Worldbuilding: Research

N. K. Jemisin

Lesson time 14:35 min

Learn how to live life as a writer, absorbing and interpreting the world for your audience. Nora also shares how to incorporate research.

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Topics include: Perceive, Interpret, and Speak Truth • Immerse Yourself in Research • Engage Subject Matter Experts • Travel, and Experience It Fully • Be Open to the World Around You • Don’t Go Overboard • Fudge Reality for the Story


[MUSIC PLAYING] N. K. JEMISIN: The most useful thing that any artist can do to make themselves a better artist is to simply be open to the world around them. Experience as much as you can in every opportunity that you can. [MUSIC PLAYING] What I've kind of learned about art from my father or from other artists that I kind of grew up around is that it is on the artist to experience as many things as they can so that they can accurately render the world. The artist's job is to speak truth, sometimes to power, sometimes just to reality. But your job is to speak the truth about the world as you see it. Now, obviously, you're a human being. You're going to filter things through your own perception. That's unavoidable. But you-- you want to speak that truth honestly otherwise. You want to try and make sure that you're not letting stereotypes or shorthand thinking interfere with your ability to-- to absorb the world. That is your job as an artist is to perceive and-- and interpret. Research in worldbuilding is probably my favorite part. So I'm going to try really hard not to get, like, super giddy and excited when I talk about it. But I'm probably going to do that anyway. Research is the thing that you're going to do to try and make sure that your fiction is as plausible and accurate as you can make it. If it's set in a real-world-- real-world place, then you should try and visit that place. If it's based on realistic people or real-world people, you either need to read some books about this people or research their history or both, or talk to them. But if it involves travel, it's-- that's when it gets fun. You can first and foremost consider research to be part of the cost of doing business as a writer. You can deduct it from your taxes, or you can deduct part of a family vacation from your taxes if you are doing research as part of that vacation. You can do a whole trip that's nothing but research and then deduct the whole thing. You need to talk to your accountant about that, but you can. It can be helpful in terms of-- of detail and sort of place setting for you to have a conversation with a subject matter expert before you've started writing or in the early stages of writing. It can help you sort of rule out lines of exploration or paths that your story might have gone down that really aren't realistic or won't work. But the crucial piece, the place where you absolutely have to incorporate subject matter experts, is after the book is finished but before publication. So what I usually do is I'll finish a first draft or sometimes the second draft. My-- my raw draft I call the zeroth draft. That's the one with lots of brackets and holes in it, lots of misspellings. It's terrible. No one can see that but me. The first draft is the one that's actually legible for other people. So in a lot of cases, I will then reach out to experts that I've either found, or I'll ask around until I can find ...

About the Instructor

The winner of the Hugo Award for three consecutive years for her Broken Earth Trilogy, N. K. Jemisin has sold millions of books and created new cultures and histories. Now the acclaimed science fiction and fantasy writer is teaching you how to create a world from scratch, develop compelling characters, and get published. Build your craft and share your voice with inclusive fiction that reflects your experience.

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N. K. Jemisin

Bestselling sci-fi and fantasy writer N. K. Jemisin teaches you how to create diverse characters, build a world from scratch, and get published.

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