Setting was never a difficult choice for me. I have always loved New York, and it made sense for many of my young, upwardly mobile characters to live in “the city where dreams come true.” Clichéd as it may be, I always liked that idea.
However, I also like the idea of a persistent and talented dreamer who leaves their “small” town and moves to the big city. As a result, a lot of my characters start out as Coloradans and end up moving to a city that is more of a “hub” for their interests or industry. This is not to say Colorado is not a hub for certain things and certain people: it’s a Mecca for skiers, hikers, rock climbers, beer enthusiasts and many more.
The difference is many of my characters are like me: they like films, restaurants, museums, and writing in a busy coffee shop. In my experience, that is not the kind of thing people (readers) associate with Colorado living.
People come to Colorado to play: experience nature, roam across the plains, hike up mountains, ski back down them, raft rivers, etc. My characters are just not that outdoorsy.
Time is money, and commuting sucks
Another reason I prefer big city settings is public transportation. My characters like to take the subway, walk a few blocks, or around town, climb into cabs, hop a bus from time to time. Colorado people don’t do that. They drive. A lot. Everywhere. Colorado grew outwards into its open acreage instead of upwards, unlike Manhattan, which, as an island, had nowhere to go but up.
Characters can’t observe as much when they have to drive. Cities with public transportation and easy walking distances allow characters to experience their environments more: see the sun set, take note of a new bookstore, meet new people, have conversations, and get to know each other.
For me, I feel like the Colorado commute experience would slow down the story too much, whereas in a larger city, a commuting scene can actually propel the story forward. If one character had to drive the car, she would have to pay attention to traffic signals, pedestrians, road rage, wildlife, and more, detracting from the depth of a conversation the character might be able to have with the other passenger(s).
Why not just skip the drive and jump to the arrival at the mountain/river/restaurant/etc.?
Then why not just put the story in Montana or California or New York? Driving is a big thing here. I’ve been commuting since I was sixteen and got my license–to school, to work, home from college a couple times a month, to my friends’ houses–driving is not something I could leave out of a story set in Colorado very easily.
What about A 21st Century Fairy Tale? That’s in Colorado.
True. The story is set in a fictional Colorado mountain town. However, everything is so close together, everybody walks everywhere. That was done on purpose: I wanted the town to resemble BTVS‘s Sunnydale a little bit–where hardly anybody seems to drive except for the adults and rich kids like Cordelia Chase. Because Fairy Tale was such a short story, I didn’t want to bog readers down with commute time.
Maybe in the future, I’ll have a story that fits in with the Colorado culture–a culture of breweries, skiing, and of course, driving–but for now, I’m content to leave my characters in the city–taking the subway, drinking martinis, and doing yoga.
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