It’s hard to innovate a Western considering how many have been written. That’s not to say it can’t be done. Or that it shouldn’t be attempted. What I mean is that Westerns used to be extremely popular. When people felt like they weren’t free to go where they wanted to live the way they wanted, Westerns gave them that experience from the comfort of their own home. People used to read Westerns in order to experience that freedom without risking cutting the ties they were bound to.
Now, people are freer than ever before. We can stay connected via social media, internet, and calls in a way that was never before available. Therefore, we don’t go to Westerns in the way we used to. I think we read them now because we like the idea of adventure in the lawless Wild West. We are so connected now, that the idea of being in a world where no one knew what we didn’t exactly want them to is entrancing.
Plus, it’s fun to imagine ourselves surviving a world as harsh as the one in Vengeance Road. What I like about this book is that you can tell the author has a soft spot in her heart for the society and time period. It feels authentic and fun all at once. And, the revelation Kate experiences when she discovers her mother betrayed her father for the promise of gold, makes the ending surprising, but inevitable.
The global story is the most important aspect of a well-written novel. If you can master the global story, you scenes become secondary. However, if your scenes aren’t written well, a reader might never make it to discovering the global story and that would be a shame. Therefore, I believe that the scenes are an important aspect and one that bears repeating.
In as plain English as I can say, your scenes must change from start to finish and move forward through conflict. Whether the change is internal or external, it must be present. The change almost always occurs using the Five Commandments. Meaning, the character gets put on a course outside their normal and wants to restore it. They are challenged, face a question, act, and explain what the action means in order to express their core character.
If you want a good example of how to progress your scenes so that readers keep coming back for more, Vengeance Road is a great example. In the first scene, Kate finder her father murdered, buries him, and sets off to get even with the men who did it. She finds the man and faces the question about whether or not she has it in her to kill him. When she does, the reader learns that she’s the type of character who would give up her own innocence to avenge her father. We get a better sense of who she is just through that one scene.
How to do it
Sure, there’s backstory that sets up other events to come later on. But those are weaved into the action at play. If you want to write a scene that works, you have to consider the core of what’s going on. Your audience only needs to know something the moment it becomes important so wasting your words on backstory right off the bat will bore them into putting your book down. Keep things moving.
Additionally, we come to know your character’s core by the choices they make when under pressure to do so. Kate chooses to kill a man. We learn more about her at that moment than any of the backstory or her own explanations of who she is combined. That’s the truth whether she admits it to herself or not. That’s what we come to read about. Kate has a want that drives her along, but she has a need we pick up on from her choices: that she needs to learn to value human life more than revenge or she won’t come out of this adventure alive.
What you can do
I’m producing a story on how to write a scene that explains all of this information with further examples. To know when it’s ready, subscribe to my newsletter if you haven’t already. You can also take my free course on writing fundamentals. Or, pick up a copy of The Story Grid. In any case, keep studying and keep practicing. You can only say you’ve mastered this material when you’re capable of doing it yourself.