It’s a cliche: Write about what you know! But when you use your hometown for a setting, you have to distinguish what you know from what your characters know. For example, suppose you go back to the hillside where you sat with your high school love (long since gone) and now you find it the site of a cluster of overpriced, oversized homes. You want your early memory to be something your character doesn’t know and learns about. Maybe she’s living in one of those expensive homes, and she finds out that years ago, someone in the story used to sit on that very slope in her garden when there wasn’t a house in sight, and dream about the future. Who was the dreamer? Her mother? The girl who stole her beau? Her husband, with someone that he can’t forget? You are sharing with the reader the freshness of her discovery, the scent in the air, the longing that you once experienced.
Conversely, the other way you can bring to life a place very familiar, is by discovering something you don’t know, but your character does. She has to know everything about this locale, and you need to research it in order to give your character authentic details and feelings about it.
What helps to bring a familiar place to life is finding out what new things people do there to make a living – changes in economics are part of conveying a sense of place.
Something else you should consider when writing about your own backyard: you must make this distinction … you knew people as they were; your character knows them as they might have been. Sometimes we write about the place we grew up in to recover it; sometimes to redress it; sometimes merely to recall it. Remembrance of things past is a dialogue between you and your storyteller. Either you introduce her to that nostalgia for the hillside where you sat with your love under the stars; or she takes you to a country coffee shop, where – over coffee and cake – she tells you what’s new in your own backyard.
I’m always happy to hear your comments, and to help you with any writing problems.
Some of my 14 novels are now available from me at discount – “The Pomegranate Pendant”; “Seeds of the Pomegranate”; “In A Good Pasture”; “Esther – a Jerusalem Love Story” and my latest novel “Searching for Sarah”. Details direct from me at firstname.lastname@example.org Happy writing!