Foraging for facts otherwise known as researching is vital to writing a good novel. I like to use the term foraging because when I do research I always feel as though I am feeding my mind. That way even if I do not find the answer that I was seeking, I feel there has been little lost in finding all the other fascinating information I stumbled across in the process.
I read a blog today, that argued, preparing to write a fantasy novel was easier than preparing to write a fiction or crime novel because fantasy writers do not need to research any of their material first. Oddly enough, this was just after I spent an hour learning about the drying process of wood, how to properly maintain wood and how long wood structures can feasibly last.
On a fascinating side note the oldest wooden structure is a temple in Japan dating back to 711 A.D. and arguments have been made that it may have been built even earlier.
Now back to my rant…
Research is incredibly important to all writers regardless of what genre they write in. I know my historical fiction writing friends have to spend more hours on research than I do but the point is that I still spend a bit of time researching.
Why was I researching wood today?
My novel takes place in a place that has been exposed to many years of dryness and limited light. There are no longer any trees and the plants are limited in this world but they still have some ancient wooden constructions left over from the time when wood wasn’t so limited. To make all this seem more believable to my readers, I needed to know more about how long dried wood lasts, wood preservation methods, etc. Since I am neither a carpenter or a botanist, research or fact foraging was crucial.
The key to writing a good fantasy novel is creating a world in which the reader feels is believable. That way they either want to be part of it and can see themselves as part of the action as they read or they want to avoid ever going to because it is just too horrible to face. A bit of research here or there helps to create that believable world.
What is the strangest thing you have ever had to research for a story?
The auto-fill on my google searches does reveal things that would be disturbing to a non-author.
Recently, I looked up how much pressure was needed to break specific arm bones. I found several people online asking the question on forums because they were looking for a way to collect insurance. Seamy underbelly of the internets!
I know the feeling. My work in progress has a young girl in it who has been stabbed by her bully. I spent a better part of a day trying to figure out where in the abdomen someone can be stabbed without any permanent damage or death. If my computer were ever stolen people would really wonder what I was up to.
Wow, really? Someone thinks writing SF/F is easier because there’s no research? I would suggest that they’ve never sat down to write SF/F. Yes, some of that research is in your imagination, but all of it has to be compared to the real world to make sure it stacks up. I would argue that writing in the real world is easier, because you don’t even need to *describe* the setting, history, politics, etc, let alone research and write it.
As for research: I (like many writers) have a tendency to research anything that takes my fancy, whether it’s for my writing or not. But the oddest thing I’ve researched specifically for writing (Recently) was for a flash fiction story I posted on my blog. I needed to know approximately how many baby teeth a tooth fairy would need to collect each night, assuming she went to every child in the world. (As a point of interest, roughly 80 baby teeth fall out per second.)
Yeah, they really thought that! I was tempted to post a link but I did not want to name and shame. They had several comments politely telling them that they were very wrong.
Wow, that is a lot of baby teeth. My son lost one last week and informed me that she uses them all to build houses in her world which was something I never knew. They must have a very large population or extremely big homes.
I like it. He clearly has a great imagination. Must get it from his Mum. 🙂
(In my version of events, the excess teeth are responsible for global warming and the apocalypse… 🙂 http://wp.me/p1teED-by)
I don’t know if its commonly strange, but it was strange to me to research the Cthulu stories by Lovecraft. I was crafting an subterranean creature and I got into Lovecraft pretty heavily.
Cthulhu is quite a strange creature but absolute genius on Lovecraft’s part.
I definitely agree. There’s more to research for fantasy than people might think. Given that many fantasy stories have things in common with medieval times in our world, there are loads of things an author might need to know about.
How long can a horse run before it gets tired? How easily can mail be pierced by an arrow? How much can a person bleed before losing consciousness? What number of eggs does a dragon typically lay in a single clutch? Wait . . . scratch that one.
I have been linking my story to Ancient Egypt and although my story is purely fantasy, I have had to do a lot of research on Egyptian fashion.
I know what you mean about the dragon as well. I am researching aliens at the moment. I have researched vampires, faeries, werewolves, witches and all sorts of other creatures as if they were as common as dogs, cats and mice in our world.
I really do think if people got hold of my laptop and looked at what I research on google they would lock me away.
I cannot believe someone made that comment. I think it takes more research to create worlds than replicate them.
Oddest thing (for me, anyway) researched was various styles of men’s suits and their names. Tame, I know, but it was weird.
Honestly, I think they should have tried to write a fantasy novel before they made that statement. I have spent a huge amount of time this weekend researching the clothing and jewellery of ancient Egypt, the different types of alien life forms people think exist and types of sand found in different places. I agree with you and must say most non writing people don’t research these types of things on a daily basis.