Why NYC

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Someone left a comment on one of my older posts asking why it is that the overwhelming majority of contemporary YA books seem to be set in NYC or LA (or at the very least California in general) while paranormals stick to the smaller towns.

Easy answer? I don't know.

Contemporary, though I am currently attempting one, isn't my usual cuppa.

However, I can make an educated guess or two.

New York and California, more than being the nation's book ends, are destinations. Not in the way that "I am from here, so going there makes "there" my destination." No, NY and Cali (and NYC and LA in particular) are real destination cities. They're the places that kids who dream of being stars dream of living.

When you're writing fiction of any sort, it's still a fantasy, and New York City is a fantasy locale for many kids and teens who can only dream of a place where the buildings are more than 10-12 stories high. Manhattan's sky scrapers replace the sky-palaces of fairy tales, and the girls who dream of being princesses grow into young women who dream of being Pop Princesses or starlets, so their fantasies gravitate toward the cities where they believe those dreams can happen.

For a kid living in rural America, where there are still unpaved roads, one lane streets, and towns where there's no need for a traffic light because everyone has to stop for the tractors anyway, reading about people wealthy enough to send their kids to private school or live in a penthouse apartment is as far away as Never Land. It's another set of rules and expectations.

When people want to be seen, they go where they'll have the most eyes on them - and that's NYC and LA.

Conversely, with paranormal, you're usually dealing with someone, something, or both who doesn't want to be seen. The creatures passing themselves off as human have to go places where there aren't enough eyes on them to realize something's off.

A vampire can go to school in a town where there are few newcomers because the townies won't realize that their behavior is odd, even for an outsider.

Werewolves can live happily in the woods around a mountain town, safe in the assumption that no one will bother them because - strange as it sounds - many of those regions have superstitions ingrained as deep as religion. They expect strange things to lurk in the woods, so they stay out of them.

The "other" new kid can easily be the only one who notices the Fae girl or boy is other-worldly because while big cities and rich schools may be known for "cliques", they've got nothing on the insular nature of small town America. Outsiders are outsiders, and they're kept at a distance. No one gets close enough to see the eccentricities that another outsider might pick up on.

3 Chiming In:

Terry Towery said...

Good post, good points. My book, which is contemporary, is set in cental Illinois, then North Carolina and, finally, NYC for the climax.

I wrote it that way as something of a metaphor for how the story itself enlarges as the book progresses. It's possible it even worked. :)

Nicole MacDonald said...

*lol* a very good post with very valid points. I honestly hadn't thought about it that much before ;p

The Arrival, book one of the BirthRight trilogy, available on Amazon 1.1.2011
www.damselinadirtydress.com

Bethany said...

I read your query on Query Shark. It's very well done. You had me hooked (and wondering how it would all end!) Great job :-)

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