In my last post I had finally come up with the ‘DNA’ of my story. An archer who pulls off a great feat of archery skill is placed in command of a group of archers to train and lead them. I was able to draw some parallels between my experience as an inexperienced leader of teachers a few years ago and this newly promoted archer who must now lead a group of archers into combat and also train them. This was a good idea and I have never read or heard of a fantasy book focused squarely on archers as the main characters.
I still didn’t have much of a motivation for my main character. I was borrowing the
motivation that Sharpe has about getting promoted in the Sharpe’s series but that wasn’t enough. I then realized one common idea in military fiction and the Sharpe’s series is that of the ineffective officer who gets men killed. One character in Sharpe even says there are “murderin officers and killing officers” which shows the clear delineation in a soldier’s eyes. I took this idea and played with it and realized that if my character was already a super archer and served in a unit of normal archers then he wouldn’t like his commanders because they wouldn’t have the skill level he did. If I then made this commander ineffective and fail almost getting him killed then this provides a good motivation to survive and want promotion. This alone was not enough but it was a start.
I had already written the opening scene in my mind. The main character’s archer unit gets overrun by a unit of cavalry and almost killed to a man leaving our hero to sneak behind enemy lines to kill a wizard. But I didn’t think there was a good reason for my character to want to kill this wizard and the scene wasn’t as tense as I hoped it might be. Sharpe also has a backstory of being a gutter raised street kid so I borrowed that idea. It is also a common fantasy trope the poor kid turning into a hero. I turned this up to 11 and decided that my hero would have been caught and turned into a penal soldier. During this time he learns his archery skills and this even grew into a whole backstory which could fill 2 or 3 novels by itself. As a penal soldier he would be chained to the other archers and also hate his commander.
I worked with this idea for quite a while and then was able to develop it further giving my character some motivation and a goal that he would want. Going back to the learning
leadership idea I would be able to show him growing as a leader and show the
failure and successes along the way. This mixed with the grim darkness of Warhammer which increase the body count of not only the enemy soldiers but of the archer’s in my main characters unit. My main character would also have conflict with the other officers in the army because he was promoted without being a gentleman.
Finally I had all the pieces together and I was able to start fleshing out my characters and plot!