1. Astatine
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    Astatine New Member

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    What is it like in a large city?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Astatine, Jan 17, 2012.

    I'm curious about this because I hardly ever go to cities and I need a proper setting. What kind of shops are there? Are there many houses or apartments? What are the people like? It would especially help if you could give me descriptions of downtown and uptown in cities. (different areas) The description in my story sounds fake and unrealistic.

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  2. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Senior Member Contributor

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    it depends on where you are in the world, and what city. Why don't you go to the nearest city for a day and see for yourself and call it research? Anything you see with your own eyes/ notice with your own senses is a way better ground than anything people tell can you. You have to feel the smells, the air, hear the sounds, watch people. maybe it'll also give you further inspiration and new ideas.
  3. Astatine
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    Astatine New Member

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    Any city. I'm thinking New York or something like that. And I'm a kid, I can't simply drive to a city every time I feel like it.
  4. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Senior Member Contributor

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    it's just that many big cities are very different from one another depending on which country or continent. But generally speaking I can say (living in a european "big city") that city people are almost always in a hurry, they literally run everywhere, hardly even stopping to have a talk to a friend they meet on the street. they have busy lives and as a paradox you can say that even though they have everything they need within reach they always complain about lack of time. It seems like the bigger city the busier people are. you don't always know your neighbors, and most of the city people doesn't have time for a friendly relationship to the people around them even though they see each other every day, like the staff at caf├ęs, supermarket cashiers, childrens teachers, collegues and so on. Big cities are never quiet, there's always rumour and there are always people out and awake even in the middle of the night. I haven't been to new york but I guess it's like every big cityx100. or even 1000. Although I don't think you can say new york is a typical big city, it's worse, in every way. bigger, louder, crazier, more extreme, more dangerous.
    where do you live, by the way and how old are you?
  5. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    do you watch films?
    they are usually mostly filmed around big cities.
    The Sex and The City is one.
  6. Astatine
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    Astatine New Member

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    I'm 15 and I live in Israel (not many big cities there)

    So is this good?

    In the city, a seemingly endless stream of cabs and buses drove through the streets; it was strikingly different than the farmland a few miles away. Around every street, there were businesses and stores and skyscrapers, a rushing, busy place that seemed almost like a living being in itself, never slowing down, never stopping even if it meant to crush you under its feet.

    I also want to know what buildings or stores there are, especially downtown.
  7. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    yes what you wrote is good.
    there are banks and department stores.
    there are huge shopping centers( check this one out Westfield Shopping Center London)
    there are cinemas/bars/cafes/restaurants/nighclubs/bus stops/tube stations/schools/hospitals/blocks of flats/lots of roads and traffics/noise/petrol stations/sports grounds/sports centers/parks/taxis stops/parks....
    basically it is crammed and not bery nice.
  8. Astatine
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    Astatine New Member

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    Yeah that's good. You wrote park twice though...:redface:
  9. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick New Member

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    I live on the north side of Chicago, in a high rise. From my apartment, I can see the lake on one side, and more high rises and apartments, churches, and schools. Mostly buildings at least three stories tall, averaging around five. I'm in a residential area. On main streets (every 5-10 blocks or so), it seems like there is another Dunkin' Doughnuts, McDonalds, Subway, autoshop, dollar store, and CVS every mile or so; you're always within eyeshot of one of each. On non-main streets, there are no shops or restaurants, etc. UNLESS there is a public transport train stop on that street. Then, there are plenty of shops, mostly small businesses.

    I live on a train stop street, and even though I am only three blocks from the train stop, I pass four "Groceries" (that are really convenience stores), two dry cleaners, two pizzerias, a sketchy computer-repair store, a coffeeshop, and a bakery. The bakery is tiny, the size of a bedroom, and sometimes I suspect those cookies have been there in the display case for like a week or so. I see the same beggars regularly. Not every day, but there's one guy that always sits quietly, shaking a cup with change, a saxophone guy that's always playing jazz tunes, and a man in a wheelchair with no legs.

