Writing a Western story - tips or advice?

storywriter24

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hi i was intrested in wrting a western story any body got any tips or advice ?
 
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dpaterso

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It's a story, same as every other story, except for its setting. What did you have in mind? Have you got the spark?

I think/hope these links are in one of the sticky info threads... if not, maybe they should be. They're just some of the many resources out there, maybe you found them yourself already.

https://rachelleramirez.com/how-to-write-a-western/
How to Write a Western
Do you want to write a story that evokes the feeling of a period of time lost forever, of a way of life dwindling faster than your protagonist can or will adjust? Does the idea of a creating a story set in the old American frontier rouse your imagination? Then come with me on a journey of learning about the Western. Let’s get to the lonely heart of the stories that combine Crime, the individual’s relationship to Society, and the Action of an old-time hero’s reluctant moral dilemma.

https://www.standoutbooks.com/3-golden-rules-writing-western/
The 3 Golden Rules Of Writing A Western
Westerns are a strange genre of fiction. They’re generally set in one place, deal with one kind of character and utilize a specific but limited aesthetic language. At first glance, it seems like such a specific setup that this fully fledged genre should actually be just a niche interest. Cowboys on their horses always seem to belong to the generation before, yet the Western never really leaves, with constant new films, novels and video games published in the genre year after year.

https://medium.com/@brianrowe_70270/how-to-write-a-kick-ass-western-b8a5524ce61c
How to Write a Kick-Ass Western
Using the 2007 western remake 3:10 to Yuma to examine the western genre in storytelling.

https://worddreams.wordpress.com/2014/06/02/10-tips-for-western-writers/
6 Tips for Western Fiction Writers
If you love books by Louis L’Amour, A.B. Guthrie (The Big Sky and The Way West) or Elmore Leonard (3:10 to Yuma), you may be a western fiction writer. In a nutshell, Western fiction deals with life and times of the American Wild West, mostly mid- to late- 1800’s. It used to be wildly popular, but is now less so, though those who follow it are eager for new, authentic publications.

-Derek
 
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RBEmerson

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Read! Read! Read! Read the good stuff, the bad stuff, read everything you can! Movies! Watch! Watch! Watch! (well, contemporary TV if you must) Old Lone Ranger episodes are easy to find on YouTube as well as seemingly any Spaghetti Western ever shot. Some of the "rips" are about as low res as possible, but some are 720 or even 1080 res (Good!). I recommend "The Traded" for about as gritty for a recent production as any. Not Sam Peckinpah grade violence (thank goodness!), but... anyway. Some have "name" actors, many don't but so what. Lee Van Cleef films are often better than expected (the "bad" in the The Good, The Bad, The Ugly).

IMHO, Tom Selleck appeared in and produced some superior work, even Quigley Down Under, worth chasing down.

Why is something a good whatever? Why is it so bad you'd throw it at a passing car? What do you respond to? What leaves you "no way in h***"? Do not, not, not decide solely on who's in the film or who wrote the book. Decide on the story, of course, but it's the details that count.

Bad news - there are only The Seven Plots in the world. Bill Shakespeare, Aristophanes, Steven King, Max Brand, that's it. That's the show. But somehow the manga still come out, Romeo and Juliet, Hondo, and It see the light of day. It's how you dress the plots, mix and match them, that counts.

Read! Watch! Write!
 

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I'd say to try and do something as new as you can. Write it in a unique style, put a weird, psychedelic spin on it, mash part of another genre in there; whatever you can think of, there's been so many bog-standard Westerns that whenever I pick a new story up in the genre I'm looking for what makes it different this time around!

Good luck! Hope your words come easy.
 
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Timbrian

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When I write my stories, I try and find a good story worth telling. Good stories and locations make a good western. Just my two cents worth.
 
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RBEmerson

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@dpaterso wrote "[A Western] is a story, same as every other story, except for its setting".

I beg to differ.

OK, there are The Seven Basic Plots that are at the core of anything that hits the page, stage, or screen. So what. Putting Achilles under a Stetson, letting Chekov hang a Colt 1873 Army model revolver on the wall, putting Iron Man on "a fiery horse with the speed of light" doth not a Western make. Max Brand, Elmore Leonard, et al. also only have those seven basic plots to start from. Nonetheless, The Odyssey isn't likely to be confused for 3:10 to Yuma.

The distinction is a core philosophy, mind set that is unique to the Western. Setting definitely influences, even creates, where the mind set comes from, but it's not definitive.

