How many times do we hear someone say, “I wish I would have listened more and learned more in history class when I was in high school,” or something similar?
Seems like what happened long ago is more important as we get along in years. I look back now wondering, as a career history teacher, why I did not ask my dad more about his World War 2 time in the South Pacific.
This gets to today’s point. Know your subject before putting pen to paper, or in today’s world, fingers to keyboard.
My list of what a western writer needs to write a good western story.
This list can also be used by readers, do the stories you read follow my list? Can you add more?
1. Knowledge of basic American history and deeper knowledge of the region of America where your story will take place.
2. Know your weapons – if you haven’t already, go out and shoot. Understand how a gun feels, what recoil (kick) feels like, smell the powder, reload the weapon.
3. Know the lay of the land (hills, mountains, rivers, streams, roads, and trails, anything that is there or was there). I know Wyoming and the states around, I will not try to write about places I do not know. I have traveled to Australia and would love to have a character do that someday.
4. Google Maps – If you write in the present use Google maps, you can go up and down streets in the city of your choice, visit places you have never been. It really is pretty amazing
5. Most westerns are simple adventure or mystery tails and a good adventure/mystery is much better in a great setting.
6. Characters need to be real breathing people not cardboard cutouts to the reader.
7. Tell a great story – write it as good as you can
8. Edit – Edit - Edit