Fiction and Reality Meet When You Use Your Characters’ WeaponsWhy did I sign up for archery lessons in the first place? My WIP’s protagonist. Eva is a skilled archer, and her talents with the bow and arrow come in handy throughout the novel. However, just because Eva’s an archer doesn’t mean I was one myself. So, I figured that the best way to understand her strengths (and to portray archery accurately in the story) was by trying it myself. In other words, fun research! Yay!
I realized what I had made Eva capable of. A character needs more than physical strength and endurance to be a competent archer – they also need patience, persistence, discipline, and the ability to concentrate. Thankfully these were traits I had already considered for Eva’s character, but now I know how truly valuable they are.
There’s More to Archery Than Meets the Eye
Legolas, Katniss, and other screen characters make it look easy. But once I attended my first archery class, I realized there’s a LOT more to archery than holding a bow and shooting an arrow at the target. Every aspect of your posture – your stance, the position of your feet, the way you hold your shoulders, your grip on the bow and the string, and much more – has to be just right. Take a look at this diagrammed breakdown of the steps at Learn Archery. It’s a intricate, painstaking process – and if the archer forgets the smallest detail, it can throw off the shot completely.
Required: Patience, Perseverance, a Positive Attitude and a Sense of Humor
If you have trouble remembering the details of each step (like I did), archery can be a real test of patience with yourself. However, my instructors reminded me to take my time with the draw-and-loading process, even if it meant going slower than the other students. So I did, and found I had better luck when I paced myself and didn’t overthink my shots. Gradually my skills and aim improved; and by the end of the course, I was proud that I hadn’t given up (and that I’d gotten a few bulls-eyes, too!).
As for the sense of humor? Let’s just say it prevents you from getting too discouraged over missed shots and other mistakes. It’s especially contagious if your classmates share their funny sides during target practice and in between rounds. None of us goofed off with our gear (we didn’t want to make things dangerous!), but by telling jokes and being appropriately silly we were able to ease each other’s tensions and anxieties about learning archery.
Archery is Physical
Archery requires a good deal of endurance and upper-body strength. Especially when your archery class is 2 hours long and you’re actively practicing for most of that time, you’re bound to feel some strain or soreness in your shoulders, arms, and hands after the first few sessions. But like any other exercise, it gives you a certain pride and sense of accomplishment to know your muscles are benefiting from something fun.
Once Again, Hollywood Gets It Wrong
In addition to practicing archery to understand how it works, I also asked my instructors archery-related questions. One thing I discovered as a result was that traditional bows (e.g., longbows, recurve bows) should never, ever be strung all the time. Rather, bowstrings should only be put on right before use. This prevents the strings from damage or breaking when it’s not being used. It’s a different story for the modern compound bow, which uses a cable-and-pulley system to pull the bowstring and bend the bow’s limbs. (FYI: I used a recurve bow for my lessons.) Either way, I found this tidbit fascinating, since you never see film characters removing or tying on new bowstrings. (*tsk tsk Hollywood*)
See more from fantasy writer Sara Letourneau on her website here.