Article on How to Research Your Novel
|How to Research Your Novel
By: Elfin Dragon
There are many ways to go about doing research for a novel you’re writing and the first question you need to ask yourself is, of course, “What type of novel am I writing?” This question will determine the type of research you’ll need to do for your novel.
You may wonder why it’s important to do any research for your novel. The reason is because you want certain forms of reference to be known to you reader. Every novel has at least some things your reader must be familiar with, some items of truth which can be grasped by the reader. Even fantasy novels use known items of fairy tales to help the reader “adjust” to the author’s way of thinking. Even if it’s a completely new tale. As author’s we want the reader to feel comfortable in what we’re telling them.
Let’s begin with one of the most prolific genres on the market, Science Fiction. There are many types of Science Fiction novels out there. Some are modern era, i.e. 21st century and ones we easily understand terminologies and references to. Some are pre-modern era but we still understand the references and some are set in the future and/or space. These tend to have terms and references which sometimes need to be explained to the reader so they understand either the setting, culture, era or some other item which is not readily known to us in our time. So let’s look at some items which can help us research and help us in writing a better Science Fiction novel/story.
1) Any book on space, planets, moons, etc.
a. This type of book will help you with the concept of how objects in space react to other objects in space. I recently bought a National Geographic book on space. It has all of these items in one book, including information on the Kaipur Belt, Galaxies, Black Holes and more.
2) Any book on machinery
a. If you’re writing a book with robots or machines, this book will help you understand the capabilities and limits of machinery. It doesn’t mean you can’t stretch your imagination of what they can do. But it will help you understand the basics and where to begin.
3) Books on chemistry and any other science
a. Depending on what you’re writing about any science book, especially chemistry, will help you better understand where you want to go with your writing. Never underestimate the power of learning something from educational books.
Now that we’ve delved deep into science let’s look at another genre, Fantasy. This genre is also often mixed with Science Fiction into what’s often dubbed as Sci-Fi/Fantasy. As you can imagine there are as many different types of Fantasy and Sci-Fi/Fantasy as there are imaginations in the world. It ranges from the classics of Tolkien to new novels of people like C.S. Friedman, Tad Williams, and Mercedes Lackey. There are thousands of different authors who vie for your attention when you go to a bookstore. But even if you’re creating your own unique world there are still some rules you should follow, thus a bit of research needs to be done. Research for fantasy will be a bit different since it’s more imaginative, but there can still be some technical aspects to it as well. So let’s take a look…
1) With regards to world building
a. You may still want to look at any book on space, planets & moons. With Fantasy it’s not as restrictive as Science Fiction but if you’re combining the two it becomes a bit more important.
b. Do some research on our medieval history; depending upon what era you want your story to take place in either this time period or another may help you in discerning the type of clothes people wore and the type of culture was most prevalent.
c. Books on machinery or war implements (i.e. swords, daggers, bows). I’ve come to find out myself there’s a certain element of science in the use of any weapon. Knowing how they were made and used properly can help in your writing.
2) With regards to Character building
a. There are many different types of characters in Fantasy. You have humanoid and non-humanoid. The first, of course, is easy; the second, not so much. What I suggest is to research your non-humanoid characters by reading either mythology books or, if they’re a new type of non-humanoid character, read up on the animal which is closely related to that character. Find out how that character would move, sleep, eat and anything else. If it’s a talking bear as in “The Golden Compass” read about bears. The more real you can make these non-humanoid characters in your novel the more believable they’ll be for your reader.
Now let’s take a brief look at fiction which covers several genres. These books are ones in which the authors still use their imaginations to create a book but often still use real places and sometimes events with their characters. With this in mind I’m sure you can guess what needs to be researched when writing fiction.
1) Travel guides and maps
a. These little gems can help you look up places you might want your characters to visit as well as points of interest within those places.
2) History books and newspapers
a. History books and newspapers from all over the world will tell you what events have happened and when. They can be a great reference source.
The last genre we’ll be looking at now is Non-Fiction. These books are usually things like biographies, history books, essays of facts, How-to books, etc. These are probably the most researched books of all because every detail needs to be accurate. Depending upon what type of book you’re writing depends upon what type of research you’d do and from where you’d get the information.
a. Information for biographies can be gained from family members, photographs, and letters from family members, genealogies, history books, and even newspapers (as well as your own memory).
2) History Books
a. Information for history books can be gained from newspapers, eye witness accounts, interviews, and other history books
a. Information for How-to-Books can be gained from your own knowledge and knowledge of experts in the field
In closing, remember every novel needs some type of research to help it become a great novel. As authors we have great imaginations and can create whatever we want but that creation needs a solid foundation so our readers can have a better grasp of understanding of our creations.