For the Writers: Describing the Western Fiction Character

Writers Describe the Character

[ReviewAZON asin=”B00188BD7W” display=”inlinepost”]The character in a western fiction novel may not have to conform to any particular description of his or her features (though that can help the story, if you do), but if you want to lend serious credibility to your character, as a writer, you’ll put some descriptions into the tale that conforms to the period as well as to the culture, and to the kind of work ordinarily done by the character, or work he used to do.

For writers, there are many ways to put images of your character into the mind of your reader. Here are some of the ways this writer did it in a western fiction novel entitled Bloody Wes Teague:

Writers & The Omniscient Perspective

He came out of the mist, riding slow on a smoke gray stallion, his yellow slicker moist, its shine dulled with age and dirt that would never wash away. He was a powerful looking man, with that lean, easy look about him that suggested quickness and danger. His face was darkened by hundreds of blistering suns and his pale blue eyes took in everything with a perpetual squint. His name was Weston Teague. Down in Texas, they used to call him “Bloody” Teague.

He wore a cattleman’s suit beneath the slicker and his boots were not the usual ones he wore for riding. These were made of the softest of calf skin, darkened and polished to a deep brown. The careful observer would have seen pants with a laundry press and shine to them.

Writers Can Show the Good, Bad & the Ugly

Here, the writer has painted a picture. The image that springs to the reader’s mind is one of a strong, virile man who belonged to the West. The reader comes away with a picture of that man, and it’s a strong, positive image. Of course, you may want to paint a picture of a “bad man” in your book. Certainly if there are going to be villains in a book, the writer must describe that villain so as to make the reader aware that this is indeed, a “bad man.” In short, the writer has  to put enough word art into the  story that the reader comes away with a picture of someone who is indeed, “bad.”

Writers can take a different omniscient perspective, like this one

The leader was a quiet, brooding man, rib lean, with clothes that looked as though they had never seen the touch of water. Walter “Fish” Johnson was twenty-seven, but his eyes said he was older, much older. He was sitting on his throne at the moment, a small orange crate, cleaning his fingernails with a slender, wicked-looking knife, long, and with a needle sharp point.

Writers Show A Character Through the Eyes of Another Character

Sometimes, you want to have your reader see a character through the eyes of another character. Here, from that same novel, is a sample of how it’s done:

McIntosh took a deep breath, wanting desperately to slam Johnson in the gut. However, the naked blade in the man’s hand and the instinctive fear he felt for Johnson stopped him. There was something soul-less and desperate, something deadly about Johnson, and McIntosh felt it and shivered in spite of himself.

Writers can use the character he’s created to describe himself:

He felt the coldness rising up in him as all the details surrounding him sharpened and his senses came to full alert. Nothing showed on his face. It was as still and hard as the boulders on the side of the road and his eyes narrowed. And, he felt something rise up in him, a cold, calculated anger. These men represented the kind of men who’d destroyed his life as they’d no doubted destroyed the lives of others. Weston Teague suddenly wanted these men to seek his life. He was glad they were here. He wanted to kill them.

Writers, use your words carefully, but do use them. Make them come from the omniscient perspective, from the character, or from other characters, or even from their actions in a particular scene. Good writers always allow the characters freedom to be who they are, who the writer created. They must be permitted to act within the parameters the writer has developed.

Writers who want to write western fiction, or for that matter, any other kind of fiction, really must study their craft, and some may want to get tools made especially for writers, such as a tool like Dragon Naturally Speaking. But, to really make a writer’s story interesting, a writer has to have interesting characters. Only those writers who master that aspect of writing will put out the really good stories.


Watch Western Movies on the Kindle Fire

Kindle Fire a great device to watch Western Movies

The new Kindle Fire is going to be the hottest device on the market for Christmas. I like it for watching one of my favorite  genres of movies: westerns. Amazon has over 8 million movies, books, videos and magazines available for the new Kindle Fire. It is a color tablet that is very, very fast. If you’d like to make a gift to your Dad or Grandpa, this is the device to get him, but buy a few movies and some western fiction books that he’ll enjoy with it.

Watch Hondo in full color!

Kindle Fire – Price is right at $199.00

The price of the Kindle makes it a great value. It will do the work of the Kindle Reader and much more. It is a tablet. It’s not really in competition with the Ipad. It’s essentially the perfect device to seamlessly move the user into the Amazon world, making their products available with the touch of a finger on the screen.

Kindle Fire – Browser makes faster surfing

The new, imbedded browser called Silk, is great, and faster than anything out there. It is seamlessly integrated into the Amazon system so that downloading and watching a movie could not be easier.

