Creating a Fictional Community

(C) 2020, JJ Shaun
The Happy Harpy

I’ve spent the past working on the characters that comprise the citizenry of a make-believe outpost in the middle of nowhere—a tavern and inn called the Happy Harpy. To get an idea of what makes the place tick, I’ve fleshed out the characters that live there. I’ve created only about half of the residents, but some fascinating relationships have already developed.

One of the primary residents, and the one in charge of security, Fenmenor, has an ego the size of the continent and believes the world revolves around him. As you can imagine, not everyone agrees with his assessment of himself. In fact, almost everyone dislikes him, but he really doesn’t care. He has made this place is his home, and he will defend it with his life. Adding to his chagrin is that about half of the other residents are those that inflame his worst prejudices. He has to work with them and make sure they don’t get him killed in the meantime.

At least one of the folks, Katril, the cook, lived at the compound from the beginning—or close enough to the beginning that she has the bragging rights. She has seen it all at the enclave. A parade of “proprietors” have run the place, each a follower of the same goddess as the cook. Katril is also one of the very few that have a relationship with Fenmenor. They break their fast together every morning, and he talks while she listens. Between Katril and Fenmenor, they know more about the Happy Harpy than any other living soul.

A few bonded and married couples have settled at the Happy Harpy. Some of the couples clash enough that the drama between them doesn’t go unnoticed among the other residents of this closed community. Their tension might even spill over to some of the guests and temporary residents of the compound.

A community as small as the one I’m creating will have plenty of drama and, boy-howdy, are my creations giving me plenty of fodder. Given a chance, this little enclave could become it’s own Peyton Place. Of course, depending on how I approach the action, it could turn into a little bit of All In the Family. Who knows what will inspire me as I write the history of the tavern.

This tavern and inn have a long and storied history. It began as a refuge for an emancipated slave. It evolved into an essential way-point between two cities along a major trade route over some three hundred or so years. The Happy Harpy is still revealing its history to me, and it’s looking like a fascinating history at that. I guess I can’t expect much more from an isolated outpost in the middle of nowhere.

How about you? Do you have a work in progress in which the background characters have as much life as the main characters? Let us know, we’d love to hear how you approach the characters in your work.

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