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  1. Picture the buildings that typify small towns—the post office, the town hall, the library, a church, a store (perhaps a Five and Dime or a drugstore if the time period is more historical), the town green that lies between buildings.
  2. Picture the neighborhoods surrounding the downtown buildings. Draw a map. Imagine the connections between the streets.
  3. See the groupings of houses. Picture the connections between neighbors, the small errands and offerings of the needed cup of flour or eggs.
  4. See the flowers and trees that bloom in the summer, the color of the leaves in the fall.
  5. Hear the conversations between a cashier and a customer. They’ve seen each other weekly over the years. The cashier recognizes the children that stand in line with a mother. She knows the man who stops at the store each evening to buy a paper.
  6. Remember barbeques and parades. Remember festivals and church picnics.
  7. Write a list of invented names—the people who live in this town. Keep this list where you can refer to it. Use the names to help weave the reality of the larger group of characters that surround the story you’re telling. They are the witnesses, ultimately, to any story about their town. They hold the story.
  8. Visit small towns. Notice the way they are laid out. Notice their buildings and the people walking their streets.
  9. Slow down. Walk the streets of a small town. Feel the rhythms of the slowed life in your body.
  10. Let the invented streets and characters of your imagined town spin from these rhythms. Let their conversations hold the movement of a small town day.

 

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