Being a Fantasy Writer Means I Get to Research Crazy Cool Shit

As a writer, I get to indulge in some crazy research without stigma or apology, and it’s easily one of the coolest things about being a writer. I need to be knowledgeable about things without needing to be an advocate or a believer in some random ideology. I can learn about guns without being a gun nut. I can learn about survival without being a survivalist. I can learn about cults without being a cultist.

Of course, this wreaks havoc on the ads I see as I surf the web, but whatever.

We see characters in fantasy and speculative fiction do a lot things that most of us have no idea about:

  • forging metal
  • picking a lock
  • swordfighting
  • archery
  • loading and firing a gun
  • the chain of command in a secret intelligence agency
  • the legality of certain actions and how courts operate
  • thievery and assassination (archain, fantastical, and modern)
  • what items of clothing or armor are to be worn, and how they’re put on
  • hunting
  • foraging
  • tracking
  • bartering

In fantasy writing, particularly, we as writers need to be walking encyclopedias about:

  • Dragons
  • Elves
  • Dwarves
  • Goblins
  • Various other Fae folk
  • Vampires
  • Werewolves
  • Ghosts & spirits
  • Angels & demons and the summoning thereof
  • Gods
  • Knights
  • Royalty and Nobility
  • Alchemy
  • Siege warfare and defense
  • Witches
  • Necromancy and all other “ancy’s”
  • Scrying
  • Guilds

Just to name a few things off the top of my head in no particular order.

I’m currently rereading Lev Grossman’s amazing novel, The Magicians. There’s a scene in it where the cast of main characters are magically transformed into geese and they have to fly far south. I’m pretty sure Grossman did not know a tremendous amount about how geese sense and navigate at first. He would’ve had to have researched that. That’s the life of a fantasy writer: Yep, I’m researching how geese navigate so I can write my story. John Crowley, one my favorite writers, goes into insane amounts of research to write his stories, but here’s the thing: you can totally tell when you read him. That research provides an unbreakable bedrock foundation on which rests all the details of his stories. It makes them extremely confident.

What kind of odd research have you done for your stories?

photo credit: rwillia532 via photopin cc


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