Andrea Gatopoulos's picture
Andrea Gatopoulos February 10, 2013 - 11:38am

Hi everyone.

It's been a while since i first read about this community and today i finally decided to sign up and have the benefit of talking with people that may know a lot more than me about writing.

I'm an italian 18 y.o. boy and i've always been all about writing. Coming from a poor family i never had the chance to travel around the world and actually get to see places myself and i find this to be a big obstacle to my writing.

I never completed a novel in my life but there is this story i'm making up that is really important to me, and i need it based in New York City.

Problem is, i've never been into NY and i can't. Not until i have some money. But i have a big screenwriting test ahead of me in September and i have to write a synopsis of a movie.

Would you give me some tips?

If i give you the logline, would you tell me how do you like it?

Sorry if this is not the right place to discuss about this stuff, and sorry for my english. I'm only 18 and i'm Italian. There are not many good english teachers down here.

Thank you

 

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK February 10, 2013 - 12:05pm

You could research the city, the details. Google Streetview will allow you to walk around the streets and find locations. Ask people who live there to describe the feel of bars, restaurants, wherever. Watch documentaries on and set in the city to see how people live. Use your imagination - invent stuff. Get to know your version of New York like you live there.

Linda's picture
Linda from Sweden is reading Fearful Symmetries February 10, 2013 - 12:06pm

Hello Andrea, and welcome to the community!

Here's what I think. If you really want to know a city, and especially a big one like NY, you probably need to live there for at least 10 years or so. Thankfully, writers are allowed to fake it, as long as they can do it convincingly. So if you want to set your story in NY, take a virtual tour on google, look at pictures and maps, go on youtube, maybe read some novels by NY based authors, set in NY. I'm guessing your story wont feature all of NY, so the amount of research needed should be manageable. It's all in the details, as they say.

 

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland February 10, 2013 - 1:20pm

Welcome Andrea,

All of the things listed by Seb and Linda are great ways to learn about a city you have never been to. Also, many Hollywood Blockbuster films have been shot on location in NYC, or based on NYC. I'd suggest googling a list of movies that are set in New York and watch a couple of them as well. It could help with visual description. As far as street names and bar names and churches, hospitals, whatever you need, you could probably find that stuff easy enough on google search. Good Luck.

Rachel Saunders's picture
Rachel Saunders from York, UK is reading Lots of factual stuff for ideas February 10, 2013 - 2:13pm

I agree with the above comments, and would say that streetview is probably your best bet in order to get a sense of scale and local. If you are after culture, then you'll need to establish which era you want to set it in, as many TV shows set in the city reflect a past version of NYC.

 

Additionally, if you want real life experience, I'm sure there are NYC natives on here who would gladly give you a few hints and tips about the city. I've been once, and personally I would say you need to bear in mind the sense of scale of the building, especially in lower Manhatten, as the city is massive both in the height of the buildings and layout of the island.

Andrea Gatopoulos's picture
Andrea Gatopoulos February 10, 2013 - 3:37pm

Thank you. You're really encouraging.

What do you think about this logline?

A cleptomaniac rich boy wanted for almost killing a clerk in a silly theft crosses his path with a homeless writer when he steals and loses the novel he had finally finished.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts February 10, 2013 - 3:31pm

Does it really need to be set in NYC? Does the world not have enough NYC stories already? If you could find absolutely any justification to not set it in NYC the story would probably be the better for it.

Yeah, just fake it. Put places where you think they would be/where you need them to be. Try to set it up using the least amount of detail necessary, so it stays believable.

Andrea Gatopoulos's picture
Andrea Gatopoulos February 10, 2013 - 3:38pm

The problem is, i need a metropolis.

And NYC is fascinating.

Its like a brand, in my opinion.

Is it not?

Would it really be the same with another city?

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK February 10, 2013 - 3:42pm

Why not set it in a city you know? You're Italian, so why not Naples or Florence or Rome? Much more interesting than New York, and you'll know the culture.

Andrea Gatopoulos's picture
Andrea Gatopoulos February 10, 2013 - 4:02pm

Simply because things happen differently here in Italy. I don't see my story happening in here.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK February 10, 2013 - 4:19pm

A cleptomaniac rich boy wanted for almost killing a clerk in a silly theft crosses his path with a homeless writer when he steals and loses the novel he had finally finished.

