at first!


Reading With Austen

Last on this list, but by no means least, is one of my favorite hidden gems of the internet.

Reading With Austen is an interactive digital recreation of the library at Godmersham Park originally curated by Jane Austen's brother Edward. He was reportedly very meticulous when it came to how he organized his collection, writing down where every book was located.


This recreation his library and made it available for all to explore on the website. You're able to browse shelf by shelf and see which editions he had and when they were published. And many of these texts have been scanned in, too!


It's fascinating to see what Edmund kept on his shelf and what he and many others in his day would have been reading. Plus it has some great information on the Austens and the estate.


A few of my own characters are great readers, so I'll often take a virtual stroll through the library at Godmersham Park when looking for things they might mention in conversation. And hey, it's a great way to find your next read, too!





Even though the websites featured above are mostly included based on my frequenting them as a writer of historical fiction, I think they can serve other genres well.


Sharing resources is one of my favorite parts about writing because it not only offers a glimpse into the inside of my head as I'm working on my stories but provides others with the same materials to use in their projects. Research is a team effort, even when it feels like it's just you and your computer screen. It can be tough to find the nuggets you need and a rush of delight when you finally track down the information you've been hunting.


That's why I'm always willing to share any info and availability I have when asked.


Friends call me the Regency Queen for a reason! ;)



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