The Fayetteville in my stories is a little town in the Midwest, “one of hundreds that sit on tributaries that flow to the Mississippi.” There’s actually 40+ towns in the United States called Fayetteville after the Marquis de Lafayette. He was a popular Revolutionary War hero. I thought it would be a name everyone could identify with.
While I wanted a generic setting, where your story takes place shapes it. Even it it’s not as specific as New York City, certain attitudes and lifestyles go along with geography. The Midwest is variously defined as the upper middle of the country to the ‘heartland’ or ‘breadbasket’ of America. People there refer to themselves as ‘pioneer stock’ and the area’s know for farming – even though corn is used for ethanol and some of those farms house computer servers.
The Census Bureau defined the Midwest as Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Even within those 12 states though, culture ranges from large cities like Chicago or Detroit to grain fields that literally go on for miles. The idea includes anything between the ‘city slickers’ on the East Coast and ‘cowboys’ out West.
The debate about who makes up the heart of America comes up as Iowa kicks off the primaries in February.
Colin Woodward says the nation consists of 11 separate regions and distinct cultures. He calls this idea of core America – middle class, moderate, self-sufficient – ‘The Midlands’ and it runs down the middle of the country.
Where your story takes place starts to impact more than just attitudes or values. Even things like how you speak, what job you do, and how you die differs based on region.
- What Dialect Do You Speak?
- Most Common Languages Spoken by State
- How Do People in Your State Die?
- Statistical Atlas of the US
And of course, we can’t forget the leprechauns who live in Fayetteville. The Irish were regular immigrants to the US. People who move in from outside the area and/or claim an identity from another place bring up a whole new layer to setting and character.
BTW, Ben Blatt makes an important point about the danger of relying too heavily on viral maps, but they’re still a fun way to spark thinking. Who are your characters and where are they from?