On Tuesday this week, I asked:
Where did your main character grow up?
I’ll go through some of those questions for William Flynn (the character I have planned for the events of my coming Far Flung novel). I avoid naming the hometown – I might put a name to it in the story, but for now I don’t think I need one.
I ramble on, a lot – this isn’t even half of the backstory I have for Flynn’s upbringing. This should happen – once you get started on an exercise like this, you should start making connections and filling in more detail than you strictly need.
But hey, who knows what little nugget of background story might become important later, so I say, write away!
I hope you will share a little bit of what you wrote for your character’s hometown.
Here are my own musings, just to give you an idea if you’re stuck:
My Character’s Hometown:
- What kind of place is it?
- Flynn grew up with his aunt and uncle in upstate New York, without knowing much about his parents. Living close to the Canadian border, his uncle often took him over to Canada, and he had chances to play with many Canadians and Americans in his medium sized city. He had a fairly average upbringing – he went to public elementary and middle school, and his uncle bought him a VR study rig so that he could take High School and University equivalents from teachers around the world. Like most kids in his town, he spent more time playing virtual sports than real ones, but thanks to his aunt’s insistence, he played baseball and soccer outside with “real-life” little leagues. Even though most of the counties in upstate New York have merged into big cities, most people around Flynn as he grew up acted as if it were a small town. (By 22nd century standards, it arguably still is). People were friendly, and most people made efforts to know the permanent residents of the town, even with the constant flux of passers-through. Flynn had friends of various religions and backgrounds, a good education, and a taste of life outside the bigger cities like Toronto or New York.
- What’s the weather usually like?
- Climate change has affected the weather a lot by the 22nd century. Winters are shorter, yet can drop to extremely low temperatures in mid-January. Summers are much hotter – mid-summer is so hot that everyone stays indoors to avoid heat exhaustion. Hurricane-force winds ravage New York City in the summer, and the effects are felt across the whole state. Thus, Flynn spent more time inside than outside, but learned to enjoy every day he could get outdoors.
- Are your character’s neighbors generally poor, rich, or middle-class?
- Most people around Flynn had at least the basics – good homes, a variety of groceries, and access to public education. Flynn often met less fortunate people, and found that there were soup kitchens, shelters, and job training programs – some of Flynn’s first reporting experience came from exploring the options available for the poor, elderly, and disabled. While unemployment exists, community services are able to help most of the needy.
- Are most people well-educated or not?
- Almost everyone has at least a university level education. Subsidized degree programs and training courses are offered by private companies over VR connections, allowing people to take university and college courses without travelling. There are also more traditional colleges not too far from where Flynn grew up, but he never knew anyone who finished their entire degree without some virtual education.
- What do people do for fun?
- Most of the “big city” forms of entertainment are available – bars, night clubs, live theaters, cinemas, etc. There are also open parks with little league baseball, soccer, and other sports. VR entertainment is the most popular pastime all over the world, with fast internet access available nearly everywhere. Flynn often played first-person shooters and RPG-style games with his neighbors as well as with kids far across the world. There are groups and circles for pretty much any hobby, and for more esoteric interests, there are always VR groups. Flynn belonged to several writing groups which met in-person at local coffee shops, and he met plenty of journalism majors in discussions online.
- Does your character like their hometown?
- Flynn liked his hometown well enough, but was glad to leave it when he was hired by The Galactic Observer. He got along well with his aunt and uncle, and their neighbors, but his desire to succeed as a reporter took over as he got older. To him, his hometown is a “quaint little place” that he can visit again, any time he chooses, but not a place for one with ambition.
- Do other folks around your character generally share these likes and dislikes?
- With VR technology, almost any job can be done from anywhere. For Flynn, it was important to be a reporter who went out to the heart of the story, but many of his friends and neighbors stayed in his hometown. People generally like the town, figuring it’s “as good a place as any” to find a job, whether locally or by telecommuting. They appreciate living in a place close to the countryside, while still having most of the amenities of a bigger city, and most people feel it is a friendly, accepting place.