New York (Specifically, New York City)

I took a creative writing class awhile back (this might have been as far back as seventh grade), and one of the tips for writing was something like “don’t use New York City as a setting; it’s been done to death.”

When I was in seventh grade, I hadn’t read enough to recognize that that is very true. Seems like every book published has New York as the setting or uses a setting based on New York. You’d think I would appreciate that. My parents were born in New York City and lived there their whole lives before moving upstate and having my brother and me. So my roots are in New York. My family’s roots (on both sides) are in New York.

I came to North Carolina in 1995, when I was 7, so I remember very little about upstate and even less about the city. In 2014, my dad and I took a trip back there, mainly for old times’ sake. We saw the city, the house upstate where we lived, and several other places that had meaning to me at one point.

After that visit, I could completely understand why someone would choose New York City as a setting for a book. The place is endlessly fascinating and filled with history and excitement. If I lived there (and for a long time, after graduating from college, I actually wanted to move back to the city and start my career in the publishing world), I would most likely set stories and books there.

But I have no real connection to New York. When I went up there in 2014, I felt like some alien hick from North Carolina, not classy or special enough to be in what was technically my homeland, even though that is the beauty of the city: If you want to stand out, you can. If you want to blend into the shadows, you can do that, too.

Whenever I read a book set in New York (or a city that might as well be New York), I remember the cliche and roll my eyes. It is annoying to always be reading about the Big Apple, but like all cliches, it’s a cliche for a reason: it’s true. New York is the place where dreams are made, even though I know that only in an anecdotal way.

Do you like reading about New York as a setting?

3 thoughts on “New York (Specifically, New York City)

  1. Interesting blog. As someone who has lived in NYC (I escaped to Boston and then NYC, leaving the safety of the suburbs behind when I went to college), I have to say that there is also an endless cast of characters in New York. Just walk down the street on any given a day and you will find someone to write about. One of my favorite columns in the New York Times, which I still read every Sunday even though I have lived in the Chicago area for almost 20 years, is the photographic collage that a photographer has been putting together each week by simply walking down the street. He even picks themes sometimes and finds the people he needs to fill his theme. What a perfect situation for a writer! (P.S. I used to love writing short stories when I lived there. Alas, now I have given this up!)


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