Not all cowboys are created equal.
Not all cowboys are the same.
Like any other hero, your cowboys should be unique. They should be themselves. They should let their own light shine in the darkness of a moonless night when saving a newborn calf takes precedence over a hot meal and a clean bed.
But each cowboy will bring a distinctly different flavor to his rescue, and that's what we're talking about today.
Here's a list of my contemporary cowboys to date:
Jack McGuire (His Montana Sweetheart, Love Inspired)
Colt Stafford (Back in the Saddle, Waterbrook Press)
Nick Stafford (Home on the Range, Waterbrook Press)
Jed Taylor (Silent Night, Star-lit Night St. Martin's Press/Swerve)
Trey Walker Stafford (Peace in the Valley, Waterbrook Press, May 2017)
And there are a couple in the works.... which is WAY FUN!!! Ruthy goes Western! Yee haw!!! And as a woman who loves westerns and history, putting the two things together for historical stories was a no-brainer, so Phillip Dickinson (His Beloved Bride), Edward Stillwell (A Town Called Christmas) and Hugh Stackman (A Cowboy for Christmas, Gilead Press) are all self-made pioneer men.
We talked about differentiating heroes using bullet lists here.... And that simple technique helps me. But I think the most effective way of writing distinctive cowboys is to make them distinctive heroes... who happen to be cowboys.
That sounds easy, right?
Well, good! Then I can stop talkin' 'bout it and get on to other things like...
(someone yells "BOO!" from the back of the room and Ruthy gets back on track)...
Who is the man within the cowboy? Is he alpha or beta or in between? (John Wayne) Is he soulful? (Gary Cooper) Is he hardened? (Clint Eastwood roles) Is he wounded? Is he funny? (James Garner, Murphy's Romance) Does he hide his wounded soul beneath a humorous exterior? (Dan Blocker, "Hoss", Bonanza) Or he can be a mix of these types (think Walter Brennan playing a full cast of characters from funny cowboys to hard-hearted patriarch to devoted father in "Guns of Will Sonnet")
The soul of the cowboy is what appeals to the reader. Like any hero, your cowboy's strengths should shine (industrious, caring for his animals, working a long day in all kinds of weather, strong enough to be gentle).
That last is a quality women find attractive in cowboys. The same man who can sit saddle for ten hours, guiding cattle across a western plain, can then mend a dog's paw that's gone lame, fix the leather on a harness and read a little girl a story. There is a REASON that people snatch up titles like "The Cowboy's Christmas Triplets" and "The Cowboy's Surprise Twins"... Think of it like pairing sweet and savory.
The baby's real sweet... and the cowboy is two thumbs up savory! That's the draw you want for women readers.... A man's western is going to be different in most cases, but we're talking romance here, and the primary goal of a romance is... well... romance, right? So the woman reader wants to yearn for your cowboy's gentle strength, and she'll be downright mad if you give him a whiny heroine. The heroine can be a city slicker, out of her element, but whiny?
Not on your life! Because who's got time for that?
Not a cowboy, for sure!
A successful cowboy is integrated with his job. He understands life and death. He's got experience under his rugged hat, and women find that appealing... but they like to see the humor, the wisdom, the compassion of his softer side.
This was my first Western, part of the Big Sky Centennial continuity for Love Inspired. I had so much fun writing this story... and working with a wonderful group of women! Writing this story sparked the ranch-lover inside me and opened new doors of opportunity... And that's a wonderful thing to have happen!
There are a few iconic heroes... Military men, cowboys, builders, farmers, ranchers, fishermen.... and you'll see these careers in many blue-collar appeal romance novels. (Note I'm steering away from the billionaire tycoons and sheikhs and Greek princes...)
But the cowboy is a different breed. He's a different kind of special... one that authors and readers both love. Have you thought about writing western? And if not... why not? I'd love to hear your ideas today... and your concerns!
HEY! ON A DIFFERENT NOTE, AND NOTHIN' TO DO WITH ROPIN' AND RIDIN'...
We're hosting our annual Seekerville Rockin' It New Year's Eve Party on December 31 from 6:00 AM to 3:00 AM on January 1.... We'll have hourly prizes and a Kindle Fire grand prize at the end of the day. What a great way (okay, maybe GREAT is overstating it, so let's say "Geeky") What a GEEKY way to ring in the New Year, with all of our best and brightest writin' buds! For those of you who have a life... and a date!!!.... stop in throughout the day. The rest of us can ring in the new year together!
And I'd like to have villagers host some hours of the day... if you're interested, give me a shout out in the comments or e-mail me at email@example.com!
We'd love to have you on board!
And I've got TWO COPIES of "Silent Night, Star-lit Night" to give away today! I might have forgotten to have this in the original post!!! :)
Contact Ruthy through her e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, visit her website ruthlognanherne.com and friend her on facebook as Ruth Logan Herne! She loves connecting with readers, writers and just plain good people!