Creighton Hill Blog Tour: Historical Research for Fantasy Worldbuilding1:00 AM
by Morgan Hunke
All writing requires some level of research. Even fantasy requires research. The type of research required depends on the fantasy. The more a fantasy world is based on real historical events/places/cultures, the more research is required. For my fantasy Time Captives, I combined many things, medieval castles and warfare, ships of the era of exploration, Ancient Rome, and ante-bellum South. I’ll share with you some of the things I researched.
When worldbuilding, I started off with a base idea of a medieval fantasy. I actually wrote an entire school research paper on medieval warfare. Stacks of library books taught me about the process of becoming a knight, common military tactics, the way castles were built to withstand a siege, what different pieces of armor were called, and much more. I learned little tidbits of information, like that keeping a bow strung all the time weakens the wood and eventually destroys the bow. Some military tactics I drew from events in the American Revolution, which I reviewed to be sure I remembered them correctly. Knowing this information allowed me to give the medieval and battle side of the story a more authentic feel.
Ships were another thing that required my research. There is a pirate ship in Creighton Hill, and book two, The Crossways, greatly involves the sea. That involved another stack of library books. I could find little on the ins and outs of sailing itself, but visits to replicas of ships, the Nina and the Pinta, the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and the Discovery certainly served to give me an idea of what it would be like to be on board the ship, as did those working on the ship telling what they knew of it. I highly recommend visiting a replica of a ship if at all possible, whether or not you are going to write about sailing. It really gives a new respect for what the founders of America did to come here. The Susan Constant, Godspeed, and the Discovery are at Jamestown Settlement in Virginia. The Nina and the Pinta travel about to many places.
A side note on the issue of ships and medieval warfare is the subject of cannons. I had cannons on my ships, but I didn’t want guns in the battles. I therefore did a bit of research to be sure it was plausible for them to have cannons, but not guns. Indeed, it is, since it took a while to figure out how to make such weapons small enough to be hand held.
I reviewed school books to refresh my memory of the ante-bellum South when I decided to base the plantations of Calhortz off that. The decision to add gladiators inspired searches for internet articles on gladiator training, docudramas about gladiators, and research on Spartacus. I also researched pop culture in the history of America, since Time Captives is a portal fantasy in which the characters come from different eras.
One of the great things about fantasy is being able to throw whatever things you want together and making it work. However, do not discount historical research. Readers do like believable fantasy, and researching the historical elements in your worldbuilding makes it more believable, creating a solid world that readers will want to visit again and again.