You might think, “Oh no, eww, research is for academics!” But you are wrong. When you write a story, any story, you will probably have to do some form of background research.
Totally not unusual.
Writers can actually do a heck of a lot of research for their story but for various reasons. These reasons could change depending on the genre. I’m more in the fantasy genre, so I can only speak for fantasy writers.
Also, I must say that I cannot speak for EVERY fantasy writer either. Nonetheless,
Why do I do research?
- To make the story seem real.
- To make sure I’m consistent with whatever era, culture, religion, politics I’ve based my world’s culture on.
- To get some kind of inspiration.
Where do I go for my research?
- Google Search
- Google Images
- Community Websites
Let’s talk about each of these.
But what to search for especially if you are a fantasy writer searching for things that don’t exist?
Often I’m looking for inspiration. Something to give me an idea for something that I want to make up.
Other times it’s answers to strange questions about odd situations because (THANK GOODNESS) I have not experienced them. That’s why there’s a joke among writers that you don’t want the police to be looking at your search history because they might find you had searched how to strangle someone or how to do Russian Roulette with a gun.
I also use Google Search for names. Especially a list of baby boy or baby girl names. You’d be surprised how many websites there are for baby names and some even break the search down to what meaning you want to have (baby name that means brave or prince or happy or fun) or baby names that are unusual or come from movies or famous people, etc.
Fiction writers use baby name websites all the time, let me tell ya.
Another place I frequent is
“How to say *insert word here* in a different language?”
Link: In Different Languages
It helps with naming things, for me. Maybe I want to call something a shadow, but I don’t want to use the word “shadow”. I want to use a word that means “shadow” that is not just a synonym of “shadow”.
(I’m not the only one that is THIS particular with my names.)
I use Google Images for inspiration only. Maybe I have a desert scene, but I have never been to a desert, so I want to know what one actually looks like so I can describe it. I don’t even know how tall sand dunes can get. Or, I might have made up a fantasy creature that borrows elements from a lizard. I might want pics of a lizard wearing clothes to give me inspiration for my character when I need to describe him.
Now YouTube is a surprisingly great, great resource if you’re looking for “line dancing” or “how glass is made” or “fight scenes with swords” or “horseback riding in the medieval era” or just some epic instrument you want to feature in your story or about how to use a miswak.
There are literally videos on EVERYTHING on YouTube and thank goodness for that!
If you want to know what a tornado sounds like up close and personal, YouTube.
If you want to know what it might look like to fly through the Grand Canyon, someone’s done a drone video on that!
If you want to know what a sandstorm sounds like at a desert, YouTube.
Everything is there and people post everything. It’s the most helpful visual and audio resource out there if you don’t have access to television (which I don’t).
Some people shun Wiki for inaccuracy. But those people are missing out, I tell ya.
Wiki might be shady sometimes, but it does have the general facts about things. About anything. One side of Wiki that has been helpful besides the general Wiki pages of facts is the Wikitionary.
It breaks down the origin of the word for you and you can see how this English word or whatever language word came to be. This can lead to helping you make up epic names for places or people or creatures.
This last one is only if you’ve joined that it actually starts to help. I’m on a few: Facebook writing groups and some community writing websites like Wattpad. What the latter is good for is that there are people who are knowledgeable in random things and if you ask in the forums, you are sure to get at least a few helpful answers.
For Facebook Writing Groups, I’ll just go ahead and list up the ones that I’m in and maybe you’ll find useful. If you’re already in them, hi 😉
KEEP IN MIND the following are my personal opinions only. If you are interested in these groups, don’t take my word for it and just join. It does not hurt to join and test the waters, so to speak.
Fiction Writer’s Society (not genre specific) – they don’t seem to shun Wattpad as far as I have seen. And, as far as I’ve seen, not a bad group to join if you are working on genres other than fantasy.
Writers Helping Writers (not genre specific) – they don’t seem to shun Wattpad as far as I have seen. They seem like quite a seasoned group and there does seem to be older writers and seasoned writers in this group. You can use them to ask about the publishing industry if you’re new to it.
Fantasy Writers Support Group (only for those who are fantasy writers) – they shun Wattpad so if you want to talk about Wattpad, I would suggest to not talk about it in this group. I often use them to ask a bit more serious writing related or world-building related questions because they come off as serious people to me.
The Sci-Fi & Fantasy Writers’ Guild (only for sci-fi and fantasy writers) – they are pro-Wattpad and you can talk about Wattpad in this group. They seem to be a looser group in terms compared to “Fantasy Writers Support Group”. I often use them for asking less-serious fun questions or for talking about less serious things.
I don’t just use one place for research. I might use all of them when searching for one thing just so I can get the entire picture.
When do I stop?
When I feel satisfied with what I have come up with or
when I’m just tired from research XD
Seriously, research for world-building, especially for something that doesn’t exist in our world, can be grueling. Your mind gets exhausted and sometimes you just need to stop or take a break. If you want to go back to it or you need to go back to it, you can always do that.
in the end, all this research will have paid off because the reader is now engaged in the story. That’s your goal. To engage the reader.