Sunday, July 17, 2016

Where do your characters live?

Small towns charm me which is why I set most of my stories there. I’ve even drawn out “plans” showing how the town would look, usually with a “square” and a courthouse in the middle. There’s something cozy about a town square with life bustling around it. Life seems less frantic. People move at a slower pace. The old store fronts beckon in ways just not duplicated in a modern mall.

While I didn’t grow up in a “small” town, my hometown had a friendly feel to it back in the day. That was after the war when people were still getting back to normal after four long hard years. Downtown was the place to be, to shop, to browse, to just breathe. Small shops, a couple of larger department stores (one with a wonderful bargain basement), banks, office buildings, hotels with coffee shops, a newspaper building, and even an old two-room house belonging to the architect who designed the courthouse and in which he still lived. It’s at the local museum now, but I passed it many times.

The town in which I went to college had a square. Over time it faded away, but imaginative, civic-minded folks brought it back. Now I head for it daily each time I visit.

When I travel, I prefer routes which take me through small towns rather than a busy interstate. Too many are simply collections of empty buildings, but I try to imagine what they looked like when people populated the narrow streets. Many small towns, of course, have learned to capitalize on their history and have turned their squares into tourist meccas. Those are the best.

So when I get a story idea, I immediately envision the characters living in a small town or, at the very least, not a big city.

Amaryllis AR is home to Penelope Pembroke as she plunges headlong through the idiosyncrasies  and intrigues of its folks. From the saloon/bordello-turned feed store-turned moonshine/drug hub to the old school reputed to house its share of ghosts, life in Amaryllis is never dull. The population(a huge 5,492!) pulls together to keep the town afloat after the main business exits, leaving economic mayhem in its wake.

Dreamland AR calls a newly-widowed Trixie Blake back to her roots and the building left to her by her grandfather. Was he the grand old man of the town or as big a gangster as Al Capone? Often seen in the tiny town before his dirty deeds caught up with him, Al’s cigar smoke still wafts through the Quimby Building.  (And that may not be all he left behind!)



Are you a small-town or big city writer?

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