ἓν οἶδα ὅτι οὐδὲν οἶδα hèn oîda hóti oudèn oîda : One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing. ~ Socrates
Writers are supposed to write what they know. If we stuck to that too literally, there would be no steampunk, no fantasy, no vampires and no James Bond because of NDAs. So we create these crazy worlds and scenarios, and make them real with little bits of set dressing pulled from our own experiences. But – and this is an important ‘but’ – just because the world is unreal and fantastical, it doesn’t mean that you’re let off the research-hook. Genre readers tend to get very pernickety about internal consistency of physics, for example. I went to see the 2009 Star Trek film with a naval architect and I think he nearly cried at the ship structures. It doesn’t matter if the world is carried through space on a giant turtle, or populated by elves and goblins – the fantasy works because it’s based on reality.
I know nothing whatsoever about naval architecture, or physics, or global weather patterns so I have to go research. And sometimes I find cool stuff in very odd places. This evening I treated myself to a shoulder massage, to combat stress headaches, and the conversation eventually turned to hobbies. I explained that I was currently working on a book involving a character that was chained to a stone chair for several centuries. The masseuse, taking this entirely in her stride, speculated that it would cause terrible sciatica and muscle shortening, to the extent that even if unconscious the character would not be able to straighten his body for several days once released. And thus a scene or two is born. Why shouldn’t a goblin suffer from sciatica, after all?