Magazines are a great source of knowledge for specialist topics. Writing about a woodturner? Pick up a magazine on the topic to learn the terminology and concerns. Ditto for writing about a bodybuilder or model railway enthusiast or cyclist. It is a good way into the subject.

I recently bought four magazines in one uncharacteristic splurge.

  1. Private Eye. Depressing but important as ever to know how much of the world is in the hands of the privileged, how much dodgy tax avoidance is taking place, and how politicians and councillors attain greater perks and positions and pay rises whilst cutting back on services. Good for examples of things your would hardly believe but which could inspire potential tales. Be prepared to feel righteous wrath.
  2. Build It. I am interested in learning more about construction methods so that one day I can build and live in an eco-friendly post-apocalyptic survival fort. The magazine was also useful for the photos of houses as examples to trigger your imagination when writing, to prevent you from always thinking along the lines of houses you yourself have lived in. This could definitely tie in to a character who wants to self-build, or works in the building trade.
  3. Writers' Forum. I bought this for professional interest in order to pick up tips on writing, look out for opportunities etc. We can always learn more about our craft from the experience of others.
  4. The World of Interiors. Anyone who knows me will laugh at the idea of me buying this, since I feel that soft furnishings and cushions are the spawn of the evil one (no, not Satan, but consumerism/extravagance) and all his little fluffy evil pixies. I picked it up partly because the cover boasted an article on writers' retreats, and partly to get ideas for room and home descriptions. I almost regretted buying this when the contents page said "Their house is his domain too, and it's, like, totally awesome: check it out on page 184." It stands out as worthy of a separate Bad Language tag. If there was a published sentence designed to grate on my nerves it would be this. Sadly the market is obviously for people with more money than taste, since the new products includes flooring at £1,857 per sq m, plastic seats at £276 each, chairs from £1200, drinking glasses at £76 each, £800 rugs and sofas starting at £3,966. The only good thing is that it provides ideas for when I revisit my Summer's Lease story, which includes a visit to an 'It girl' home where this kind of gear would appear. The first real magazine content appears after 23 pages of adverts. I won't be buying this again! I have to admit that it is the only magazine I have not got round to finishing either.