Hello, Wanderers! Some tips for you today on Doing the Research. Basically, we know a lot of you fans are very creative types, and sooner or later you’re probably going to want to make something fandom-related, whether that’s art or fiction or… I don’t know, you’re all ludicrously talented, you’ll have to tell us what you like to make in the comments. But here are our tips on how to make something polished and accurate that won’t have people tearing their hair out over minor errors (because we’re fans; it’s practically our job to notice these things).
- Review your source material. I know, guys, it’s such a drag to have to rewatch your favourite series or reread your favourite book, but it’s got to be done. For accuracy.
- No but seriously, pay attention. Yes, you can enjoy it as usual, but – especially when you’re watching something – you can get a huge amount of detail you’ll need from a single scene. As well as events and facts and fixed points in your timeline, you can spot details of the settings, relative heights of characters (you don’t want Professor Flitwick glaring down at Hagrid, after all), tiny things like props to use in your own work, and – important if you’re writing – the way characters speak. You also might see an activity a character does a lot (homework, playing basketball, anything) that will allow you to craft more realistic scenes where a major event isn’t being depicted.
- Get reference pictures if you need them. Whether writing or drawing or… sculpting? Whatever you’re doing, printing off a couple of pictures of the characters involved, or a specific prop, or sketching out the basic layout of a setting won’t hurt when it comes to getting a really intricate, realistic feel to your work.
- Know your AU. If you’re creating in an alternative universe (modern-day King Arthur, vampire Dr House, etc) you need to know that universe’s rules. That can be as simple as ‘It’s King Arthur living in modern-day England’ or as complex as working out exactly how much gravity there is on Space!Hitler’s planet – or whether vampire Dr House can go outside in sunlight. But you have to know the rules so your universe – however alternative – stays consistent.
- Know your meeting-points. If you’re creating a crossover, you need to be clear on the way the two sources intersect (and that means reviewing both sources). Even if that’s just a matter of how old each of the characters is… you need to work it out. Additionally, if you’re creating something with a narrative that follows canon, you need to know where your narrative meets the main narrative and where it splits off to run parallel again.
- Check your history. If you’re setting something in the past, writing or drawing something historical… Have a bit of a research. You can get some big ol’ books out of the library if, like me, you love doing that, but you can also ask around. Got a friend who’s a historian? Ask them. If not… try asking around the Horrible Histories fandom – they tend to know things. Of course, if you’re setting your creation in the past because its source material is set in the past, by all means ask around your own fandom!
- Get out there. Yeah, you could find a load of information on the internet, with varying degrees of accuracy available, but there might be other places you can really start to understand things. For example, it’s all very well reading a description of the kind of mangle used in Victorian Britain, but wouldn’t it be a lot cooler to go and see one for real at the museum down the road? Besides, a lot of fans are rarely seen outside of the house. Try a library, museum or art gallery for inspiration, or even just go for a walk and see how other people get about. It may be you’ll find some perfect extra details for that crowd scene!
- Take liberties. Now you know your stuff, you can start really playing with it. Swap that pocketwatch in your Doctor Who drawing for a model that wouldn’t have been around then, as a little easter egg for the eagle-eyes. Replace the logical explanation for a disappearing box of boots with a more exciting one involving your characters. Tweak canon just a bit so that the same events still happen, but it’s another character’s unseen actions that made it so.
- Have fun. Play! That’s why we’re making this stuff in the first place, after all, isn’t it?
Eleanor Musgrove (hopes you make some cool stuff)
What do you create? How do you research it? Let us know in the comments below – we love to hear from you!