Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Soul of a City: When Musing gets Metaphorical

I've been thinking about why some places have more personality than others. More "soul" if you like. The town I'm in at the moment is really nice, and an easy place to live, but I'm not inspired to love it the way I love, say, Wellington.
(as an aside I've just had a really glorious image of Wellington's soul being called into an afterlife, or being reincarnated as an ant colony in penance for her misdeeds).

I've been thinking about this and it seems relevant to writing, because I love it when a city is essentially a character in a book. So why would Wellington be a character in my book, but, for example, Auckland (yes, sorry, I'm going to use Auckland as my counter-example), not so much?
I think it's got something to do with pressure and time.
I can't write that without thinking of Morgan Freeman saying it.

Wellington is surrounded by undeveloped hills and ocean. There are suburbs beyond the hills, but the inner city is quite pressed together. Different kinds of folks are forced to live in amongst each other, bounce off each other, create different points of contact. In Auckland the pressure isn't so great. People there have a kind of distance from each other, just because of the tremendous space available. They can spread out.
Wellingtonians don't have that luxury.
So they end up ground together in a primordial goo (that's right, it's not just for sewer systems anymore!), and over time something new crawls out of that goo.
Something that is more than the sum of its parts.
And I guess that's my point. Auckland has some very nice parts. I've lived there and I'm willing to admit that I liked it. After only 3-4 drinks too.
But there isn't as much pressure. Not the kind of pressure that keeps all the flavour inside, anyway.
So they need a lot more time to grow a soul. To become something that is more than the sum of Auckland's parts.
 Wellington, on the other hand, has a lot of pressure. And I have always found it to be more than the sum of its parts. I don't know exactly how to define what that extra something is, but it's a factor that I would love to capture when describing a city with words.
Although, I guess if I was writing about it, my words would have to be less about description and more about interaction in order to really pin that sucker to the wall.

I hope you are having a lovely week. Here's a picture of Wellington. (yeah yeah, if I love it so much, why don't I marry it?)

Picture by Donovan Govan and taken from Wikimedia Commons.

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