If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

WWK's May interviews will be: 5/2--indie author Bobbi Holmes, 5/9--TG Wolff (aka--Anita Devito), 5/16--Chocolate Bonbon author Dorothy St. James, 5/23--Lida Sideris, 5/30--Food Lovers' Village (and multiple Agatha winner) Leslie Budwitz. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

Our May Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 5/5--John Carenen, 5/12--Judy Penz Sheluk, 5/19--Margaret S. Hamilton, 5/26--Kait Carson.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Tina Whittle's sixth Tai Randolph mystery, Necessary Ends, debuts on April 3, 2018. Look for it here. Tina was nominated for a Derringer Award for her novelette, "Trouble Like A Freight Train Coming." We're all crossing our fingers for her.

James M. Jackson's Empty Promises, the next in the Seamus McCree mystery series (5th), will be available on April 3, 2018. Purchase links are here.

Dark Sister, a poetry collection, is Linda Rodriguez's tenth published book. It's available for sale here:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with the authors in this anthology on 4/14! Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

Shari Randall's second Lobster Shack Mystery, Against the Claw, will be available in August, 2018.

In addition, our prolific KM has had the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," appears in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Fifth Course of Chaos.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Writer Watches Westerns

I learned my first lessons about writing from watching TV westerns as a kid. Probably the most important was that there were people putting words on paper that turned into TV dramas. I was astonished when my father told me that. Hey, maybe I could be one of them. I began to think of the shows as little plays and I learned from what I saw. I began to understand story arcs, character development, and local color.
Westerns gave me my first taste of historical accuracy. Sky King had an airplane and Roy Rogers had a jeep. They weren't trying to portray the golden age of cowboys. The Lone Ranger and Paladin were firmly set in a specific period and you never saw a modern appliance. Women's clothing was a dead giveaway. I would set something in the 1870s in my mind, only to have a woman walk through in a calf length skirt and giant shoulder pads. Many shows tried to be ambiguous about the time period. Men's clothing never changed. Women wore riding skirts that came into fashion in the 1870s and are still popular today.
I was a bit older when I learned about the classification of characters. Of course there was the hero, the victim, and the bad guy, the triad which makes up the modern crime story. Most of what I write revolves around these three people. But I began to recognize shadings of all these characters and came up with my own classifications.
The Good Good Guy was the hero. He could do anything always for the best motives. He was self-sacrificing, handsome, and kind. He generally treated women as fragile creatures who needed protection. Marshal Dillon was the ultimate good guy. And he knew how to ride a horse. The Bad Good Guy was the devils advocate who, while a friend or supporter of the hero, acted from base or selfish motives. The banker really did want the rail road to come to town even if it destroyed the farms of the poor. The rancher professed the good of the town while secretly plotting to get the water rights. The coward gave in to pressure from the bad guys to spy on the hero. He was selfish, cowardly, and generally not a nice person. The hero likes him because the hero had a big heart or because the hero expects him to grow up and become a man. Little Joe on Bonanza sometimes played this role by behaving impulsively or stupidly. Then the family had to rescue him.
The Bad Bad Guy was the evil doer, the man who rustled cattle, hurt women, stole money, burned down farmsteads, and terrorized the town. He got his comeuppance by the end of the show. Or he may have been the Moriarity of the West, to appear often as the root of crime like Dr. Loveless in Wild Wild West. The Good Bad Guy was on the side of evil, with a yen for the good side. The whore with the heart of gold, the young man led astray by the BBG, who may be a relative. He may rat out the BBG, or switch sides. He frequently end up dead by the closing credits. It's hard to come up with an example here since they most often ended up dead. Any suggestions? Because westerns were short the whole plot had to fit into a measured story line. Most of the elements weren't well fleshed out, which made them evident to a beginning writer. In time I learned to turn the two dimensional brother of the villain into a real person who didn't have to be killed to make the plot work. I've been re-watching some of these on the Western Channel, and sure enough they are no more subtle than I remember them to be. I can pick out the four characters as soon as they appear on the screen. But now I am learning other things by watching them. I seem to spend a lot of time assessing the riding ability of the actors.


Warren Bull said...

I believe Missy Kitty on "Gunsmoke" was at first depicted by implication as a "Soiled Dove" with a heart of gold. The writers changed that after the first few episode. Comic relief was provided by actors like Gabby Hays and Pat Grady.

Kara Cerise said...

I like your classification of characters, KB! I’ve saved your blog and will refer to it often since I’m in the process of writing my first western.

I also enjoy watching the actors ride or, in some cases, just try to stay in the saddle.

KB Inglee said...

There was often a comic character. Usually a good guy.
Miss Kitty wasn't a good bad guy. She was a strong character and was kind of like a Greek chorus, or conscience for the other characters.
I ride English, so it can be hard to critique western riders, but if thier butts, hands and feet don't hold still, or they are holding the saddle horn they can't ride.

E. B. Davis said...

Yes, KB's classification of characters was right-on. Exactly! I have to remember that classification in the future and when plotting. Thanks, KB for outlining what seems basic, but what we often forget.

Matthew Pizzolato said...

Westerns are definitely a good place to learn the art of writing, especially Gunsmoke. John Meston's characterization was excellent.