The Importance Of Research
With writing fanfiction, it's important to know and understand the world in which your fic takes place. For some, that world is our own, with the same science and history that we have. Other stories take place in a slightly skewed reality, not far off from the one we live in. Then there are stories that exist in a world completely new and wonderful. In these worlds, science has little say in what goes on, and almost anything goes. Regardless of the world in which you choose to write, you have to know the setting well.
It is of the utmost importance to know the history of your world, or "lore," as it is often called. That could be something as simple as reading a history textbook that tells of what Germany was like post-WWII. It could mean rereading Harry Potter in order to understand the meaning behind the spell names. You may even have to spend hours digging through web sources about your chosen field of fanfiction for just a small piece of information that you needed for just one scene. It can take a lot of time, effort, and energy to dig through the source material to find what you're looking for. However, the more work you put into making your world as lore-friendly as possible, the more people will love and appreciate the effort you put into your story. Chances are, your readers won't fact-check your story, but you get the satisfaction of knowing what you did was accurate.
Depending on what you choose to write about, there are a myriad of sources at your disposal. The Internet is a goldmine of information just waiting to be explored. In my experience with writing fanfictions that take place in the video game, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, there are so many places that I can go if I need something for my story. There are videos on YouTube of other people playing through the game, following quest-lines, and achieving goals. There is a fan-made wiki page dedicated to the Elder Scrolls series, where I can search for just about anything by typing in one or two simple keywords. Then, there's playing the game itself, which may not give me exactly what I need every time, but it immerses me in that world, and I can observe what happens in the game when the characters are allowed to act organically. I can watch as they interact, observe their personalities, hear dialogue that may give me a clue as to how that character would interact with my original character, and many other things. Even within the game, there is lore hidden in the books and scrolls and artwork, so I can learn about the world without having to look at an Internet source, and without having to leave the game. Sometimes, just playing around for an hour or two with no real goal in mind inspires me to write more than doing research ever could.
Not every piece of information that you dig up can be used in your story. We live in an amazing time, where we have the ability to search for any piece of knowledge that we want, with the touch of our fingertips. It is easy to become overwhelmed with the wealth of information that is available to us, and thus we must be careful. For example, if you were writing a Hunger Games fanfiction, where your character lived in, say, District Three, there would be no reason to describe the fishing conditions in District Four, as your character would have no way of knowing about that. It wouldn't correlate with what your character has experienced, and the reader would just find that out of place.
On top of there being a need to filter through information to find items that relate to your story, there is a need to make sure you aren't dumping a load of information on top of your reader. We have all read books that are full of exposition about the world; Les Misérables is full of CHAPTERS dedicated to the smallest of details. Exposition is all well and good, but it's hard for writers to know when to quit telling and start showing. We want to make sure the reader knows about our world, and everything that they need to know about it, but we can't do that by explaining what is going on. The reader should feel immersed, like they are in there with the characters. The way this translates into fanfiction is that we have to remember that those reading our stories already know this world. They've read the books, watched the movie, seen the show, and played the games. They know how the world works, and don't need us to explain it all to them. So, we have to watch what we write, when we write it, and why. If we are telling and not showing, we must stop and change things up. Let the reader learn through seeing what we show, and let them discover it slowly, naturally. That way, we don't overwhelm them with too much information at once.
Something that you need to remember while researching your topic for your fanfiction is this: never become so overwhelmed that you can't write anymore. It defeats the purpose of writing fanfiction if you can't have fun while you do it. Research isn't fun sometimes, but it is necessary. However, this isn't a spreadsheet for work or a thesis paper for graduate school, so it's okay to relax while you look up your information. If you need take a little break, do so. Save the link for later, write what you can, and come back when you're ready to go again. If you begin to feel intimidated by all the information that you have to get right, then stop looking deeper and write what you already know. And of course, not every piece of information that you find will make it into your story, but you have it, and can use it later if you choose to write a sequel or a spinoff. In my experience, no amount of research is ever wasted. You can always find something useful when you go looking for what you need.
What is your favourite research method?
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How to Write Fanfiction is a writing resource that contains tips and tricks on crafting fanfiction stories - by the community, for the community. This guide will serve as a helpful point of reference for fanfiction writers both old and new. We ultim...