Vintage Photos Beg for a Story

May 24, 2018

In an earlier blog post, I mentioned that, when I develop a new story, I generally think of characters first and then dream up plot situations to fit those characters.

 

I find that a really fun way to come up with characters is to peruse vintage photos from the Old West. As I do so, I look for people in these photos who possess some unique quality or quirk or air about them.

 

This is how I came up with my most recent short story, Just Shy of Mexico. I had been thumbing through a back issue of True West magazine when I came across this picture of a lanky, young cowhand. Having viewed scores of photos of similar subjects, I believe this was the first period image I had seen of an ordinary cowpoke wearing spectacles.

 

Shortly afterward I read elsewhere that when Theodore Roosevelt first went out West in 1883, a lot of men wrote him off as weak and gave him a hard time--because he wore eyeglasses. Little did they know that the twenty-five-year-old future president was a skilled boxer with a keen mind.

 

The Roosevelt vignette made me recall the cowhand photo I had seen in True West. And right away I began to think through circumstances and scenarios that the ordinary bespectacled young cowpoke might face (in a fictional world based loosely on reality). Just Shy of Mexico is the result.

 

 

Give It a Shot.

 

Maybe you'd enjoy going through the same exercise using the photo to the left here.

 

What kind of men are they? Lawmen? Desperados? They're certainly armed to the teeth. I wonder why (either in their real world or in some fictitious Old West scenario). What's their story?

 

Any detail can be the starting point for a story. Even something as ordinary as the guy on the right not wearing a hat while his compadres do.

 

For more Old West images, check out my Pinterest page by clicking HERE.

 

I'd enjoy hearing back from you via the comments box below. Let me know what you've come up with.

 

Until then, hasta luego, amigos.

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