When you write historicals, it's easy to think that all your research has to be old-fashioned. Books, mostly. Visits to historical areas and recreationist sites. Museums. And all those are wonderful.
But you know what? Books don't give you visuals very often. We can't always go to the places we write about. And time won't always permit a museum trip. But in this lovely computer age, there are still options!
It was while working on one of my biblical novels that I first had the idea to check on YouTube for helpful videos. I found documentaries on Ancient Persia that gave me visuals of the land and palaces that still photos and drawings and descriptions just hadn't been able to convey. And I made a mental note to keep checking back for other projects.
When I needed to know how to describe a minuet for Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland, that's where I went. I found a recreationist video of people in costume doing the dance, and I studied it. This allowed me to craft a fun, important conversation around the movements, having them move away and back together at appropriate times. Something I wouldn't have been able to do without watching and studying that dance.
I've used it again more often to take an online tour of some places I'm writing about. Monaco and Yorkshire, Williamsburg and Savannah. You type it in, and you'll find that someone else has gone there and made a video of it then posted it online. And often you can even find documentary-style videos with helpful narration.
Readers may not always wonder where we get our information, but as an author, it's always a new challenge to find this or that bit of research. Sometimes regular web searches or image searches just don't cut it. Sometimes books describe things but leave us scratching our heads when it comes to a specific detail. Sometimes we just wish for an instant transporter or a time machine so we can see what we need!
YouTube isn't exactly that, but it fills the gap rather admirably. And though you may not expect the same website that brings you "Kitty Playing the Piano" to teach you about a setting or action, one ought never discount it. Several times it's provided exactly what I need to allow for that extra authenticity to a scene or book.
Roseanna M. White grew up in the mountains of West Virginia, the beauty of which inspired her to begin writing as soon as she learned to pair subjects with verbs. She spent her middle and high school days penning novels in class, and her love of books took her to a school renowned for them. After graduating from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, she and her husband moved back to the Maryland side of the same mountains they equate with home.
Roseanna is the author of two biblical novels, A Stray Drop of Blood and Jewel of Persia, both from WhiteFire Publishing (www.WhiteFire-Publishing.com), Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland from Summerside Press, and the upcoming Culper Ring Series from Harvest House, beginning in January 2013 with Ring of Secrets.
She is the senior reviewer at the Christian Review of Books, which she and her husband founded, the senior editor at WhiteFire Publishing, and a member of ACFW, Christian Authors Network, HisWriters, and Colonial American Christian Writers. She is a regular blogger at Go Teen Writers, Colonial Quills, and her personal blog.