When I first decided to write a retelling of Beauty and the Beast starring a badass, bow-wielding Beauty, I thought I was pretty much all set, research-wise. I mean, I’d seen half a dozen Robin Hood movies, I’d cheered Darryl on in The Walking Dead. I’d read The Hunger Games, I’d dreamed from Katniss’s POV. I could totally write about archery and look like I knew what I was doing.
It didn’t take long for me to revise that conclusion. I was missing key details like what style of bow she’d be using, how arrows were made, that sort of thing. Easy stuff. I contacted the local Virginia chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism, hoping to see some archers shooting period-style bows, and to ask them some questions. Instead, when I got there, notebook in hand and phone set to record, they told me to drop everything, and handed me a bow.
I loved it immediately: the narrow, meditative focus; the way the bow fits into the cradle at the base of your thumb; the stretch of your shoulders as you draw; the sound of the arrow’s fletching slicing the air as you release. The day I started learning to shoot, I started rewriting every scene in which Yeva so much as thinks about archery. I was missing an entire aspect of her character.
“She tore the bow from her shoulder, nocking an arrow to its string with ease. She’d had no opportunity to test the bow that morning, but found that her body still remembered the motion. Her shoulders would ache later, but she could still draw it.” —Hunted, by Meagan Spooner
I came in looking for details like “what does a fletching knife look like?” and walked away with archery in my soul. I wasn’t just missing practical details, I was missing every detail. I discovered what muscles get sore, which spots on your fingers get raw, the fact that you already know whether your arrow’s going to hit the target by the time you release your arrow.
When I started, I was lucky to hit the target once in six shots. Now, it’s an off-day if I don’t get at least five dead center. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a life of writing—spending the day in your thoughts, dreaming stories, shaping words, leaves you dwelling inside your head. But to shoot, I had to let my mind go. I had to forget about words, because trying to narrate and define what I was doing would cause me to miss the target every time.
So Yeva herself became a more introspective character. She’s all about action, but she’s a thinker, too. She plans. She dreams. She anticipates. She doesn’t just chase—she hunts.