Take a careful look at many of the fiction books you read. How many take place in small towns? There is something about those settings that draw a reader in far more than large cities. Some of my favorite authors in a variety of genres set their stories in a small town and introduce me to a plethora of characters that eventually are featured in another book in the series. Sometimes those characters play a bigger supporting role in future stories while never moving away from their secondary character status. Don’t we all love those characters?
Setting can become a character all its own. Only in that small-town setting can the whole town know your business. Only in a closed community can stricter moral codes be enforced, i.e. Amish or historical settings.
My husband and I are presently visiting my son in North Carolina. On the way to his home, we took a side trip and visited Mount Airy, North Carolina, the prototype for the Andy Griffith TV Show setting of Mayberry. A show I grew up watching religiously. Visiting this town and the fun sites they created to pay tribute to Andy Griffith and the cast of Mayberry was nostalgic. They even have replicas of Mayberry’s police car, which they use for driving tours of Mount Airy. It felt so much like I was visiting a long-lost family. The characters in the show were based on actual people and some of the stores and sites were actually in or near Mt. Airy at one time. (Remember Mount Pilot?) Some of the buildings are still standing and others were recreated for tourists. There is an Andy Griffith museum to tour. And of course lots of souvenir shops.
We took the patrol car tour and were introduced to other things in Mount Airy beyond Andy Griffith and the fictitious Mayberry. The driver was not only knowledgable but friendly. He made us feel like we were listening to family stories.
This is why small-town settings in novels bring readers back time and time again. Whether the story is a mystery, historical romance, or a Love Inspired novel, small-town settings draw readers.
Not that you can’t set your crime drama in Chicago or New Orleans. But there is just something about a dead librarian that warrants an investigation by the citizens of the village. And the possibilities for quirky characters abound. And who would Andy Taylor be without Barney, Gomer, and a town full of nosey caring neighbors? If he were sheriff of a large city his character would be labeled a buffoon. But in Mayberry, we accept his southern wisdom and a bumbling deputy Barney, who we immediately loved.
You can set a romance in New York, Paris, or Tuscany. But it often focuses on a small niche of people rather than the whole city. But a series of romances circling around a family of males, be they firefighters, ranchers or billionaires set in a small town keeps readers coming back to purchase the next installment until all those hunky men are wed. Readers fall in love with the whole family and the secondary characters and can’t wait to see the next brother’s happily-ever-after.
If the setting is written with a you-are-there feeling, then the reader wants to return to that town time and time again. Some publishers prefer small-town settings because that is what sells for them. And sales are the bottom line. So consider creating or borrowing a real small-town setting for your next WIP and see how your characters develop.
Do you prefer small-town settings? What is your favorite book set in a small town?