Often, in the midst of a writing spree, we tend to forget words for mundane incidents and objects. We struggle to come up with names for our characters and fictional places. We spend hours Googling minute and obscure details that are oddly specific—how much blood should be lost before a person becomes unconscious? What type of weapons were used by thieves in medieval times?
It’s now easier than ever to research for your book, but the trick is being smart enough to find the resources available online. Here is a list of free websites you should have on your bookmarks at all times, if you’re a writer and if you do a lot of research for your writing.
WordHippo can be used for multiple purposes: for synonyms, antonyms, word meanings with example sentences, rhyming words, pronunciation, and for different word forms (plurals, noun forms, verb forms, etc.). It also offers translations of words into several languages.
WordHippo was launched in 2008 with the aim of providing users an easy way to find synonyms and antonyms, and has since then expanded its tools to include the features mentioned above.
What do you do when you know the meaning of a word but you don’t know the word itself? Or when you can describe a situation but you don’t remember the specific word for it? You can look for it the hard way by Googling it, but have you thought of how easy your life would if you simply had something like a “reverse dictionary”?
That’s exactly what OneLook Reverse Dictionary is. It gives a way for users to describe a word or to enter the first few letters of a word when you have forgotten the rest. It then gives you all the words that match the description you have provided. Since it’s a search service, it lets you find and explore third-party content for which they provide links and citations. In order to navigate the website, you need to first understand how their wildcard symbols work. For example: The asterisk (*) matches any number of letters. That means that you can use it as a placeholder for any part of a word or phrase. For example, if you enter blueb* you’ll get all the terms that start with “blueb”; if you enter *bird you’ll get all the terms that end with “bird”; if you enter *lueb* you’ll get all the terms that contain the sequence “lueb”, and so forth.
If you’re using Google Docs, you can try the free OneLook Reverse Dictionary and Thesaurus add-on.
Wolfram|Alpha is a computational knowledge engine, generating output by doing computations using the Wolfram Knowledgebase, instead of searching the web and returning links. In order to grasp how this amazing website actually works, you can browse through their example searches or take the tour. This search engine is best for when you have to research minute details for your novel.
You can ask Wolfram|Alpha anything: from complex math equations (with step-by-step solutions) to historical events to genealogical relationships, it can give you detailed descriptions and even helps you find answers to obscure questions or create a timeline for a specified time period in history. You can also find anagrams for words, translate to Morse code, convert numbers to ancient pictograms (if you’re writing a historical novel), find out how many things can fit inside other things (how many marbles can fit inside the Boeing 747?), and this special little function: you can input the number of words and let Wolfram determine the time it would take to type that many words, or speak those words out loud or silently in your mind.
If you’re struggling to come up with names in your fantasy novel—be it character names or names for mythical creatures—there are plenty of websites that will do it for you, like Fantasy Name Generator. All you have to do is tick the relevant boxes and specify your preferences for the website to generate a wide range of unique names for you, and you can make your pick!
Sharika Hafeez is a nerd, and she’s proud of it. Growing up, she fell in love with books and writing, and is currently following her undergraduate degree (for some mysterious reasons) in Physics. She likes procrastinating by watching the stars with a steaming cup of tea, composing poetry in her head.