In my opinion, this would work in London, Paris, Rome, Sydney, New York, even Shanghai or Bangkok. Ultimately you should set it where it feels right, it's just a suggestion. Best of luck.

Andrea Gatopoulos's picture
Andrea Gatopoulos February 10, 2013 - 4:20pm

Thank you Seb. I'll think about your suggestion.

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest February 10, 2013 - 6:34pm

I know it's already been said, but do your research. More importantly, make sure your research is factual. I'm in the middle of a story that takes place in LA. I've never been there, but dammit if I don't have a notebook full of notes. Everything from the address of where my character lives to the drive time from Inglewood to Santa Monica. I know exactly where certain clothing stores are located on certain streets. I want my readers to think I've actually been there when they read my story. You don't someone from NY to think, 'Wait, that's not in Manhattan, it's in Brooklyn.' I'd also recommend doing and compling as much information about NY as possible, even if you don't use it in the story. I don't see anything wrong with setting stories in places you've never been as long as the information is factual. 

But, I also agree with Seb. While NY is fascinating, here in the US, it is played out. All we hear about is NY. Everything happens in NY. But, for us, a story set in Naples would be cool because we don't hear or know much about it. If your story absolutely needs to be set in NY, go for it. But, if you can set it anywhere, maybe consider a different location. I use LA because it's the hub of the entertainment industry. I could've gone with NY, but I find LA much more interesting. I'll also have to do research on Milan, Tokyo, Paris and a few other cities where modeling is big money. My story, though, needs to be set in these places because of my character's occupation. I very well couldn't set it in small town Idaho. Wouldn't make sense.

A cleptomaniac rich boy wanted for almost killing a clerk in a silly theft crosses his path with a homeless writer when he steals and loses the novel he had finally finished.

- To me, this sounds like a cross between Brett Easton Ellis and Paul Auster. Bret set American Psycho in NYC and I use him as reference because of 'cleptomanic rich boy'. Paul Auster sets nearly every one of his novels in NYC and your synopsis reads like something Paul would write. 

In the end, it's your story. Set it where you think is best. Go with your gut. Good luck!

Carly Berg's picture
Carly Berg from USA is reading Story Prompts That Work by Carly Berg is now available at Amazon February 10, 2013 - 6:41pm

Maybe you'd also want to request that people familiar with NYC give it a going-over. They can spot it if something is not accurate and maybe give you some specific things to add to put in some authentic flavor.

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks February 10, 2013 - 9:34pm

I was actually going to say you should message Ryan and ask for tips since his LA story is currently running as a column in my journal, so, yeah. Follow his advice. I've been to LA once and it really feels like I'm there when I read his stories, even in their most infantile stages when we're working on editing.

And, no, you don't need to change the city. NYC is a brand, and you don't find that in big cities like Florence or Naples. I've never been, but that's part of the reason why I see it as a brand. Story time:

I live in Indianapolis, Indiana, and because I've never really traveled anywhere, it seems really small to me. Last year, we hosted the Superbowl, and I worked at a hotel during that time.

When people started checking in and going about their days I realized that, because I lived in Indianapolis, it was boring and uneventful to me. But goddamnit, we were a brand. We were the wholesome-but-dangerous midwest, the Northern state with a Southern taste, a city full of diverse people with burgeoning art centers and were safer than Chicago.

Since then, I've been setting more stories in Indianapolis, because I can examine it as a brand from the inside out. I got to see it through customer's eyes, and it was eye-opening. People are coming here as a vacation now. It's crazy to me because I grew up fifteen minutes from downtown and never went there to have fun. It was just another boring part of my hometown to me.

Look at NYC that way. Look at it like a tourist, but get a feel for the streets and places near where you're setting the story. Try to dig in and set roots. Look on Streetview, pick a house, and make that where your main character lives. Then, do the research: what schools would he attend? Are they conservative or liberal? Who would he grow up knowing? What do they sound like (look at regional videos on Youtube)? That sort of thing. Then, look at as you -- as a brand. As a name on a shirt, not a place on the map.

As for your synopsis:

A cleptomaniac rich boy wanted for almost killing a clerk in a silly theft crosses his path with a homeless writer when he steals and loses the novel he had finally finished.

