Happy Equinox! + The Importance of Research in Fantasy Writing

I’ll dive right into my Equinox & research post in a moment, but I’ll start with a general update of what I’ve been reading/watching/listening to. In the coming weeks, I’ll have book recommendation posts for both The Cruel Prince and A Thousand Perfect Notes (both of which I adored. They were SO GOOD, you guys—literally my favorite reads of this year so far) up on the blog, so keep an eye out for that!

As for music, I’m currently listening to “You Should See Me In a Crown” by Billie Eilish pretty much on a loop as I draft/edit this post—because daaaamn. This. Song. Is. Epic. I’m also loving “The Wolves” by Cyrus Reynolds, and the music from the Captain Marvel trailer, “Luminous and Unstoppable” by Immediate Music. Basically, there’s a lot of awesome stuff out there right now.

Thanks to Netflix, I’ve been watching Voltron: Legendary Defender pretty much any and every chance I get. I honestly haven’t watched anything animated in YEARS, but guys! This show is so good. After hearing people talk about it for so long, I finally gave it chance and I’m endlessly glad I did. Stunning animation + lovable characters = yes, please. Also, really, who doesn’t want to watch a show about lion-shaped robots that defend the galaxy & space elves? I totally do. (I also have a major soft spot for Shiro. And Allura. And—up until where they took his character at the end of season six—LOTOR.)

So, onto today’s post…

A few days late, but happy Equinox, everyone! We’ve moved into spring here in the Southern Hemisphere, and as my current work-in-progress is set during the springtime, I thought it would be fitting to write up this post—including some of the research I’ve been doing lately. (spoiler: A LOT.)

Fun fact: Technically, I’ve had spring twice this year! When we traveled to Greece in April/May, everything was in full bloom, and right now in Australia/the Southern Hemisphere, there are flowers everywhere. (And when we go to Italy next month, it will be autumn/fall—so double seasons for me this year! I’m so not complaining. Spring & autumn are my favorite seasons.)

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Now the Earth with many flowers puts on her spring embroidery

—Sappho

If you follow me on social media at all, then you know I absolutely adore springtime. In fact, I love flowers in general; I’ve always thought that being a florist would be a pretty cool job. And I’m SO sorry to all my Instagram followers who will somehow have to put up with all my springtime photos.

As every writer knows, research is integral to building a fantasy world—and most especially if you’re basing it off an ancient culture. For this novel, I’m very much drawing on the Greco-Roman world. As I’m drafting, I’m not paying too much attention to worldbuilding (right now, I just want the basics down—the rest can come in revision) but I’m still doing a fair amount of research to lay the bones for the world I’ve created. Specifically, for the scenes I’m writing now, I’ve been focusing on how ancient cultures (in particular Rome & Greece) celebrated the springtime. I thought that as it’s Spring Equinox, it would be a fun idea to share what I’ve been researching.

  • The first thing that comes to mind is how the arrival of spring marks the return of Persephone from the Underworld. (ICYMI, last year, I wrote a blog post on Persephone!) In modern times, Greece celebrates Protomagia— AKA, May 1st. I was actually in Greece while this was happening, and on almost every door that I passed, there was a wreath of flowers—a symbolic way of welcoming nature. Generally, Protomagia is celebrated with picnics, kite-flying, and wildflower picking.

 

  • dsc_04081The Anthesteria (February/March). It was held during the season of spring festival to honor Dionysus—god of wine, theater, madness & ecstasy, parties, and fertility/agriculture. The word “Anthesteria” is derived from the Greek word anthos, meaning flower. Anthesteria happened over three days, and celebrated two seemingly opposite things—life and death. The first day, Pithoigia: the opening (and offerings) of the pots from the previous year’s harvest of wine. The second day, Choës: a literal drinking competition, often to see who drank the quickest. Further still, others poured wine on the tombs of their loved ones. It’s also interesting to note that on Pithoigia and Choës, it was believed that the souls of the dead rose to walk amongst the living. (Sort of like Halloween!) To protect themselves, they chewed hawthorn, and pained their doors with pitch. And finally, the third day, Chytroi. Sort of like a festival for the dead, fruit/cooked grains was offered to Hermes—a figure of the Underworld—and the souls wandering amongst the living were expelled.

