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Thread: Western writing prompts thread

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    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Western writing prompts thread

    Quote Originally Posted by HarryHoskins View Post
    A regular western prompt - even if no-one participated - would drawn attention to the SYW forum which does tend to languish on account of its alphabetical tardiness. Prompts don't have to be long 'uns, neither. You could but set a low word count to shimmy under or, as a previous cowboy suggested, link it to the flash challenge.
    Can't argue with that!

    As has been mentioned, there's a monthly challenge thing going on in Flash Fiction forum, that could prove a source of writing prompts. (This runs every month from the 15th, 14 prompts will be posted over 14 days. Check out the September and August prompts threads, as examples.)

    As well as the FF prompts, if anyone has any thematic or character- or plot-driven topics in mind, post 'em here. One can be chosen at random, or a vote can be taken so folks get kick-started by the same topic and we see the different kinds of stories we produce.

    Additional ideas welcome, let it all out here.

    -Derek (Western forum moderator... tho' he sometimes forgets this!)

  2. #2
    Today is your last day. FOTSGreg's Avatar
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    Here's a prompt for ya'll.

    A man with a reputation as a gunfighter is really a back shooting, dry gulching coward. Every fight he's ever been in he's won by trickery or indirect avoidance. Now, a former friend is leaving a trail of bodies across the prairie in clear invitation for a showdown. The latest is a dear friend and mentor. Clearly, a showdown is coming and the gunfighter knows, in his heart, it's one he cannot win, but must face honestly.

    He rides out after his former friend, determined to stop his murderous rampage.

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    Straw-fed HarryHoskins's Avatar
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    Nice prompt, Greg.

    I shall give it a go and add one ...

    Quote Originally Posted by That Wiki
    A "Flattop Target Model" was listed in Colt's catalogs from 1890 to 1898. Colt manufactured 914 of these revolvers with a frame which was flat on the top and fitted with an adjustable leaf rear sight. The front sight consisted of a base with an interchangeable blade.
    No more and no less than a 914 word Western flash inspired in anyway by the Flattop Target Model Colt.
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    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FOTSGreg View Post
    Here's a prompt for ya'll.
    No negativity intended, but that's more a mini-synopsis than a prompt. Still, it sparks some story thoughts and that's how it's supposed to work.

    Quote Originally Posted by HarryHoskins View Post
    No more and no less than a 914 word Western flash inspired in anyway by the Flattop Target Model Colt.
    Nice-lookin' gun, that.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Co...Top_Target.JPG

    -Derek

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    Retired and loving it! Puma's Avatar
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    Here I thought prompts were shorter, more like:

    red and black

    (And I can think of several western ideas that fit that.) Puma
    "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

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    Today is your last day. FOTSGreg's Avatar
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    Derek, I guess I'm rusty at western prompts. Let's see...

    Idealistic young deputy is forced to question his basic life tenets when confronted with a situation where basic legal means might not be enough to save the day.

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    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Random thoughts over breakfast, some of which may even have been tickled by the posts above,

    A pacifist is forced to make a life-changing decision.

    Sometimes you gotta bend the law.

    The murder weapon was his gun.

    The horse was more sensible than its owner.

    What had happened to the abandoned cabin's owners?

    A chase into dangerous territory.

    He'd caused this to happen -- now he had to fix it.

    -Derek

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    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Puma View Post
    Here I thought prompts were shorter, more like:

    red and black
    Yep, nothing wrong with that approach... let the words kick off thoughts...

    I notice for example that in this month's Sci-Fi/Fantasy SYW prompts thread, the prompts are one word:
    Quote Originally Posted by Fenika View Post
    Taken from the original thread:

    Four prompts, for the four Mondays in September:

    1) Friendship
    2) Youth
    3) Chores
    4) Earth

    ***Special Challenge: Dinosaurs. This is not a topic per se, but rather something to work into one of the above topics.
    ...while the Horror Hounds' prompt threads (Sept | August) are a lot more specific.

    Whatever dings your bell and kicks off a story thought is the right way to go!

    -Derek

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    Retired and loving it! Puma's Avatar
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    I guess I have to ask, what's the real purpose of the prompts or topics in Western?

