Friday, May 2, 2014

Truth From North Central Nowhere

 There are always trends going on in the writing of romance, and right now that’s a good thing for me because one of those trends is toward small-town or even rural romance. In the first place, this makes me snicker, because the definition   of“romance” is fairly absolute—I don’t think small-town or rural people feel one bit different than their urban counterparts when it comes to falling in love.
In the second place, from the vantage point of having spent my whole life in what is often classified (usually by those who don’t live here) as “the middle of nowhere,” I am in the smug situation of knowing the truth about life in a small town—or outside it, as the case may be. Speaking of truth, there are a few that are absolute.

1.   People don’t mind your business in small towns unless it somehow involves them or unless you’re particularly entertaining, rich, or snotty.

2.   Country folks can be smart, educated, and even sophisticated. You can dress well, eat healthy, and pay too much for a haircut. Many of us do not drive pickups with guns in the back windows. Personally, I’ve driven an SUV since 2006, which I consider quite cosmopolitan of me.

3.   We are not all waitresses with bad grammar and hearts of gold or men who sit out in front of the general store and play checkers and spit.

4.   If you’re in a town of less than 1000 residents, don’t talk about calling a taxi—there probably isn’t one.

5.   Don’t say “ain’t.”

6.   Don’t assume that kids in rural or small-town high schools never get to college or know what to do when they get there. They do.

7.   Fort Wayne, Indiana had a population of 254,555 in 2012. It’s fine to refer to it as a small town, but I wish you’d explain to me how it qualifies. I live near Deedsville, population 101—now that’s a small town.

8.   We go to plays, concerts, and movies (first run!). We travel, love our kids and pets, and worship at will.

Those are my truths, and I only write them out in this rather snarky fashion because I’ve rolled my eyes at (and not finished) too many books where the authors didn’t do their homework on life on the non-wild side.

And now there is the other side. There is the fact that sometimes when I write about large cities or even suburbs, I’m not always sure of what I’m saying. What would a city mouse say or do in the circumstances I’m writing about?
I think I have a tendency to give city-dwellers less common sense than those of us from the boonies. I make them unable to change their own tires or fix their own drains. I make them less sympathetic to the human condition. Less likely to attend church, cook well, or put together a nice outfit from the thrift shop if that’s what they need to do.
Really? I mean, come on, really? And I was being condescending about how country people are portrayed? Makes me think that, as well as sharing the truths I do know, I should pay some attention to the ones I don’t.

Retired from the post office, Liz Flaherty spends non-writing time sewing, quilting, and doing whatever else she wants to. She and Duane live in the old farmhouse in Indiana they moved to in 1977. They’ve talked about moving, but really…37 years’ worth of stuff? It’s not happening! She’d love to hear from you at
Her latest book, The Girls of Tonsil Lake, is available at online retailers and from her publisher, The Wild Rose Press.


vicki batman said...

Hi, Liz! And all the debunked myths apply to big cities, too.

Now, if someone would debunk cowboys because the ones I know drive pickups with no rifle in the window, wear free gimme caps, and caterpillar boots.

Liz Flaherty said...

Hi, Vicki. I never even thought of that. I imagine if I ever wrote a cowboy, I'd make him into a near-stereotype that would annoy someone (and rightfully so!)

Barbara said...

Yep, Liz, I'm nodding at that. anyone who classified a city of more than a quarter million as a 'small town' is really out of touch. I enjoyed your list, especially No. 2. In the small town (5,000) I lived in for years, one guy drove a pickup with a tennis racquet in the gun rack in his back window :) Barb Bettis

D'Ann said...

LOL, Liz. Would that someone be me? Hehehehe. Cowboys are like my husband. He rides, ropes. He also works in a glass shop, doesn't chew and hasn't handled a weapon in a decade. Stereotypes are stereotypes, no matter where you are. I'm proud to be country. And, I love current events. LOL

Duane Flaherty said...

Love that, Barb!

Stereotypes drive me crazy, and I worry so much that I tend to stereotype people myself.

Jannine Gallant said...

Maybe that's why I only write about small towns (or take my city characters and immediately drag them out into the woods). I only know small towns having grown up in a town of 400 people and currently live in one with 1 stop light. There's a lot to be said for sticking with what we know instead of getting it all wrong. Loved this post!

Duane Flaherty said...

Sometimes, sticking to what we know will help keep our feet out of our mouths--that much is sure!

Thanks for coming by, Jannine.

Stephanie Faris said...

I think there's something about the charm of a small town that works well with romance. Big cities are just so spread out--with a small town, a couple can fall in love and settle down without having to move to the suburbs to start a family! Congratulations on retirement and your successful writing career!

Liz Flaherty said...

Thank you, Stephanie.