Inspiration for your fiction

by on November 17th, 2015
Inspiration for your fiction Cover Image

NaNoWriMo is more than halfway over. Looking for inspiration to get you past writer’s block? Consider consulting dictionaries and encyclopedias on specific subjects.

Last week, someone stumbled upon our encyclopedias on the short Reference shelves on the second floor. He wondered if we had anything like that for sci fi/fantasy mythology. He was curious as to where storytellers got their information about the strengths and weaknesses of monsters.

Lucky for him, he was talking with someone who’s been reading a ton of fantasy fiction this year. I have read the accounts of countless vampires, ghosts, werewolves, fae, demons, witches, trolls, shape-shifters—you name it!

I got him the book How to Kill a Vampire as a place to start. As we were talking about what his goals were for finding books like this, it struck me that he had a great idea: use these kinds of books to inspire and research your fiction writing. 

Sure if you know exactly what you’re looking for, you can google it and skip a trip downtown. But if you don’t know what you need? A reference source allows you to browse and flip through until you stumble upon that piece of the storytelling puzzle you were missing. The library-speak term for it is serendipitous discovery. You don’t know what you need until you find it.

The short stacks in the Reference area on the second floor have a number of dictionaries and encyclopedias that could inform your writing and world-building. We have dictionaries on fashion and costumes, language use and slang, superstitions, mythology and more!


Here’s a brief selection:


Available from ICPL

The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs

The Penguin Dictionary of American Folklore

Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang

Encyclopedia of Sacred Places

The Encyclopedia of Angels

The Facts on File Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend

How Not to Say What You Mean: A Dictionary of Euphemisms

The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion


Books at other libraries (available via Interlibrary Loan)

Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology

The Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology

The Dictionary of Demons: Names of the Damned

The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters

The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft, and Wicca

The Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy

The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits


Internet sources

Gods and Monsters


Still don’t know what you’re looking for? Contact us at to have the Info Desk experts track down the perfect source or three.

2 Responses to “Inspiration for your fiction”

  1. Stacey says:

    Baby name books are helpful for coming up with character names, too. I’m doing my own variation of NaNoWriMo this year (NaPoWriMo = one poem per day), and I grabbed some library books to help me out:

    The Complete Rhyming Dictionary, revised

    The Poetry Home Repair Manual: practical advice for beginning poets, by Ted Kooser

    and a few for inspiration:

    Every Thing On It: poems and drawings, by Shel Silverstein

    The Breakbeat Poets: new American poetry in the age of hip-hop

    Felicity, by Mary Oliver

    Good luck, NaNos!

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About Melody Dworak

Melody Dworak
Melody buys books for the second half of the nonfiction Dewey numbers on the 2nd floor. She has recently been bitten by the fiction bug, but loves those historical reference questions regardless. Visit the digital collections she manages at and