I actually cheered out loud when I read Claudia's "heretical claim". I don't think really think much about setting when I'm writing, except to remember "Oh yeah! I need to do some setting stuff -- people like that!" I'm always surprised when someone says they get a sense of place from something I've written. When I teach, I tell writers to employ all of the 5 senses (plus memory) to add detail, and in thinking about this post, I did realize that I do write "setting" -- it comes from what my characters see, hear, taste, smell, touch, and remember. So while they may not pay attention to rolling green hills, rows of brownstones, or think much about how sunny it is, they do notice:
the girl in the red shirt who is trying to eat ice cream and go down the slide at the same time.
Or the fluffy gray cat darting between parked Mini Coopers on the street.
The lady with the ginormous white straw hat with a droopy flower who's sitting in the front row at church.
They might screw up their noses when they walk into the playground bathroom;
or wish they could drink in the bright blue-green ocean water -- and then spit and sputter when they do.
The beat of the old-school songs playing at the block party pumps through their bodies, and they giggle at Uncle Gary in his shorts and socks with sandals when he jumps up, yelling "That's my JAM!", and waves his hands in the air like he really, really doesn't care.
So, I suppose I get to setting through my characters. Does it work? I think so, for the most part. But yeah, sometimes I have to go back and add a few rolling green hills in revision.
That's how it goes.