Research: Working Out the Fundamentals of Your New World

ResearchI have heard time and time again authors stating how important research is for writing a book. It wasn’t until I was naively thirty pages into writing my own manuscript that I realized just how right they were. I’d come to a sudden roadblock in a scene. I hadn’t any idea the rules and guidelines of the new world I was creating and was therefore unable to move the story along and have it make sense.

There is a reason research is so important. It not only helps you in the beginning -to form your new world and help it stay consistent and make sense- but it also helps you avoid future roadblocks, allowing you to continue writing without having to stop and research it on the spot.

Now, I know every author has a different way of going about researching and organizing their information. Personally, I thrive on the complete organization of detailed information in my own research habits. I have Lyme disease {which I’ll be posting more about sometime later on this blog…} and tend to forget details about my characters, settings, etc. So I was forced {and secretly enjoyed} to break down my story into parts, creating tables in Word to organize it all. Here are a few ideas I used for my own novel:

  • Characters— I established main and minor {but important} personality traits/ their descriptions {even how tall they are}/ their relationships with each other {or lack thereof}/ and anything else special or vital about them {as in if they had special talents such as being a master of tennis, or if they had a superpower, etc.}
  • Settings— My novel takes place in a school/castle {I know you’re probably thinking it’s another Harry Potter wannabe, but I promise it’s completely not} so I went as far as to create an actual layout of the castle, naming and labeling where each classroom/used room was. It made it a thousand times easier in allowing myself to take the place of the character in my mind and see the castle from their perspective since I knew right where they would be. Also, if you’re writing a historical novel, or something along those lines that takes place in the real world, don’t forget to research the proper etiquette, attire, what would and wouldn’t be in existence at that time, daily life, etc. for the exact time period it’s taking place. You want to avoid any anachronisms {unless it’s intended}.
  • Other Vital Information— For instance, since my main character, Wynter, goes to high school, I created her daily class schedule, including the subject of each class, the teacher’s name, the place and room number, and which of the other important characters in my book were in the same class. I also made a quick schedule of the classes for the other important characters in my book and correlated it to Wynter’s schedule. I can’t tell you how much it has helped the flow of my writing. With just a quick glance at the schedules, I was able to see the path Wynter would take from class to class, and determine which other characters she might run into on her way, allowing for a chance at further interaction.
    Detailing any other important information and organizing it for future reference will help tremendously. So, say you have sword fighting in your book. It might help to research the type of weaponry you wish your characters to use {keeping in mind it’s appropriate for the time period/world}, any tips and tricks for how to wield the weapon properly, and what a proper fight might entail. Just remember to stay consistent with reality. You want your readers to be engrossed in the fight, not pause and wonder why the fighters are wasting their time on fancy maneuvers that may sound cool but don’t cause damage to their opponent {which is what the main idea in a sword fight is}.
  • Visual Inspiration— I am also a very visual person. It helped me to search for photo ideas online and use them as a loose inspiration for my own characters/settings {though, be careful to put your own spin on things and not steal others’ ideas}.
  • Timeline— Some might not find this necessary, but I needed it. I started a timeline from the beginning of my book, continuously adding a summarized version of each scene immediately after I wrote them {including which day of the week the scene fell on}. That way, instead of re-reading the long pages of content before writing the next day, I simply referenced my timeline to gain the reminder of where I’d left off.

While researching is extremely important, you might want to be mindful of how you share your acquired knowledge of researched information. If, after your research you become an expert in, say, sword fighting, it’s important to use your knowledge to make the scenes feel real and stay consistent. But if you overly explain in excruciating detail that doesn’t flow or further the plot, you run the risk of boring your readers and sounding as though you’re trying to prove that you do in fact know your stuff about sword fighting. Yes, you may know the terms for all the different parts of a certain type of sword, but I’m betting your reader won’t care to have you list them all within your story. Instead, choose only what is relevant to the scene and doesn’t break the flow of your writing.

I may seem overly detailed in my research compared to other authors, but I’m sure there are numerous others who are even more diligently detailed. To each their own in their own process, and I find it interesting to hear how other authors go about their research and journey on writing their novels. So, I would love to hear any and all thoughts and ideas if you’d care to share them!

 

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