Sometimes a certain plot dictates a setting. Like if you're writing about a teen trying to make it in show business, you'll probably be setting your story in Los Angeles, New York City, or the international equivalents. If your story is about someone escaping big city life, then you're going to be finding yourself a small town.
A setting can be a sort of character itself. Gilmore Girls certainly would have lost something had it not been set in Stars Hollow. Or an extreme example of this is Lost.
On the flip side, a setting can be something that doesn't matter at all. 24 didn't need to take place in L.A.
Or maybe your setting is something that doesn't really exist. Like a giant peach or an elaborate chocolate factor. (Oh, I love Roald Dahl.) This is often the case in science fiction or fantasy.
Another possibility is a historical setting. Like Savannah, Georgia in 1822. Or New York City in the roaring 20s.
Whatever your setting is, it's important to know it and know it well. While the reader doesn't need pages and pages of description, they do need context. They need some sort of picture of where the action is taking place.
I love the way Donald Maass summarizes setting in his book Writing the Breakout Novel.
"...the world of the novel is composed of much more than description of landscape or rooms. It is milieu, period, fashion, ideas, human outlook, historical moment, spiritual mood and more. It is capturing not only place but people in an environment; not only history but humans changing in their era. Description is the least of it. Bringing people alive in a place and time that are alive is the essence of it."
(I had to look up the word 'milieu.' It means surrounds, particularly of a social nature.)
Something you might try as you consider if you've picked a good location for your story is think about what would change if you moved it. What if you moved it to a small town? Or to the East coast? Or to Hawaii?
More on setting next week. Don't forget to send me your writing prompts!