    In historical, if people have portions of their WIPs they can use for the challenge topics, they get some suggestions and help on sections of their work beyond the first chapter.

    In Sci-Fi/Fantasy and FF - what's the purpose of the prompt? A writing exercise to tell a story briefly? Is anything ever done with the stories?

    I'm not someone who's looking to write something just for the halibut unless it's very short like a 100 word flash. I have a lot on my table. But ...

    I would be very interested in writing a story if the whole idea was to see whether any of us could come up with something that might be submittable to one of the magazines that publish Western fiction, or for any of the few contests.

    I guess my bottom line question is: are we just looking to have a little more action in Western and some fun, or are we looking for ways to break into the limited Western market and possibly help the market get moving again? Puma
    "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

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    The Surreal Thing AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
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    In other threads which use prompts, it's to spur (<--note the western word!) the members to write something beyond or outside their usual work, requiring a bit of creativity. Sometimes there's a suggested length, often an upper limit, so people won't spend too much time on something they may not choose to market, or for which no paying market exists.

    As examples, let me share the Erotica prompt for the month: ROCK PAPER SCISSORS. Last month it was EXACTLY 200 WORDS. The month before, something not suitable for all ages. These non-specific prompts which do not suggest specific characters or plots seem to get the greatest number of writers to play along, creating something they would not otherwise have written.

    Isn't that what writing prompts are about?

    Maryn, directing you to her new signature, which may resonate especially here
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    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Puma View Post
    I guess I have to ask, what's the real purpose of the prompts or topics in Western?
    For me, any prompt that gets me typing is a good prompt. As I think about and outline story ideas, I admit I'm keeping half an eye on the possibility of injecting cross-genre content into 'em, just in case there's no market for Western content alone. So who knows what something might turn into? I'm willing to give it a try to find out. Others may have different goals and intentions.

    -Derek

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    Today is your last day. FOTSGreg's Avatar
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    For some the prompts are a creativity tool, for others simply (simply, I say) an excuse to write, and for still others a tool to wedge in more productivity. For me they're a way to spur productivity and a way to put down creative thoughts that I don't have time to work on myself necessarily.

    I do like to read the results down in SYW. The Horror Hounds have had some fine work come out of that venue (I think Haggis even got a story published using one of my prompts awhile back).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Puma View Post
    I guess my bottom line question is: are we just looking to have a little more action in Western and some fun, or are we looking for ways to break into the limited Western market and possibly help the market get moving again? Puma
    I think that your first question should lead to the second.

    If prompts get the forum moving - even if it's just for fun, broadening of genre horizons and making a person a better writer - then some of the people (even if it's only one) who take part will begin to explore the genre and want to get a more serious involvement in breaking into and making the market move again.
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    Retired and loving it! Puma's Avatar
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    Next question: how come I don't see anyone responding to this thread as critters of the most recent post put in western SYW except Derek and me? Puma
    "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

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    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Hah, isn't that the point, to attract folks to a forum that's right at the bottom of the list* and all too often goes unnoticed and unremarked? Do people even know there's a Western SYW forum? **

    * aside from Erotica SYW which enjoys regular traffic.
    ** If prompted to enter a password for Share Your Work, it's vista

    -Derek

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    Straw-fed HarryHoskins's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Puma View Post
    Next question ...
    How'd we do on answering the first questions?


    Quote Originally Posted by Puma View Post
    ... how come I don't see anyone responding to this thread as critters of the most recent post put in western SYW except Derek and me? Puma

    As has been said, the position of the Western Forum and it's moribund stasis can both be taken into account here.

    Although I can't give more answers concerning the past, I can conjecture on what can happen in the future. Western is, I think, one of genres which people are probably least familiar with and therefore people might not only be afraid to write it due to lack of knowledge, but also be afraid to crit it, too.

    Certainly, a more active forum will help people who are new to the genre both learn its ropes, tropes and history and enable them to both write and crit the genre. This is especially true of monthly prompt based challenges where it is considered bad form not to crit other people taking part in the prompt.
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    Retired and loving it! Puma's Avatar
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    Sorry, I don't buy the bottom of the page as being a reason the forum isn't getting attention. Before Western was split off from historical, historical was in that position. Historical may not be the fastest moving forum, but it's pretty consistent. And, since some people are posting Western stories in historical, it's very logical to sweep down the page and check them both for new posts - that's where I always go first. (And obviously what people are doing to check erotica.)

