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Researching Your Fantasy World

Tantz_Aerine at 5:42AM, July 29, 2017

Goodness, I'm so late posting this, my apologies…

So you have answered your main worldbuilding question, you’ve gone ahead and created your rigging and you’re all set! Now you get to research for your world- you are about to sink your teeth in the juicy, succulent meat of the data that will make your world awesome, real, engaging and charming or mesmerizing.

There’s really no way to do it but just jump in- there is no shallow end in this particular pool. You just need to start working on getting the information you need. That isn’t to say you can’t be methodical; you can and you should. But you should always keep in mind that in research you can’t cut corners or find a magic shortcut that will give you what you need in a short amount of time. Depending on how big and lush your fantasy world will be, the amount of research you will need to do will also be proportionate to that. And that’s okay- the better you know your own world, the more it’ll pay off when you write your story.

I have already talked about a good basic, ubiquitous method on conducting research, so I won’t go into it again here.

What I want to talk about is how that very research you do will probably shape your story to fit your world.

It is good to have your basic, very rough, plot down before you start your research (assuming you don’t start off with your plot in the first place, before even getting down to worldbuilding). The best format for this would be a straight line with points on it. These points are the pivotal plot-advancing moments that you feel are ABSOLUTELY necessary to exist in order for your story to be. So you could have something like this:

* POINT A: Sir Knight finds student————- * POINT B: Sir Knight’s student dies mysteriously ———- * POINT C: Sir knight finds what killed his squire ——– * POINT D: Sir knight has to decide what to do with this knowledge (because it’s forbidden) ——– * POINT E: Sir Knight decides to go rogue ——– * POINT F: Sir knight saves the realm

Keep your outline by you as you research. Start with the basics of your questions as listed in the previous part about the world rigging, and always keep in mind what sort of elements you want in the pivots of your story (your points in your outline). As you start off, you might have in mind that what kills the squire is evil magic, and it’s what the knight will need to go up against to save the realm before everyone dies like his squire did.

But as you research, you might find (as you research medieval era countries, and so on) that the way the Black Death impacted the populace, the social structures and even international relations between countries at the time, and how it was construed to even be the end of the world, is a more powerful tool to use as a menacing threat that kills off the squire first. And it might be a far tougher fight and higher stakes to have the knight go up against religious institutions by perhaps wanting to use (forbidden) magic to halt a plague that is advancing.

So as you keep your main pivots (the points) in your story, you might change the event that leads to them in order to make a more streamlined story that better fits the world you’re building.

Always keep in mind as you research, that the story builds the world, but the world also builds the story: worldwide, mythologies across different nations share main storylines, but the world they are dressed in and the events and interactions of the characters that propel those same storylines are vastly different exactly because they fit the world in which they’re taking place (and the world that gave birth to the fantastical ones in mythology).

Your story can be no different, if it is to be worth your audience’s while.

And that’s that! I hope you enjoyed reading these and that they help you along or complement your own method for building wondrous worlds of fantasy.



DJMulcahy at 11:19AM, July 31, 2017

Great point at the end. I can't tell you the number of times I started out with plot A, only to find plot B or C was more interesting once I had begun to flesh out the details. One of the rules of writing I have is to never write anything that just popped into your head. Every idea needs a certain amount of fermenting in your brain before it becomes viable--and the world building the story is definitely part of that.

Tantz_Aerine at 11:27AM, July 30, 2017

Banes: I'm so glad! I hope they make your life easier!// KimLuster: I know the feeling...// Bravo1102: yes to all of that.

Banes at 9:22AM, July 30, 2017

Fantastic stuff again these last couple weeks - I'm researching my next project now, using your techniques. So thanks!

KimLuster at 5:53AM, July 30, 2017

Excellent stuff!! My less-than-thorough research once had me depicting a U.S. Army Colonel wearing the wrong uniform! Some might think that's trivial but I hate getting details like that wrong..!!

bravo1102 at 6:53AM, July 29, 2017

But you will have to avoid the pitfalls of historical mythology. Suits of armor did not incapacitate a dismounted knight. Battlefield armor did not require winches to get a knight onto his horse. Medieval archers did not carry quivers. It takes a lifetime to make a longbowman and three months to make a crossbowman. The first handguns might have appeared before The first cannon and fired arrows or shaped stones not cannon balls. And so on. Some of these myths still show up in high school text books.

bravo1102 at 6:36AM, July 29, 2017

And at Crecy you decide to change the character from knight to longbowman and before you know it you've written Bernard Cornwell's "The Archers Tale" and you never did get to Chaucer and Boccaccio.

bravo1102 at 6:32AM, July 29, 2017

To show how arcane knowledge can become in order to research the Black Death pandemic you're going to have to research fleas, rats and y.pestis. You might even get sucked into the scholarly debate about other strains of the y. Pestis bug and how it was them that made the first epidemic so lethal. You'll learn about the Malthusian crisis that faced Europe in the 14th century as well as bacteria, rats and fleas. And what about wolves, deforestation and the battle of Crecy? What a trip awaits you as you set sail upon the vast oceans of research.

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