For example, although set in the Australian outback, Quigley Down Under is a Western story (the film is an American cowboy takes a job on an Australian cattle [ranch]. The tension between Western Mathew Quigley and Australian/British Elliot Marston propels the story. The final scene between Quigley and Marston is nothing but Western. (further discussion of QDU requires a "spoiler alert")
 

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@dpaterso wrote "[A Western] is a story, same as every other story, except for its setting".

I beg to differ.

OK, there are The Seven Basic Plots that are at the core of anything that hits the page, stage, or screen. So what. Putting Achilles under a Stetson, letting Chekov hang a Colt 1873 Army model revolver on the wall, putting Iron Man on "a fiery horse with the speed of light" doth not a Western make. Max Brand, Elmore Leonard, et al. also only have those seven basic plots to start from. Nonetheless, The Odyssey isn't likely to be confused for 3:10 to Yuma.

The distinction is a core philosophy, mind set that is unique to the Western. Setting definitely influences, even creates, where the mind set comes from, but it's not definitive.

For example, although set in the Australian outback, Quigley Down Under is a Western story (the film is an American cowboy takes a job on an Australian cattle [ranch]. The tension between Western Mathew Quigley and Australian/British Elliot Marston propels the story. The final scene between Quigley and Marston is nothing but Western. (further discussion of QDU requires a "spoiler alert")

Why couldn't the Odyssey be reimagined as a Western? A soldier making his way back home faces many enemies, while his wife defends herself and their property from those who would take both for their own.
 

mccardey

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Bad news - there are only The Seven Plots in the world.
Note to self: When people say this sort of thing, just take a big breath and think about something else for a while. Or go and do some gardening.

Or go and find that old Which Is Best, Literary or Genre? thread. :devilish: Because that was fun
 
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CMBright

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On one level, a story is a story is a story. Format (words on a page, TV/Movie) doesn't matter. Genre doesn't matter.

On another level, every genre has its own quirks, conventions, tropes and cliches.

It is honoring the genre conventions while telling a story that makes a Western a Western or a Mystery a Mystery or an SF/F an SF/F. As originally written, no, The Odessy is not a Western, but there is no reason why someone couldn't do a Western reinterpretation of it.

Is there a reason why this thread started in 2019 and sleeping since 2021 (other than one post ~3 months ago) is awakening?
 

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Why couldn't the Odyssey be reimagined as a Western? A soldier making his way back home faces many enemies, while his wife defends herself and their property from those who would take both for their own.
No reason on earth why it couldn't be re-imagined in a Western form. It's "The Quest" plot, after all. I don't have enough fingers and toes to count the Westerns that involve quests. My point was only the original version isn't a Western solely by virtue of using the same plot basis as a myriad of Western stories.
 
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Note to self: When people say this sort of thing, just take a big breath and think about something else for a while. Or go and do some gardening.

Or go and find that old Which Is Best, Literary or Genre? thread. :devilish: Because that was fun
When you're done with your garden, we've got a patch what needs a mite o' attention. [/ wink & laugh]
 

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On one level, a story is a story is a story. Format (words on a page, TV/Movie) doesn't matter. Genre doesn't matter.

On another level, every genre has its own quirks, conventions, tropes and cliches.

It is honoring the genre conventions while telling a story that makes a Western a Western or a Mystery a Mystery or an SF/F an SF/F. As originally written, no, The Odessy is not a Western, but there is no reason why someone couldn't do a Western reinterpretation of it.

Is there a reason why this thread started in 2019 and sleeping since 2021 (other than one post ~3 months ago) is awakening?
Amen, and right on. [/ big smile]

Mea culpa for resurrecting the thread. I'm actively procrastinating on my current WIP(sic).
 

mccardey

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When you're done with your garden, we've got a patch what needs a mite o' attention. [/ wink & laugh]
I will bring my boots, my shovel, and a well-developed polemic about Literary v Genre.

If we disagree on that, I'll be the one with the boots and the shovel. :evil
 
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Unimportant

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I reckon any story can be re-imagined and repurposed into almost any other genre. I recall once reading a hard core SF story that was -- okay, here's where I show my ignorance and bad memory -- the Shakespeare play where the guy drips poison into the other guy's ear.

But every genre, as noted above, has its expectations. Pretty hard to imagine a Western without horses!
 

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So, maybe there are only a few bits of plot to start with, the magic is in how they're used.

