Monday, January 12, 2009

Researched or Made Up

I had an interesting conversation with a non-writing acquaintance this weekend on the subject of SF/F/P (Science Fiction/Fantasy/Paranormal). Her idea? Only SF needs research, the rest can be made up as you go.

Ahem. Just because we write SF/F/P doesn't mean we don't need to do some basic research for our novels. I mean, sure, a spaceship will necessitate a different sort of research than a medieval-type, magical healer or a ghost-hunting vampire but every book needs SOMETHING researched. And, yes, some of it (the science or the magic) can be extrapolated or taken two or three steps beyond common belief or facts but you have to have a solid starting point before you do that extrapolation.

With that in mind, I've got a couple of go-to's that I tend to use especially for my fantasy or paranormal stuff. I thought I'd share them with you.

Scott Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs
The Herbal Tarot
Alchemy Works
Culpepper's Complete Herbal and English Physician

Of course, there's also the whole Google thing which I love to spend hours on when I'm trying to find one esoteric little factoid. And sometimes that leads me down dark and mysterious alleys that can provide even more color or depth to my plots.

I also subscribe to science links like World Science or National Geographic that help keep me in line with today's science. I love astronomy (a hobby) so I keep a little abreast in that field and I'm always watching the Science Channel on TV.

What we have to remember is that not every little thing we learn in the course of our research will be put in our manuscript pages. The research is there to make sure that we have a binary star system operating in the proper way or that the herbal remedy we're feeding a character will make him feel better without killing him first.

Hope that helps clear up the research/make up aspects of SF/F/P

-- Lynda

4 comments:

Jessa Slade said...

I hate research :) I love to know useless facts, but I consider research a necessary evil. And you're right about the necessary part, even -- maybe ESPECIALLY -- in SF/F/P. The burden of creating a world out of nothing, where nothing can be assumed, is higher. You have to establish extra authority to get your reader to following along, willingly suspending their disbelief.

Skylar Masey said...

Research is the reason I don't write historicals:0)

I also have a herb text I borrowed from my aunt who has a green thumb. Since one of my heroes was somewhat of a "herbalist" it came in super handy.

Several of my paranormal writer friends use the tarot to plot and develop their characters. Which I thought was so awesome! If you get the chance check out www.psychicpixie.com. Sabrina did a great workshop about writing using the tarot.

Lynda K. Scott said...

Jessa, research can be addictive :D I remember once I was doing research for a Scottish hero. One link led to another, then to a book and that led to another link and so on and so on and so on, lol. By the time I was done I'd spent over 200 hours on the research and practically spoke with a brogue myself :D And that was for my alternate history novel, Altered Destiny :D

Lynda K. Scott said...

Skylar, I've been doing haphazard research for a Regency story idea I've had for the past several years. There *is* a lot of research and the facts *must* be right (too many readers are experts :D ). One of these days I'll consider myself enough of an expert to attempt writing it but in the meanwhile I have so many SF/F/P type stories thrashing around in my brain that the Regency set story has had to take a back seat. Sigh.