Small Towns, Big Ideas

06 Apr

I grew up in a big city. It’s only been in the last decade that I’ve lived in a small town. At times I’ve embraced small town living and at other times I’ve been appalled and ready to run screaming to the nearest city that boasts at least one Starbucks. It’s a true dichotomy, at least for me.

Then again, there is a plethora of material at my finger tips, that I as a writer can access and draw upon, that can sometimes be missed in a larger and more crowded environment. I can get up close and personal with the lady who rides her bike to and from the grocery store every hour on the hour. Why? Because there is only one grocery store and I tend to do my shopping at 2 pm.

Hmmm, maybe she has OCD and would be a great side-kick to my devil-may-care heroine? Or maybe she is an international spy on the run and has stored her top-secret laptop under the oranges and her liaison in the spy community is the produce manager? Or maybe it is an entire town of retired spies?

At any rate, this perhaps unnoticed member of the community has now become a key figure in my novel. I can draw upon her as a potential character because I am familiar with her.

Nature and wildlife are particularly important to small towns. A flood can devastate an entire county. Predators can prey upon livestock and lead to the potential ruin of a generation of beef barons. What if the flood was part of an apocalyptic verse in a world-wide thriller? First hand knowledge can draw the reader in like nothing else. Or what if the predators happened to be werewolves? What exactly does a fed upon cow look like? I think I’ll go ask my neighbor.

Small towns can be the backdrop and inspiration for a wonderful story that takes place in a small community with all the closeness and familiarity that they are famous for. But they can also be the backbone of international thrillers, spine-tingling paranormals or seductive romance.

Do you see the lone caution light on main street or the corner where the flashing light never penetrates the warlock’s shadow?

The potential for the next best-seller awaits.

And the empty stone house on the corner would make a rockin’ Starbucks.


Posted by on April 6, 2011 in Idaho


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7 responses to “Small Towns, Big Ideas

  1. johannaharness

    April 6, 2011 at 5:14 AM

    I love your examples, Meredith!

    Sometimes I’m surprised by the things that are not common knowledge to people outside the rural Northwest. Those bits and pieces always end up in my writing.

  2. Liz

    April 6, 2011 at 5:42 AM

    Superb post, Meredith! You live in a particularly fascinating region in Idaho. Joanna’s insight about what we take for granted about experiences is very good. We also have such disparate geography, climate and history that what I took for granted in northern Idaho is quite different than what I see the rural desert.

    • Meredith Conner

      April 6, 2011 at 8:24 AM

      Thanks Johanna and Liz – I am still amazed myself by the differences between big cities and small towns. Growing up I honestly thought meat came from the grocery store.

  3. lynn mapp

    April 6, 2011 at 11:45 AM

    You have put an interesting twist on small town life.

  4. Janis

    April 6, 2011 at 2:36 PM

    I remember Boise as a small town and we would walk everywhere, stay out until dark, and know everyone on the block.

    Thanks for bringing back the fond memories. I enjoyed your blog.

  5. Kate Torrenti

    April 6, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    Hey Mere wonderful writing I wish I had a quarter of your talent…Keep going girl!

  6. heather

    April 8, 2011 at 1:48 PM

    I love your stuff! you amaze me! Keep blogging, I can’t wait to hear more…


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