Sometimes the most obvious things in the world are the hardest to figure out. Like a basic understanding of what is needed in a town.
This is going to be strictly talking about the base physical make-up of a town. Things like the necessities, and basic building-blocks, so you can have some kind of foundation or idea to build off of, for your fictional town.
Step one: Have a basic understanding of three things:
- Time Period of the story.
- Size of the town.
- Location of the town.
Step two: Have a basic understanding of civilization necessities:
- Food. Grocery store or Market(s). Restaurants.
- Education. School(s) and/or Universities. Libraries or Archives.
- Law Enforcement. Police Station. Jails.
- Emergency Help. ie- Fire Station.
- Laws. City Hall or other government buildings. Lawyer’s offices.
- Medical. Doctor offices or buildings. Hospital(s). Veterinary offices. Clinics.
- Post Office.
- Shelter. Houses, apartments, condos, mobile homes, mansions etc.
- Energy Source (Unless your town is on the grid or whatever it’s called, you could look into solar powered generators for completely remote locations or wind based energy, things like that.) Gas stations.
- Cemetery. Or some other kind of burial grounds.
Step three: Entertainment & Lifestyle:
- Parks (theme or national or local)
- Shopping Malls/Shopping Centers
- Night Clubs/Bars
- Swimming Pool/Rec Center
- Places of Worship
- Businesses (factories, farms, auto mechanic, boutiques, real estate, small insurance companies, antiques, pawn shops, bakery, butcher, specialty shops, record store, comic book store… etc.)
Step four: Misc Natural and Architectural/Man-Made Landmarks.
- Architectural/Man-Made Landmarks -statues, shelter-like structure, memorials, bridges, sport stadium, railways… etc.
- Natural Landmarks -mountains, fields, types of trees, some kind of protected park, waterfall, lake… etc
Step five: Draw out a map of your town -it really just makes things easier to have something to look at and reference, especially if characters live in certain parts of town or are otherwise separated.
Things to Remember:
- Towns need a ‘hub’ or a ‘center’ of where everything is going on, where most of the businesses are, where all the action is. Towns are usually built up around this center, and fan-out in some sort of fashion. (Side note: usually, the closer to the center of town you are, the more “money” is… usually.)
- Everything needs a route. Don’t forget streets and back-roads and alleyways and stop signs and stop lights -ways to get around.
- Does your town have a “historical” section where the houses and buildings are older? Look into different architectural styles that fit your towns historical era.
- Is this pre or post-apocalyptic? Generally, post-apocalyptic settings focus more on the basic necessities. So while those “step three buildings” will be present, there would (depending on how post-apocalyptic your story is set) be no use for them (or they will be reused in some other fashion).
- Abandoned buildings/structures like factories, hospitals, and schools are always fun to play with.
- Where is your town located? Does the architectural style fit in with the time period or region?
Hope this helped! I tired to get everything I could think of!