A story doesn’t take place in a void, the action must take place somewhere. The setting is the laboratory in which to study your protagonist. Setting can be used for background, to create appropriate atmosphere, as a means of revealing the character, and reinforcing the theme of the story. Below are two different examples of how setting can be used. One using nature to reflect Venter's mood. The other using the power of non-visual details to describe a thunderstorm.
The use of non-visual details like hearing, taste, touch and smell add authentication to a scene.
How does your protagonist act in the city, the country, lost on an island, crossing the desert, trekking through the jungle? What non-visual details would you use?
Even though Zane Gray was considered to be a “pulp” writer he could come up with passages such as this from his masterpiece “Riders of the Purple Sage:”
“It was the moment when the last ruddy rays of the sunset brightened momentarily before yielding to twilight. And for Venters the outlook before him was in some sense similar to a feeling of his future, and with searching eyes he studied the beautiful purple, barren waste of sage. Here was the unknown and the perilous. The whole scene impressed Venters as a wild austere, and mighty manifestation of nature. And as it somehow reminded him of his prospect in life, so it suddenly resembled the woman near him, only in her there were greater beauty and peril, a mystery more unsolvable, and something nameless that numbed his heart and dimmed his eye.”
And this from Scott Momaday’s masterpiece “House Made of Dawn.”
“Thunder cracked in the sky and rolled upon the mountains. It grew deep and filled the funnel of the canyon and reverberated endlessly upon the cliffs. Lightning flashed, rending the dark wall of rain, casting an awful glare on it, and the rain moved into the canyon, almost slowly, upon the warm and waning gusts of drought, and the golden margin of receding light grew pale in the mist. And there behind the squall the still visible torrents coming on, like the sound of a great turbine, the roar of the wind and the rain on the river and rocks, the heavy drift borne up and set loose to spin into the pools and collide on the banks, and the faint falling apart of the earth itself, breaking and shifting under the weight of water.”