Tips for Writing an Epic Western Part 3: The Final Roundup
Howdy Pardners! I reckon y’all are doing fine on this beautiful March morning. For my part, I can smell the coffee pot Cookie has simmering over the campfire. The wind is gently blowing through the sage, and my Pinto is softly neighing for me to bring her some grass. My bedroll is strapped behind the saddle, and the stars are just about to go to bed for the night. I just turned my boots over and dumped out the sand that somehow always seems to accumulate in the toes overnight. I also shake them out in the mornings to prevent scorpion stings- or bites from a number of critters who might find their way inside these comfy boots. As I yawn and stretch, feeling a warm morning sun rest on my face, I scan the walls of this ravine. All looks good; no sign of Comancheros. We had indeed picked a good place to camp last night.
Location for your Western is nearly as important to the storyline as characters are. Location helps dictate the action your characters take. Whether parts of your story take place inside a saloon or out on the High Plains, the places your characters visit, live in, and avoid are the stages upon which your Western drama comes to life. It is important to remember that many towns during the westward expansion era were little more than a couple of shacks located around some feature of the landscape…the foot of a mountain, a lake, a stream, or even near a trade route crossroads. Sure, towns like San Francisco blossomed during the mid- 1800’s, but many of the larger cities we’re familiar with today weren’t even considered towns yet. This is yet another time when doing some research is essential for authors who wish to write an authentic and accurate story. Because ranches, churches, banks, train stations, and sheriff offices provide the backdrop in many stories of this genre, it will help you out to understand how your characters will act and interact in these spaces.
If you aren’t very familiar with natural landscapes, the time to learn about them is now. There are unique and specialized plants and animals in the west and southwest which will lend themselves to helping you create a more realistic voice throughout your narrative. Describing natural landscape features will help you evoke images of the Western spirit so many people longed to experience. One additional piece of advice I would like to offer is this: learn about Native American tribes. The Native American tribes were essential players in U.S. history. Make sure you honor their history and heritage in your story- and the best way to do this is to know where they lived, how they lived, and how they coexisted with the land. Your landscapes will become the canvas upon which you’ll paint your vivid imagery and amazing tale.
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Well, there you have it, pardners. You are now prepared to write the next epic Western novel. May your skies stay blue, the winds stay at your back, and your dreams of sweet Adaline (or Andy) keep you as warm as the campfire near which you lie. Happy Trails.