by Pam Ripling
All writers have favorite sources they can turn to when struggling to get through a work-in-progress. Before I developed my on-going love affair with Google, I purchased several reference books that remain on the shelf above my computer to this day. I still use them. Here are a couple you might find helpful:
The Fiction Writer’s Silent Partner, by Martin Roth. “Thousands of ideas, facts, possibilities and “what ifs”, on topics ranging from characters to vivid and unusual locales, that will help you generate solid fiction ideas and develop your imagination.” This book is filled with lists—lots of them. For example, if you are writing about a character who boxes, there is a SPORTS chapter, a “Boxing” subchapter, and under that, details about time, rules, ring, equipment, officials, dress, scoring, max/min weights, etc. There are character elements, names, situations; comedic ideas; medicine, military, espionage, religion and The Old West. Slang, Southern talk, Briticisms, etc. A wonderful resource. ISBN 0-89879-482-X. From Writer’s Digest Books, but you may have to look for it on Amazon.
Also from Writer’s Digest is the Flip Dictionary, by Barbara Ann Kipfer, Ph.D. “For when you know what you want to say, but can’t think of the word.” This handy tool is a cousin to both the conventional dictionary and the thesaurus. In addition to finding phrases for words and words for phrases, there are specific pages of terms for a variety of topics. Say you are writing about a devout, professional musician, and you want him to talk about music directions and notations. Do you know the words for heavy (pesante) joyous (giocoso) or emotional (appassionato)? ISBN 0-89879-976-7.
Last, I always have a current almanac handy, and a good style book or two (see Chicago Manual of Style or Strunk & White's The Elements of Style). Because books are static, once you’ve explored the pages, you know right where to find answers. And there aren’t a million other websites beckoning you into distraction.