BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG STORIES

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I was in New York recently for a few days. It’s such an evocative place: the sensory overload of Times Square, skyscrapers rising into the clouds, yellow cabs gliding along. It almost felt like I’d been there before…

Which, of course, I had, having read countless books and seen numerous films and TV shows set in the Big Apple.

On film, think of Woody Allen and Diane Keaton sitting by Queensboro Bridge at sunrise in Manhattan; Harry and Sally walking among the golden autumn leaves of Central Park; steam rising menacingly from the streets in Taxi Driver

And in books we have Sherman McCoy rattling like a pinball through 1980s Wall Street in The Bonfire of the Vanities; Holden Caulfield on his bewildered urban weekend in The Catcher in the Rye; the unnamed narrator of Breakfast at Tiffany’s trying to keep up with Holly Golightly as she breezes around the city…

I can’t imagine these stories taking place in any other location, which is why my recent trip often felt more like fiction than reality.

It made me realise how important setting can be to a story, often becoming a character in itself. I don’t think I pay enough attention to this in my own fiction.

And, living in London, I’m not short of inspiration. It’s time to open my eyes and ears a bit wider as I walk to the tube station. Look over there… a single child’s glove sitting on a railing… the queue at a bus stop getting soaked by a passing car as it trundles over a puddle… two pigeons on a swaying telephone wire having a morning natter…

It’s all there. Now where’s that pen when I need it?

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