1. tropicanahana
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    tropicanahana Member

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    Is the NYC setting overdone?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by tropicanahana, Jul 3, 2016.

    Hi there! I'm writing a near-future novel. In my novel, transportation has been capped in cities in an effort to reduce carbon emmisions, save for emergency vehicles, government, and the excesively wealthy perhaps. People walk and bike everywhere otherwise (and take trains/subways). I want to set the novel in NYC because I am from there, but I wonder if it's cliche to have a future novel in NYC? Do others feels it's overdone? I have also lived in Charleston, SC and toyed around with the idea of setting it there. As a small city, the bann of teansportation could work, but my MC family and friends are blends of Moroccan and Asian and Charleston just did not have that kind of diversity. It's in the future, but it's only 40 or so years in the future, I don't think that is much time to turn a city fully multi-ethnic. Thoughts?

    Ps. Sorry for any spelling/grammar errors, my ipad backspace key is not working!!
     
  2. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    I think NYC is definitely over done in terms of novels set there. That being said, if you have a fresh idea and know the city very well, it wouldn't make sense to set the story somewhere with which you are less familiar. It I think the most important thing would be to make sure your writing is top notch. If the writing is top notch, you can get away with setting a book in NYC.
     
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  3. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    I read somewhere that Minneapolis has the largest Hmong population in the US, and the Vietnam war has only been over for 40-odd years, so making Charleston multiethnic in that space of time seems do-able to me. Full disclosure, I'm from Chicago and sick to death of hearing about NYC and LA... :)
     
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  4. FireWater
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    FireWater Active Member

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    I think it's most important that it's a place you've been to (or, preferably, lived in) so that you can portray the city/town in a believable manner in terms of its culture, climate, layout, etc. It sounds like you could do that for either of those two places, so you could pull off Charleston if you want.
     
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  5. Vagrant Tale
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    Vagrant Tale Active Member

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    God yes, 100% absolutely NYC is overdone.
     
  6. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    "Overdone" is a more fragile concept than people seem to think it is. If it realistic for something to be somewhere, or if it works well, then working it effectively is not a bad thing. Even if in high amounts. I see no negativity in a trend towards an important, populated city in an important, populated country. Originality of that kind is particularly insubstantial, nothing's going to be ground-breaking, why bother giving it more than a slight thought? You should preference more unusual choices here but it shouldn't be important for this aspect to be different. The most important originality is in the substance, not in all the superficial stuff people seem so fixated on when it comes to originality. "Oh, dinosaurs on a spaceship! So original!' Who cares?! Are the characters substantial, and what is done with them and the setting interesting? Are any messages interesting and well-sent? Is it written well? Everything else is shiny wrapping to sell it.
    EDIT: To be clear though, it is kind of overused. So pick something less done if that works just as well otherwise.
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2016
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  7. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Funny, how everybody just can't wait to fall prey to the Big Apple. Whats wrong with some small town in say Kentucky, or Kansas? Using Iconic places seems to be a major selling point of perspective. New York, NY has been through enough in the real world already, as well as the fictional. So has L.A., CA.

    Ultimately it is your story, and you can do what thou wilt.

    Godzilla! :superlaugh:
     
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  8. Mikmaxs
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    Mikmaxs Active Member

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    When getting his very first start on The Dresden Files, Jim Butcher was told by a writing instructor not to set it in Kansas City, because in his opinion Kansas Freakin' City was overdone. So Jim moved it to Chicago, and I'm deprived of good fiction set in my hometown.
    Overdone is subjective. Pick a location that fits your story and your characters.

    Or move it to Kansas City. I want more books set in Kansas City.
     
  9. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    In my honest opinion: London, New York, and Tokyo are three of the most overused settings in fiction. They're not the only three cities on Earth. If you're going to use a real city, research the crap out of it. Nothing will piss off the readers from that city more than getting their home wrong.

    Or use London, New York, or Tokyo. It's your story. Do what works for you.
     
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  10. tropicanahana
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    tropicanahana Member

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    Thanks for all your feedback! Some great points of view.

    The reason I think so much is written about NYC is that it is such a populated city, that doesn't include all the writers who lived there just to go to school too! Nothing wrong with a small town in Kentucky or Kansas, I love the small town setting... I fall prey to many a lifetime movies and New York Times best sellers hahah! I have just never been to either of those locations nor have I lived in a town smaller than Charleston, SC (or one on Long Island NY) lol.

    I strongly agree with what firewater said too, and I really like to imagine the setting I am writing in - down to the weather, accents, building, local politics manners and education (which transition but are always grounded in history) and street structure. And I am familiar enough with CHS, so I have been brainstorming it some more, also Long Island. I didn't realize about post war immigration in other cities, like minneapolis! So that is a great point. NY is kinda full :)
     
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  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have to quibble that trains and subways ARE transportation. So are bikes. You seem to be referring to a ban on privately owned four-wheeled vehicles, perhaps specifically gas-powered vehicles.
     
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  12. tropicanahana
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    tropicanahana Member

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    That's what I meant. The culture of transportation will be entirely different, cities will prohibit all personal vehicles, only emergency/freight/public transport vehicles are effective. All people will travel and enter the city through train/subway/bus/boat/bike
     
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  13. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    A lesson in clarity, methinks. Next time perhaps more specifics?
     