    And, the few people who are posting in Western are ones who want to revive the genre - and therefore definitely worthy of receiving attention from people who are also interested in Western. Reading / critting Western posts is not a more formidable task than critting in historical where the possible topics are much wider. (But critting in either of them is probably more difficult than critting in forums where the topics are contemporary or fantasy.)

    I looked at several of the more recent posts in Western SYW and what I see is that people from historical are critting Western as much as anyone else. There are a few others, and it appears that many of them move from Western to sci-fi/fantasy, which is interesting.

    I honestly don't see why people who say they're interested in the Western genre aren't critting what's there in SYW. Puma
    Last edited by Puma; 09-19-2011 at 07:48 PM.
    "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

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    Straw-fed HarryHoskins's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Puma View Post
    I honestly don't see why people who say they're interested in the Western genre aren't critting what's there in SYW. Puma
    Could it be fear of thread necromancy?

    Of the first ten stories in Western SYW only three were written this year and only one of those three is under six months old.

    Or could it be the 'I scratch your back theory' which states people are much more likely to crit in a genre they post their own stories for crit in?

    Either way, surely a prompt and kick starting of the forum would only be a thing.
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    As the resident cowboy round these here parts, I’m throwing in my two cents worth.
    (Disclaimer—No disrespect to anyoneJ)

    The western has always been, from the days of the Dime Novels to the Wild West Shows to the Saturday Afternoon Serials, a fantasy. In fact, the western is one of America’s only, though still in its infancy, mythologies. Yes there a great many stories and events from the time period in which the western is set, with historical facts to support them. But the legends that derive from this era will always out way the fact, and continued to be told long after the history is lost and forgotten.

    Unlike in the golden age of the western, there is a huge restriction on genre today. There is a specific period of time that one is forced stay within the boundaries of. The fantasy has gone out and what has been put in its place is historical accuracy. In other words play time is over, everyone to your seats. There is nothing wrong with historical accuracy in the genre, far from it. But let history stay in history and let the farcical or famed history stay in the western. This I think would help a great deal in reviving the genre.

    As far as bringing in more participation to the Western SYM thread, we need more fantasy and not so much history. There is already a place on AW for that. We need to be more open to whatever is created, as long as it fits into the western genre. If you have Cowboy’s verses Zombies, put it up. Let’s put the fun back into the western and get the stories flowing.

  20. #20
    Retired and loving it! Puma's Avatar
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    If you look at the three stickies in Western SYW, you can see we've tried to jump start the forum before. And we've had some darn good people involved - but it hasn't worked.

    I think one of the issues in Western is defining the genre, i.e., is it solely the old definition: "By definition, a classic Western is set in the period from 1860 to 1890. The definition can be stretched to go back to the Alamo (1836) or up to the Mexican Revolution in 1920. Westerns are usually simple morality tales written about the period of exploration and development." Simple morality tales in a specific time period, pretty clear cut definition, and usually pretty simple stories plot wise - good guy gets the bad guy, good guy wins the fair maiden, etc.

    Or, is Western anything set in the American West (which includes Canada and Mexico) in any period? How about cow-punching stories from Florida and Australia? What about space aliens over Albuquerque? Aztec gods in Montana?

    I favor the old definition, but I will be the first to admit that my Western writing stretches the classic definition (but not badly). How do agents and magazines publishing Western material define the genre? Puma

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  21. #21
    Straw-fed HarryHoskins's Avatar
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    Puma, I am aware that you do sterling work on this site and are a very knowledgeable and straight shooting guy when it comes to this genre so what I say, I say with respect.

    Quote Originally Posted by Puma View Post
    If you look at the three stickies in Western SYW, you can see we've tried to jump start the forum before. And we've had some darn good people involved - but it hasn't worked.
    I'm not denying that, but two of those stickies are taps 3 years ago and the most recent is human baby gestation months ago.

