Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Love & Hate of Small Towns

So I was reading on another blog how the writer was sick of reading about small towns in novels. Well, I happen to be writing a novel that has to do with a small town. And I'm reading one right now (by Jennifer Crusie) that involves a small town.

So here's why I think there's a love/hate situation with small towns, and it's summed up (both the love it AND the hate it part), in three simple words:

Everyone knows everyone.

You love it, because it's familiar, it's how it has always been and how it always will be. And you hate it for those very same reasons.

BUT, one of the things I personally love about small towns are the odd little people that live there. Now, don't get me wrong - odd little people live in big cities, too. But in small towns, you see more of them, you KNOW more about them. So how fun is it to read about a quirkly little gay old dude in the big city? It's not. There's a million of them. But toss in an aging gay man in the middle of a small town, and heck, there's a story right THERE. Not only would he be way more noticed, but he's got that insta-conflict with small town "values" and traditions and all that jazz. (I'm not writing about that, although Stephen King did once - and I remember it because of that very fact.)

So although this one other blog's writer mentioned hating reading about small towns, I think we're kind of drawn to those types of stories anyway, where everyone has their little secrets, which is kinda funny, since everyone else already KNOWS those secrets. And the secrets of the daddy, and the granddaddy, and let's not downplay what great-granddaddy did back in 1910. Infamy isn't always a bad thing, especially when it's happening to someone else.


Lynn Daniels said...

I think small towns are a bit more fun to play with, for the very reasons you've mentioned. And the problem with small towns in stories is sometimes they tend to get a bit cliched, especially in the eyes of big city-dwellers. Thing is, the cliches are true.

Small towns definitely have their purpose in stories, like you said -- insta-conflict. But big cities work well too, especially if your character needs to get lost or be anonymous. And it seems to me it wasn't that long ago that all stories were set in the big cities.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Thanks, Lynn. I love to hear someone that feels the same way I do. So many times I think this odd little mind of mine is just a bit too off in what it considers fun and humorous. LOL!

Suzanne said...

Readers love small towns!! I love small towns myself because I live in one, but you can see by what's on the shelf that readers love small towns, so go with your heart--if you want to write small towns, then write them. :)

Steph T. said...

I've always lived in a big city and I almost always write about small towns, and I think it's for a lot of the reasons you mentioned - especially the everyone knowing your secrets, aspect.

kacey said...

I think small towns fulfill that "escape to simpler times" fantasy. The whole safe in a small town.

I enjoy reading stories set in small towns, people knowing each other...and the "secrets" of generations.

MaryF said...

I think small towns are so popular because they're universal. A small town in Texas is similar in a lot of ways to a small town in Iowa, or whatever. Same dynamic, same limitations.

Dana said...

What a great post! I adore small towns (as long as they are near an interstate and shopping) LOL As southern and country as I am, I could't stand living 50 miles from the nearest city. Just give me a nice small town, in Alabama on I-65 for example, and I will be happy.

ZaZa said...

I've almost always lived in big cities, so I enjoy the small town coziness of everyone knows everyone and everything. And, yes, the unusual folks stick out more in a small town than in a big city, but, when push comes to shove, those unusual people belong. That's assuming you aren't writing something really fraught about violence and hate - not what I write, anyway. \;+)