So you want to write a novel or a story about New York City, but you’ve never been there. You have no idea where to begin and you want to get it right.
I was born, raised, still live and will probably die in New York, so let me tell you a few things.
|The 5 boroughs of New York City. From nyctourist.com|
Your only knowledge of New York is through movies or TV. Movies and TV shows tend to focus on the island of Manhattan. There is more to New York than Manhattan. I know, I know, Manhattan has most of the tourist attractions, but there are four other boroughs around Manhattan–and most likely, your protagonist would live in one of those places. Why? Because Manhattan is ridiculously expensive. So take a look at the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.
Speaking of, Brooklyn and Queens used to be separate cities and villages from Manhattan. So there are neighborhoods in each of those boroughs that still go by their old names. In Manhattan, the addresses are New York, NY. Brooklyn, NY. The Bronx, NY. Staten Island, NY. In Queens, the addresses end in the town: Long Island City, NY. Astoria, NY.
The subway confuses you. Here’s a secret: it confuses us, too. The New York City subway system is massive. The fare is currently $2.50 and you get on buses and the subway by swiping a Metrocard, which one buys at a vending machine in subway stations. The subway is open 24 hours, but service slows down considerably after 10 pm and lines change course or go express or go local after that time. Also, the MTA has a separate website called The Weekender just to keep track of service changes on the weekends.
Contrary to popular belief, we’re not completely unfriendly. If your protagonist-from-not-New-York encounters his first New Yorker, please try not to make said New Yorker cliched by making him a total asshole. Of course, we have a larger proportion of jerks than other places, but in general, New Yorkers are brusque, cut-to-the-chase types. And no, we don’t always wear black. And no, we don’t really all sound like that.
Street smarts. I think you usually gain them in New York by osmosis. Basic city things, like don’t walk around by yourself in sketchy areas late at night. Don’t flash your wallet/cell/ipod/iPad. Don’t make eye contact. Keep a close eye on your belongings.
Ummm…that’s all I can think of right now. Any of my fellow New Yorkers want to chime in? Anything you wish to impart to writers who want to write about NYC? Does anyone have any questions pertaining to New York? And what kind of misconceptions do people have about where you live, wherever it is?