Frankly, I don’t know how writers ever survived before the internet. I suppose they must have gone outside more.
Now, there’s definitely no substitute for real life experience, getting out there and seeing the world for yourself, meeting interesting people, even doing the job of your protagonist.
But it’s not always possible to do so for every single setting and every single character, let alone job.
And for that, we have the internet. Here are some of my favourite resources from the intarwebs, I hope you find them useful.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I find the Novel Factory plotting method the most useful (having come up with it and all that) and I couldn’t imagine the tedium of trying to plot my novel without using the software: http://www.novel-software.com/
http://www.novel-software.com/novelwritingroadmap.aspx - Again, I’m going to be unashamedly biased and point out this step-by-step roadmap / formula / thing I’ve developed to help me successfully plot my novels.
http://faceresearch.org/ - create a character portrait by merging the faces of lots of random people. Unfortunately a limitation is the interesting fact that the more you average people’s faces, the more attractive they get, and that it’s face only – no body.
http://whatsin-yourpocket.tumblr.com/ - this person takes pictures of what’s in people’s pockets – great for inspiration for more in-depth character development.
http://www.markmenjivar.com//projects/you_are_what_you_eat - this photographer carried out a project taking pictures of the contents of people’s fridges – fascinating insight into character!
http://www.rightmove.co.uk/ - I often use Rightmove to find out more about where my characters live. It’s fantastic because you can often get blueprints, as well as pictures of the outside, inside and garden of real people’s homes. The only downside is that people tend to make their houses presentable, which is somewhat unrepresentative of reality.
http://www.eplans.com/ - fantastic resource of blueprints and computer generated pictures.
https://www.thehouseplanshop.com – more blueprints, including some commercial buildings – great for getting the nuts and bolts right, especially if you’re plotting a mystery, where the details are critical.
http://www.flickr.com/ - there are thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of amateur photographers on flickr, and searching their database can give you better quality imagery than simply searching google images.
http://www.deviantart.com/ - deviant art is a great resource of amazing artwork that can be used to inspire and build depth for character and location.
http://www.google.com/imghp - Google images. Pictures of whatever you want. From the intarwebs.