I was browsing Pinterest not long ago and I saw this:
Of course, I pinned it right away, recognizing it to be true.
And it is very true.
Anyone who is going into fantasy writing may think that they don’t have to research. I mean, it’s fantasy. You can do whatever you want! You make the rules!
Yes… but where do your characters in your unique setting get food? How much can you beat up your MC before he dies of injury and exhaustion?
The thing about the injuries is fairly easy to research. You go to Google and voila! The food thing is also easy, but it requires a bit more thought.
Maybe the food thing isn’t important to your plot or maybe it is. But in order to be realistic or add least convince your readers that it’s real enough, these kind of things require some kind of mention.
So what do you do?
Well, what’s the setting? Ice everywhere and only a few months of springtime weather? A desert plagued by frequent rainstorms? A ship in the middle of the ocean? First step is to pinpoint the setting.
Once you have your setting down, it’s time to go to Google (or ask someone). “What do people eat on a ship?” “What do Arctic explorers eat?” (That’s the first question I’d ask for that one.) “What food plants grow in the desert?
And don’t forget about meat (unless you’re writing a book of vegetarians). If they have meat, do they have cages of animals until it comes time to eat them? Do they carry dried or canned meat around? How do they store leftovers (if they can at all)? How do they go about catching fish (that’s for your ship one)?
What composes a balanced diet for humans in general (or are you creating your own creatures?)? If your characters are vampires, aliens, or something else all together, you can play with the balanced diet thing. And allergies (there’s a reason garlic kills vampires).
As you can see, the research has now become intertwined with your world building. How do these people get food? Do they trade with the neighboring villages, countries, etc.? With what? When and how? Do the all people come to them to trade food or just a few people come and bringing the food with them? And how does it come? Via canal boat? Dragons and parachutes? Hovercraft?
Your world building will probably lead to more research. How does a hovercraft work and how much cargo can it carry? What about canal boats? What if it’s really windy when those dragons and parachutes are scheduled to come (PLOT POINT!)?
Even in writing fantasy, research is still important and necessary in order to make your story believable. Once you have your research done, you can twist it to your will. You know the things your point will affect. Twist one thing, twist the others. And you now have a marvelous setting and possibly a plot point.
But research goes beyond setting. I write a lot of creatures from folklore that are already created. I enjoy knowing the original stories and lore that go with them. (Banshees are cool, by the way.) And if you want to write a fairytale retelling, it would be wise to know the original story so you aren’t accidentally copying Disney. (Please do be careful with this particular one, though. Disney changed several fairytales to make them child appropriate.)
So, that’s my take on this. Research is necessary and can be fun. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go write about werewolves (and yes, I did research this).
Anything to add? Anyone have any interesting research stories to share? Let me know in the comments!