Realism is the key factor when creating a setting for your characters. Readers need to feel as though they share a space within the experience of a story and the only way to do that is to research your setting well.
THE EASY WAY
If the story is in a modern city or town, then most of your work is done. There are so many nuances of life that escape our notice because we live them every day. Even so, if your city is in a foreign country, then you still have work to do. Their customs and norms will shape the environment (and vice versa, depending on what articles you read).
The more remote your setting, the more work you will need to do to make it believable. One of my biggest hang-ups is the single-biome world. Star Wars is famous for this. Tatooine, the desert planet, would have no breathable oxygen, as would the ice world, Hoth. Conversely, the forest moon of Endor would be too oxygen rich for human life. This doesn’t even go into livable temperature ranges or anything else that should be considered. Kevin Anderson’s careful work in the Saga of the Seven Suns series balances realism in his off-world settings.
- Find a model location. This will give you a starting point.
- Read everything you can about the types of plant and animal life that are common as well as typical weather conditions.
- Visit if you can. Experience is the best teacher for any writer. If you can’t afford a ticket, you can afford a YouTube search.
- Get creative. Now that you know the area, isolate defining signatures of the location. For general fiction, that may be all you need. For the fantastic, you will need to exaggerate your jungle setting to include extremes like in the “Avatar” movie.