 

  • Great Dionysia (April/May). Again dedicated to Dionysus, it was celebrated with theater—tragedies and comedies—and held during springtime, possibly to celebrate the ending of winter. The celebrations were held over a few days, and winning playwrights were rewarded with a wreath of ivy.

 

  • Next up—and the final one I’m going to talk about today—is the Roman festival of Floralia (also known as Ludi Florales.) It was dedicated to the ancient Roman goddess Flora—goddess of flowers. Traditionally, it lasted for six days, and the first person who laid a flower wreath at Flora’s temple statue was said to have good luck in the coming year. The festival also involved theatrical performances, games, drinking, and hares and goats were set free, and beans were scattered to promote fertility.

So, as you can see, I’ve been neck-deep in research (seriously, this is only a fraction of what I’ve been researching for this book!), and I daresay that bits and pieces of these things will turn up in this novel…somewhere. But why, you might be wondering, is all this research important? This is something I’ve thought about a lot, and while most of my fantasy world-building is made-up, there are specific elements I’ve used from my actual culture, and I think it’s important to make sure I know what I’m writing about before I use (and, inevitably tweak and change to suit the novel). And when you research dsc_0378historical cultures—foods, political structures, landscapes—to include them in your novel, you’re grounding the reader, giving them a sense of familiarity in an otherwise new (and often magical) world.

It’s also given me a vague set of ideas of what I should be including in my own worldbuilding to make it a rich, real world: wars, culture, fashion/attire, the types of foods eaten (depending on landscapes & availability), monarchies/political systems, and so on. You get the idea! Integrating this—real-world Greco-Roman culture—with fantasy aspects of my own creating will be difficult to iron out in later drafts, but right now, I’m placing bits and pieces together to see what fits and what doesn’t, and it’s so much fun.

Writers! How much research do you do for your novel? A lot? A little? What’s your research process like? I’d love to know!

There’s now less than a month until I leave for Italy (which will be excellent research, actually!), but I’m determined to get a rough draft of this novel down beforehand! Wish me luck!


Currently reading: WOMEN IN MYTH by Bettina L. Knapp

Currently listening to: (pretty much all the music I’ve mentioned above!)

8 thoughts on “Happy Equinox! + The Importance of Research in Fantasy Writing

  1. Emma says:

    I absolutely loved The Cruel Prince, it was so good! I’m not a writer but you’re right about the research, I think that’s an approach every writer should take when working. 🙂

    Like

  2. Alicia says:

    I agree with you on the research. As a writer, I find that so many parts of my world building are fleshed our through research. Those celebrations are really cool too. I hadn’t heard of a lot of them!

    Like

    • karaterzis says:

      Yes!! So much of creating a “realistic” society can be learnt through research. And aren’t they just!? I didn’t know of a lot of them before I researched either, and I spent hours scrolling through various celebrations and rituals. So amazing!

      Like

  3. CG @ Paper Fury says:

    Oh don’t apologise for all the flower photos! THEY ARE BEST. I absolutely adore flowers and may or may not have written a fantasy mostly centred around them because of that. 😂😍And also I SO admire all the research you do. I think fantasy in particularly is always super epic when it has little details and nuggets of culture and history amongst the story. It makes it so much more rich and full!

    Also *soft happy shriek at ATPN mention* 💕✨

    Like

    • karaterzis says:

      Haha, I’m so glad you like them!! Gah, Cait! A fantasy centered around flowers!? NEEEED! Yes, you’re totally right! I love reading fantasy books where I can just TELL the author has done their research.

      Like

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