Play writers understand this better then anyone, setting their scenes. They imagine their actors moving around a set and how that set will look to the audience. In what I have learned from writing, it’s no different in writing fiction. If nothing else, you have to deal with a much bigger stage and understand it on a much larger scale.
When writing, you are taking your readers some place. They need to be able to understand and visualize their surroundings. If you write fantasy, my suggestion is to map out your world. Look at writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien and Christoper Paolini; they created their worlds and gave you a map to follow them. Smart!
Some of us, like myself, use real world locations. In my first book, I used sections of the western United States. I chose these areas because I knew them. I used the old “write what you know” as a guide. I lived in these areas, understood these areas and researched them.
So, when setting your scene:
Suggestion #1 – pull from personal experiences. It’s so much easier to write about a place you have lived, been, or experienced.
Suggestion #2 – remember that people who live in these areas could possibly read your work! Even if you change the names of locations (buildings, stores, etc.) understand those places, so they can identify with them.
Suggestion #3 – RESEARCH! If you are going to write about places you have only heard about, or think would make a good back drop for your story, do your research. The last thing you want is for your reader to get tripped up and pulled out the story by them beginning to think “wow, you can tell they’ve never been here before.”
I know as a reader, I need to be able to become part of the story and if I don’t believe in the world it’s taking place in, it’s very difficult to follow.