One of the most important things in fiction writing is researching the story’s setting. Where the story is set is entirely your choice: you can decide to set the story in a parallel universe, a fictitious place on this earth, or a real place.
Whichever timeline, universe, or continent you choose for the story to happen in or on, there will always be some sort of Mexican standoff: city vs. town vs. village.
Without a good knowledge of these settings, the story dies with any of your choices among the three. To help you with your research, I compiled notes on the basic features of these three settings.
Before we get to that, let us look at the definitions first.
City vs. Town vs. Village: The Definitions?
The dictionary definitions of the three terms are:
- City: “a large and densely populated urban area; may include several independent administrative districts.”
- Town: “an urban area with a fixed boundary that is smaller than a city.”
- Village: “a community of people smaller than a town.”
From these differences, one cannot get the full picture; we need more descriptions to picture and describe these types of settlements.
City vs. Town vs. Village: The Differences?
A city is a large, densely populated urban area with a diverse population and a range of industries. Cities are often centers of culture, business, and politics and are usually home to a variety of public amenities such as museums, theaters, and sports facilities.
A town is a smaller, less densely populated place than a city, often with a more rural or suburban character. Towns may be known for specific industries or cultural landmarks and may have a mix of residential, commercial, and industrial areas.
Even smaller than a town, a village can occasionally have fewer than a few thousand residents. Villages are frequently found in rural areas and may be built around a church or other community gathering place.
It’s important to keep in mind that these terms’ definitions can change slightly depending on the context and the location. The difference between a city and a town may depend on other factors, such as population density, while in other locations the distinction may be more administrative in nature. Sometimes, regardless of size or other characteristics, the terms “city,” “town,” and “village” may be used interchangeably to refer to any type of settlement.
Features of a City
There are many features that are common to cities, including:
- Large population: Cities typically have hundreds of thousands or even millions more people than towns or villages.
- Densely populated: With many people residing in a relatively small area, cities are frequently densely populated.
- Numerous land uses: Cities typically contain a mixture of residential, commercial, and industrial areas, with each area serving a particular purpose.
- Public amenities: Cities often have a wide range of public amenities, such as museums, parks, libraries, and sports facilities.
- Transportation infrastructure: Roads, highways, public transportation networks, and airports are all common features of well-developed urban transportation infrastructure.
- Cultural diversity: People from various backgrounds and cultures coexist in cities, leading to a diverse population.
- Economic diversity: Cities tend to have a diverse economy, with a range of industries and businesses operating within their boundaries.
- Political and administrative centers: Cities are often centers of political and administrative power, and maybe home to government offices, courts, and other institutions.
Examples of Cities
- Paris, France.
- Liverpool, England.
- Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
- Antwerp, Belgium.
- Berlin, Germany.
Features of a Town
Towns are smaller, less densely populated settlements than cities, and they tend to have the following features:
- Less populous: Towns typically have fewer than a few hundred thousand residents.
- Less densely populated: Towns are often less densely populated than cities, with more space per person.
- Land use: Residential, commercial, and industrial areas can all coexist in towns, but they may be more distinct from one another than they are in cities.
- Public amenities: Towns may have a limited number of public amenities, such as parks, libraries, and community centers.
- Transportation infrastructure: Towns may have a more limited transportation infrastructure compared to cities, with fewer roads, highways, and public transit options.
- Cultural and economic specialization: Towns may be known for a particular industry or cultural attraction, and may have a more homogeneous population as a result.
- Administrative centers: Towns may serve as administrative centers for the surrounding area and may have local government offices and other institutions.
Examples of Towns
- Alice Springs, NT, Australia.
- Santa Maddalena, Italy.
- Banff, Canada.
- Solčava, Slovenia.
- Wanaka, New Zealand
Features of a Village
Villages are small settlements with a population of less than a few thousand people, and they tend to have the following features:
- Small Population: Villages typically have a population of less than a few thousand people in some places.
- Rural location: Villages are often located in rural areas, away from larger urban centers.
- Limited land uses: Villages typically have a more limited mix of land uses, with a focus on residential areas.
- Few public amenities: Villages may have a limited number of public amenities, such as a community center or park.
- Transportation infrastructure: Villages may have a more limited transportation infrastructure compared to towns or cities, with fewer roads and public transit options.
- Cultural and economic specialization: Villages may be known for a particular industry or cultural attraction, and may have a more homogeneous population as a result.
- Community gathering place: Villages often have a central gathering place, such as a church or town square, where community events and activities take place.
Examples of Villages
- Gasadalur, Faroe Islands, Denmark
- Intragna, Switzerland
- Ogimachi, Shirakawa-go, Japan.
- Eze, Provence, France.
- Kaiping Diaolou, Guangdong, China.
City vs. Town vs. Village: Wrapping Up
Just going with dictionary definitions isn’t enough to help you describe the setting for your story. A Merriam-Webster description won’t do it for you; you need to know what’s in that “compactly settled area.”
You need to know the features that make it unique: physical features, man-made infrastructure, boundaries, and local administrative structures.
Also, remember that differences between regions can slightly alter the meanings of “city,” “town,” and “village.” The definition of a town or village varies depending on the cultural context around the world.