I'm a big believer in research as a key part of writing, regardless of what you write. It's funny, because I've heard people-- in talking about writing fantasy or sci-fi-- that it's easier since "you can just make stuff up". But nothing could be further from the truth. Good writing, especially genre writing, requires verisimilitude. It needs to feel legitimate, and that comes from research.
of that research comes from learning a basic understanding of how the
real world works, and applying that to the worlds you build. For
example, in our modern society, it's easy to be divorced from the
fundamentals of where our food comes from*-- but that's no excuse for
writing a story in which you have a Nordic-style medieval culture where
they have fresh subtropical fruits. Yes, I have seen that.
But research can also be lateral. I love reading non-fiction books, especially about history, and one thing I loved was The Disappearing Spoon,
which was about the history of the periodic table of elements,
including bits about the history of each element on the table. What
this gave me was insight into some of the history and methodology of the
formal and informal scientists from the 15th to 19th centuries. I was
able to use that to give verisimilitude to the academic environments in Thorn of Dentonhill. It wasn't research to that end, but it was increasing my general understanding, and I was able to use it.
can also be hands-on. I have a writing friend who, in writing a main
character who was a drag-racer and wheel-man for bank robberies, went to
drive on a racetrack so she could get a direct sense of the high-speed
driving her character would do. I went to Mexico City and observed how
street interactions went in different neighborhoods**, and that went
into Thorn and how the folk in the Aventil and Dentonhill neighborhoods behaved.
The short point is: research makes for better books. And maybe you'll get to drive a racecar.
*- Yes, I'm often using food as an example.
This was especially useful because I was out of my spoken-language
comfort zone, since it forced me to really focus on the body-language of
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Research, Writing and Worldbuilding
Posted by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Marshall Ryan Maresca is a Fantasy and Science Fiction Novelist, as well as a playwright, living in South Austin with his wife and son. He is the author of the Maradaine Novels:
The Thorn of Dentonhill, A Murder of Mages , The Alchemy of Chaos, An Import of Intrigue , The Holver Alley Crew, The Imposters of Aventil , Lady Henterman's Wardrobe , The Way of the Shield (October 2018) and A Parliament of Bodies (March 2019).
His work also appeared in Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction and Rick Klaw’s anthology Rayguns Over Texas. He also has had several short plays produced.
Visit his website at mrmaresca.com