Since English isn't your native language -- I'd spell it "kleptomaniac," but I'm sure it has variations; "silly" seems shallow and unimaginative, but could work if you mean he stole a fucking fish or something; and what does "steals and loses" mean? I'm not sure who the "he" pronoun refers to in that situation. The rich boy or the homeless man? Who stole it, and who lost it, and how did they do both? Who finished it?

I'm not trying to be pedantic here, I'm just trying to get a feel for your story and showing you the holes in the synopsis.

(PS Welcome to the Lit! If you're going to join the Workshop, check out my In-Depth Introduction thread to get a feel of the workshop etiquette. If you don't plan to join, you should reconsider, because it can be absolutely invaluable. Are you going to be writing this screenplay/novel in Italian? If you are, make a note of that in your [English] submission to the workshop so people know not to nitpick over your word choice, since it may not translate the way its intended, and you can have an Italian speaker read over the manuscript for word choice and the like.)

Andrea Gatopoulos's picture
Andrea Gatopoulos February 11, 2013 - 2:39am

Thank you R.Moon, Carly, Courtney.

I wouldn't expect so much help from you guys, you are really a resource. 

I agree with Courtney about NYC and that's the way we feel in Italy about that city. I'll make sure to contact some people who live there so that they can help me with an accurate description.

I have some more questions.

I'd like to have my story synopsys read by your community so that you can tell me whether it's a plausible, pleasing and entertaining story or it sucks and i'd better dump it in a trash can.

Is this the right place to do so? 

 

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest February 11, 2013 - 4:02am

Two questions for you:

1. How much of your story do you have written? 

2. Have you joined the workshop?

Just giving us a synopsis isn't really going to garner you any solid feedback. You could say, 'My story is about a guy who goes to the store.' As a synopsis, and without a story, it's pretty damn boring. However, it may be the most interesting story anyone has ever read, but we won't know that without actually reading the story. Joining the workshop will give us the chance to read your work, review and give you solid feedback on the things that are working and the things that aren't. It only costs $9/month or $45/6 months. Try it for a month, see if you like it and you can go from there. Submit the first chapter and receive reviews. Give reviews, even if you never have before. We all started somewhere and just like writing, it takes practice before you'll get really good at it. But, don't be afraid. Read through other's reviews to see what we're looking for and to get a good idea of how they should be done. Courtney wrote a great Intro thread. Read through that. If you decide to join the workshop, only submit small chunks of your novel at a time. Usually, those of us that submit pieces of a novel do so a chapter at a time. The less words, the more reviews. Normal word count is from 2500-3000 words.

I highly doubt anyone will tell you to dump the story. We'll give you constructive feedback to help you improve your story. There's a saying that goes: 'Write the story you'd want to read.' If this is a story that's festering in your head, a story that you just have to get out, then write it. A synopsis isn't going to help us help you. We need more than that.

Carly Berg's picture
Carly Berg from USA is reading Story Prompts That Work by Carly Berg is now available at Amazon February 11, 2013 - 4:46am


I'd like to have my story synopsys read by your community so that you can tell me whether it's a plausible, pleasing and entertaining story or it sucks and i'd better dump it in a trash can.

Is this the right place to do so? 

I don't see why you couldn't post your synopsis in the workshop if you wanted to, if you're a member, that is. That's probably where it would belong, because you are requesting a review of sorts.

 

Andrea Gatopoulos's picture
Andrea Gatopoulos February 11, 2013 - 6:26am

Thank you for your answers.

The problem is that i'm writing a screenplay. Is it eligible for a review aswell?

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest February 11, 2013 - 7:05am

Absolutely. Just post in the synopsis part of the submission that it's a screenplay.

fport's picture
fport from Canada is reading The World Until Yesterday - Jared Diamond February 11, 2013 - 11:28am

I've never been to New York either. But I've watched my city portrayed as New York because I recognise the buildings and streets being shot on. Go figure, television series are a magical thing.

So, first you need a profile of each character, they're going to need depth because they are the story. Get them a home, a space, a hangout, neighbourhood, haunts - the place where they have come from and the space where they are.

That needs to be plotted on maps. Big map for New York then drill down to smaller spaces with maps of the same size, say, computer screen or standard printer paper size. You can google street view and pick a place for homeless guy to hang, where the klepto's nasty deed occurred and where he went, what neighbourhood he grew up in.

