Michele Burke

Setting: The Forgotten Element

Originally Published: June 2012

by Emily Goodman

“Setting is like the forgotten child in writing,” said Michele Burke, editor at Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House Children’s Books, at the January 2012 Professional Lecture.

It’s much less talked about than voice or character. Yet, Burke said, “mining your setting can help tell your story.”

She defined setting as “the world your characters inhabit” and added, “There’s an emotional heft to places.” While ‘world-building’ is usually understood as necessary for fantasy writing, Burke said it’s important for any book set in an unfamiliar world, including historical fiction. In picture books, much of the setting is conveyed through the illustrations.