10 Things Writers Should Know About Rural Areas

If you are a writer who doesn’t have any small town experience, but need to know about rural areas for your book, then you’ve found the right blog post!

I have lived in small towns in the Inland Northwest for most of my life. And by small, I mean between 3000 and 800 people. Life in a rural area is radically different than life in a city. For instance, we have only one stoplight in my entire county.

It might be tempting to write all the small town cliches into your book, but there’s a lot more than gossip and mud in rural areas. So here are ten things you need to know about small towns.  

1. Not everyone listens to country music. Not all of us, I promise! I listen to everything from Coldplay, to Two Steps From Hell, to Bach, but I almost never listen country. Unless I'm in line at the grocery store or bank, since they mostly play country music.  

2. Shopping is limited. Speaking of grocery stores, we have 2 in my town. That's all. We don't have much else. If you want to go to a movie you need to drive at least 15 miles, and if you want to go to a “town” and do some real shopping, you'll need to drive about 60 miles. I shop online a lot.  

3. We know what Wi-Fi is. Just because we live in the middle of nowhere, it doesn't mean we don't use technology. Some of us have laptops. And even smart phones. We use them on the Facebook and the Twitter. Imagine that!  

4. Everybody knows everybody. Yes, that small town cliché is actually true. Better yet, half the town is related to the other half, unless you're a newcomer, like me. I've lived here for 10 years. Very new here. Most of the families in the area have lived here for generations.  

5. Nepotism is a thing. Everybody is related to everybody, so I guess it's hard to avoid?  

6. Drugs. Small towns can have a drug problem. Sure, it's not anything like inner-city drug rings, but yeah, drugs do have a strong presence in small towns. There's more to the country than fresh air and horseback riding.  

7. Schools are the best! The public schools are the happening place in a tiny town. They get the lion's share of the newspaper, and everybody goes to school events. Each tiny town thinks they have the Best. School. Ever.

8. Transportation is... different. We need to talk about this one. There is no subway. There is no bus. Except a school bus. There is next to zero public transport. The upside is, it takes about 15 minutes to walk from your house to the outside of town, so you can actually walk places if you need to. I did this all the time before I got my driver's license. However, you will end up doing a lot of driving to get from one farm to the next, and to get to another town. 

9. We know when you invent things about small towns. We know because we live in the places you're trying to describe. Cow tipping, for instance is not a real thing. Nobody tries to push over livestock, gee, nobody does that. So be careful about rural myths.

Mudding, however, is a real hobby. I'm told it's great fun. It's when you go to a muddy spot and drive your pick-up around in it, get it stuck, get it out, and repeat steps 1-4. Now you know something authentic about rural pastimes. You're welcome. 

10. Rural people are independent. Sure, we have our eccentrics and oddballs, (just like any other area) but what strikes me most about small town people is the independence. I know people who hunt their own food, live on their own land, and grow some of their own food.  

Rural people can be opinionated, but they are awesome friends and wonderful neighbors. The sense of community is strong in small towns and they have an awesome way of coming together to support a cause or help those in need. There are a lot of amazing things about rural people, don't let the negative stereotypes fool you! Altogether, small towns are a great place to live and a wonderful subject to write about.
Those are the top 10 things you need to know about small towns! What is your favorite book set in a small town? What's your favorite thing about rural areas? What would you add to the list of things writers need to know about rural areas?


  1. I grew up in (er, just outside of) a small town, and these are all so true! Some of them made me giggle, too. Like, "not everyone listens to country music" (I sure don't) and "we know what Wi-Fi is" and "transportation is... different."

    1. I didn't know you grew up in a small town! That's awesome!

      Glad you liked the post! :) I felt that the country music point should be at the top of the list because I think it's one of the most popular cliches about small town people, but there are a lot of different musical tastes in small communities!

  2. I had to laugh at the country music thing. I live in a country (not quite rural) area, and we never hear country music. My brother moved to a relatively large city, and they're mad for it and have a country music festival and everything! And a lot of the people round there hate country music, even though it's such a big thing. Also, totally agree with the whole drug thing. My village as about 2500 people, and the people across the road from us got busted for growing drugs. Definitely happens even in the small places. Love this list!

    1. Thanks for the comment! :) I didn't know that about country music! It's kind of funny that it's so popular in a metropolitan area!

      Yes, it's not the first thing that is associated with small towns, but drugs can be a problem even in small places, which is too bad! :(

  3. HAhah!! Good post.

    ;-) Yes, that idea about 'cow tipping' is so ridiculous...

    ANYBODY who's ever tried to get a calf over for a branding knows how Next-To-Impossible that is, and as the bovine critter gets bigger...? No. Just flat out NO WAY is that ever going to happen.
    Besides which, most cows wouldn't even stand still long enough for some fool to touch them... without giving them a good pair of heels or a shove with their head, if they didn't run away first.

    How that crazy myth ever got started is beyond me... 'cause it must have been either someone with ZERO actual country experience who made it completely up, or someone laughing up their sleeves at the impossibility of it.

    All that aside: even Thinking-About man-handling and throwing livestock around for your own "I'm bored" cure is revolting. What is wrong with people? Respect the animals that keep us fed...
    It's like if someone said "oh, let's toss dogs at a target" or something. The very idea is insulting to... everything.

    The world is such a depressing place when it contains those kinds of mentalities.

    Anyway, yes, rural living is the way to go!!! :-)

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      Yes, I agree that the idea of cow tipping is just... well, for lack of a better word, it's stupid. Plus, it's no way to treat an animal!


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