I don’t know how or if the rest of you research things for your novel, but I probably spend a good third of the time spent writing a draft doing research. You may think that fiction doesn’t require much research, especially fantasy.
Non-fiction obviously calls for research in whatever topic the novel will cover. Some contemporary fiction necessitates research into current technologies, locations, etc. Historical fiction obviously requires research into time periods, historical technology, and notable figures. Science fiction may require in-depth study of a certain scientific principle or a projected technology.
Fantasy seems to be the one the genre that is free of constraints. Everything is made up, right? To an extent, but even the most bizarre fantasies have a grounding in reality. By taking the facts of reality and weaving them into a fantasy, you can make the world seem more real, even if the world you create could never actually exist.
For example, my novel takes place in an ancient, magical world that never existed in our reality. However, the main backdrop of the story takes place in a country very similar to India, and the culture and mythology reflects that of India. I’ve never been to India. I have had to do tons of research on India, including its culture, mythology, geography, and language. Was it all necessary? Not really. I could have probably gotten by with assumptions and half-assed research via the Wikipedia article on India.
I believe in world-building, in creating a world special and different when compared to everyday reality. For me, the life in India is special and different. Why not use it as the inspiration for a fictional world?
Now, research isn’t limited to the geographical backdrop of fantasy. Most fantasy mimics historical fiction with its lack of modern technology. One particular blog post recently got me thinking more about how the world worked differently in the past – “Money, Honey” by Jennifer Fitzgerald over at Let the Words Flow, addresses how currency worked centuries ago.
Fantasy also has magic. Now you would think that magic is nigh impossible to research. Wrong. Now, obviously, you can create your own magic laws for your world, and everything will be hunky-dory, unless of course the evil forces have magic and the good forces don’t. Then everything is bad tacos. There are innumerable sources on magic and many different modes of casting. You can use these as inspiration for the magic in your world. Magic could be practiced through study, or it could be innate. A caster could have a daily limit of spells, or magic could flow through them infinitely. As innumerable as the sources, the combinations of different magicks are endless.
You can shun me for my go-to research sources, but I find them highly useful. Most of the information I find, I use for inspirational purposes, not word for word. These are my sources for all of my writing:
The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers – Christopher Vogler
The Encyclopedia of Ancient Myths and Culture – Quantum Books
Rudiments of Runelore – Stephen Pollington
The Norse Myths – Kevin Crossley-Holland
The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference – Writer’s Digest Books
Treasury of Fairy Tales – Dorothea Goldenberg and Bette Killion
The Wizardology Handbook: A Course for Apprentices – Candlewick Press
Wizardology: The Book of the Secrets of Merlin – Candlewick Press
D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths – Ingri Mortenson and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire
A Practical Guide to Dragons – Wizards of the Coast
A Practical Guide to Dragon Magic – Wizards of the Coast
Dungeons and Dragons Core Rules (4th Edition) – Wizards of the Coast
I have read all of these books at least once through, granted, some of them are for children. I’m interested to see if anyone else does research for their fiction, and if so, what books do you turn to?