When my writing career began, it was an App-less world. If you wanted to know something, you went to a library, read books, asked friends and composed copious lists in case you ever wanted to look up this stuff again. Today, there are iPhone Apps for almost everything.
Whether you need to calculate the amount of oxygen in a room, figure out your age in gator years, or check out the “Haircaster” forecast to see if it’s going to be a bad hair day, technology has literally put all the answers at our fingertips. Just recently at a dinner with some of my husband’s associates, one of them casually mused aloud where the nearest public restroom might be. Within a nanosecond, the man next to him pulled out his iPhone, punched up the App for Charmin’s toilet-finding GPS and found the answer. (sigh) News you can use.
Imagine the convenience we’d all enjoy if there was a special edition of must-have Apps just for writers. Until that happens, here’s a tour of wacky, weird and even surprisingly useful resources you may not have known existed. Who knows? They might inspire your next plot.
Behind the Name
Stuck on what to call your characters? This website lets you generate first/middle/last names and specific nationalities and historic, literary, mythological, biblical, rapper and fantasy monikers such as Valeriya Sveta, Riley Cassian Finch, Jamar Skye and Bubblebroom Bristlecape.
At this website you’ll find every spin on time-travel, alternative universes and temporal anomalies in novels, films, plays, short stories, TV and music. It also provides links to scientific theories in case you want to compare your own methodology for getting from here to there.
The Phobia List
Does your hero suffer from alliumphobia (fear of garlic), anuptaphobia (fear of being single), or arachibutyrophobia (fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of one’s mouth)? Conflict derives from characters facing their worst anxieties, including a fear of chopsticks (consecotaleophobia), a fear of otters (lutraphobia), or a fear of really long words (hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia).
Who was in charge of the Bahamas in 1710? This database lists over three centuries of leadership whether it’s heads of state, royalty, territorial governors, foreign ministers or dictators. The answer to the Bahamas question, by the way, was pirates. Arghghgh.
The Costume Gallery Research Library
Everything from hats to shoes is covered in this fashionable resource directory and includes textile/color references, etiquette primers, vintage photos, needlework and film costumes.
Sink your teeth into culinary quotes, trivia, recipes and a food timeline dating back to 10,000 B.C. Did you know the first Olympic champion in 776 B.C. was a cook? Or that the Visigoths demanded 3,000 pounds of pepper as ransom for Rome? Or that King Henry I died from eating a moray eel?
Eyewitness to History
What was Queen Victoria’s first day on the job like? What were the courtship rituals of 18th century New England? How did World War I soldiers spend Christmas? Letters, diary excerpts, photographs, film clips and vocal recordings bring the past to life.
The Dumb Network
Ridiculous laws, kooky facts, silly photos and stories of stupid crooks abound here. As a sampler: In Wisconsin, it’s illegal to serve apple pie in restaurants without a slice of cheese.
Absolutely Totally Useless
Don’t let the name fool you. If you’re trolling for trivia, this is the place. For instance:
- Our national anthem is the only one that doesn’t identify its country by name.
- Picasso burned his own paintings to stay warm when he was poor.
- Monaco’s national orchestra outnumbers its army.
Writers, of course, will appreciate the ironic revelation that Albert Einstein’s final words died with him; the attending nurse didn’t understand German.
What’s your favorite writing/research/ or just plain wacky app? Share it with us!
Christina Hamlett is a media relations expert and award-winning author whose credits to date include 30 books, 156 stage plays, 5 optioned feature films, and hundreds of articles and interviews that appear online and in national/international trade publications. In addition, she is a script consultant for the film industry (which means she stops lots of really bad movies from coming to theaters near you) and a professional ghostwriter (which does not mean she talks to dead people). Learn more at www.AuthorHamlett.com.