Tag Archives: character development

courage_hi_resIn my last blog post, I mentioned that revisionist historians report that as many as one in four cowboys was black. Some estimates go as high as one in three and this is from new research since about the year 2000 into actual US Census data from that era.

This should not be a surprising premise since after 1865 there were thousands upon thousands of newly freed and unemployed blacks moving westward. I’ve also learned recently that between 1/6 and 1/3 of ALL frontier settlers are African or mixed-race ethnicity, that is, a mix of black, white, native, and/or Mexican.

But did you also know…?

A number of cowboy detectives were actually… women! That’s right. Alan Pinkerton established the Pinkerton National Detective Agency originally in Chicago. In the beginning his employees had a reputation of hired thugs with badges who busted organized strikes for the big companies.

Later, though, across the frontier, well-educated and highly skilled hunters and detectives were needed to help bring justice across the land. In fact, cowGIRL detectives were hired right along with cowboy detectives to do research and intelligence-gathering work to profile frontier criminals. These Pinkerton women were every bit as skilled with guns (some were even sharpshooters) and as educated as their male counterparts.

Get a realistic look at Pinkerton cowboy and cowgirl detectives in my new historical western Courage, as they employ their hunting skills against Jason Peares, the most notorious outlaw gunfighter in history, coming really really soon in ebook.

In my next posts I’m going to talk about the politics of the Indian wars, the famous Ninth Cavalry, and a Native leader whose name the army thought no one would ever remember. So follow me below on your favorite media for more revisionist history.

Want high-octane adventure with an edge? Sign up to get an email notification of the FREE pre-release historical western ebook “Warriors” and “Courage” (coming early 2014) at www.JeffreyPoston.com or find Jeffrey Poston on Twitter: @jeffposton or Google Plus: +Jeffrey Poston or www.facebook.com/JeffreyPostonBooks

warriors_hi-resAs an author of Historical Westerns it’s easy for me to exploit my uniqueness. I know, a black guy who writes Westerns… crazy, huh? What can I say… my childhood hero was Clint Eastwood. I loved Westerns so that’s what I wrote.

I published a paperback, a hardcover, and two audiobooks. I actually have the distinction of being the only black author ever to have a Western published in hardcover by a major New York publisher with THE main character being black. But when I sent my books out to be reviewed and to get promo blurbs, I actually had “established” big-name Western authors tell me a book about a black outlaw cowboy was not realistic. They told me not to put my picture on the back cover because… well, you know. But that was 20 years ago.

Then a curious thing happened to me. I went to my first booksigning at a Western book expo. There we were, all 50 authors. 49 of them were guys in cowboy boots and hats. And then there was me.

The black guy who writes Westerns

I was an anomaly, a curiosity. Everybody came over to see who I was. And they all bought my book! The other authors sold maybe 10 books and I sold a TON. The same thing happened at almost every booksigning I went to. I was a rock star. I was different, and I discovered that readers want something different. Not VERY different, but kinda different. A little bit different.

My westerns are just like those of every other Western author. My thrillers are just like those of every other thriller author. My characters – heroes and villains and sidekicks alike – look just like all the other authors’ characters, except maybe just a tad more diverse.

What’s different about my books is ME and I’ve learned to use my uniqueness as a marketing tool. People remember me as the black guy who writes Westerns (and high-octane thrillers, too).

You, too, have something unique about you. Discover what that quality is and exploit it. Use it as your marketing angle so you’ll stand out among your author peers. Use it to find readers who want something just a little bit different from mainstream.

Want high-octane adventure with an edge? Get the FREE pre-release ebook “American Terrorist” (coming Dec 2013) at www.JeffreyPoston.com or find Jeffrey Poston on Twitter: @jeffposton or Google Plus: +Jeffrey Poston or www.facebook.com/JeffreyPostonBooks

Make your hero "real" and believable.

To make your audience really like and identify with your main character, you must make your readers journey emotionally with your main character as he or she tries to overcome a life-altering event. Your readers must feel what your hero feels and then truly believe the change process that the hero undergoes is realistic and reasonable as he or she goes on to save the day. If you can pull that off, then you have a first-rate hero.

Of course, anybody can kill off a minor character or an “assistant-hero.” However, in my upcoming book American Terrorist I really wanted to move my readers. I wanted to manipulate their emotions and make them sit up and say, “What the hell?”

So I killed my son… in the book. What I did not anticipate, though, was how deeply it would affect me, the writer.

Now, you have to understand that my adult son and I are very close in real life, so I gave my hero that kind of relationship. And when I wrote the scene of the death of the hero’s son, I put my heart and soul into that scene. I literally cried. In fact, I cry every time I edit that scene or even just read it or think about it.

I figure if my audience has even a fraction of the emotional reaction that I have had, then I have succeeded in creating a hero my readers can bond with, no matter what good or bad deeds he does throughout the rest of the book.

So… share with us what you have done to create a memorable hero or heroine?