Western Fiction Characters Diverse
Writers of western fiction vary in their treatment of characters, especially the lead characters and the villians. Zane Grey, for example, always portrayed the hero as this solitary figure, typically with a past, taciturn to a fault, and possessed of sterling character when it comes to women, particularly the heroine that he is destined to rescue or protect.
Louis L’Amour made his protaganists strong, virile men, suited to the rugged environment in which he found himself. L’Amour’s hero also was a man good with a gun and possessed of honesty and solid moral character. But, his main characters often had something else. They had family that were strong and had great influence on them and how they turned out. L’Amour was good about that. The Sackett series if a good example of how L’Amour tied in the family to his stories. It made the reader feel almost like they knew the family, and they liked them. When a Sackett showed up, the reader wanted to like him because L’Amour had painted such a great picture about the family and had built up the strengths that ran in the family.
Max Brand is a writer of western fiction that many modern readers of westerns are ignorant. Frederick Schiller Faust wrote under the pen name of Max Brand and his westerns became best sellers across the land. He was known for taking a character, giving him the most unlikely of characteristics for a hero, then bestowing the character with prowess unmatched in weapons, or strength, or endurance, or a combination of qualities that turned the character into a formidble opponent for all “badmen.”
Some Writers of Western Fiction Better Than Others with their Characters
When one reads a western by any writer, realize that you’re reading something that comes from the imagination of the writer, and you’re viewing a picture of a man or woman who has been shaped with words by that writer into a character that the writer felt was appropriate for the times and the environment. Sometimes (as with Brand), the characters are pure fantasy, and then at times, as with L’Amour, there’s enough truth and real-life qualities found in the character to make them more than believable, but become real in the minds of the reader. The reader comes away saying to himself, “You know, I betcha there really was a character out there in the Old West like him!”
That brings back a reader every time.