Susan Sarah’s Adventures in Research II

137_3785_1 A while back I posted some of my Adventures in Research, so here’s Parte le Deux! We all know that sitting down with a stack of books, notecards, pens, and sticky notes is only a portion of the research that writers do. Many, if not all, writers bring something more to their work than information gleaned from stacks of research books: either personal expertise, personal interest, or just plain curiosity to a subject leads the author there. I can research the heck out of anything in books–and then often I have to take that further and find out what the de’il the thing is really about.

Some of you have asked about the arrow-catching thing. That was definitely an instance where I had to go beyond conventional research–because I could find nothing written about this, and I didn’t want to just make something up if wasn’t even possible to catch an arrow the way I had in mind for my story. At the time, I was writing about a medieval hero, and a heroine too, who were both accomplished archers, for THE SWAN MAIDEN. Wanting something a little different than just launching out those arrows one after another, into trees, into straw targets, and into people (Baddies only of course!), I thought it would be very cool for the hero to catch an arrow that was sailing straight for the heroine, saving her life in the nick of time (since she had saved him a couple of times, it only seemed fair).

WOW, what a moment, I thought: I could just see it in my head…but I didn’t know if it could actually be done. I’ve done some archery myself, and I own and sometimes even operate a longbow, but the arrows only go in one direction: away from me. This is Good.

I told my husband about my arrow-catching idea one evening, and one of our sons (who is now a black belt) looked up from his homework and said, "Sensei can do that." Sensei was his karate instructor. What! Catch arrows! "Oh yeah, Sensei does that."  {shrug}

A quick phone call to the sensei, who promised to show me how to do it–-not demonstrate it to me, but teach me. What! Nah, I just want to see how you do this. Nope, said Sensei, you have to do it too. Well, my husband and a good friend weren’t going to miss this, so they came along too.

Arrow catching is a lot harder than it looks. Trust me. And it’s definitely one of those Don’t Ever Try This At Home or Anywhere Else things. Seriously. Unless you have an expert teaching you how to do it (Disclaimer Alert!).

At first he had us catch a bo (a wooden staff), which he tossed to us. Then we progressed to hand-tossed arrows, and finally to blunt arrow shafts released from a bow a few feet away.

Oh hey, that’s not too bad, I thought. Even I, myopic with progressive lenses, and depth-perception issues, could do it. OK. I’m ready to write this book. Thanks, Sensei–

And then he got out the REAL bow, and the REAL arrows. And he backed up twenty feet.

There’s nothing quite like facing a ninth-degree black belt, a former Marine, a tower of a guy, while he raises a mean-looking bow nocked with a very sharp arrow, and aims it right at you.

And then he let the arrow go. It zoomed right past me, though I snatched out for it. He released another one. Zooooooopp. A blur went past before I could even get my hand out there. Another one. Zzzzzzip. Missed it, and yet another. Then I touched feathers!!  Zzzzzzzzzzzip.  Feathers again!

With the next one, I caught the shaft smack in the middle. Gotcha!! Once I had it, I had it for sure, and caught them very consistently after that. It’s timing, of course, but more than that, it’s having all the senses on high alert, along with coordination and a little bit of courage, and it’s also listening for the release as much as watching the thing.

Having thought this idea up for my book, I was then very fortunate to find just the right expert to show me what it was all about. This was a very big black belt guy, with a very big bow and a certain aim, and he knew what he was doing. So of course don’t try this at home or anywhere, unless you have a 9th degree black belt (and they’re hard to find) watching over you at all times.

I walked out of the dojo that day with a great bit of research knowledge, something I would never have found anywhere else–and even more importantly, I had a feeling of accomplishment that I hadn’t counted on. And Sensei was so pleased (and found it so amusing, alas…) that he asked me to demonstrate this with him at the dojo holiday parties. Yes, folks, we took it on the road.Arrow_1

(Susan and Sensei at holiday party — and yes, I caught that arrow too!)

One more detail that I suppose I should add, or I’ll hear about it at home -– my husband caught the thing first try. Arghh! Whose arrow catching idea was it, anyway?! 

Swmaiden

        ~Susan Sarah

27 thoughts on “Susan Sarah’s Adventures in Research II”

  1. That’s so neat, Susan! Imagine being able to put “catching arrows” on a resume under “Other Related Skills.”
    All I’ve ever gotten out of my kids’ activities are dirty jerseys and socks to wash. 🙂

    Reply
  2. That’s so neat, Susan! Imagine being able to put “catching arrows” on a resume under “Other Related Skills.”
    All I’ve ever gotten out of my kids’ activities are dirty jerseys and socks to wash. 🙂

    Reply
  3. That’s so neat, Susan! Imagine being able to put “catching arrows” on a resume under “Other Related Skills.”
    All I’ve ever gotten out of my kids’ activities are dirty jerseys and socks to wash. 🙂

    Reply
  4. Hiw Susane That’s a great post. Why am I sure that no amount of training would have me catching that arrow?
    I’m using this to apologize for not posting yesterday. No concept of what day it is. Still on the road. Still pecking at the qwerty keyboard. Found e-mails wondering where I was. Couldm’t reply for some reason. Sorry!
    Back next week,
    Jo

    Reply
  5. Hiw Susane That’s a great post. Why am I sure that no amount of training would have me catching that arrow?
    I’m using this to apologize for not posting yesterday. No concept of what day it is. Still on the road. Still pecking at the qwerty keyboard. Found e-mails wondering where I was. Couldm’t reply for some reason. Sorry!
    Back next week,
    Jo

    Reply
  6. Hiw Susane That’s a great post. Why am I sure that no amount of training would have me catching that arrow?
    I’m using this to apologize for not posting yesterday. No concept of what day it is. Still on the road. Still pecking at the qwerty keyboard. Found e-mails wondering where I was. Couldm’t reply for some reason. Sorry!
    Back next week,
    Jo

    Reply
  7. Oh Susan… thank you, thank you for sharing. I’ve been waiting for your post on this. I love hearing about (and doing) dare devil things.
    I’ve nocked alot of arrows in a competition bow but never caught one. Sounds like a fantastic rush!
    –the littlest wenchling

    Reply
  8. Oh Susan… thank you, thank you for sharing. I’ve been waiting for your post on this. I love hearing about (and doing) dare devil things.
    I’ve nocked alot of arrows in a competition bow but never caught one. Sounds like a fantastic rush!
    –the littlest wenchling

    Reply
  9. Oh Susan… thank you, thank you for sharing. I’ve been waiting for your post on this. I love hearing about (and doing) dare devil things.
    I’ve nocked alot of arrows in a competition bow but never caught one. Sounds like a fantastic rush!
    –the littlest wenchling

    Reply

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