Friday, August 26, 2011

Small Towns, Big Characters

Please give me a second grace
Please give me a second face
I've fallen far down, the first time around
Now I just sit on the ground in your way.
--Fly, Nick Drake

I love small towns.  There's something about a sleepy little village in the middle of nowhere that inspires me.  Maybe because there is a deceptive quiet about them.  Bubbling underneath that ordinary surface are secrets hidden from the prying eyes of outsiders.  I think some of the most fascinating characters--alive and fictional--are products of that small town milieu.  For some novels, the small town even becomes a character.  Think of To Kill A Mockingbird.  Main Street's fictional Gopher Prairie.  The series of dying towns in The Grapes of Wrath.  

And where would Twilight be without Forks?  Vampires can't hunt deer in the middle of NYC.

I grew up in a small town just like the one in this video.  And it thrills me to see that the stereotype can always be challenged.  It's long, but at least catch 6:12 to around 7:00 for a smile.  Make sure you watch it with the subtitles if your Spanish is as rusty as mine.

Who are some of your favorite small town characters?


  1. I just love, love, love (Although this is not in a book, sorry!) John Mellencamp's "Small Town". Even though my hometown is not a small one at all, something about this song just warms those cockles! Especially:

    No I cannot forget where it is that I come from
    I cannot forget the people who love me
    Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town
    And people let me be just what I want to be

  2. I love the sheriff in the video who's only job was to separate a quarreling dog and cat in 1998. Ha!

  3. While I don't want to live in a small town, I appreciate them in books. I love the setting of To Kill a Mockingbird. And as you know, I just reviewed The Healing Spell and Circle of Secrets, which take place on a bayou.

    Funny, I have a post written about setting that I'll probably put up next week.

  4. Hi Julie. My maternal grandparents lived in a small town in Iowa, population...2,000. I LOVED going there on vacations as a little girl and some of my happiest and most precious memories are from those days. It was my own "Mayberry!"

  5. I wouldn't mind living in a small town today on high level ground. BTW...made you blog of the day.

  6. Small towns are perfect for books, but I confess, I like living in a larger city.

  7. I grew up and currently live in a small town gone big. It still has a sleepy feel to it and the smell of manure sometimes wafts alluringly on a windy day.

  8. I forwarded to 6:12- 7:00 and am scratching my head a bit.

    You make an excellent point about small towns providing the opportunity for characterization in fiction. Every novel I've written I set in 'medium-sized desert town' that is an amalgam of the city I grew up in, neighboring 'willages' and my imagination.

    The place which seizes said imagination most, perhaps, is the private academy that I attended as a child, then an adolescent and, later, at which I taught. Not sure why that geographical spot has such possession of my creative spaces, but there it be.

    Sorry. Went off on a bit of tangent, there ...

  9. Maggie--I love that song as well. It just reiterates that home is where your heart is

    Curtis--And that was a busy year.

    Theresa--there's advantages to both, but I do love the idea of a small town atmosphere. But with big town convenience. I'm so fickle--I'm an Aquarius.

    Copyboy--you're welcome to come inland, but we have tornadoes. Is there any place off the radar for natural disasters? And thank you so much for the blog love! Keep dry today.

    Becky--We stayed with my grandparents every summer and that little town brings back so many good memories. It has even made it into my novels.

    Alex--I would definitely miss Whole Foods if I went off the grid into way rural Nebraska. But when the zombie apocalypse comes, I think rural towns are where it's at. More carnage to be found in the cities.

    Stephanie--that's the smell of money! At least that's what my grandpa told me. I personally like my money a little less aromatic.

    Suze--that part reminds me of Cool Hand Luke with the mirrored sunglasses and sums up what I think happens a lot when two cultures try to merge--i.e. a failure to communicate. That's a bit tangential, too, I guess! Straight lines are boring, though. I really do believe that setting is a character and adds depth to the story.

  10. In my WIP, my characters vacation at this small town. I too love small towns and their histories. It seems like strange and unnatural things are more likely to happen in small towns, whether fictional or not. And towns like these usually are characters unto themselves.

  11. I've lived in the city my whole life. I always wanted to live in a small town. I don't know...I think it would be nice to know everyone and their dirty little secrets. LOL.

  12. I loved this! Love the blending of culture and these folks are so receptive. I'm going to post this at work! Thanks!

  13. this peru video is awesome. i'd never even heard of peru nebraska

  14. A small town sounds okay in fiction but in reality, I hate them.

  15. I grew up in a city and still prefer them over small towns. But towns are OK if they're near a city and not too tiny. I don't think I'd do well living away from everything on a farm or ranch, though.

  16. Small town CHARACTERS? Well, there used to be a guy who lived here who dressed like Elvis. He might still be around but I haven't seen him in awhile. Even his car had Elvis memorabilia on it.

  17. Cherie--I agree completely--small towns are characters in and of themselves

    E. Arroyo--Glad you liked it! I really loved the way they embraced the culture, we could all use a day in Peru

    J.--it's a tiny town, only around 600 people in southeast Nebraska

    Michael--small towns are definitely an acquired taste

    Carol--I am a sucker for convenience, but the solitude would be fantastic I think

    Sprinkles--Are you sure he wasn't THE Elvis? He's not dead, you know.

  18. Great topic Julie or maybe I am bias because I love small towns as well.

    Homer Hickam's fantastic three part series on growing up in tiny Coalwood, WV during the 1950s is full of memorable characters. His first book was made into a movie several years ago (October Sky), but I think the third one (Sky of Stone) would make an even better film.

  19. There is such a difference in every day life from city to small town. My sister lives in downtown Chicago. I live in a smaller town. The noise level, traffic, and population level (obviously) are just night and day!

  20. Moving back to my small town whet my imagination and started me spinning out characters and scenarios at a speed faster than...well, normal anyway. Now I've been living here again for seven years I see so many fun, quirky things, relationships between people (and *everyone* here is related to someone else, if not to half the county). We never want to leave!

  21. I understood nothing. I only know medical Spanish, so since there wasn't anything about a colonoscopy prep in there, it was like a silent movie, LOL!

  22. slamdunk--thanks! I am biased as well

    Kelly-- I think the noise is what I like about living in a smaller place. I'm a light sleeper!

    Heather--I do think you can find very interesting characters in the places people think are the most tame.

    Lydia--you have to put on the subtitles! I'm going to try to find a link that has them already! It's been so long since I have been good at my medical Spanish, I fear what I would tell a person about their colonoscopy. They may end up with a lung biopsy instead.


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