You've probably thought a bit about setting already, but let's take it to another level, shall we?
World-building is a lot of fun and very important for your story; if you're writing speculative fiction, doubly so. Too often speculative writers resort to those old, worn settings, like the ubiquitous medieval fantasy setting, when the setting could be virtually anything, the only limit is your imagination.
Writing a mainstream story and think you can get off scot free, world-builng wise? Sorry, you need to build your version of the real world setting, too, and it can be even tougher because the place actually exists. If you get something wrong, the reader can call you on it. So do your research. It might also simplify things to use a made-up neighbourhood in a real city, for example, to avoid these kinds of issues.
For a short story you don't need a story bible, but pick an interesting environment and make up what you need as you go. As with all description, the key is to pick interesting and unexpected details and to present them in an intriguing way that tells us something about the character experiencing them. Use mood and internal monologue to your advantage, here.
So now you've got an interesting setting. Is that enough? Maybe, but here are a few more things to consider:
- Is the setting the best pick for your story? Can it enhance the story's message, or help you use dramatic irony to your advantage?
- Can the setting act as a metaphor for something in the story, or make a scene more poignant, or maybe add conflict?
- Do you want the setting to enhance the mood of the scene or to add contrast? A boneyard of broken ships can evoke images of lost dreams, or a mother feeding her child in front of a wrecked spaceship might be code for life continuing after a crisis. Another fun trick is to use the same setting with a contrasting mood in a different part of the story, maybe the opening or closing.
- Does your world have an inner logic to it? You can't bend the rules just to make the writing easier. Actually, the creative solution within the rules is usually more intriguing anyway.
Play with your setting, make it a character in its own right.
Day 1: The Big Idea
Day 2: Cool Characters