Writing allows you to be in two places at the same time. While I’m sitting in a library in New Jersey, I’m also on the quarter deck of a brig in the Caribbean Sea. With that said, reading allows for the same thing, as long as the writer does his or her job. The hard part is getting the reader to join you where you want them. These are two quick points about setting.
PIECING IT TOGETHER
The settings we create come from fragments of what we know. The gnarled and knotted trees from the woods behind the house in which you grew up now find themselves bordering a clearing in a dark forest of a far away land. These trees give your characters the same foreboding that you felt when you were seven. At the same time, the lush and well lit path from your walk in the mountains of Vermont last week seems like your characters’ best chance to escape this forest with their lives. These two pieces of your woodland experience didn’t share a field of view except in the world that you created.
PEOPLE HAVE NO PATIENCE
The days when a writer could go on for pages about the majesty of a mountain are long gone. People simply do not have the patience for it. The difference in modern fiction is that the details now need to be artfully dropped into the action. Even the most beautiful field sits idly until acted upon by characters.
My philosophy on setting is an adaptation of the question: If a tree falls in woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? It may make a sound, but no one cares.