Does your writing have authentic flavor of setting? I thought mine did. I’ve lived in lots of places and I should have known better. Before we left for New York, there were horror posts on-line about what to expect. “Don’t wear open-toed shoes because of all the needles on the streets.” “There is so much trash on the streets you can hardly walk.” And so on. I was contemplating returning a pair of killer shoes (this is the pair I plan to be buried in) because they’re open-toed. Then a voice of reason posted, “Guiliani really cleaned up the city. You don’t have to worry.” Still, we were staying right on Times Square. But my latest book is set in New York, so I was going with or without my killer shoes.
You can go on-line, visit Google Earth, or watch any of the TV shows set in New York, but you can’t feel the city unless you go there.
Living in the northwest, I have a good handle on Seattle, San Francisco, even Los Vegas and L.A., but the east coast…that’s a real road trip. It isn’t like I haven’t traversed the country several times, but it has been a while. And New York…well it’s New York. Big and bad and scary.
Back there in the old world, they have subways, New York taxi drivers (they live up to their reputation) and New York pizza. Out here, we think nothing of hopping in the car and driving across Oregon or Washington to the coast. In New York, a lot of people not only don’t have cars they don’t drive. No, really. That’s amazing. Out here, if you don’t drive you better have a good bike or a horse.
Then, there’s the store configuration. A good many of the stores had a small entrance on the ground floor with most of their products on another level. Out here, if you don’t have enough parking or you’re on the wrong side of the street, you better figure something out or people won’t stop. After all, we’ve probably driven at least across town and if there’s no parking what will we do with our big old SUV’s?
The differences are vast. The one that surprised me was New Yorker’s themselves. Their reputation of being unfriendly is unwarranted. They’re great. Clarissa and I were standing on a street corner trying to figure out which way to go to St. Patrick’s Cathedral when a very sweet woman stopped. She said, “You look confused. Can I be of assistance?” How nice was that? I’ll remember her for a long time.
While there, we were fortunate enough to experience tiny café’s with wonderful food, the lights of Broadway, an adventure to Sandy Point Coast Guard Station (that’s for another blog) a Broadway play, and street venders. I didn’t eat at one (I can only eat so much food) but I will next time.
The point is, be sure you know the flavor of your location. I’ll never be able to watch another TV show or movie without recalling the true feel of the city. The throngs of people, the smells of the street venders, the wide sidewalks, the ultra-expensive stores of the main areas. The very narrow tree-lined streets, the row houses, the restaurants tucked in old narrow buildings with apartments above and the mood of the city. A festive, hectic way of life suited only to New York.
I’ll admit I was apprehensive about going. It’s a big, big city—I’ve been to bigger, but I was a lot younger and a lot dumber. It didn’t take long before I felt right at home. I’m going to set a few more books in NY so I can go back for more research.