Research is a necessary part of an author's vocation. We write often about things we don't know about and need to provide at least a minimum amount of realism to our stories. For the short story I'm working on and more projects set in the same world, I plunged into an ocean of content while trying to do some research.
It started with me checking out "The King In Yellow", an old book of short horror stories that was referenced in the popular HBO show, "True Detective". It's not an amazing book filled with stories that will blow your mind, if anything, the stories are rather mediocre, but his work did inspire many authors, Lovecraft included. At the same time, I was looking over Lovecraft's work and trying to find what may have inspired his unique mythos and tales. I started looking into other authors of the time writing similar things, all with an underlying theme of ancient horrors and beings beyond our comprehension, which, if witnessed, would inspire insanity. The genre is called Cosmic Horror.
It fascinated me. I found that Lovecraft had littered his stories with references to real and imaginary texts, ancient books of magic and he even created the famed "Necronomicon". I don't mean that he wrote "The Necronomicon," but he made it up, thinking up a whole history of the text and referencing it in many of his stories. In fact, there was a group of writers who referenced each other's made-up ancient texts, almost as a way of respecting one another's work and perhaps, showing that they shared a similar world in their own stories.
I learned a great deal, in fact. 'Grimoire' is a word for a book on magic, which is pretty awesome, if you ask me. I also learned that grimoires actually existed, that people thought they could perform magic and wrote books of magic, rituals and steps to summoning demons and the like. That sounds so completely crazy today, a how-to book on magic, written in all seriousness, blew my mind. I mean, if I had thought about it, I suppose I would have realized that people obviously did once believe in magic and why not write a book on it? It's just, in this day and age, that sounds so crazy to me.
Now you might be wondering why am I delving into this old world filled with magic and horror and things. My current project is set in modern day but with the idea that some of what Lovecraft written might be true, there might be Old Things, beyond our comprehension attempting to break into our world, there might be cultists with true grimoires performing sick rituals in an attempt to summon dark beings, and with these things there also comes a ragtag band of people who have been secretly fighting to keep our world together throughout history. Sound cool? I hope so. The short story is sort of a prologue, with novels coming after. The dream is a rotating cast of characters telling stories in first person....and that's as much as I'm going to say, for now.
Research can be incredibly fun for an author, learning things they never would have even got into, otherwise, but it can also be a time sink. You can find your writing time dwindling as you dive further and further into details, history, etc. At some point, you need to say you've seen enough, at least for the time being, and get to writing. You can always edit things later after more research.
If you are a fellow writer, how does research apply to your writing? How much or how little do you do? Does realism matter in a story that much? Does getting certain things right matter or is the story itself enough to keep the reader invested?
The King In Yellow
List of 'Real' Grimoires