Research for fantasy? Well, yes! There are many things in fantasy writing that are based in reality. When I was writing, To Find A Wonder , I had to learn how boys in the Middle Ages were brought up from being a page to a squire and finally knighted. I needed to know what their jobs were at each of these stages, what the typical uniform was, different types of weapons, and what kind of horses were used for travel and war–yes, they used different horses for different things! There was a lot to learn,and even though it didn’t all go into the book, Mortimer was more rounded character because I understood his history.
Research is also good in fantasy writing to know what kind of creatures are already out there. Say, for instance , that I want one of my characters to be a goblin. I open The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, by John and Caitlin Matthews, and read what it has to say. Here are the key ingredients for a goblin:
-Generally a name for an evil or malicious spirit
-Usually small and grotesque
-May have emerged from beneath a rock in the Spanish Pyrenees
-Sometimes referred to as a group of fairies that live in churchyards, crevices in rocks or among roots of ancient trees
-In European folklore they are usually knee-high with grey hair and beards
-The best way to get rid of them is to scatter flax seed all over the floor–when the goblin appears at night to do mischief, he will feel obliged to pick all the seed up and won’t finish the task by dawn. After several attempts he’ll give up and go away.
So, we have a personality (malicious & mischievous), a physical description (knee high, gray hair, grotesque, beard), a place to put them (churchyard, rock crevices, etc.), and a way for our hero to get rid of them (flax seed). All of this information is based on centuries old folklore and many people are familiar with these traits. Now you can create a believable Goblin…
…You can totally turn this stereotype on it’s head! Make your goblin blue and weak, with the capacity to realize that something is pretty or smells good. Make the Goblin your hero! I love the Goblin Hero series by Jim C. Hines! Make your goblin all goodness and light and fighting to be different than all those “other” goblins. Now that you have some information to go on, you can make up your own character with a mixture of traditional and new characteristics.
Let’s take it a step further though. Read anything you can get your hands on that is about goblins– books, encyclopedia articles, folklore and legends. You can find a lot of free-to-read legends and traditional tales from many countries right here on the internet. It’s always a good place to start. And how do you know you’ve done enough research? When you are struck by an idea that will not leave you and the character you were building on paper, begins to talk to you in your dreams.
How do you research for your fantasy writing? If you missed it, I did an interview of Kat Black, author of Tormod, A Templar’s Apprentice on Monday. She talks about researching 14th century Scotland! Click on her name above to read the post.
Below is the current list of contributing writers to the HOW I WRITE blog series.
Click a link and find out HOW I WRITE! (in alphabetical order, check us all out!)
Kendall Ashby Corbit- http://www.twokendals.blogspot.com/ Rated R
Kristine Asselin – http://krisasselin.blogspot.com/ Rated PG
Tatiana Caldwell – http://tatianacaldwell.com/blog Rated R
Isabelle Flynn – http://www.isabelleflynn.com/ Rated PG
Ansha Kotyk – http://www.anshakotyk.com/blog Rated PG
Laura Pauling – http://laurapauling.com/ Rated PG
Alexia Reed – http://alexiareed.blogspot.com Rated R
Gail Roarke – http://gailroarke.blogspot.com Rated NC-17
P.M. Rousseau – http://pmrousseau.com/ Rated R