1) Real or imaginary? If your location is a real place, have you actually been there? If not, best be planning a road trip or else some serious research. You need to truly know a place in order to write about it so that your readers believe it. You don’t want to be called out on your descriptions by the locals – that’s something that could completely blow your credibility. Conversely, if the town you write about is entirely fictional, you need to describe it so your readers will believe that it actually exists or possibly could.
2) Big city lights or down-home hospitality? In some instances, your location actually becomes a supporting character. Think of Sex and the City or The Andy Griffith Show. In Sex and the City, New York plays a major role. The show would not have been the same if it were set in Detroit, for example. Same thing with The Andy Griffith Show. Mayberry has a flavor, a texture, a feel so that not only do you believe it is real, but you can actually imagine what it would be like to visit, or even live there yourself.
3) Past, present or future? The Help would be a very different novel had Kathryn Stockett set it in 1942 or 2012. Instead, the setting is 1962, in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. How would your story be different if it were set in the 1980’s? (Just think how much technology has changed since then!) What if it were set 10 years into the future?
Setting is too often neglected in discussions on good story telling. However, a little extra attention to this detail will reward your audience with a deeper reading experience!
If you don't find Beth here, come look out back in the garden.