world building

History Through a Child’s Eyes: Rita Williams-Garcia

Writer Rita Williams-Garcia and moderator Gina Carey

Writer Rita Williams-Garcia and moderator Gina Carey

By Adria Quiñones

“Talk about children’s books?” author Rita Williams-Garcia chortled to our moderator, middle grade writer and SCBWI Metro NY Steering Committee member Gina Carey, as the May Professional Series conversation began. “Try and stop me!”

A Practical Guide To World-Building

by Adria Quiñones

FullSizeRenderHenry Neff, author/illustrator of The Tapestry series of contemporary MG fantasy novels and our guide to world-building, began the October Professional Series lecture with an intriguing fact: J.R.R. Tolkien created the languages of Middle Earth before he imagined the world. “The invention of languages is the foundation,” Tolkien wrote. “The ‘stories’ were made rather to provide a world for the languages than the reverse. To me a name comes first and the story follows.”


Inspired by Reality: World-building with Ruta Rimas

Originally Posted: August 2013

by James Gain

World-building is one of the most difficult tasks in writing fiction, said Ruta Rimas, editor at the Atheneum and Margaret K. McElderry imprints at Simon & Schuster, in the June Professional Lecture. The world of a book must be thoroughly imagined, audience-engaging, composed of authentic details, activated by voice, and event-driven, she said. And regardless of genre, from contemporary realistic to high fantasy, the world must be “inspired by reality.” (more…)

You’re SUCH A Character (For Illustrators)

Originally Published: January 2013

by Christina A. Tugeau

If there’s one comment I hear over and over from editors and art directors these days, it’s that “It’s all about the character.” Of course, it’s really all about the story, but buyers today feel the story is about the characters and how they react/grow/“are” within that story. The stories they are looking for now are “character driven.” So you, the artist, must find a way to show characters who are interesting, different, identifiable, unique and most often loveable.  No small challenge!


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.


Playing God: World-Building with Connie Hsu

Originally Published: May 11, 2010

by Emily Goodman

Connie Hsu, assistant editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, discussed the perils and responsibilities of world-building at the March 16 professional lecture, entitled “How You Get to Play God and Learn to Use Your Powers Responsibly.”

The lecture was devised, Hsu said, because Little, Brown receives many fantasy manuscripts and the editors frequently find these manuscripts need stronger “world-building.” This skill, she emphasized, isn’t only used in fantasy: every fiction manuscript, including historical fiction and contemporary realistic fiction, builds its own world, and it must be believable. “You’re asking readers to forget what they know is real and trust you instead,” Hsu explained.

“The three steps to building a believable world,” Hsu said, “are creating the setting, the rules, and the reality.” (more…)