Everything surrounding the characters in novels is usually seen as the scenario, where the action develops, where the scenes happen. But not all is the same. The same location can be seen in many different ways depending on the intention you – as a writer – put into describing it. Since literary descriptions are far from being informative photographs and resemble more at paintings that color and shape the space to suit it to the needs of the scene.
Everything is in the emotions that the writer wants to surround the protagonists. After all, the literary scenario is more about emotions than things.
Sometimes we stumble with long and detailed scenery descriptions, which are okay as long as they make sense in the argument, contribute something to the plot or define the characters in a clear way, if they fail to do this, they are excessive. Little does the reader cares if the door of protagonist’s house is “red, with small beveled window squares in the top and a remarkable work of cabinetry panels in the panels that divide the door in six different but harmonious parts, which makes it look like a work of art worthy of being admired” if this doesn’t help identify the house some other scene thanks to its singularity.
The writer must try to provide the necessary framework (and no more) for the scene in the descriptions that set the characters (and the reader) in the place where the action is happening. For this, there are some concepts to have in mind to do this well:
Setting In a story it’s everything surrounding the plot itself, the general framework. The physical location is only a small part of it; it also includes the historical period, the political situation, the cultural level, the social framework; in short: any information that’s useful as a starting point so that – when the moment comes to get into detail – the reader already have a basic idea of where to build the concrete scenario. The first few chapters of the novel build up the setting and it is useful if the reader has it clear preventing him feeling lost and involving him in the story.