The Case For Fictional Towns

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“Do writers from New York or Los Angeles or Boston create fictional cities to disguise their hometown? I can’t think of any examples. I think writers from small Midwestern towns are more likely to create fictional places, fictional families, fictional histories because we need to psychologically. Re-naming provides anonymity. It allows us to say what we need to say without worrying so much about what our grandma or the mayor or our high school guidance counselor will say about it—although that worry never goes away completely, not for me anyway. When I celebrate Indiana, and there’s much to celebrate, I write nonfiction. When I’m criticizing Indiana, and there’s much to criticize, I write fiction. If it weren’t for good, old fashioned Midwestern modesty, we probably wouldn’t have Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Sinclair Lewis’ Gopher Prairie, Charles Baxter’s Five Oaks, William Gass’ B–, Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon.

Writer Cathy Day talks about her reasoning for turning her hometown of Peru, Indiana into Lima, Indiana for her short story cycle The Circus in Winter.


Salvatore Pane is a writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Quick Fiction, Weave, We Are Champion, Corium Magazine and others. His debut graphic novel, The Black List, will see publication later this year from Arcana Comics. He blogs at www.salvatore-pane.com. More from this author →