    In big cities, parking is horrendous, so most people take cabs if they are rich, or else buses or trains. Trains are much faster than buses, because they take less stops, but buses go pretty much anywhere. They are really slow especially during rush hour when you think it might almost be faster to get out and walk. There's frequently a "crazy" person on trains that everyone ignores. At night homeless people ride trains back and forth, sleeping in the chairs because the trains are heated. Bus drivers are usually really grouchy and will snap at you if you don't have correct change. To take the train or bus in chicago is $2.25, and people usually have flimsy credit-card looking cards loaded with money. There are vending machines at each station where you insert the card, insert the money, and then the money is loaded on the card. For the train, you have to have the card to cross the stile, but the buses take cash in a insert-the-bills-and-coins thingy (don't know what it's called, but similar to a vending machine)

    No one looks at anyone else. When I lived in a small town, people would often say "Hi" when I passed them on a sidewalk, or else smile and nod their head or something. But no one ever looks at or talks to strangers here.
  10. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Senior Member Contributor

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    google maps is a good tool to find out what kinds of activities you can find in different kinds of streets, zoom in to street view level and you'll get a good idea. :) and yes, I think what you wrote is good.
  11. Rosa
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    Rosa New Member

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    I grew up in a city and was so used to the various sounds, they never registered. After moving away to a country town for a few years I was stunned by the noise of the traffic when I returned for a visit.
  12. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    Haha...Ok let's put pubs instead. You have heard of pubs right?
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i've been to and lived in many of the world's largest cities, so you can email for details if you want...

    othewise, just rent movies that are set in the city you want to write about, so you can see for yourself what the various areas look like... and watch tv shows that take place there...

    to see how they're written about, go to a library and get novels by good writers that are set there and study those, too...
  14. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    alot is going to depend on the type of city it is:
    what is public transportation like?
    walking or driveing city?
    what school of urban design dominates the city?
    organized or unorganized?
    what is the economic function that brought the city into being?
    strict zoneing, no zoneing or mixed zoneing?
    what is the political situation? ( a city under martial law is mutch diffrent than one locked in a political dynasty)
    what other economic functions served before
    is the population incressing or decressing
    is the "worm whole" of wealth their? use to be their? never their (doughtfull but possible)


    i dont know if you have a spacific city in mind, but these little factors make a huge diffrence
  15. madhoca
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    madhoca Senior Member Contributor

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    I've lived several years in London, and where I am now--a city of nearly 5 million--for 27 years. Although what posters say about people in a city being in a hurry, cabs etc is true to a certain extent, I think that describes a city from an outsiders viewpoint. When I lived in London, it had the feeling of being in a series of connecting smaller areas, each with a distinct character. I know people will say "oh that was years ago, it's changed now," but I don't feel that when I go back. It's one of the things I love about London. From what I've heard about e.g. New York, the same is true.

    I love the beginning to the film Shaft (I know this is going back some!) where Shaft cracks comments with the vendors and people he knows on his beat, in between wending his way in and out of streams of traffic. WATCH THE CLIP on youtube! To me, that's what city life is like when you are part of it. Where I live now, I've known the shopkeepers and neighbours for years and years. They've watched my kids grow up. There is a feeling of community here. People are just as friendly and caring as they are in my mother's village in France. So, I don't think you have to put some stereotype of a big uncaring city in your writing if you are used to living in a smaller community. Just concentrate on the ways people relate to each other.
  16. Snap228
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    Snap228 New Member

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    I lived in New York for a while (planning on moving back), so if you want a quick description, here goes:

    First of all, it does really depend on where you go. You should really pick a city you want to write in and research it. But one of the things I haven't seen mentioned yet, and I think this might go mainly for New York, is how SMALL things are. And how expensive. A friend who lives on the Upper East Side has an apartment that probably should be a one bedroom (MAYBE two) by other standards, and there are three people living there, and it's had as many as seven people staying in it. Grocery stores, apartments, restaurants, the space is all so tight that they have to cut corners wherever they can. (This is mainly the case because New York, in particular, doesn't have room to grow OUT, because it's an island, so it grows UP.)

    Everything is much more expensive, too. An average meal at a decent restaurant will run you about $20 for one person, even more if you're in a posh or touristy area. Everything that's already been posted goes, too. People are in a hurry and downright rude, at times. You learn to hold your ground quickly. It's very noisy, and dirty. You can't have that many people living in that small an area without it getting a little grimy.

