Setting/Worldbuilding - Keeping It Real
The importance of research in fiction writing
Whatever genre of fiction you are writing, the setting and world-building details, at the very least, need to be plausible.
I say plausible because even with the best will in the world it is not always possible to find out everything you might want to put in your stories. That does not mean the writer can wing it with every detail. You should aim to be as accurate as you can be.
Unless you have grown up with, lived or worked with or studied a subject or profession extensively, never assume that you know enough about it to write a story set around that subject or profession. The same holds true for setting your story in a place or country where you have never lived or even been to. Your readers from those places will know that you donít know.
Never rely on the movies to give you accurate information on anything. They often get their facts wrong. ďArtistic licenseĒ is fine up to a point - I would argue that changing facts to fit your story is fine as long as what you do is believable within the context of your story. Fiddle with reality, but only do it with knowledge of the real facts. Be aware that readers of other cultures and nationalities will probably be offended or insulted if you end up misrepresenting them, or if you completely re-write history to suit your own prejudices or ego!
Whilst doing reviews, I have come across a number of instances where the writer has blithely assumed that they can bend reality to fit their plot or have written something out of sheer ignorance. Iíve found, amongst other things, horses which apparently can go at full gallop for hours or even days on end without any ill effects; hay bales in a medieval setting (the hay baler was a 19th century invention) and sailing ships which sail as though they are fully motor powered and by crew who donít know the difference between a sheet and a halyard.
With historical fiction (including historical fantasy), because it is not possible to go back in time, to get a proper feel for their chosen era, the writer needs to delve into museums and historical archives as well as reading history books.
The internet can be a helpful resource to get started in finding out what you need to know, but it is not advisable to rely on Wikipedia exclusively. Most museums have websites which are always worth visiting. Library reference sections are also a great way to find information.
Research your setting. You will find that not only is it interesting, there are plot opportunities aplenty to be found in the limitations of technologies of any given eras and in the problems encountered in different geographical locations and the ethos of different cultures.
© Copyright 2011 A E Willcox ~ Is Away on Hols (UN: poulynoe at Writing.Com).
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