View Full Version : Looking for a small town...

09-24-2008, 04:18 AM
I'm starting a new project; a drama about a girl from a small town who takes a road trip to California. I've been trying to randomly pick states and just search through some small towns, but since I haven't been to most of them, it's becoming a wild goose chase, so to speak.

The sort of town I'm aiming to use as my start point in the story should be quaint, but not miniscule or desolate, entirely. The kind of town where a seventeen year old girl might get so bored with their picket fence filled suburban neighborhood that she would pack up her 72 Chevy Impala and flee to the West (without parent permission/supervision) in search of some kind adventure, good or bad.

The kind of town where your parents know that you skipped class before you even make it home that evening.

I'm thinking midwest, though maybe as far east as Pennsylvania...

Can anyone help me out with a town?

09-24-2008, 05:12 AM
Hi gophergrrl - I see you're in Kentucky - why not one of the small towns along the Ohio River - in Kentucky or Ohio or Indiana. There are a lot of them - quaint, old, and rimmed in by the hills above the river. Perfect set-up for boredom and "everyone knows everyone else's business". Puma

09-24-2008, 05:34 AM
Barrett, MN: population 53.

09-24-2008, 05:40 AM
I've trekked from CA to WI and back and what I remember as being cute and quaint, not so small and desolate, but cute and different were Janesville WI, Lincoln NE, the first small town in IL just over the boarder heading north, cute and small really dont know the name of the town...oh and Wisc Dells was pretty interesting.

Yea, thats all I got.

09-24-2008, 05:44 AM
Well, I'm that girl. So, I'll PM you with the town. I need to protect my location. I can't tell you in public.

09-24-2008, 05:56 AM
Oxford, North Carolina (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxford,_North_Carolina)

09-24-2008, 06:30 AM
Hannibal, Missouri is extremely quaint, and historic, too.
Bellingham, Washington, a college town, is also quaint and picturesque (short road trip, though).
If you want a small military town, Fayetteville, NC might do the trick.
A tourist trap? Blowing Rock, NC or Wilmington, NC.

Obviously I'm biased for NC, since I live here :)

09-24-2008, 06:35 AM
Um...I live there--Great Falls, Montana. Though Stowe, Vermont is a great quaint small town back east.

Clair Dickson
09-24-2008, 07:43 AM
SHoot, that happens in Livingston County, population 180-some thousand! It doesn't have to be a very small town for some people to get bored and restless.

For grins and kicks, you could always go with Hell, Michigan. ;-) Yes, it's real. It's south of Pinckney. OR! Paradise, Michigan-- this rinky-dinky tiny town in Michigan's Upper Pennisula. Everything up there is pretty small, and Paradise is on the top side, rather removed from, well, the rest of the world.

Any other criteria on a town? Of course, if you head up into the New England states, it makes for a longer trip, too.

C.M. Daniels
09-24-2008, 09:01 AM
Ha! I was born in Great Falls, MT. I was raised in Boulder, MT (pop 1100).

I vote for pretty much anywhere in MT. The whole state is full of tiny towns teens would sell their soul to escape from.

09-24-2008, 10:54 AM
Could you not have a fictitious town?

I wanted to set a book in a certain area in UK, I knew what the small villages were like in that area, but was wary of using an existing one. I used actual names of nearby towns, but I created my own little village sort of vaquely in the location. No danger of having the church the wrong distance from the village shop or school, I simply plonked them down where I wanted them.

09-25-2008, 12:02 PM
Hah! I Go you all one better! Custer, SD (http://www.custersd.com/): The town where watching paint dry is an actual sport. The entire state has a population of about 700K, and Custer has about 2K. It's near some great tourist traps (just 24 miles from Mt. Rushmore!), and is overrun by bikers headed for Sturgis (giving your MC a way out if Greyhound isn't good enough).

Oh yeah, and there are webcams and decent maps available...

If it helps...


09-25-2008, 12:40 PM
Make one up! Worked for Stephen King ...

09-26-2008, 12:04 AM
Thanks everyone for the help. I think I've picked one to go with.

Yes, I thought about making one up, but it made for planning a cross-country trip route a little trickier (the route/journey is very important in the storyline so I wanted an actual place).

Thanks, thanks, thanks guys and gals! ^_^

09-26-2008, 12:14 AM
You're mixing metaphors just a tad. Small towns aren't filled with white picket, suburbiite fences. Small towns have lots of old people and main streets with empty shops. If there are any white picket fences they are on the edge of town. Most people in small towns live outside town.

