Since I'm primarily a writer of f/f romance, the general prescription is start with two characters. well i don't often do that. i use settings in specific ways, not as background but as milieus in which my characters will interact with their environment as well as each other. One my first thoughts when i began reading lesfic many years go, i was annoyed that with few exceptions, the action took place in a vacuum. Where did they live? What were their lives like? Lesbians were, in those days, closeted. I'm talking sixties, seventies and eighties. There were a lot of coming out stories but that meant creating relationships, falling in love. There was sometimes political coming-outs but not often.
I moved to San Francisco in 1979 and boom, was i ever in a context. This was different than a lot of women's lives, i recognize but still, it made me think of my life in a totally different way and years later, how i think of my characters' lives.