Writing. It’s a passion that can’t be controlled and when the words are flowing, there’s nothing that feels quite like it. But with writing, comes responsibility; the responsibility to give readers true and accurate details. And this doesn’t only apply to factual books, but fiction too, for as much as you might like to make up every detail within the pages of your book, if you do something wrong, a reader will be sure to spot it. And, not only will they spot it, but it’ll affect your professionalism in their eyes.
Of course, you won’t get everything right – even traditionally published writers with a team of experts on hand get things wrong. But, if you want to write without vast amounts of research, then you need to write what you know.
What do I mean?
It’s easy to get things wrong without realising it. You might describe a location, or talk about a character’s hobby in great depth, ad-libbing as you go without having the true facts. You might have seen someone bake a cake on a television show, but if you haven’t baked it yourself, how do you know if what you saw was correct?
For example, in Spirits of the Middlelands, I was going to have Roberta take a quick trip to Iceland. Have I been there? No. Was I worried that I wouldn’t be able to capture the ambiance of the location? Yes. Could I afford a trip to Iceland on the grounds of ‘research?’ No.
Instead, Roberta ended up traipsing around London, a place that I know extremely well. It allowed me to put in a lot of extra little details to bring the story to life without having to do time consuming research about a location.
Researching for fantasy
Unless you’re writing a book which has every single tiny detail created from your own mind and it bears no resemblance to any life we know, there will be research involved. If you’re creating a magic system, then it’s a good idea to look at other authors ideas. If you’re creating a brand new world with rainforests and creatures, you’ll need to understand how such ecosystems work, how it feels to be immersed in such an environment. You can watch shows, read books, look at pictures, but nothing will quite conjure actually having stood in that rainforest yourself.
How can you write on experience rather than research?
I would never condone writing without any form of researching, but you can limit the hours of toil by using your own experiences throughout your work. Writing my recent zombie novella, Pacifier 6, was a joy because it’s set amongst the streets that I live in. I didn’t need to do any research on location as I see it every day. My protagonist’s mother keeps a budgie, so do I. One of the enslaved zombies is baking bread. Hey, I bake bread too, I know how that works!
It’s a zombie novel, so it’s completely fantasy – I’ve never met a zombie, I’ve never lived in an apocalypse, I’ve never run from a rabid horde of flesh craving monsters. But I can draw on my own life experiences to make characters, settings and minor story details come to life.
If you’re writing a character outline, for example, don’t make your lead an expert rock climber if you’ve never done it yourself. It’s the perfect excuse to get down to the local climbing wall and try it out yourself, of course. But if you’re scared of heights, or just don’t fancy pulling yourself up a rock face, don’t make your lead do it. Instead, think of other possibilities. Have you ever been running? Fishing? Camping? Make your lead into an adventurer or semi-professional runner instead. You know these things, you can remember how you felt whilst pelting along the racetrack or hunkering down as the evening breeze caught on your tent. It’ll make your story more believable, more alive, and more importantly, it’ll draw your reader in.
Whatever you may be writing about, there are ways to incorporate parts of yourself and your own experiences that will may words lift off the page. Readers will be able to relate to your protagonists if they have shared experiences, characters traits or hobbies. Locations that you’ve visited will come so much more alive in your work than places that you’ve not taken the time to research properly, ultimately creating a better story. So, if you want to write, write, write without hours in the library, delve into your own memories and experiences and watch your words come alive.