I took pictures as we walked the path to the cell-block and other buildings of the island. I kept thinking how it was awful that I didn't have a book planned for this setting. I would've been able to use those pictures to create a detailed setting. I'd have been able to accurately describe the rusted and broken top of the water tower, the green moss climbing ten feet up a rock face, and the red roof of the guard tower.
The details in our settings ground us in the story, making us feel that the place (and so the characters) could exist.Of course, it is much easier to create a vivid setting when you have been to that location. I struggle with real life locations and so prefer to create my own whenever possible. But I still have to make sure the details are right for what hints I want the reader to get about my characters and what emotions I want to evoke.
Do you prefer to write real or made up settings?