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CRWR 20203: Technical Seminar in Fiction: Research & World-Building

Books about or by a famous person

Search in the library catalog for the famous person's name and the word biography, e.g., Abraham Lincoln biography. If you search for the terms as a subject search, the results will all be biographies of Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln subject search

For memoirs, or writings the famous person wrote about themself, use the term personal narratives. You might also want to look for diaries or correspondence.

News & magazines

Look in news & magazines for advertisements and images that will tell you something about what people looked like, wore, wanted (or people wanted them to want) and the types of entertainment they were offered. What sorts of hair-styles did people have? Were ties wide or narrow? Skirts long or short? How did they communicate?

You might also want to look at an almanac, a Guinness Book of World Records, or consult Famous First Facts, depending on the nature of your world.

Cooking, clothing, things

While you can get a lot of information from news & magazines, there are some specific sources for such things as cooking, clothing, entertainment and, sometimes, even the "things" of a period.

The subject heading in the catalog for cookbooks is cookery but you'll also want to use cooking. Use the advanced search to search for cookery as a subject and limit by date to find cookbooks from a specific time.

cookery search

You can also search for cookery or cooking and the adjective for a country, e.g., Italian, to look for cookbooks of a particular national cuisine.

For clothing, the subject is clothing and dress and you may choose to add in the century or country in which you're interested, e.g., 20th or Italy -- or both.

There are a few ways to get at the type of things that might be used in your world. Often, if you're looking at a particular historical or literary period, there will be an encyclopedia or dictionary about that period that can be useful, such as the Encyclopedia of the Renaissance or All Things [Jane] Austen: an Encyclopedia of Austen's World. You may also look at encyclopedias or dictionaries from the time period in which you're interested. The subject is either encyclopedias or dictionaries (yes, plural in each case).


"How do I find films" will help you find specific films, while the Cinema and Media Studies guide will help you find background material on films, including reviews. "How do I find music..." will help you find specific music recordings, while the Music guide will help you find sheet music and background material on music.


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André G. Wenzel
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