    Anyway, I don't know if that's what you're looking for, but I hope I helped!
  17. muscle979
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    muscle979 Member

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    In Baltimore there are a lot of restaurants, bars, banks, parking garages, and some shops mostly. They have a football stadium and a baseball park down there as well. At the heart of the city is a small harbor with more restaurants, shops, and a large colonial era ship docked there. These are western cities. A city like Baghdad for example doesn't resemble that much at all.
  18. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    The red part jumped out at me a bit. In big cities, chances are high that a few miles away is just another part of the big city. Go out further, and you've got suburbs and business districts and stuff (the latter being the things you see when driving by a big city on the interstate).

    The distance between a big city -- esp. the bustling part of it -- and farmland is going to be way more than a few miles. Maybe 20 or 30 miles, or more.

    Also, you've got to be a deeper sleeper than in the country. I live in a city, and I'm always hearing the loud shrieks of drunk people at the bars across the street from my building at 3 a.m. On the flip side of that, because I'm always used to lights and noise, it's kind of scary sleeping by myself at night when visiting relatives in rural areas.
  19. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Awaiting a good story in the local pub... Contributor

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    Agreed. I've been to NYC, and let me tell you, that city spans for miles and miles. When I looked at the horizon, it was either NYC or another city close by. The countryside was far, far, far away from NYC. 30 miles is probably a safe bet.

    Like Mallory said, you have to be used to the lights and noises to live in a city, as there's never a moment where things are completely still.

    It also depends on the city's history and its location. Philadelphia and London, while they are both cities, are hardly alike at all.
  20. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A generic city will not feel very real. Pick a city as a model and study it. Visit it if possible.

    When you are more skilled, you will be able to blend characteristics of two or three cities, but you still want your city to have - no, to be - a unique character.
  21. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    I'm always surprised at just how far out from the centre it still feels like the city - I've lived about 6 or 7 miles out, and it's still urban, not even suburban. But it doesn't feel like 7 miles does in the country - 7 miles in the country is like 3 villages away. Despite there being no traffic in the country (or perhaps because of it) that 7 miles of open country road seems to stretch on forever, whereas in the city it's like just popping next door.

    But it is true that different areas of the city are like their own individual pockets of civilisation, and retain their own character. I've lived in 5 different areas of Birmingham, and they are all completely different, despite being less than a mile apart in some cases. Many of these little 'villages' centre around a little highstreet, with supermarkets and clothes shops, charity shops, take aways, banks, post offices, chemists, and all the roads leading off it are lined with terraced housing going back to the late 19th, early 20th century. That mini highstreet is usually on a main road that leads to the city centre, and if you keep following it you come to another mini highstreet, then another... all the main roads leading into the city centre are the same, like arteries leading to the heart.
  22. Roy
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    Roy New Member

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    Here in Vancouver, there's always something going on. There is never a silent day, and throughout all of summer there's music from different angles booming at you. Not a complaint in any way, it's awesome. There are large bands playing in the middle of the street, performers doing tricks, magicians, improv, ect. Lots of light, neon, screens, cars, signs. A thriving center area that most people go to, Granville street, but we have our own skid row, too. It's called East Hastings. It's the part tourists don't want to see. What I'm saying is, in big cities, there's always a pretty, glistening main image that they want to portray and often it's the only thing people see. But point yourself away, keep walking down into a gritty alleyway and you'll see there's a lot hiding in plain sight. It's not half as bad here as it is in some places like south america or the eastern bloc though, so I'm not really an authority on that. There's not much of a sense of an intimate community since there's so many people.
  23. zaphod
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    Some cities are sprawling and decentralized. They can have dramatic skylines that seem to go on without end, but at street level they are like a vertical suburb.

    To me the feel of places like this relates to cars. The smell of exhaust, the noise of vehicles, pretty much every surface is a parking lot or street. On a day to day basis, you are either inside, inside a car, or walking in a parking lot.
  24. Astatine
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    Astatine New Member

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    You realize you're replying to a question I asked a month ago. :D
  25. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    did you say anywhere in this thread that you no longer need any more replies?
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