As a writer, I always research detail and background for my novels. I don’t mind zombies, dragons, or ghosts, but I start with truth. The world you build for your story has to be believable. Location is important. If my novel is set in the west, I want my flora and fauna to be correct for the locale. I hate movies and stories with saguaro cacti in Wyoming or sycamore trees in Africa. Having a story based solidly on facts before jumping off into fiction makes it easier to believe and easier to write.
Personally, I enjoy research. I am a font of obscure and little known facts. I kill on Trivial Pursuit unless it’s the sports category. My current writing project, Shadow Legion, is set in 165 A.D. Saharan North Africa – Tripolitania to be exact. I wanted the Roman armor and weapons, the location, the historical characters, and even the food to be authentic for the period. Once I established that, I brought in legends of Eden, the Kashites who lived east of Eden, and certain aspects of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos for terror. Building horror on a solid historical basis makes it feel more shocking and allows the author to submerge the reader more deeply into the story line.
Sometimes I run across a bit of trivia and ask, “What if?” Blending two ideas into one; then, tossing in a bit of drama, horror, or adventure can make a compelling story. I believe too many people today have lost the desire to learn new things. We use the internet to Google information when we need it, or rely on Facebook memes as history lessons. No one just chooses a subject at random and gleans all they can from it. My favorite reading as a child was the Encyclopedia Britannica. It was like opening doorways through time and space, sometimes with photographs. It still surprises me how much of what I read sticks with me after all these years.
This doesn’t mean I don’t get things wrong. I do. You must choose your sources carefully. I once wrote a novel using Navajo legends using a source that, it seems, was full of shit. The author got so much wrong I had to scrap the entire project and start over. I try to be meticulous, but you can’t sweat the small stuff. It will kill you if you do. I have several novels I wish I could go back and re-write. Perhaps someday I will.
Write what you know and write what you like. It’s good advice for any writer. I try to follow it on a daily basis. I also suggest widening what you know and what you like. It will keep your writing fresh.