Writers of fiction books often make the mistake of assuming they won’t need to do much research. You’re making stuff up anyway, right? What’s a little more embellishment? But the truth is, different genres of fiction require research in various areas. And readers of specific genres of fiction will go into your book expecting a certain level of research and accuracy.
Historical fiction involves a heavy amount of research into the time period where you’ve chosen to set your novel. What sort of clothes were people wearing during this time period? What were the rich people wearing vs. the poor? What sort of language was being used? What sort of customs were expected? Where would they get a cup of coffee in the morning? What would they do with their free time? Readers of historical fiction are reading in large part for the historical details, so you need to put the work into research and accuracy. It’s one thing to embellish a historical event for the sake of fiction, but the novel should overall be grounded by fact-checked historically accurate details.
The science fiction genre often involves researching complex scientific concepts. Unlike the fantasy genre, the science fiction genre involves a world with a set of rules that can be explained. This means that the concepts that the world deals with should be able to be explained, oftentimes scientifically. So when you’re writing about high-tech gadgets and the discovery of aliens, make sure that the concepts that exist within your world could be supported scientifically. The last thing you want is to write a virtually impossible event or object into existence into your world, only to have the sci-fi community find out by doing their research (and they will trust us).
Horror is a genre most people would be surprised requires research. When we think of horror, we think of a killer walking slowly down the darkened road with a single knife held aloft. Or we think of a serial killer and a detective who is getting a little too close to finding him. That involves a lot of suspense and action… but research?
First, the horror genre may be heavy in suspense, but it should also be heavily researched. One of the most frustrating things for a horror reader is reading a character’s death that is absolutely preposterous in its absurdity. The kind of death that, even without any research, you’re absolutely sure can’t exist in nature. This type of character death can leave the reader both heartbroken and angry, even when it happens to the antagonist if you’ve written them well.
Even though it may leave you with a very questionable search history, you should be making sure that a character being stabbed in a certain area of the body isn’t fatal. You should be researching the states of decomposition of a body over time or how the body would react to being shot in the leg. There are no stakes, and therefore no suspense, in your book if the characters don’t feel real, and part of that involves accuracy.
Additionally, the horror genre often involves creating new and grotesque ways of murder. Doing so involves research in order to both brainstorm ideas (again, sorry about your search history) and make sure that they’d be humanely (or sometimes inhumanely) possible to carry out.
This one probably shocks you, but fantasy novels too require research. The level of research required depends on how removed your fantasy novel is from our world. For example, take the Harry Potter world which involves a magical world that is adjacent to or hidden from our world. This means the story still involves humans in a certain time period, the 90s. Therefore, although the world involves magic, JK Rowling still had to research how the character’s human bodies would react to certain injuries and time-specific details like the technology (or lack thereof) that would be available to the students at the time.
You might instead be writing a high fantasy book, or one that involves another world and oftentimes species other than humans. Research can still be helpful in this case as it can help give the fantasy details a bit more solid ground. For example, let’s say you’re writing about a character who is an elf, researching elf lore from other series and reading up on myths can help you find the details you want to include in your world’s version of elf lore.