Setting is one of those elements that every story has. Whether your characters travel across the globe or stay in the same room for the entire story, a setting still exists. It is the place or places where all of the events in the story happen. Depending on your story, setting can play a large role or a small one. It can be a new place your characters adventure to or the same place they've lived all their lives. Once you've chosen your setting, how do you get it across to the reader? How do you make it feel natural and believable?
A lot can go in to choosing the setting for your story. You may know right away where you want it to take place, or it could take you a while to figure out. It can be a real place or somewhere you've made up. Every story requires its own unique setting. But conveying that setting can be another issue entirely. How do you make the reader see what you see when you envision your story? How do you make that place feel real?
Sometimes choosing the setting can seem a lot easier than executing it. For instance, I knew right away where I wanted my book to take place. The hard thing is actually making it feel like it takes place there. Do my characters actually sound like they've lived there all their lives? What information is necessary to get across to the reader?
First, I should probably say that about 90% of my book takes place indoors, where the setting is irrelevant. Well, the outside world is irrelevant, I should say. Every room your character inhabits within a scene still counts as a setting. It may not be necessary to provide every single detail, every piece of furniture or speck of dust, but there should be a general idea of what things look like or how it feels to be in that room. My characters have to deal with a lot of isolation, which works for the story. My problem is that when they actually go out into the real world, am I getting it right?
Sometimes I worry that whatever reference I make to the setting feels forced. Like, if I have my narrator reference a particular landmark, does it feel like I'm just doing it for the reader's sake? Because he's lived in this city all his life and is used to everything (and doesn't care), what actually needs to be said? Maybe I'm just paranoid that every subway ride or walk through Central Park makes it look like I'm trying too hard. But these are things that my characters do. So how do you make these sort of actions feel natural?
There really is no one answer because every story will require something different from its setting. For me, at least, it means making those brief moments where the real world sneaks in feel like a real place. Don't scream the setting at the reader, but hint at it. Make it feel like any place you would go where you live. It can be difficult writing a book that takes place where you don't personally live, but if we restricted ourselves to the setting we know, then we'd miss out on a lot of great story ideas. The important thing is to do your research, and don't worry about it so much. If you try too hard, then it will show. Just let the setting work for you.
How do you make your settings feel natural? Do you typically choose a setting you're familiar with?