As a publisher (now defunct) once explained to me, there are but two western novels -- Hero Takes a Trip and Stranger Comes to Town. These two plots account for most of our western stories by classic writers such as Louis L’Amour, Larry McMurtry, even Cormac McCarthy.
In my novel Code of the Texas Ranger a stranger rides into town. A Texas Ranger? What does he want? He’s quiet and competent. Good with his fists and with his gun. Never starts a fight but always wins. The ranger solves the town’s problem, a crooked banker and a gun-happy killer. And he rides out.
Hero Takes a Trip is my favorite plot device. The hero has his own problems to solve, not those of others. Nacho Ybarra is the hero of my novel, Guns of the Texas Ranger. He is drawn into the Mexican Revolution of 1917, must steer a path between the bandit Pancho Villa and the Mexican army while protecting his family. Nacho is a Texas Ranger stuck across the border away from his friends. He must resolve the shooting death of a Mexican army officer before he can return to Texas.
Western novels qualify as historical fiction. You’ll soon discover this fact if you use the wrong gun or saddle in the wrong time period, or put a mountain in the plains, or even dress somebody in the wrong time period. The History Channel learned the hard way with their production about the Texas revolution. So many errors of time, space, guns, even saddles.
I’ll never trust The History Channel again!