So You Think You Don’t Need Research?
Fantasy writers are a unique breed in the literary world, we can create an entire universe from scratch. Want magic in your world? Just put it in, BINGO! Want an upside down hunk of rock floating mid-air above the rest of the ground? Make it so! You don’t need to research real-life because you’re not writing real-life are you?
There comes a point with any novel where you have to think logically and realistically. Readers can only suspend disbelief so far before they get turned off to the entire concept. You can’t just shout “IT’S FANTASY” ad nauseam and expect people to take it. Sometimes you have to ground your fantasy firmly within the realms of reality. That’s when you are likely to need research.
The trick is knowing precisely how much research you need to undertake. You don’t have to become an expert on a subject in order to write convincingly about it, you only need to know ‘just enough’ to convince the reader, and perhaps just a little above and beyond to really convince the discerning reader. For example, I know very little about steam engines, but when I had a whole segment of work planned to take place on a steam train, and one of my characters billed as a pseudo-genius engineer, I had to undertake some research on steam trains in order to beef up his dialogue. It would not have been good enough for him to refer to “jamming his spanner in the doohickey woo-wah” in order to make it work. He had to know, and therefore I had to know.
Don’t dismiss research, but don’t overdo it. There is a balance to be had.