Guest post: Writing the Small Town by Lea Ryan

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of story locations is brought to you by fantasy and horror author Lea Ryan.

Writing the Small Town

The setting in a story is almost as important as the characters in the story. In fact, when written correctly, the setting can almost be a character in and of itself. Some people think of small towns as being boring. I beg to differ. I think small towns can be just as interesting as big cities when they have enough flavor.

The town I live in now is pretty small, so I had some inspiration for the one I used for the town of Fosters Branch in ‘Destined for Darkness’ and the sequel, ‘Devil in the Branch’ (coming July 2012).

Small Midwestern towns in the US usually look pretty similar to mine. Main Street (or whatever the locals dub it) is a line of non-chain establishments. They’re antique shops, boutiques, maybe a winery, an old-fashioned hardware store, a restaurant or two, perhaps a bank or a salon, usually in buildings constructed circa early to mid 1900s.

Another aspect of a town’s physical appearance is the type of housing available to the residents. Is it a run of dilapidated trailers or neatly landscaped subdivision housing? Fosters Branch has two classifications of homes – the five mansions and the cottages. Some of the mansions in Destined for Darkness are home to Fates (witches who influence the course of life in Fosters Branch), so they are very important places.  That brings us to the next aspect of writing the small town.

More important than the physical surroundings is the cultural dynamic. Small towns have a tendency to be gossipy. This is where the local celebrities come in. I don’t mean like newscasters or professional athletes like in larger cities.

I’m talking the town floozy, the alcoholic schoolteacher that stumbles home from the bar every other night, the mayor if they have one, the busybodies who run the church, the bake sales, the school PTO. There are always people who stand out for one reason or another, even in smaller communities. And a lot of them know each other, either firsthand or they know someone who knows the people they don’t know.

While a small town can be similar to the next town over and maybe the town after that, cultural quirks can add spice – maybe a fanatical obsession with high school sports or strange cultural expectations for the kids coming into adulthood. Maybe there’s a local Thanksgiving tradition in which the kids gather in the street and throw Styrofoam snowballs at each other. Local legends and other historical events can add some flair too.

The more personality a small town has, the easier getting lost in it becomes.


Check out Fosters Branch in all its quirky glory in Book 1 of the Fate Binds Series – Destined for Darkness (out now). Book 2 – Devil in the Branch comes out in July! for updates.

AnnaBeth has spent most of her young adult life alone in her father’s house just outside the border of the small town of Fosters Branch.

When her grandmother dies and leaves her the family mansion, she suddenly finds herself immersed in a world she never knew existed. She discovers her family’s mysterious past, powers she never knew she had, and romance with the town golden boy.

But there are consequences when you meddle in fate. AnnaBeth will risk everything to protect the people she loves.

I love it when inanimate objects become characters, as you said settings can, thank you, Lea!

Lea Ryan dwells at the edge of a farm in Indiana with her husband, two kids, two cats and a dog. The author of three books, a novella and several short stories, her genres of choice are urban fantasy and horror. She also draws things and is pretty handy with a Playstation controller. Her website is Destined for Darkness is available from Amazon and Barnesandnoble and you can add it to your shelf on Goodreads.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with poet, essayist, short story author and novelist Garden Urthark – the four hundred and eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

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