Posted by: kshayes513 | March 28, 2009

“Write What You Know” part 2

In my last post, I talked about why its easier to use your own life as raw material: your job, places you’ve lived, interests and hobbies that you know about.

Now, a bit about why “write what you know” doesn’t limit you to your own direct experience. The answer is every worldbuilder’s favorite subject: research.

Research can make anyone a temporary expert on any subject.

I suspect that many writers are in fact research addicts. This was confirmed recently when I came across an old issue of Locus featuring a Neil Gaiman interview in which Neil described both himself and Terry Pratchett as people who develop temporary obsessions which they research to the last detail before moving on to the next obsession.

Artists do research,too, which they call “visual references.” When Marianne Plumridge paints one of her exquisite fantasy seascapes, she surrounds her work area with photographs and paintings of horses, dolphins, waves, mermaids, etc. I recommend visual research for exotically worldbuilding writers and gamers, too. Sometimes a picture from a different culture or place is worth much more than a thousand words.

The value of research in worldbuilding:

1, It gives your world realism and depth, making it much more believable to your trusting audience.

2, Knowledge really is power: the more you know about the subject your story touches, the more easily you can create the scenes in which this specialty occurs.

3, You never know what new ideas and marvelous new directions may sprout from the tiniest mustard-seed sized fact gleaned from your studies.

4, It’s tasty and delicious for its own sake.


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