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ON WESTERN-FANTASY NOVELS

Steven S. Drachman

My new novel, The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh, features a hero born in 1842.  A former orphan of New York’s slums, and a Civil War veteran, Watt O’Hugh does what many young desperate men from the 19th century East did – he goes West. He works on a cattle run, fights a range war, becomes a dime novel hero, then an outlaw, all the time determined to save Lucy Billings, the socialite-with-a-past whom he loved and lost in New York City before the War. I carefully researched the history and delivered a rip-roaring Western adventure.

So far so good, except that I also delivered a novel filled with what I like to call the magic of the old West.  So, while one blogger calls my book “a Western with some flashy fantasy heels,” an Amazon reviewer stated flatly, “Despite the cover art and the main settings, this isn’t really a ‘western’ or ‘cowboy’ book … It’s sci-fi and fantasy mixed up in the vein of Vonnegut.” He liked it,  but to like it, he had to deny that it was a Western.

Is Watt O’Hugh a “real” Western? And, more importantly to those of us who love and revere Westerns, is the mini-trend in which I am playing a small role – mixing a Western setting with science fiction/fantasy elements (or even with magical realism, á la Gabriel García Márquez) – good or bad for the survival of the genre?

Let’s face facts – many people think of “Westerns” only as something they don’t read or like, without really knowing why. Many agents and editors in Jeff Herman’s definitive guide list “Westerns” as the only genre they won’t even consider, and one reason I went the Indie route was my trepidation over the idea of even trying to sell a Western to editors in 2011. (I really should have added some vampires!)

Why did stories about the West between 1860 and 1900 win their own “genre” in the first place? New York during that same period was a fascinating place, and while it has inspired more than a few great novels (think The Alienist and A Winter’s Tale), it cannot lay claim to its own genre. (Or for that matter, Paris between, say, 1690 and 1735.) But Westerns are more than a time and place. They are Arthurian legends of roaming knights in a lawless land, updated first for Eastern dime-novel readers in a 19th century staggering through a boom and bust economy, and then for War-shocked movie audiences dreaming in the ‘teens and ‘20s of what was already a heroic, mythical past. Douglas Fairbanks fondly lampooned this trend way back in 1917, in his Western spoof, Wild and Woolly.

A real Western must have a respect for historical accuracy mixed with a recognition of the American myths of the last hundred-fifty years. But no matter how much we may deconstruct them, and no matter how grounded in fact, Westerns – like pirate stories, or the Knights of the Round Table before them – are myths. The further the old West drifts from living memory, the more fantastic, magical and impossible even its truths will seem.

Available on Kindle and Nook and paperback

Steven S. Drachman has written on film for The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Village Voice, Entertainment Weekly, The Chicago Sun-Times and The Boston Phoenix. You can read more about his novel at http://www.Watt-OHugh.com. (He would not mind if you bought it.)

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Kruger’s Gold – Book Review| South Africa Boers

(description)
Boer War – South Africa – 1902

Canadian Lt. Harry Lanyard, British Army, leads a mounted patrol of hard-bitten Colonial troopers into the veld to recover $10-million worth of gold bullion hidden by President Paul Kruger during the Second Anglo-Boer War.

To do it, Lanyard must battle tough burgher commandos, murderous bandits, hostile civilians, and an enemy spy sworn to kill him, while his own men have turned mutinous. He also strives to regain the love of his Boer-American ex-sweetheart who now is allied with a ruthless Czarist secret agent.

Based on many actual events, KRUGER’S GOLD is meticulously researched in historical details. It reveals the horrors of concentration camps and ruthless guerrilla fighting, while innocent civilians and black Africans suffer during the “last of the gentlemens’ wars”.

Cover illustration, “Saving the guns at Liliefontein”, by Peter Archer, courtesy of the Regimental Trust, Royal Canadian Dragoons.

Krugers Gold

BOOK REVIEW:

“Kruger’s Gold: A novel of the Anglo-Boer War” by Sidney Allinson.

Quite simply a wonderful book

Reviewer: R. Cox, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Sidney Allinson’s books are surprises. They can start off unassumingly and build up to rip snorting sagas of ceaseless adventure. In his finest work yet, Allinson doesn’t even start off slowly. “Kruger’s Gold” grips the reader at once and the pace never slows. As I read this action tale of the struggle a century ago between South Africa’s Boers, and England and her “colonials,” I was repeatedly struck with the idea this would be and should be a wonderful movie. Allinson’s experience as a television producer may have given him that hot-shot cameraman’s “eye” or it could simply be that any good yarn so stirringly told lends itself to theatre in the best sense. Well delineated male and female characters live out their intertwined destinies, amid authentic combat descriptions galore, balanced by gentle interludes, and lyrical descriptions of Southern Africa.

On these pages, a segment of history that was soon obscured by two ensuing, bloodier world wars leaps to life. It is really the twilight of an era, with Europeans jostling for power and position and, in this case in particular, South African gold Allinson fills in the historical perspective while following a Canadian soldier and his colonial troops who, late in the war, have been assigned to find the legendary government cache of gold that departing Prime Minister Paul Kruger was said to have stashed before leaving in 1900 for virtual exile in Europe.

