BASIC PLOT FORMULAS

   Frank Gruber, a writer of popular Western novels, has codified seven basic plot formulas of which all classic Westerns partake in one way or another:
   1. The Union Pacific story. The plot concerns construction of a railroad, a telegraph line, or some other type of modern technology or transportation. Wagon train stories probably fall into this category.
   2. The ranch story. The plot concerns threats to the ranch from rustlers or large landowners attempting to force out the proper owners.
   3. The empire story. The plot might involve building up a ranch empire or an oil empire from scratch, a classic rags-to-riches plot.
   4. The revenge story. The plot often involves an elaborate chase and pursuit, but it may also include elements of the classic mystery story.
   5. The cavalry and Indian story. The plot revolves around taming the wilderness for white settlers.
   6. The outlaw story. The outlaw gangs dominate the action.
   7. The marshal story. The lawman and his challenges drive the plot.
   Of course, other plot types, such as the gunfighter plot, could be developed, but most would probably still be a variation of these seven basic plot formulas.
   See also CLASSIC WESTERN' FORMULAS.

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

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