Once again, I'm quoting author Elizabeth George:
I develop a place that I can own on paper because I want the reader to experience the setting right along with the characters.
Ms. George placed the emphasis on the word "own", but for me, the key word in that quote is "EXPERIENCE".
Setting is critical to enabling the reader to experience the story.
In order to experience the story, the reader must experience the setting.
That means seeing all the little things there are to see: hubcaps in the weeds, dogwood trees in bloom, a bullet-riddled stop sign.
And feeling: the gooey tar on a hot road; the coarseness of a wool blanket.
And smelling: burned toast; honeysuckle; lavender talcum powder.
And hearing: the sprinkler in the yard; the crickets in the garden; the clickety clack of high-heeled shoes
It's critical for the writer to become so totally immersed in the setting that the reader can experience each scene perfectly - like a movie.
Sometimes I find myself with a setting that is very clear to me - in my mind - but is often hard to translate onto the page so that the reader can see it, too.
In order to help me maneuver the character throughout the physical setting, I sometimes draw a little sketch.
Here is the sketch of the setting of The Short, Sad Life of Tooley Graham (my WIP):
This may come as a shock to some of you, but I am no artist. :-)
But that simple little sketch is a big help to me as the main character moves around from place to place.
It helps me to help the reader EXPERIENCE the setting.