09-26-2008, 01:19 AM
Depends on where you are. Melancholyman. There's a small town a half mile up the road from me - the inhabitants live in the town - outside the town it's farm field after farm field. I'm on one of the first farms outside the town - and would never tell anyone I lived in the little town. And yes, my small town is still quaint with the oldest houses at the center and no empty shops. But it's a very small town, population app 150. Puma

09-26-2008, 06:52 AM
You're mixing metaphors just a tad. Small towns aren't filled with white picket, suburbiite fences. Small towns have lots of old people and main streets with empty shops.
This is the point I was going to make. I've driven through plenty of small towns, and I've never seen one that was suburbia. Suburbia doesn't have a small-town feel. Also, in the suburbs I know most people mind their own business, which would be a problem if you need everybody to know what everybody else is up to.

Danger Jane
09-28-2008, 03:05 AM
Suburbia where I'm from (south of Boston) definitely feels small-town...maybe not small 2K people small, but everybody knows everybody small. My town of 15K had one traffic light and plenty of picket fences.

My recommendation (from experience) is probably too far east for you, but I can see your MC living in a town like Pembroke, Marshfield, or Duxbury, MA, or maybe on Cape Cod (those towns ARE tiny, and pretty empty in winter, some of them, because of the huge tourist industry there).

09-28-2008, 11:28 PM
"picket fence filled suburban neighborhood"

There is a big difference between suburban and small-town. I think you should stick with a small town instead of something next to a big city.

1) Fairfield, Iowa. Once the home of Parson's College, now the home of Marharishi University, Fairfield still has the small-town thing down cold. The nearest 'big city' is Ottumwa, (with about 25,000 people), about a half-hour away. The kids probably don't get to Ottumwa more than once or twice a year.

2) Iowa City/Coralville, Iowa, home of the University of Iowa. Coralville is the place with the stripmalls, Iowa City the place with the picket fences. The closest city is Des Moines, about an hour drive. Picturesque city, highly educated population. (I think it's statistically the most educated small town in the USA).

3) Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. This was a vacation town for the rich from the mid-1800s to the 1930s. Now it's a vacation and outdoor recreation town for the rest of us. Very pretty town with Victorian mansions, 47 lakes and one swamp. Population about 12,000 people, about half-way between Madison and Milwaukee, but not that close to either.

4) LaCross, Wisconsin. This is a larger city, about 50,000, on the upper Mississippi River on the border of Wisconsin and Minnesota. There's lots of fly fishing and bass fishing here. It's at the beginnin of the driftless area (where the glaciers didn't come). Very pretty, typically upper midwestern (people are informed and involved with their communities).

5) Stillwater, Minnesota. A town of reasonably-priced Victorian homes (historical preservation is big here) surrounded by farms and a large recreational area (fishing, hiking cross-country and downhill skiing), on the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Very pretty area, very pretty town. Downtown is botiques and excellent (expensive) restaurants. There's a winery nearby. Population 16,000. Nearest city, the Twin Cities, about 30 minutes down the interstate.

6) Northfield,Minnesota. Home of two colleges, one progressive and one Lutheran. Population is about 15,000 (plus about 5,000 college students). Picturesque, progressive with an art community, good schools but in many ways, very small town. Northfield is about 35 miles south of the Twin Cities

7) Savage, Minnesota. You need this just for the name. Savage's greatest claim to fame is it was the home of Dan Patch, the greatest racehorse of the early 20th century. Population around 23,000. Prosperous. About 35 miles from the Twin Cities. Many people work in Minneapolis or St. Paul and live in Savage. There are snowmobile trails inside the city, but you can't park you car on the streets overnight.

8) Ottumwa, Iowa. A town of about 25,000 people (in the 1970s it had closer to 35,000) surrounded by corn and soybean fields. The closest city is Des Moines, about 90 miles to the northwest. Contains a meatpacking plant, other factories and a non-navigable river. Is home of Indian River Community College. Once people leave, they don't tend to return home. One nearby town, Dahlonega is still on the map although it hasn't exsisted in any form what-so-ever for more than 50 years. It's kinda strange, with weird camera angles and strange background music. It's not just where Radar O'Riley is from (MASH) but where Edna Feber (Show Boat, Giant, Cimarron come on you guys you should know your award willing novelists and playwrights) spent much of her childhood.

Anyway, I hope this helps.