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When we’re writing, we need to think about the places that our characters live, work and play.  How much time to you spend thinking about the effect of buildings on the environment?  This recent article from the BBC reminded me that conditions on streets depend very much on what buildings surround them.

Skyscrapers are becoming ever more common, and many sci-fi novels contain massive cities which tower into the sky and spread for miles.  Where several large buildings are grouped together, canyons can form, with noise at street level being massively increased and wind tunnels springing into existence.  Even one skyscraper, if badly designed, can cause high speed winds from higher up to be diverted to the ground.

And that’s ignoring the long shadows and sometimes ugly car park entrances.

Fortunately, modern architects seem to be taking notice.  The Gherkin in London has an unusual shape not just to look good – it helps the winds go around the structure.  The almost-completed Shard (also in London) casts its shadow mainly over the River Thames.

When you’re writing about life in a city, whether it’s real or fictional, it’s important to understand what kind of city it is.  Is it modern?  Old?  Has it reached the point in its development where the citizens have started to build skyscrapers, but are still building them square?  Has the government of your country or planet decided to limit the size of buildings for any reason?  What effect will all that have on the microclimate at street level?

And of course, the feel of a city centre is enormously different to the feel of a suburb.  Cities in different parts of the country can be poles apart, let alone cities in other countries.  Ultimately, the best thing to do might be to find a real city with similar conditions to the one you are writing about, and go there.  Soak in the feel of the place, and notice the little things.  And then write.

The Author

Nicola Higgins is a 30-something martial artist who runs two Brownie packs and works full time. She somehow still finds time to write.

Her favourite genres are near-future and alternate world science fiction and fantasy.

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