Or, only twelve notes to a (western) musical scale. Somehow, Johann Sebastian Bach doesn't sound quite like Kurt Cobain, even if they're both stuck with those same twelve notes. Again, the magic's in how they're used. [/ smile]

The ground around here's darn near saturated, bring your boots. LOL
 
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RBEmerson

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I reckon any story can be re-imagined and repurposed into almost any other genre. I recall once reading a hard core SF story that was -- okay, here's where I show my ignorance and bad memory -- the Shakespeare play where the guy drips poison into the other guy's ear.

But every genre, as noted above, has its expectations. Pretty hard to imagine a Western without horses!
I'm going to go way, way out on a limb and say Will Kane, in High Noon, doesn't really count on a horse. Yes, he and the missus do go for a carriage/buggy ride, but count it as window dressing.
 

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carriage/buggy ride, but count it as window dressing.
Dude, I used to drive horse drawn carriages for a living. Them's fightin' words! I'll see you at the OK corral, mister.

ETA: and I wield a mighty fierce rolling pin, buster! Take that!
 
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Helix

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The distinction is a core philosophy, mind set that is unique to the Western. Setting definitely influences, even creates, where the mind set comes from, but it's not definitive.

For example, although set in the Australian outback, Quigley Down Under is a Western story (the film is an American cowboy takes a job on an Australian cattle [ranch]. The tension between Western Mathew Quigley and Australian/British Elliot Marston propels the story. The final scene between Quigley and Marston is nothing but Western. (further discussion of QDU requires a "spoiler alert")

So what is this philosophy that distinguishes a Western story from other genres? Quigley was released in 1990, so spoil away. You can always use a spoiler tag, if you're worried.
 

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Dude, I used to drive horse drawn carriages for a living. Them's fightin' words! I'll see you at the OK corral, mister.

ETA: and I wield a mighty fierce rolling pin, buster! Take that!
A tip o' my Resistol for managing horse drawn carriages. "Di'n't mean nuthin' by 'window dressing'." :)

The point is putting characters on horses doesn't make a story a Western. Don't quite see Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe as a Western, for instance.
 
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RBEmerson

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So what is this philosophy that distinguishes a Western story from other genres? Quigley was released in 1990, so spoil away. You can always use a spoiler tag, if you're worried.
YouTube obligingly came up with exactly the QDU scenes I had in mind when I mentioned the film. If there was ever a demonstration of "Chekov's gun", this is it. The gun is hung on the wall early in the film, and definitely used in the third act. Oh my, yes it is!

So... watch the video, and let's go on once that's done.
 
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Helix

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YouTube obligingly came up with exactly the QDU scenes I had in mind when I mentioned the film. If there was ever a demonstration of "Chekov's gun", this is it. The gun is hung on the wall early in the film, and definitely used in the third act. Oh my, yes it is!

So... watch the video, and let's go on once that's done.

Oh, a duel. Something that's been going on since firearms were invented.

ETA: and long before, because swords
 
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SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!

Nope - not the duel, per se. As you say, duels are old news. Whether it's photons, gunpowder, steel, bronze, or stones, BTDT.

At the start of the "Colt quote" dinner scene, Quigley says "wellsir, never had much use for [a handgun]". Simple statement of fact, but it also says a lot about who Quigley is (see the scene, almost at the start of the film, of leaving the ship for another statement of who Quigley is - watch how he manages who leaves the ship first, and keep in mind that the order of people leaving is... well, Western). Note that Marston assumes, based on Quigley's reply, Quigley doesn't know about handguns. Throughout the film, Marston cannot, or will not, recognize who Quigley is at his core.

"This ain't Dodge City, and you ain't Bill Hickok" is as fair a warning can be given. Marston tries to make his play, and O'Flynn, Marston, and Dobkin are shot, in that order. (Remember O'Flynn and Dobkin don't have to draw, just aim and shoot. IMHO, Dobkin's the one I'd have worried about most, with Marston second. O'Flynn is a sad case - if he hadn't been holding a gun, Quigley probably would have turned O'Flynn over his knee, spanked O'Flynn, and sent him home to his mommy)

The last thing Marston hears is pure Western: "Said I didn't have much use for [a Colt revolver]. Never said I didn't know how to use one." It's not the gun, it's the plain, quiet self-assurance, and utter trustworthiness that's quintessential Western.

Quigley doesn't gloat about out-shooting Marston & Co. If anything I take it that he's sorry he had to kill them, but he did what had to be done. He warned Marston off, Marston persisted, and...

"He did what had to be done" is another facet of what makes a story a Western. There's no carrying on, proclaiming and declaiming, no flash and razzle dazzle. Quigley does what has to be done, and he does it alone.
 
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