Novel research: learning by doing

Archery Oct 2012 001A year and a half ago, I had the idea that I would write an epic fantasy romance novella in which the hero and heroine were world-class archers. I was going to set up a classic rivalry plot in which the two were competitors in a high-stakes archery contest. They’re immediately attracted to one another, but they can’t afford to get close because only one can win the contest.

The problem? I didn’t know a darned thing about archery!

So I bought some books. I read up on the history and usage of the longbow. I even read some period fiction, like “Robin Hood,” for the archery scenes. Those sources helped a lot, but they didn’t give me what I really needed, which was what it felt like to hold and shoot a longbow. When I came to write the shooting scenes, I was drawing a blank because I didn’t have the details I needed to bring those scenes to life.

So I signed up for an archery class! The photo above is of my class — we were shooting pizza boxes at the time (someone throws them up in the air), which it turns out is way more fun than shooting at stationary targets. You not only need to be competent with your bow, but you need to track the target and time your shot just right, because an arrow is not as fast as a bullet from a gun. I can’t tell you how pleased I was when I first put an arrow right through the middle of a pizza box.

This experience gave me all the details I needed, and I came home and wrote those archery scenes.

Not to mention, it was just plain fun!

“Archer’s Sin,” a 26,000-word novella, is entering production now and will be released in early 2014.

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5 Responses to Novel research: learning by doing

  1. isabokelly says:

    I LOVE this! I would so do this research too. I actually have used a bow and arrow before, and I loved it. But I’ve never fired at a moving target. Such cool stuff. And since it’s for research it’s all justified 🙂

  2. xaurianx says:

    Archery is fun! Do you stay in class now the research is done?

    • Amy Raby says:

      Yeah, it really is fun, although I have to be careful because I have a bad shoulder. I do fine if I use a fairly weak bow. I gave it the class when the weather turned. It’s a lot more fun shooting at pizza boxes outdoors than at targets indoors. But I may take it up again next spring.

  3. Jill Archer says:

    Ha! What fun. Loved your description of the class, esp your cmt that it was tax deductible. What a great idea for a story. Happy to hear that you’re going forward w your novella plans. Keep us posted!

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