When was the last time you walked down the street, saw a manhole cover, and thought to yourself, “Hmm, that’s interesting”? My guess is never, but that’s not the case for the writers of this week’s book of focus.
Welcome back to The Writer’s Bookshelf.
The cities around us are full of history, not just through events, but also by the unusual decisions that have marked them as sources of influence. For example, did you know that once upon a time, a city planner had to figure out how to hide an unsightly water pump from the unfortunate people who walked past it daily? His solution: build the empty shell of a fancy building around it. The people will never know! What about the history of The Can Opener Bridge? Did you know it can’t be fixed in any meaningful way? If you’ve ever wanted to know the true story of this hilarious urban monster (if trucks and buses are the victims), then you’ve got a place to find it.
And these are just two examples of the neat tidbits we learn in this week’s book of focus, The 99% Invisible City by Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt, based on their blog and podcast, 99% Invisible.
Why are we even talking about this book in a series devoted to writing craft? Well, for two reasons. First, we’re discussing how to craft settings, and I think this book is a great reminder for how settings have histories and that your settings have histories. But we’re also using it as an excuse to talk about researching your story elements and making sure that what you write is accurate and necessary. So, we’re pulling double-duty on this one.
Plus, it’s just a great book, and I’m all about discussing great books. It’s why I’m planning to launch a sister series about books worth reading sometime quite soon. But I digress.
You can get the book at the link below, and be sure to watch my discussion about it in this week’s video. And if you have the time, check out the 99% Invisible blog and podcast. There’s so much interesting stuff to read and hear about that even the book doesn’t have enough room to cover.
By Roman Mars & Kurt Kohlstedt
· Hardcover: 400 pages
· ISBN-10: 0358126606
· ISBN-13: 978-0358126607
· Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Illustrated edition (October 6, 2020)
Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.
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Series Note: We’re taking another short break next week to talk about mapmaking and setting orientation for your stories. The Writer’s Bookshelf will return on August 13th.