My books (and most fiction, certainly most Western Fiction) are about values and how values are lived and kept alive across the years and the generations. I mentioned once before in this blog that I thought those themes create the foundation for a marketing program. I’m still working on it, but something interesting happened.
Below, I pick five of their 25 and discuss how western fiction can demonstrate best practice.
Any western fiction that shows the influence of prior generations demonstrates shared values. My books are built on shared values because three generations founded a county and every one of those three generations was aware of their role, the role of all who came before, and their expectations of the role that would be played by those who came after. It is just as true for the story of a single generation. Remember the teenage girl avenging her father’s death?
Facing conflict, reasoning it out, and recognizing that it is never resolved until the “right” solution is achieved is the model that western fiction contributes to everyday life. Of course, there is often the initial period when one or more parties attempt to avoid, ignore, or duck the conflict. There is the middle period when someone tries to bully his way through. And there is the risk that the final stage will be elongated because the wrong view of the right solution holds sway for an extended time and a number of tries.
No family wants to think of an armed showdown, but even the Gunfight at the OK Corral follows this pattern. For sure, you can read it to generate a discussion of what the family should prefer to do.
Planning for Major Life Events
How many major life events are there? I will assert there are five. Birth, marriage, death, success, failure. In any person’s life, this may be multiplied generationally, so there may be 10 or 15, but they are the same five, repeated. Not every western deals with every life event. Some only deal with death and failure.
My bet is your story shows how your characters planned for major life events. They may not have done it well. That is as valuable in discussing best practices as when he or she sails through life’s events prepared in advance and responding perfectly.
My favorite, bar none. Every western has a parent and a child, whether they are both on the page or not. Parenting skills in my books are front and center because my characters know they are creating a place and a society in which their children will live. That also requires preparing their children to live in the place and society they have created.
The lack of parenting skills or the lack of attention to parenting skills also shows through clearly. I hope “shows” is the conclusion my readers draw because I think the lack of attention to parenting is evil and I want to go as far as I can in exposing that without making a journalistic statement of opinion. Hence, in my stories, showing it is all that is allowed. In this blog, saying it outright is o.k.
Support for Philanthropy
This is such a big word, no one in any of my books could ever get his tongue around that many syllables. What he, and particularly she, would do, however, is demand that their family be generous. The offer of a meal at a campfire by people who have no idea where their next meal will come from is about the same level of generosity as the widow’s mite story in the Bible. (Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4) It is not an argument for living in poverty, it is an example of true generosity, a rebuke of the highly publicized sizable gift by the wealthy who won’t miss it.
People in Western Fiction are generous. Let me make that more precise. No bad guy ever makes a generous move or act. The second he does, the reader has to suspect that he is not all that bad. Indeed, if ever a good guy makes a selfish move, that same reader suspects he is not all that good.
I am not arguing for superficial characters; I am asserting that in what you have written, you will find characters who are generous in word and deed and, perhaps not always, but often, they are teaching others – especially the reader – how to behave, how to support philanthropy.
You’ll notice there aren’t any particular examples in the above. I can give you a load of examples from my work, but my hope is this blog will spark you and you will create ideas/examples out of your work. I’ll give you one example, on parenting skills, and, admittedly, it is a grandparent:
Sheriff Simms liked to tell stories. It gave the boy a chance to learn something without being taught so damn much.
With a moment’s thought you can see how this can generate a long discussion ranging from parental behavior to how to teach, with teaching by example always being preferred. A Best Practice!
Promote Your Writing by Storytelling
This notion of how to promote your writing by storytelling has 1,880,000 more Google hits than me. I’m as much a novice here as I am with my own writing, but I think it has broad application for commercial reasons and for charitable purposes. I’m hoping this will stimulate your thinking – and I’m hoping it will stimulate my sales.
E-mail Edward Massey with comments, author of 2014 Gold Quill winner, Every Soul Is Free and Amazon ABNA 2009 Quarter-finalist, Telluride Promise.