Please read Part 1 of this article if you haven’t already. It’s below this one on the main page. I’ve also expanded this article to 3 parts from 2.
After bringing my idea to this point and researching medieval archery and centering my idea around a archer sniper type character I knew I still didn’t have a great story to tell. However after reading Agincourt by Bernard Cornwell I was interested enough to check out his main series Sharpe’s Company. It follows the exploits of Richard Sharpe during the Napoleonic Wars in Europe and his campaigns in Portugal, Spain and beyond.
I read the first few books of the series as I was able to procure them easily enough here in China. I really enjoyed the time period portrayed in the book and Cornwell’s characters. Sharpe is promoted at a time when it is almost unheard of for a rank and file soldier to be promoted to be an officer. This creates a set of conflicts for Sharpe with other officers and especially higher ranking officers under Wellington’s command during the series. Sharpe also has to learn to command his unit of Chosen Men, riflemen chosen for their accuracy at shooting and not so much for their discipline. I really liked these ideas though I wasn’t sure how often they’d been used in fantasy I decided to graft them into my story to see what else develops.
I wanted to explore more about how Sharpe comes to be a good commander and leader to his men but I couldn’t locate any more of the books here in China and didn’t want to order them online at that time. But I realized I did know more about this situation! I had been promoted from teacher to Director of Studies at a kid’s school where I was working and had to learn to manage people, both westerners and Chinese. There were lots of parallels I could draw between my struggles as a director and Sharpe’s struggle to command his men. I drew on that experience to continue outlining and drafting my characters and conflicts.
Then I got lucky! On a trip to a large DVD and bookstore in Beijing I scored the Sharpe’s Company DVD boxset available here locally in China. It contained 17 movies in the series with Sean Bean playing Richard Sharpe. I did some research and new the TV series had different from the books somewhat but I thought this might be good. I watched the whole series in about 1 week, not a small task while working full time to manage a kid’s school! I really enjoyed the series and seeing how the conflicts played out really helped me visualize my characters and story much more clearly.
I now had an archer character who pulls off a great feat saving the commander of his army and being awarded a command of archers. I thought since rank and file archers are not used to sneaking around and having pinpoint accuracy with single arrows that I needed to change this a bit. Enter the grimdark world of Games Workshop’s Warhammer and Warhammer 40k. I had played them quite extensively when I was younger and loved the grim darkness portrayed in both the fantasy and science fiction worlds of Games Workshop. I incorporated this idea into my notes and began to make the series more darker and the archers more of a special forces type squad in a fantasy world. I adjusted my main character to reflect those qualities and continued to develop my idea.
During this time a friend of mine working with my in Beijing, Liam (a most excellent Manchesterian if ever there was one! Hi Liam!) and I got to talking about Sharpe and Napoleonic Europe. Liam has a masters in history so this was right up his alley and he was able to help me understand the underlying ideas to Sharpe’s and the era in general. This further helped me flesh out my conflicts between my main character and the other officers of the army he is in.
In Part 3 I will talk about the final pieces coming together and my character’s motivations.