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NaNoWriMo Day24 - Settings and Locations - Part Three - Urban Landscape

Sunday 24th November - Settings and Locations - Part Three - Urban Landscape

When I was parked outside our local doctor's practice, quite some years ago now, I started thinking about the skyline across the river from where I was sitting. For anyone who's never been to Wick - which I imagine are most people - it is a town which boomed in the nineteenth century, and it has the architecture to match. Being me, the first thing which occurred to me was: "which of my characters would manage to run across that skyline?" After that, I started thinking about urban landscapes in a different way. Instead of starting from the bottom, I thought about my landscapes from the top downwards.

No two towns are the same. I'm not amazingly well travelled at all, but I love exploring different places. A good number of years ago, I did a city tour of Germany. Every one of the cities I visited was different, and each gave me inspiration for a totally different story. It was as though the buildings talked to me. Every doorway, every worn step, each with a tale of every passer-by.

Here are a few ideas to take your reader into your urban landscape:

  1. Right angles are wrong - most towns and cities have very few right angles. One of the most intriguing things about buildings are the peculiar angles which they follow. Even cities built on a grid network often have intersecting roads at different angles.
  2. All urban settings have a centre - think about the history of your setting. Perhaps it was built around a crossroads of two major routes, perhaps around a port, or maybe a site of worship.  This will have defined the architecture of the town. Coaching inns with wide arches, heavy industry, towers and spires, all denote the purpose for a town.
  3. Quirky is the norm - architectural oddities are amongst the most significant and lasting impressions of city life.  Dickens' doorknocker, immortalised in his most famous story, is offered in the story as being commonplace. These things were, many still are.
  4. Check the horizon - the skyline of your setting gives your reader an enclosed feeling. Urban landscapes exist beyond our line of sight, try to give that impression to your reader.


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