Researching: World Creation for Your Novel - article

Regardless of the time period, the story, or the plot, the world your novel occurs in is a world of your creation.

The style of novelist Tom Wolfe represents one method for creating a world. Wolfe’s methodology involves doing as much research as possible. For his masterpiece The Bonfire of the Vanities, he actually “lived” on the bond trading floor of a major Wall Street firm for a period of time. For all of his books, Tom Wolfe stressed the realistic re-creation of the actual world in which his characters lived.

Other notable authors, such as Saul Bellow and Norman Mailer, believed that the novelist needed only to make things up. For example, if your novel was about a family in India and their struggle reconciling Western and traditional morals, moving in with an actual family in India was neither necessary nor advisable. The world you wrote about was the world you created. The magic of the story trumped any need for a dogged devotion to reality. Which method is better? To Bellow and Mailer, Tom Wolfe was a poseur; to Wolfe, Bellow and Mailer were literary frauds. The way you want to approach world creation depends on you.

So, unless you’re prepared to immerse yourself in your characters’ world, or your creative genius rivals the imaginations of Saul Bellow and Norman Mailer, you might want to utilize research tools to create your novel’s world. Such tools include:

1. Other novels or non-fiction works set in a similar world. If your story takes place in Elizabethan England, you don’t want Sir Walter Raleigh checking his Blackberry.

2. Historical books, television shows, and movies.

3. People you know. Don’t be afraid to tap the knowledge of everyday acquaintances that might have valuable insights about the world you want to create.

4. People you don’t know (people in the same professions or environments as the characters in your book.)

Fantasy is defined as “the free play of creative imagination.” That said, how much research do you have to do to create a fantasy world? Literally, none. If you want talking clams in your novel, no problem. If you want vehicles that look like potatoes but travel faster than the speed of light, so be it. However, this is not meant to discourage you from seeking inspiration from other works. Most likely, the decision to embark on a fantasy-oriented project was inspired by something you saw and loved at some point in your life.

World creation allows you to play the role of a god, but the real success of the world you create will depend on its ability to facilitate and illuminate the story you want to tell.

Share this story
Facebook Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn
  • I'm writing a vampire novel that starts in the Civil War era of Southern Louisiana. I know, it's been done-From "The Vampire Chronicles" to "Twilight". However, mine is from a Christian's POV.It has a much deeper, moral theme. And is focused on redemption, above everything else.Anyway, I need someone to collaborate with who is educated about the time period I'm writing about and educated about the the subject matter(which includes the Catholic Faith and tradition,especially, detailed knowledge of the Catholic Mass and Liturgy, Baptism, the 7 sacraments,Communion and Biblical Prophecy.)Catholicism puts so much more emphasis on the Liturgy-a form or formulary according to which public religious worship, especially Christian worship, is conducted, Communion, Baptism, Exorcism. Among many other practices that many other Christian denominations ignore. And, of course, the person I collaborate with must be educated in Vampire lore and how it can,creatively and uniquely, fit into Biblical history and prophecy would be ideal.Like I said,I don't want this to be just another, typical, vampire story. And the last thing I want it to be is another Twilight or Vampire Chronicles. I want it to be a story that uses fictional elements to teach a moral lesson and bring people closer to God in, what appears to be, and unorthodox way--A parable, if you will. One thing that disappointed me about Twilight was the fact that it had the perfect opportunity to turn a simple vampire teen romance into something much deeper and more meaningful and that could spiritually impact today's youth.But,sadly, it failed to do so.Even in "The Vampire Chronicles", as remorseful as Louie was for his murderous acts, he made very little effort to redeem himself. He basically, just, surrendered to it. And the Vampires in Twilight didn't make anymore effort, themselves(Even though Carlisle, the matriarch of the family, was a Christian when he was human, I never saw him lead his family in any Christian practices. Not even the most common, most BASIC and crucial practice to the Christian faith-prayer. And that series was geared towards a very young,impressionable, crowd. Which, I believe, sent the wrong message; Including premarital sex. I don't expect everyone to share my beliefs. But, in order to collaborate, I hope we can learn to respect eachothers beliefs, set aside our differences and work together. I'm new to the ALC. So, any advice any seasoned ALC authors could give me would be greatly appreciated. Particularly, help from anyone who is educated in, either, vampire lore, history, biblical prophecy--or, better yet, all of the above.(And if I'm looking in the wrong place for my information, please point me in the right one. Because,I'm new here.) God bless