Researching the Impossible

I write murder mystery plays for a living and often, especially for a customer commissioned play, I have to research certain topics. For instance, this year's three new plays have required me to research aerobics routines, theft from railway lines, secret societies, how to construct a shed, the sex change process, Star Wars merchandise, and literary fairies.

I'm also working on a children's fantasy novel. To a lot of people, the fantasy genre doesn't merit the same need for research and hard facts. How can you possibly research a fantastical world of goblins and magic and flying cars? Isn't it all in the writer's imagination? 

I think research still has a important role to play in this genre. Look at Tolkien, for instance, whose studies in language led to his creation of the Elven tongue in his novels. Ursula  K Le Guin researched real locations, often visiting them, as inspiration for places in her novels, such as the Earthsea trilogy.

Personally, for my own novel, I've found myself researching:
  • the meaning of names,
  • how science can tie in with how my magical devices work (mainly nuclear fission),
  • mythological creatures (for example, harpies and pixies),
  • and real life settings that I've used as inspiration for locations in my novel (Covent Garden tube station and York Minster, to name but two).
This kind of research adds a reality to our fantasy writing, grounding it to make the imagined world of our novel appear more substantial and believable to the reader.

Before I attempt my next chapter, I have to return to the subject of nuclear fission and power plants. Excuse me while I get my goggles and big rubber gloves.


  1. Sounds like fun research. I had to research walk-in morgue refrigerators once. ;) I felt a little awkward doing that.


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