One of the most loved and respected authors of western fiction was Louis L’amour.. His fans found his stories to be very realistic because of the accuracy of his settings. If one of his stories mentioned a specific well or spring, you could go to that location and find it. This is because L’amour had done so before he wrote about it. His research was meticulous.
Does this mean you need to become a world traveler to be able to construct realistic settings? Not necessarily. I’ve been fortunate to have lived in or traveled in a number of countries in Europe and Asia, so I could search my memory and describe a particular location I had personally experienced just like L’amour had done.
Detailed, accurate settings make for interesting reading. This is why books are often referred to as armchair adventures. But, what’s an author to do if his story takes him to a place he’s never been? All is not lost. First there are atlases for those of us who know how to read a good map. Second, there are sources of good information in Google and Wikipedia. Most importantly, there are UTube and documentaries which can give you a look at far away places. Any author who doesn’t avail himself of these resources is just plain lazy. By studying and seeing for oneself the locations you’re writing about, you can produce much more interesting works.
OK, how about science fiction and fantasy? Did you ever notice how many fantasy novels come with an excellent map of the stories’ settings? I always find myself checking such maps as I read just so I’m clear as to where everything is. The beauty of scifi is its settings are whatever the author wants them to be; therefore, detailed descriptions become essential.
Good settings are the sign of good fiction writers. They add spice to your stories. They also add connectivity with your readership for those who have been to the places you write about. Do your due diligence to make what you write as believable as possible.