The Allure of Writing About Small Towns

There’s something nostalgic and comforting about small towns in literature and film. As a writer, I’ve always felt drawn to tell stories set in quaint main streets, neighborhood diners where everyone knows your name, and tight-knit communities where drama is rare but secrets run deep. They feel like a warm blanket to wrap yourself in while sitting by the fire with your favorite story.

I grew up in what I would consider a small town way back when, but I would have preferred something even smaller. I’m talking Mayberry style. I’ve always romanticized the idea of living somewhere where life moves at a slower pace. Somewhere you could walk or bike anywhere in town and would be guaranteed to run into people you know. Somewhere you might even leave your front door unlocked at night, feeling safe and at home. A town that hosts old movies in the park for free or only has one school or everyone goes to the same doctor and has for a hundred years.

As a writer, small towns make for an interesting backdrop and character in their own right. The intimacy of a small community opens the door for rich relationship dynamics and inner turmoils boiling under the sleepy surface. After all, every small town has their town gossip, right? The one person who has more to share than the local paper? There’s also something satisfying about introducing an outsider into the mix and exploring the cultural clashes that ensue. The fish out of water trope allows readers to experience the quirks of small town living through fresh eyes and can open all types of storylines for romance and mystery stories.

At the same time, the limited setting poses creative constraints that require resourcefulness. There are only so many shops, restaurants, schools and civic buildings to incorporate. The writer must use these familiar landmarks strategically while finding new angles to prevent the story from feeling repetitive or stagnant. Carefully chosen details and emphasis on the social landscape over physical spaces can help keep a small town setting feeling alive and fresh.

While not without challenges, writing about small towns allows ample room for gentle satire, quirky characters, and themes exploring the human desire to connect. By honing in on intricacies of relationships from romance to rivalries, comic misunderstandings to generational traditions, the writer can craft a microcosm of human experience within an idyllic country escape. Traditions clash with new ways of doing things, but no one can make the first step in bringing about change. Think Footloose here.

Most of my stories are set in small towns, like Bull Creek, Rochester Shores, Crescent Cove, even Harbor City in Morgan Quinn’s urban fantasy series, Sword of the Fae. That doesn’t mean I don’t use larger cities as backdrop, because I have several in Biloxi and a new series just started in Charleston. Still, a small town feels like home when I’m writing.

As much as we may pine for that perfect, peaceful, small town, they likely don't exist except in fiction. Still, by transporting readers to familiar yet fresh settings filled with heart and humor, I can can deliver the best of both worlds: the connectivity we crave paired with the solitude we need. For me, writing this blend of intimacy and introspection within small town tales holds an eternal allure.

Until next time, happy reading!

Robbie & the FGR Team

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