Setting helps readers understand the context of a story.
About a third of the way into the manuscript for Overboard, I describe the site of the eventual showdown between the protagonist and the villain with a warning from Aggie directed to a secondary character:
A half-rotted wooden bow rises from a tangle of palmetto, yaupon, myrtle and briars. The property next to ours used to be as well-groomed as Kincaid Cove, but when Mrs. Turner died, family disputes left the land with no caretaker. The jungle has reclaimed it.
Rachel pushes aside the limbs of a stunted water oak, as if she might fight her way through the untamed growth to examine the boat’s skeleton.
“I wouldn’t go in there if I were you. Anything could be lurking in the muck.”
Sometimes I describe from memory. Sometimes I need a little more inspiration. I know this particular setting intimately, and yet I still felt the need to visit and photograph some of the jungly part of Gulf State Park. In every case, I’m looking for that single detail that best sums up the experience of the location.