Using History to Write Western Fiction

There are tens of thousands of stories embedded within the history of the American West.  Many of these stories have been told and retold, and there are stories yet to be told embedded within the stories that have been told.  Writing a novel about the American West gives the writer an enormous body of information to draw from in constructing his or her story.  Just as there are innumerable locations, there are even more facts available to the writer.  We tend to want to draw from those facts that are commonly known, and therefore easy to obtain.  Sometimes, using well known facts, can help the reader  identify easier with the story because the writer is using historical facts that are familiar to the reader.
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However, sometimes it’s a greater challenge, but a lot more fun, to look for unusual facts and incorporate those into your story.  For example, most Western fiction novels take place completely in what is commonly known as the Old West.  When I did my novel, Bloody Wes Teague, although I began in the West, the story moved within a few paragraphs to the East.  I sent the main character to New York City.  I looked for some unusual facts that I could  incorporate into the story.  Two facts I found that were unusual, in that they were not commonly known, is that New York City at one time had a disposal system consisting of pigs roaming loose in the streets.  This was New York City’s garbage collection system.  Another fact was that on hot, dry summer days, there would be huge clouds of manure dust in the air.  This was caused by the many horses and carriages in the city driving over dried piles of manure.

If you are a writer, you should look to have some unusual facts in your stories.  These facts ought to be based on historical facts.  It will make you a more interesting writer and will definitely make your novels more interesting to your reader.

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