How A City Can Be A Character In Your Novel

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How A City Can Be A Character In Your Novel

Can a city be a character in a book? Many years ago, in a writing class, I was told that I should try to make the setting, which was Toronto, my city of birth, a character in my book, Conduct in Question. I have puzzled over this piece of advice for many years and only now think I may have an answer as to its meaning.

Heres another question. Can the city youve lived in all your life be a character or does intimacy somehow disqualify it? I have often longed to see Toronto with the eyes of a visitor but unfortunately, that is surprisingly hard to do.

I was reading Alain De Bottons delightful book, The Art of Travel. He maintains that when we travel, we adopt, if we are lucky, a travelers receptive mind-set. Somehow, we North Americans walking around Paris or Buenos Aires are much more open to what we see than if we were at home. We ask questions. We see these places with fresh eyes and a sense of wonder. However, at home, says De Botton, we have become so habituated to our surroundings that we scarcely notice them.

So, how can a writer hope to make his own hometown an effective setting, [given his...

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