Elmer Kelton on Westerns
By Natalie Bright
Elmer Kelton remains one of my favorite western authors, and continues to be an inspiration for me in my efforts to publish my middle grade westerns. As I mentioned in a previous blog, the owner of Cactus Bookstore in San Angelo was a long-time friend of the great western author, Elmer Kelton. He sold me a cassette tape featuring two of Kelton’s keynotes from a Chilsolm Trail workshop which was held in Fort Worth in June 1989. From that tape, I’ve paraphrased a list of advice from Kelton, in his own words.
1. Western genre is about authenticity. Stories are real: with real backgrounds, real incidents, about unusual events in history.
2. Read alot of history. Find obscure books without wide circulation. Look for periods of transition.
3. A plot should grown out of characters and situation.
4. Conflict equals change. There’s always somebody changing and always others resisting.
5. Best that can ever happen to a writer is when a character takes over the story and runs away with it.
6. Best three of all time that you should read: #1 A Trail to Ogalla by Vincent Capp; #2 North to Yesterday by Robert Flynn; #3 Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
7. Greatest character ever portrayed: Augustus played by Duval.