I’m writing a Western.
And dammit if Stephen King isn’t one step ahead.
In today’s New Yorker, King talks about a short story he published in that magazine called “The Death,” set in 1889 Dakota Territory. In his interview, he reflects on a key issue I’m facing.
Whether Jim Trusdale actually did kill Rebecca Cline was less interesting to me than Barclay’s change of mind.
(Barclay is the sheriff who was, at first, convinced Jim was guilty.)
In my Western, working title “The Last Man You Kill,” I’m finding that how the man becomes a killer, and how that affects his mind, is the story. It would be easier to write about white hat/black hat conflict, but I find that boring (and phony — white hat/black hat stories are usually political statements masquerading as entertainment).
In my story, an old killer is writing a last letter to his son, and reflecting on a life defined by murder.
I have no idea if the story is a novella or a novel. As King says:
I’ve had short stories grow into novels, but I’ve never had a novel shrink into a short story, or even a novella. Sometimes, the story I’m working on starts to put out blossoms—it’s the only way I can describe it.
It’ll be fun to find out what “The Last Man You Kill” sprouts into. I love that I can just write it, publish it, and see if people like it. I don’t have to please an agent who’s focused on market trends, or an editor who may have different tastes.