Writing locations

February 13, 2010

Perhaps I shouldn’t be admitting this but I have been finding Google’s street views very useful. Maybe a bit of background information might help to excuse me.

Chapter 2 (that starts a new narrative thread as explained in the previous post) is set in New York. Mostly it consists of 2 conversations that Anthony has on his mobile phone in the back of a cab. There are a few contextualising descriptions of the city throughout the chapter. I wanted to open out the locations of this narrative thread at an early stage so that when Anthony travels to Venice and Egypt later in the thread it won’t feel like such a jump.

New York is the ideal location as it represents a focal point of cultural diversification (that’s also outside Europe). Unfortunately, I’ve never been there. Of course, it’s somewhere that is familiar to most of us through its numerous portrayals in film, television and literature – something else that makes it a great location, as readers have their own negotiated perception of the city, so it only needs to be described in brief snap-shots that don’t interrupt the pace of the story.

 However, it is also a city steeped in stereotypical representations, such as the ubiquitous loud-mouth New York cabbie or references to its numerous iconic landmarks. To help me convey New York in an interesting way I have been exploring some of its literary representations such as ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and ‘American Psycho’. I then used Google’s street view to get a sense of place and tone, and to locate a specific setting in New York. You really can spend hours just touring around.

 Here’s one of the snap-shots from Chapter 2 of ‘The Curious Collection of Wainwright Caspinal’:

 I was sat in the back of a cab on East River Drive. Generic New York where concrete walls and tower blocks hide its Art Deco beauty. Across the water the Triborough Bridge was just a faint outline in the fading evening light. A quiet, Indian-looking man drove the taxi, crouching forward over the steering wheel with a pair of thick-rimmed glasses perched on his nose, calm in the crawling traffic.

 Always interested in your thoughts.