A story’s setting is more than a backdrop against which the story happens. It’s the colors that you paint your story with. A setting can influence a story’s themes and support it’s ideas and characters. With a setting come feelings, impressions, and implications:
2016 New York City: fast, traffic-packed, rush house, diversity, ocean view, sleepless
1950 Kansas: flat, corn, tornado, bible belt, bread basket, slow, isolated, lonely, traditional
A setting comes with it’s own sensory details; Los Angeles smells different than Tiny Town, Georgia. Cape Girardeau, Missouri has different architecture than Farmington, New Mexico. Small towns are closer-knit that big cities; they have different forms of communication, outlets of entertainment, and different tolerances. A small, mostly white community in the bible belt won’t be as accepting of a trans-gender woman than people in L.A. There are more Native Americans in the southwest than southeast. There’s a lot of farm ground in the Midwest.
Setting adds flavor. Each location comes with its own set of beliefs, superstitions, urban legends, political backgrounds, and historical figures. One high school town might love football and glorifies the high school team, while the next town over doesn’t even have a football team. Each location is different.
Would a different setting work better in your story? What does your story’s setting look like? Smell like? Taste like? (You know, how air has a taste. I bet New York smells like car exhaust, coffee, and farts.) St. Louis smells like muddy Mississippi, depending on where in the city you are. My hometown smells like dirt, and corn dust in the summer.
Setting came be more than a backdrop. It’s a character of its own.
If you’re a writer of fantasy like me, there is a lot in your world. You should know it’s history, even if in general. Think of all the history books about your country. What history books would your world have? Wars? Great figures? Your lore and history doesn’t have to make it into the final product, but you know it. You’ve got it in case it does come up. In your fantasy world, you’re the god. You make mountains, oceans, people, wild fires, great wars, good and bad leaders, and know everything that’s happened that has made the world what it is.
It’s a fun part of writing fantasy and it’s the hardest part of writing fantasy. You have to keep yourself on track and not contradict yourself. That’s why it’s important to keep a ‘story bible.’ Write down facts about your world as you make them. Keep it all in a file on your computer or in a notebook. One fantasy world per file.