Writing Western Fiction

Writing a Western Fiction Novel

Writing western fiction novels or short stories is easy for those who have a love for the genre and are familiar with the history of the period. If you want to write western fiction and you want to have some authenticity to your story, you’ve go to become familiar with the history of the West. You’ll need to ride down some of the dusty trails ridden by the outlaws and settlers who populated the Old West. Writing western fiction only becomes easier the more you know about the time period in which you are writing.

Writing Western Fiction: History & Culture

Once you’ve gotten a feel for the history, you’ll need to become familiar with the life styles, the way people lived, and the culture. For example, settlers who came to live out in the undeveloped and untamed parts of the West, lived much differently than those who came to live in the towns. Those who lived on ranches had a different life than those who lived in small, frame shacks or mud huts. And, of course, the Indians and the Mountain Men lived even different. For a writer of western fiction, these facts are essential to know.

Writing Western Fiction: The Tools, Weapons & Technology

Every writer of western fiction will need to understand the tools, the weapons, and the technology that existed in the period of time about which he or she is writing. For example, if you’re writing a western fiction story and it’s set in the 1860’s, you’d make a serious error if you had your character shooting a Colt “Peacemaker,” which was a single action revolver introduced in 1873. Writing western fiction cannot be done without a clear knowledge of the weapons of the Old West.

Writing Western Fiction & Geography

Like any area of writing, one who is writing western fiction has to know something about the subject. In the case of westerns, there’s a large landscape to know. It’s possible to learn about a small segment of the West and construct a story based on that small segment. Writing western fiction focused on a small, geographic section of the frontier West is easier than writing a story involving, let’s say, a trek across the prairies to Oregon on the famous Oregon Trail. However, even when you’re focused on a small segment of the Old West, unless all the characters are unique to the setting and don’t have a background (and tools or weapons) from another part of the West, the writer is going to have to be careful, since tools, weapons, lifestyles and transportation were pretty much the same across the frontier. The more you know, the better.

The best way to become a good western fiction writer is to read as much of the lore as you can. All those who aspire to one day be sitting at a desk writing western fiction have read enormous amounts of material. Read history. Read western fiction writers who are good at their craft. For example, if you read someone like Louis L’Amour, you’ll get a good feel for the West and the characters that populated it, as well as the tools and weapons. He painted word pictures of the Old West and its characters that remain unmatched. There was none better. He was the Dean of Western Fiction writers.

When it came to the art of writing western fiction, no one wrote the stories as well as he did.

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