Read a few eatery and entertainment blogs to get a feel for the ambiance. Get the New York slang and names for things, a feel for the attitude, the traffic and the ebb and flow of the tides. There's the police attitudes, you have a homeless guy, a murdering thief and so on in your cast. Is that going to enter into your plot? Read about a few major events. What about surveillance cameras, was anything recorded? 

What's the daily routine of the homeless writer. Does he use a library, a bookstore, a drop in shelter's typewriter or does he have a rooftop hidey hole that serves as his writing cave, I'm thinking of the visuals where he sits on the roof looking out, huddles under a blanket while he types in candlelight, all quick short shots to show the progress and the ongoing increase in typed sheets, as well he might need regular contacts who know he is writing and that he is homeless because he writes but picks up dishwashing, lookout jobs, errands that feed him.

The rich kid, scenes with him doing scores, thieving, is he hanging with anyone to have it reflect back to him that he is talented and skilled at shop lifting because he can go places well dressed and trusted with an easy charm. That sets up the stupid near fatal incident, someone who does their job and when caught he panicks or deliberately pounds the clerk for the audacity of catching him.

Maps, locations, eye balling with google, menus, reviews, blogs, movies and then the choreography of the intricate dance you are setting in motion complete with scenery, vistas, closeups and whatever else is going to go into your vision.

Andrea Gatopoulos's picture
Andrea Gatopoulos February 11, 2013 - 3:59pm

Thank you fport. Your comment is useful because i already portrayed in my mind a lot of the things you suggested me and this makes me feel like i'm on the right way.

Another question guys.

Is there any concrete chance for me, living in Italy, to write and sell something in America?

Does this happen? I don't know, with screenplays, novel, stories.

Am i just daydreaming?

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated February 12, 2013 - 3:58am

Honestly I could live and die without one more NYC story/show/movie. Go for Chicago or Atlanta or Boston or any other large eastern U.S. city.

Andrea Gatopoulos's picture
Andrea Gatopoulos February 12, 2013 - 4:03pm

It seems that we have different opinions here!

It's difficult to evaluate! 

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig February 12, 2013 - 4:51pm

Honestly, I don't think I'd ever attempt to place a story in a city I've never been in. I did try this once as a (more?) green writer, and that's whatever. I have a novel project that takes place in a city I lived in for 6 years. I walked or rode my bike all over that city during those years, and I still have to go back and look things up, make sure my geography makes sense, etc.

I have another project that takes place in LA, a place I have not lived but spent a fair amount of time in, because I'm writing about places that don't actually exist, I'm having to fictionalize the city a bit, and it's really difficult to do that, even though I have a little bit more creative license. 

In your case, I'd worry less about the "brand" of a city, and more about your ability to convey the story in a believable way.

Liana's picture
Liana from Romania and Texas is reading Naked Lunch February 12, 2013 - 6:09pm

I'm pretty sure you can fake it if you do enough research.

I once wrote a story about Las Vegas - more like one of the poor sections of the city - and I had never been there, and nobody challenged me on any of the details. I did that with other places.

You've gotten a lot of tips. I'll add one more (one trick I've used). Aside from other research (movies, books, google), you can also use Google Earth. I think it's so much fun to identify a known point in a city and then wander around on the streets and find your way back, see the structure of neighborhoods, little details. It's so much fun. I like to look around in cities in India, or places in Africa. Hawaii. I won't guarantee that it's 100% useful but it could help.

For a whole novel though, I'd do a ton of research and also find people who live there and bug them with detailed questions.

Andrea Gatopoulos's picture
Andrea Gatopoulos February 13, 2013 - 5:12am

Thank you again for your comments. 
How to find people living there? Facebook?

Liana's picture
Liana from Romania and Texas is reading Naked Lunch February 13, 2013 - 9:36am

I was thinking more of LitReactor. You could start a thread about NY, find out if anyone actually lives there, and PM them with more questions. But sure, FB too, if there are people willing to cooperate.

I lived in NY State 7 years, and went to NYC pretty often. You can send me some questions and I'll do my best to help.

Andrea Gatopoulos's picture
Andrea Gatopoulos February 14, 2013 - 1:05pm

What if i write it in Paris?

Would it work? 

Has anybody lived there and knows about poor quarters, clochards and police departments?

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated February 14, 2013 - 2:44pm

Might want to try a French speaking website for that info.