Gunning for short fiction

by Doc Coleman on December 19, 2012 · 2 comments

in Short Stories, WIP

Yes, I went there.

So…. It’s been two weeks since I’ve been able to post an update here, so I’m past due to provide you one. NaNoWriMo has ended, and while The Bright Lands still has a LOT of work to be done to it, I have to take a step back from it for a little while. If you’ve been following along with my Twitter or Facebook feeds, you may have noticed that I’ve put a fair bit of effort behind promoting the IndieGoGo fundraiser for the Way of the Gun anthology. That fundraiser has ended now, and while we didn’t make the goal we’d hoped for, enough funds were raised that Scott Roche, the instigator of this little project, has determined that there are enough funds to pay the authors. That means me. But if I’m going to get paid, I have to write the story. If you HAVEN’T been following along with the Way of the Gun anthology, let me take a little bit of time to catch you up…

The Way of the Gun is a shared world anthology in an alternative Old West. This version of the west isn’t the wild wild one that we’re familiar with, full of gunslingers, bandits, angry natives, and incorruptible lawmen. This old west is a more Honorable version. There are still gunslingers, but by and large they are followers of the Way of the Gun, a philosophical school of honor built around bringing law and order to the wild areas of the world. These gunslingers are like the samurai of Japan. They live their lives by a code of honor, but some still find ways to twist their honor in odd ways. There are bandits, but even they pay respect to the Way. A conflict with bandits is as likely to be resolved with a duel instead of a shootout. The natives aren’t nearly so angry, and the lawmen, all followers of the Way, aren’t quite as incorruptible as they used to be. In addition to this, we have the Followers of the Clockworker, a religious/philosophical society of tinkers, smiths, and other builders. These generally peaceful inventors have spread out to the frontier in an attempt to improve the world. Pushed on in the vanguard of the railroads, they bring their philosophy and their inventions to transform the wilderness.

So… it’s kind of a Steampunk Samurai Western. See?

My story involves a Cog, a follower of the Clockworker, who runs afoul of a corrupt Martial, a follower of the Way who is empowered by a Judge to carry law and order to the frontier. To give you a taste, here is the synopsis of the story that we used during the fundraising campaign:

Alexander Copperspring was just a Cog in the Machine. A proud Cog, follower of the Clockworker, tinker, and engineer. He had come to Bowman’s Station on behalf of the Midlands and Pacific Railroad Company, to help build the station and prepare the infrastructure needed for the railroad on its long way to the coast. That had been six years ago, and while the station was ready, the railroad was still slow in coming to the valley.

That was when the Martials came to town. The lead Martial was belligerent and showed his disdain as he explained that Judge Wilcox had ruled that no proper claim had been filed for this settlement and the whole valley had now been claimed by Hanson Cumberland, the cattle baron. As trespassers on this land, the Judge was giving them 24 hours to grab their possessions and leave the valley.

Alexander’s temper, and his mouth, got the better of him. He railed against the Judge and his “justice” on behalf of the man with the biggest bag of gold. Before he knew it, he’d managed to challenge the Martial to a duel to decide the matter. Before the Martial could drag him to the Circle and gun him down as an unarmed man, an old drifter spoke up, invoking some obscure clause of the Way to gain Lex another week to prepare for the duel.

As the Martials rode out of town, Lex realized the situation he was in. He had a week to build a gun, learn how to use it, and then fight for his life and his community. A week left to live, his only help, this weather-beaten old stranger who offered to teach him The Way of the Gun.

This week I started writing, and I’m slowly making my way through the first draft. Right now, I’m working more on writing some every day rather than getting lots of words in. This is a short story instead of a novel, so word choice is more important than volume. Of course, getting the draft finished is more important than getting all the words right on the first go. So at this point, it is more of an issue of deciding where I need more detail and where less in introducing the characters and the world for the first time reader.

Of course, it is a little weird writing in a setting where guns are a central element, given the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday. I feel it is important to note that this setting doesn’t emphasize gunplay, but responsible behavior. The Martials are charged with upholding law and order, preserving the peace, but all too often they are turning away from their oaths and selling justice for money. Alex, my protagonist, is a peaceful man who doesn’t like guns. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone, but he is swept up by the injustice of his situation and feels that as a man of good conscience, he must make a stand, even if it costs him his life.

I really want that to come across in the final copy. That idea that we must each take a stand in the face of injustice, no matter the cost to ourselves. As men and women of good conscience, it is imperative that we take a stand rather than let the world roll over us.

Well, back to writing for me. I hope everyone has a very good holiday, whatever you may choose to celebrate. Hopefully, I’ll be back next week with an update

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