I have friends who, even if they spent every winter snowed in, unable to reach their nearest neighbor, remember the house and surrounding land where they grew up as the most beautiful place in the world.
I have at least two friends who remember college and the dorm or apartment where they lived for four years as the best home and time in their lives. They were away from parents for the first time, had more freedom to make mistakes, met a wider variety of people, and learned things (not all academic) they’ve found consistently useful.
Those of us who value home and family first may find it strange but I’ve known people whose favorite location was a hospital, a lab, or a factory and they made every effort to spend as much time as possible in their chosen spot.
Other friends ignore snide remarks against suburbia because these friends experienced the most happiness in their lives in suburbia where they started and raised their families.
I remember with the greatest affection Boston and Cambridge in Massachusetts. My husband and I lived in both in the early years of our marriage. I attended colleges in both cities and the job I’ve enjoyed most in my life was at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. While I worked there, a whispered suggestion for a union was dismissed with a warning and we often worked ten and twelve hours with a break that allowed only enough time to down a cup of coffee.
Both cities have ugly areas, can be smelly in summer, and hazardous to drive in winter. However, what I recall when I make Boston or Cambridge a setting for a story is the number of generous, open-minded people I met at work, in classes, and as neighbors.
There doesn’t have to be logic or even common sense in a person’s affection and loyalty for a particular area. People remain loyal to an area where work is non-existent and only one or two shops are left on Main Street.
Writers sometimes discuss settings and their reasons for choosing a small town over a rural area or a made-up city. I like an emotional attachment to my settings, a vividly imagined past experience that changes brick, wood, and sidewalks. I’m grateful to people I met in my twenties and thirties. They changed my perception of living and working in a community. I recall their faces and hear their voices often.
How do you pick a setting? Does it fit a plot or a character? Is it a favorite place, or something else?