Writing Las Vegas

Writing Las Vegas

Some of the oldest cities in the world were built in deserts. Las Vegas is not one of them.

Incorporated in 1905, it is the only major American city founded in the twentieth century. Having survived an infancy that easily could have killed it, it’s now enjoying a lively adolescence. Like teenagers everywhere, it knows how to startle and offend. It wears eyebrow-raising outfits and drinks too much. It smokes, gambles, and stays up all night. It’s got a “wild child” reputation to maintain, and it spends a lot of time and energy doing it.

Like a real teenager, Las Vegas also has a side that it chooses to keep under wraps. It goes to church, the library, and the symphony. It conserves water. It worries about what other people think, and it wonders what it’s going to do when it grows up.

When I first decided to create a character from Las Vegas, I knew only about the city’s “Glitter Gulch” persona. Until I arrived to take a closer look, I had no idea what that dazzling veneer concealed. I certainly had no inkling that the city underneath would beguile me with its multifaceted personality and unique history.

I’m not alone in finding Las Vegas an alluring setting. More than a thousand other authors have also crafted stories set here, and the number keeps rising. As the city grows and matures—and as more writers call southern Nevada home—the stories that emerge explore layers, nooks, and corners the neon never illuminates. Put simply, real people live here and lead real lives. Las Vegas is like any city in America, and it’s also like no other. Like the desert surrounding it, it’s a place of contrasts and extremes.

I arrived here twenty years ago for a six-week stay. I thought that would be easily long enough for me to provide my fictional character with an authentic Las Vegas experience. I was wrong in ways I am even now still discovering. Not only is Las Vegas not the city I thought it was before I came, it’s not the same city it was ten years ago. We can all only wonder what it will be like after another decade. I hope I’ve captured a bit of real Vegas in my fiction, even as it moves on to its next phase. A part of me hopes it never grows up.

2 thoughts to “Writing Las Vegas”

  1. I recently read your post “Writing Las Vegas 2” and loved getting your insider perspective on writing about and in Las Vegas. As an aspiring writer who moved to Vegas last year, your advice for capturing the unique energy and spirit of the city really resonated with me.

    I especially appreciated your tips on people-watching at various locales on the Strip or downtown to spark story ideas. The spectacle of Las Vegas Boulevard never ceases to amaze me! Your suggestion to listen closely to dialogues and regional dialects is fantastic. As a newcomer, I’m still tuning my ear to the local lingo and cadences.

    Thanks for encouraging writers to look past the stereotypes and dig into the rich culture and history here. You gave so many great examples of stories waiting to be told about Las Vegas, from the atomic testing era to the entertainment industry’s evolution. I loved your point about the strong literary community, too. Discovering that has been a welcome surprise for me.

    The only downside is that your post left me itching to get writing about this fascinating city! I may just have to get comfortable at one of your favorite coffee shops and start channeling my observations into some short stories or essays. Thanks again for the inspiration. Please let me know if you have any other advice for an aspiring Vegas writer!

  2. I recently read your post about the anthology “Writing Las Vegas,” and wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed getting a sneak peek into this collection exploring Nevada’s unique city. As someone who loves reading books that provide an immersive sense of place, this definitely seems right up my alley.

    I thought you did a wonderful job using excerpts from the anthology to capture the spirit of Las Vegas and showcase the range of talent featured. From Barbara Roche’s evocative description of the landscapes surrounding Red Rock to James Brown’s gritty take on downtown’s Fremont Street, you brought such distinct voices to life.

    And I love the concept of having each author profile a different side of Vegas. It’s fascinating to get these varied perspectives – both the glitz and grit – illuminating the city’s multifaceted identity. This is absolutely going on my to-read list!

    Thanks for introducing me to this compelling anthology and the community of writers bringing the sights, sounds, and people that define Vegas to the page. Keep up the great literary coverage!

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