For an interesting opinion on world-building, check out this post “Why World Building Comes First” on Gabrielle Massman’s site “Write for the King”.
Her post emphasizes how world-building in speculative fiction affects character development. As I stated in my comment, I believe all authors engage in some kind of world-building to draw readers into a setting they are not familiar with.
This reminded me of a rule, attributed to Alfred Hitchcock, which I found in Halliwell’s Harvest, “the location must be put to work”.
Hitchcock is remembered for his wonderful use of locations to enhance his plots. A man is dropped off by a lonely cornfield and is attacked by someone flying a crop-dusting plane in North By Northwest. Not a truck or car or motorcycle. Since the hero is in a cornfield, Hitchcock uses a plane. Because Foreign Correspondent has a scene in Holland, Hitchcock has to work in a windmill in which the hero gets his sleeve, almost his arm, crushed in the grinding gears of the mill.
I am reading A Fool and His Monet by Sandra Orchard. The main character is an FBI agent who specializes in art theft and works out of St. Louis. The author uses a lot of place names to ground her story in St. Louis. I don’t know the city, but I have a cousin who lives there, and I’m sure if I check, those names will be true.
Whatever you location, make it work for your story. If you pick a city that’s been used a lot, like New York or London, try to find some quality that other writers might not have taken advantage of. Jeff Rice wrote the book for the TV movie The Night Stalker about a vampire prowling through Las Vegas. Mr. Rice had lived in Las Vegas and said a significant part of the population lived and worked at night. A vampire would go unnoticed.
If your story is not coming together as you like, maybe it’s the location. Try several different ones and see if a change gets the story back on track.
How do you make your location work for you?