Using what you know
When I first started writing my novel I wondered whether or not I should base some of my characters on real people. I thought there might be real justification for doing this because drawing from an actual person should logically yield realistic character traits.
Nevertheless, I soon decided implanting alternate versions of people I knew into my manuscript felt like an unnatural fit to my particular story (this may have something to do with the Victorian setting) and besides, whilst drifting off into my own thoughts during my daily routine, I soon dreamed up a cast list which complimented my setting and plot nicely.
What I did decide to transpose into my work further along the line however, was fictionalised versions of real world locations.
I suppose it could be argued nearly every setting in a book is a fictionalised version of a place the author knows, but what I’m specifically talking about here is thinking of a place matching the environment of a particular sequence, and then spending time on your own in said place with the sole intention of improving your descriptions. Once you’re sat comfortably you can listen to the location’s sounds, make notes on any wildlife, work out how the weather interplays with the scenery and jot down anything else you think might help transport the reader there.
For example, at one point in my story some of my characters have a conversation in a springtime coppice and, after visiting a similar place myself, I found the scene much easier to bring to life. If I compare my initial draft to what I came out with after spending time in the real deal, the difference in quality is significant.
Of course, I’m aware this might not be possible for all stories; a sci-fi book set in a futuristic space station or on an alien planet etc, but hopefully an interesting nugget nonetheless.
As always, related comments and tips welcomed!