Tuesday, May 21, 2013

R is for... research

I love research. I love digging in and finding the seeds of old stories, ferreting out variants and linguistic roots and cultural meaning. I love it. It makes my mouth water.

When I research a story, be it a myth, a folktale, a legend, a historical piece, the fact-based parts of original fiction or the details of a personal story, I give it greater depth. While my research might never make it into the final piece, it does inform how I tell the story. If I know, for example, that my great-grandmother never really got over the boyfriend she left behind in Prussia, then that might color the way she talks to my grandmother about boys.

Good research shapes each character, setting and event in your story. While it isn't a prerequisite to being a storyteller, when you really love a piece you want to know more about it, so research is a natural side-effect.

There are many great resources online for story research. Here are a few of my favorites.

  • Sur la Lune is a great fairy tale site with variants and annotated versions of hundreds of fairy tales.
  • Karen Chace's Storybug blog is a great, frequently updated resource for stories on a wide variety of topics.
  • Encyclopedia Mythica is a great myth resource, with cross references.
  • Artcyclopedia is a really good online art reference. This helps you visualize time periods and places.
  • The Library of Congress has a fantastic website, rich with images and articles on almost anything you could want. Want to hear Warren G. Harding? This is the place!
  • The Public Library of Science answers your science questions
  • The New York Public Library Digital Gallery can help you visualize almost anything.

There are so many more. These are just a few I use regularly. Please add any great research sites you love in the comments!

I hope you have fun with your research. Remember, the better you know the background to your stories the better your telling.

(c)2013 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. Hi Laura,

    I knew we were kindred spirits Laura! I do love to research. I find it illuminating and refreshing and it adds so much depth to a story.

    I am honored to be included in your list of resources. One note, folks can also find additional resources in my newsletter, reached easily thru my website or directly at this link http://storybugnewsletter.blogspot.com/ . * I have taken a brief hiatus on the newsletter this past few months due to other projects, but more will be added soon.

    I have enjoyed this trip through the alphabet with you. Thank you for sharing your creative soul.


  2. So, Laura, R is for research. I thought it was for something else. I'll have to research that. I'm likin my ABCs more every day with you leading the way....Tony Toledo

  3. One of my favorite research sites is available to all members of NSN free as a member benefit: The Greenwood World Folklore and Folklife site, folklore.greenwood.com. Thousands of full-text folktales from all over the world, but also books and articles about different cultures and their folklife --

  4. My favorite research site is people. I also really enjoy going to old newspaper clippings from my home town, Clayton and reading about daily news, weather, cooking tidbits and advice columns. This doesn't pertain to folk or fairy tales but it gives me the flavor of an era and the way people use language in a particular area and era. This in turn, helps me find the right mindset for the personal story. Love these blogs Laura. Thank you. And thanks to Jo Radner for the folklore site at NSN.


True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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