One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received was to get to know people for myself, then decide who I think they are. It’s too easy to listen to everyone else’s opinion of people. It’s tempting to get advice about vacations and books, but there is no accounting for some folks taste.
There are many versions of the cities we visit and especially the places we live in. If you live in a historic city you would know what I’m talking about. For instance, New Orleans. There’s the highly romanticized version that’s in the movies with all the drama and music, then there’s the vilified version that the preachers on television like to blame for the downfall of society. Of course that’s not the only city I could name. I’m sure you could name a few also. London. Las Vegas. There’s an actual list. Top 10 Sin Cities in the World.
And the versions are about as many as there are people. The city varies from, nasty, busy, stinky, a rip-off, crowded, bawdy, etc. I’ll leave the rest to you. Perceptions are plentiful to opinionated people, just as ideas are to inventors. Cheap. What creates atmosphere that you can almost touch and even seem to come to life, is when a story is born. Give me a good story, combined with a strong visual perception, and you have a customer. Otherwise I couldn’t read about Gotham city. Who in their right mind would otherwise want to read about an orphaned child, a corrupt city, with a backdrop of darkly drawn ink caricatured bad guys? But all of us who have grown up with this story line for some reason have loved it. In this story line there is redemption. There’s hope for even the worst possible circumstances.
Some of my favorite stories are from well-known cities with their own flavors. Jim Butcher writes about Chicago in the Dresden files. There are underground tunnels, vampire councils, and of course the a slew of bad guys that no ordinary citizen wants to meet. And Dresden is the guy to take them all on. You see Chicago through his eyes.
Karen Marie Moning starts her Fever series in the peach of sunny Georgia but continues in Dublin. I’ve never been to Dublin but I can almost taste the froth on the beer. And the chill from the misty rain makes me want to grab a blanket every time I read another of her books. I can’t wait until the 20th of this month when the next one comes out.
Currently I’m reading a series by Faith Hunter, Jane Yellowrock, which in the currently centers in New Orleans. There’s dancing, eating, and hunting vampires. Here’s a scene that shows the city coming back to life after a hurricane/storm. If I were a photographer, I’d be itching to take snapshots.
Lanterns, lamps, and candles lit windows. People sat at tables on second story balconies, by lamplight, and the smell of food wafted down. Tinny music came from open windows, battery-powered boom boxes perched on ledges shared a soft dissonance of musical tastes. Live music, a guitar, saxophone, a drum came through an open bar door. Tables inside were lit with candles, a generator roaring in back. Small businesses that depended on the tourists trade twenty-four/seven, just to make the rent, were opening, despite the lack of city power. More generators began to hum. – Blood Cross excerpt, by Faith Hunter.
How does a view of a city apply to people? Get to know them yourself, then decide. Never judge a book by its cover. Think about it. And check out Re-framing.