Thursday, December 17, 2020

Go West, Old Man

 The Western novel lingers. I set it aside when I got stuck, then the current Penns River story took precedence. I thought to look west between Penns River drafts but was asked to contribute to an anthology, which was well worth the diversion. I have high hopes for the project.

 A couple of weekends ago The Beloved Spouse and I spent an evening with Clint Eastwood’s masterpiece, Unforgiven. The story bears no resemblance to mine except for the time period and general geographic are, but it put the bug in me. Every couple of days since then I find myself reaching for the journal or opening Scrivener to add notes. If nothing else, I figured out what was holding me up.

 A year or so ago I came across half a dozen writing tips from Edith Wharton that sum up what my problem had been.

1.     Know your scope. The original plan was to write a book about a town cobbled out of four ranches, and the frictions that ensued. This was too broad. The real story concerns the interactions of a town marshal, his protégé, and a federal who comes to town in pursuit of a fugitive.

2.     Do less, better. I’m narrowing the scope to sharpen the focus.

3.     Lead with your characters. Whatever goes on in town must support the three main characters in some way, which means I need to create fully realized settings and subordinate characters who help add depth to the big three.

4.     Dialog is where you learn most about your characters. This I already had pretty well under control.

5.     Create peaks and valleys. I had them, but they were random. Pushing the emphasis more toward the three major characters will help with this.

6.     Have a point. I had one when I started but it became diffused. Writing about a town can show certain qualities of the people, but focusing on the people allows a point to be made more relatable.

 I’m changing the name of the town, and the title. The town, formerly called “Necessity” because the founding ranchers desperately needed something to provide them with economies of scale on the Wyoming prairie, is now called “Savior Springs” after a wagon train that got lost was saved from dying of thirst by the source of water and decided they’d gone far enough. (I suspect in time I’ll come up with a reason for the town to prosper, at least enough to support the story.)

 The title, which was to be “Necessity, Wyoming Territory,” (about the town, right?) will now be “Lawmen.” That’s who it’s about now, with the added benefit of having more of a Western sound to it. I’m revved up to get the next draft of the WIP done so I can get back to this.

 Good thing I’ll be retired in a couple of weeks.

No comments: