Be a Ninja Sleuth
by Nancy Churnin
A nonfiction ninja needs detective skills. So, put on your Sherlock Holmes cap, and track down your subject. If your subject is dead, contact that person’s descendants or those who knew the person well.
What you learn can make the difference in unearthing details that will bring your story to vivid life or correct errors made in previous biographies.
How do you find these people?
Newspapers and magazine articles. If the person is alive, articles will probably tell you where that person was living as well as where the person was working at the time the article was written. Look up the place of work and if your subject is no longer working there, ask where the subject might be. If dead, obituaries will tell you the survivors or where the person donated records. Your subject’s alma mater can help track down heirs.
Universities and publishers. If the person and heirs are impossible to reach, look up experts on your subject. Often that person can be found teaching at a university where emails are easy to find. The expert may also point you to resources that can get you going on your own original research.
Travel. If you can, go to the actual place where your subject lives or lived and walk the streets that person walked, go to places that person might have frequented and talk to people who know or knew your subject.
What if the subject or the family WON’T support the book?
While it’s your legal right to write about people who are famous without their consent, I have always opted against that. It is hard to get a story right even with all the resources at your disposal. It’s also hard to market the best of stories. It’s a big help to go out there with support.
If your hunt leads to putting your manuscript aside, remember that even for the best of detectives, not all cases get solved. But with these tips, the percentage that you do solve should go up. Happy sleuthing!
11/14/2018 05:08:31 pm
I am growing into being a Ninja Sleuth and all of you are amazing influences and examples!
11/17/2018 07:20:20 pm
Trine, I hope you are enjoying the journey. A Ninja Sleuth's work is never done because we are all, always, learning new things!
11/17/2018 08:45:08 am
Thank you all for starting this informative, encouraging blog for those who write for children.
11/17/2018 07:22:47 pm
Kathleen, we are all grateful for all the folks who have been kind enough to share knowledge that helped us on our way. We are happy to pay it back and do our part to encourage writers to bring new, wonderful books into the world for children.
11/17/2018 09:24:12 am
Love your new blog and it’s many good articles for aspiring writers. You have already answered many of my questions
11/17/2018 07:24:21 pm
Sheila, so happy you find it helpful. I enjoy reading the posts of my fellow Nonfiction Ninjas -- they are smart and amazing writers!
11/17/2018 12:51:18 pm
What an interesting blog. I’ll have to come here more often.
11/17/2018 07:25:20 pm
Welcome, Peggy. We're happy to have you here!
11/17/2018 07:34:12 pm
I love the idea of teaching students to be Ninja Sleuths. I would love to tie this in with a lot of my lessons, like accurate information on websites.
11/17/2018 11:09:54 pm
I have found that librarians are the best Watson to for a Sherlock Holmes. They are always my first go to when I need help tracking down a story.
Randi J Cook
11/18/2018 07:34:35 am
Great information! Wish the news would use your fact-finding steps!
11/18/2018 03:31:45 pm
After having written a number of fiction books for children, I've written my first nonfiction.book and I loved the adventure. Thanks to all of you for sharing and creating the Ninja Notebook. Keep writing everyone!
11/19/2018 10:52:46 am
This is great new blog! Thanks for sharing your expertise!
Leave a Reply.
We are nonfiction authors who support readers and writers through our writing, author visits, and workshops.
Disclaimer: The Nonfiction Ninjas are a group of writers with diverse ideas . The views expressed in each post are those of the author and may differ from others in the group.