Research – World Building
Welcome to the final day of writing prep. If you’ve been doing the exercises as you go along, by now you should have a pretty good idea of the outline of your story. You should have a clear idea of who your characters are, and what each of their goals are, what actions they take and how they interact with their surroundings.
Today, I want you to think about world building. If you’re writing sci-fi or fantasy, you’ll be familiar with the concept, but even if you’re writing a novel based in the “real world” you’ll still have some things to think about.
Basically, world building is the clarification of the rules that govern your character’s lives. If there is magic in your story, you’ll need to decide the basics of how it works. If you’re writing about vampires, warewolves, or other mythical creatures, you’ll need to have a fair idea of how they can and can’t be harmed, and stay consistent to that in your writing.
In a more mundane world, highlight the differences first between your fictional world and the real world. Also, think about the belief systems of each of your characters, and how they differ from each other. This should help you find some interesting conflicts.
If you have technical plot issues, do just enough research to answer your questions and fit the answers into the plot.
For example, in Decontamination, I needed quite a bit of science that I had no idea about. Fortunately, the character uncovering it in the story also had very little idea about it, so I didn’t need to know all the intricate details.
However, I did have to do quite a bit of research to find just the right kind of contaminant, and a good red herring. I had to learn a fair bit about bioremediation and arsenic poisoining both in humans and animals, just to include a few lines about it in the novel. I also had to learn about ambient power, and the basics about radiowaves. The point is, I kept reading until I found the answers to my questions, to make the plot reasonably believeable and the science solid enough to pass a cursory examination, and then moved on. I didn’t spend more time than I had to finessing the details, because I wasn’t writing a science essay, I was writing a novel with a few scientific plot points.
I also had to research the company names I wanted to use for the invented companies, so I searched Companies House in the UK, and did a quick Google search for each name, ensuring that there were no significant results for each before including the name.
The same went for the legal points of the plot. I did just enough reading to find a plausible explanation, and moved on.
Look through your story, and find the areas where you might need to look something up. Decide what you need to know, and do just enough research to find an answer that fits your needs. Don’t get caught up with every little detail, or every possible answer. Just find the one you need, make note of it, and move on.
I’m only giving you two days to do this, because I know from experience how easy it is to spend weeks on the research, and never get on to the writing. Don’t worry if you don’t find all the answers in that time, it’s enough that you’re aware of the questions at this point, and have started the process of finding the answers.
On Day 9 you’re going to start writing your first draft. And just think, it was only a short while ago you started this process, and now you have a solid outline. Before long, you’ll have the first draft of your novel, then a completed manuscript, and not long after that your own book published.