Many times I have been asked as a writer where do my ideas come from. I’ve also read about many writers who are asked this question and how they have answered. I’m in the middle of plotting, outlining, and preparing to write my first full novel titled Dark Archers – Chosen Men. In this 2 part article I will try to explain how I came up with the idea for Dark Archers and the main character’s story.
You may have noticed the new banner graphic at the top of my blog. I made it using my primitive Photoshop skills with some pictures of Will from the excellent YA series Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan. The series follows a teenager named Will who has no parents and works in a castle. He aspires to become a knight apprentice but is disappointed when he is deemed to small and weak. Enter the King’s Ranger Halt who selects Will based on his ability to climb and sneak into the castle to peak at the list of apprentices before it is revealed. Will is apprenticed to Halt and embarks on his training which encompasses a good portion of each of the first 4 novels of Flanagan’s excellent series. Though it is a YA series I noticed the attention to detail he paid in the archery practice that Will undergoes. I also enjoyed the training scenes and special forces like nature of the Ranger’s in Flanagan’s world Araluen.
This got my mind thinking about how archers aren’t really seriously used as main characters in many fantasy novels. They are mostly overlooked though some characters can and do use short or longbows in their adventures they aren’t really “super experts” in using a bow. I also started to think about the concept of a sniper-archer and how they would operate in a fantasy world. Would they lie in wait for a target or targets of opportunity? Would they loose their longbow from afar not immediately visible to the target? Would they try for one-shot-one-kill like a modern sniper? More importantly could they actually do that?
This led to more questions and more opportunities to read outside my preferred genre of fantasy. I was in a bookstore here in Beijing, China during this time and grabbed a copy of Bernard Cornwell’s excellent historical fiction Agincourt (Azincourt) about the decimation of a French force at the hands of England’s longbowmen. It was an excellent read and provided historical detail and revealed how archers were used on the battlefield.
I still couldn’t really figure out how to make these ideas into something new with more potential for stories but I felt like I was going in the right direction. I continued researching delving into Osprey’s excellent military history series and devouring everything I could about medieval archery including ranges, terminology and how they practiced their craft. The story and characters hadn’t formed at this point but I was starting to conceive my main character, a sniper-archer who would need to train other archers to his level of skill.
I had an old story idea about the cliche elf living in a forest and one clan of the elves are excellent archers and they would face orcs and other creatures in the forest. It was definitely cliche and not a very good idea and I am glad I discarded it but kept notes on it. I was able to take this idea of a guy living in a forest who is excellent with a bow and graft it onto this new idea of a sniper-archer in the military. I was starting to feel good about my idea and started keeping notes and trying to expand my idea.
Next in Part 2 of DNA of a Story I will talk about where my next bout of inspiration came from, a key friend friend having the right knowledge in the right place and time, and how I created the mash-up which I now call Dark Archers.