On the path to rewriting a project I’ve been working on for a long time, I began to think of a basic question: how was bread made? Off to the internet I went searching for answers and, not only did I get the information, I learned about the type of bread different social classes ate and the different ingredients that went into making bread. Somewhere in the midst of those paragraphs, any hype I once had about the impact of bread in my story vanished.
Not only did I realize that I have been out of the researching game for a while, I also thought about the actual impact bread would have in the story. What difference would it make to have those small details? For some project, say historical fiction, those types of details would definitely be important and I’m sure readers would call you out on it if it wasn’t right. But in my case, when I really thought about it, mentioning bread wouldn’t make much of a difference. If for example, I turned my story into a rags to riches story and bread was one of the ways that would reveal to the reader how out of place my character is then you bet I would research bread throughout history.
Today, I’m here to say that basics matter. I guess that seems obvious but at the same time, it’s not something that pops out right away. At least, in my case, it doesn’t. Some writers have everything planned out from what their characters ate on a particular morning to the type of underwear they were at night – if they do at all. If you’re like me, however, I tend to focus on the plot and how to get my story on paper first before I deal with all the small details.
I’m not saying that I don’t do research for my stories; when it comes to weapons, I research everything; time period, the way they were made, who used them, everything. Looking at lore, clothing, social classes, hand-to-hand combat are but a few of what I look up in books and internet. However, sometimes the research tends to get too overwhelming and my excitement evaporates which is why I have to write the story and if anything major comes up that I need to look into then I will.
Well, do become knowledgeable about whatever topic you’re writing about. Consult experts, books, research studies, etc. Just don’t overwhelm yourself with so much researching that you won’t want to write your story. Read other’s work. Look at what other authors have done and what can you take from them.
Plan out your plot. Knowing what’s going to happen a few scenes down the road would definitely help. For example, your story takes place in medieval times or in a fantasy, you did research over weapons. Your characters walks through the market and two knights are fighting each other. One has a broad sword and the other wields a falchion. Small opportunities like that add to the world building and also reveal that your character knows what a falchion is and it reveals your research. In the end, it makes your story jump off the pages.