Location is perhaps my biggest inspiration, yet, this is not to say that I dream up stories while gazing at lakes, or at a field, or castles.
Within any location, time and story are embedded. For example, I remember watching the workmen restoring the walls of a Sultan’s palace in Marrakech, while other tourists took photos of themselves standing in front of the expansive courtyard. I was fascinated by it. Thousands of stories existed within the lifespan of that grand residence, perhaps told from the perspective of the labourers, or even the walls themselves.
Space and how it changes over time has a huge impact on what stories are told, and how they are presented. Not only have advances in transport and communication changed the way we consume fiction forever, but population growth and the ever-shrinking Earth have too. Hundreds of years ago, it would have been inconceivable, that a person could fly across continents in mere hours, or talk to the whole world from inside their bedroom.
Spaces in rooms, houses, streets, towns, countries and even planets are changing rapidly, and writers are doing their best to help people make sense of these shifts.
By far the most meaningful locations for me, are cities. Each city contains a history and a variety of buildings and architectural style. These things form their character or soul. Essentially, a city comprises of a network of a great number of factors. In today’s multicultural and free-flowing world, I believe cities offer a greater perspective for the fiction reader than traditional class-based, national, or political identities.
This approach is gaining traction in the literary world too. UNESCO now recognises twenty-eight Cities of Literature around the world which hold events and offer opportunities to readers and writers alike. In the UK, Comma Press continues to publish anthologies its impressive Reading The City series.
Of course, cities bear and host people of interest too. Having lived in London, Venice, Buenos Aires, Oaxaca, and Pamplona, I can say that after a few months, you begin to notice the characters and traits of the people that call those cities home. That’s not to say that people from any one city are homogenous. If you need evidence of how diverse and amazing residents in one place can be, look no further than the Humans of New York blog, which is now a best-selling book.
Perhaps my favourite example of how these places provoke thought is the genre-defying Invisible Cities by Cuban-Italian author Italo Calvino. The book is an exploration of the imagination, framed as conversations between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan. Calvino describes 55 imaginary cities, each of which can be read as a parable of space, language, memory, culture, death, time and many more themes. Over the next few months, I will try to review short stories such as these, which I found inspiring or simply entertaining. In the meantime, feel free to visit the links page where you can get started.
I’m writing this blog as I’m moving to a new city for the next few months, which I hope will prove both productive and inspirational. Can you guess where it is based on the picture at the top of the page? If you would like to know more about my move, you can visit my other blog Tall Travels.