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Tag Archives: research

In the spirit of full, honest and complete disclosure, I am a liberal.

Why did I just write that?

Because it informs my worldview and by extension my writing. So does my religion or lack thereof (I am an agnostic).

Anyone that thinks that you can write anything without a trace of bias is deluding themselves. And Speculative Fiction is riddle with great stories written by authors that showcase their religious, philosophical and political views.

Heinlein

H.G. Wells

C.S. Lewis

Rod Serling

George Orwell

These are but a few of the authors who have used speculative fiction to explore and engage their readers along political, religious or philosophical lines. There is something about creating your own world universe that allows the author too expand on his views, mainly because said world works under the rules he created for it, thus it is malleable to his worldview. When done well the author engages in a thoughtful conversation with his audience, one that allows the audience to question the material and engage in their own quest for understanding.  When done poorly, the reader feels like the author dropped an anvil on his head while screaming “I’m right! I’m right! I am always motherfucking right, you ignorant turd!” in his face.

So, what is an author to do?

  1. Be upfront about your positions: You don’t need to repeat them every chance you get, but being upfront about them means that you are not disrespecting your audience with some stealth morality lesson or political view.
  2. Somebody, somewhere will disagree: Specially on the interwebs. It’s the nature of the beast. Know how to separate the genuine concerns/critiques from those that use your work as a straw man for their views.
  3. Do the research: If you don’t want to sound like a doofus talking about the evils of Capitalism/Communism/Evangelism etc, do the research, specially if your mocking/criticism those views.
  4. Don’t let your bias get in the way of the story: Story first, second and always. Let the story reflect it’s own values. Write the story, and let the readers figure it out.

Whether you want it or not, and whether you admit it or not, your writing is a reflection of who you are and that means that your views will seep in. It’s the nature of the beast.

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Indeed I have. Not one but two books which every aspiring fantasy writer should have in their reference library:

A word of caution, these are reference books, the stuff that they professor’s back in college warned you were second tier sources. If your looking for in depth studies of myth cycles, ancient history and the like you might want to start with The Hero with a  Thousand Faces and go from there. Or grab copies of El Cid, The Odyssey and Le Morte d’Arthur.

But if your looking for a quick answer and don’t want to spend the next 6 hours in a wiki walk then these books are the answer.

The first, as the title suggest, is an encyclopedia of myths and legends from around the world. It concentrates on Ancient Europe but it does cover the rest of the globe in some details. It also tends to cram a wide series of subjects under certain meta-headings which works most of the time although I found that dropping the Arthurian Mythology under the Celtic setting heading was inaccurate to say the least (Arthur has its own mythos created in Post-Roman Western Europe). Plus a few errors and false assumptions creep here and there but as a well research reference guide to all things mythological you could do far worse. Especially if you pick it up under $10 in the bargain bin, as I did.

The second book is a collection of essays geared for the fantasy writer searching for research material on medieval settings. Like the first it concentrates largely on medieval Western Europe (500 CE to 1600 CE with some material extending to the modern era). It has some fascinating essays on magic, sources and uses as well as handy list of terms.  Again, it does not make the claim to be the end all and be all of sources for writers but it is a compact enough to sit on your desk while you work on your latest WIP.

I recommend both books as excellent places to start your research and as handy guides to all thing ancient, fantasy and fantastic. See if you can snatch them in your local book store (search the bargain bins first) or ask for them in your local library.

If you have any books to recomend, please do so. I’ll like to check them out.

That’s all for now folks, see you around.

Oh and before I forget, here is a video for ya!

Some writers write without titles. Titles seem something you slap on your manuscript after the fact. As you have guessed (by the title of this post) I don’t work that way.

Well, usually….

But not this time.

My current WIP is going well, as in, I’m writing it, but it doesn’t have a tittle. I really don’t know what exactly this WIP is. Among the possibilities are:

  • A novel. A single manuscript from beginning to end.
  • A short story. It begins and ends as one.
  • A short story collection/serial.
  • A (gasp) book trilogy.
  • The seed of a NaNo.

Whatever it is (or will be) it has not title.

OK, I have a title, of sorts.

Age of Iron

An alternate history/fantasy “work” based on the European Dark Ages (500 CE-1000 CE).

But…it sounds so generic, so much of a ripoff. Yes, I know, you can’t copyright titles, but still, doesn’t feel right.

I done the research.

I’m working on the world building.

I have a good idea of the general plot points.

It feels like a gone diving without checking how much air is in my tanks. I’m all for discovery writing but I need a clear starting point just in case I get lost. That navigational point that allows me to navigate the unknown waters of imagination. A beacon in the dark night of creation. Up the proverbial creek without the proverbial paddle.

So, what am I to do?

And because you actually read through an entire post full of wangst here is a video to make all better:

Yeah, I caught the research bug. It’s a mutation of world building disease where you are trapped in an endless cycle of research material. In my case, wikis, lots and lots of wikis. I go off in an endless wiki walk.

What is a wiki walk?

I’ll show you.

For example:

Xenia: The Greek concept of hospitality. Simple enough, but then there is a link to Zeus, which leads to Mount Olympus which in turn leads to the Twelve Olympians.

Looking at ways mortals become gods leads me to Apotheosis, divine (divinity), theology,Imperial Cults, Ancient Egypt and on and on.

The end result looks something like this.

Not pretty, not at all.

And what am I doing spending the balance of my weekend trolling wikis until the explode all over my browsers tab section like shrooms on cow shit?

Data mining. Looking for concepts, names, that sort of thing. This is not in-depth research (I mean wikis, really). I just want enough to give my current project some depth beyond the standard Medieval fantasy fare.

The risk of all of this is that I start “showing my research” or worse show that I did not do enough of it.

Oh well.  At least I am writing while I research otherwise I get trapped in world building and get nothing done and that would be a real shame.