Amid the plotting and pondering (and mental writing), a great deal of research goes into crafting a fictional universe – deciding on how much (if any) of it will be based on the Real World, what themes and perspectives to undertake, and the pacing of the overall story. If the tale is set in a wholly alien world (literally on another planet in a galaxy far, far away) or in another dimension, the writer is in full control in deciding on every aspect of that world – its climate(s), the beings who inhabit it, and the (practical) rules that govern the ways things are (or at least supposed to be). If the tale is set in the Real World, whether it be in the near (or distant) past or present, the writer is bound (to a certain degree) to ensure a level of historical and geographical accuracy, lest the reader nitpick on the credibility of the story and its characters. If the tale is set somewhere in between fact and fiction, the writer needs to decide the realty / fantasy ratio and follow through accordingly. In this context, fantasy need not refer to Fantasy, where wizards, dragons, elves, and such exist along side humanity (though it could, depending on the needs of the narrative).
For any of these scenarios, a whole lot of research is required, whether in creating the absolutes in that wholly fictional world, fact checking historical documents (seeking as objective sources as possible) and finding the happy balance between the first two options, when melding reality and fantasy.
Thus far, the MASC(D) Chronicles finds itself quasi-rooted in the third option – a world where history takes a left turn and travels down a path where reality as we know it is quite different. How different remains to be seen (or in this case, plotted and pondered); there is a very specific (historical) time (and place) this will occur, though the alternate history / universe that will unfold due to this disruption in the time/space continuum is (still) a work in progress. There are a few possible paths this divergence can travel, and figuring out which one is the most plausible and would entice a reader to become invested in it (and the characters within) is the (fun) challenging part.
With all this plotting and pondering comes actual research, via (gasp!) actual books, credible, objective tomes that impart the social and political history of the world, as well as online sources, i.e. Wikipedia (though more for quick / reduced version of a specific topic) and watching episodes of “Who Do You Think You Are?”, the genealogy series that explores the family history of Well Known People – actors, writers, singers and entertainers. The series was among the inspirations for the inter-connectivity of the three series that make up the MASC(D) Chronicles, albeit plotted and pondered in chronological order.
As the song goes, starting at the beginning is a very good place to start, though where and when to start is the question to answer.
I have a fair inkling on where and when to start, though sometimes I wonder if working backwards, travelling through time in that manner will solve some of the aforementioned questions.
After all, time doesn’t strictly need to be linear – it’s a wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey ball of stuff, bouncing about quasi-aimlessly in search for a place to land.
The plotting and pondering (and researching) continues.