I use to think of setting as the boring part of writing. It was something that had to be done, but as a reader, I always skimmed over. But now, I realize that world building is just as important as character building.
The first step is to realize that the world is a character. The world needs to be both static and dynamic.
The static part is the history, the culture, the rules, the social norms. It is everything that cannot change because it is set in stone. It is also these parts that set up the friction and conflicts for the characters.
The dynamic part is how the world acts and reacts to the characters. The world needs to somehow change because of the characters actions. It cannot change to suit the characters need (like for water in a desert) or you as an author’s need for a conflict.
After I learned that the world is one of my main characters, I’ve found that writing scenes are much easier because I have a better idea of what the setting is, even if my readers don’t ever get to hear all the background details.
Remember, writing from a place of knowledge makes for the most interesting reads. Some examples of world building that I love are Tamora Pierce‘s series Lioness Quartet, The Immortals, and (my favourite) Tricksters. Some other interesting examples that I have on my bookshelf are Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce, Jatta by Jenny Hale, Princess Academy by Shannon Hale and Graceling by Kristin Cashore.
World building is not limited to YA or science fiction books, it is also essential to romance’s, adult fiction, non-fiction, historical, fiction, murder/mysteries. It’s important to, really, any good story that has a setting. Even fairy tales have world building: