The setting is important. In fact, without it, you have nothing but characters moving around in boring space. Now, when I first write something, that’s pretty much all I get. A little snappy dialogue if I’m lucky, an idea of what they look like and boring tags like smiled, nodded and smirked. Not a lot of imagination in the beginning.
It’s necessary to get the idea down first. You can always go back and layer. That’s where the setting comes in. In fact, I usually print a hard copy of my work several drafts in and layer atmosphere in last. It gives your writing life. I wouldn’t go crazy with long paragraphs of description, but a smart addition here and there does wonders.
There is an excellent chapter on this in Stephen King’s On Writing. He breaks it down in simple terms. You can also learn from experience and observation.
Ever typed in a favorite author’s work? Just typed it in to look at how it flows on a page? I did this often over the years and I will still occasionally pull out a trusted favorite book and try it again. As far as I’m concerned, there is always some new golden nugget of knowledge to learn from other writers.
Good, atmospheric words are a definite necessity. Descriptive words like lush, melancholic, nibble… oh, I could go on forever with words. <g> But trickle them in. If your character is in bed, slip in an adjective about how soft or scratchy the sheets are. Does the room smell clean? Is the air cold or warm on exposed skin?
Close your eyes, put yourself in that setting and imagine.
In fact, it’s a good practice to find an intriguing image like the one above and just practice writing descriptions. Don’t plan out a scene, only describe what you see. Often, a story will evolve from doing this alone.
Why don’t you try writing a description of the woods above? I’m not asking you to post it here– just practice on your own if you want. And if you want to post it here, I’m cool with that, too. 🙂