Settings are so important or their generic and of little importance, depending on the author's interest in making the setting another and interesting character in and of itself, or simple and quick and easy with little or no reason to be inserted into the storyline anymore than necessary.
I have read books wherein the setting is a generic city--any town USA, a rural setting that could be anywhere on the continent, and I have read books where the city or the town or the country dominates the story. What's the difference? Why make the setting "all important" to begin with? Isn't that a lot of work, making the setting unique and special to your character?
I have a habit of going more John Grisham than Elmore Leonard, while I respect both methods; I have great admiration for those who can quick-sketch a scene and a setting and move on with story. By the same token, I am compelled myself to make a scene come alive via the five senses and perceptions of my characters, be it Dr. Jessica Coran in Hawaii or Inspector Alastair Ransom in 1893 Chicago with the World's Fair a thorn in his side. For me setting has to be another and important character in the story, one with which the main characters interact. Sure a classroom is a classroom is a classroom and often it is best to move on, but the overall setting, say New Orleans must come alive in my tales.
As a reader, for me it can go either way; I respect the Elmore Leonard approach to making Arizona in 1844 come alive with a few quick brush strokes, but I also love the detail of a John Grisham describing a courtroom - a special courtroom to Grisham and his readers--an Oxford, Mississippi courtroom. Leonard would just call it a courtroom while Grishan would spend three or four pages on the place.
What about you? Which do you prefer? The quick-sketch setting or the fat, juicy, larger than life setting?
Robert W. Walker
Children of Salem - 1st 20 pgs. free @ http://www.robertwalkerbooks.com/