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any tips on creating a fictional town in america? I went through the settings tag and couldn't find much

Anonymous

thewritingcafe:

Pick a Region: (Italicized states could fit into more than one group, depending on who you ask, and some people list more or less regions than the ones listed below)

  • Northeast: New York, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey
  • Midwest: Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma
  • Southwest: Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada
  • South: Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Maryland, Delaware, Louisiana, Arkansas, 
  • West: California, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Montana
  • Non-Contiguous: Alaska, Hawaii

Once you’ve got your region, narrow it down by state. You don’t have to get more specific than that if you don’t want to, but your character’s world will give away what region they’re in and possibly the state based on clues. Here is what you should know when creating your fictional town in a region/state:

  • Environment: Know the environment of your region or state. There are no wolves (except for isolated incidents) in areas like the lower Midwest, so it would be odd for your characters to come across a pack of wolves in a southern Wisconsin forest.
  • Climate: There are tons of different climates around the US. If the area of your town is specific (like how South Park is a mountain town in Colorado), you’ll need to know more about that climate. If your characters are in a temperate region, you just need the seasons to change depending on the timeline of your story. If your characters live in a region where heavy snowfall is common, snow days at school will be rare.
  • Culture: Slang, common religions, architecture, food, popular music, references (to nearby cities, sports teams, etc.), etc. vary by region, by state, and by city. Some slang is only found in certain cities or certain regions of a state.

Type of Town:

  • Rural: Rural towns are found in the countryside, often with low populations. 
  • Suburban-Rural: These are a mix of suburbia and the countryside. Houses may be placed farther apart, the town might be larger than a suburb without having a larger population, and there may be small businesses.
  • Suburban: Suburbs are just outside cities and large towns and are primarily residential, meaning there are not a lot of businesses. In the US, it’s typical for suburbs to have single-family homes (though there are multi-family homes sometimes), sidewalks, and gaps between houses. Suburbs are a favorite for authors, especially YA authors.
  • Suburban-Urban: These are between the “true” suburbs and the city, often sitting on the border of the city. They have residential areas, but also everything you might find in a city such as busy streets, public transportation, several businesses, and buildings. You’re more likely to find multi-family homes and apartment buildings in suburban-urban towns than you are with suburban homes.
  • Urban: Urban towns aren’t necessarily in the heart of the city (the main tourist areas). Urban neighborhoods, towns, villages, etc., vary greatly by city and each one has its own unique culture and demographics, especially if there is a large population of immigrants in the area. Some urban towns can resemble suburban towns.

When you’ve got your town, draw a map for it. Note important places, like schools and the homes of characters. If your characters are in a suburb or a suburb-urban town, pick either a real city or a fictional city in a real state to put it around.

If your characters are in school and you want a lot of characters, pick an urban, suburban-urban, or suburban town. For the last one you can have more than one suburb share a school. If your character works at a place like a major law firm, they’ll probably need to be near a city. Think about what your character needs to pick a town.

Other:

  • Name: If you know what region your town is set in, look at the names of real towns around that area. They usually follow a pattern. The name of the town can be the name of schools, businesses, streets, and parks too.
  • History: If needed, come up with a history for your town. You might not think you need it at first, but it can come in handy. For example, if you need your characters to be at an event, there can be a party for the town’s 100th birthday. The age of the town might also determine the architecture.
  • Appearance: In the town I grew up on, every property had at least one (big) tree on the front lawn thus creating an arch of branches and leaves over every residential street in the summer. What does your town look like? Are there boulevards? Parks? Fences? Alleys? Driveways? Streetlights? Public transportation? Tall houses? Wide houses? Large properties? Small properties? Is it hilly or flat? While there may be a combination of all of these things, certain traits may be more dominant or typical.
  • Activities: What is there to do in your town? Is there a popular hangout? Is there a beach nearby? Do people go to a nearby city for fun? Are there certain areas within the environment (cliffs, clearings in a forest, a lake, etc.) that are popular hangout spots?
  • Keep track of all facts: Write down everything about your town so that you don’t end up with inconsistencies. Keep a list of schools, businesses, public places, government buildings, and everything else that is relevant.

Your town has to be realistic. Readers should have an idea of where this town is or what is near it. A suburban town in the middle of nowhere with no mention of where it is and varying ecosystems isn’t realistic. It’s surreal, distant, and might only work in certain fantasy genres. A town with a population of 15,000 people, but with four middle schools, two churches, a mosque, a synagogue, two law firms, no variation in economic or social class, eight restaurants, and a car dealership is unrealistic unless this small town is used as a center for several other towns.

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