It’s a thrilling moment for a fantasy author when you decide to write and publish books online. I know it was for me. At the age of 14, with just a few pieces of fan fiction under my belt, I began to publish my first epic fantasy novel on FictionPress.com. I was lucky enough to get some readers who gave wonderful support and feedback that gave me the confidence to pursue a career as a writer.
Of course, writing your own book online isn’t perfect. One of the hardest parts of posting your books as you write them is all the bits of research you have to do on the fly. You might not think of fantasy as a research-intensive genre, but you may be surprised by how much reading up you’ll need to do on mythological creatures and different types of magic to make your world truly come to life.
I am very familiar with doing this type of research, considering my fantasy novel was chock full of unicorns, witches and wizards, psychic powers, and gemstones with magical properties. As a former researcher for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, I also just have a lot of experience with research in general.
Here are some research tools you can use as you embark on the exciting journey of writing and publishing your fantasy books online.
Britannica is a resource I used a great deal in my work as a game show researcher, and have since often employed as a research tool for my novels. It is an online encyclopedia that is full of helpful, well-researched information on just about any subject.
Say you want to research dragons for your story. All you have to do is type the word “dragon” into the search bar and the top result will be an article on dragons. The article includes a definition of what a dragon is, as well as information about the history of the dragon in various cultures. There are links throughout each article to other relevant pages that may help to get your creative gears turning. I can’t name how many times I’ve started out researching one thing, fallen down a rabbit hole, and come out the other side with plenty of new ideas to improve my story.
The free version of Britannica is almost certainly going to be adequate for your researching needs, but you can get access to even more exclusive content with a premium membership, which costs $8.99 a month.
2) Google Books
Though I used Google Books a few times for researching papers in school, it wasn’t until my time at Millionaire that I realized what a truly useful research tool it can be. You can read parts or sometimes the entirety of so many full books—it’s like having a library right there in your browser.
Let’s stick with the “dragon” example from before. Considering how many book titles include the word “dragon” but won’t necessarily be about actual dragons, you’ll want to be a bit more specific with your search query. So this time, you could try searching for “dragon myth”. Your search results will yield pages and pages of helpful research texts.
However, not every book on the list will include a preview. If you go to the top of the search results and select “Any view”, you can switch it to display only books with a preview or full view available. Most of the “full view” books will be in the public domain, and therefore very old, but that can actually be pretty handy when it comes to researching mythology. And even if there’s only a preview of the book you want to use, it’s very possible that preview will include relevant information to your research.
Back in school, you were probably told to never use Wikipedia as a research source since it isn’t reliable. And those teachers were absolutely correct. Wikipedia articles often include errors and inconsistencies. But while you can’t trust the articles themselves, the list of sources at the bottom of each article can be a veritable treasure trove of information.
If you go ahead and search “dragon” on the main page, Wikipedia will take you straight to an article on dragons. Here you’ll find some helpful images, as well as information on etymology, myth origins, the history of dragons through various cultures, and modern depictions. When you find an interesting fact you might want to include in your story, look for a tiny number in brackets at the end of the sentence. If you hover over the number, a link will appear to that fact’s source. A good amount of the sources will be books that you can’t read online. But it’s likely that you will be able to find some good online sources as well.
You definitely need to be discerning when it comes to using Wikipedia sources in your research. Unlike with a trusted resource like Britannica, here it’s up to you to decide whether the sources you encounter are credible or not. In general, it’s good to be on the lookout for poorly built websites and excessive ads.
Google really is a fantasy writer’s best friend when it comes to research, and Google Translate is one of its most useful features. When writing fantasy, writers end up having to make up quite a few words (much to our Spell Checkers’ chagrin). Coming up with unique names and phrases helps to define your world and give it a special flavor all its own.
Let’s say you’re trying to come up with a name for your hero’s sword. Or maybe even the name of the brave hero himself. It may give you some inspiration if you go to Google Translate, type in the word “sword”, and start translating it into a bunch of different languages. Words like “espasa” in Catalan or “tabak” in Filipino may give you a jumping-off point.
I would recommend simply writing down any translations that strike your fancy without thinking too hard about the names you might make out of them. Take a week or so away, and then with some distance, you’ll be able to start constructing the nomenclature of your fantasy world.
Author’s Bio: Jillian Karger was born in Ohio but has lived in and around New York City for over a decade. Since graduating from NYU in 2009, Jill has had a long string of jobs doing things like scouting books to be adapted for film and researching trivia questions for “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”.
She has done freelance writing as well for sites like Cracked.com, and had her Twitter jokes featured on BuzzFeed and funnyordie.com. Jill has also self-published two novels on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Jillian-Karger/e/B07B894DNW).
Follow her blog posts about books and writing advice, read books and publish them for free at: https://www.fictionate.me.