Or, writing and stealing from history while you’re at it
While all fantasy ‘steals’ some elements from primary world sources (Game of Thrones and the War of the Roses, for instance), it’s usually done in a ‘stealing for fun and profit’ kind of way. Many of the influences and references writers aren’t even aware of while they’re writing. I mean, you usually go out and research Stuff, but you never know when something you read fifteen years ago will suddenly pop out its head in your fiction and you don’t even realise it until the piece is already published (or at least polished). And then you vaguely remember the lecturer mentioning it in class once and you thought that it was quite cool back then and it stuck.
Stealing from history because you go looking for something
On the other hand there are the times where I actually go and look for primary world inspiration for a secondary world. For instance, when cementing the look of the Knowledge Stone (and later stones) in my mind once and for all.
I already had the idea of the Stone being covered in runes (not the Futhark; runes I made up), but looking more like Mesopotamian tablets (think Sumerian and Babylonian); only bigger. And green. Enter the Code of Hammurabi.
The Code of Hammurabi and the Gudea Cylinders
The first time I saw a photo of the Code of Hammurabi, I was bus reading something about the Old Testament. (Can I remember more than that? Can I recall which book I’d taken from the shelf? Alas, no.)
While the photo was small, it stuck in my mind, and now popped up again when I went to look for inspiration. And, thank you, Wikipedia, because I also came across some of the Gudea Cylinders from Mesopotamia that further influenced the look of what I had in mind for the stone.
Here is the Code and the Cylinders:
Now all that’s left is to finish building the important scenes around the Knowledge Stone and its breaking. This takes place loooooong before the actual novel The Knowledge Stones, so I just need to outline it basically, and keep from falling into the worldbuilder’s disease trap!