Back in the day, before the dawn of the series of tubes we call the Internets, writers were forced to get out from behind their dreary writing desks, pack up pen and paper … and travel to exotic locales to experience new and exciting things which they could then write about in a semi-convincing fashion.

The horror.

Nowadays, when a writer needs to imagine what it must be like to live on, say, an isolated Caribbean island with a semi-active volcano, the only place they have to visit is Google or Wikipedia.

For those of you with a desperate yearning to describe some foreign land in all of its exotic glory, here are a few resources that might help spark some creative ideas:

  • The Sunday edition of the New York Times (Travel section) – I buy the Sunday edition of the Times and cut out articles from this section every week. You’ll be amazed at the quirky details that these articles contain about food, attractions, customs, history and more. For the cost-conscious, most of these articles are available for free on the New York Times web site, though I prefer to keep a folder with articles cut out for easy reference.
  • The Economist – For the bigger picture, the Economist magazine is an excellent resource. Here you can track economic, political and social trends and how they affect not just individual countries but entire regions of the globe. This is especially great if you’re writing a war novel, historical novel or political thriller.
  • Wikipedia – Another great reference for pretty much anything. I visit this site several times per day to do research. Often the information contained in the articles will spark ideas for other stories or plot points.

Signing off for today – I’m off to the Caribbean for a few hours this afternoon, before roller skating with the kids down the street.