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 ... : Literary Agent Amy Boggs

50 Fiction Writing Tips From Spaghetti Westerns

The films of Clint Eastwood and director Sergio Leone can teach a lot about writing. From characterization to plotting to more, spaghetti westerns hold plenty that should be considered when one is writing fiction.

  1. Interesting characters are key.
  2. Keep the main plot simple. Anything else just muddles things up.
  3. Even minor characters can be interesting.
  4. Don’t be boring.
  5. In this world there’s two types of people, my friend. Those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig.
  6. Often it’s the build-up to the violence that’s more interesting.
  7. If you write about people using guns, know your guns.
  8. If you’re writing about a historical period, know your history.
  9. Being over-the-top can be fun, but it has to make sense within the context of the story.
  10. Two hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money.
  11. The pacing of the plot can be slow, but it must never be dull.
  12. The unexpected can liven up a story, but it must be believable.
  13. Sub plots can heighten the reader’s fun and interest, but must not take over the tale.
  14. Music can make a story. Difficult to work into writing, true, but not impossible. Depends upon the story one is telling. Sometimes music can be mentioned.
  15. The question isn’t discreet, but the answer could be.
  16. Minor characters don’t have to be named to stand out.
  17. Sometimes a change of viewpoint can help a story, from looking at characters or objects from a distance to close-up and back again.
  18. When action happens, it happens very, very quickly. Brevity of words often works best with action scenes.
  19. There doesn’t have to be a lot of dialogue to get a character’s point across.
  20. People with ropes around their necks don’t always hang.
  21. Some characters are good.
  22. Some are bad.
  23. Some are ugly.
  24. Rarely is a character only one of these things.
  25. Every gun makes its own tune.
  26. If a deadly object such as a gun or noose appears in a scene, it had better be used. Don’t try to fake out the reader. They won’t be happy.
  27. A little comedy can liven up a story.
  28. Good guys don’t have to be angelic.
  29. Just not as bad as the bad guys.
  30. When a man with a .45 meets a man with a rifle, the man with the pistol will be a dead man.
  31. Complicated back stories can confuse things.
  32. Beat up on the hero.
  33. Really, really hard.
  34. Gunfights usually are over quickly, not lasting hours. There are exceptions to this rule, but rare.
  35. After a meal, there’s nothing like a good cigar.
  36. Make the bad guys tougher than the hero.
  37. Or at least make them seem to be tougher than the hero.
  38. But tough good guys can work, too.
  39. Themes shouldn’t hit the reader over the head, but should lay gently upon the background of the story.
  40. When two hunters go after the same prey, they usually end up shooting each other in the back.
  41. Violence is violence. It’s bloody work. Don’t sugarcoat it. But you don’t have to get all bloody either, unless you’re writing horror. Readers will get the point.
  42. Dialogue doesn’t have to be lengthy to say a lot.
  43. If you’re writing an epic, pretend your characters are gods walking the Earth. They will come off that much stronger.
  44. If you’re writing about people who ride horses, at least know the basics about horses.
  45. Sometimes the dead can be more useful than the living.
  46. Violence can seem more extreme if it’s cut short than if it’s drug out for a long period. But that really depends upon how it’s written.
  47. Sometimes there are no good guys.
  48. Epic tales should be exactly that, epic.
  49. Non-epic tales should be exactly that, not epic.
  50. When you have to shoot, shoot, don’t talk.

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