“The Western Challenge”
For submission the week ending Sunday, 6th May.
Challenge: To write in the western genre.
Word Count: 2500 words
- Please ensure your story is clearly labelled ‘FGC’ along with the challenge number and the story name in the title of your blog post. Example: [FGC #13] My True Grit.
- Note the word count at the bottom of your entry.
- Submit your story via the Mr Linky Widget. Stories linked in the comments section will be INELIGIBLE for judging consideration.
- Leave a comment below.
- Tweet your story with the hashtag #FGC2012
- Go forth and enjoy the writerly goodness of your fellow contributors and consider placing a vote in the Readers’ Choice Award and tweeting your favourite story on Friday with #fridayreads or Sunday with #sundayreads
- Readers’ Choice Poll opens 01:00 GMT(UCT) Monday
Unfamiliar with the form or genre? Each week we’ll give you some pointers to help you find your feet. This week, Write Anything’s own Icy Sedgwick gives her top tips to help you saddle up and tackle the western genre.
Writing Westerns might seem, at first glance, to be no different from any other historical fiction. After all, it’s a real historical period, with archives of information, photographs and memoirs just waiting to be explored. However, unlike other periods, the Old West has taken on almost mythic status, and it’s all too easy to fall into cliché and stereotype. If you think slightly outside the box, you give your story the best chance to be something bigger than that from the word go.
- Consider characters beyond that of the cowboy, the marshal or the proverbial ‘tart with a heart’ saloon girl. The Old West had mountain men, traders, ranch hands and homesteaders, not to mention the indigenous people of North America. Heck, you could look at carpetbaggers or the travelling freak shows, if that’s your bent. They all have stories to tell, if you’re willing to listen.
- Decide on your setting before you begin, and do your research. Was it a mining area, or ranch country? When was the area settled, and when did the railroad arrive? Who lived there before the settlers, and what was the climate like? Want to involve the Pinkertons, or the Feds? Check when such agencies were established first. Don’t forget to use Google Earth to check out the terrain.
- Most Westerns follow a fairly typical format—watch any movie and you’ll see a familiar thread through the stories. If you want to tell one of these stories, that’s fine, but be aware that the Western is a genre that plays very well with others. Western noir, horror Westerns and even sci-fi Westerns can all be successful if you’re brave enough to combine the different elements!
- Read what’s out there. Watch the movies. The Western has built up a vast library of literature and films over the years, and it’s all there to be enjoyed! As with any genre, the more familiar you are with its conventions, the easier you’ll find it to write it—and to avoid the stereotypes. You have to know the rules before you can break them!
- Don’t forget the principles for writing good fiction. Just because you’re writing within the confines of a genre doesn’t mean you can ignore sparky dialogue, solid characters or clear narrative. The story comes first every time—the generic conventions should just be set dressing!