What’s familiar… yet fascinating?

What’s familiar yet fascinating – the place where you live! You might know it like the back of your hand (yawn!) but almost everyone else in the world doesn’t.

My point being, if you’re writing a story, don’t feel you have to set it somewhere exotic – remember that where you live is exotic to other people.


I set my latest series about Peony Pinker on the South coast of Cornwall, in the made-up town of Polgotherick, which is actually a cross between Looe, Fowey and Polperro. I live just up the road and I’m always popping down there for a paddle and a cream tea.

Mmm.... cream tea!

The series I wrote before Peony P, ‘Car-mad Jack,’ was set in a suburb on the edge of a city. That’s another place which is familiar to me, because it’s the kind of area I grew up in.

A suburban street

For a bit of variety, I sent Jack out on various adventures to Dartmoor and the Eden Project – also near where I live now – and the North of Scotland, where I often go for holidays.

The North of Scotland

Setting your story in a familiar place is like showing visitors round your house – you see it in a new way, through their eyes.

So when you’re thinking about where to set your stories, you don’t necessarily have to look beyond the village/farm/city/estate you live in, or the places you go for days out and holidays.

Choosing familiar settings means you get to show off what you know, and your readers get to visit a fascinating new place. I call that win, win!

15 thoughts on “What’s familiar… yet fascinating?

  1. I LOVE setting my storys in diffrent places, getting to explore the places i’d never get to go otherwise. 🙂

    I LOVE Wales and Cornwall. I live in Scotland and i feel very lucky. 🙂

    Love your post by the wayJenny. I’m following you on Twitter.

  2. That’s a good point Laura – it’s fun to explore new places so you can write about unfamilar settings as well. Wales, Cornwall and Scotland are my fave places too, and I feel very lucky to live where I do 🙂 I just followed back!

    • I loved living in Cornwall, my Amy Carter mysteries are set in Little Cragg, based on a mixture of St Ives and Falmouth. 🙂

      • St Ives and Falmouth – yes! One thing I love about Cornwall is it’s so varied – down West, balmy and beautiful; to the North, wild and windswept; to the South, full of little secret coves and ports, and right in the middle, beautiful Bodmin moor 🙂

  3. Wow, Jenny, great minds think alike! My latest Kitty Slade book, Venus Rocks, is set in ‘Pelporth’ – based, guess what, on a mix of Polperro, Fowey – and in my case, there were elements from two north-coast locations as well: Port Isaac and Trebarwith. I just added some info about it to my website: http://www.fionadunbar.com/kitty-slade/venus-rocks-on-location/. I want to write something set in Scotland as well – but the Western highlands/isles. And I’ve done one inspired by a moor, too! We like the same kind of places 🙂

  4. I’ve just looked at your site Fiona – how weird! You’ve got virtually the exact same views of Polperro as I’ve used in my publicity. I’ve also set a story in Port Isaac – which I called Port Perrigan – and Trebarwith is my fave place to swim! We certainly do like the same kind of places. I’ve blogged about the far North too – with pics – it’s the Northern Isles for me, and the area North of Ullapool. http://jenalexanderbooks.wordpress.com/2011/10/22/landscapes-of-the-soul/

  5. Hi, Jennyxx
    I’ve literally just finished a scene set in Soho Square, on Kirsty MacColl’s memorial bench, in fact. I love Soho Square- it’s a little oasis of peace-and go there whenever I can. It’s also a great place to people-watch. What more could a writer want?

  6. I love Soho Square too. I sometimes sit there when I’m in London to see my agent or visit my sons, and just watch the world go by. I once sat there for a whole afternoon because I had a fantastic book to read as well. As you say, what more could a writer want?

  7. Hi Jenny!

    I love setting books in familiar surroundings,I can write so much better!!! I also love reading books set in places I know, for example Camden Town Tales by Hilary Freeman, I can read them and think “OOOO! I’ve been there!!”

    Fab post!!

  8. Hi Ella – your comment makes me think, why do I usually disguise the real place names in my stories? Hilary calling hers Camden Town Tales is much better, cos everyone who knows Camden town will want to read them. What a brilliant comment! Thank you 🙂

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