    If I was me, I would unstick those stickies and clean up the Town. Start a regular, well sign posted prompt. Perhaps launch a competition. Get people showing the Western SYW in their sig. Petition the PTB to randomize the SYW genres so people have to search through their comfort zone. Highlight what excellent Western writing there is out there and so on and so forth.

    I am sure this has all been done before but ...

    Just because good people have tried before, doesn't mean they can't try again.*


    Quote Originally Posted by Puma View Post
    I think one of the issues in Western is defining the genre...
    I think you're right and this also, in my opinion, causes people to be a little hesitant in writing and critting Westerns. Therefore, the more people get involved the more things move, the more people will get to grips with it and give it a go.


    Quote Originally Posted by Puma View Post
    I favor the old definition, but I will be the first to admit that my Western writing stretches the classic definition (but not badly).


    With all due respect, I feel this is why you are being reticent. It probably doesn't help that the last Western thing I wrote was
    This; but I hope you can see that I posted that in Interstices to avoid sullying the Western SYW and I was certainly at the extreme end of the Western wedge there.

    With that said, I do agree with Daniel that things should expand and move forward. After all, the Western (certainly in film) is the vehicle that America used to use to discuss both its history and its contemporary issues. So why shouldn't it reflect this in its boundaries?

    This tension between the classic and the modern Western doesn't have to an awkward one. Prompts can focus on the classic and the modern. The two can sit side by side and both compliment and, by virtue of difference, bring new ideas and fresh approaches.

    This does not have to change the classic Western, but, hopefully, would put new eyes on it and reinvigorate interest in it.


    Quote Originally Posted by Puma View Post
    How do agents and magazines publishing Western material define the genre?
    This I do not know; however, if film is anything to go by, they want something good - be it old or new style - and they want something fresh - be it old or new style - and they want something saleable.

    I think this can only happen if people are practicing writing and critting the Western genre.

    And people can only do that if they get engaged with it.


    *How's that for a prompt.
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    Retired and loving it! Puma's Avatar
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    Comment first to Dan: you mentioned that we already have a place for historical; we also have a place for zombies, so I don't see putting zombies in Westerns as the answer. I do think you are smack on in mentioning that the Western genre and stories have been one of the only sources of American mythology (other than things like the Uncle Remus stories). And that's what's being missed by the neglect of Western as a genre. Bring on the legend of the Superstition Mine, etc.

    Harry, I'm all for unstickying a bunch of ancient threads here and elsewhere on AW. I turn kind of green when I click on a forum and half the first page is stickies. It's no wonder people don't look at them - way too many.

    I'm not sure about trying to go with classic and modern westerns. I cannot properly crit or even read a post that makes me see red which is exactly what happens when someone throws in something that is totally incongruous - like discovering an iceberg in a lake in the middle of the Mohave or Egyptian hieroglyphics in the depths of a gold mine. I'm too much of a realist.
    Puma
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  23. #23
    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    I'm approaching this from a much simpler angle.

    1) I'm trying to write something. My personal goal.

    2) I'm curious to see how much interest the prompts will actually generate -- who will write, who will post, who will comment, etc.

    3) I'm curious to see if this activity can become regular.

    4) I'm curious to see if it will attract interest, beyond the handful of semi-regulars posting in this thread.

    If the stone starts rolling and keeps rolling, well and good. If it grinds to a halt, no harm done. But until we know, speculation about how folks will respond to the prompts, and whether stories that haven't been written yet will turn out to be traditional, historical, cross-genre, etc. doesn't seem to be adding momentum.

    Meanwhile, I'm at step 1) above.

    -Derek

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    Straw-fed HarryHoskins's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaterso View Post
    Meanwhile, I'm at step 1) above.
    Me too, Sheriff.

    So, who else is step one?
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    Retired and loving it! Puma's Avatar
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    Derek, I think the solution is for you to pick one - prompt that is and see what happens. We can talk all day and get nowhere.

    (The ghost story challenge we had a couple years back was a good one and got a lot of posts. I bumped mine in SYW, by the way.)

    I'm not currently trying to write anything that's fictional. I am treading water waiting for some work due in and after it's done I might think about writing something fictional, but no guarantees. Puma
    Last edited by Puma; 09-20-2011 at 07:52 PM.
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