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Researching for a book

I have been researching for the book I'm working on. I'd love to hear everyone's take on this subject. I sometimes wonder if I haven't researched myself out of the plot. 

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  • I think how you handle it would depend on the genre. I'm doing fantasy, 90% of my world is made up. Religion, some diseases, the world itself, the cultures, etc etc. So, I did brainstorming for general ideas on everything and... wrote. I'd do a little research during if something specific comes up (like gangrene or particular toxins and how they affect the body)

    Now that I'm done with the first draft, I'm marking down things that I'll actually need to research (or plan) to better fluff out the world. I could have done it before, but then I'd probably fall into a black hole and never return. Research can be a lot of fun after all and it is very easy to forget why you started researching to begin with if you hit upon an interesting topic.

    Plus- with doing it after the first draft I can narrow it down to things that will actually affect something in my novel, whilst doing it before it's more like a broad range of 'might pop up'. (Again, depends on the genre. If you are doing Historical, you'll need a lot of research on the front since your novel is based on things that have already happened. Sci-Fi could probably be a mix, depending on how willing you are to let certain ideas go if you research something and find it'd be impossible.)

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    • Thanks Jewlyn, Mine is not historical. It starts with something real and then it is fiction the rest of the way. 

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      • My experience is very similar to Jewlyn's and Lynn's, I think. I have the relative luxury of writing a fantasy, which means that although I'm still constrained by the requirements of my world's internal logic, I don't have to be entirely accurate to a particular place or time. 

        Once I knew roughly what I wanted the novel to be about there were certain areas that I knew I had to research up-front, since they were fundamental to the theme, the plot, and the main character.

        Some of these were 'philosophical' - I needed to fill out my rather cursory understanding of the Japanese principle of wabi-sabi, and I needed to read more about the way different cultures and eras have defined and measured 'perfection'.

        Some were 'ethical' - I needed the insights and lived experience of someone living with a disability similar to that of my MC so that I could write her as truthfully and sensitively as I could. Luckily, I had such a source already; someone who was one of the main progenitors of Membra in the first place. And there were other, less personally-connected but nevertheless really educational sources, online and elsewhere.

        Some were 'practical' - I needed to know how Membra would physically accomplish certain things, and sometimes I needed to find out how modern assistive devices might be replicated using the mostly less-advanced technology of her world (how a 'hands-free' lift might work without electricity, for example!).

        Some were 'basic world-building' - I looked at medieval city plans, systems of government, how mercenaries were organised, recruited and paid, hermetic magic, early scientific experimentation (since Membra's world is a mish-mash of a couple of 'historical' periods and amalgamates aspects from both of them). Basically, stuff that I knew would be useful, even if at that early stage I wasn't sure quite how. 

        As the story has developed, further research needs have become apparent - usually specifics that are driven by character or plot requirements. These tend to be smaller subjects that need at most a few hours worth of reading up and then fitting into the needs of the plot.

        I actually really like this narrower, smaller kind of need-driven research; it sometimes provides a welcome break from the slog of actually writing. And, as others have mentioned, sometimes it can actually spark an idea for a plot refinement or development, by throwing up a ' that's interesting, I wonder if...' moment!

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        • Jon, Thanks for taking the time to answer me. I see what you mean about it being a break from the slog. I am finding that it sends me in some unexpected directions. It is definitely a journey.

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          • You have to make your story believable.  That's quite a subtle thing in that it doesn't mean you can't invent the most outrageous other worlds to set your story in. It means you have to have to accommodate the ordinary and mundane so your characters are still human, that is if you're writing for humans!

            Even the weird and wonderful creatures of science fiction still have human emotions, otherwise how do you write them?

            Keep your plot but research how your characters might react in it.  The trouble with too much research is whatever you find out might write the story for you.  You don't want soldiers for example, which read like the same soldiers everyone else has always written.

            What are you writing?

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