  14. tropicanahana
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    tropicanahana Member

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    Let me just give you the excerpt that I'll put on the back cover... :p
     
  15. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    A bike is also a personal vehicle. Why am I nitpicking? I'm not sure. I guess I feel that this may not be as thought-out as would be best.

    For example, are bikes with battery-powered motors forbidden? If so, that means that electricity is also heavily regulated, so surely that regulation would go beyond transportation--for example, maybe light fixtures would have built-in clocks that made them non-operational in the daytime.

    If not, then why would cars with battery-powered motors be forbidden? Is it about size? What about those weird little three-wheeled electric cars that you see now and then? What about pedicabs? What about electric wheelchairs for the handicapped?
     
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  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It's kind of a ridiculous notion, the idea that a geographic location can be overdone or the supplyof stories properly set there exhausted. If you want to set your story in New York, set it there.
     
  17. NeeNee
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    NeeNee Member

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    Another thought is base your city on a mash up of the cities you are very familiar with and call it something totally different, let people wonder if you are talking about their city or not.
     
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  18. Sack-a-Doo!
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    I may be nuts, but I've set my WIP in a small town in Nova Scotia... in the 1960s. Then again, I'm sure I'm just about the only person other than Spider Robinson to do so, so it'll be almost 100% unique if nothing else. :)
     
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  19. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    How about Nigeria, and it's about a family who wants to assist a family friend in saving up enough money to found his own company? :D ;)
     
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  20. LinnyV
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    LinnyV Contributing Member

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    I still vividly remember my visit to NYC. It's pulsing with life and there are so many angles you can take. I remember how this gentleman I bumped into at Queens station who was on his day off. Out of the blue, he decided he wanted to give me a tour of the city, best experience. I found it fascinating that he had never left the city his entire life. I'd just driven down from Vermont myself. Anyway, my point is that there are so many stories that could be set there that would be very interesting.

    So if it inspires you then you should go with it. There's a reason it is over-used, but personally, I don't think it could ever be over-used.

    Also keep in mind, that it is your NYC, so what that looks like will always be a unique experience.

    I would gladly read dozens of novels based in NYC and never be bored as long as the writing is good.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2016
  21. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    So, here's the thing about New York. It's both overdone and totally unexplored!

    Yeah, we've all seen a ton of movies or books set in Manhattan or a generalized "New York City" setting - but NYC, like any city, is a conglomeration of neighborhoods and micro-communities. Has the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood been beaten to death as a setting for mid-century noir stories (and Marvel comics)? You betcha! But I don't think I've ever seen anything set in the Chinese-American community in Queens - which by the way is the largest on the East Coast. Or you could look at Dominican enclaves in the Bronx. Or Orthodox Jewish communities in Borough Park. Heck, I'm not sure I've ever even SEEN anything set on Staten Island (the smallest and most suburban of the five boroughs). Plus you have a lot if smaller immigrant groups that really can only exist as communities in a city the size of New York (I remember Anthony Bourdain did an episode on one of the outer boroughs where he ended up at a party being thrown by a community from the ethnic Garifuna minority from Honduras).

    So, don't do generic "New York City" - pick a neighborhood or a community within New York City and go there. Heck - I'll go out on a limb and recommend Staten Island. Go for that :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2016
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  22. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    And just because your post got my wheels turning - I did some googling to see where one might find a Moroccan community in New York if one went looking. The answer I found is that if you want a neighborhood with a high concentration of Moroccan, Egyptian, and other North African immigrants - the neighborhood to look at is Astoria in Queens
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astoria,_Queens

    Queens also has a huge emerging Chinese community in the Flushing neighborhood,
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flushing,_Queens#Emerging_Chinese_communities

    So if your "Asian" characters are Chinese-American, and you have Moroccan characters, you certainly could write a story based in and around Queens.

    Also, Wikipedia has a handy list of where to find different ethnic enclaves within NYC
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_City_ethnic_enclaves
     
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  23. Imaginarily
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    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

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    What they said ^ plus,

    strongindependentblackwoman.jpg

    You don't need anyone's permission to place your story where you want to place it. Write the thing, write it well, your audience will find you.
     
  24. LinnyV
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    LinnyV Contributing Member

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    This was the single most surreal experience I remember when I was there. I ended up driving into Queens and no idea where I was... I thought I was in an Asian country!!!!! Please excuse my ignorance too because I have never actually visited Asia in all my travels. But I was suddenly surrounded by ....ASIANS, when I least expected it since I thought I was visiting NYC. I fit right in.

    And this is where I will call on my lack of political correctness and indulge a little of being Chinese myself, but I remember thinking: Where are the 'white' people? I went down (or was it up) an escalator in the station and there was mandarin on the speakers... WTF?!

    So I'm on the phone, exclaiming to hubby (boyfriend at the time) that I was somehow stuck in some sort twilight zone Chinatown that I can never leave. I was really hungry at the time and getting cranky. I didn't want to eat Asian food but I just kept walking past a never ending row of Asian businesses...

    I loved my visit and I will definitely head back there, so if a book can take me back there, even better!

    NYC does feel like a place that would have unexplored areas as far as the story world.
     
  25. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Lol "Twilight Zone Chinatown". That sounds so surreal - especially coming from a Chinese viewpoint yourself. That's gotta feel weird suddenly being in the majority! (I got something similar a few years ago in DC when the big "Tea Party" rally came to town and Middle America suddenly took over my uber-professional town - it was like "I'm still in DC, but all the people from back home are here...")
     
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