200 Words

12.12.05 | Comment?

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram is running a writing contest: send in a 200-word opening of a Western novel (with certain requirements), and if you are selected, you get to write one of 12 chapters in a serial novel a la The Floating Admiral or Naked Came The Manatee. The other authors include a bunch of people I’ve never read, plus the great Elmer Kelton, who was a guest of honor at the Bouchercon I attended, at Austin in 2002. Why they didn’t grab this guy I don’t know.

Now I’ve only written one story that could qualify as a Western – the title is “West, Texas” after all – but that’s more of a crime story. But there’s a lot of crossover between crime and westerns, with guys like Bill Pronzini, Loren Estleman, Robert J. Randisi, and Ed Gorman moving freely back and forth. And Scott Phillips, best known for The Ice Harvest, recently published Cottonwood, which is nothing if not a Western. So why not me?

What can you say in 200 words? My first attempt uses up all 200, and tries to

A) Set the scene – Texas by name, Hill Country by implication;
B) Name the main character, and give a hint of his background; and
C) Set up some conflict as he runs across a wounded man.

So – five paragraphs, 14 sentences, 200 words. Shorter than this rambling post, in fact. Wish me luck.

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