I just finished a book set in a tiny town. It occurred to me that I have recently set a few of my own stories in small towns, and I got to wondering why.
I guess it’s easier to keep track of everyone. There is the bloke who runs the store, the lady who has the gift shop, the kid who works at the gas station, and so on. There’s a limited population. One of each trade, unless having two is a conflict point.
What happens when a second real estate agent opens? Or a rival gift shop, or whatever.
The rivalry thing is a common romance trope. Or the one-upmanship of your daughter’s wedding must be better than the neighbours’ daughter’s wedding. I’ve read a few of those. They can’t work in a huge town with dozens of weddings every weekend. At that scale it doesn’t matter as much.
Making characters up is hard work. They have to be different, sound like themselves, have their own backstories and so on. Each character is the hero of their own story.
And it’s easier to make them care about other things, or to show them caring.
Their community is smaller and a change of attitude is more noticeable. If they dislike the protagonist because they’re new in town, that’ll show. If that protagonist does something that brings new industry and economic growth to the town, the locals will really care. Some may oppose it if they’re change averse. Others may love it and adore the protagonist for ‘saving’ the town.
It’s harder to write or show that interaction in a population of thousands or millions.
I was born in a tiny town. It currently has 211 people.
I have lived in all kinds of places from a town that small to the second largest city in the world. Jakarta’s current population is 31 million.
That’s a lot of stories to tell.