My latest completed novel is a dark YA suspense called FIREBUG which takes place in my hometown. I chose to use my town as the setting for a couple reasons. First of all, there had been several cases of arsonists here over the last several years. One summer about three years ago, we got a call in the night because the haystacks on both sides of the farm were burning. It turns out that an arsonist was walking across country and setting fire to any stacks he ran into. Fortunately for us, he missed our stack, though many of our neighbors lost their supply of feed for their cattle.
A bonus to setting the story in your hometown is that people who live there often know things that an outsider might not. It’s easy to set the scene at a high school where I walked the halls as a student.
It surprises me that I've had several beta readers say that they would never write a story about their hometown—that the bad things that happen to the characters feels too close and too real when the setting is just down the road.
They also worry about offending people. If the story calls for a dirty cop or an unethical mayor, then they worry that the real mayor or police of the town will be bothered by a story written about them.
Here’s the part that intrigues me: Why does it make a difference if the crooked cop is in your town or another town? Whatever town the story is set in will have things made up about the people living there, be it bad or good. Does distance from the made-up corruption make it easier to handle?
Sometimes our stories require the setting to be somewhere far from where we live, but if your story COULD happen in a place like your town, would you set the story there? Why or why not? Does writing about your hometown bring things too close to home?