I’m in Chicago today*, the loud industrial town with thick gray buildings and constant noise. Downtown has streets that in permanent shadow from the wood and metal train tracks above.
A train just rattled up, shaking the wooden platform I’m waiting at. Ten feet away are tracks that kill, and that’s assuming the train doesn’t splatter you first. Roasted entrails would fall on the cars and jaywalkers below. Chicago’s loop is what happens when they do Steampunk in aluminum instead of brass.
Behind are buildings glowing in their granite and glass in a scene that looks like a model. The aroma of greasy food, bakeries exhausting their ovens, and popcorn battle against car fumes and sewer gas. The city is alluring, fascinating, and repulsive at the same time.
That is where I find setting inspiration. Some walk to work, but writers look around to see what is interesting. I don’t live in Chicago, and I think divergent nailed the city well enough that I’ll likely leave it to Ms. Roth. Yet, noticing the uniqueness of this city will help every setting I use in the future.
Now use that same level of observation and admiration on everything you come across and you’ll have worlds so rich they engross readers. But more importantly, do that and you’ll have a richer life.
* (okay, I wrote this a week ago, but at the time I was in Chicago)