Allinson writes sympathetically of the brilliant Boer commandos fighting to retain their homeland and their way of life. His story is not overly revisionist: the Boers have seized this land from the native tribes, after all, and even the most principled among them want to keep the blacks and “coloureds” in their place, lest their vast numbers overwhelm the white settlers. Even through the more politically-correct prism of today, we must admire the self reliance of these men whose surprise tactics and talented marksmanship enabled them to strike at the enemy, melt away into the bush, and return to attack another day. Many if not most of the men have lost wives and children to the war; yet, while they can be ruthless, they treat surrendered prisoners with a decency and respect that arouses a sense of nostalgia in the reader. Their English counterparts do as well with their own prisoners.

The book reveals unpalatable facts about both sides, including the racism of Boers, and an unblinking description of the British concentration camps where stranded Boer families and prisoners were placed to wait out the war. Allinson paints a grim picture of these horrors where women and children and some men languished in filthy conditions with poor diets and disease and death dogging every step. A few selfless medical workers do their best, but there are no facilities and their supplies are woefully inadequate.

No less than four romances in the book provide a lusty and pleasing counterpoint to military derring-do . Even the horses get to play a heart-warming role. And throughout the book, Allinson has peppered the story with fascinating historical minutiae, such as the Boer heroine not being allowed to play ragtime music, then the rage, because it was produced by black performers.

Read this book. It is a treat. — R. Cox.

About the Author

Sidney Allinson is a Canadian novelist and military historian, author of six books, film scripts, and numerous magazine articles. His military history, “The Bantams: The Untold Story of World War I,” was highly acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic. He wrote “Jeremy Kane” a Canadian historical adventure novel of the 1837 Mackenzie Rebellion and its brutal aftermath in the Australian penal colonies. Sidney Allinson served overseas with the Royal Air Force, was creative director of two international advertising agencies, and communications policy advisor to the Ontario Government. He is a past director of the Royal Canadian Military Institute, and received the Boulter Award for outstanding writing. Born in England, a long-time resident of Toronto, he now lives in Victoria, British Columbia, working on a novel about the 1942 Dieppe Raid. E-mail:   allsid [@] shaw.ca

Vancouver, BC, Canada

Sidney Allinson’s books are surprises. They can start off unassumingly and build up to rip snorting sagas of ceaseless adventure. In his finest work yet, Allinson doesn’t even start off slowly. “Kruger’s Gold” grips the reader at once and the pace never slows. As I read this action tale of the struggle a century ago between South Africa’s Boers, and England and her “colonials,” I was repeatedly struck with the idea this would be and should be a wonderful movie. Allinson’s experience as a television producer may have given him that hot-shot cameraman’s “eye” or it could simply be that any good yarn so stirringly told lends itself to theatre in the best sense. Well delineated male and female characters live out their intertwined destinies, amid authentic combat descriptions galore, balanced by gentle interludes, and lyrical descriptions of Southern Africa.

On these pages, a segment of history that was soon obscured by two ensuing, bloodier world wars leaps to life. It is really the twilight of an era, with Europeans jostling for power and position and, in this case in particular, South African gold Allinson fills in the historical perspective while following a Canadian soldier and his colonial troops who, late in the war, have been assigned to find the legendary government cache of gold that departing Prime Minister Paul Kruger was said to have stashed before leaving in 1900 for virtual exile in Europe.

Allinson writes sympathetically of the brilliant Boer commandos fighting to retain their homeland and their way of life. His story is not overly revisionist: the Boers have seized this land from the native tribes, after all, and even the most principled among them want to keep the blacks and “coloureds” in their place, lest their vast numbers overwhelm the white settlers. Even through the more politically-correct prism of today, we must admire the self reliance of these men whose surprise tactics and talented marksmanship enabled them to strike at the enemy, melt away into the bush, and return to attack another day. Many if not most of the men have lost wives and children to the war; yet, while they can be ruthless, they treat surrendered prisoners with a decency and respect that arouses a sense of nostalgia in the reader. Their English counterparts do as well with their own prisoners.

The book reveals unpalatable facts about both sides, including the racism of Boers, and an unblinking description of the British concentration camps where stranded Boer families and prisoners were placed to wait out the war. Allinson paints a grim picture of these horrors where women and children and some men languished in filthy conditions with poor diets and disease and death dogging every step. A few selfless medical workers do their best, but there are no facilities and their supplies are woefully inadequate.

No less than four romances in the book provide a lusty and pleasing counterpoint to military derring-do . Even the horses get to play a heart-warming role. And throughout the book, Allinson has peppered the story with fascinating historical minutiae, such as the Boer heroine not being allowed to play ragtime music, then the rage, because it was produced by black performers.

Read this book. It is a treat.         — R. Cox.