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Top 5 Archers

When writing heroic archer characters, there are various motivations for using the weapon. Here is a look at my top 5 archers and why they chose a bow over other weapons like a gun or sword.

legolas-greenleaf-archery5. Legolas Greenleaf
Elegant, poised, and deadly, Legolas grew up in the woods where archery was the most logical weapon to use. It is based on stealth and perfect for ranged attacks, which came in handy during the Second War of the Ring as he defended his comrades. Legolas is an example of the lithe gentlemanly hunter type of an archer.

susan-narnia-archery4. Susan Pevensie
For a girl in the 1940s, getting up close and personal with a blade was not natural, but it was her duty as queen to assist in the defense of her kingdom. The bow was a way of being skilled in martial combat without having to get elbow deep in blood. She was remarkably skilled, and practiced often, but to the end did not enjoy using it to kill, only using it as such when absolutely pressed to defend those she loved.

katniss-everdeen-archery3. Katniss Everdeen
For her, the bow was a tool that put food on the table for her starving family. Hunting was a necessary part of life, like sleeping and breathing. When fighting for her life in the Arena, it was difficult to make the transition into becoming a killer, but she did what was necessary.

errol-flynn-robin-hood-archery2. Robin Hood
There have been many versions of the tale, from Robins suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to happy go-lucky men bouncing about Sherwood Forest. Their reasons for using a bow have varied through the years, but ultimately it is because of the “cool” factor. Robin Hood is inhuman in his perfection with the weapon, using it for serious and comedic effect.

green-arrow-oliver-queen-archery1. The Green Arrow
Whether due to archaeology studies or being stranded on an island,  somehow Oliver Queen learned how to use a bow. It usually started out of a need for pure survival, like Katniss, but it did not take long before he realized how helpful it was in crime fighting. A bow could easily be used to either kill, maim, blow something up, or simply entangle criminals, depending on what type of arrow and intent. It was also helpful for an impressive threatening posture. Who can forget “You Have Failed This City.”

Using RPG plots in fiction writing

pathfinderrpg1RPG campaigns are great fun, and a lot of work is put into plotting and characterization, rather like fiction writing, but can any of it be used in actual fiction works? Perhaps some of it can, if avoiding common pitfalls in translating an RPG to novel:

1. Class stereotypes
Is the fighter a one dimensional tough guy? Try some twists like Joss Whedon did with Jayne on Firefly, or George R.R. Martin creating Brienne. Combine some of the classes together—what if a rogue was also a paladin? Can’t work? How do you know until you try?

2. Combat stagnates
RPGs do not cover a blow by blow of the battle, and despite all sorts of powers, there are definite progressions that tend to come up in combat. To make it more exciting, turn instead to historical research of actual battles, rather than relying on dice and statistics. That being said, there is something to be learned from a confident fighter who suddenly rolls horribly and is taken out when he shouldn’t have been. It can make a great plot twist!

galadriel-epic-loot-drop3. All about the loot
Characters have complex motivations, even in an RPG, but ultimately you are very interested in picking up new pieces of armor, weapons, potions, and treasure. This can hamper a novel’s story, because in real life, while there will always be those only out for stuff, we are more complicated than that. Academics are almost hit by cars when they walk into the street reading a book, and people might be so driven by a love of baseball that they give up the finer things in life to afford tickets. If characters run around trying to get stuff all the time, it becomes a boring read. Make sure there is a balance of acquiring important gear for the quest, and actual storytelling. Think of Lord of the Rings—other than an epic loot drop from Galadriel, there isn’t a lot of gear hunting going on.

Who has the page presence? They should pay off in the final act

obi-wan-kenobi-oldSome books have obvious main characters, such as a first person POV like Hunger Games, others have so many characters that it is difficult to choose one or two, such as Lord of the Rings. All books have a cast of supporting characters who pay significant roles, such as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars, or Quark in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Look through your book to see who has the most “screen time”. These characters need to play a significant role in the final act and conclusion. Readers will become accustomed to seeing them in chapters, so having them vanish at the climax will feel off and unbalanced. Imagine if Aragorn’s character had no role in the final battle of Lord of the Rings, or Gwen was not in the final episode of Merlin.

cersei-upset-purple-weddingWe saw some of this issue in the finale of Game of Thrones on Sunday. After a season filled with mostly the House Lannister plotline, suddenly it was all about the Wall and Arya, leaving a dramatic life-changing moment for House Lannister to a quick “get it done in five minutes” scene that felt like it was shoe-horned into the episode. It left me scratching my head about why the huge build-up of Lannisters this season, only to ignore the biggest scene for that House in the entire series so far.

Don’t let this happen to your book—keep the character percentages throughout the story. Don’t have a character be in it 50% of the time most of the book and only 2% at the end. Readers will be left feeling dissatisfied and not sure why.

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