Building a new world, or recreating a past one can be quite a lengthy process of research. Imagine, if you will, the ancient wizard pouring over dusty scrolls, the kindly librarian searching out a rare book, or a vat of coffee large enough for a bath. All these things and more will you need to build a world for readers.
I discussed in an earlier blog (link) about the process of world building, and it is worth a brief recap. A writer can build a world in extreme detail, and then invent people and a plot to go with it. The D&D approach, and which can be a very long process. Others think up a plot and characters, and craft a world to fit them, which is faster but may cause plot hole problems. Which writer are you?
I write historical fantasy/time travel, science fiction and fantasy, so I do spend a bit of time researching. Here are some of my go to places.
Most libraries will order in books for you, and ebooks are reasonably priced. If you are writing historical, try a few authors of the time – I have ploughed through Marcus Aurelius, Tacitus and some Julius Caesar, as well as Apicius. For scifi, a good general textbook will help with basic concepts, and they are often free ebooks, or in second hand bookstores. Readers Digest do a lot of books on odd subjects – herbs, ancient mysteries, odd facts, how people lived in various times etc.
A good place to start is Wikipedia to get the basics, then trawl through the links at the bottom of the article. Googlemaps and street view can give you astonishing detail if you’ve been an idiot and set you book across the world from where you live. Google scholar is a place for scientific papers and books. Academia (https://www.academia.edu/) is a site where you can get scientific papers on specific topics.
Facebook has groups and pages to like and join to find out things, and follow blogs on odd topics. Instagram is a source of images, and following a hashtag means you get all the posts on that topic without following a hundred random people.
I did a few free online courses with Future learn (https://www.futurelearn.com/) and they are great.
If you have a specific question, try emailing a museum, or even places like NASA, or botanical garden research centres. Most of the time they are keen to help, I got some great information about an incense burner in a museum which I used in my novel. Many of them are on Twitter or have a blog to follow. Museums are also on social media.
Historical sites – since I write about an era 2,000 years in the past, it is useful to keep up with archaeological discoveries. The Vindolanda fort near Hadrian’s Wall has been a treasure trove of preserved objects such as leather sandals (Janet, my archaeologist is obsessed with sandals because of these finds) but goat hide tents stitched together make an appearance in my books, as does a Roman metal firestarter and lots of food details from bone analysis from dump sites at forts. Both the archaeological reports and current newsletters are worth reading, you never know when an idea will be of interest.
Make sure you cross check your sources, and consider putting them as a reference list at the end of your book. The science should be as believable as possible, and don’t have people eating foods that were not there at the time.
Internal consistency in world building is vital – otherwise we would have Dr Who wielding a light sabre. As cool as that might be, it is just a touch too far to stretch the bounds of possibility. The Doctor on the Enterprise however…
For those that have not read Druid’s Portal yet, here is a link to the first chapter of DruidsPortaland to the second in the series Druid’s Portal: The Second Journey, and you can read a preview here.
If you are keen to chat with other scifi peeps, then check out the Knights of the Scifi Roundtable facebook group and subscribe to their newsletter https://mailchi.mp/29fb30bca8e4/update-subscription
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