However, that doesn't mean the writer of off-Earth science fiction or traditional fantasy is completely off the proverbial hook. K.M. Weiland, the proprietress of Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors, did her weekly Sunday post on the problem of using too many settings in fiction. She quotes John Truby, author of The Anatomy of Story (reproduced here):
Many writers… mistakenly believe that since you can go anywhere, you should. This is a serious mistake, because if you break the single arena of your story, the drama will literally dissipate. Having too many arenas results in fragmented, inorganic stories.I would add that having not enough detail, or too much detail, in the world of your story can have a similar effect. For example, I'm currently researching common professions of the 19th century. The reason I'm doing this is so I know what occupations the residents of the city of Callarion might have, and by extension what kind of people my MC might run into as she travels around the city.
These background details are useful to have as you dive into the world of your story, but are almost immaterial to the course of the story itself. In one portion of the story, my MC happens upon a group of dockworkers. I researched common clothing for a 19th Century dockworker so I could be certain of describing them correctly. Does this mean I spend two whole pages describing the buttons of a man's coat? Of course not. What it does mean is that I can now be certain I'm describing things accurately.
The same goes for details in the setting of the story. Say I placed a fifteen-story glass skyscraper smack in the center of Victorian London. Now, the modern skyscraper didn't really come about until the 1930s, but we did see some steel construction in the 1860s. However, my point is that the modern skyscraper would look tremendously out of place if I say it existed prior to when it historically came about. I'd better have a darn good reason for putting an out-of-history building in an earlier time period (think 1632 by Eric Flint, or Boneshaker by Cherie Priest).
Attention to time period and attention to detail is important in creating veracity in your setting. For my thus-far aborted fantasy series, I spent a lot of time reading about the 1490s (Leonardo da Vinci's time period), because that was when the inventions I included in that story existed, at least in a theoretical sense. I also did a lot of reading on select world cultures, but that's another post.
A warning, however, about attention to detail. There's the possibility that you can contract what's called Research Paralysis -- a condition where you stop writing because you think you need to find everything out before you can write your story. This isn't true. I've yet to meet the writer who can churn out publishable material on the first draft, so my suggestion to avoid this is to write the draft by making notes where you need to research such as parenthetical statements (i.e. (RESEARCH CLOTHING) or (Is this accurate?)) and then move on.
Do not let diving into your world to tease out all the details become your goal. Your goal is to write an engaging story. Nothing more. If that means leaving out certain parts of your meticulously crafted city, then that means leaving them out. Story trumps pretty much everything.